This report is based on the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), a tool that “measures employees’ perceptions of whether, and to what extent, conditions characterizing successful organizations are present in their agencies.” The full report is available here.
On June 29, OPM announced the temporary suspension of the online system used to submit background investigation forms. The system could be offline from 4-6 weeks. Below via opm.gov:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Office of Personnel Management today announced the temporary suspension of the E-QIP system, a web-based platform used to complete and submit background investigation forms.
Director Katherine Archuleta recently ordered a comprehensive review of the security of OPM’s IT systems. During this ongoing review, OPM and its interagency partners identified a vulnerability in the e-QIP system. As a result, OPM has temporarily taken the E-QIP system offline for security enhancements. The actions OPM has taken are not the direct result of malicious activity on this network, and there is no evidence that the vulnerability in question has been exploited. Rather, OPM is taking this step proactively, as a result of its comprehensive security assessment, to ensure the ongoing security of its network.
OPM expects e-QIP could be offline for four to six weeks while these security enhancements are implemented. OPM recognizes and regrets the impact on both users and agencies and is committed to resuming this service as soon as it is safe to do so. In the interim, OPM remains committed to working with its interagency partners on alternative approaches to address agencies’ requirements.
“The security of OPM’s networks remains my top priority as we continue the work outlined in my IT Strategic Plan, including the continuing implementation of modern security controls,” said OPM Director Archuleta. “This proactive, temporary suspension of the e-QIP system will ensure our network is as secure as possible for the sensitive data with which OPM is entrusted.”
Meanwhile, on June 22, AFSA sent a letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta with the following requests:
via afsa.org (click for larger view)
On June 25, AFSA is one of the 27 federal-postal employee coalition groups who urge President Obama to “immediately appoint a task force of leading agency, defense/intelligence, and private-sector IT experts, with a short deadline, to assist in the ongoing investigation, apply more forceful measures to protect federal personnel IT systems, and assure adequate notice to the federal workforce and the American public.” (read letter here: AFSA Letter sent in conjunction with the Federal-Postal Coalition |June 25, 2015 | pdf)
The WH has now officially announced President Obama’s intent to nominate Roberta S. Jacobson as the next Ambassador to the United Mexican States. The WH released the following brief bio:
Roberta S. Jacobson, a career member of the Senior Executive Service, is the Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the Department of State, a position she has held since 2012. From 2010 to 2012, she was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Previously, Ms. Jacobson served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Canada, Mexico, and NAFTA issues from 2007 to 2010 and as Director of the Office of Mexican Affairs from 2003 to 2007. She was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru from 2000 to 2002. From 1989 to 2000, Ms. Jacobson held several roles in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, including Director of the Office of Policy Planning and Coordination from 1996 to 2000. She began her career at the Department of State as a Presidential Management Intern.
Ms. Jacobson received a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
If confirmed, Ms. Jacobson would succeed career diplomat Tony Wayne who was appointed Ambassador to Mexico by President Obama in 2011. President Obama had previously nominated Maria Echaveste for the Mexican post in the fall of 2014. She withdrew her nomination after waiting four months for her confirmation. Her supporters blamed it on a “failed, politicized nomination process” according to NBCNews.
The Mexico Mission is one of our largest posts. We hope Ms. Jacobson gets a speedy confirmation but the SFRC is a perplexing place these days. We want to add that we’ve watched Ms. Jacobson stay cool and collected under congressional grilling over the Administration’s Cuba policy. She is probably one of the State Department’s better congressional witnesses — straight-forward, not antagonistic or evasive, and was engaging. She did not get flustered even when senators were in their scolding best for the cameras. She obviously knows her stuff, and she looks them in the eye when she talks. We’d like to suggest that the State Department clone her for its congressional witnesses prep.
Hey, did you know that Andrew Jackson was the first nominee for ambassador to Mexico? According to history.state.gov, he was appointed on January 27, 1823 but he declined the appointment. It looks like the second appointee in 1824 did not proceed to post either. Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851) was then appointed in 1825 and he did present his credentials three months after his appointment. If confirmed, Ms. Jacobson would be the first female American ambassador appointed to Mexico. Ever. Can we get a yay! for that?
What are we learning from this first batch of emails?
1) The document dump is not arranged or ordered in any useful way. The emails from 2011 are mixed with 2012. Some of the emails are included more than once. Some of the redactions are rather odd, given that some of these emails were already published via the NYT. The former secretary of state is not referred to as HRC, only as “H.” The emails show an extremely small number of gatekeepers – Mills, Sullivan, Abedin, plus a couple of folks routinely asked to print this or that.
2) Sid, Sid, Sid — there are a good number of memos from “friend of S” or “HRC’s contact,” Sidney Blumenthal, who apparently had his own classification system. The memos he sent were marked “Confidential” although he was no longer a USG employee at the time he sent them and presumably, no classifying authority. Imagine the COM in Libya and NEA folks chasing down this intel stuff. Right. Instead of “OGA” for other government agency, State got “FOS”or “friend of S” as intel source.
3) “Pls. print” one of the former secretary of state’s favorite response to emails sent to her.
4) When former Secretary Clinton finally addressed the firestorm of her use of private email, she said: “I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two,” a self-assured Clinton told more than 200 reporters crowded into a U.N. corridor. (via Reuters). It looks like she had more than one email address, and we don’t know how many devices. The email below was sent from an iPad.
8) In November 2012, the House Intelligence Committee had a closed hearing that reportedly had the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Matt Olsen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, CIA Acting Director Michael Morell and the State Department’s Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy. Those could be the Matt and Pat in this email:
9) There was a meeting at the WH Situation Room on Nov 26, 2:35 pm on Benghazi. The invitation was for the Secretary +1, and if she was unable to attend, an invitation for one representative only. The then Executive Secretary John Bass (now US Ambassador to Turkey) asked Mills if she’d prefer “Pat” to attend or “Dan.” Dan is State’s former counterterrorism guy, replied “Pat should go” in reference to Patrick Kennedy. Mills asked HRC if she’s good with Pat going and she replied “I think I should go w Pat.”
10) On December 17, 2012, then State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland (now A/S for the EUR bureau) confirmed that the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi had concluded its work, and that the report went to Secretary Clinton that day (see ARB Concludes Work, Unclassified Report May Be Publicly Available on Wednesday). The following email is between Burns and Mills dated December 18, 2012. It mentions three names, Eric, Pat, and Greg Starr. We are guessing that the Eric in the email is Eric Boswell, the then Assistant Secretary of Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and Pat is the Under Secretary for Management. The portion referencing Greg Starr was redacted except for Burns’ “I like the Greg Starr idea.”
11) On December 20, 2012, the State Department’s two deputies, William Burns and Thomas Nides went before Congress instead of Secretary Clinton (see Clinton Recovering, Top Deputies Burns and Nides Expected to Testify Dec.20). Thank yous all around with HRC saying thank you to Burns and Nides. Thereafter, Cheryl Mills sent an email praising HRC’s email as being “so nice.” This was then followed with more thank yous from Nides and Burns.
12) So nothing surprising in the emails except the parts that may give some of us toothache. And the missing parts. This is only the first batch of emails although our understanding is that this constitutes the Benghazi-related emails. If that’s the case, it is striking that we see:
a) No emails here to/from Eric Boswell, the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security.
c) No emails to/from Gregory Hicks who was Embassy Tripoli’s DCM at the time of the attack and who would have been attached by phone/email with Foggy Bottom (Hey! Are telephone conversations recorded like Kissinger’s?)
d) Except for an email related to one of the ARB panel member, there are no emails related to setting up the ARB, the process for the selection of ARB members, the assistance requested by the ARB, the support provided by the State Department to the panel, etc. What happened to those emails?
13) Then Secretary Clinton was using at least two emails from her private server according to these released emails. It does not look like anyone from the State Department could have just sent her an email by looking her up on the State Department’s Global Address List (GAL). But certainly, her most senior advisers including the experienced, career bureaucrats at the State Department must have known that she was using private email.
Seriously, no one thought that was odd? Or did everyone in the know thought it was beyond their pay grade to question the practice? Let’s imagine an entry level consular officer conducting official business using a private email server. How long would that last? Right.
So what happened there? Ugh! Pardon me? You were just doing your job? That CIA briefer also was just doing his job.
Dr. Terry Newell will address – through cases, exercises, and practical tips – not only how to speak truth to power, but how to keep your job when doing so, as well as what leaders need to do to foster the moral courage needed in their organizations.
Foreign and Civil Service members best serve when they voice their concerns about a policy or practice that fails to advance the mission and goals of their agency or the U.S. government. Leaders also need to encourage professional criticism or, as it is sometimes called, constructive dissent. AFSA has long supported constructive dissent through its awards program.
Dr. Newell spent nearly forty years in the federal government including distinguished service in the U.S. Air Force, the Department of Education, and the Office of Personnel Management. Since leaving his last position as Dean of Faculty at the Federal Executive Institute, he has concentrated on writing and teaching about ethical leadership in government. His books include The Trusted Leader: Building the Relationships That Make Government Work; Statesmanship, Character and Leadership in America; and – most recently – To Serve with Honor: Doing the Right Thing in Government. This book is filled with case studies, checklists, and stories of exemplary public servants, offering a practical, readable roadmap for acting ethically.
WaPo reported last week that federal employees responsible for reviewing and processing U.S. passports are now prohibited from bringing their cellphones to work. The new rule would affect the 1,200 government workers and 1,000 private contractors in passport offices across 22 domestic locations. What started this off? Who knows except that there apparently was a contractor in Houston:
“The rumor among passport workers is that a contractor in Houston was taking pictures of private information on passports.”
A State Department official confirmed the new policy to WaPo: “The Department has a serious and important obligation to protect the personally identifiable information (PII) of U.S. citizens applying for passports,” the official said. “Prohibiting cellphones throughout our Passport Agencies, where employees review and process passport applications, is an effort to further protect passport applicant’s PII.”
The National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) Local 1998 that represents Passport Agency workers nationwide is not happy. The union wondered what use is getting these employees secret clearances if they can’t be trusted with the information?
Donald M. Bishop, President of the Public Diplomacy Council, served 31 years in USIA and the State Department. A Public Diplomacy officer, his first assignments were in Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan, and he led Public Diplomacy at the American embassies in Bangladesh, Nigeria, China, and Afghanistan. He served as the Foreign Policy Advisor (POLAD) to two members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. The piece below was originally published via the Public Diplomacy Council website and republished here with Mr. Bishop’s kind permission.
Sources of State Department Senior Leadership
by Donald M. Bishop
In recent months, the front pages, websites, columns, blogs, and talking heads rediscovered an old issue — the nomination of individuals who raised funds for a Presidential campaign to be ambassadors. A few nominees were embarrassed at their Senate confirmation hearings.
This short piece is NOT about ambassadorial nominees. Rather, let me step back and discuss the naming of political appointees to senior policy positions in the Department of State.
The American Foreign Service Association counts the number of political vs. career appointees as Deputy Secretary, Under Secretary, Assistant Secretary, Special Envoy, Special Representative, Director, Chief, Coordinator, Advisor, and Executive Secretary. In 2012, 27 were career officers, and 63 were political appointees. This was the highest percentage of political appointees in policy positions since AFSA began counting. In 2008 there were 26 senior noncareer Schedule B hires; in 2012 there were 89.
How about Public Diplomacy? Three bureaus report to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs — Public Affairs (PA), Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), and International Information Programs (IIP). All three bureaus are led by appointees. The three bureaus have eleven positions at the level of Deputy Assistant Secretary, and six geographic bureaus all have Deputy Assistant Secretaries assigned Public Diplomacy portfolios. For these 17 positions, the exact count varies with ordinary turnover, but it is safe to say about half are career, and half are political.
No matter the bureau or function, many of these appointees indeed have solid foreign policy credentials. There are many paths to expertise and several different incubators in foreign affairs, and the Foreign Service is only one. Many experts have worked in Congress, the NSC and the White House, Presidential campaigns, and at the think tanks at different times in their careers. At the beginning of their careers, they may have served in the Peace Corps or, less often, the armed forces.
Over the years, I worked with many appointees. Many brought energy and fresh ideas into the Department. This essay is not about individuals – many of whom earned my admiration – but rather about organizational dynamics.
I have concluded that an overreliance on political appointees from outside the Foreign Service weakens the conduct of American foreign policy. These reasons have little to do with the qualifications of the individuals. If the administration decides that this or that position at the State Department is better filled by a political appointee than by a Foreign Service officer, there are three down sides.
First, the search and selection process, vetting, security clearances, and – for those positions requiring confirmation by the Senate — long waits for hearings and confirmation add up to long vacancies between incumbents. During the vacancies, someone picks up the slack, for sure, but some other portfolio is shorted. Even if a career officer serves as “Acting,” the Department waits for the President’s nominee to come on board before launching new initiatives and committing funds. Preferring political appointees from the outside, then, slows foreign policy down. Public Diplomacy, in particular, suffered from long periods between Under Secretaries.
Second, whatever their regional or issue expertise, whichever Washington arena gave them their chops, however close appointees may be to the President and his team, they have had no reason to understand “the machinery” or “the mechanics” of the State Department – its funding, authorities, planning, reporting, budget cycle, and incentives.
All organizations have an organizational culture. For the State Department and the Foreign Service, it encompasses the five cones, the assignment and promotion systems, hierarchies, the “D Committee” which recommends career FSOs to the White House to become ambassadors, and agreements with bargaining agents. The culture includes such intangibles as policy planning but not program planning, tradeoffs between goals, “buttons to push,” “energy sponges,” “lanes,” “corridor reputations,” and the “thin bench.” The “ship of State” can indeed respond to new priorities, but few appointees have the inside experience to know how to make it turn quickly and smoothly.
All understand, moreover, that if something more is needed – “reform” of the Department, its processes, or the Foreign Service – it can take many years to achieve. A career officer can commit to a long process of reform and understand the payoff down the road. A political appointee may understand the need to change the Department’s way of doing business, but what is the incentive for doing so? The appointee will be on to fresh pastures, through the revolving door, and doing something else soon. Why take on tasks that will outlast her appointment?
Third, political appointees naturally come to the State Department with a strong intention to advance the President’s agenda. Their frame of mind is, then, “top down,” meaning that ambassadors, embassies, consulates, and the Foreign Service should take their lead from the White House and become implementers of this month’s or this year’s White House policy initiatives. If, for instance, the President believes that the United States must promote action against climate change, the political appointees in the Bureaus insure that the Department responds. As a result, even Embassies in countries with strong environmental records – Western Europe, say — adjust their priorities to respond to the “top down” agenda.
A focus on the administration’s global broad-brush themes, however, inevitably crowds out the attention paid to bilateral issues. Every Mission spends a large part of its spring in a deliberate process defining specific bilateral strategic goals, but their implementation can be overridden by political appointees and top-down priorities. Many Public Affairs Officers at overseas posts have noted the shift to a “Washington driven” agenda. The Foreign Service is always ready to “surge,” so to speak, on the nation’s most important objectives, but it’s not possible to “surge” month in and month out. When an embassy surges on one administration priority, moreover, it can’t be very effective when yet one more surge is asked for.
I submit, then, that reliance on political appointees weakens not strengthens the achievement of America’s national goals. Long vacancies slow down the implementation of policy. Lacking institutional knowledge, appointees increase the friction within the system. They tip the scales to respond to worldwide, “top-down” rather than bilateral goals. There will always be a mix of political appointees and career officers in the State Department’s senior policy positions, but in my judgment the nation is better served when there are more of the latter than the former.
The original post is here, check out the comments.
The Nation listsStaffing the Executive Branch as one of the possible problematic area after the GOP take-over of the U.S. Senate:
For much of the Obama presidency, Republicans in the Senate stymied up literally hundreds of presidential appointments to cabinet slots big and small, as well as nominations to the federal bench. Harry Reid implemented filibuster reform one year ago, and nominations have been handled more quickly—but with Republicans in charge, expect them to grind to a halt. Republicans blocked nominees reflexively under the old filibuster rules, many times without offering a single actual objection, and that’s very likely to resume now.
The recent Yahoo article about the State Department being top heavy with political picks, also include the following nugget:
A top GOP aide, asked what would happen to the stalled “ambassadonor” nominations, signaled that those would-be diplomats shouldn’t pack their bags.
When it comes to confirmations of Obama nominees in a Republican Senate, the aide said dryly, “partisan picks and Obama bundlers won’t be at the top of the list.”
So — in real terms, that means no one can pack their bags or schedule any packout. Maybe, we’ll see some confirmation of career diplomats to ambassadorial positions this year. Or maybe not. What might be more problematic, of course, would be the confirmation of presidential bundlers nominated as ambassadors to some of our overseas posts. If the clock runs out and none of these nominees get confirmation this year, President Obama will have to resubmit these nominations to the next Congress in January 2015. A GOP-controlled Senate may or may not act on these nominations.
The following are the ambassadorial nominees currently pending on the Senate’s Executive Calendar. They have all been cleared by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but could not get voted on in the full Senate:
Ambassadorial Nominees: Career Diplomats
Karen Clark Stanton, of Michigan, to be Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
Donald Lu, of California, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Albania
Amy Jane Hyatt, of California, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Palau
Arnold A. Chacon, of Virginia, to be Director General of the Foreign Service
Luis G. Moreno, of Texas, to be Ambassador to Jamaica
Maureen Elizabeth Cormack, of Virginia, to be Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina
Theodore G. Osius III, of Maryland, to be Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Leslie Ann Bassett, of California, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Paraguay
George Albert Krol, of New Jersey, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Kazakhstan
Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, of New Jersey, to be Ambassador to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
James D. Pettit, of Virginia, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova
Allan P. Mustard, of Washington, to be Ambassador to Turkmenistan
Erica J. Barks Ruggles, of Minnesota, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Rwanda
Earl Robert Miller, of Michigan, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Botswana
Judith Beth Cefkin, of Colorado, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Fiji, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador to the Republic of Kiribati, the Republic of Nauru, the Kingdom of Tonga, and Tuvalu
James Peter Zumwalt, of California, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea-Bissau
Craig B. Allen, of Virginia, to be Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam
Barbara A. Leaf, of Virginia, to be Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates
Virginia E. Palmer, of Virginia, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Malawi
William V. Roebuck, of North Carolina, to be Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain
Pamela Leora Spratlen, of California, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Uzbekistan
Donald L. Heflin, of Virginia, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Cabo Verde
Robert T. Yamate, of California, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Madagascar, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador to the Union of the Comoros
Gentry O. Smith, of North Carolina, to be Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, and to have the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, an Assistant Secretary of State (African Affairs), to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the African Development Foundation for the remainder of the term expiring September 27, 2015
Michele Jeanne Sison, of Maryland, to be the Deputy Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, with the rank and status of Ambassador, and the Deputy Representative of the United States of America in the Security Council of the United Nations
Brent Robert Hartley, of Oregon, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Slovenia
Ambassadorial Nominees: Non-Career Political Appointees
George James Tsunis, of New York, to be Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway
Colleen Bradley Bell, of California, to be Ambassador to Hungary
Robert C. Barber, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Iceland
Mark Gilbert, of Florida, to be Ambassador to New Zealand, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador to the Independent State of Samoa
John L. Estrada, of Florida, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Brent Robert Hartley, of Oregon, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Slovenia
Cassandra Q. Butts, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas
Noah Bryson Mamet, of California, to be Ambassador to the Argentine Republic
Stafford Fitzgerald Haney, of New Jersey, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Costa Rica
Charles C. Adams, Jr., of Maryland, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Finland
Frank A. Rose, of Massachusetts, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance)
Catherine Ann Novelli, of Virginia, to be United States Alternate Governor of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (currently Under Secretary for State/E)
David Nathan Saperstein, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom
Paige Eve Alexander, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
Jonathan Nicholas Stivers, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
The retirement of Deputy Secretary Bill Burns and the attendant task of finding his replacement as the State Department’s No.2 official highlighted the career versus political appointments in the upper ranks of the oldest executive agency in our country. Below via Yahoo News:
The report notes that “just one of the top nine jobs in American diplomacy is held by a career diplomat: Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy.” It further notes that this number rises to 2 out of 10 if State Department Counselor Tom Shannon is included.
The report also quotes AFSA saying, “We’re not rabble-rousers. We’re not going to be burning down the building. [snip] But we are concerned about the growing politicization throughout the State Department.”
For comparison, see this chart to see how the breakdown between career versus non-career appointees have progressively trended towards non-career appointees in the past decades.
infographic via afsa.org
Last Friday, the State Department officially rejected criticisms that too many top diplomatic jobs have gone to political appointees rather than to career foreign service officers. As a sign of the times, the official who rebutted the criticism is the spokesperson of the State Department, a former political operative and herself, a political appointee:
“There’s never been a secretary of state more personally connected to the Foreign Service than Secretary (John) Kerry. It’s in his blood. It’s stamped in his DNA. He’s the son of a foreign service officer,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki told Yahoo News by email.
“It’s no accident that he has worked with President (Barack) Obama to build a senior team with more foreign service officers in leading assistant secretary positions than at any time in recent memory, and no accident that he chose a foreign service officer to serve as the State Department’s Counselor for the first time in thirty years,” she added.
For understandable reason, AFSA wants to see another FSO appointed as a Deputy Secretary. Congress created the position of Deputy Secretary of State in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1972, approved Jul 13, 1972 (Public Law 92-352; 86 Stat 490), to replace the Under Secretary of State as the second ranking officer in the Department. The Deputy Secretary serves as the principal deputy, adviser, and alter ego to the Secretary of State; serves as Acting Secretary of State in the Secretary’s absence; and assists the Secretary in the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy and in giving general supervision and direction to all elements of the Department. Specific duties and supervisory responsibilities have varied over time.
The candidates currently rumored to replace Bill Burns are not career diplomats. That is not at all surprising. According to history.state.gov, of the 17 deputy secretary appointments since the position was created in 1972 only four had been career Foreign Service officers:
In this blog’s last two months online, this might actually be an interesting project to look into — and see just how imbalanced are these appointments. As we have blogged here previously, we readily recognize that the President and the Secretary of State should have some leeway to pick the people they need to support them in doing their jobs. That said, we think that this practice can be done to such an extreme that it can negatively impact the morale and functioning of the organization and the professional service, in this case the State Department and the institution of the Foreign Service. Not only that, following an election year, it basically decapitates the upper ranks of an agency pending the arrival of new political appointees. In the case of the State Department, 4/5 of the top appointees are political. It will almost be a wholesale turnover in 2017 whether a Democrat or a Republican wins the White House.
So let’s take a look, for a start, at the top organizational component of the State Department.
3. Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (DMR): Heather Higginbottom, Political Appointee She was the Policy Director for the Kerry-Edwards Presidential Campaign in 2004, Policy Director for then Senator Obama’s Presidential Campaign in 2007, and came to the State Department after stints in the White House and OMB. We expect that she’ll tender her resignation on/or about January 2017 unless she leaves earlier or is asked to stay on by the next Secretary of State from her party.
4. Counselor of the Department (C): Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., Career Foreign Service Officer
Former U.S. Ambassador to Brazil and former Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs. He is only the seventh Foreign Service Officer to hold the position of Counselor since World War II, and the first in 32 years. Not quite mandatory retirement age in 2017, we expect he would rotate out of this position for another upper level assignment, unless, he takes early retirement and goes on to a leadership position at some think tank.
5. Under Secreatry for Arms Control and International Security (T): Rose E. Gottemoeller, Political Appointee
She was the chief U.S. negotiator of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with the Russian Federation, which entered into force on February 5, 2011. Prior to the Department of State, she was senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In 1998-2000, she was the Deputy Undersecretary of Energy for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation and before that, Assistant Secretary and Director for Nonproliferation and National Security. We expect that she’ll tender her resignation on/or about January 2017 unless she leaves earlier or is asked to stay on by the next Secretary of State.
6. Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J):Sarah Sewall, Political Apppointee
Prior to this position, she served as a Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 2012, Dr. Sewall was Minerva Chair at the Naval War College and from 2006 to 2009 she served as the Director of Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. She was also Deputy Assistant Secretary for Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance at the Department of Defense from 1993 to 1996. From 1987 to 1996, she served as the Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to U.S. Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell. We expect that she’ll tender her resignation on/or about January 2017 unless she leaves earlier or is asked to stay on by the next Secretary of State.
7. Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment (E): Catherine Novelli, Political Appointee Prior to the State Department, she was Vice President for Worldwide Government Affairs at Apple, Inc.; Prior to her tenure at Apple, Ms. Novelli was a partner in the Washington office of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP where she assisted Fortune 100 clients on issues involving international trade and investment. She was also a former Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Europe & the Mediterranean. We expect that she’ll tender her resignation on/or about January 2017 unless she leaves earlier or is asked to stay on by the next Secretary of State.
8. Management (M): Patrick F. Kennedy, Career Foreign Service Officer
He has been the Under Secretary of State for Management since 2007. From February 2005 to April 2005, he headed the Transition Team that set up the newly created Office of the Director of National Intelligence. In 2001, he was appointed U.S. Representative to the United Nations for Management and Reform with the Rank of Ambassador. During this period he also served from May 2003 to the end of November 2003 as Chief of Staff of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, and from May 2004 to late August 2004 as the Chief of Staff of the Transition Unit in Iraq. He joined the Foreign Service in 1973, so he’s been in federal service for at least 40 years.
His Wikipedia page indicates that he is 65 years old, the mandatory retirement age for the Foreign Service. Except that the regs also make exceptions for presidential appointees under 3 FAM 6216.2-2. (With regard to a member of the Service who would be retired under 3 FAM 6213 who is occupying a position to which the member was appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, the effective date of retirement will not take effect until the end of the month in which such appointment is terminated and may be further postponed in accordance with 3 FAM 6216.2-1 if the Director General determines it to be in the public interest). If he serves out the rest of the Obama term as “M,” he’ll be the under secretary for management for almost a decade (2007-2016), probably the longest serving incumbent in this position.
9. Political Affairs (P):Wendy Sherman, Political Appointee
She is the Department’s current fourth-ranking official. Prior to this position, Under Secretary Sherman served as Vice Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm. Yes, that Albright. Ambassador Sherman served as Counselor for the State Department from 1997 to 2001, as well as Special Advisor to President Clinton and Policy Coordinator on North Korea. From 1993 to 1996, under Secretary of State Warren Christopher, she was Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs. On November 3, 2014, she became dual-hatted as the Acting Deputy Secretary of State. The Cable says that she has been informed that she is not the permanent pick for the job. We expect that she’ll tender her resignation on/or about January 2017 unless she leaves earlier or is asked to stay on by the next Secretary of State after the 2016 elections.
10. Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R): Richard Stengel, Political Appointee Mr. Stengel was sworn in as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs on February 14, 2014. As of October 31, 2014, the official directory for the State Department still lists that position as vacant, by the way. Prior to assuming this position, Mr. Stengel was the Managing Editor of TIME from 2006 to 2013. From 2004 to 2006, he was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. We expect that he’ll tender his resignation on/or about January 2017 unless he leaves earlier or is asked to stay on by the next Secretary of State. The average tenure, by the way, for the incumbent of this position is 512 days.
So, as of this writing, a total of ten positions occupy the top ranks of the State Department: one vacant position, two positions encumbered by career diplomats, and seven encumbered by political appointees.
Is that the right balance?
The State Department spox is indeed right; Tom Shannon is the first career FSO in 32 years to serve as counselor of the State Department, and Secretary Kerry deserves credit for that pick. We must also note that Secretary Clinton picked one FSO (Burns) and that Secretaries Clinton and Kerry both inherited a third FSO from Secretary Rice’s tenure (Kennedy).(We’ll look at the assistant secretaries in a separate post).
What message are you sending to a 24,000 career workforce if you cannot find a single one among them to appoint as deputy of their own agency? The political appointees have impressive resumes. That said, why should any of the career employees aspire for an under secretary position when despite their work experience and years of sacrifices (and their families’) in all the hellholes in the world, all but one (sometimes all), inevitably go to well-connected political appointees?
Any career advice about picking political horses or how to get on the state-of-the-art bullet elevator to the Seventh Floor?
Maybe somebody will be brave enough to ask these questions during Secretary Kerry’s next town hall meeting? Yes, even if folks get instructions to ask policy-related questions only. In the next few weeks we will also peek into some of these upper offices within State and go on a journey of institutional discovery. We understand that it’s pretty interesting out there.
Eligible U.S. government employees may be detailed or transferred to certain international organizations in which the United States participates. Authority and procedures for such details and transfers are found in: 5 U.S.C. §§ 3343, 358l-3584 and 5 C.F.R. and §§ 352.301 through 352.314. via
This past summer, we learned that for the past several years, the Department and AFSA have agreed to a “procedural precept” for the Foreign Service Selection Boards that explicitly excludes from promotion consideration Foreign Service Officers who have been transferred to some international organizations. We could not find hard numbers on how many officers have been impacted or which IO assignments are excluded.
We did hear that this particular issue (separation to work in an international organization, with re-employment rights) apparently affects “a very small number of people,” and that in the past, officers, typically not willing to rock the boat, have made themselves content with simply accepting a time-in-class (TIC) extension (pdf).
That’s weird, right? This appears to disincentivize U.S. citizen employment in international organizations, something that is apparently a congressional mandate; so much so that an office in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs (State/IO) is actually tasks with promoting such employment. Well, actually the policy for agencies to take affirmative steps in having U.S. citizens work in international organization dates back to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s tenure. Seriously.
We understand that the justification for the exclusion in the Precepts was articulated over five years ago and is contained in a June 23, 2008 AFSA letter:
“The rule prohibiting Selection Board competition of members on certain secondments became effective in June 2004 on issuance of the Procedural Precepts for the 2004 Foreign Service Selection Boards and has been in effect for the past five years [sic]. It was introduced to prevent employees from using secondments to extend their time-in-class and the length of their tours of duty in Missions such as Vienna, Brussels and Geneva while continuing to compete for promotion, performance pay, etc.”
An FSO who is familiar with the process and the exclusion told us that this explanation is “nonsense.” Apparently, this exclusion also applies to personnel transferred to UN agencies in Afghanistan, Darfur, Southern Sudan, Kenya, East Timor, etc. We were also told that the Precept (see (I(B)(6)(j) of the Procedural Precepts), is a “Bush-era ham-fisted attempt” to punish any service outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, with “scant attention paid to broader policy implications or legal norms.”
So in essence, we really want more Americans to serve in international organizations, but if FS employees do serve in those capacities, it is likely that some of them will not be considered for promotion. And since international org assignments can run longer than foreign service tours, that basically puts a career in deep ice; surely a concerning detail in an up or out system like the Foreign Service. And you wonder why there’s not a single stampede for these jobs.
What do the Federal regulations say?
Title 5 (see CFR § 352.314 Consideration for promotion and pay increases) has this:
(a) The employing agency must consider an employee who is detailed or transferred to an international organization for all promotions for which the employee would be considered if not absent. A promotion based on this consideration is effective on the date it would have been effective if the employee were not absent. (pdf)
We were told that the State Department’s Legal Adviser’s (State/L) position is that… “The Precepts are authorized under Title 22, and the Secretary has the authority to prescribe what they say”.
And what exactly does Title 22 says?
22 USC § 3982 (2011) §3982. Assignments to Foreign Service positions
(a) Positions assignable; basis for assignment
(1) The Secretary (with the concurrence of the agency concerned) may assign a member of the Service to any position classified under section 3981 of this title in which that member is eligible to serve (other than as chief of mission or ambassador at large), and may assign a member from one such position to another such position as the needs of the Service may require.
So basically since “L” had apparently ruled that FS Assignments are made under Title 22 (which does not address promotions), and Title 5 (the part of the regs that actually addresses promotion), does not apply — there is no desire to reconcile the conflict between the promotion eligibility of detailed/transferred employees to an international organization contained in Title 5 with the exclusion contained in the Precepts?
Wow! We’re having an ouchy, ouchy headache.
If this interpretation stands, does it mean that the Secretary of State is free to disregard any legal norm, standard or entitlement that is not spelled out specifically in Title 22?
And we’re curious — where does HR/CDA/SL/CDT obtain its legal authority to pick and choose among transferred members on who should and should not be considered for promotion? It appears that 5 CFR 352.314 spells out a clear entitlement to promotion consideration for ALL transferred officers but for the “L” interpretation.
We understand that there is now a Foreign Service Grievance case based exactly on this exclusion in the Precept. If not resolved by FSGB, this could potentially move to federal court as it involves not only adjustment in rank, and withheld benefits but also TSP coverage which has retirement implications. Will State Department lawyers go to court citing “FS Assignments outside DOS” booklet, issued by HR/CDA/CDT over the federal regulations under Title 5?
Perhaps, the main story here is not even about a specific precept, but the fact that Department management is disregarding Federal law and from what we’ve seen — AFSA, the professional representative and bargaining unit of the Foreign Service has been aware of this for years but has no interest in pressing the issue.