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.
With the bidding deadline around the corner, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) wants to bring to your attention an FS-02 IROG position in London that has been the subject of some discussion between AFSA and the Department. In AFSA’s view this position should be available to all eligible bidders now; however, the position has yet to be posted. On October 1, AFSA’s Governing Board met to discuss the Department’s refusal to include the FS-02 Iran Watcher position in London (IROG Position Number 67700008) in this Summer’s Open Assignment Cycle, instead proposing to include it in the pilot Overseas Development Program. The Governing Board passed a unanimous motion strongly objecting to the Department’s decision and instructing its General Counsel to advise AFSA on avenues of redress for this apparent breach of contract. AFSA, the professional association and exclusive representative of the Foreign Service, had previously expressed concern to the Department about including the position in the pilot Overseas Development Program that was created two years ago pursuant to an informal agreement between the Department and AFSA. AFSA’s concerns center around the position’s uniqueness, Farsi language designation, and the significant number of interested, qualified Foreign Service bidders for the position. The position is the only one in London and the only Iran Watcher position in an English speaking country.
The Foreign Service needs to build up its Iran expertise including language capability. The best known Persian speaker at State is probably the State Department Farsi spox, Alan Eyre, who since 2011 has been the public face of the United States to many Iranians and Persian speakers. In 2013, when State/OIG looked into the process of establishing “language designated positions,” we learned that State had established 23 LDPs for Persian-Iranian. Those are jobs where the selectees will be required to have official language training and reach a certain level of proficiency prior to assuming the position. That’s the number for the entire agency, by the way. In 2012, 8 students studied Farsi at the Foreign Service Institute. We have no idea how many Farsi speakers have attained the 3/3 level at State but we know that studying a hard language does not come cheap.
The OIG team estimates training students to the 3/3 level in easier world languages such as Spanish can cost $105,000; training in hard languages such as Russian can cost $180,000; and training in super hard languages such as Chinese and Arabic can cost up to $480,000 per student. Students learning super hard languages to the 3/3 level generally spend one year domestically at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) and then a second year at an overseas training facility.
So — what’s the deal about this Iran Watcher London position?
Rumor has it that a staffer at the Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman‘s office, the Department’s fourth-ranking official allegedly wants this position.
If the State Department is not listing this position in the Open Assignment Cycle bidlist, that means this job is not/not up for grabs for Foreign Service officers. One less FSO studying Farsi next year!
If State includes this position in the Open Assignment Cycle bidlist then only FS employees can bid and a CS employee cannot be assigned to London unless there are no qualified FS bidders (we’re told that’s not going to be the case here).
If State is listing this position under the Overseas Development Program, it means this is potentially for a two-year London assignment, open to Civil Service employees only, and requires a 44-week language training for presumably an S-3/R-3 proficiency in Farsi.
And if this position goes to a Civil Service employee, the chance of that employee serving overseas is a one-time fill. He/She goes to London for two years then return to the State Department. Unless the State Department moves to a unitary personnel system, CS employees typically do not serve on multiple tours overseas. Which means that State could be spending between $180,000 – $480,000 to teach — whoever is selected for this London position — Persian language to an employee who can be assigned overseas just once.
Now, perhaps the more important question is, in light of AFSA’s protest — if State gives in and list this London position in this Summer’s Open Assignment Cycle, would that really make a difference? Sure FSOs can bid on it, but will anyone of the qualified bidders be …. um…the right fit?
And you’re wondering why watching bureaucratic life and backstage machinations can make one jaded? If indeed this job is going to go, as rumored, to a “P’ staffer, all job-related announcements would just be bureaucratic theater.
But don’t worry, everything will fit in the end. Just like a puzzle box.
As the House Select Committee on Benghazi prepares for its first hearing this week, a former State Department diplomat is coming forward with a startling allegation: Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to “separate” damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.
According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, the after-hours session took place over a weekend in a basement operations-type center at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C.
When he arrived, Maxwell says he observed boxes and stacks of documents. He says a State Department office director, whom Maxwell described as close to Clinton’s top advisers, was there. Though the office director technically worked for him, Maxwell says he wasn’t consulted about her weekend assignment.
“She told me, ‘Ray, we are to go through these stacks and pull out anything that might put anybody in the [Near Eastern Affairs] front office or the seventh floor in a bad light,’” says Maxwell. He says “seventh floor” was State Department shorthand for then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisors.
“I asked her, ‘But isn’t that unethical?’ She responded, ‘Ray, those are our orders.’ ”
In Ms. Attkisson’s report, Mr. Maxwell criticizes the ARB for failing to interview key people at the White House, State Department and the CIA, including Secretary Clinton. We actually see no point in the ARB interviewing Secretary Clinton, given that she tasked the ARB to do the investigation and that the report is submitted to her. The regs as it exist right now does not even require that the Secretary submits the actual report to Congress, only that the Secretary of State “report to the Congress on any program recommendations and the actions taken on them.”
12 FAM 036.3: The Secretary will, not later than 90 days after the receipt of a Board’s program recommendations, submit a report to the Congress on each such recommendation and the action taken or intended to be taken with respect to that recommendation.
So we’re not hung up on the fact that she was not interviewed But who gets the actual ARB report is probably one more thing that Congress really do need to fix in the regs.
Mr. Maxwell also named other officials who allegedly were never interviewed by the ARB: 1) Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, who managed department resources in Libya; 2) Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro; and 3) White House National Security Council Director for Libya Ben Fishman.
ARB Benghazi in its public report never identified all the people it interviewed in the conduct of its investigation. ABB Kenya/Tanzania did that and the list is online. We still cannot understand why those names in the Benghazi investigation are not public. What kind of accountability is it when we can’t even tell who the ARB investigators talked to? Redact the names of the CIA people if needed, but the names of those interviewed should be public unless there is a compelling security reason not to do so. There is an opportunity here for the State Department to declassify that part of ARB Benghazi’s report.
At the heart of this latest bombshell on Benghazi is that the weekend document session, according to Mr. Maxwell, was reportedly held “in the basement of the State Department’s Foggy Bottom headquarters in a room underneath the “jogger’s entrance.”
This would be the 21st Street entrance; and the room is underneath the jogger’s entrance [insert room number for prospective Foggy Bottom visitors]. We understand that FOIA has had offices there in the past but that most of the FOIA offices moved to SA-2. Apparently, the only office the A organization chart shows to be in the Harry S. Truman basement are B2A61 the Facilities Managment Office and B258 the Office of General Services Management. But which office is called the Emergency Management Operations Center? Some media sites are already calling this the “boiler room operation.”
We have generally been disappointed with the Benghazi investigations. The fact that it has become a political football to throw back and forth with all the offense and defense attendant of the game makes us cringe; even more so, every “new” book or revelation gave us a sad.
But we think this one is a most serious allegation and cannot be swatted away by a State Department spokesman simply calling the implication that documents were withheld “totally without merit.” A State Department spokesman also told Ms. Attkisson that “it would have been impossible for anybody outside the Accountability Review Board (ARB) to control the flow of information because the board cultivated so many sources.” So, hypothetically, if folks scrubbed through the documents as alleged, then an instruction went down to IT to removed those docs from the system — that could not really happen, could it?
If this is not true, if no document scrub happened in the basement of the State Department as alleged by a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, then we’d like the agency spokesman to say so clearly and call out Mr. Maxwell on this. Security access records should also indicate if these five individuals were at the State Department that weekend, when this alleged “review” took place.
So, let’s hear it people. But. Without the word salad, please.
In any case, now that this allegation is out in the open, the individuals named or positions cited in the Attkisson report are presumably candidates for an appearance before the Benghazi Select Committee:
1) two officials, close confidants of Secretary Clinton (Congressman Chaffetz said that he was told then-Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan were there and overseeing the operation)
2) one office director (??? from NEA bureau)
3) one intern (??? about to become the second most famous intern in Wash, D.C.)
4) State Department ombudsman (Office of the Ombudsman – Ombudsman Shireen Dodson)
One entity not included in the report but potentially a candidate for an appearance in the Select Committee is the Office of the Inspector General. In September 2013, State/OIG under the then acting OIG issued a report on the “process by which Accountability Review Boards (ARB/Board) are established, staffed, supported, and conducted as well as the measures to track implementation of ARB recommendations.”
Harry Kopp, a former FSO and international trade consultant, was deputy assistant secretary of State for international trade policy in the Carter and Reagan administrations; his foreign assignments included Warsaw and Brasilia. He is the author of Commercial Diplomacy and the National Interest (Academy of Diplomacy, 2004). He is also the coauthor of probably the best guide to life in the Foreign Service, Career Diplomacy: Life and Work in the U.S. Foreign Service (Georgetown University Press, 2011). Last May, on the 90th anniversary of AFSA and the U.S. Foreign Service he wrote the piece, Foreign Service, Civil Service: How We Got to Where We Are for the Foreign Service Journal. It deserves a good read. Excerpt:
By 2009, State employed 12,018 members of the Foreign Service and 9,487 members of the Civil Service, a ratio of just 1.3 to 1.
Throughout this period, the emphasis that AFSA and other foreign affairs organizations placed on the unique characteristics of the Foreign Service clashed repeatedly with the emphasis of the department’s leadership on teamwork and unity of purpose. AFSA and other organizations were quick to criticize Secretary Powell when he changed the annual Foreign Service Day celebration to a more inclusive Foreign Affairs Day in 2001 and renamed the Foreign Service Lounge the Employee Service Center.
More seriously, AFSA fought a long and litigious campaign to block certain high-profile assignments of Civil Service employees to Foreign Service positions overseas, and to inhibit such assignments generally. These and other efforts to defend the distinction of the Foreign Service did not reverse the Service’s diminishing prominence in the Department of State and in the conduct of the country’s foreign relations. Nor did such efforts sit well with the department’s management, which tried under successive secretaries to make (in Secretary John Kerry’s words) “each component of our workforce … work together as one cohesive and vibrant team.”
The Foreign Service Act of 1980 is now 34 years old, the age of the Foreign Service Act of 1946 when it was replaced. The drafters of the 1980 legislation had no great admiration for the dual-service system, but like Secretaries Byrnes, Acheson and Rusk, they concluded that keeping it was preferable to attempting change. With two very different personnel systems—not to mention a large and growing cohort of appointees exempt from the disciplines of either—the Department of State lacks the cohesion and vibrancy Sec. Kerry has called for.
As of April 2013, there are 13,676 Foreign Service and 10,811 Civil Service employees in the State Department. Click here (pdf) for the historical number of Foreign Service and Civil Service employees from 1970-2012. Full article republished below with permission from the Foreign Service Journal.
On March 3, 2014 we wrote about the death of Deron Durron Swain, a State Department employee assigned to the Miami Passport Office as reported by Local10 in Miami. Click here for the CBS Miami report the following day. The June 2014 issue of State Magazine includes the following obituary:
Extracted from Obituaries, State Magazine, June 2014
The July/August issue of State Magazine includes the following obituary for Rayda Nadal, a Foreign Service OMS who died in Sweden. The notice did not mention that she died from the gas explosion while posted at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, but we know that the OMS injured in that explosion died in Linkoping, Sweden. See US Embassy Moscow: FS Employee Hurt in Apartment Building Gas Explosion Dies. If anyone has an update on the promised investigation, we’d like to know.
Extracted from Obituaries, State Magazine, July/August 2014
We still think that the State Department should be compelled to report the deaths of official Americans overseas. DOD identifies its casualties — name, rank, age, state of residence, date and place of death, and cause of death — why not the State Department?
At a minimum there ought to be an annual reporting of all deaths from unnatural causes of USG personnel and family members on government orders under chief of mission authority.
On July 1, 2014, Wesley T. Kilgore was appointed Acting Assistant Inspector General for Investigations. He succeeds Anna S. Gershman who was appointed Assistant IG for Investigations from January 3, 2011 until this year. The official word from OIG when we asked about her departure was: “Ms. Gershman was eligible and retired from federal service.” A side note here — each year, the President recognizes an esteemed group of career Senior Executives and senior career employees with the Presidential Rank Award. In 2013, Ms. Gershman was one of the seven finalist for the State Department(pdf) and the only one from the Office of Inspector General.
The State/OIG website indicates “Bio for Mr. Kilgore pending” but according to his LinkedIn profile, until his appointment Mr. Kilgore has been the Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Investigations since December 2011. Prior to coming to State, he was the Director of the U.S. Army CID, Major Fraud Unit. Mr. Kilgore is now the third deputy promoted to head the directorates where prior incumbents departed in the last 12 months.
Norman Brown was appointed Acting Assistant Inspector General for Audits on September 13, 2013. Previous to that appointment, he was the deputy for the Audit directorate. He is no longer in an acting capacity and is now the Assistant IG for Audit. He succeeded Evelyn R. Klemstine who was appointed AIG for Audits in November 2009. State Magazine’s October 2013 issue listed Ms. Klemstine as retired from the Civil Service.
Emilia Di Santo who was appointed Acting Deputy IG on October 1, 2013 remains in that acting position. She succeeded Harold Geisel, the Deputy IG who served as OIG boss for the last five years while the State Department did not have a Senate-confirmed Inspector General.
Robert Peterson is currently serving as Assistant Inspector General for Inspections. He has been assigned to the Department of State’s Office of Inspector General since 1987. He was appointed Assistant Inspector General for Inspections since March 2003 and to-date remains in that position.
It is likely that many more new faces will be joining the office. In addition to recent new hires, the positions for director for Congressional and Public Affairs and the deputy AIG for Middle East Region Operations are still listed as vacant.