Category Archives: Foreign Service

Quote of the Day: “I want it on my desk in one week, or I’m going to the Washington Post”

– Domani Spero

Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) gave his remarks at the 2014 Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies Pride Conference on April 16, 2014.

The following is an excerpt:

On June 5, 1985, on my way to my very first day of training as a newly-minted U.S. diplomat, I glanced across our national Mall and saw the U.S. Capitol and its iconic dome. My heart was bursting with pride in the career I was embarking on to serve my country. At the very same time, I said to myself – and I meant it – “No one will ever hurt me because I am gay.” Yes, that was about 15 years after Stonewall, but it was also only about 30 years after the McCarthy purges of hundreds of gay diplomats and other public servants from the U.S. government. During the very first close-door briefing we newly-minted diplomats had from Diplomatic Security, we heard, “We don’t want homosexuals in the Foreign Service. If you are, we’ll hunt you down and drum you out!” I thought, “Yeah, you just try it.”

Although it was becoming a gray area, by the beginning of the 1990s, it was still possible that one’s security clearance could be jeopardized for being gay. After five years, it was time for my security clearance to be renewed, and – yes – it was held up for months and months. I finally got fed up. I went to the head of Diplomatic Security and said, “You have no reason to deny my security clearance. I want it on my desk in one week, or I’m going to the Washington Post.” It was on my desk in one week. Ten years later, by 2000, it was still nearly a radical act to include material about LGBT rights in the State Department’s annual Country Human Rights Reports. It wasn’t until just a handful of years ago that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared in a major speech at the United Nations in Geneva, “LGBT rights are human rights. Period.”
[...]
In closing, let me add one personal word of caution. There are times and places where I believe we need to temper our idealism with at least a certain degree of realpolitik. In our desire to do good, we should never forget the terribly important maxim, “First do no harm.” There are countries in the world, whether religiously or culturally deeply conservative, that will react to our values and goals with backlash against their own LGBT citizens. We should maintain enough humility to remember that we are terribly new at promoting LGBT human rights as U.S. foreign policy. Of course we want to do good – but we should do it, with patience, in a way that results in the maximum benefit for those we want to help.

Read the full remarks here.

Ambassador Hoagland, a career diplomat was previously U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan (2008-2011), and U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan (2003-2006).  Life After Jerusalem recently posted about the five current ambassadors who are openly gay (see What’s Wrong With This Picture?). All five are also non-career political appointees.

Not too long ago….

According to David K. Johnson, author of The Lavender Scare: the Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government, a 1952 procedures manual for security officers contained a nine-page section devoted entirely to homosexuality, the only type of security offense singled out for such coverage.  The book describes what took place “inside security interrogation rooms where thousands of Americans were questioned about their sex lives.” It was referred to as “homosexual purges” which “ended promising careers, ruined lives, and pushed many to suicide.” At the British Foreign Office, things were no better, Ambassador Charles Crawford’s 2010 piece, The love that dared not speak its name in the Foreign Office is a must read.

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Filed under Ambassadors, Diplomatic History, Diplomatic Security, Foreign Service, FSOs, Hillary, Org Culture, Org Life, Political Appointees, Realities of the FS, State Department

Diplomatic Security Gets Bill A. Miller as New PDAS and New DSS Director

– Domani Spero

On April 14, 2014, Bill A. Miller was appointed Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service.   In the aftermath of Benghazi, Mr. Miller was appointed DAS for High Threat Posts last year (see State Dept Now Has 27 High-Threat, High-Risk Posts — Are You In One of Them?). Below is a statement from State/DS:

Bill A. Miller Screen Capture via SFRC fotage

Bill A. Miller, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service
Screen Capture via SFRC video

A member of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service since 1987, Bill Miller is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service.  Mr. Miller’s previous assignment was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High Threat Posts in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

His last overseas assignment was a three-year posting as Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Mission in Cairo, Egypt.  For his leadership in guiding the U.S. Government security response to the revolutionary events of the “Arab Spring” in Egypt, Mr. Miller was awarded the Department’s Superior Honor Award.

Mr. Miller served for a year in Baghdad as the Regional Security Coordination Officer for the Coalition Provisional Authority and as the first Regional Security Officer for the newly established U.S. Mission to Iraq.  In addition to assignments in Iraq and Egypt, Mr. Miller has also served tours in Pakistan, Jerusalem, and the Philippines.

Preceding his assignment to Cairo, Mr. Miller was the Chief of the Security and Law Enforcement Training Division at the Diplomatic Security Training Center in Dunn Loring, Virginia.  Other domestic assignments have included service as the Regional Director for Contingency Operations, Chief of Counterintelligence Investigations for DSS, the Post Graduate Intelligence program at the Joint Military Intelligence College, almost five years on the Secretary of State’s Protective Detail and, his first assignment, the Washington Field Office.

Prior to entering on duty in 1987 with the Department of State as a Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent, Mr. Miller served as a U.S. Marine Infantry Officer.  Mr. Miller was honored as the 2004 Diplomatic Security Service Employee of the Year in recognition for his service in Iraq.  In addition, Mr. Miller is a recipient of the Department of State’s Award for Valor, several Superior Honor Awards, the Department of Defense Joint Civilian Service Commendation Award and the Marine Security Guard Battalion’s award as RSO of the Year.

With Mr. Miller moved up, the HTP post went to Doug Allison as new Deputy Assistant Secretary for High-Threat Posts.  The Deputy Assistant Secretary for High-Threat Posts (HTP) is responsible for evaluating, managing, and mitigating the security threats, as well as the direction of resource requirements as high-threat U.S. diplomatic missions. No bio has been posted at this time.

Another new name is Mark Hunter, who succeeded Charlene Lamb as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs.  This is the position responsible for “managing and directing all Bureau of Diplomatic Security programs and policies that protect the Department of State’s international missions and personnel from the threats of terrorism, espionage (human and technical), and crime.” No bio has been posted at this time.

Finally, the position of Director for the Office of Foreign Missions, formerly held by Eric Boswell is no longer vacant. Fredrick J. Ketchem has ben appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security and Deputy Director, Office of Foreign Missions.  This position is responsible for facilitating and regulating the tax, property, motor vehicle, customs, and travel activities of foreign missions in the United States. [see biography]

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The Odd Story of “Vetting/Scrubbing” the Tenure/Promotion of 1,800 Foreign Service Employees in the U.S. Senate

– Domani Spero

We recently blogged about the hold on the commission, tenure and promotion of 1,705 career Foreign Service employees at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (See Is the U.S. Senate Gonna Wreck, Wreck, Wreck, the Upcoming Bidding Season in the Foreign Service?).

We wondered then if this was one more  unintended consequence from the Senate’s “nuclear” option.

Here’s what we were told by AFSA:

“FYI – this has nothing to do with the nuclear option – its strictly about State’s vetting process.”

AFSA then sent us a link of its April 1 notice to its membership: Ask the Senate to Support Foreign Service Employees!

After reading that, we were struck by the following line:

“We urge the SFRC to address issues regarding vetting of names for criminal background checks collaboratively. Simultaneously we ask the SFRC to grant these men and women the commissioning, tenure and promotions for which they’ve been recommended.”

Huh?

We asked AFSA again — what sort of vetting are we talking about here? All these nominees pending on the SFRC have Top Secret clearances and have been vetted by Diplomatic Security.

We got the following response:

“There are some differences in what the State Department does and what DoD does both in substance and information provided to oversight committees. […] it does NOT have to do with DS vetting and TS clearances.  There may be some periods of time and activity that are not being captured by current vetting process and I think State is amenable to working with committee to resolve.”

We did the underline there.  We don’t know what the heck that means!

So nothing to do with the nuclear option.

Nothing to do with Diplomatic Security vetting.

And nothing to do with TS clearances.

Wow!

What a strange mess! Anybody know what this is really all about?

Again from your elected AFSA official:

“Both the State Department and DoD vet/scrub the lists with internal and external agencies before they send the list to the Senate and its respective committees – SFRC, SASC.  This vetting/scrub is what is being discussed.”

Arghhh! Arff! Arff!

AFSA’s letter to the SFRC Chairman Bob Menendez and Ranking Member Bob Corker does not explain how this mess started in December 2013 but provides some details on the groups impacted by the Senate hold:

Now 1800 FS Employees Stuck at the SFRC

“[W]e are writing to convey our deep concerns about the impact that the delayed confirmations of tenure and promotions for career Foreign Service employees is having on U.S. diplomatic operations and U.S. national interests. When we raised this matter back in December 2013, nearly 1,300 individuals were affected by the holds. As of this time, there are approximately 1,800 members of the Foreign Service from four foreign affairs agencies (Department of State, USAID, Foreign Agricultural Service, and Foreign Commercial Service) who await Senate confirmation of appointment, tenure, or promotion.”

200 FS Employees Waiting to Officially Join the SFS

“Of these, over 200 employees of all four agencies are awaiting confirmation of their promotions into or within the Senior Foreign Service. These members are affected financially in two distinct ways. First, the pay increases earned as a result of their promotions cannot be paid until attestation by the president, nor can the promotions be back-dated so as to overcome this loss of remuneration. Second, unless the promotions are confirmed and attested before April 15, 2014, they are not eligible to be reviewed for, or to receive, performance pay. In addition, uncertainty besets the onward assignments of these 200 members. Failure to confirm these officers as members of the Senior Foreign Service affects the ability of consulates, embassies and USAID missions to conduct the business of the United States overseas.”

Over 900 Waiting for FSO Commissions

“Over 900 of the remaining officers are awaiting commissioning as Foreign Service officers and secretaries in the diplomatic service, almost half of whom have been waiting close to a year. Several of them are approaching the limit of their 5-year Limited Career Appointments. If that expires without their being commissioned, they are supposed to leave the Foreign Service in accordance with Section 309 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 USC §3949.) Moreover, as untenured officers, they are ineligible to receive some pay differentials for positions, which they currently encumber. Overall, this is having a severe effect on their morale and their eligibility for onward assignments. Unfortunately, this prolonged wait and uncertainty is coloring their impressions of public service at the beginning of their careers.”

Over 600 FSOs Without Consular Commissions

“Finally, over 600 new Foreign Service officers, just starting their Limited Career Appointments, have not yet received commissions as consular officers. Without a Consular Commission, these entry-level officers are technically not authorized to adjudicate visas and perform other consular work. In addition, the possession of a Consular Commission is generally a prerequisite to the granting by a host nation of all necessary diplomatic privileges and immunities under the Vienna Convention.”

 

So, when we read this, our immediate reaction was where is the State Department leadership in all this? We know that Secretary Kerry and his top officials are often traveling but  there’s a whole lot of ranking officials in Foggy Bottom who could interface with the leadership and staff of the SFRC. Where is the Under Secretary for Management? Where is the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources?

But see – what we heard from insiders is that the State Department reportedly said: “AFSA had the lead on fixing this.” 

Well, that’s terribly odd, isn’t it?

Secretary Kerry was at the SFRC on April 8, and made passing mention of the nominations, but we sorta think he’s talking about the top ranking nominees.  We don’t even know if he’s aware that 1,800 of his employees are stuck in the committee:

“I also want to thank everybody on the committee for working so hard to move the nominations, which obviously is critical. I think our – it’s not the fault of the committee, but with a combination of vetting process and public process and so forth and the combination of the slowdown on the floor of the Senate, I think we’re averaging something like 220-some days and some people at 300 days and some over 365 days. So I have literally only in the last month gotten my top team in place one year in, and I’m very grateful to the committee.”

The Secretary did not specifically mention that  Ambassador Carlos Pascual who was nominated to be Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources on February 17, 2012 has been stuck in committee with Super Glue for 760 days.

Secretary Kerry also did not specifically mentioned the blanket senate hold during the April 8 hearing that affects about 10% of his agency’s workforce. And really — what do you do with 600 consular officers without their Consular Commissions? Have they been adjudicating visas without their Consular Commissions, and if so, what kind of immunity and diplomatic privileges are afforded these officials overseas?

But wait, like on teevee — there’s more!

We are now also hearing disturbing allegations that the genesis of this mess started long before December 2013, even going back to 2012.

It is alleged that this all started with one name on the promotion list. The original initiator (who apparently is not/not a stranger to AFSA and the State Department) allegedly brought a specific name on the promotion list to the attention of a Senate staffer. It is alleged that the action was taken using personal connections cultivated in the Senate. The key question at that time allegedly revolved around the security clearance of one — one specific individual and resulted in the removal of  this individual’s name from the promotion list.

Now, why would anyone do that?

If we could hire Veronica Mars, she’d definitely bug this  Mr. Initiator guy then we’d have the full story.

It is further alleged that  subsequent to the removal of that one name from the promotion list, the same SFRC staffer also identified several other FSOs who were subjects of “investigations” at some point in their careers. In most cases, these investigations reportedly were in the medium to distant past (as much as 10 or 15 years ago). Our source, clearly frustrated says that the fact that these investigations occurred in the past has not deterred the senator’s office pursuit of these FSOs.

This year’s senate hold reportedly started with an assertion by one senator’s office that the military vets people better than State does, and that the State Department list is “riddled with people” whose actions had been questioned “by OIG and others.”  We don’t know who consists of “others.” Our source familiar with this matter but speaking on background said that one senator reportedly vowed “not to approve any FS name until the matter was resolved.” The same SFRC staffer allegedly involved in the initial promotion list snafu works for this one senator. Senior State Department officials have reportedly demonstrated that, unlike the military, all State employees have TS clearances which include name checks. We’re told that at the senate’s request, the SOP on vetting at the State Department now goes “further” than what is required by the military. We do not know what “further” or additional layers of vetting were added.

The following areas were supposedly contentious:

#1. The automatic exclusion of any employees with criminal convictions.
#2. The separate nomination of any employees with “problems.”

Say, wait — how many State Department employees with criminal convictions have been able to hold on to their Top Secret clearance? One, two, a hundred, five hundred?

The number is .. wait for it …. ZERO.

How many State Department employees under investigation or with criminal convictions have been able to keep their names on the promotion list? Hey, don’t they yank your name from that promotion list as soon as there is an investigation with your name on it?

Employees who previously faced investigations and have successfully prevailed/survived the investigations will now be singled out on the promotion list? Why? Should they also be required to wear  “NOT GUILTY BUT” t-shirts to work?

If these employees have been cleared of wrongdoing, why is the Senate hardballing them?

We do not know the full story about this Senate hold involving some 1,800 FS employees but AFSA and the State Department should know who were the names targeted from the promotion lists and why. And if they don’t know the why, then they should find out, of course. If a Senate staffer who has worked in Congress for years just got out of bed one day and decided he/she wants to put a hold on 1,800 names because the “vetting” and “scrubbing” of names have been unsatisfactory all this time — we should all ask why.

Because.  Motive, motive, motive.

Let’s start at the very beginning… oh, where is Sherlock when you need him?

If  the allegation is true, that this whole merry go round mess was initiated by one Foreign Service insider and got out of hand … now then, you’ve got a mess, Houston. One FS person was initially targeted by another FS person using contacts in the Senate. That’s pretty personal.

It looks like you’ve got a petty little beaver who never left hight  high school …

And he’s representing the United States of America.

On Friday, April 11, AFSA released this: Senate Confirms Tenure and Promotion!

 

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State Department Issues Nomination Call For First Golden Gooseberry Awards

– Domani Spero

Hollywood has the  Golden Raspberry Awards or Razzies for short, in recognition of the worst in film. The State Department now has the Golden Gooseberry Awards or the “Gozzies” in recognition of the worst performances of the year.  Below is the cable released to posts:

VZCZCXRO3921
RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHC #8174/01 2922053
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 012110Z APR 14
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO ALL DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 0428
RUEHRY/AMEMBASSY CONAKRY 0179
UNCLAS STATE 108174

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AMGT, ABUD, AFIN, APER,
SUBJECT: CALL FOR NOMINATION- FIRST STATE DEPARTMENT ‘GOZZIES’ AWARDS

REF: STATE 015541

————–
Summary
————–

1. In response to a popular post on the Secretary’s Sounding Board, the State Department is pleased to announced the first call for the Golden Gooseberry Awards.  Nominations are due on the second week of November or the week immediately preceding the State Department’s Annual Awards (reftel), whichever is later.  Winners of the “Gozzies” Awards will be announced on or about April 1, 2015. End Summary.
—————–
Background
—————–
2.  On February 1, 2013, John F. Kerry was sworn in as the 68th Secretary of State of the United States, becoming the first sitting Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman to become Secretary in over a century. Following the tenure of two female secretaries of state and a most immediate predecessor who was popular and well-liked inside the building, Secretary Kerry, himself admitted, “I have big heels to fill.” To that end, Secretary Kerry wanted to ensure that some of the more popular initiatives and innovation started under the Clinton tenure continue.  For instance, the Secretary continue the tradition of “Meet and Greet” with embassy/consulate employees and families when he travel overseas.  Efforts on public outreach and social media engagement were expanded.  State’s bicycle to work program which resulted in showers for those who bike to work, and a monthly stipend for bike repairs and maintenance in lieu of the Government Metro Check subsidy was also given the nod.

3.  The employee “Sounding Board,” another innovation of former Secretary Clinton, is a visible platform for employee ideas and management response that Secretary Kerry’s team was interested in supporting boldly. On Secretary Kerry’s first week in Foggy Bottom, a request that the State Department needs its own version of the “Razzies” to recognize the worst performances was upvoted on the Sounding Board.   We listened, we asked questions, and we consulted with all stakeholders within the seven floors, the annexes and with employees in over 280 missions overseas.  Today, thirteen months after Secretary Kerry’s arrival in Foggy Bottom, the ‘Goozies’ Awards are finally here.  The ‘Gozzies’ are intended to serve as a reminder that the Secretary is listening, and that the worst performances will be held up as a teachable lesson on how not to behave as public leaders and servants.
—————————————————————————
GOZZIES AWARDS: ELIGIBILITY, CRITERIA, EXAMPLES
—————————————————————————

4.  Most Memorable HHE Shipper of the Year Award
Eligibility: All chief of mission employees who are in the rotational system and had to ship household effects. Nominations are welcome from post management, regional bureaus and State Department offices.
Criteria:  Selection will be based on (1) the most outrageous item shipped on HHE, (2) apportionment of blame to the General Services Office, (3) evidence of the degree of ignorance and idiocy demonstrated.  Names and supporting documents must be submitted online at state.gov/gozzies.
Example: An FSO shipped and stored 44 boxes of tiles, weighing 5,871 pounds as part of his household effects (HHE). FSO was advised that he owed $14,804.01 for packing, shipping, storage and repacking the tiles.  After filing a grievance, the Department later waived over $9,000 of this debt because FSO had not been timely notified of the disallowed items.

5. The Fair Share Escapee Award
Eligibility: All chief of mission employees who are subject to “Fair Share” requirement and have successfully evaded the rule for at least two assignment cycles. Nominations are welcome from  all direct-hire employees who have successfully concluded a tour in differential pay posts.
Criteria:  Fair Share rules require employees who are completing assignments to bid on differential pay posts if they have not served at a differential post during the eight years prior to their transfer eligibility date.  DS-6699, statement from DGHR, LinkedIn profiles, or Facebook posting indicating absence of differential post assignments in at least 9 years or more is required.  Names and supporting documents must be submitted online at state.gov/gozzies.
Example: See LinkedIn profiles and State Department bios.

6. Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct of the Year Award
Eligibility: All domestic and chief of mission employees of agencies. NDC is “that conduct which, were it to become widely known, would embarrass, discredit, or subject to opprobrium the perpetrator, the Foreign Service, and the United States.
Examples of such conduct include but are not limited to the frequenting of prostitutes, engaging in public or promiscuous sexual relations, spousal abuse, spousal harassment to facilitate a contested divorce, neglect or abuse of children, manufacturing or distributing pornography, entering into debts the employee could not pay, or making use of one’s position or immunity to profit or to provide favor to another (see also 5 CFR 2635) or to create the impression of gaining or giving improper favor.”
Criteria: No formal nominations required.  Incident reports from Police Department, Diplomatic Security, indictment from the Department of Justice or a viral hit would suffice.  For consideration, names and links must be submitted online at state.gov/gozzies.
Example: DS Agent Charged With “Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct” Gets Three Days Suspension

7. ‘Old School’ Screamer of a Boss Award
The new consensus among leaders and managers is that screaming and yelling alarms people, drives them away rather than inspire them, and hurts the quality of their work. This award recognizes an individual in international affairs responsible for repeatedly throwing nuclear bombs and leaving officer’s blood and dreams all over the wall.
Eligibility:  All employees of the Foreign Service and the Civil Service including Senior Foreign Service and Senior Executive Service serving domestically or abroad, are eligible.
Criteria: An employee or group of employees familiar with the nominee’s performance, including direct reports, task forces, working groups and country desks, may nominate candidates. Nominations, not to exceed three typewritten pages are to be submitted online to state.gov/gozzies.  Nominees responsible for multiple curtailments from posts or early retirements/resignations of generalists/specialists from the Foreign Service will receive extra consideration.
Example: If your boss can scream like this, consider the submission of a nomination.

8.  The Consular Fraudster Award
This award recognizes criminal and unethical actions performed in conjunction with  consular work. It is inspired by the this consular officer jailed for visa fraud and bribery.
Eligibility: All domestic and chief of mission employees working in passport offices and consular sections
Criteria: No formal nominations required. Department of Justice indictment and plea agreement and/or jail term acceptable. Names and links must be submitted online at state.gov/gozzies.

9.  Department appreciates your full cooperation. As always, thank you for all that you do and for being part of this extraordinary team.  Questions, clarifications, suggestions for additional awards may be submitted online at state.gov/gozzies.

BT

 

Amazing! Kudos to Secretary Kerry and his team. And here we thought bureaucratic life must be quiet boring.  An agency official speaking on background emphasized that the “Gozzies” are the first of its kind in the Federal government and that a half dozen additional awards will be rolled out after the summer rotation.

Well, what are you waiting for?

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Earth Embassy Ganymede Administrative Notice #04-010103: Morale, WD-40, Duct Tape

– Domani Spero

Originally posted in Diplopundit on April 18, 2013. Republished today for a very good reason.

Administrative Notice #05-011300: Morale

It has come to management’s attention that there has been a lot of chatter and hyperspace email about morale and safety at this outpost.  This notice serves as a reminder to everyone under Ganymede outpost authority that discussion about morale is an unproductive use of work time. Morale is self-esteem in action; individuals who perceived that morale is lacking may need help in improving their self-esteem. Please make every effort to schedule an appointment to see the quadrant psychiatrist.

Ganymede management fully believes, like the 34th American President Dwight Eisenhower, that the best morale exist when you never hear the word mentioned. In that sprit, management formally informs all departments and employees that morale is not/not an issue and is not/not a subject to be discussed in hypermail, text, video, radio, verbal or any alternate manner of communication within and outside the mission.  Anyone caught peddling these stories will be subject to disciplinary action, including but not limited to curtailment of current assignment or a lengthy TDY to the outermost prograde moon of Carpo.

In an effort to be responsive to all concerns, below are some FAQs that the section  had the pleasure of addressing the last 12 moons. We hope that the answers are useful to you and your families and help alleviate persistent concerns.

English: WD-40

English: WD-40 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
EaEmbassy Ganymede

Is Ganymede a family-friendly post?

Absolutely. It is the most family-friendly assignment in the quadrant with excellent schools and some of the best apartments available in the sector. Living conditions are approximated to be similar to the home planet and the quality of life is super-excellent.  Consistent demand for assignments to this outpost has repeatedly resulted in a long wait list at every rotation cycle.

I’ve been thinking of asking for a transfer to Ganymede.  But I heard that life there is a big joke … I don’t get what’s the joke.

Life in Ganymede is not/not a big joke. Once you understand that Ganymede is too big to fail, you’ll find your groove. This is the place where you want to be.  No other outpost will afford you the challenges and opportunities to excel and earn a fast-tracked promotion.

How safe is Ganymede given that riots are breaking out in all parts of the hostplanet:

Safe. Very safe, if you’re careful.

Ganymedeans breached the outpost walls, they can do it again, should I worry?

There’s no reason to worry.  Ganymedeans are not/not anti-Earthlings, anti-humans or what have you.  They were blowing off steam. Period. Now that they have, things should return to normal. If you think things have not returned to normal, give it time; things should return to normal. Soon.

There are assaults reported daily, it sounds like traveling around the hostplanet has become extremely dangerous. Is that perception correct?

Ganymede is the largest moon in this sector. Like any large, densely inhabited city on Earth (e.g. New York City, New Delhi, Bogota, Buenos Aires), crime is ever present. This is not/not unique to this outpost.  Travel in pairs if needed, and bring your stun gun, if necessary.

The Manager for Planetary Services reportedly quit over extreme bureaucratic bullying, is this true?

Absolutely not. The manager quit because the official got too old for the job. Other employers in this sector throw old officials out the airlock. Fortunately, EaEmbassy Ganymede has a generous separation package specifically for older workers traveling back to the home planet.

There are rumors and allegations that some of the top Ganymede officials have, on several occasions, pushed and bossed around subordinates and threatened them with penalties. How accurate are these stories?

Have you ever heard of American poet, Robert Frost?  He said that the reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work.  Isn’t that an excellent point?  Stop listening to rumors. Stop worrying. All our top Ganymede officials were handpicked and subjected to a battery of reviews and 360 feedbacks from friends, peers, and colleagues. All with spectacular results. They are all as lovable and huggable as Alaskan polar bears.

I used to have an open mind, then I got to Ganymede and my brains kept falling out. What am I doing wrong?

To keep an open mind, a person needs only two tools: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn’t move and it should, use WD-40. If it moves and shouldn’t, use the tape. This works even in Ganymede.

I am terribly upset that my concerns have not been taken seriously.  How do I set a laser printer to stun?

The management office works hard to address all of your concerns and aims to make every assignment to Ganymede a satisfying one.   Unfortunately, all laser printer at post at this time do not have a stun setting.  However, the procurement section is exploring the possibility of adding a stun setting to all laser printers with end of year funding.

 

Note that this is from a work in progress.  Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Morale is self-esteem in action,  is a quote by Avery Weisman; WD-40 and laser printer quips are found items around the net.

Ugh! Just saw that the Russians are interested on Ganymede, now.  Well, dammit, I am not changing my fictional embassy’s name again, so don’t write to complain about that.

 

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Is the U.S. Senate Gonna Wreck, Wreck, Wreck, the Upcoming Bidding Season in the Foreign Service?

– Domani Spero

 

Do you know how many Foreign Service members are currently awaiting approval for commissioning, tenuring and promotion in the U.S. Senate? 1,705. That’s 1,705 regular folks  in the career service, excluding the ambassadorial nominees.

Some of these names have been submitted since January, and they are all still pending in a dark cauldron brewing in the SFRC.

In a message to its members on March 18, AFSA writes that it “has worked diligently for months on this issue and we would like to alert you that last week, important progress was made in resolving the holds, through the leadership of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Senator Bob Corker (R-TN).   AFSA is confident that both sides have demonstrated the good will necessary to move the process forward and looks now to an amicable and expedited solution to this situation in the coming days.”

The Senate's side of the Capitol Building in DC.

The Senate’s side of the Capitol Building in DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

End of the month and here we are.  Neither the Chairman nor the Ranking Member of the SFRC has anything to say about this logjam on their website.

These employees are waiting Senate attestation so they are officially commissioned, tenured and promoted. And you know what, the Foreign Service “bidding season” is fast eating up the days in the calendar.

Why this can get complicated?

A good number of these employees pending at the SFRC will be “bidding” for their next assignments.   The Foreign Service is a rotational, rank-in-person system.  As a consequence, there will be “real” FS-01s, for example and “FS-02s” who are supposed to be treated as 01s but who technically are 02s.

The State Department reportedly is telling folks looking at bids to treat “02” bidders as “01s” and so on and so forth because of inaction from the Senate.

Oh crap, how do you sort them all out?

One frustrated official writes, “I can’t see how this won’t have a major impact as we’re evaluating employees.”

Not only that, we imagine that the bump in pay and associated hardship/danger/COLA allowances (a percentage of basic compensation) will also not get taken care of until the Senate officially blesses these names.

Since bad news comes in threes — you should know that Ambassador Arnold A. Chacon’s nomination as Director General of the Foreign Service got out of the SFRC in February 2 but has been stuck since then waiting for a full vote in the U.S. Senate.

WaPo recently reported that President Obama may have learned how to finally break through the months-long Senate logjam on his ambassadorial nominations: he or Vice President Biden must travel to the countries where nominees would be headed.

Unfortunately for the Foreign Service, neither President Obama nor VP Biden has DGHR listed in their immediate schedule.

Below is the list of nominations pending in committee:

  • Feb 10, 14     PN1419    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Scott S. Sindelar, and ending Christine M. Sloop, which 6 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 10, 2014.
  • Feb 10, 14     PN1418    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Mark L. Driver, and ending Karl William Wurster, which 59 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 10, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1384    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Beata Angelica, and ending Benjamin Beardsley Dille, which 381 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1383    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Kevin Timothy Covert, and ending Paul Wulfsberg, which 277 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1382    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Matthew D. Lowe, and ending Wilbur G. Zehr, which 242 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1381    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Gerald Michael Feierstein, and ending David Michael Satterfield, which 196 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1380    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Kate E. Addison, and ending William F. Zeman, which 121 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1379    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Kathleen M. Adams, and ending Sean Young, which 112 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1378    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Julie Ann Koenen, and ending Brian Keith Woody, which 94 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1377    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Susan K. Brems, and ending Ann Marie Yastishock, which 45 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1376    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Scott Thomas Bruns, and ending Janelle Weyek, which 23 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1375    Foreign Service Nominations beginning James Benjamin Green, and ending Geoffrey W. Wiggin, which 11 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1374    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Christopher David Frederick, and ending Julio Maldonado, which 3 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 09, 14     PN1317    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Ranya F. Abdelsayed, and ending Fireno F. Zora, which 135 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January  9, 2014.

We can’t help but think that this is one more  unintended consequence from the Senate’s “nuklear” option.  This WaPo piece on President Obama’s inability to fill many of his administration’s most important jobs is not even hopeful.

Doesn’t this remind you of  wreck ‘em Plants v. Zombies, the DC edition?

 

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U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell to Retire in May After 37 Years in the FS

– Domani Spero
The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi announced today the retirement of Ambassador Nancy Powell after 37 years in the Foreign Service:

Ambassador Nancy J. Powell Photo via US Embassy India/FB

Ambassador Nancy J. Powell
Photo via US Embassy India/FB

U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy J. Powell announced in a U.S. Mission Town Hall meeting March 31 that she has submitted her resignation to President Obama and, as planned for some time, will retire to her home in Delaware before the end of May.  She is ending a thirty-seven year career that has included postings as U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Ghana, Pakistan, Nepal and India as well as service in Canada, Togo, Bangladesh, and Washington, where she was most recently Director General of the Foreign Service.  Ambassador Powell expressed her appreciation for the professionalism and dedication of the U.S. Mission to India team who have worked to expand the parameters of the U.S.-India bilateral relationship.  She also thanked those throughout India who have extended traditional warm Indian hospitality to her and who have supported stronger bilateral ties.

 

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Open Season: This Year’s July 4th Independence Day Celebrations Officially On

– Domani Spero

Actually no, the season officially opened last month when U.S. Embassy Kathmandu celebrated the 238th Anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America on February 22, 2014. Nepal’s Vice President Paramananda Jha was the main guest at the event.  According to Ambassador Peter W. Bodde’s prepared speech, this was the second year the embassy celebrated July 4th early “in the hopes of escaping monsoon weather.”  Also, they chose this week “because in February we honor the birthdays of two of our great presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.” Eleven members of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force Band based in Okinawa, Japan entertained the guests at the chief of mission residence. More photos are available here.

Photo via US Embassy Nepal

Photo via US Embassy Nepal

Photo via US Embassy Nepal February 21, 2014

Photo via US Embassy Nepal
February 21, 2014

 

So, US Embassy Nepal had officially bumped off US Embassy Muscat for the first July 4th celebration of 2014.  On March 25, 2014, the US Embassy in Oman hosted its 238th Independence Day event.  According to ONA, Greta Christine Holtz, the US ambassador to the Sultanate gave a speech during which she affirmed the deep-rooted relations binding Omanis and Americans.  In 2013, the embassy celebrated July 4th on May 24. More photos available here. In 2012, we did, Chew on This: US Embassy Oman Celebrates 4th of July (in February) with Fast Food Sponsors.  It looks like they no longer display prominently the event’s corporate sponsors.

Photo via US Embassy Muscat

Photo via US Embassy Muscat

 

This year, we hope to do a Fourth of July fashion or food round-up.  Give us a heads up if you have something interesting at post.

 

 

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2013 Mathilda W. Sinclaire Language Awardees

– Domani Spero

According to AFSA, a generous bequest from retired Foreign Service officer Mathilda W. Sinclaire established a program since 1982 honoring Foreign Service employees who excel in the study of hard languages.  The purpose of Ms. Sinclaire’s bequest was to “promote and reward superior achievement by career officers of the Foreign Service [...] while studying one of the Category III or IV languages under the auspices of the Foreign Service Institute.” The guidelines were reportedly amended and updated in October 2001 to expand eligibility for the awards to any career and career-conditional member of the Foreign Service from the Department of State, USAID, FCS, FAS, BBG and APHIS.  The 10 winners of the 2013 Mathilda W. Sinclaire Language Awards are as follows:

  • Miriam R. Asnes – Arabic
  • Sonnet A. Frisbee – Czech
  • Paul F. Narain – Greek
  • Jacob M. Rocca – Hebrew
  • Timothy Shriver – Hungarian
  • Robert Silberstein – Lithuanian
  • Alan J. Smith – Russian
  • Adam T. Stevens – Vietnamese
  • Matthew Wilson – Bulgarian
  • Bryan G. Wockley – Persian/Dari/Afghan

 

We received an email on this noting … “all but one of whom appear to be men. What’s with that?”  We looked at the list of winners from the previous four years and must note that in 2012 seven of the ten awardees were female.

2012: Anne Casper (Kinyarwanda), Vanna Chan (Lithuanian), Rebecca Danis (Pashto), Spencer Fields (Albanian), Christina Le (Greek), Dan McCandless (Dari), Robert Mearkle (Arabic), Nina Murray (Lithuanian), Roshni Nirody (Japanese), Kristen Pisani (Greek) M/F -3/7

2011: Nancy Abella (Dari), Eric Collings (Uzbek), Sarah Grow (Persian/Farsi), James Hallock (Mandarin), Rebecca Hunter (Albanian), Theresa Mangione (Vietnamese), E. Jerome Ryan, Jr. (Japanese), David Vincent Salvo (Serbian/Croatian). M/F-4/4

2010: Daniel Heath Bailey (Latvian), Eric M. Frater (Vietnamese), Melanie Harris Higgins (Indonesian), Bradley Hurst (Hungarian), Andrew J. Partin (Georgian), Daniel Rakove (Mongolian), Stuart Madgett Smith (Greek), Thomas Venner (Tagalog), Vaida Vidugiris (Greek). M/F-7/2

2009: Joshua Baker (Arabic), Laura Brown (Arabic), Zachary Harkenride (Dari), Vincent Traverso (Dari), Meredith Rubin (Icelandic), William M. Coleman (Japanese), Alan Clark (Mandarin Chinese), Scott Hansen (Mandarin Chinese), Denise Shen (Mandarin Chinese), Alfred Boll (Serbian), Adam Hantman (Thai). (Laura Brown was a previous winner for Bosnian in 2003.) M/F-8/2

Arabic as official language

Arabic as official language (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It looks like candidates to the Sinclaire Language Awards may be nominated by the language-training supervisors at the FSI School of Language, the language instructors at field schools, or post language officers. According to AFSA’s website, winners are selected by a committee comprising the Dean of the FSI School of Language Studies (or designee), members of the AFSA Governing Board, AFSA Awards Committee and general AFSA membership. Each winner receives a check for $1,000 and a certificate of recognition signed by the AFSA President and the chair of the AFSA Awards committee.

The nomination requires the submission of DS‐651 Language Training Report or DS ‐1354 Language Proficiency Report if appropriate. In addition to the submission of the S/R (speaking/reading) scores, it also requires a nominating statement (not to exceed one page); and, of course, somebody who’s willing to write up and submit the nomination.

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GIF of the Day: Just checking the Lessons Learned box?

– Domani Spero

Via Burn Bag:

“Wouldn’t the bureau with the most evacuations benefit from listening to evacuees instead of being so defensive and bristling at suggestions for improvement? Instead of checking the Lessons Learned box – try to actually DO something right after that colossal mistake called ordered departure!”

Image via Giphy

Image via Giphy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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