The U.S. Senate was burning the midnight oil Friday night working on S.1357, the FISA extension and managed to also confirmed by voice vote the nominations of our next ambassadors to Mali and Costa Rica before dawn May 23rd; they were just two of the seven nominees waiting for a full Senate vote.
The Senate now stands adjourned (except for pro forma sessions) until 4:00pm on Sunday, May 31, 2015. Roll call votes are possible after 6:00pm during Sunday’s session but that’s it for now until after the break. Senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to H.R.2048, the USA Freedom Act upon its return.
Here are the two ambassadors lucky enough to make it through the Senate obstacle course and who can now pack their bags and household effects after a wait of 7-10 months.
Paul A. Folmsbee, of Oklahoma, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mali. (Folmsbee, Paul A. – Republic of Mali – October 2014)
Paul A. Folmsbee, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Executive Director, Bureau of African Affairs in the Department of State. Known as a talented leader and manager, he has served with distinction in many of our nation’s most demanding positions and challenging posts. Mr. Folmsbee’s excellent communication skills and experience building inter-agency teams and will serve him well as Chief of Mission in Mali.
Previously, Mr. Folmsbee served as the Senior Civilian Representative for Regional Command East, Afghanistan (embedded with the 1st Cavalry at Bagram) (2011-2012), Consul General, Consulate Mumbai, India (2008-2011), Provincial Reconstruction Team Leader, Sadr City / Adhamiya in Baghdad, Iraq (embedded with the 2/82 Airborne) (2007-2008), Director of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Embassy Islamabad, Pakistan (2006-2007), Management Officer, Embassy Port-au-Prince, Haiti (2003-2006), Management Officer, Embassy Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (2000-2003), General Services Officer, Embassy La Paz, Bolivia (1997-2000), General Services Officer, Embassy Colombo, Sri Lanka (1995-1997), Management Officer, Embassy Libreville, Gabon (1992-1995), Area Management Officer, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Department of State, (1990-1992), General Services Officer, Embassy Nairobi, Kenya (1987-1989), and General Services Officer, Mission to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Geneva, Switzerland (1985-1987).
Mr. Folmsbee earned a B.A. in Political Science from Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas in 1982, a M.A. in Social Anthropology from the University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma in 1985 and was issued a pilot’s license in 1978 by the FAA after studying aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He is the recipient of five Department of State Superior Honor Awards, five Meritorious Honor Awards and a medal from the Polish Government for service in Afghanistan working with Polish troops. He speaks French and Spanish.
S. Fitzgerald Haney is a Principal and Director of Business Development and Client Service (Europe, Middle East and Africa), Pzena Investment Management, New York, New York. Known as a talented international businessman and manager, he has many years of experience serving in senior-level marketing, financial services and manufacturing positions across Latin America. A proven leader with extensive international experience, Mr. Haney will bring essential skills to the task of furthering bilateral relations with the Government of Costa Rica, a key U.S. partner in Latin America and within the Organization of American States.
Previously, Mr. Haney served as Senior Vice President, Ethnic Consumer Products, International Discount Telecommunications (IDT), Newark, New Jersey (10/2006-02/2007), Director, Strategic Planning, Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation, New York, New York (12/2002- 09/2006), Senior Associate, Israel Seed Partners, Jerusalem (09/1999-06/2001) and Vice President, Marketing and Strategic Planning, Citibank, Mexico City, and Monterrey, Mexico (07/1997-02/1999). He held positions with Pepsico Restaurants International (07/1993-07/1997), including Marketing Director, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Senior Marketing Manager, Mexico and Central America, Mexico City, Mexico and Marketing Manager, San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was Assistant Brand Manager, Procter and Gamble, San Juan, Puerto Rico (07/1991-07/1993). He served as Appointed Member, City of Englewood Planning Board and Board of Adjustment, Englewood, New Jersey (12/2004-12/2008).
Mr. Haney earned a B.S. in international economics and a M.S. with distinction in international business and diplomacy from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Washington, D.C., 1986-1991. He was the recipient of the Brunswick-Hanigan Scholarship, the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence and Distinction in Oral Examination at Georgetown University and is a Member of the National Jesuit Honor Society. He speaks Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew and Conversational French.
The Senate also confirmed six Foreign Service lists which include the names of about 600 nominees.
2015-05-23 PN72-3 Foreign Service | Nomination for Douglas A. Koneff, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015. (It looks like three names have been removed from this list and those FSOs remain stuck in the Senate).
2015-05-23 PN259 Foreign Service | Nomination for Judy R. Reinke, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on March 4, 2015.
2015-05-23 PN260 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Brian C. Brisson, and ending Catherine M. Werner, which 56 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on March 4, 2015.
2015-05-23 PN368 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Peter J. Olson, and ending Nicolas Rubio, which 3 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 15, 2015.
2015-05-23 PN369 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Craig A. Anderson, and ending Henry Kaminski, which 346 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 15, 2015.
2015-05-23 PN370 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Anthony S. Amatos, and ending Elena Zlatnik, which 212 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 15, 2015.
On May 21st, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) cleared the following nominations:
Paul A. Folmsbee, of Oklahoma, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mali.
Cassandra Q. Butts, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Stafford Fitzgerald Haney, of New Jersey, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Costa Rica.
Charles C. Adams, Jr., of Maryland, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Finland.
Mary Catherine Phee, of Illinois, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of South Sudan
The panel also cleared the nomination of Gentry Smith as Director of the Office of Foreign Mission and and Matthew McGuire for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
Gentry O. Smith, of North Carolina, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, and to have the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service, vice Eric J. Boswell, resigned.
Matthew T. McGuire, of the District of Columbia, to be United States Executive Director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for a term of two years, vice Ian Hoddy Solomon, term expired.
Nominations Placed on Secretary’s Desk
The following FS lists which include 621 nominees were also placed on the Secretary’s Desk. These are routine nomination lists, previously printed in the Congressional Record, placed on the Secretary’s desk for the information of Senators while awaiting floor action.
PN72 – 3 FOREIGN SERVICE nomination of Douglas A. Koneff, which was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of January 13, 2015.
PN259 FOREIGN SERVICE nomination of Judy R. Reinke, which was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of March 4, 2015.
PN260 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (56) beginning Brian C. Brisson, and ending Catherine M. Werner, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of March 4, 2015.
PN368 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (3) beginning Peter J. Olson, and ending Nicolas Rubio, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of April 15, 2015.
PN369 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (346) beginning Craig A. Anderson, and ending Henry Kaminski, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of April 15, 2015.
PN370 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (212) beginning Anthony S. Amatos, and ending Elena Zlatnik, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of April 15, 2015.
All one step closer to confirmation, but not quite there.
Remind me again of the purpose of a CDO*? What is their purpose when I can set my own training and lobby my own bids, the bureaus so the handshakes and assignments. Tell me again why this power tripping office exists?
The Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attacks in Benghazi released an Interim Progress Update on May 8, 2015. Below is an excerpt from the report including an item on its intent to call mid-level managers from the State Department:
In the coming months, an additional 60 witnesses representing current and former officials and employees from the State Department, the White House and the Intelligence Community will be interviewed.
The Committee is nearing the end of its first round of interviews with State Department employees. Information obtained from this first round of interviews has raised additional questions of current and former State Department officials. Upon completion of these interviews, the Committee will begin a second round of interviews with additional State Department employees. This second round of interviews will consist of mid-level managers at the Department, many of whom were and are responsible for making day-to-day decisions and implementing the policy that is set by State Department leadership.
The Committee also intends to interview current and former senior State Department officials. These officials include Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, Huma Abedin, Susan Rice and Patrick Kennedy, among others.
[T]he Committee intends to interview former White House and National Security Staff personnel regarding their roles in the events prior to, during and after the Benghazi attacks. These individuals include former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, former Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, former Deputy Strategic Communications Advisor Ben Rhodes, former National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor, and former Director for Libya on the National Security Staff Ben Fishman. None of these individuals have previously testified before Congress regarding their role in and including knowledge of the events prior to, during or after the Benghazi attacks.
Beginning in June, the Committee intends to interview current and former Department of Defense employees about their role in the response to the Benghazi attacks. These individuals include Secretary Leon Panetta, General Martin Dempsey and General Carter Ham, among others.
The 11-page update is available to read here (pdf).
Last week, State/OIG released its inspection report of the U.S. Embassy Antananarivo in Madagascar. It’s one of those report that you read and you want to pull your hair in frustration. By the time the OIG came for a visit, there’s a new chargé d’affaires, a new staff rotated in and a new team is tasked with correcting the mess left by the previous officials assigned to post. The previous CDA identified fuel as a management control deficiency but did not see the rest of the good stuff. The OIG report notes that other vulnerabilities discussed in the report “would have been apparent if embassy leadership had conducted a comprehensive, office-by-office review of all activities with management control implications.”
The report highlights non-use of record email to effectively track important exchanges on policy and programs, use of social media to reach a mainly urban, youthful, and elite audience where only 2 percent of the Madagascar population has access to the Internet, and Meritorious Honor Awards without proper documentation. Beyond the more problematic public affairs grants and purchases discussed below, post also spent more than $10,000 on computer equipment for use in Comoros, even if — get this — there is no U.S. Government office space in Comoros in which to place that equipment.
And here’s one that’s going to make you unfriend this fella on Facebook: “The previous chargé d’affaires departed the embassy without completing six interim evaluation reports for American employees he supervised, as required for periods of 120 days or more under 3 FAM 2813.4. He did not respond to email reminders from the embassy human resources office and the Bureau of African Affairs. ”
A quick look at US Embassy Antananarivo:
The mission has a total staff of 296, with 57 U.S. direct-hire positions. In April 2010, the embassy occupied a new embassy compound (site acquisition was $3.6 million, and construction was $102.3 million), consisting of a chancery, a warehouse/shops facility, a Marine security guard quarters, and a swimming pool. Embassy housing consists of 38 leased and 2 government-owned residences, 1 of which is the Ambassador’s residence.
The good news: A recently arrived chargé d’affaires
Stephen Anderson arrived in August 2014, about two months before the OIG inspection. The OIG inspectors write:
The recently arrived chargé d’affaires has made a good start in leading the embassy during a period of profound change in the political situation in Madagascar and the subsequent restart of the bilateral relationship between Madagascar and the United States. … The chargé d’affaires, working with a collegial country team, has also demonstrated interpersonal engagement within the embassy…..The chargé d’affaires has also demonstrated his commitment to management controls within the embassy. He directed that each Department section conduct a self-assessment of its management deficiencies. At the time of the inspection, the mission had completed corrective action on 73 of the 122 action items identified and was working to close the others.
Some other good news:
1) The information management office is led by a seasoned information management officer. The section received good scores on ICASS customer surveys and OIG questionnaires, as well as A+ ratings from the Department’s network and systems monitoring software. 2) Community liaison office operations received high marks, exceeding both regional and worldwide scores in the 2014 ICASS customer satisfaction survey. 3) OIG surveys noted that parents are satisfied with the quality of education; and 4) The health unit’s ICASS customer satisfaction scores are above worldwide averages.
Now for that American Center boondoggle:
According to State/OIG, the American Center was funded with embassy public affairs funds (approximately $116,328) and by two large allotments provided in June 2012 by the Office of American Spaces in the Bureau of International Information Programs (totaling $559,062). The OIG report is careful to point out that though current staff members will play a key role in identifying a path forward on this project, they are not responsible for the existing situation. But all those responsible and accountable for this project are left unnamed in the OIG report presumably because they are no longer at post and have been successfully recycled to other posts. And since IERs (inspector’s evaluation reports) are no longer in season, none of the details from this report will ever make it anywhere near a promotion board.
A former embassy public affairs officer in 2011 proposed an American Center for the capital on the basis of a public-private partnership model. The concept initially envisioned a partnership of the English Teaching Program (ETP), a restaurant, Voice of America, a telecommunications company, and a publisher of a free entertainment monthly. A memorandum of understanding was drafted and signed by some of the prospective partners in June 2013 after lengthy delays. However, two prospective partners failed to sign on and a final partnership memorandum never entered into force.
Disregard of policies and procedures concerning grants and cooperative agreements have put at risk the embassy’s approximately $700,000 project to establish an American Center in Antananarivo. The OIG team noted that the decisions and actions that led to the American Center problems predate the arrival of the employees presently assigned to the embassy.
The embassy initiated a massive public relations campaign and announced the start of construction at a press conference in April 2012 attended by the former chargé d’affaires and the deputy coordinator of the Bureau of International Information Programs.
Welcome to the new American Center. In a few months time this space will be transformed into the most modern and technologically advanced space that Madagascar has ever seen. It will be a place to learn, to explore, and to connect. It will not be your traditional cultural center. This initiative is an innovative collaboration between the American Embassy, our private sector partners, and the English Teaching Program. It is this ambitious vision for a cultural center based entirely on the model of a public-private partnership that has brought the person in charge of American centers worldwide for the State Department to Madagascar. I would like to acknowledge Michelle Logsdon, the Deputy Coordinator for International Information Programs who has joined us today to learn more about this important initiative.
As you will see in the presentations that each partner will be delivering shortly, they have not only embraced the potential of this center, they have developed it in ways we would have never dreamed possible. VIMA plans to put on some of the most spectacular shows Antananarivo will have ever seen. Orange and Teknet will make the latest technology accessible to a new generation of Malagasy, while the Cookie Shop will create a new environment for learning, exchanging, and of course some great brownies.
We will organize trainings, cultural programs, and conferences with our partners that connect them and their clients to individuals, information, and opportunities from around the globe. We will also have a team dedicated to finding the latest information, technology, and developments for the Center. While many of the services at the Center will be fee-based, just like at an internet café or a theatre, the Embassy will ensure that there will be more resources and events than ever that are available to the public for free.
This is going to be a fee-based center in a country where the per capita gross domestic product is only $1,000 (2013 est.), with 92 percent of the population living on less than $2 a day. Who’s going to be the audience for these programs? The same urban, youthful, and elite audience that belongs to the 2 percent of the Madagascar population with access to the Internet?
I Dreamed a Dream … a Cookie Shop and Some Great Brownies
The OIG team inspected Embassy Antananarivo from October 7–29, 2014. At that time, the team visited the proposed American Center site in a shopping mall and observed the following:
[A]fter almost 2 years of construction, the site, covering 1,200 square meters (or 12,917 square feet), was a shell. Rooms were laid out, but lighting, flooring, doors, and other infrastructure were absent. A small bathroom shared with the rest of the mall was located at some distance from the site on the other side of the mall. Other problems included the lack of storage space, ceilings below standard height on the mezzanine level, and inadequate provision for air conditioning. On a weekday afternoon, some minor construction work was underway. However, no agreement had been reached on a final design or construction plan, including where the U.S. Government portion of the facility might be located.
Storage in seven 40-ft container for nearly two years?
As the American Center is not ready for occupancy, much of the furniture and equipment ordered for it has been stored in seven 40-foot containers located in the embassy parking lot, some of it for nearly 2 years. The OIG team spot-checked the contents of the containers and did not observe water or insect damage.
The embassy did not have a plan (which details needed resources, deadlines, partners, and costs) that could lead to a decision whether to close or salvage this project. Without such a plan, the embassy runs the risk of repeating past mistakes and failing to make the best use of funds already expended.
No Bona Fide Need for Much of Equipment Procured for American Center
According to information the embassy provided the OIG team, the embassy has expended approximately $400,000 to date on furniture and equipment for the American Center project. However, the embassy failed to establish a bona fide need for many of these procurements. This failure—and the subsequent misuse of some of the furniture and equipment—constitutes a management control weakness.
A notable example of a questionable procurement is a $47,938 telescopic theater-style seating system, which the embassy purchased even though the prevailing wage of workers who could set up and remove chairs is $10 a day. The shipping cost for this item alone was estimated at $19,175.
Other examples of questionable procurements abound and include the following (costs are rounded and do not include shipping):
Twenty-five 46-inch televisions ($21,500) and six 70-inch televisions ($24,600).
A motorized theater curtain system ($7,150).
Twenty iMacs ($22,935), 16 HP TouchSmarts ($14,247), 20 Wii stations ($4,230), 20 Apple TVs ($1,920), and 10 iPods ($1,790).
Fifty home theater chairs ($26,600).
A replica of the Seattle Space Needle, painted wall mural, and totem pole ($4,810).
Decorations, including more than a dozen fish and turtle sculptures ($5,400).
Whatsadoing with a $5,500 coffee grinder/espresso maker?
The OIG report says that records the team reviewed indicate that the public affairs section recommended specific vendors to the procurement unit, most often identified through Amazon.com. Looks like no one bothered to make a distinction between government shopping and personal shopping, and folks were in a hurry to spend end-of fiscal year funds:
No documentation in the procurement files shows that procurements greater than $3,000 were properly competed, as required. A number of the items ordered were not part of the original equipment lists submitted in support of the request for funds. For example, the original request did not include any food preparation equipment, yet the embassy purchased items such as a wine cooler, a $650 residential blender, grills, a $5,500 coffee grinder and commercial espresso maker, refrigerators, and other kitchen items.
Property Control Does Not Comply with Regulations, No Kidding
The amazing thing here is there is no discussion why USG properties were lent to two private businesses without documentation. Who signed them out? Who approved these loans? What did the USG get for this sweet arrangement? Did those companies just come by the embassy, pick up the USG properties and the embassy guards just waved “bye, come back soon?”
As the American Center was (and still is) not ready for occupancy, much of the furniture and equipment has been stored in seven 40-foot containers located in the embassy parking lot, some of it for nearly 2 years.
Other furniture and equipment was loaned to two private businesses for their use without any documentation. The embassy loaned at least $42,000 of computers and office equipment to one telecommunications firm alone. These items included 12 iPads, 16 iMacs, and 2 70-inch and 3 46-inch televisions. The embassy purchased a $6,700 eBoard from this company and then lent the item back to it. The embassy told the OIG team that these items were retrieved from the firm in February 2014 after a year or so in use, though the lack of documentation makes the timing unclear. The other firm, a restaurant chain, was lent at least $5,000 worth of U.S. Government property. The embassy warehouse unit retrieved these items, including a refrigerator installed in the restaurant owner’s private residence, on September 15, 2014—3 weeks prior to the OIG team’s arrival. These deficiencies were not, but should have been, included in the 2014 chief of mission statement of assurance signed by the previous chargé d’affaires on August 11, 2014.
Who Bears Responsibility For This Project, Anyways?
Short answer from OIG: Bureau of African Affairs, Bureau of International Information Programs, and Embassy Bear Responsibility. Here is the longer answer:
The lack of accountability for the American Center project extends beyond the embassy because additional management controls exist for projects of this scale. The Bureau of International Information Programs and its regional information resources office in Nairobi approved two large American Spaces funding requests despite warning signs. These included the requests’ hyperbolic language (“the possibilities are endless”) and the questionable suitability of such a large, public-private project in a very poor country, especially when the project would be managed by a public affairs officer and section lacking the necessary business and accounting acumen and grants management experience. The Bureau of African Affairs approved the project despite the fact that it had not received the necessary project details from the embassy and despite the many flaws in the grants documents that they did receive. The embassy did not caution the Department that the project’s prospective partners had never cooperated in such a joint venture, had no understanding of its public purpose, and had no record of such cooperation with the embassy in the past. The Department should have drawn on its technical and regional expertise and understanding of public-private partnerships to identify flaws in the initial plan before it was approved and funds were allotted.
Note that the new Ambassador to Madagascar Robert Yamate was only confirmed by the Senate in November 2014, and did not get to post until December 2014, five months after his nomination was announced and two months after this OIG inspection. The previous ambassador appointed to Madagascar was R. Niels Marquardt who departed post in June 2010.
On May 13, President Obama announced his intent to nominate career diplomat Laura Farnsworth Dogu as the next Ambassador to the Republic of Nicaragua. The WH released the following brief bio:
Laura Farnsworth Dogu, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, Mexico, a position she has held since 2012. Prior to that, Ms. Dogu was Deputy Executive Director in the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the Department of State from 2010 to 2012. She served as a Consular Section Chief and Consular Officer in Mexico, Turkey, and Egypt from 1999 to 2010. Ms. Dogu was a Staff Assistant in the Bureau of Consular Affairs from 1997 to 1998 and Watch Officer in the State Department Operations Center from 1996 to 1997. She also served as Consular and Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey from 1994 to 1996 and Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador from 1991 to 1993. Ms. Dogu received a B.A., B.B.A., and M.B.A. from Southern Methodist University and an M.S. from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
Photo by US Embassy Mexico/Flickr
Additional bio details from US Embassy Mexico:
Ms. Dogu received the 2006 Department of State Barbara Watson Award for Consular Excellence for her efforts to protect children through the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction. She has also received several Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards.
Following her personal interest in financial planning, in 2009 Ms. Dogu co-authored a book on retirement planning and is a published financial columnist.
Ms. Dogu is a 2007 graduate from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University with a Masters Degree in National Resource Strategy. She also holds a Master of Business Administration, Bachelor of Business Administration, and Bachelor of Arts degrees from Southern Methodist University. Before joining the U.S. Government, Ms. Dogu worked as a Marketing Representative for International Business Machines (IBM) serving customers in the distribution and services industries. Ms. Dogu is married, and she and her husband have two sons.
If confirmed, this would be Ms. Dogu’s first ambassadorial appointment. She would succeed career diplomat Phyllis M. Powers who was appointed to Nicaragua by President Obama in 2012.
Retired SFSO David T. Jones, in the aftermath of a highly contentious 2009 election, wrote that “AFSA’s elections must return to diplomatic civility rather than channeling canines contending over hunks of meat.”
The 2011 election was tamed and supervised by the Department of Labor. The 2013 election was underwhelming with most positions uncontested. The 2015 election by contrast has two full slates with fairly recognizable candidates. But one only has to watch a couple of town halls meetings to recognize that this is the most polite campaign to-date. As if they were afraid to offend each other by asking real questions.
There are three candidates running for President of AFSA: Barbara Stephenson (Strong Diplomacy), Matthew Asada (Future Forward AFSA) and Tex Harris (no slate). Odd thing here is that Mr. Harris while running for president has also endorsed Mr. Asada.
On the May 6 campaign message, Ambassador Stephenson says this:
This election season, voters have a clear choice. If you are satisfied with what AFSA has been achieving for you, then there are two presidential candidates who represent that tradition. If, however, you want to see senior, experienced leaders and managers known for their interpersonal and negotiation skills work to achieve a more strategic set of outcomes, then please vote for the entire Strong Diplomacy slate.
Mr. Asada’s May 6 campaign message says:
Future Forward AFSA is running to ensure that AFSA remains an independent voice for the Foreign Service. Employees need an advocate that can collaborate with management to get things done, and challenge it when it strikes out in the wrong direction. AFSA was the first to sound the alarm about this bidding cycle’s “100 job deficit”.
Well, who else is supposed to sound the alarm, if not AFSA?
A SFSO deeply active in AFSA speaking on background says that he/she agrees that “there should not be personal attacks of any kind” but that there ought to be “a robust and spirited debates on the issues!” Candidates should be free to critique the current Board’s record, this AFSA fella told us, but that they should also elaborate what they would do differently. Which seems fair enough. If AFSA has set up an election forum, that should be put to excellent use in the last few weeks of this campaign.
We must say that it has not always been easy to get answers from AFSA in the last two years. There are a few pet peeves we’d like to throw in because we never got a satisfying response.
Indefinite Senate “Hold” on Rank and File Nominations
We remain concerned about the genesis of the Senate “hold” on ordinary non-ambassadorial ranked members of the Foreign Service. The hold has air quotes because our understanding is that some nominations are actually not officially put in for consideration but is in what we’d call “confirmation purgatory.” We have also asked about a few FSOs whose nominations have been stuck in the Senate confirmation process dating back to 2012. An AFSA insider who declined to be identified refers to the “mean-spiritedness” in the confirmation process. We have asked Mr. Asada directly about the eight nominations awhile back and received no response. Other folks we’ve asked were advised by AFSA not to talk to us about this. This is concerning because the blog Dead Men Working has been blogging up a storm about this issue since late last year. While we do not agree with everything DMW writes, that blog raises some troubling allegations that we think must be addressed.
There were two things we were hoping to see from AFSA: 1) work on strengthening the Foreign Service Act of 1980 through Congress, who is after all, tasked to provide “advice and consent”on ambassadorial nominees under the U.S. Constitution, and 2) work on the reinstatement of the OIG Inspector Evaluation Reports (IERs) to promote accountability and successful performance of our chiefs of missions overseas.
That did not happen, of course. At the time when this COM Guidelines was being massaged into a sausage, we’ve heard from a good number of AFSA members asking why this was “done in the dark” without informing the membership. A couple helpfully suggested that perhaps the USG should just auction off all these jobs every two years given that anyone can do the work. Well, what do you think about that auction?
AFSA’s Ambassador Statistics
We’ve seen the Obama political ambassador statistics at over 40% thrown about. The ft.com says 41% citing AFSA statistics on ambassadors. Roll Call repeated the number here on political ambassadorships. We sent a note to AFSA citing the questions on Twitter re: ambo stats, specifically the accuracy of the % cited and if it has any comment. We never got a response.
Blog pal @Philip Arsenault has done a lot of good work using presidential records to track the ambassadorial appointees going back to the Eisenhower Era. He was not able to replicate the 41% Obama political ambassadorships attributed to AFSA. It looks like AFSA counts every International Organization (IO) ambassadors for Obama but has sparse info for every other president. Since IO has the highest number of pol appointees, this could easily skew the numbers for President Obama. If AFSA is counting IO appointees for the Obama tenure, it should also count the IO appointees for all other presidents. Fairness requires that. If it is unable to account for those IO appointees from other presidents, it should ditch the Obama numbers in the counting or if they have to use to IO data, it must be clearly noted as such.
Also if AFSA is counting CDAs as ambassadors even when those are not Senate confirmed appointees, this could mess up with the numbers. As an example of this, take a look at AFSA’s list for President Reagan’s ambassadors to Ethiopia from 1982-1991 (Reagan was in office from January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989). All three — Korn, Cheek, Houdek — are listed as career appointees. They are but there’s a problem.
According to history.state.gov, these diplomats were appointed as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim; they were not nominated by President Reagan, and they were not confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Screen capture from history.state.gov
Once Philip brought his concern to our attention, we stopped using AFSA’s numbers. As of this writing, the AFSA Ambassador Tracker indicates that President Obama’s political ambassador appointees for the second term is down from the reported 41% to 35.9%, still higher than Philip’s number which is 32.9%. We trust Philip’s data more because when there are questions, he is responsive, when there’s an error, he is quick to fix it. With AFSA, we got nothing but radio silence and we don’t see how we could rely on those numbers until they’re properly scrubbed.
Depending on where you’re sitting, the following could mean something or not, worth a discussion at the election forum or not:
AFSA told us, “We do not publish election statistics on the AFSA website, nor do we provide that information to anonymous sources.” Again we’re asking — what legitimate reason is there for the election statistics of the labor union of the United States Foreign Service not to be public record or at the minimum, available to its membership? Shouldn’t AFSA members learn what kind of turnouts they have every election? Wouldn’t drilling down the numbers help with voter engagement?
A number of Foreign Service Grievance Board cases are “settled” or withdrawn. We understand that a confidentiality clause governs these cases. But when the Department “settles” these cases, how come the redacted complaint and the terms of the settlement are not made available by AFSA to its members for analysis?
Do you know that Department employees who take the CIA’s polygraph examination for detail assignments will have the results of their polygraph provided to DS and HR for security clearance and assignment purposes? A source told us that “In and of itself, it does no harm if the CIA retains them for its clearance purposes, but it can have an unanticipated negative impact when indiscriminately released by the CIA to third parties, like DS and HR, who use them in violation of the CIA’s restrictions to the Department and assurances to the examinees.” If this affects only a fraction of the Foreign Service, is that an excuse not to do anything about it, or at a minimum, provide an alert to employees contemplating these detail assignments?
An elected AFSA representative participated in the Brussels Forum of the German Marshall Fund in 2014. An AFSA member asked this blog why? The Brussels Forum is an annual high-level meeting of the most influential North American and European political, corporate, and intellectual leaders to address pressing challenges currently facing both sides of the Atlantic. Participants include heads of state, senior officials from the European Union institutions and the member states, U.S. Cabinet officials, Congressional representatives, Parliamentarians, academics, and media. We think the “why” question is a fair and legitimate question unless non-union fees were used for this participation. Folks, stop sending us these “why” questions here. Every elected representative at AFSA should be willing and available to answer the why questions.
Assignments are typically handed out a year before folks have their rotation/change of station. What’s this we’re hearing about 300 unassigned Foreign Service employees at the end of April? What’s being done about it?
Okay, there’s an indifferent Foreign Service majority but …
Mr. Jones wrote that very few AFSA members vote in Governing Board elections … “The essential conclusion must be that AFSA members regard the effect on their lives as so ancillary and/or the consequences from AFSA efforts so ineffectual that voting was not worth the few minutes to review candidates/platforms (or the cost of postage to return the ballot).”
Or email ballot.
We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: What these elections show is that even if only 22% of the membership cast their ballots every two years, AFSA still operates as the professional association and recognized labor union of 100% of its Foreign Service members. In essence, the priorities of 1/5 of its membership, the minority who actually votes, becomes the priorities for all, including the majority who doesn’t.
Think about that. Even if a large number of members opt out by not voting, AFSA still functions on the Foreign Service’s behalf. Shouldn’t FS members at least make an effort to pick who gets to represent them?
We are paying attention to this election but for the record, we do not vote; we just sit on the wall and watch. We do have two wishes. There are already rumors that this could potentially be another contested election. So first, we really hope that the candidates do not go there. Following the 2009 election, the AFSA election turn out dipped dangerously down to 17%. Another contested election could potentially turn off the already small number of voters. And if that happens, we would not blame them at all.
Second, we hope that whoever gets elected as the next Governing Board would endeavor to be more open and responsive to questions. Even if those questions occasionally come from unusual quarters like ours.
Note: Please note that the comments section is purposely disabled for this blogpost. We hope AFSA provides an election forum for the members interested on the issues. If not, check out Strong Diplomacy and Future Forward AFSA, Ask questions. Start a discussion. Be ever present. Vote. Then get your friends to vote.
On May 11, the WH posted a notice of a withdrawal sent to the Senate on the nomination of Katherine Dhanani, President Obama’s nominee as the first U.S. Ambassador to Somalia in 24 years.An administration official reportedly told Voice of America that Katherine Dhanani, a career diplomat with experience serving across Africa, “turned down the nomination for personal reasons and that Obama will have to find another candidate.” “She is withdrawing for personal reasons,” an unnamed administration official told AFP. Could be the same administration official, telling reporters the same talking point.
WITHDRAWAL SENT TO THE SENATE:
Katherine Simonds Dhanani, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Somalia, which was sent to the Senate on February 25, 2015.
We don’t know what’s going on here but if you have to turn down the president for “personal reasons,” that typically happens before the nomination is announced and certainly before the confirmation process starts rolling. What makes this even odd is this would have been the diplomat’s first ambassadorial appointment, the culminating point of a diplomatic career.
When Secretary Kerry made a surprise visit to Somalia recently, there was no indication that the then nominee was in his party. What would have made sense was a quick confirmation so the nominee could have accompanied the secretary on his first ever trip to Mogadishu. After all, she already had her confirmation hearing. But that did not happen, why?
When asked about congressional and SFRC reaction to the Somalia trip, a Senior Administration Official told the traveling press corps, “I think it’ll be very positive.”
It’s so very positive that here we are barely a week after that Somalia trip and the White House has now withdrawn the nominee for the first ambassador to Somalia in two decades.
Was the SFRC upset enough to refused endorsement of this nomination that the WH has little recourse but to withdraw the nomination and start over?
Not quite the entire embassy but close enough. Four of our six diplomats and an FS spouse assigned to the U.S. Embassy Minsk in Belarus recently participated in the clean up of Islach River near the capital city in honor of Earth Day. Correct us if we’re wrong but this is probably the smallest U.S. embassy we have with a staff of only six American employees. Why?
Due to restrictions imposed unilaterally by the Belarusian Government in 2008 on the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in Minsk, the American Embassy was forced to reduce its staff from 35 to five diplomats as well as withdraw its Ambassador. The number of U.S. diplomats was later increased to six in July 2014. The imposed reduction in staff has greatly impeded the Embassy’s ability to carry out mutually beneficial diplomatic programs and activities, including cultural and educational exchanges, assistance programs, and visa services.
Charge d’affaires Scott Rauland, his wife and three other Embassy employees joined Belarusian environmental activists on April 25 to clean up the 10-km stretch of the Islach River near Minsk in honor of the Earth Day. The action was organized by the “Green Team” travel agency and was attended by volunteers from the international wildlife foundation “Red Forest”, Internet portal TUT.BY and NGO “APB-Birdlife Belarus”. The six-hour event supported by the local administration resulted in collection of more than a ton of garbage, including the remains of a submerged car. (Photo via US Embassy Belarus/FB)
When U.S. Government officials make temporary visits to Minsk, host-country authorities require that an equivalent number of permanent American staff members leave the country to maintain the six-person limit. Can you imagine if OBO must send a three-member team for repairs? That would require half the permanent staff to leave post and make way for the repair staff.
Embassy Minsk chargé d’affaires Scott M. Rauland arrived in Minsk to assume duties as head of the U.S. Embassy to Belarus on June 30, 2014.
The chargé d’affaires is the only officer with no formal additional functional duties; however, he acts as backup political/economic officer, press officer, and backup public diplomacy officer. The political/economic officer is also the de facto deputy chief of mission (DCM), press officer, and backup consular officer. The management officer also functions as the post security officer, human resources officer, financial management officer, general services officer, facilities maintenance officer, backup information management officer (IMO), medical liaison, occupational health and safety officer, and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) contact. The public affairs officer spends a quarter of her time as the embassy’s sole consular officer. The IMO serves as backup financial management officer.
The American Foreign Service Association will honor Ambassador Bill Harrop with its 2015 Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the Department of State on June 9, 2015.
When Ambassador Harrop was IG (he was the last Foreign Service Officer to serve as Inspector General), there was a non-career, politically appointed ambassador in a Scandinavian country who was actually going out and picking up prostitutes in a park of the capital city. Yup, happened before. And there was that career Foreign Service ambassador whose wife was writing a book and using the ambo’s Foreign Service secretary and word processor and copying equipment for the project. Boy, oh, boy! He also served as Principal Officer in Zaire in the 1960’s where his ambassador complained about the president and the foreign minister saying, “I am awakened at all hours of the night, either by the megalomaniac or by the schizophrenic. I never know which one will be on the other end of the line with some crazy ultimatum.”
On why people get a Washington job:
The “culture” of the Foreign Service had been that people who came into it expected they’d be mainly living overseas. There was some resistance, but gradually people began to understand that if you wanted to have an impact on policy, perhaps the best place to be was Washington. In my view the work was more difficult, more demanding, less well compensated financially, and certainly more fatiguing in Washington, with fewer diversions, less interest and variety than overseas. However, ambitious people began to see that Washington was probably a place they should focus on if they wanted to get ahead in their careers. That view was beginning to be appreciated by 1960.
And even more appreciated now. Ambassador Harrop was interviewed for ADST’s Oral History project. You may read the transcript of that interview here (pdf).
The award announcement via afsa.org:
The American Foreign Service Association is delighted to name career diplomat William C. Harrop as recipient of the 2015 Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award, honoring his extraordinary commitment to advancing the field throughout his career in the Foreign Service, as well as through subsequent diplomacy-focused efforts in the nonprofit sector.
During his 39-year career as a Foreign Service officer, Ambassador Harrop served as U.S. Ambassador to Guinea, Kenya, Seychelles, Zaire and Israel. He also held positions as Inspector General of the State Department and Foreign Service, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, member of the State Department Policy Planning and Coordination Staff, and Deputy Chief of Mission in Australia. While the breadth and prestige of his appointments attests to the quality of Ambassador Harrop’s diplomatic work, his excellence in the field has also been recognized officially. Ambassador Harrop received the Presidential Distinguished Service Award and State Department Distinguished Honor Award, as well as the 2001 Foreign Service Cup.
Since 1958, Ambassador Harrop has served as an influential leader within AFSA. He was chair of the Scholarship Committee in his first year of membership and, through hard work and dedication to the organization, rose to become AFSA President in 1971, a position he held for two years. Ambassador Harrop continues to demonstrate his commitment to his fellow Foreign Service colleagues and friends as a director of the Senior Living Foundation. He also sponsors AFSA’s F. Allen ‘Tex’ Harris Award for Constructive Dissent by a Foreign Service Specialist and the Nelson B. Delavan Award for Exceptional Performance by an Office Management Specialist. He also provides support for AFSA as director of the Delavan Foundation.
In his post-career work, Ambassador Harrop continues to show a remarkable level of commitment to the profession, dedicating his time and expertise to numerous organizations that seek to recognize the importance of diplomacy in American life and history. He has worked with the American Academy of Diplomacy, American Diplomacy Publishers, and the Henry L. Stimson Foundation. As president and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Museum Council, Ambassador Harrop spearheaded the effort to create the U.S. Diplomacy Center, a museum and education center that focuses on the vital role of American diplomacy in our nation’s past and future. Thanks to the efforts of Ambassador Harrop and the rest of the committee, construction on the USDC began this year.
Ambassador Harrop has contributed to several books and publications on diplomacy. As chairman of the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Program Committee, he launched the books First Line of Defense (AAD, 2000) and Commercial Diplomacy (AAD, 2004) and provided support for American Statecraft: The Story of the U.S. Foreign Service (Thomas Dunne Books, 2013), as well as America’s Other Army (CreateSpace, 2012). In association with the Foreign Policy Association, Ambassador Harrop is currently developing a PBS film on notable U.S. diplomats.
The innumerable ways in which Ambassador Harrop has sought to advance the field of diplomacy serve as a testament to his lifelong commitment to the profession. His contributions demonstrate his determination to garner for diplomacy, and his fellow diplomats, the recognition they deserve as essential to the formation and execution of U.S. foreign policy.
Previous recipients of this award include U. Alexis Johnson, Frank Carlucci, George H.W. Bush, Lawrence Eagleburger, Cyrus Vance, David Newsom, Lee Hamilton, Thomas Pickering, George Shultz, Richard Parker, Richard Lugar, Morton Abramowitz, Joan Clark, Tom Boyatt, Sam Nunn, Bruce Laingen, Rozanne Ridgway, William Lacy Swing, George Landau and Charles Stuart ‘Stu’ Kennedy.
AFSA invites friends and colleagues of Ambassador Harrop to attend the AFSA Awards Ceremony on June 9 at 4:00 p.m. in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the Department of State. There we will celebrate Ambassador Harrop’s incredible generosity, fortitude and devotion to the goal of making the achievements of the Foreign Service known to the American public.
We’d like to note that Ambassador Harrop has extended his remarkable generosity to this blog. He is one of 375 individuals who generously supported the GFM campaign to help keep us online this year. Our heartfelt felicitations!