Category Archives: Hillary

QDDR II Walks Into a Bar and Asks, What Happened to the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations?

– Domani Spero

The State Department says that the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) is “a sweeping assessment of how the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) can become more efficient, accountable, and effective in a world in which rising powers, growing instability, and technological transformation create new threats, but also new opportunities.” 

In July 2009, Secretary Clinton announced that the State Department, for the first time ever, will conduct a QDDR. The report from a 17-month review was released in December 2010.

Yesterday, Secretary Kerry, joined by Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, and recently appointed Special Representative for the QDDR, Thomas Perriello launched the State/USAID review process for the second Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR II). Special Rep Thomas Perriello was appointed top QDDR II honcho by Secretary Kerry in February 2014. Previously, Mr. Perrielo served as the congressman from Virginia’s fifth district, and most recently served as CEO of the Center for American Progress.

Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the public launch of the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) review process for the second Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) April 22, 2014 (state.gov photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the public launch of the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) review process for the second Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) April 22, 2014
(state.gov photo)

Also yesterday at the DPB, the State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that The 2014 QDDR builds on the foundation established by the 2010 review as a part of Department and USAID’s processes of continuous improvement.” And because AP’s Matthew Lee was in attendance, it was quite a show (see Erik Wemple’s AP reporter scorches State Department spokeswoman on Hillary Clinton initiative over at WaPo).

We understand that the Deputy Secretary will also host a QDDR II Town Hall meeting in Foggy Bottom today.  Perhaps somebody could ask how the State Department is going to fix QDDR I’s offspring, the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations?

Why fix it? Well, in March 2014, State/OIG posted its inspection report of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO). It looks like a huge mess and may need more than therapy.

The CSO was created in November 2011, as directed by the 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), to replace S/CRS and be “the institutional locus for policy and operational solutions for crisis, conflict, and instability” as a whole of government endeavor.  CSO is one of eight bureaus and offices that report to the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. The Under Secretary position was vacant for much of 2013— the second half of CSO’s 2-year existence.  Below are some of the OIG report’s key judgments:

  • The mission of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations remains unclear to some of its staff and to many in the Department and the interagency. The bureau was established in 2011 but there remains a lack of consensus on whether coordination, analysis, or operations should dominate its mission.
  • The bureau does an inadequate job managing its large contingent of contractors. The inspection uncovered weaknesses in oversight, performance of inherently governmental functions, and incomplete contracting officer’s representative files. [Redacted] (b) (5)
  • Bureau practices violate basic Department regulations and procedures in several areas, including security, travel and hiring. Procedural and physical security programs require prompt attention.

But there’s more. The following bulleted items are extracted from the OIG report:

Leadership: Leading By Example

  • The Assistant Secretary’s leadership resulted in some progress toward establishing new directions for the bureau in a short time. There have been internal costs, however, as CSO struggles from a lack of directional clarity, lack of transparency, micromanagement, and re-organizational fatigue. The turnover of 54 percent of CSO staff between February 2012 and August 2013 created widespread internal suspicion and job insecurity in addition to confusion in the Department and the interagency.
  • The new noncareer leadership arrived with fresh models and analytics for conflict prevention and intervention, but some of them lacked basic understanding of the roles, responsibilities, and workings of the Department, especially of the regional and functional bureaus they are tasked to support.
  • The Assistant Secretary sought to demonstrate the bureau’s value to senior leaders in the Department and Congress in the bureau’s first year of operation. His early focus has been for CSO to operate where it can, rather than where it should. Relatively few of the bureau’s engagements to date have been in places or on issues of significant foreign policy importance.
  • In addition, the Assistant Secretary and several of his deputies promote a culture of bending and evading rules. For example, the OIG team heard in multiple interviews that CSO leadership loosely interpreted the level of bureau or embassy support for certain of its activities, arguing that doing so is justified by the urgent nature of its work and need to build a more innovative and agile bureau. Interviewees gave examples of disregard for the Department’s procedures, This laxity contributed to low staff scores for morale and leadership of some in the front office. The perceived CSO attitude that it does not have to follow [Redacted] (b) (5) rules is cited by some bureaus and ambassadors as reasons they seek to avoid working with CSO. The Assistant Secretary needs to lead by example and ensure that the deputies do the same.

Top-Heavy Bureau, Staffing “Churn” and Curtailments

  • Since the establishment of CSO, there have been curtailments in six of its 15 Foreign Service positions. The bureau had not been active in recruiting Foreign Service officers in the past, but for the past cycle it actively campaigned for candidates with some success.  Upon the departure of the remaining Foreign Service DAS, there will be no Senior Foreign Service officer in the front office.
  • Athough the bureau is new and its organizational structure in frequent motion, CSO has many relatively new, talented, and dedicated, staff who frequently impress bureaus and embassies when deployed. The staff includes Foreign Service, Civil Service , fellows, and contractors. They function in a chaotic atmosphere and sometimes lack familiarity with their portfolios and the Department.
  • The CSO front office promotes turnover among its staff to foster innovation. This philosophy creates considerable job insecurity and uncertainty. According to one study, 54 percent of CSO’s staff (direct hire and contractor) has turned over since the reorganization. The human resources team has started conducting exit interviews with departing staff to determine their reasons for leaving CSO.
  • Overseas deployments of 6 months or longer offer both opportunities and heavy responsibilities. Deployment burnout is evident as reported in interviews with staff and personal questionnaires, and the OIG team questions how long this model can endure.
  • The bureau is top-heavy. Its front office comprises the Assistant Secretary, a Civil Service Senior Executive Service principal deputy assistant secretary, two noncareer deputy assistant secretaries (DAS), a Senior Foreign Service DAS for administration, and two GS-15 senior advisors. In addition to the four DASes and two front office GS-15 advisors, CSO has 21 GS-15 and FS-01 positions.

The Traveling Band of Conflict Mitigators to Honduras, Nigeria Plus Conferences/Meetings in the UK, Belgium, and Switzerland — Oh, My!

  • In Honduras, CSO estimates the budget for its 2-year anti-violence program at $2 million. Six CSO staff in Washington support the program. According to CSO data, in FY 2013, 28 CSO staff members made 58 trips to Honduras, collectively spending 2,837 days there, at a cost of approximately $450,000. By contrast, USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives employs one staff member in Washington and two in Honduras to oversee a similar but larger $12 million program.
  • In Nigeria, CSO estimates that its anti-violence program in the Niger Delta region will cost $5.6 million. The central component is a television series that will advocate nonviolent ways to address grievances. CSO estimates it will broadcast one hour of programming a week for 13 weeks. It hopes to complement the television series with support to community groups and local governments. CSO envisions maintaining three Washington-based staff members on long-term temporary duty assignments in Nigeria in FY2014 and hiring two more staff locally. It expects to devote up to eight staff—four to five full-time—in Washington to support the program. In August 2013, to prepare for the program and begin implementing it, CSO travelers spent 578 days in Nigeria at a cost in excess of $111,000.
  • Many CSO employees commented in OIG personal questionnaires and interviews that some front office travel to conferences and meetings, especially to Europe, appeared to be linked more to personal interests than to the bureau’s mission. During FY 2013, CSO employees took 17 trips to the United Kingdom, 7 trips to Belgium, and 6 trips to Switzerland. In one case, the PDAS and two other DASes were in London at the same time for different meetings.
  • Justifications provided in the approved requests for travel authorization and invitational travel often do not contain sufficient detail to link the trips directly to CSO goals. According to 14 FAM 533.4-1, authorizing officials must ensure that conference travel is necessary to accomplish agency goals. Likewise, Department policy on gifts of invitational travel in 2 FAM 962.1-8e (1) (b) states that travel must relate to an employee’s official duties and represent priority use of the traveling employee’s time. Without adequate justification, funds and staff time devoted to travel and trip support could be wasted. More transparency in the travel approval process also could increase staff understanding of the purpose of travel.

Morale needs duct tape over there!

  • OIG’s pre-inspection survey results reflected lower than normal morale among bureau staff, in terms of both personal and office morale. Ninety-six percent of CSO staff who completed personal questionnaires responded to questions on morale. The bureau average for office morale was 2.75 and for personal morale 3.09, on a 5-point scale. Bureau leadership sought to attribute these low scores to dissatisfaction among former S/CRS staff who, due to reorganization and other changes, perceived themselves as marginalized in the new bureau. The OIG team found that dissatisfaction was more widespread than this explanation suggested.
  • Comments on morale in the personal questionnaires cited many factors behind low bureau morale. The most common included cramped office space/lack of privacy (cited by 20 percent of the respondents); too many reorganizations and physical moves; pressure from senior management (including the Assistant Secretary and deputies) to bend, force, or evade Department regulations and hire favored candidates; top management’s philosophy of “churn” to prevent people staying in CSO for more than 3 years; lack of clear communication or inconsistent application of policies; shifting priorities; fear of retribution from senior management; and the residual impact of the reorganization and layoffs during the creation of CSO.
  • The status of the former S/CRS staff and the impact the reorganization had on them merits attention. Although some have been promoted to leadership positions, surveys and interviews with other S/CRS staff indicate they feel they are treated shabbily, are encouraged to leave because they no longer fit the organization’s new needs, and are not valued. CSO leadership needs to find ways to address these perceptions.

Integrated Not Replicated — Really?

  • Several Department offices and other agencies work on issues similar to CSO’s. For example, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor promotes democracy and the rule of law, including free and fair elections. The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement trains police. The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs’ Middle East Partnership Initiative manages programs that support democratic transition in the region. USAID has experience, infrastructure, and programs in place in most nations facing conflict.
  • USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives has a mission statement almost identical to that of CSO. CSO and the Office of Transition Initiatives have worked together on several engagements with the participation of staff from both. The QDDR acknowledged that the capabilities of USAID and the Department often overlap. But their efforts must be integrated, not replicated. When asked about the imperative to engage in program activities overseas, many CSO staff told the OIG team that the bureau needs to implement overseas programs to be considered relevant and influential within the Department and interagency.

These are all troubling items, of course, and there’s more but this report is frankly, depressing to read. We should note that another disturbing content of the State/OIG report is the significant number of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints within CSO in the last year. The per capita rate of informal complaints from direct-hire employees according to State/OIG is five times the Department average. So the bureau tasked with “operational solutions for crisis, conflict, and instability” not only had a 54 percent turnover since reorganization, it also has five times the agency’s average in EEO complaints.

Maybe this sounds crazy — but we think that the bureau with “Stability Operations” on its name ought to have stability, steadiness and firmness in its operation before it starts “fixing”, “mitigating” or what have you in conflict areas.

Perhaps QDDR II will provide an opportunity to do just that?

If not, there’s always QDDR III in 2018.

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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

One Year: 327,000 Miles, 39 Countries and — @JohnKerry is Back!

– Domani Spero

Via state.gov: “Secretary Kerry Bids Goodbye to Senator Whitehouse After Completing Final Trip of First Year in Office.”

state.gov

via state.gov

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says goodbye to U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island on February 2, 2014, after he hitched a ride on the Secretary’s airplane on the flight back to Andrews Air Force Base from the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany. The trip was the final one of Kerry’s first year in office, during which time he spoke domestically, visited all major State Department agencies, and traveled across 327,000 miles to engage in diplomacy in 39 countries. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

On February 4, in celebration of this one year anniversary, the State Department apparently allowed him back on Twitter.

“It only took a year but @StateDept finally let me have my own @Twitter account,” he tweeted from @JohnKerry, his account that has been dormant since April last year.

This is a good thing. Since State folks have all been instructed to send the Secretary only  “policy-related questions” during his town hall meetings at State, perhaps now you can ask him non-policy questions on Twitter. Didn’t you always want to know who scoops Ben’s poop — a junior diplomat or a DS agent?

This could be fun!  Unless, of course, you’ve got a Department Notice also with instructions not to ask @JohnKerry questions in 140 characters?

Don’t worry.  Maybe on his second anniversary at State, Secretary Kerry will be allowed to do AMA on Reddit.  Now, not even Secretary Clinton did that!

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About That $10 Million Rewards for Justice for Benghazi — Was It In Morse Code?

– Domani Spero

On November 15, news outlets reported that the State Department revealed … that it  “secretly,” some reports says it “quietly,” others say it “covertly” offered, a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in the deadly terror attack last year on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

How does one communicate secretly that there is such a reward?  Do you pass it on a whisper campaign, on a rumor campaign, in Morse Code or do you use a tin can telephone? Here is the  $10 million reward imagined in Morse Code.

Screen Shot 2013-11-20

$10 Million Reward Imagined
The United States is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in the deadly terror attack last year on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy.

On November 18, the $10 million reward made it to the State Department’s daily press briefing. On the red corner, as usual,  is AP’s Matt Lee, and on the blue corner is the official spox, Jennifer Psaki. Below is the word cloud if you want the DPB in 2 seconds.
Created with Word It Out

Via Word It Out

If you want the longer version, below is an excerpt from the transcript:

QUESTION: Can the State Department provide documentation that the $10 million you have offered, dating back to September, exists?

MS. PSAKI: Documentation?

QUESTION: Documentation. On Friday afternoon there was a press release that said –

MS. PSAKI: I’m very familiar with it. I think we confirmed at the time that the Rewards for Justice program has had a reward offer of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of any individual. That is conveyed to the appropriate parties. We haven’t made the decision beyond confirming it to put on the website or publicize it further. So I’m not sure what you’d be looking for.

QUESTION: When you said “at the time,” do you mean last January?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I said that’s when we made the decision to put them on the list. Obviously, there have been an incredible level of interest. We – through consultations, we decided to confirm, but we have made the decision to publicize it by putting it officially on the website, et cetera. But beyond that, in terms of specific documentation, I’m not sure that’s something that we would have available for a program like that.

QUESTION: Understood. Can you describe how a secret reward system works?

MS. PSAKI: Probably not. What are you looking for specifically?

QUESTION: Just the process, like who made the decision? Was it Secretary Clinton, Susan Rice, the White House? Who made the decision to offer a reward and keep it a secret, and if –

MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking, this is – Secretary Clinton made the decision to, in consultation with a range of parties, to put them on this list. In terms of the decision made about whether to publicize it or not, that’s discussion made through a range of parties. Sometimes we are especially cautious about publicizing the names of suspects or bringing any additional public attention to them if there’s a belief that it would be – that the investigation is sensitive and it would adversely affect the process. So that’s part of the decision-making, and obviously you reconsider that decision just like anything over the course of time.

QUESTION: But if you have a secret rewards program, if nobody knows about it, how can you expect to get any answers?

MS. PSAKI: I can assure you that although the reward was not posted, has not been posted on the website, our interagency partners have a range of ways of making this reward offer known as needed, and they’ve done that since January.

QUESTION: What – could you just be a little bit more specific about what that means? Does that mean they go up, walk up to some dude on the street in Benghazi and say, “Hey, buddy, we got some cash here if you can let us know who did this.” Is that what that means?

MS. PSAKI: I can confirm that is probably not an accurate depiction –

QUESTION: Not.

MS. PSAKI: – but I don’t have – I can’t outline for you –

QUESTION: Okay, so exactly how is it – how is it?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I can’t outline for you more specifics. Obviously, there are a range of contacts, a range of steps that are taken. I’m not going to outline those more specifically.

QUESTION: The other thing, I – the one thing I don’t – perhaps you can explain it to me, I don’t really understand this. You said that one of the reasons for not publicizing it is because you don’t want the names to get out there, right? But as I understand it, there are no names on this list, that it’s an event-specific award. In other words, if you have information leading to the arrest of anyone who was involved in the attack – not Mr. X, Mr. Y, and Mr. Z. So if it’s an event-specific award, I just – the argument that publicizing the names is – would be bad or could compromise the investigation seems to vanish into vapor.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I will have to check on that for you in the specifics of what’s being publicized or not publicized. Obviously, anything that could impact an investigation is one of the bottom lines.

QUESTION: Right. But is it not correct that the reward is event-specific? In other words, it is for information leading to the arrest and conviction or capture or whatever of anyone who was involved in the attack on the Benghazi mission and not for Mr. X, specifically, who was involved in the attack? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on whether individual names are a part of that process.

QUESTION: Now, if Secretary Clinton approved the decision to keep this reward a secret, who made the decision within the building to make it a secret?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Lucas, I’m not going to outline decision – internal decision-making, but there is a process in place that discusses what is the appropriate way to handle. That was a decision made. Obviously, it continues to be reviewed, and we decided to confirm it.

QUESTION: So the State Department’s position is you had a secret negotiations about a secret rewards program – how do you expect to capture –

MS. PSAKI: It’s hardly a secret rewards program. Our desire to catch these suspects is hardly secret. It’s a top priority for the Administration. The decision was made for a range of reasons that we were not going to publicize the fact that they are a part of this list. Obviously, we’ve made a decision to confirm it, but I don’t think anybody should question our desire to catch these suspects.

QUESTION: And why was that decision made after repeated questions about these suspects?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s obviously an ongoing review of any of these cases on whether to keep public or private. There was a great deal of interest. In response to an inquiry from Congress, we confirmed that and we’ve confirmed it for all of you since then.

We do not doubt our government’s desire to apprehend the people responsible for the attack.  But do you understand how this is done?  We have a hard time understanding how one can put up a reward  but not put it up on the RFJ website, not use posters, not use matchbooks, has no paid advertisements on the radio and newspapers, the Internet, and any other appropriate avenue to assist in bringing to justice those responsible for this terrorist attack.

In related news, a Grand Rapids resident has hired a lawyer and is reportedly seeking a $25 million bounty for identifying the location of UBL eight years before he was killed in  Pakistan.

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Filed under Congress, Counting Beans, Federal Agencies, Follow the Money, Hillary, Huh? News, Leaks|Controversies, Media, Secretary of State, State Department, Terrorism

The Other Benghazi Four: Lengthy Administrative Circus Ended Today; Another Circus Heats Up

– By Domani Spero

They were the bureaucratic casualties of Benghazi.  Diplomatic Security officials Eric Boswell, Charlene Lamb, Steve Bultrowicz and NEA official, Raymond Maxwell were placed on paid administrative leave on December 19, 2012 following the release of the ARB Benghazi Report (See Issa — Kerry Paper Shuffling Saga: What’s With the 7-Month Administrative Leave?).

Today, eight months to the exact day when the four officials were put on ice,  the State Department has reportedly decided to end their administrative leave status.  All  four officials have reportedly been ordered to return to duty tomorrow, August 20 at 9:00 a.m. It is not yet clear what positions they will go back to when they return to Foggy Bottom.   At least one of them, Mr. Boswell already has a successor awaiting Senate confirmation as Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security.

Putting these four back to work, of course, does not answer why they were put on paid admin leave in the first place. But don’t worry. We are confident that the State Department’s spokesman will be able to explain this whole circus to the inquiring public by citing issues of employee confidentiality.

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Meanwhile, the Human Abedin circus appears to heat up without any help from sexting scandal magnet, Carlos Danger.  We should note that we do not believe Ms. Abedin is a Muslim Brotherhood princess sent to infiltrate the United States.  However, we are interested on her special employment arrangement at the State Department following the birth of her child.  The NYT recently reported that the senior Senator from Iowa Chuck Grassley has been asking questions about Huma Abedin’s employment arrangement with the State Department.  The NYT is also curious and fielded its own questions.  The State Department, of course, cited employee confidentiality issues and declined to answer these questions. And that, of course, makes this case even more interesting.

The questions Mr. Grassley and his staff are still seeking answers to include: who in the department specifically authorized the arrangement for Ms. Abedin; who in the department was aware of her outside consulting activities; copies of contracts Ms. Abedin signed with private clients; and the amount she earned from those contracts.

In addition, The New York Times asked the State Department to provide the titles and job descriptions of other individuals the department has permitted to serve in the capacity of special government employee, and whether any of Mrs. Clinton’s other political appointees were given the special designation.

The department has declined to do so, citing issues of employee confidentiality.

The NYT report points out that Ms. Abedin, in addition to being a “special government employee” at the State Department also worked for three other entities:

Ms. Abedin, 37, a confidante of Mrs. Clinton’s, was made a “special government employee” in June 2012. That allowed her to continue her employment at State but also work for Teneo, a consulting firm, founded in part by a former aide to President Bill Clinton, that has a number of corporate clients, including Coca-Cola. In addition, Ms. Abedin worked privately for the Clinton Foundation and for Mrs. Clinton personally.

While Senator Grassley maybe accused of playing politics here, we totally agree with him when he says that “basic information about a special category of employees who earn a government salary shouldn’t be a state secret.”   Further, he also said, “Disclosure of information builds accountability from the government to the taxpaying public. Agencies that lose sight of transparency also lose public trust.”

In a statement to The Times on Sunday, a State Department spokesman said: “Ms. Abedin was invaluable to the secretary and her entire operation, providing a breadth of broad-based and specific expertise from her years in the White House and at the department that was irreplaceable.”

These folks are talking about a special government employee or SGE. The Office of Government Ethics explains:

Congress created the SGE category in 1962 when it revised the criminal conflict of interest statutes. Congress recognized the need to apply appropriate conflict of interest restrictions to experts, consultants, and other advisers who serve the Government on a temporary basis. On the other hand, Congress also determined that the Government cannot obtain the expertise it needs if it requires experts to forego their private professional lives as a condition of temporary service. Since 1962, the SGE category has been used in a number of statutes and regulations as a means of tailoring the applicability of some restrictions.

As defined in 18 U.S.C. § 202, an SGE is an officer or employee who is retained, designated, appointed, or employed to perform temporary duties, with or without compensation, for not more than 130 days during any period of 365 consecutive days. The SGE category should be distinguished from other categories of individuals who serve executive branch agencies but who are not employees, such as independent contractors (who are generally not covered by the ethics laws and regulations at all). Also, although many SGEs serve as advisory committee members, not all members of advisory committees are SGEs.

According to AFSA, the State Department had 104 Schedule C employees in 2012.  However, the personnel statistics we’ve looked at does not specify how many SGEs work at the State Department.  It would be interesting to see how many Schedule C employees also became SGEs and had similar employment arrangements to Ms. Abedin who resigned from State on Feb. 1. If Ms. Abedin became an SGE in June 2012 as reported, and resigned in February 2013, that’s more than 130 days.  It would be shocking, of course, if there are no exemptions to that 130-day rule since Congress made the rule.

The NYT report also cited Ms. Abedin’s response:  “Ms. Abedin, in a letter she wrote last month in response to Mr. Grassley’s inquiry, said she had sought the special status because she had recently given birth to her son and wanted to remain in New York while continuing to work for the department.”

How many other new moms at the State Department wanted that opportunity, too, we wonder?

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Filed under 67, Appointments, Congress, Hillary, Huh? News, Leadership and Management, Org Life, People, State Department

What Sunk the State Dept’s $16.5 Million Kindle Acquisition? A Complaint. Plus Missing Overall Goals

—By Domani Spero

Remember that $16.5 million multi-year Kindle acquisition that almost happened under the auspices of the IIP Bureau in August last year? (See State Dept’s Winning Hearts and Minds One Kindle at a Time Collapses …. Presently Dead). Well, it turned out that while the no-bid contract for 2,500 e-readers at a cost of $16.5 million had been cancelled, IIP had actually already deployed a first batch of 2,000 eReaders to overseas posts.  The OIG inspection report did not say how much that first batch of eReaders cost, or how much was the contract for the content. The report does include the reason why that sole source contract was cancelled, the real  reason not the spin. Below an excerpt from the OIG report on the IIP Bureau:

Mobile Learning Initiative

Senior PD leadership conceived an initiative to provide eReaders to embassies and American Spaces. IIP would purchase the devices and the content by contract, benefiting from an economy of scale, and deliver eReaders to embassies. However, the embassies had no input in planning the initiative. IIP delivered the first batch of 2,000 eReaders to embassies without advance notice or procedures in place to register the devices and download content, which took significant staff time, especially in regions with poor electronic infrastructure. IIP learned from these mistakes, and a second batch included preregistered devices. Despite these difficulties, some IROs found creative ways to use the devices in programming. Others, in countries with advanced technology, commented that their audiences were not interested in devices without the latest in touch-screen technology. The consensus among IROs was that if they had been consulted in advance, they could have contributed to more effective PD use of eReaders.

When asked about the cancellation of the Amazon sole-source contract, this is what the State Department told the Digital Reader last year:

“In order to conduct additional market research and further explore technological options for our public diplomacy programs, the Department of State opted on August 15 to end the Request for Proposals for the Amazon Kindle in favor of proceeding with a Request for Information (RFI) process. This action will open to all vendors the opportunity to respond to the Department’s requirements for a mobile learning program.”

In fact, the real reason for its cancellation according to the OIG report is a protest from an unnamed organization citing non-compliance of the selected eReader with Section 508 requirements. It did not help that the eReader initiative also did not have an overall goal besides handing the Kindles out.

Last year, somebody familiar with the dysfunctional going ons at the “R” Bureau told us that this program was “not supported by project planning,” only seat of the pants “this sounds good” thingee. Below is an excerpt from the OIG report:

As the bureau was planning the second phase of the initiative, an organization protested the Department’s sole-source solicitation for the project, asserting that the selected eReader is not compliant with Section 508 requirements pertaining to information access for persons with disabilities. The Department retracted the solicitation, and the bureau spent several months reevaluating its approach. By March 2013, the bureau had changed the initiative’s goal to focus strictly on providing digital content to eReaders. This approach gives greater flexibility to embassies in determining the appropriate eReader technology for their region. However, the new plans are still vague on the initiative’s overall goals. The bureau does not have specific objectives to define success or a timeline to shift from an initiative requiring increasing resources each year to a program with predictable demands and a regular budget. These objectives are essential to measure the success of the initiative and to provide oversight.

Recommendation 32: The Bureau of International Information Programs should implement a plan for the eReader learning initiative that includes measurable goals. (Action: IIP)

IIP has supplied 2,000 eReader devices to embassies around the world. These devices must be tracked and managed to avoid loss or theft. The bureau’s Office of Research and Evaluation asked embassies to report on the eReaders in their possession, but not all embassies responded. The office is focusing on the question of replacement rate, not of responsibility for managing Department property. Furthermore, the existing property management system for IT does not easily include eReaders in embassy inventories. Some embassies have created their own tracking solutions, but these cannot address the question of central property management.

Recommendation 33: The Bureau of International Information Programs should create a property management plan for bureau-supplied eReader devices currently in embassies. (Action: IIP)

The Clinton-Bezos global launch of the Kindle Mobile Learning Initiative was supposed to happen on June 20, 2012. It was postponed for later rescheduling.  The event was never rescheduled and was very quietly forgotten.

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Filed under Digital Diplomacy, Functional Bureaus, Govt Reports/Documents, Hillary, Leadership and Management, Political Appointees, Public Diplomacy, State Department

Josh Rogin’s Exclusive: Benghazi ‘Scapegoat’ Raymond Maxwell Speaks Out — Duck and Cover!

Whoops! Too late!

Raymond Maxwell was placed on forced “administrative leave” after the State Department’s own internal investigation, conducted by an Administrative Review Board (ARB) led by former State Department official Tom Pickering. Five months after he was told to clean out his desk and leave the building, Maxwell remains in professional and legal limbo, having been associated publicly with the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American for reasons that remain unclear.
[...]
“The overall goal is to restore my honor,” said Maxwell, who has now filed grievances regarding his treatment with the State Department’s human resources bureau and the American Foreign Service Association, which represents the interests of foreign-service officers. The other three officials placed on leave were in the diplomatic security bureau, leaving Maxwell as the only official in the bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), which had responsibility for Libya, to lose his job.

“I had no involvement to any degree with decisions on security and the funding of security at our diplomatic mission in Benghazi,” he said.
[...]

Since the leave is not considered a formal disciplinary action, Maxwell has no means to appeal the status, as he would if he had been outright fired. To this day, he says, nobody from the State Department has ever told him why he was singled out for discipline. He has never had access to the classified portion of the ARB report, where all of the details regarding personnel failures leading up to Benghazi are confined. He also says he has never been shown any evidence or witness testimony linking him to the Benghazi incident.

Maxwell says he had planned to retire last September, but extended his time voluntarily after the Sept. 11 attack to help the bureau in its time of need. Now, he is refusing to retire until his situation is clarified. He is seeking a restoration of his previous position, a public statement of apology from State, reimbursement for his legal fees, and an extension of his time in service to equal the time he has spent at home on administrative leave.

“For any FSO being at work is the essence of everything and being deprived of that and being cast out was devastating,” he said.
[...]

The decision to place Maxwell on administrative leave was made by Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills, according to three State Department officials with direct knowledge of the events. On the day after the unclassified version of the ARB’s report was released in December, Mills called Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones and directed her to have Maxwell leave his job immediately.

“Cheryl Mills directed me to remove you immediately from the [deputy assistant secretary] position,” Jones told Maxwell, according to Maxwell.
[...]
But Jones was not disciplined in any way following the release of the report, nor was the principal deputy assistant secretary of State at NEA, Liz Dibble, who is slated to receive a plush post as the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in London this summer. In the DS bureau, the assistant secretary, principal deputy, and deputy assistant all lost their jobs. In the NEA bureau, only Maxwell was asked to leave.

Read  John Rogin’s  Exclusive: Hillary’s Benghazi ‘Scapegoat’ Speaks Out from his new home at the Daily Beast.

The somebodies appear to have miscalculated that folks would just go away quietly …

And it’s all a coincidence, of course, that on the same day that this came out, the State Department released its Benghazi Accountability Review Board Implementation and Secretary Kerry showed up at the George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington, Virginia to deliver Remarks to the Foreign Service Institute Overseas Security Seminar  (dear heavens! it’s open to the press and cameras!). We can’t recall a secretary of state ever showing up for that overseas seminar, can you?

– DS

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under AFSA, Disasters, Foreign Service, FSOs, Hillary, John F. Kerry, Leadership and Management, Leaks|Controversies, Public Service, Realities of the FS, Regional Bureaus, Reputation, State Department

Then Hillary Clinton Gets a New Office Online

The former secretary of state left Foggy Bottom last Friday. Between then and now, her new office online went live:  http://hillaryclintonoffice.com

Screen Shot 2013-02-04

The website is sparse with just a couple links, one for contact, and the other covering the site’s privacy policy. The contact page requests your name, email and phone and allows for three options: scheduling request, media inquiry or other. Minimalist in style and elegant with just the right background color matching her eyes.  The site will probably go vroom vroom and gets populated when she launches her book later. Or whatever else she wants to do going forward.

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Photo of the Day: 67 Says Goodbye to Foggy Bottom

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says farewell to State Department employees at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 1, 2013.

Clinton farewell

[State Department photo/ Public Domain]

 

With Secretary Clinton in the photo above is Deputy Secretary Tom Nides (who is reportedly leaving his D/MR post), career diplomat and Deputy Secretary Bill Burns (rumored to be going to the UN sometime), and career diplomat and permanent Foggy Bottom fixture, Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy (61st Secretary James Baker said recently that “Pat Kennedy was here way back in the dark ages when I was here. He’s been here ever since”). Remains to be seen if the 68th Secretary of State will keep Mr. Kennedy around or send him off to do an overseas tour.

Secretary Clinton’s farewell remarks before leaving Foggy Bottom is here.  Remember that as Hillaryland empties out the upper floors, there will be multiple vacancies for Secretary Kerry to fill.  Ditch usajobs.gov, get busy speed dialing!

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Hillary Clinton Handles a Mansplainer in Gifs

It was only a matter of time. #whatdifferencedoesitmake got a hashtag soon after it was uttered. There are even Hillary Clinton 2016 signs printed with it. Then Hillary Clinton Not Impressed During Benghazi Hearing got a photo caption contest.  And can Hillary Clinton in gifs be far behind? Of course not!

Over at feministing.com, columnist Zerlina Maxwell posted a series of gifs as part of a humorous “how-to” guide to dealing with “mansplainers” (defined as “a person — typically a man — who explains something condescendingly or patronizingly to a listener — usually a woman — who, in fact, does not require an explanation”).

Here are three of our picks:

Step 4: Raise your hands up like, “What’s your point?” and clown the mansplainer for not having an actual relevant point.

hclinton-yourpoint_zps53e740b8

The really hillaryious part is when the guy at the other end of the conversation ends up his turn with “Thank you, Madame Secretary.” He could have asked a bunch more follow-up questions had he attended the classified hearing on Benghazi and did his homework.

Step 5: When Senator John McCain calls you combative and proceeds to rant endlessly, nod with a sly smile.

hclinton-nodding_zps3be9c096

Step 7: Rearrange all of the random crap on your desk.  You can never be too organized when getting grilled by angry white dudes.

hclinton-pageturn_zps9131fafb
If you want the full tutorial, head over to How to deal with a mansplainer starring Hillary Clinton in gifs.

We think that this woman is still going places, never mind what the press release says.  You noticed, of course, that no one has bothered to put Senators McCain, Paul or Johnson in gifs?  And they’ve got gorgeous ties.  Maybe the gifs are the new bubble heads and signs of things to come?

Stoooop! We’re not going there, not to 2016 even if she already got a Ready for Hillary Super PAC and a second memoir in the works.

In any case, did you see Matt Damon tie and gag Jimmy Kimmel on teevee?   What a great idea! The next congressional rep who ask brainless questions during a hearing after skipping a classified briefing on the matter being discussed ought to be gagged with a tie duct-tape ala Jimmy Kimmel. Because it’s really annoying when we have to listen to our elected representatives listen to themselves talk.  But hey! Don’t ask Matt Damon to do it.

Wait —  wouldn’t it be great if in addition to requesting tickets, flags, congressional interventions over visa matters, constituent services could also include volunteer opportunities to administer the duct-tape?
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