Category Archives: Leadership and Management

Donald M. Bishop: Sources of State Department Senior Leadership

– Domani Spero

 

Donald M. Bishop, President of the Public Diplomacy Council, served 31 years in USIA and the State Department.  A Public Diplomacy officer, his first assignments were in Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan, and he led Public Diplomacy at the American embassies in Bangladesh, Nigeria, China, and Afghanistan.  He served as the Foreign Policy Advisor (POLAD) to two members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. The piece below was originally published via the Public Diplomacy Council website and republished here with Mr. Bishop’s kind permission.

Sources of State Department Senior Leadership

by Donald M. Bishop

In recent months, the front pages, websites, columns, blogs, and talking heads rediscovered an old issue — the nomination of individuals who raised funds for a Presidential campaign to be ambassadors.  A few nominees were embarrassed at their Senate confirmation hearings.

This short piece is NOT about ambassadorial nominees.  Rather, let me step back and discuss the naming of political appointees to senior policy positions in the Department of State.

The American Foreign Service Association counts the number of political vs. career appointees as Deputy Secretary, Under Secretary, Assistant Secretary, Special Envoy, Special Representative, Director, Chief, Coordinator, Advisor, and Executive Secretary.  In 2012, 27 were career officers, and 63 were political appointees.  This was the highest percentage of political appointees in policy positions since AFSA began counting.  In 2008 there were 26 senior noncareer Schedule B hires; in 2012 there were 89.

How about Public Diplomacy?  Three bureaus report to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs — Public Affairs (PA), Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), and International Information Programs (IIP).  All three bureaus are led by appointees.  The three bureaus have eleven positions at the level of Deputy Assistant Secretary, and six geographic bureaus all have Deputy Assistant Secretaries assigned Public Diplomacy portfolios.   For these 17 positions, the exact count varies with ordinary turnover, but it is safe to say about half are career, and half are political.

No matter the bureau or function, many of these appointees indeed have solid foreign policy credentials.  There are many paths to expertise and several different incubators in foreign affairs, and the Foreign Service is only one.  Many experts have worked in Congress, the NSC and the White House, Presidential campaigns, and at the think tanks at different times in their careers.   At the beginning of their careers, they may have served in the Peace Corps or, less often, the armed forces.

Over the years, I worked with many appointees.  Many brought energy and fresh ideas into the Department.  This essay is not about individuals – many of whom earned my admiration – but rather about organizational dynamics.

I have concluded that an overreliance on political appointees from outside the Foreign Service weakens the conduct of American foreign policy.  These reasons have little to do with the qualifications of the individuals.  If the administration decides that this or that position at the State Department is better filled by a political appointee than by a Foreign Service officer, there are three down sides.

First, the search and selection process, vetting, security clearances, and – for those positions requiring confirmation by the Senate — long waits for hearings and confirmation add up to long vacancies between incumbents.  During the vacancies, someone picks up the slack, for sure, but some other portfolio is shorted.  Even if a career officer serves as “Acting,” the Department waits for the President’s nominee to come on board before launching new initiatives and committing funds.  Preferring political appointees from the outside, then, slows foreign policy down.  Public Diplomacy, in particular, suffered from long periods between Under Secretaries.

Second, whatever their regional or issue expertise, whichever Washington arena gave them their chops, however close appointees may be to the President and his team, they have had no reason to understand “the machinery” or “the mechanics” of the State Department – its funding, authorities, planning, reporting, budget cycle, and incentives.

All organizations have an organizational culture.  For the State Department and the Foreign Service, it encompasses the five cones, the assignment and promotion systems, hierarchies, the “D Committee” which recommends career FSOs to the White House to become ambassadors, and agreements with bargaining agents.  The culture includes such intangibles as policy planning but not program planning, tradeoffs between goals, “buttons to push,” “energy sponges,” “lanes,” “corridor reputations,” and the “thin bench.” The “ship of State” can indeed respond to new priorities, but few appointees have the inside experience to know how to make it turn quickly and smoothly.

All understand, moreover, that if something more is needed – “reform” of the Department, its processes, or the Foreign Service – it can take many years to achieve.  A career officer can commit to a long process of reform and understand the payoff down the road.  A political appointee may understand the need to change the Department’s way of doing business, but what is the incentive for doing so?  The appointee will be on to fresh pastures, through the revolving door, and doing something else soon.  Why take on tasks that will outlast her appointment?

Third, political appointees naturally come to the State Department with a strong intention to advance the President’s agenda.  Their frame of mind is, then, “top down,” meaning that ambassadors, embassies, consulates, and the Foreign Service should take their lead from the White House and become implementers of this month’s or this year’s White House policy initiatives.  If, for instance, the President believes that the United States must promote action against climate change, the political appointees in the Bureaus insure that the Department responds.  As a result, even Embassies in countries with strong environmental records – Western Europe, say — adjust their priorities to respond to the “top down” agenda.

A focus on the administration’s global broad-brush themes, however, inevitably crowds out the attention paid to bilateral issues.  Every Mission spends a large part of its spring in a deliberate process defining specific bilateral strategic goals, but their implementation can be overridden by political appointees and top-down priorities.  Many Public Affairs Officers at overseas posts have noted the shift to a “Washington driven” agenda.  The Foreign Service is always ready to “surge,” so to speak, on the nation’s most important objectives, but it’s not possible to “surge” month in and month out.  When an embassy surges on one administration priority, moreover, it can’t be very effective when yet one more surge is asked for.

I submit, then, that reliance on political appointees weakens not strengthens the achievement of America’s national goals.  Long vacancies slow down the implementation of policy.  Lacking institutional knowledge, appointees increase the friction within the system.  They tip the scales to respond to worldwide, “top-down” rather than bilateral goals.  There will always be a mix of political appointees and career officers in the State Department’s senior policy positions, but in my judgment the nation is better served when there are more of the latter than the former.

 The original post is here, check out the comments.

* * *

About these ads

Leave a comment

Filed under AFSA, Appointments, Career Employees, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Service, FSOs, Leadership and Management, Org Culture, Political Appointees, Realities of the FS, Secretary of State, State Department, US Presidents

State Dept Spox on outages at embassies: “separate”, “unconnected”, “unrelated” — wowie zowie!

– Domani Spero

 

We’ve blogged about the outages at overseas posts yesterday (see State Department’s “Technical Difficulties” Continue Worldwide, So What About the CCD?).  On November 17, US Embassy Albania’s internet connection was down and US Embassy London could not accept credit card payments and its online forms for visa and passport inquiries were not working. US embassies in Moscow, Madrid, Manila, Beirut, Ankara, Cameroon, Oslo and Astana tweeted that they were “experiencing technical difficulties that may result in delays in visa processing.”

Unofficial sources tell us that State Department employees are now able to send email outside the Dept but still no Internet access. The Department’s mobile access site GO (go.state.gov) and Web PASS  (Web Post Administrative Software Suite Explorer) are both still offline.

What’s WebPASS?   via WebPASS Privacy Impact Assessment (2009):

WebPASS Explorer (“WebPASS”) is a suite of business applications used by overseas posts to administer a variety of internal activities. Some but not all applications under WebPASS collect and maintain personally identifiable information (PII) about post employees, their family members, and visitors. WebPASS is web-enabled and operates within the confines of OpenNet, the Department’s sensitive but unclassified (SBU) network.

The main application is Web Post Personnel (Web.PS), which is a database of the American employees (AEs), their dependents, and Locally Employed Staff (LES). Whereas the official record for an AE employee is maintained in Washington, DC, the Web.PS database supports local personnel-related tasks. Its LES-related features support personnel actions for LES staff directly hired at the post such as intake, assignments, transfers, grade increases, and terminations.

After an AE or LES staff is established in Web.PS, some of their basic identifiers (e.g., name, employee type, office) may be pulled electronically into other WebPASS applications that support separate functions such as motor pool operations, residency in government-held real property, and distribution of pharmaceutical medications.

The most sensitive unique identifier in WebPASS is the record subject’s SSN, which is stored in Web.PS.

 

Hey, if Professor Boyd, the American ambassador’s husband in Homeland had access to WebPASS, he could have saved himself some sneaking around just to discover (and tamper) with Carrie’s medication!

In any case, on November 18, the State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke was asked about the recent reported hacking and the outages at our embassies. The official word seems to be that these outages at ten posts (maybe more, but those posts have not tweeted their technical difficulties) are separate, unconnected, unrelated or [insert preferred synonym]  to the “technical difficulties” at Main State. Simply put, you folks stop racking your brains with suspicions, these outages are simply, and purely  coincidental.

Of course, coincidences happen every day, but the more I watch these official press briefings, the less I trust coincidences.

Excerpt:

QUESTION: Hacking?

MR. RATHKE: Yes, Lara, please.

QUESTION: Everybody’s favorite topic. You had talked yesterday from the podium about how the – it’s only the unclassified email systems at the State Department that was affected by this most recent data breach that prompted the suspension of – sorry, I’ve got suspended on my mind – (laughter) – but that prompted the shutdown over the weekend. But there’s been some suggestions that some of the missions and embassies and consulates have had some problems or could have some problems with processing passports or visas.

MR. RATHKE: No.

QUESTION: No? Not at all?

MR. RATHKE: No, no. These are unconnected. I mean, we have a separate system that deals with those types of consular issues – passports, visas, and so forth. Now there may be other technical issues that have arisen in one place or another. Is there a specific –

QUESTION: Yeah. Embassy Beirut, I think, had to –

MR. RATHKE: Yeah. No, that’s unrelated to the outage that we’ve had here.

QUESTION: Well, what’s going on in Embassy Beirut, then?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t have the specifics, but it’s a separate issue. And I – from what I understand, they were able to continue doing their operations today, so it was not any major impediment.

I can give you an update, though, on the outage. I can report that our external email services from our main unclassified system are now operating normally, and for those who feel they are tethered to their Blackberries, they are once again, because the Blackberry service is working. So our unclassified external email traffic is now normal, so we’ve had some progress since yesterday’s discussion. So much of it is now operational. Much of our systems that had connectivity to the internet are now operational. We have a few more steps that’ll be taken soon to reach full restoration of our connectivity.

QUESTION: But just to clarify, no consular services, no client-based services –

MR. RATHKE: That’s a separate –

QUESTION: — have been affected by this outage?

MR. RATHKE: No, not to my knowledge. That’s – those are separate.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have internet access from the unclassified system now?

MR. RATHKE: No, we are not – we do not have internet access at this stage. That will be restored soon, we expect. Sorry, yes?

QUESTION: Anything else major that you don’t have now?

MR. RATHKE: No. No, I think that’s mainly it. But it – this has not stopped us from doing our work, so –

QUESTION: The classified system never went down, correct?

MR. RATHKE: No, it was never affected at any point. So as mentioned yesterday, that hasn’t changed. It was not affected.

 

Congress remains more than interested:

 

And now the FBI is wading into the breaches:

* * *

Leave a comment

Filed under Congress, Diplomatic Attacks, Huh? News, Leadership and Management, Security, State Department, Technology, Technology and Work, U.S. Missions, Visas

State Department’s “Technical Difficulties” Continue Worldwide, So What About the CCD?

– Domani Spero

 

The “technical difficulties” at the State Department continue today.  State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told Yahoo News that  the State Department is still investigating who — or what — launched the attack saying, “I don’t have anything to share at this point on the origins of the intrusion.”

Rathke said the attack only hit unclassified email systems at the State Department — and not business databases that contain information about Americans or, for example, foreign visa applicants. Although the temporary shutdown was previously scheduled, “in this case, the response to this specific incident needed to be more comprehensive than our regular updates.

Congress is apparently interested on what’s going on.

Meanwhile, the Department’s mobile site go.state.gov remains down, and the “technical difficulties” now include, according to tweets from overseas posts, not just inability to use email  but also inability to accept credit card payment for visa and passport services, and unusable contact forms for visa and passport inquiries.


US Embassy Albania


US Embassy London

 

 

U.S. Embassy Manila

U.S. Embassy Beirut

 

US Embassy Turkey

U.S. Embassy Moscow

 

U.S. Embassy Madrid

* * *

Below is the template of the notice used today:

U.S. embassies and consulates are currently experiencing technical difficulties that may result in delays in visa processing and receiving and sending communications. Additionally, applicants who have interviews for student and exchange visitor (F/M/J) visas scheduled for this week should bring proof of payment of the SEVIS fee. U.S. citizens may also experience delays in sending and receiving communications. U.S. citizens requiring emergency assistance should contact the Embassy [INSERT contact info].

 

We doubt if the State Department would have acknowledged this intrusion had the Associated Press not reported it on Sunday. On a related matter, we understand that Consular Affairs’ Consular Consolidated Database has been having problems “lately.”

Can somebody please ask CA if these ongoing problems are related to the technical difficulties from this past summer, or if this is related to the just known intrusion that brought down the email system and the GO site? We’re not terribly technical but curious — if a cyber intruder starts deleting data from the CCD, would anyone notice what’s missing?

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Congress, Leadership and Management, Security, Social Media, State Department, Technology and Work, U.S. Missions

State Department’s Computer Systems Hacked, 5th Known Agency Breach This Year?

– Domani Spero

 

Just the bit of bad news you don’t need to start your Monday:

 

Below via WaPo:

The State Department did not seek to publicize that it had been hacked. On Friday, it announced that “maintenance” would be done to the unclassified network during a routine, scheduled outage. But on Sunday, after the Associated Press first reported the breach, officials acknowledged they had found traces of suspicious activity in their system and were updating security in the middle of a scheduled outage. In a sign of how complete the shutdown was, duty officers were using Gmail accounts.

A senior State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the breach, also told WaPo that “none of the department’s classified systems were compromised.”

Would State report publicly the classified intrusion if those systems were compromised?

This report follows the confirmation of a hack at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which reportedly forced cybersecurity teams to seal off data vital to disaster planning, aviation, shipping, etc. this past September, the reported breach of the computer networks of the United States Postal Service, compromising the data of more than 800,000 employees and a breach at the White House.  In June this year, the WSJ also reported the breach of computer systems at the Office of Personnel Management, which stores data on federal employees.

An unnamed official told nextgov.com that State is bolstering the security “of its main unclassified network during a scheduled outage of some Internet-linked systems.” The site, nextgov.com says it is “unclear why officials waited until this weekend to disconnect potentially infected systems at State.”

As of this writing, the State Department’s mobile access (go.state.gov) is down with the following notice: “The Department is currently experiencing an ongoing, planned outage to upgrade our network.  during this event, mobile access (GO) will be unavialable.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.  For questions or more information, please contact the IT Service Center at 202-647-2000.”

We understand that GO will be down until further notice and may need to be rebuilt. A mobile copy is currently live at http://m.state.gov.

* * *

In totally unrelated news, and nothing/nothing whatsoever to do with this reported hack — State/OIG on November 7, published its Audit of Department of State Information Security Program.  The report is readable if you don’t mind the redacted parts:

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 11.11.19 AM

Below is an excerpt:

Information technology security controls are important to protect confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information and information systems. When they are absent or deficient, information becomes vulnerable to compromise.[REDACTED]
[…]
Although we acknowledge the Department’s actions to improve its information security program, we continue to find security control deficiencies in multiple information security program areas that were previously reported in FY 2010, FY 2011, FY 2012, and FY 2013. Over this period, we consistently identified similar control deficiencies in more than 100 different systems. As a result, the OIG issued a Management Alert in November 2013 titled “OIG Findings of Significant and Recurring Weaknesses in the Department of State Information System Security Program” that discussed significant and recurring control weaknesses in the Department’s Information System Security Program [REDACTED B(5)]

The FY 2013 FISMA audit report contained 29 recommendations intended to address identified security deficiencies. During this audit, we reviewed corrective actions taken by the Department to address the deficiencies reported in the FY 2013 FISMA report. Based on the actions taken by the Department, OIG closed 4 of 29 recommendations from the FY 2013 report.
[…]
We identified control deficiencies in all [Redacted] (b) (5)  of the information security program areas used to evaluate the Department’s information security program. Although we recognize that the Department has made progress in the areas of risk management, configuration management, and POA&M since FY 2013, we concluded that the Department is not in compliance with FISMA, OMB, and NIST requirements. Collectively, the control deficiencies we identified during this audit represent a significant deficiency to enterprise-wide security, as defined by OMB Memorandum M-14-04.
[…]
Although we found the Department’s Computer Incident Response Team (CIRT) Standard Operating Procedures aligned with NIST SP 800-61, Revision 2,39 procedures do not clearly state all the bureaus, offices, and organizations that require notification prior to closing an incident. As a result, DS/SI/CS did not report all incidents to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) as required. Specifically, 1 out of 22 (5 percent) security incidents we tested was not reported to the US-CERT, even though it was a Category 4 incident and involved potential classified spillage. If the Department does not report data spillage incidents (potential or confirmed) to US-CERT within the established timeframes, US-CERT may not be able to help contain the incident and notify appropriate officials within the allotted timeframe.

According to State/OIG, Category 4 incidents are incidents involving improper usage of Department systems or networks (that is, a person that violates acceptable computing use policies).

According to OMB Memorandum M-14-04, a significant deficiency is defined as a weakness in an agency’s overall information systems security program or management control structure, or within one or more information systems that significantly restricts the capability of the agency to carry out its mission or compromises the security of its information, information systems, personnel, or other resources, operations, or assets. via

 * * *

Related item:

Audit of Department of State Information Security Program; Published On: November 07, 2014; Report Date: November 2014; Report Number: AUD-IT-15-17; View Report: aud-it-15-17.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Diplomatic Security, Functional Bureaus, Govt Reports/Documents, Leadership and Management, Security, State Department, Technology and Work

Burn Bag: Consular Leadership Tenet #5: Something Seriously Wrong With the CCD. Communicate?

Via Burn Bag:

“Why is the CCD [Consular Consolidated Database] such a piece of trash lately and when is Senior CA [Consular Affairs] Management going to communicate honestly with the Field what the problem is?  Anyone with a brain can tell there is something seriously wrong with the system.”

giphy_daleks

by rhetthammersmithhorror.tumblr.com via giphy.com

 * * *

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Consular Work, Foreign Service, Functional Bureaus, Leadership and Management, State Department, Technology and Work

State Dept Assistant Secretary Positions: How Far Back is “Recent Memory?”

– Domani Spero

 

Recently, the State Department officially rejected criticisms that too many top diplomatic jobs have gone to political appointees rather than to career foreign service officers.  The spokesperson of the State Department, a former political operative and herself, a political appointee, reportedly told Yahoo News via email the following:

“There’s never been a secretary of state more personally connected to the Foreign Service than Secretary (John) Kerry. It’s in his blood. It’s stamped in his DNA. He’s the son of a foreign service officer,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki told Yahoo News by email.

“It’s no accident that he has worked with President (Barack) Obama to build a senior team with more foreign service officers in leading assistant secretary positions than at any time in recent memory, and no accident that he chose a foreign service officer to serve as the State Department’s Counselor for the first time in thirty years,” she added.

See Political Appointee Rejects Criticisms of Too Many Political Picks at the State Department

So, because we’re a tad obsessive, we wanted to find out if what Ms. Psaki told Yahoo News is actually true.  If her “at any time in recent memory” includes only the the Clinton tenure, then sure, Secretary Kerry, indeed, appointed five FSOs career employees (four FSOs and 1 Civil Service) out of seven assistant secretaries, which is two more than former Secretary Clinton who appointed three FSOs out of seven assistant secretary positions at the regional level. (WHA’s Roberta Jacobson is reportedly a CS employee; history.state.gov incorrectly lists her as a foreign service officer). *Corrected graphic below.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 3.24.22 PM

 

Secretary Rice under the second Bush term, appointed five FSOs and three political appointees as assistant secretaries at the geographic level. If we go back all the way to 2001 then, Secretary Kerry has appointed as many FSOs as Secretary Rice but not “more,” at least at the geographic level. If “recent memory” includes the appointments under the Clinton, Rice and Powell tenures, the spox’s claim would not fly.

We hope to look at the functional bureaus separately, time permitting; maybe that’s the appointment universe the spokesperson is talking about?

The Powell appointments at the geographic level are sort of weird. It looks like he inherited one A/S from the previous administration (C. David Welch) and that appointee continue to served until 2002. In all, stats from history.state.gov and Wikipedia indicates that Secretary Powell appointed  three FSOs and seven non-career appointees to the seven geographic bureaus. AF, WHA and IO had two appointees each during the Bush first term.

We should note that if you’re a career FSO, the chance of getting an assistant secretary (A/S) position at the regional level is highest at Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), European Affairs (EUR), African Affairs (AF). Statistics compiled by AFSA from 1975 to-date indicates that 92.3% of all A/S appointments to the NEA bureau were career diplomats.  That percentage of FSO A/S appointment is 75% for the EUR bureau and 58.3% for the African Affairs bureau.

However, if you’re a non-career political appointee, the chance of getting an assistant secretary position at the regional level is highest at International Organization (IO) and East Asia Pacific (EAP).  Statistics compiled by AFSA from 1975 to-date indicates that 80% of all A/S appointments to the International Organization Affairs bureau went to non-career appointees. Ranked a distant second is EAP appointments at 57.1%.  The A/S appointments for South Central Asia Affairs  has been 50/50 according to the AFSA statistics.

* * *

 Updated on 11/10/14 @ 8:52 am to correct listing of appointees during the Powell tenure and to clarify the total between FSOs and non career appointees.

@1531 added clarification that current WHA A/S is a career CS employee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Appointments, Assistant Secretary, Foreign Service, FSOs, John F. Kerry, Leadership and Management, Obama, Political Appointees, Realities of the FS, Regional Bureaus, Staffing the FS, State Department

State Dept Spox: U/S Sherman has superhuman abilities in diplomacy, no/no costume

– Domani Spero

 

A bunch of back and forth during the Nov. 3 Daily Press Briefing on U/S Sherman being dual-hatted as “D” and “P,” who is also one of the top eyeballers of the ongoing Iran negotiation. This is the official word, and the State Department spokesperson never did offer an understandable reason why despite the agency being previously informed that Bill Burns was leaving, and the fact that his retirement was twice postponed, no successor is exactly ready to be publicly announced at this point. Excerpt below:

 

QUESTION: — and the announcement that was just made about Ambassador Sherman taking over, at least temporarily, as deputy. Does the President or does the Secretary intend to have a permanent – someone nominated and confirmed by the Senate to take over from retired Deputy Burns?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: So not necessarily her?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of any process or speak about personnel from here, which should come as no surprise, unless we’re ready to make an announcement.

QUESTION: Okay, I didn’t ask that.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I just asked if this means that she is going to be eventually nominated, or is anyone going to be eventually nominated to take over that position?

MS. PSAKI: This means that Under Secretary Sherman will be the acting Deputy Secretary of State. There is every intention to nominate a –

QUESTION: Okay. Which may or may not be her?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: All right. And then how long does one stay – I mean, doing two jobs, both of which are pretty big, is not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do, nor the most efficient, probably. I’m not taking anything away from her skill, but I mean, being the number two and the number three at the same time, it will be taxing, to say the least. So do you have any idea about how long it will be before either she is nominated and someone else takes over as number three, or a new permanent number two is nominated and she can go back to only dealing with the under secretary job?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a prediction on timing. I will just say that the fact that she was named Acting Deputy Secretary of State just reflects the Secretary’s trust in her, the trust of the building, the trust of the President, and obviously, her wealth of experience on a range of issues. So –

QUESTION: Jen, isn’t it just a time-space –

MS. PSAKI: — of anyone, she can certainly handle it.

QUESTION: But that’s a time – it’s just about a time-space continuum. I mean, Deputy Secretary Burns had a full portfolio and Under Secretary Sherman has a full portfolio. So just to Matt’s point, I mean, how long can this Department run on one person being the kind of Secretary’s second and third in command?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, you all know Under Secretary Sherman. She has superhuman abilities in diplomacy and obviously, I’m not going to get ahead of a personnel process or the timing on that.

QUESTION: Can I ask a process –

QUESTION: She has superhuman abilities? (Laughter.) Does she wear a costume too? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: She does not. She is a very talented and experienced diplomat. That was – I was kidding.

QUESTION: It’s not about her diplomatic skills.

QUESTION: But can you assure us that she is not going to be taking her eye off the Iran nuclear ball?

MS. PSAKI: I can assure you. And as you also all know, Deputy Secretary Burns, Senior Advisor Jake Sullivan, and there are a couple of others who are very involved in the Iran negotiations as well.

QUESTION: There’s something I don’t understand about this, Jen, and I realize this is – that it’s the White House that nominates, but Secretary – Deputy Secretary Burns, his departure, first of all, it came as no secret. The President had to talk him into staying and the Secretary did.

MS. PSAKI: Twice, yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Right. Second, you guys put out an announcement, I think it was six months ago, explicitly stating that he was going to be leaving in October. It would be one thing if the Administration had nominated somebody and the Senate was sitting on it, as it has so many other of your nominees. But it just – it doesn’t make sense to me why, when you knew he was leaving, you had at a minimum six months’ public notice about the date that he was leaving, why it was – has not been possible to come up with a plausible candidate and put them forward.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think it’s a reflection of not being able to come up with a plausible candidate. In fact, there are many talented candidates, and obviously –

QUESTION: Why haven’t they been nominated then?

MS. PSAKI: — there is a process that works through the interagency, as you know, that is not just the State Department. I’m not in a position to give you any more details on that process.

QUESTION: I didn’t think that presidential nominations were an interagency process. I thought it was the White House that decided who the President would nominate.

MS. PSAKI: We work with the White House. Obviously, the Secretary has a great deal of input as well.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean it’s – but it does make – like, why isn’t someone ready to be nominated? I mean, why does – I think Arshad’s question is: Why is the process only starting now? I mean –

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t take it as a reflection of that. There’s an on – been an ongoing process.

QUESTION: For six months?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not in a position – I’m not going to detail for you when that process started.

QUESTION: My question is, well, why isn’t the process over by now given that you’ve known about this for half a year?

MS. PSAKI: I would just assure you that we have somebody who is very capable who will be in this position as acting deputy, and when we have an announcement to make, we’ll make the announcement.

QUESTION: Would you say that the – not – I won’t – I don’t want to use the word delay, but the reason that a nomination rather than a – the reason that there was a designation as an acting instead of a nomination as a permanent is because vetting of the potential candidates is still going on?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to outline it any further.

 

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Appointments, Foreign Affairs, Huh? News, John F. Kerry, Leadership and Management, Org Life, Realities of the FS, Retirement, Secretary of State, State Department, Under Secretary

Political Appointee Rejects Criticisms of Too Many Political Picks at the State Department

– Domani Spero

 

The retirement of Deputy Secretary Bill Burns and the attendant task of finding his replacement as the State Department’s No.2 official highlighted the career versus political appointments in the upper ranks of the oldest executive agency in our country. Below via Yahoo News:

Obama has overseen an expansion of political appointments at the State Department. He has chosen fewer career diplomats for ambassadorial postings than his recent predecessors. And his administration has tripled the number of noncareer appointments under so-called “Schedule B authority,” which have soared from 26 to 89 employees between 2008 and 2012 at the senior levels.

The report notes that “just one of the top nine jobs in American diplomacy is held by a career diplomat: Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy.” It further notes that this number rises to 2 out of 10 if State Department Counselor Tom Shannon is included.

The report also quotes AFSA saying, “We’re not rabble-rousers. We’re not going to be burning down the building. [snip] But we are concerned about the growing politicization throughout the State Department.”

For comparison, see this chart to see how the breakdown between career versus non-career appointees have progressively trended towards non-career appointees in the past decades.

Screen Shot 2014-11-01

infographic via afsa.org

Last Friday, the State Department officially rejected criticisms that too many top diplomatic jobs have gone to political appointees rather than to career foreign service officers.  As a sign of the times, the official who rebutted the criticism is the spokesperson of the State Department, a former political operative and herself, a political appointee:

“There’s never been a secretary of state more personally connected to the Foreign Service than Secretary (John) Kerry. It’s in his blood. It’s stamped in his DNA. He’s the son of a foreign service officer,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki told Yahoo News by email.

“It’s no accident that he has worked with President (Barack) Obama to build a senior team with more foreign service officers in leading assistant secretary positions than at any time in recent memory, and no accident that he chose a foreign service officer to serve as the State Department’s Counselor for the first time in thirty years,” she added.

For understandable reason, AFSA wants to see another FSO appointed as a Deputy Secretary.  Congress created the position of Deputy Secretary of State in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1972, approved Jul 13, 1972 (Public Law 92-352; 86 Stat 490), to replace the Under Secretary of State as the second ranking officer in the Department. The Deputy Secretary serves as the principal deputy, adviser, and alter ego to the Secretary of State; serves as Acting Secretary of State in the Secretary’s absence; and assists the Secretary in the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy and in giving general supervision and direction to all elements of the Department. Specific duties and supervisory responsibilities have varied over time.

 

The candidates currently rumored to replace Bill Burns are not career diplomats. That is not at all surprising. According to history.state.gov, of the 17 deputy secretary appointments since the position was created in 1972 only four had been career Foreign Service officers:

 

In this blog’s last two months online, this might actually be an interesting project to look into — and see just how imbalanced are these appointments.  As we have blogged here previously, we readily recognize that the President and the Secretary of State should have some leeway to pick the people they need to support them in doing their jobs. That said, we think that this practice can be done to such an extreme that it can negatively impact the morale and functioning of the organization and the professional service, in this case the State Department and the institution of the Foreign Service.  Not only that, following an election year, it basically decapitates the upper ranks of an agency pending the arrival of new political appointees. In the case of the State Department, 4/5 of the top appointees are political. It will almost be a wholesale turnover in 2017 whether a Democrat or a Republican wins the White House.

So let’s take a look, for a start, at the top organizational component of the State Department.

1. Secretary of State (S): John F. Kerry, Political Appointee 

2. Deputy Secretary (D) – VACANT

3. Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (DMR): Heather Higginbottom, Political Appointee
She was the Policy Director for the Kerry-Edwards Presidential Campaign in 2004, Policy Director for then Senator Obama’s Presidential Campaign in 2007, and came to the State Department after stints in the White House and OMB. We expect that she’ll tender her resignation on/or about January 2017 unless she leaves earlier or is asked to stay on by the next Secretary of State from her party.

4. Counselor of the Department (C): Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., Career Foreign Service Officer
Former U.S. Ambassador to Brazil and former Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.  He is only the seventh Foreign Service Officer to hold the position of Counselor since World War II, and the first in 32 years. Not quite mandatory retirement age in 2017, we expect he would  rotate out of this position for another upper level assignment, unless, he takes early retirement and goes on to a leadership position at some think tank.

5. Under Secreatry for Arms Control and International Security (T): Rose E. Gottemoeller, Political Appointee
She was the chief U.S. negotiator of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with the Russian Federation, which entered into force on February 5, 2011. Prior to the Department of State, she was senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In 1998-2000, she was the Deputy Undersecretary of Energy for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation and before that, Assistant Secretary and Director for Nonproliferation and National Security. We expect that she’ll tender her resignation on/or about January 2017 unless she leaves earlier or is asked to stay on by the next Secretary of State.

6. Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J):  Sarah Sewall, Political Apppointee
Prior to this position, she served as a Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 2012, Dr. Sewall was Minerva Chair at the Naval War College and from 2006 to 2009 she served as the Director of Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. She was also Deputy Assistant Secretary for Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance at the Department of Defense from 1993 to 1996. From 1987 to 1996, she served as the Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to U.S. Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell. We expect that she’ll tender her resignation on/or about January 2017 unless she leaves earlier or is asked to stay on by the next Secretary of State.

7. Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment (E): Catherine Novelli, Political Appointee
Prior to the State Department, she was Vice President for Worldwide Government Affairs at Apple, Inc.; Prior to her tenure at Apple, Ms. Novelli was a partner in the Washington office of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP where she assisted Fortune 100 clients on issues involving international trade and investment. She was also a former Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Europe & the Mediterranean. We expect that she’ll tender her resignation on/or about January 2017 unless she leaves earlier or is asked to stay on by the next Secretary of State.

8. Management (M): Patrick F. Kennedy, Career Foreign Service Officer
He has been the Under Secretary of State for Management since 2007. From February 2005 to April 2005, he headed the Transition Team that set up the newly created Office of the Director of National Intelligence. In 2001, he was appointed  U.S. Representative to the United Nations for Management and Reform with the Rank of Ambassador. During this period he also served from May 2003 to the end of November 2003 as Chief of Staff of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, and from May 2004 to late August 2004 as the Chief of Staff of the Transition Unit in Iraq. He joined the Foreign Service in 1973, so he’s been in federal service for at least 40 years.

His Wikipedia page indicates that he is 65 years old, the mandatory retirement age for the Foreign Service. Except that the regs also make exceptions for presidential appointees under  3 FAM 6216.2-2. (With regard to a member of the Service who would be retired under 3 FAM 6213 who is occupying a position to which the member was appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, the effective date of retirement will not take effect until the end of the month in which such appointment is terminated and may be further postponed in accordance with 3 FAM 6216.2-1 if the Director General determines it to be in the public interest). If he serves out the rest of the Obama term as “M,” he’ll be the under secretary for management for almost a decade (2007-2016), probably the longest serving incumbent in this position.

9. Political Affairs (P): Wendy Sherman, Political Appointee
She is the Department’s current fourth-ranking official. Prior to this position, Under Secretary Sherman served as Vice Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm. Yes, that Albright.  Ambassador Sherman served as Counselor for the State Department from 1997 to 2001, as well as Special Advisor to President Clinton and Policy Coordinator on North Korea. From 1993 to 1996, under Secretary of State Warren Christopher, she was Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs. On November 3, 2014, she became dual-hatted as the Acting Deputy Secretary of State.  The Cable says that she has been informed that she is not the permanent pick for the job. We expect that she’ll tender her resignation on/or about January 2017 unless she leaves earlier or is asked to stay on by the next Secretary of State after the 2016 elections.

10. Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R): Richard StengelPolitical Appointee
Mr. Stengel was sworn in as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs on February 14, 2014. As of October 31, 2014, the official directory for the State Department still lists that position as vacant, by the way. Prior to assuming this position, Mr. Stengel was the Managing Editor of TIME from 2006 to 2013. From 2004 to 2006, he was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. We expect that he’ll tender his resignation on/or about January 2017 unless he leaves earlier or is asked to stay on by the next Secretary of State. The average tenure, by the way, for the incumbent of this position is 512 days.

So, as of this writing, a total of ten positions occupy the top ranks of the State Department: one vacant position, two positions encumbered by career diplomats, and seven encumbered by political appointees.

Is that the right balance?

The State Department spox is indeed right; Tom Shannon is the first career FSO in 32 years to serve as counselor of the State Department, and Secretary Kerry deserves credit for that pick. We must also note that Secretary Clinton picked one FSO (Burns) and that Secretaries Clinton and Kerry both inherited a third FSO from Secretary Rice’s tenure (Kennedy).(We’ll look at the assistant secretaries in a separate post).

But.

What message are you sending to a 24,000 career workforce if you cannot find a single one among them to appoint as deputy of their own agency? The political appointees have impressive resumes.  That said, why should any of the career employees aspire for an under secretary position when despite their work experience and  years of sacrifices (and their families’) in all the hellholes in the world, all but one (sometimes all), inevitably go to well-connected political appointees?

Any career advice about picking political horses or how to get on the state-of-the-art bullet elevator to the Seventh Floor?

Maybe  somebody will be brave enough to ask these questions during Secretary Kerry’s next town hall meeting? Yes, even if folks get instructions to ask policy-related questions only. In the next few weeks we will also peek into some of these upper offices within State and go on a journey of institutional discovery. We understand that it’s pretty interesting out there.

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under AFSA, Appointments, Career Employees, Elections, Foreign Service, FSOs, John F. Kerry, Leadership and Management, Obama, Org Life, Political Appointees, Politics, Realities of the FS, Secretary of State, Staffing the FS, State Department, Under Secretary

Ex-USAID/OIG Pakistan: Finding fully developed for final report, whatchatalkinbout?

– Domani Spero

 

We previously blogged recent items about USAID (see below):

In response to WaPo’s Oct. 23 article “USAID watchdog said to alter reports,” USAID/OIG has released a two-page statement dated October 24 citing its “extensive track record of providing independent, robust oversight.” It has tweeted that October 24 statement multiple times since it was first linked to on Twitter on October 27.

Screen Shot 2014-11-03

 

Yesterday, WaPo published a letter to the editor from Joseph Farinellaa senior FSO who was USAID/OIG director in Pakistan:

The Oct. 23 front-page article “USAID watchdog said to alter reports” cited a Sept. 30, 2012, inspector general’s report on an audit of a U.S. Agency for International Development assistance program in Pakistan. I was the inspector general director in Pakistan whose office conducted the audit. The article cited a draft audit finding placed in a confidential “management letter” rather than in the final published report. The inspector general’s chief of staff said that this was done because our work was not supported by evidence and more time was needed to develop information for a final report.

I recently retired as a senior Foreign Service officer with more than 40 years of worldwide audit experience in several organizations. Our finding on the program not operating efficiently and effectively was fully developed for inclusion in the final report. We provided examples of funds not used for main program goals, why this happened and the negative effect on the program.

Instead of a fully developed finding with recommendations in a published audit report, information was provided to the mission director in a letter. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said it all: “That’s ridiculous. The finding shouldn’t have been removed.”

Okay, maybe the USAID/OIG or his chief of staff would like to take a stab at this again?

Once more with feelings.

It seems to us that there is an easy remedy here for USAID/OIG if it really wishes to put these allegations to rest.

  • First, release all the draft audit reports as a companion to each of the final reports that are the subject of these allegations. It will give us, the paying public, a way to gauge just how much sanitation work were or were not done with these reports.
  • Second, USAID/OIG can release all the confidential “management letters” or “management alerts” it issued to USAID management, and all follow-up actions.  The October 24, 2014 USAID/OIG statement  says that “OIG’s current policy and practice is to post all management letters on its public Web site. This policy has been applied to management letters issued from April 2014 forward.” Okay, but that’s not any help with these allegations as there’s no way to tell how many “management letters” have actually been issued by USAID/OIG previous to April 2014. The allegation is that audit findings were placed on management letters that are not accessible to the public. So let’s see those management letters online and see which audit findings were not supported by evidence.

These allegations go to the heart of USAID/OIG’s mandate as an independent overseer of the people’s money.  Here now, we have an ex-auditor for a specific program publicly contradicting USAID/OIG’s official spin, not to mention the multiple whistleblowers who also came forward. Sorry, but a two-page statement touting the office’s “independent and robust oversight” will not be good enough to shut this down.

 * * *

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Congress, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Assistance, Govt Reports/Documents, Leadership and Management, Leaks|Controversies, Pakistan, State Department, U.S. Missions, USAID

State Dept’s Wendy Sherman Now Dual-Hatted as “P” and New Acting Deputy Secretary

– Domani Spero

 

On November 3, the State Department’s No. 4 official, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P), Wendy Sherman was designated as the acting deputy secretary of state pending the official nomination of Bill Burns’ successor. We do not know how long is this interim period but since the appointment is in an acting capacity, the vacancy at “P” will also be for an acting capacity. If Ms. Sherman is officially nominated as deputy secretary, there will be an official vacancy at “P,” a post traditionally encumbered by a career Foreign Service Officer. If another individual is nominated as deputy secretary of state (White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken is rumored to be in the running), Ms. Sherman may just return to her previous assignment at “P.” Place your bets now, folks.

The Secretary has requested and the President has designated Wendy R. Sherman to assume all authorities and responsibilities of the Deputy Secretary, effective November 3, 2014.

Ambassador Wendy R. Sherman was sworn in as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs on September 21, 2011, a position she will retain during the interim period.

Prior to this position, Under Secretary Sherman served as Vice Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, and a member of the Investment Committee of Albright Capital Management, an affiliated investment advisory firm focused on emerging markets.

Ambassador Sherman served as Counselor for the State Department from 1997 to 2001, as well as Special Advisor to President Clinton and Policy Coordinator on North Korea. From 1993 to 1996, under Secretary of State Warren Christopher, she was Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs.

Ambassador Sherman served as Chair of the Board of Directors of Oxfam America. She also served on the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Policy Board, a group tasked with providing the Secretary of Defense with independent, informed advice and opinion concerning matters of defense policy.

In 2008, Ambassador Sherman was appointed by Congressional Leadership to serve on the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation and Terrorism.

Ambassador Sherman attended Smith College, and received a B.A. cum laude from Boston University and a Master’s degree in Social Work, Phi Kappa Phi, from the University of Maryland.

Just curious —  is there at all, any career diplomat,being considered or is in the running for the D or P positions?

Originally posted as State Dept Gets a New Acting Deputy Secretary; Hurry, Now Vacancy for “Acting  P.”

Update:  The Cable’s John Hudson is reporting that an internal notice went out to employees today informing them  that Ms. Sherman will “assume all authorities and responsibilities of the Deputy Secretary,” effective immediately. At the same time, she will apparently continue to hold the position of undersecretary of state for political affairs and operate out of her same office.  The same report also says that President Barack Obama reportedly now favors the nomination of Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken for deputy secretary of state, the No. 2 position in Foggy Bottom and that “Ms. Sherman has been informed that she is not the permanent pick for the job.” Information is sourced from multiple unnamed sources.

Maybe this is all true, or maybe it’s an effort to shore up support for the “D” candidate floated around, and/or see what kind of Hill reaction surfaces.   Makes one wonder one thing though, if Blinken is now the top pick, how come the White House has not made an official announcement.  Instead, what we have are anonymous talks about Blinken as the WH preferred candidate. Is the WH waiting to make an announcement after the election or after a new Congress is seated?  Hold on, maybe, the WH is waiting for President Obama to actually make up his mind?

As a side note, given the nature of the two jobs, we can’t imagine that Ms. Sherman can remain dual-hatted as “D” and “P” for a lengthy period. The John Hudson report also cited a State Department staffer saying that the Sherman “promotion” was in part prompted by “the bureaucratic need to have “D-level” signatures sign off on important State Department business, such as contracts.” Wait, what?  If the deputy secretary of state (“D”)  actually need to sign contracts, what’s the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources for?

 * * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Appointments, John F. Kerry, Leadership and Management, Obama, Political Appointees, Realities of the FS, Secretary of State, Staffing the FS, State Department, Under Secretary