That WSJ article above has this to say about the Keystone-related documents subject to FOIA and the rapid dominance doctrine in the halls of Foggy Bottom:
The Keystone documents Ms. Mills objected to were all either held back or redacted, the same person said. After Ms. Mills began scrutinizing documents, the State Department’s disclosure of records related to Keystone fell off sharply, documents that include a court filing show.
Two others with knowledge of State Department records procedures said political appointees were allowed greater say than the FOIA experts thought was appropriate. It was hard to push back against the political staff, one said.
The pipeline project was so sensitive that an expert on FOIA was invited to a State Department policy meeting to advise on how to prospectively shield documents from disclosure, such as by marking them as involving the “deliberative process,” said a person who attended.
That’s the infamous exemption for the “deliberative process,” otherwise known as the “b-5.” In early May, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on “Ensuring an Informed Citizenry: Examining the Administration’s Efforts to Improve Open Government.” Joyce Barr, the Assistant Secretary for Administration, as well as Chief FOIA Officer for the Department of State was one of the witnesses and made news for reportedly saying that Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email account for official business was “not acceptable.” Too late much?
One other witness at that hearing was Thomas S. Blanton, the Director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University. Below is from his prepared statement on the “b-5″ exemption, also known as the “withhold it if you want to” exemption.
One reason why FOIA does not work is the abuse of the most discretionary exemption in the FOIA, the fifth or “b-5” on deliberative process. This exemption also includes attorney-client privilege, and every lawyer in this room shivers at the idea of infringing on that. Yet, I would point out that the Presidential Records Act dating back to 1978 has eliminated the b-5 exemption as a reason for withholding records 12 years after the President in question leaves office. Through the PRA, we have conducted a 35-year experiment with putting a sunset on the deliberative process exemption, and the facts show us no damage has been done with a 12-year sunset. Yes, some embarrassment, such as the junior White House lawyer who vetted (and rejected) a certain Stephen Breyer for a Supreme Court nomination back in the 1990s. But no new spate of lawsuits. No re-opened litigation. No damage to the public interest. Embarrassment cannot become the basis for restricting open government. In fact, embarrassment makes the argument for opening the records involved.
According to Mr. Blanton, the Justice Department’s use of the “withhold it if you want to” exemption is at an all-time high this year, invoked 82,770 times to withhold records that citizens requested. The same exemption used by the CIA to withhold volume 5 of a 30-year-old internal draft history of the disaster at the Bay of Pigs. This is the same exemption used by the FBI to censor most of the 5,000 pages it recently “released” on the use of the Stingray technology to locate individuals’ cell phones. Apparently, this is the exemption that the administration also used to keep the Office of Legal Counsel final opinions out of the public domain according to Mr. Blanton.
Ambassador Tom Pickering, a seven-time ambassador and former Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P), and Ambassador Edward J Perkins, a four-time ambassador and former Director General of the Foreign Service just did an op-ed for WaPo about the American Foreign Service being too white. And that while our diplomats are “more representative,” we have not made “nearly enough progress.”
That’s changing. Today, our diplomats are more representative. But we haven’t made nearly enough progress. According to the latest statistics, 82 percent of Foreign Service officers (the commissioned career officers serving in embassies and consulates abroad as well as some policy positions stateside) are white. Seven percent are Asian American, 5.4 percent are African American, and 5 percent are Latino. About 60 percent are men. In contrast, the U.S. population is more than 50 percent female, more than 17 percent Hispanic and more than 14 percent African American.
U.S. foreign policy is informed and improved by a wider range of experiences, understandings and outlooks. To represent America abroad and relate to the world beyond our borders, the nation needs diplomats whose family stories, language skills, religious traditions and cultural sensitivities help them to establish connections and avoid misunderstandings.
How can the Foreign Service draw upon the country’s total talent pool? The challenge isn’t only eliminating the last vestiges of discrimination but also actively recruiting the most talented and dedicated people from every segment of society, especially those of great ability but limited means.
The only publicly available data on diversity that we were able to locate is one done by State/HR in 2009 and published online by AFSA, which includes the FY08 Foreign Service workforce diversity statistics.
click for larger view | extracted from 2009 data (pdf)
The latests stats cited by the Pickering-Perkins op-ed says that “82 percent of Foreign Service officers (the commissioned career officers serving in embassies and consulates abroad as well as some policy positions stateside) are white. Seven percent are Asian American, 5.4 percent are African American, and 5 percent are Latino.” The numbers they citedo not include the Foreign Service specialists (DS, HR, IT, etc).
But let’s look at those numbers against the pie chart and see what they look like. From 2009-2015, we have total gains of 1.4% and total losses of 1.66% or an overall loss of 0.26%. Take a look:
Wait, we have not gone anywhere in the last five years? It is, of course, possible that the numbers will not be as flat if this category includes the Foreign Service specialists. Maybe there is some improvement in the diversity hiring for FS specialists. Maybe it’ll look a lot better when we include those in the calculations. Or maybe not. See, there’s no way to tell how well, how bad, or how flat are those numbers since they’re not available publicly.
We’re wondering if this is the real reason why the demographics and diversity stats for the American Foreign Service is not publicly available. We’d be happy to update this post if State/HR or the Office of Civil Rights would helpfully send us the most current numbers, including the diversity numbers from the promotion statistics.
Oops, here is the workforce racial breakdown from 2013 (thanks A!):
Extracted from Department of State – Diversity Statistics Full-time Permanent Employees – as of 09/30/13
A related topic, the current Director General of the Foreign Service Arnold Chacón (with Alex Karagiannis) also penned a lengthy piece in the May issue of the Foreign Service Journal. Below is an excerpt:
[T]he Bureau of Human Resources is committed to an overarching goal: to recruit, retain and sustain a diverse workforce geared to succeed in 2025 and beyond. We are moving forward on three tracks.
First, we are partnering with AFSA to develop and implement a professional code of ethics for the Foreign Service, based on our core values of accountability, character, community, diversity, loyalty and service.
Second, we are focusing on improving operational effectiveness.
Third, we want to devote greater resources to professional development. Partnering with the Foreign Service Institute and the Management Bureau’s Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing and Innovation, we are using the Culture of Leadership initiative to better align recruitment, training, bidding and assignments, and employee performance management. FSI is revamping many of its courses to concentrate on concrete, practical training and coaching, not just mentoring.
Within HR, we are advancing in three areas:
Recruiting and developing talented employees with diverse backgrounds (through internships and fellowships, and disability hiring), expanding our marketing strategies and underscoring our merit-based system;
Enhancing and integrating leadership and management skills (mandatory supervisory training, coaching for chiefs of mission and their deputies); and
Undertaking performance management and assignment reform (new FS employee evaluation form, overhaul of selection board operations, improved recognition and rewards, modernized assignment system, and targeted details beyond State).
If you’re looking at 2025, it would probably be helpful to see what the workforce would be like in say, 2020.
BLS projections say that every race and ethnicity is projected to grow over the 2010–2020 period. However, the share of White non-Hispanics in the total resident population is expected to decrease.
Over the next decade, the workforce will become even more racially and ethnically diverse. The share of minorities in the labor force will expand more than ever before, because immigration is the main engine of population growth and because Hispanics and Asians have high labor force participation rates. BLS projects that, by 2020, Hispanics (18.6 percent), Blacks (12.0 percent), Asians (5.7 percent), and all those belonging to the “all other groups” category (2.9 percent) will make up nearly 40 percent of the civilian labor force.
Asians: Asians accounted for 4.4 percent of the labor force in 2000 and 4.7 percent in 2010 and are projected to increase their share to 5.7 percent in 2020. The continued immigration of this group to the United States, coupled with the group’s high participation rates, contributes to its increasing share of the labor force. The Asian labor force totaled 7.2 million in 2010, and BLS projects this number to increase to 9.4 million in 2020.
Blacks: Blacks accounted for 10.9 percent of the labor force in 1990 and 11.6 percent in 2010; they are expected to increase their share to 12.0 percent in 2020. The increase in the share of Blacks in the total labor force comes mainly from higher birthrates, a steady stream of immigrants to the country, and the very high labor force participation rates of Black women.
The Hispanic labor force was 10.7 million in 1990, 16.7 million in 2000, and 22.7 million in 2010. BLS projects that the Hispanic labor force will reach 30.5 million in 2020 and the Hispanic share in the total labor force will increase considerably over the next decade. In 2000, Hispanics composed 11.7 percent of the labor force, a share that increased to 14.8 percent in 2010. BLS expects that Hispanics will make up 18.6 percent of the labor force in 2020.
And by the way, it looks like the 55-years-and-older age group is also projected to increase to 41.4 million in 2020, and their share in the labor workforce is expected to reach 25.2 percent that year.
We have heard often that “the Department wants its workforce to reflect the diversity of the country we represent to the world.” In 2020, the American workforce will be 18.6 percent Hispanic. DGHR’s recruitment strategy will have a hard time catching up with that. There’s nothing new or particularly innovative with internships and fellowships, and we’re not sure how much of a dent those made in the last five years. Are they going to make a difference in the next five years? In ten years? We have 16 Diplomats-in-Residence across the country who are responsible for providing guidance and advice to students, professionals and the community about Department careers. What kind of results do they get? Do they venture to state and community colleges?
If the State Department wants its diplomatic workforce to reflect our country’s diversity, it will need more than a handful of internships and fellowships to get there. And if it does not get there soon, it may be forced to do so soon enough by a changing electorate, and congressional priorities reflected by that change.
Read more about the labor force projections to 2020 from BLS here (pdf).
Last week, State/OIG released its inspection report of the U.S. Embassy Antananarivo in Madagascar. It’s one of those report that you read and you want to pull your hair in frustration. By the time the OIG came for a visit, there’s a new chargé d’affaires, a new staff rotated in and a new team is tasked with correcting the mess left by the previous officials assigned to post. The previous CDA identified fuel as a management control deficiency but did not see the rest of the good stuff. The OIG report notes that other vulnerabilities discussed in the report “would have been apparent if embassy leadership had conducted a comprehensive, office-by-office review of all activities with management control implications.”
The report highlights non-use of record email to effectively track important exchanges on policy and programs, use of social media to reach a mainly urban, youthful, and elite audience where only 2 percent of the Madagascar population has access to the Internet, and Meritorious Honor Awards without proper documentation. Beyond the more problematic public affairs grants and purchases discussed below, post also spent more than $10,000 on computer equipment for use in Comoros, even if — get this — there is no U.S. Government office space in Comoros in which to place that equipment.
And here’s one that’s going to make you unfriend this fella on Facebook: “The previous chargé d’affaires departed the embassy without completing six interim evaluation reports for American employees he supervised, as required for periods of 120 days or more under 3 FAM 2813.4. He did not respond to email reminders from the embassy human resources office and the Bureau of African Affairs. ”
A quick look at US Embassy Antananarivo:
The mission has a total staff of 296, with 57 U.S. direct-hire positions. In April 2010, the embassy occupied a new embassy compound (site acquisition was $3.6 million, and construction was $102.3 million), consisting of a chancery, a warehouse/shops facility, a Marine security guard quarters, and a swimming pool. Embassy housing consists of 38 leased and 2 government-owned residences, 1 of which is the Ambassador’s residence.
The good news: A recently arrived chargé d’affaires
Stephen Anderson arrived in August 2014, about two months before the OIG inspection. The OIG inspectors write:
The recently arrived chargé d’affaires has made a good start in leading the embassy during a period of profound change in the political situation in Madagascar and the subsequent restart of the bilateral relationship between Madagascar and the United States. … The chargé d’affaires, working with a collegial country team, has also demonstrated interpersonal engagement within the embassy…..The chargé d’affaires has also demonstrated his commitment to management controls within the embassy. He directed that each Department section conduct a self-assessment of its management deficiencies. At the time of the inspection, the mission had completed corrective action on 73 of the 122 action items identified and was working to close the others.
Some other good news:
1) The information management office is led by a seasoned information management officer. The section received good scores on ICASS customer surveys and OIG questionnaires, as well as A+ ratings from the Department’s network and systems monitoring software. 2) Community liaison office operations received high marks, exceeding both regional and worldwide scores in the 2014 ICASS customer satisfaction survey. 3) OIG surveys noted that parents are satisfied with the quality of education; and 4) The health unit’s ICASS customer satisfaction scores are above worldwide averages.
Now for that American Center boondoggle:
According to State/OIG, the American Center was funded with embassy public affairs funds (approximately $116,328) and by two large allotments provided in June 2012 by the Office of American Spaces in the Bureau of International Information Programs (totaling $559,062). The OIG report is careful to point out that though current staff members will play a key role in identifying a path forward on this project, they are not responsible for the existing situation. But all those responsible and accountable for this project are left unnamed in the OIG report presumably because they are no longer at post and have been successfully recycled to other posts. And since IERs (inspector’s evaluation reports) are no longer in season, none of the details from this report will ever make it anywhere near a promotion board.
A former embassy public affairs officer in 2011 proposed an American Center for the capital on the basis of a public-private partnership model. The concept initially envisioned a partnership of the English Teaching Program (ETP), a restaurant, Voice of America, a telecommunications company, and a publisher of a free entertainment monthly. A memorandum of understanding was drafted and signed by some of the prospective partners in June 2013 after lengthy delays. However, two prospective partners failed to sign on and a final partnership memorandum never entered into force.
Disregard of policies and procedures concerning grants and cooperative agreements have put at risk the embassy’s approximately $700,000 project to establish an American Center in Antananarivo. The OIG team noted that the decisions and actions that led to the American Center problems predate the arrival of the employees presently assigned to the embassy.
The embassy initiated a massive public relations campaign and announced the start of construction at a press conference in April 2012 attended by the former chargé d’affaires and the deputy coordinator of the Bureau of International Information Programs.
Welcome to the new American Center. In a few months time this space will be transformed into the most modern and technologically advanced space that Madagascar has ever seen. It will be a place to learn, to explore, and to connect. It will not be your traditional cultural center. This initiative is an innovative collaboration between the American Embassy, our private sector partners, and the English Teaching Program. It is this ambitious vision for a cultural center based entirely on the model of a public-private partnership that has brought the person in charge of American centers worldwide for the State Department to Madagascar. I would like to acknowledge Michelle Logsdon, the Deputy Coordinator for International Information Programs who has joined us today to learn more about this important initiative.
As you will see in the presentations that each partner will be delivering shortly, they have not only embraced the potential of this center, they have developed it in ways we would have never dreamed possible. VIMA plans to put on some of the most spectacular shows Antananarivo will have ever seen. Orange and Teknet will make the latest technology accessible to a new generation of Malagasy, while the Cookie Shop will create a new environment for learning, exchanging, and of course some great brownies.
We will organize trainings, cultural programs, and conferences with our partners that connect them and their clients to individuals, information, and opportunities from around the globe. We will also have a team dedicated to finding the latest information, technology, and developments for the Center. While many of the services at the Center will be fee-based, just like at an internet café or a theatre, the Embassy will ensure that there will be more resources and events than ever that are available to the public for free.
This is going to be a fee-based center in a country where the per capita gross domestic product is only $1,000 (2013 est.), with 92 percent of the population living on less than $2 a day. Who’s going to be the audience for these programs? The same urban, youthful, and elite audience that belongs to the 2 percent of the Madagascar population with access to the Internet?
I Dreamed a Dream … a Cookie Shop and Some Great Brownies
The OIG team inspected Embassy Antananarivo from October 7–29, 2014. At that time, the team visited the proposed American Center site in a shopping mall and observed the following:
[A]fter almost 2 years of construction, the site, covering 1,200 square meters (or 12,917 square feet), was a shell. Rooms were laid out, but lighting, flooring, doors, and other infrastructure were absent. A small bathroom shared with the rest of the mall was located at some distance from the site on the other side of the mall. Other problems included the lack of storage space, ceilings below standard height on the mezzanine level, and inadequate provision for air conditioning. On a weekday afternoon, some minor construction work was underway. However, no agreement had been reached on a final design or construction plan, including where the U.S. Government portion of the facility might be located.
Storage in seven 40-ft container for nearly two years?
As the American Center is not ready for occupancy, much of the furniture and equipment ordered for it has been stored in seven 40-foot containers located in the embassy parking lot, some of it for nearly 2 years. The OIG team spot-checked the contents of the containers and did not observe water or insect damage.
The embassy did not have a plan (which details needed resources, deadlines, partners, and costs) that could lead to a decision whether to close or salvage this project. Without such a plan, the embassy runs the risk of repeating past mistakes and failing to make the best use of funds already expended.
No Bona Fide Need for Much of Equipment Procured for American Center
According to information the embassy provided the OIG team, the embassy has expended approximately $400,000 to date on furniture and equipment for the American Center project. However, the embassy failed to establish a bona fide need for many of these procurements. This failure—and the subsequent misuse of some of the furniture and equipment—constitutes a management control weakness.
A notable example of a questionable procurement is a $47,938 telescopic theater-style seating system, which the embassy purchased even though the prevailing wage of workers who could set up and remove chairs is $10 a day. The shipping cost for this item alone was estimated at $19,175.
Other examples of questionable procurements abound and include the following (costs are rounded and do not include shipping):
Twenty-five 46-inch televisions ($21,500) and six 70-inch televisions ($24,600).
A motorized theater curtain system ($7,150).
Twenty iMacs ($22,935), 16 HP TouchSmarts ($14,247), 20 Wii stations ($4,230), 20 Apple TVs ($1,920), and 10 iPods ($1,790).
Fifty home theater chairs ($26,600).
A replica of the Seattle Space Needle, painted wall mural, and totem pole ($4,810).
Decorations, including more than a dozen fish and turtle sculptures ($5,400).
Whatsadoing with a $5,500 coffee grinder/espresso maker?
The OIG report says that records the team reviewed indicate that the public affairs section recommended specific vendors to the procurement unit, most often identified through Amazon.com. Looks like no one bothered to make a distinction between government shopping and personal shopping, and folks were in a hurry to spend end-of fiscal year funds:
No documentation in the procurement files shows that procurements greater than $3,000 were properly competed, as required. A number of the items ordered were not part of the original equipment lists submitted in support of the request for funds. For example, the original request did not include any food preparation equipment, yet the embassy purchased items such as a wine cooler, a $650 residential blender, grills, a $5,500 coffee grinder and commercial espresso maker, refrigerators, and other kitchen items.
Property Control Does Not Comply with Regulations, No Kidding
The amazing thing here is there is no discussion why USG properties were lent to two private businesses without documentation. Who signed them out? Who approved these loans? What did the USG get for this sweet arrangement? Did those companies just come by the embassy, pick up the USG properties and the embassy guards just waved “bye, come back soon?”
As the American Center was (and still is) not ready for occupancy, much of the furniture and equipment has been stored in seven 40-foot containers located in the embassy parking lot, some of it for nearly 2 years.
Other furniture and equipment was loaned to two private businesses for their use without any documentation. The embassy loaned at least $42,000 of computers and office equipment to one telecommunications firm alone. These items included 12 iPads, 16 iMacs, and 2 70-inch and 3 46-inch televisions. The embassy purchased a $6,700 eBoard from this company and then lent the item back to it. The embassy told the OIG team that these items were retrieved from the firm in February 2014 after a year or so in use, though the lack of documentation makes the timing unclear. The other firm, a restaurant chain, was lent at least $5,000 worth of U.S. Government property. The embassy warehouse unit retrieved these items, including a refrigerator installed in the restaurant owner’s private residence, on September 15, 2014—3 weeks prior to the OIG team’s arrival. These deficiencies were not, but should have been, included in the 2014 chief of mission statement of assurance signed by the previous chargé d’affaires on August 11, 2014.
Who Bears Responsibility For This Project, Anyways?
Short answer from OIG: Bureau of African Affairs, Bureau of International Information Programs, and Embassy Bear Responsibility. Here is the longer answer:
The lack of accountability for the American Center project extends beyond the embassy because additional management controls exist for projects of this scale. The Bureau of International Information Programs and its regional information resources office in Nairobi approved two large American Spaces funding requests despite warning signs. These included the requests’ hyperbolic language (“the possibilities are endless”) and the questionable suitability of such a large, public-private project in a very poor country, especially when the project would be managed by a public affairs officer and section lacking the necessary business and accounting acumen and grants management experience. The Bureau of African Affairs approved the project despite the fact that it had not received the necessary project details from the embassy and despite the many flaws in the grants documents that they did receive. The embassy did not caution the Department that the project’s prospective partners had never cooperated in such a joint venture, had no understanding of its public purpose, and had no record of such cooperation with the embassy in the past. The Department should have drawn on its technical and regional expertise and understanding of public-private partnerships to identify flaws in the initial plan before it was approved and funds were allotted.
Note that the new Ambassador to Madagascar Robert Yamate was only confirmed by the Senate in November 2014, and did not get to post until December 2014, five months after his nomination was announced and two months after this OIG inspection. The previous ambassador appointed to Madagascar was R. Niels Marquardt who departed post in June 2010.
You don’t like the new QDDR rolled out recently by the State Department? Just, you wait. Gordon Adams writing for Foreign Policy has hopes. He says that “the next secretary of state will look at the management and planning side of Foggy Bottom and leave it to someone else while he or she flies around the world doing the “fun” stuff. “ Oops! Mr. Adams writes that the longtime effort to reform and strengthen the State Department will be handed off again, as it has been for decades. And you know what, he hit that nail squarely on its tiny head; we kind of share that view.
There’s a race on who will be the most travelled Secretary of State — how many countries, how many miles, how many travel days, total flight time and so on and so forth. Secretary Kerry, so far has registered 791,085 miles, still way below the total miles traveled by Secretary Clinton at 956,733 miles. Secretary Albright held the record of most countries visited at 98 until that record was broken by HRC at 214 countries visited.
Unfortunately, there is no race on who will be the secretary of state who can sit still long enough to do the necessary fixes needed by our “lead institution of U.S. foreign policy.”
[T]he first QDDR missed a great opportunity for fundamental change — change it might have pulled off with the star power of Clinton, which would have elevated the State Department to real foreign-policy leadership and would have eliminated some serious organizational dysfunction. It did not broaden the mission of the Foreign Service to include dealing with governance issues in other countries. It did not change training of Foreign Service officers fundamentally to provide skills in strategic planning and program development and management, and to make mid-career training and education available. It did not reform a broken architecture for security assistance at the State Department or make an effort to recapture leadership over U.S. security assistance policy from the Defense Department.
It did not end the division of planning and budgeting between a stovepipe over on the “management” side that does personnel, buildings, security, administration, and IT/communications support, and the other stovepipe over in the foreign assistance program office that plans and budgets for U.S. foreign assistance. And it did not even discuss the reality that the United States has far too many foreign assistance programs — an uncoordinated diaspora of offices and agencies scattered around the bureaucratic universe in D.C. from the Justice Department to the DoD to the Commerce Department to the Export-Import Bank to the Treasury Department and beyond, to the bewilderment of anyone the United States does business with overseas.
So I hammered away a little last year in this column after the new QDDR was launched, urging the new team to at least try to address some key institutional problems that make the State Department (and its USAID partner) dysfunctional and unable to lead U.S. foreign policy. I picked three themes: 1) make governance dilemmas in the world a core mission of U.S. foreign policy, and build the programs and training to implement that priority; 2) take civilian control of U.S. security assistance (much of it is now at DoD), and embed that effort in stronger civilian governance overall; and 3) centralize and empower a capacity at the State Department to do integrated strategic and resource planning.
It will not surprise you that this latest QDDR did not go for the gold on any of these three core problems. At best it gets a fairly weak incomplete. Secretary of State John Kerry, like his star-powered predecessor, earned few points; in the end he didn’t actually put his credibility and heft on the line to get fundamental change, a change the department needs if it is going to give reality, not talk, to its claim that it is the lead institution for U.S. foreign policy.
Yes, the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) has a new mission: “CSO advances the Department of State’s understanding of how to anticipate, prevent, and respond to violent conflict through analysis and planning; monitoring, evaluation, and learning; and targeted, in-country efforts that inform U.S. government policymaking.”Since there’s no longer any mission element about stabilization and stabilization operations, why is that being left in the Bureau’s name?
The Travels With Secretary Kerry page indicates that he has travelled to 59 countries, logging 769,650 miles, and 339 travel days. So far, his total flight time is 1,671.18 hours or about 2.5 months spent flying around the world.
But there’s Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (D/MR) Heather Higginbottom as Foggy Bottom’s stay-at-home mom, right? We thought that’s the main reason why the State Department asked for a second deputy, so one is always home to mind the shop. But as Number #1 was on his way to Africa and Number #2 was in Mexico, D/MR Higginbottom was in Paris to mark the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) fourth annual International Jazz Day:
Foreign Policy’s John Hudson reported recently that when “Kerry crisscrossed the globe to various diplomatic hotspots during the first two years of his tenure, Wade rarely left Washington and instead consumed himself with the personnel and management decisions that go along with running a massive bureaucracy.” A State Department official also told FP that “Finer, will continue to travel with the secretary, albeit less frequently than in his previous role as deputy chief of staff.”
That’s raised concerns among some rank-and-file diplomats that no single point person will fully fill the role of Wade, leaving Foggy Bottom without a stay-at-home dad to make important decisions while Kerry’s abroad.
Hold it. No need to worry. More from FP:
A new key change, which hasn’t been previously reported, is Kerry’s appointment of two deputy chiefs of staff to assist Finer at home and abroad.
Tom Sullivan, the younger brother of Hillary Clinton’s loyal foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan, became the new deputy chief of staff for policy this month. Formerly serving as a liaison between the State Department and Congress, Sullivan will advise Kerry on policy and join him on most of his foreign travel. That will allow Finer to remain in Washington more often.
Still, Finer, unlike Wade, will still play a significant role in traveling with the secretary and aiding his policy decisions — including on a trip this week to Africa and South Asia, according to one official.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Stout, formerly the chief of staff to the undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, has been named deputy chief of staff for management. In that role, Stout will assist Finer in his day-to-day management issues in Washington.
“We felt that two deputy chiefs of staff was the best way to structure our front office to meet the big challenges and opportunities of the last two years, and to advance the secretary’s priorities on the road and in the building,” said a senior State Department official.
“Smart move in my view,” said Ilan Goldenberg, who recently left the State Department as a member of the Israel-Palestine negotiating team.
Traditionally, Goldenberg said, the deputy chief of staff has traveled with the secretary and been a key policy advisor. Meanwhile, the chief of staff runs the politics, messaging, and internal management of the department, he said.
The new set-up, Goldenberg said, will delegate much of the internal dealings to the deputy. That will free the chief of staff to “do more big picture policy instead of constantly being forced to deal with tough management questions,” he added.
Sigh. Everyone is looking at doing policy.
Here are the new folks reportedly running Foggy Bottom.
Jonathan Finer| Chief of Staff Term of Appointment: 03/08/2015 to present
Jon Finer is Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of State, where he previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy. He previously worked for four years at the White House, most recently as Senior Advisor to Deputy National Security Advisor Antony Blinken. Before that he was Special Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa and Foreign Policy Speechwriter for Vice President Joseph R. Biden. He joined the Obama Administration in 2009 as a White House Fellow, assigned to the Office of the White House Chief of Staff and the National Security Council Staff.
Prior to entering government service, Jon was a foreign and national correspondent at The Washington Post, where he reported from more than 20 countries and spent 18 months covering the war in Iraq, embedding with the U.S. Marines during the 2003 invasion and based in Baghdad in 2005-2006. He also covered conflicts in Gaza (2009), Russia/Georgia (2008) and Israel/Lebanon (2006); the 2004 U.S. Presidential campaign; and the 2004 Major League Baseball playoffs.
Before the Washington Post, Jon spent a year in Hong Kong as a Henry Luce Foundation Scholar, working as a reporter and editor at the Far Eastern Economic Review. He has a law degree from Yale, where he co-founded the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project; an M.Phil. in international relations from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar; and an undergraduate degree from Harvard. He was born and raised in Norwich, Vermont.
Jennifer Park Stout | Deputy Chief of Staff Term of Appointment: 03/11/2015 to present (see YouTube Video via US Embassy New Zealand)
Jennifer Park Stout serves as Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Jennifer has served in a number of capacities both in and out of government. Most recently, Jennifer was Chief of Staff to Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel. Prior to that, she was Special Assistant to the President in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.
From 2012 to 2013 as Vice President of International Government Relations for MetLife, Jennifer supported government and industry relations and international business segments in the Asia Pacific. From 2010 to 2012, she was a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau at the State Department, leading the bureau’s public affairs and public diplomacy strategy.
Previously Jennifer was Senior Advisor and Director of Senate Affairs in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs at the State Department and spent 11 years on Capitol Hill, working as a legislative aide to then-Senator Joseph Biden on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy on the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, Senator Jim Webb, and Representative James Moran.
Jennifer holds a M.A. in International Affairs from George Washington University and a B.A. from James Madison University.
Thomas D. Sullivan |Deputy Chief of Staff Term of Appointment: ???
Mr. Sullivan does not appear to have an online bio at state.gov. He is currently listed as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs.
According to FP, Tom Sullivan is “the younger brother of Hillary Clinton’s loyal foreign policy adviser” Jake Sullivan. The older brother previously served as Director of Policy Planning at the State Department and also as deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. One other interesting connection here: like Jake Sullivan, the new Chief of Staff Jon Finer has a law degree from Yale. Both have a M.Phil. from Oxford, and both were Rhodes Scholars.
Back to the younger brother — Senator Amy Klobuchar, the senior Senator from Minnesota gave a Tribute to Tom Sullivan during the 112th Congress on the occasion of his departure from the Senate and his move to the State Department.
Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I rise today to recognize the exceptional leadership and dedication of my deputy chief of staff Tom Sullivan, who has been with me since my first days in the Senate and will soon be leaving to accept a senior adviser role at the U.S. State Department.
To say that Tom will be missed would be an understatement. Over the last 6 years, he has distinguished himself as an invaluable member of my staff, rising through the ranks and filling many key roles along the way. He started out as a legislative assistant, but it wasn’t long before he was serving as my deputy legislative director and, eventually, my deputy chief of staff.
In many ways you could call Tom the nerve center of my office–the utility player who can step in and perform virtually any task that is asked of him, regardless of whether it is press strategy or scheduling or legislative analysis. No policy was ever too complex for him, no assignment too daunting, no challenge too thorny.
Tom’s versatility is especially apparent in his knowledge of policy, which spans the full spectrum of State and Federal issues. He came to my office with a background in foreign relations but quickly became an expert in everything from energy to technology to health care, mastering and remembering even the most minute of details without losing sight of the forest for the trees. That is a rare talent, and Tom has it in spades.
Mr. President, as you know, Senate offices often become like their own little family units. In the last 6 years, Tom Sullivan has become an esteemed member of the Klobuchar family, and he will be sorely missed–not just for his skill and expertise but for his composure, kindness, and unflappable good nature. We wish Tom well in his new position at the State Department and know that we can expect to see great things from him as he begins a new and exciting journey in public service.
We should note that the new COS Jon Finer is currently traveling with Secretary Kerry on his trip to Sri Lanka, Kenya and Djibouti.
Now we’re just waiting for the announcement of four new special assistants assisting the two newly appointed deputy chief of staff.
So serious question. Who’s interested in addressing the “tough management questions” and fixing whatever is broken in the building? Anyone?
The Consular Leadership Indicator: great idea in principle. But do they really think officers are going to give candid feedback about their supervisors right in the middle of EER* season? And what about all those ELOs** who are up before the Tenuring And Commission Board next month?
The State Department recently issued guidance for its American direct-hire employees on “Toxic Behaviors at Work: Where to Turn For Help(see ALDAC 15 STATE 45178). “ The aim was “to help mitigate the impact of toxic behaviors in the workplace, should they occur.” It notes that “The stress this causes can lower productivity and employee satisfaction, and make it harder for the Department to retain strong employees and perform its best.” A separate guidance will reportedly be issued for local employees and contractors.
What is toxic behavior? According to the State Department, the following is what constitutes toxic behavior:
Toxic behaviors are unwanted and can be verbal or non-verbal. They are behaviors that a reasonable person would consider offensive, humiliating, intimidating, or otherwise significantly detrimental to their ability to do their work. They include, but are not limited to: violent behavior, e.g., throwing items, breaking items; threatening behavior, i.e., intimidation, bullying, yelling, passive aggression, exclusion, lack of communication and/or cooperation; unethical behavior or the appearance of it, loafing, insubordination or failure to follow instructions, discrimination, or harassment.
Let’s add a few more warning signs from Kirk Lawrence of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School:
Types of toxic behaviors include tearing others down, passive aggressive leadership, destructive gossip, devious politics, negativity, aggressiveness, narcissism, lack of credibility, passivity, disorganization, and the resistance to change. These behaviors—individually or combined—can create a toxic workplace environment.
The State Department guidance cable does not provide examples of toxic behavior so we had to do some archive diving where we found some relevant examples:
A Principal Commercial Officer asserted that there were multiple violations of due process resulting “in an oppressive work environment.” He claimed that “Resolution of this grievance is in the national interest because any organization in which accountability does not exist, managers may act on whim, and decisions and personnel actions are based not on facts but on hearsay, rumors, bullying and fear affects all employees including myself, paralyzes decision-making, erodes morale, makes risk-taking impossible, erodes motivation and performance . . . .” (Case No. 2011-018)
A Senior FSO who was an office director at one of the bureaus was charged with inappropriate conduct in interactions with his staff and others. The charge and specifications include repeatedly referring to women as “bitches” and “hormonal,” yelling, banging on his desk and forcefully expressing his political views throughout the office. This Senior FSO yelled at subordinates and peers, demonstrating threatening and aggressive behavior towards them in violation of the workplace violence policy, evincing anger management issues, and damaging office morale. According to one witness account, there was a tendency to berate people publicly. “The office has this term being of in the tribe and out of the tribe. You can be put out of the tribe by him. There is a culture of fear to be put out of the tribe. Everyone tries to tip toe because it is not a good place to be. He will take away TDY and site visits and make life difficult.” (FSGB Case No. 2011-004)
An FS-01 Office Director referred to a former colleague as a “bitch” and used “little officer” and “little employee” to describe women. He sent an e-mail to officemates “which could be viewed as offensive” and received a Letter of Admonishment. (FSGB Case No. 2010-0035)
Most employees described this ambassador as aggressive, bullying, hostile, and intimidating, which resulted in an extremely difficult, unhappy, and uncertain work environment. The ambassador eventually resigned but not before most of the embassy’s senior staff, including two deputy chiefs of mission (DCM) and two section chiefs, had either curtailed or volunteered for service in Kabul and Baghdad (via pdf here).
One ambassador’s policy successes were overshadowed within the mission by a leadership style that negatively affected morale. Many mission staff reported that the ambassador occasionally criticized and belittled certain section chiefs and agency heads in front of their peers. Mission staff noted front office reliance on a group of trusted mission leaders. Others not in the favored category were more likely to receive attention to weaknesses rather than strengths or potential. (via)
So this is not really a case of “toxic behaviors in the workplace, should they occur,” is it?
The State Department unclassified guidance helpfully provided a section for “Roles and Responsibilities” — some of the points enumerated below like, how it’s “nearly impossible to succeed in changing a toxic situation without making any changes in your own behavior” — are rather questionable. We understand the consequences of meeting fire with fire but it sure looks like the onus is on the person who perceives the toxic environment here, rather than the person who is causing it. Take a look:
It is incumbent on everyone working at the Department of State to conduct themselves in a professional manner. This means not only refraining from engaging in toxic behavior, but also following the appropriate steps when confronted by someone who is engaging in such behavior. Meeting the toxic behavior of another with toxic behavior of one’s own is neither productive nor professional.
It is imperative to keep the following points in mind as you consider how to address a situation that you find toxic or counter-productive:
–> If a supervisor is telling you what needs to be done, in a reasonable and non-threatening manner, and holding you accountable for doing it, in a reasonable and non-threatening manner, this is not toxic behavior. This is their job. Therefore, you are required to follow supervisory instructions, unless there is substantial reason to believe that the instruction given would place you in a clearly dangerous situation or cause you irreparable harm. If you perform the action instructed, you do have the right to register a complaint or grieve later.
–> You cannot control the behavior of others, only your own.
–>You should take some time to consider your own role in a situation you find toxic.
–>It is nearly impossible to succeed in changing a toxic situation without making any changes in your own behavior.
–>These are not easy things to do. Stretching oneself in a situation that is already difficult is additionally unpleasant. However, it is a necessary part of one’s own development and the improvement of one’s work environment.
Has somebody been reading those management books about “stretching” again? You’re in a toxic workplace, and your boss is an ass and a bully, and you’re “stretching” yourself, so your boss would be more pleasant? No, you’re stretching yourself so that you’ll be more pleasant to your toxic boss, who will, of course, cease being a bully and an ass? No, whaaat?
Ay, dios mio! Who writes this stuff?
The State Department guidance identifies 10 key resources for toxic behaviors:
The Office of the Ombudsman, Workplace Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center (wCPRc)
Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR)
Human Resources/Employee Relations/Office of Conduct, Suitability, and Discipline (HR/ER/CSD)
Employee Consultation Service (ECS)
Human Resources/Grievance (HR/G
Diplomatic Security Office of Protective Intelligence Investigations (DS/TIA/PII)
Diplomatic Security Office of Special Investigations (DS/DO/OSI)
Foreign Service Institute (FSI) Leadership and Management School (LMS) Leadership Coaching
Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
Unions for State Department Employees: American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1534, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), or the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) Local 1998.
That’s a long list but dear ones, aren’t you forgetting the meat in the soup?
What about leadership?
Leadership—or the lack of it—lays at the core a toxic workplace. When a toxic workplace develops on a peer-to-peer level, it is the lack of leadership that allows it to fester. All too often, however, toxic workplaces are created from the top down, when managers or supervisors are the root of the problem. One study found that 37 percent of workers said they had been bullied at work and that the majority of those bullies (72 percent), were bosses. (via)
A piece on toxic culture from forbes.comnotes that there is a large body of research showing that a leader sets the tone for the office and sets an example for internal comportment. “Executives who claim to operate at such a lofty level that they cannot be bothered by the daily operations or political scale-balancing of their organizations are simply poor leaders.”
One HR manager interviewed by Peter Frost in Toxic Emotions at Work (Harvard Business School Press) also observed:
“Fish stinks from the head!” The higher up the toxic person is, the more widely spread is the pain, and the more people there are who behave in the same way. If you have a CEO who delivers public lashings—in effect does his performance appraisals in public—then you will have the lieutenants begin to join in.
We understand the intention is good but c’mon folks … to issue a lengthy guidance on toxic behavior in a workplace without addressing leadership is like serving yak soup without yak meat.
Here are some wild yaks to look at when you read that official guidance. Not quite the same but better than nothin.
The Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on State Department management, operations and development held a hearing on April 21 with OIG Steve Linick on the efficiency and effectiveness of State Department operations.
The video is also available here. Or you can watch here via the SFRC.
Only two senators stayed for the duration of the entire hearing, Senator Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia [D] and Senator David Perdue of Georgia [R] . It’s quite a change from watching other congressional hearings. No one was angry or hysterical. No one was tearing up. The senators seem genuinely interested in hearing what Inspector General Linick had to say. They ask informed, thoughtful questions and follow-up questions. Both have also been hosted overseas during a CODEL or two and have complimentary things to say about the men and women of our diplomatic service.
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin [R] did sit down but just long enough to ask and rail about Benghazi. Senator Chris S. Murphy of Connecticut D] also came in to question the IG about BBG operations. It sounds like he has a lot of concerns about BBG and is working on efforts to shore up the long floundering red headed step child of global engagement.
IG Linick brought up two main challenges during the hearing, one on the OIG’s IT vulnerability and the other, its interest on getting first dibs when it comes to allegations of criminal or serious administrative misconduct by Department employees. Not “M”, not Diplomatic Security, but for the OIG to get right of first refusal on criminal allegations in the State Department.
Inspector Linick also asked for a flexible hiring authority so the OIG is able to hire retired FS employees and former SIGAR employees. These individuals have the experience OIG needs but they face restrictions under the current hiring authority. We hope he gets it.
We strongly support these asks by the OIG. The first, because it makes sense. The second, because it’s long overdue. It will remove the “it depends” mantra over in the Big House. For the OIG to have real oversight, it should have the right to decide whether to conduct the investigations themselves or not. That decision should not be left to State Department management. The OIG has already requested that the Department revise its current directives on this, but it doesn’t look like anything happened yet. We would like to see Congress include this in the State Department congressional authorization.
IG Linick’s prepared testimony is here (pdf). Below is an excerpt:
OIG Network Vulnerabilities
Vulnerabilities in the Department’s unclassified network directly affect OIG’s IT infrastructure, which is part of the same network. We noted in our November 2013 Management Alert on information security that there are thousands of administrators who have access to the Department’s computer network. That access runs freely throughout OIG’s IT infrastructure and increases risk to OIG operations. For example, a large number of Department administrators have the ability to read, modify, or delete any information on OIG’s network including sensitive investigative information and email traffic, without OIG’s knowledge.17 OIG has no evidence that administrators have compromised OIG’s network. At the same time, had OIG’s network been compromised, we likely would not know. The fact that the contents of our unclassified network may be easily accessed and potentially compromised places our independence at unnecessary risk and does not reflect best practices within the IG community. OIG seeks to transition to an independently managed information system, which will require the Department’s cooperation and support from Congress.
A footnote on his prepared statement says that DS and the Bureau of Information Resource Management (State/IRM) recently agreed to notify and receive confirmation from OIG prior to accessing OIG systems in “most circumstances. ”
Right of First Refusal To Investigate Allegations of Criminal or Other Serious Misconduct
Unlike other OIGs, my office is not always afforded the opportunity to investigate allegations of criminal or serious administrative misconduct by Department employees. Department components, including DS, are not required to notify OIG of such allegations that come to their attention. For example, current Department rules provide that certain allegations against chiefs of mission shall be referred for investigation to OIG or DS. However, that guidance further states that “[in] exceptional circumstances, the Under Secretary for Management may designate an individual or individuals to conduct the investigation.”19 Thus, DS or the Under Secretary may initiate an investigation without notifying us or giving us the opportunity to evaluate the matter independently and become involved, if appropriate. Accordingly, OIG cannot undertake effective, independent assessments and investigations of these matters as envisioned by the IG Act.
The directives establishing this arrangement appear to be unique to the Department. By contrast, the Departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, the Treasury (and the IRS), and Agriculture, all of which had within them significant law enforcement entities prior to the establishment of their respective offices of Inspector General (OIG), defer to their OIGs for the investigation of criminal or serious administrative misconduct by their employees or with respect to their programs. Notice must be provided by all agency components to their respective OIGs of, at a minimum, allegations of misconduct by senior employees. In some agencies, notice must be provided of such allegations with respect to all employees. The respective OIGs have the right to decide whether to conduct investigations themselves or refer matters back to the relevant agency component for investigation or other action. However, in some cases, when requested by OIG to do so, the relevant agency component to which the OIG referred back the matter must report to the OIGs on the progress or the outcome of investigations.
Particularly where senior officials are involved, the failure to refer allegations of misconduct to an independent entity like OIG necessarily creates a perception of unfairness, as management is seen to be, as the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) notes, “investigating itself.”*
This risks undermining confidence in the integrity of the Department. Moreover, this arrangement prevents OIG from carrying out its clear statutory duty, set forth in the IG Act, “to provide policy direction for and to conduct, supervise, and coordinate … investigations relating to the programs and operations” of the Department.
Accordingly, we are seeking legislative support—similar to that provided to other OIGs—for early notification to OIG of allegations of certain types of misconduct. In addition, OIG is seeking legislative clarification of its right to investigate such allegations.23 Current Department directives are a barrier to achieving accountable and transparent government operations.
Here is another footnote:
GAO, Inspectors General: Activities of the Department of State Office of Inspector General at 25-26. (GAO- 07-138, March 2007) ([B]ecause DS reports to the State Department’s Undersecretary [sic] for Management, DS investigations of department employees, especially when management officials are the subjects of the allegations, can result in management investigating itself.”); see also OIG’s Review of Selected Internal Investigations Conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (ESP-15-01, October 2014) (Department policies and procedures appear to have significant implications and created an appearance of undue influence and favoritism, which undermines public confidence in the integrity of the Department and its leaders).
As of Friday morning’s announcements of the new mission statement and the bureau town hall (from which most everyone left more confused than informed) to discuss the new organization chart, we remain a bureau in fundamental crisis. Everyone scratching their heads about what they do and exactly whom they support.
CSO’s contractors continue to be an internal force just as the OIG report cited. Worse yet, we already have total supervisory overhead (civil service, foreign service, and third party contractors’ employees) of almost 1:1 with “doers” and despite what the bureau told Congress. Lots of editing and reviewing and pontificating takes place but very little drafting or other original work. It reminds me of a third world state run enterprise!
Should the new name now be the Bureau of Conflict Analysis and Atrocity and Violent Extremism Prevention and J Undersecretary Pet Issues (CAAVEPJUPI)?