On October 22, 2014, a gunman now identified by police as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau (32) fatally shot Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a soldier on guard duty at the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa, Canada. Following the shootings, downtown Ottawa was placed on lockdown while police searched for any potential additional shooters. According to media reports, the lockdown lasted into the evening and ended at 8:25 p.m. ET, when the safety perimeter in downtown Ottawa was lifted.
Earlier that day, we saw this news clip from ABC7 I-Team Investigation. The US Mission Canada has about a thousand employees, but okay, Ambassador Heyman is the best known Chicago man at the mission:
Ambassador Heyman retweeted Embassy Ottawa’s tweet that post is in lockdown. Apparently, 421 tweeple, (including this blog) also retweeted that embassy tweet.
CHICAGO (WLS) — During the height of the attack on Canada’s capital Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman retweeted his Embassy’s statement that “we are currently on lockdown.”
As it turns out, Ambassador Heyman, a former Chicago investment banker, was not locked down in the Embassy or even in Ottawa, the I-Team has learned. It is unclear where he was.
We were told by Embassy press assistant Jennifer Young that “the Ambassador is not available for interviews at this time. As far as the situation here in Ottawa, what I can tell you about this evolving situation is that the embassy is currently locked down.”
We were not informed by Ms. Young that the ambassador was actually not present and his retweet that “we are currently on lockdown” suggested he was indeed hunkered down with his staff. A woman who answered Ambassador Heyman’s cell phone did not say that he was out of the office and took a message which was not returned. Heyman did not respond to emails or social media messages.
On Thursday, after we reported that the ambassador was locked down with the rest of his staff, his public affairs chief Diane Sovereign contacted the I-Team, stating that “the Ambassador was not in the Embassy yesterday and has not returned to Ottawa.” Ms. Soveriegn said that they “don’t post the Ambassador’s location on the Embassy website.”
We repeatedly asked Embassy officials for the whereabouts of the ambassador during the incident and whether he was in Chicago. The spokesperson would not say where he was, nor why he wasn’t in the Embassy at the time of the attack that occurred about a quarter-mile away. His staff members at the Embassy were on security lockdown for more than eight hours on Wednesday.
Typically, our ambassadors are engage in external relations while his/her deputy chief of mission manages the internal business of the embassy. So it would not at all be surprising if the ambassador was not inside the embassy that day.
On October 21, @BruceAHeyman tweeted this:
We understand that #TechDayontheHill was held in Ottawa, so we know that the day before the incident, he was in Ottawa.
On October 22, he retweeted several official USG messages from the White House, the National Security Council, and the State Department related to the Ottawa attack. According to Ottawa Citizen, upwards of 50 ambassadors were in Regina on Wednesday, (the day of the attack) for an economic forum, organized for the diplomatic corps by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and the government of Saskatchewan. So maybe he was in Saskatchewan that day?
Then, it looks like he was in Ontario on October 23:
So if Ambassador Heyman “has not returned to Ottawa,”when the lockdown occurred, he could have been in Saskatchewan or traveling to Ontario for that speech?
We don’t think anyone expects the embassy to post on its website the ambassador’s location but his whereabouts during the Ottawa attack is certainly of public interest. He is President Obama’s personal representative in Canada. We expect that as chief of mission, he would have been in constant contact with the embassy. If he was not in lockdown with his staff, where was he?
We know that some sections at some posts have instructions not to talk to this blog. We don’t know how widespread is that instruction so we wrote to Embassy Ottawa’s public affairs folks anyway and see if we can get some clarification on the ambassador’s whereabouts.
On October 27, we heard back from Diane Sovereign, Embassy Ottawa’s Cultural Attaché who told us that on October 22, Ambassador Heyman was on “a pre-scheduled trip for meetings in the Toronto area and was not in the Embassy at all on that day.” The ABC affiliate reporting about the embassy’s Chicago connection incorrectly assume that Ambassador Heyman was inside the embassy during the lockdown. Ms. Sovereign said that “At no point on October 22 did any media outlet ask us about the Ambassador’s location or ask us to confirm that he was inside the Embassy.” Following the original report talking about Ambassador Heyman “caught in the mayhem” and locked down inside the Embassy, Embassy Ottawa reportedly reached out to the ABC affiliate asking that the inaccuracies be corrected.
The response we received from Embassy Ottawa did point out that the embassy, for understandable reasons, does not make public the ambassador’s schedule or location but — there actually was a second part to that response — if asked:
“For security reasons, we normally do not make public the Ambassador’s travel schedule or specific location. However, if asked, we have no issue confirming whether the Ambassador is or is not inside the Embassy,” Ms. Sovereign said.
Congress annually appropriates funds for the security of diplomatic personnel and facilities within the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs appropriation, which is about 1% of the total federal budget. Security funding amounts to about 9% of that appropriation.
Congress has not enacted a stand-alone State Department appropriation prior to the start of the fiscal year since 1995 and has not passed a stand-alone Foreign Relations Authorization law since 2002.6 Both could have been legislative vehicles for debate regarding Administration of Foreign Affairs, including diplomatic/embassy security funding and priorities. Instead, Congress has provided ongoing security funding within Continuing Resolutions (CRs) that have delayed by several months the full-year appropriation eventually provided. Funding within a CR is usually based on the previous year’s funding levels. Furthermore, if spending was not in the previous year’s appropriation (as was the case with Benghazi in 2012), it would not be funded by a CR. Only after the final appropriation is passed by Congress and signed into law by the President would State Department officials know what level of funding they can allocate on a daily/weekly/monthly basis over the 275 worldwide diplomatic posts (or 1600 work facilities)7 and over the remainder of the fiscal year.
International affairs is important but apparently not important enough to merit the right interest in Congress in the last two decades when it comes to appropriating funds. There’s enough blame to go around going back to 1995, spanning three administrations, all the way back to the 104th Congress and every congressional session thereafter.
Remember that the next time you see an elected representative shed tears on teevee or blow fire from his ass about somebody or another not doing enough for the diplomats our country send overseas.
AP’s Matt Lee revisited the question of Raymond Maxwell’s Benghazi-related allegations during the September 16 Daily Press Briefing with State Department deputy spox, Marie Harf.
Here is the short version:
Below is the video clip followed by an excerpt from the transcript where the official spox of the State Department called the allegations of one of its former top officials “a crazy conspiracy theory about people squirreling away things in some basement office and keeping them secret.” Crazy. Conspiracy. Of course! Now stop asking silly questions and go home.
Over 20 years of service in the Navy and the diplomatic service and his allegation is reduced to a sound bite. Mr. Maxwell is lucky he’s retired, or he would have been made to work, what was it, as a telecommuter? Pay attention, there’s a lesson here somewhere.
In The American Conservative today, Peter Van Buren writes:
Maxwell impresses as a State Department archetype, dedicated to the insular institution, apolitical to the point of frustration to an outsider, but shocked when he found his loyalty was not returned.
He has revealed what he knows only two years after the fact. People will say he is out for revenge. But I don’t think that’s the case. As a State Department whistleblower who experienced how the Department treats such people, I know it’s not a position anyone wants to be in.
You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to turn your own life, and that of your family, upside down, risking financial ruin, public shaming, and possibly jail time. It is a process, not an event.
QUESTION: You wouldn’t – you would probably disagree, but anyway, this has to do with what Ray Maxwell said about the AR – the preparation to the documents for the – for submission to the ARB. You said yesterday that his claims as published were without merit and showed a – I think you said lack of understanding of the process, how it functioned.
MS. HARF: How the ARB functioned, a complete lack of understanding, I think I said.
QUESTION: Complete lack of understanding, okay.
MS. HARF: Not just a partial lack of understanding.
QUESTION: Okay. So what was it that – presuming he’s not making this story up about coming into the jogger’s entrance and going to this room where – I mean, I presume there’s nothing really sinister about collecting documents for the – for whatever purpose, but it —
MS. HARF: There may have been a room with documents —
MS. HARF: — being collected and – yes.
QUESTION: Okay. So what did he see if he did not see —
MS. HARF: I have no idea what he saw.
QUESTION: Was there, that you’re aware of – and I recognize that you were not here at the time and this was a previous Secretary and a previous Secretary’s staff, likely all of them previous although I don’t know that to be true, so you may not know. But I would expect that you have asked them for their account of what happened.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: So was there some kind of an effort by member – that you’re aware of or – let me start again. Was there some kind of effort by State Department officials to separate out or scrub down documents related to the – to Benghazi into piles that were – did not – piles into – into piles that were separated by whether they made the seventh floor look – appear in a bad light or not? I’m sorry. I’m not – asking this in a very roundabout way. Were there —
MS. HARF: It’s okay, and we’re – and he was referring, I think, to the ARB process. Is that right?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Did people involved in preparing the documents for the ARB separate documents into stuff that was just whatever and then things that they thought were – made people on the seventh floor, including the Secretary, look bad?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, Matt, at all. The ARB had full and unfettered access and direct access to State Department employees and documents. The ARB’s co-chairs, Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen, have both repeated several times that they had unfettered access to all the information they needed. So the ARB had complete authority to reach out independently and directly to people. Employees had complete authority to reach out directly to the ARB. And they’ve said themselves they had unfettered access, so I have no idea what prompted this somewhat interesting accounting of what someone thinks they may have seen or is now saying they saw.
But the ARB has been clear, the ARB’s co-chairs have been clear that they had unfettered access, and I am saying that they did have full and direct access to State Department employees and documents.
QUESTION: Could they – could a group of people operating in this room in preparing for the ARB to look at the documents – could a group of people have been able to segregate some documents and keep the ARB from knowing about them —
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: — or seeing them?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: So it’s —
MS. HARF: The ARB, again, has said – and everything I’ve talked to everybody about – that they had unfettered access to what they needed.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but you can’t need what you don’t know about, kind of, right? Do you understand what – see what —
MS. HARF: The ARB had full and direct access —
QUESTION: So they got to see —
MS. HARF: — to State Department employees and documents.
QUESTION: So there were no documents that were separated out and kept from the ARB that you – but you —
MS. HARF: Not that I’ve ever heard of, not that I know of. I know what I know about the ARB’s access. We have talked about this repeatedly.
MS. HARF: And I don’t know how much clearer I can make this. I think, as there often are with Benghazi, a number of conspiracy theories out there being perpetrated by certain people. Who knows why, but I know the facts as I know them, and I will keep repeating them every day until I stop getting asked.
QUESTION: Okay. And does this apply to documents that were being collected in response to requests from Congress?
MS. HARF: Well, it’s a different process, right. It was a different process. And obviously, we’ve produced documents to Congress on a rolling basis. Part of that – because it’s for a different purpose.
QUESTION: Well, who – what was this group – well, this group of people in the – at the jogger’s entrance —
MS. HARF: In the – I love this – sounds like some sort of movie. Yes.
QUESTION: Well, whatever it sounds like, I don’t know, but I mean, we happen to know that there was an office that was set up to deal with this, understandably so because it required a lot of effort.
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: But that room or whatever it was, that office was only dealing with stuff for the ARB?
MS. HARF: I can check if people sat in the same office, but there are two different processes. There’s the ARB process for how they got their documents. There’s the Congressional process –we’ve been producing documents to them on a rolling basis —
QUESTION: I understand.
MS. HARF: — part of which in that process is coordinating with other agencies who may have equities in the documents, who may have employees who are on the documents. So that’s just a separate process.
QUESTION: Okay. So the people in that office were not doing anything with the Congress; they were focused mainly on the ARB?
MS. HARF: I can see who actually sat in that office. I don’t know. But what we’re focused on is the process, right, and the ARB had full and direct access to State Department employees and documents. The congressional process – as you know, we have been producing documents to Congress on a rolling basis —
QUESTION: Well, I guess that this mainly relates to the —
MS. HARF: — and there’s just different equities there.
QUESTION: This – the allegation, I think, applies to the ARB. But you are saying —
MS. HARF: Right, and I’m talking about the ARB.
QUESTION: — that it is impossible for a group of people to collect a stack of documents that say something that they don’t like and secret them away or destroy them somehow so that the ARB couldn’t get to them? Is that what you’re saying? It’s impossible for that to happen?
MS. HARF: I’m saying I wasn’t here then. What I know from talking to people here who were is that the ARB had full and direct access to State Department employees and documents.
QUESTION: Okay, but that doesn’t answer the question of whether there wasn’t —
MS. HARF: It does answer the question. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well – no, no, no, no. No, no, no. One of his allegations is that there were people who were separating out documents that would make the Secretary and others —
MS. HARF: So that the ARB didn’t have access to them.
QUESTION: Right, but – that put them in a bad light.
MS. HARF: But I’m saying they had access to everything.
QUESTION: Okay. But —
MS. HARF: So —
QUESTION: — do you know even —
MS. HARF: — I’m responding.
QUESTION: But even if it would’ve been impossible for them to keep these things secret, was there a collection of —
MS. HARF: This is a crazy conspiracy theory about people squirreling away things in some basement office and keeping them secret. The ARB had unfettered access.
QUESTION: Okay. I mean, Marie, I appreciate the fact that you’re taking that line. But I mean, there is a select committee investigating it.
MS. HARF: Well, it happens to be true. And tomorrow there will be an open hearing on ARB implementation, where I’m sure all of this will be discussed with Assistant Secretary Greg Starr.
QUESTION: Okay. And they will have – they will get the same answers that you’ve just given here?
A Fox News report cited State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach denying the allegations:
“That allegation is totally without merit. It doesn’t remotely reflect the way the ARB actually obtained information,” he said in an email. He explained that an “all-points bulletin”-type request went out department-wide instructing “full and prompt cooperation” for anyone contacted by the ARB, and urging anyone with “relevant information” to contact the board.
“So individuals with information were reaching out proactively to the Board. And, the ARB was also directly engaged with individuals and the Department’s bureaus and offices to request information and pull on whichever threads it chose to. The range of sources that the ARB’s investigation drew on would have made it impossible for anyone outside of the ARB to control its access to information,” Gerlach said. He further noted that the leaders of the ARB have claimed they had unfettered access to information and people.
Looks like that’s the press guidance. Below is a clip of the Deputy Spokesperson of the State Department, Marie Harf, responding to a question on Maxwell’s allegations using similar words — full indirect access, completely without merit, completely ill-informed, ARB co-chairs are of impeccable credentials, period. So she did not call the State Department’s former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State a liar, she just called him “completely uninformed.” Except that only one of the them was in that room.
Here is the text:
MS. HARF: The ARB had full and direct access to State Department employees and documents. Any accounts to the contrary, like that one you mentioned, are completely without merit, completely ill-informed. It was – these reports show a complete lack of understanding of how the ARB functioned. It collected its own documents directly from anybody in the Department. There was a Department-wide call for information to be given directly to the ARB; that’s what happened. The ARB’s co-chairs, Tom Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen, both public servants of impeccable credentials, have both repeated several times that they had “unfettered access” to all the information they needed, period.
One could argue that until he was dragged into this Benghazi mess, Mr. Maxwell, a career diplomat of over 20 years was also a public servant of impeccable credentials. One who initially did not even have access to what was written about him in the classified report of ARB Benghazi.
Of course, as can be expected, the GOP is embracing this new revelation, and the Dems are simply shrugging this off as old news. We know that Mr. Maxwell had a grievance case that was dismissed in June this year, we blogged about it. (See The Cautionary Tale of Raymond Maxwell: When the Bureaucracy Bites, Who Gets The Blame?). But the allegation about this scrub had apparently surfaced about a year ago. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, confirmed to FoxNews.com on Monday that Maxwell told him and other lawmakers the same story when they privately interviewed him last year about the attacks and their aftermath. Folks will question that because Mr. Chaffetz is not the most impartial individual to collaborate that story. But if there were Democrats present in that interview, would anyone be wiling to say anything, anyway?
Media Matters deployed its rapid response ninja calling Mr. Maxwell a “dubious source”:
Maxwell himself is a dubious source. He was placed on administrative leave after the Accountability Review Board’s investigation found a “lack of proactive leadership” and pointed specifically to Maxwell’s department, saying some officials in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs “showed a lack of ownership of Benghazi’s security issues.” A House Oversight Committee report released findings from the classified version of the ARB report, which revealed that the ARB’s board members “were troubled by the NEA DAS for Maghreb Affairs’ lack of leadership and engagement on staffing and security issues in Benghazi.”
Damn, where is that NEA DAS office for staffing and security issues in Benghazi here?
Extracted from DIPLOMATIC SECURITY | Overseas Facilities May Face Greater Risks Due to Gaps in Security-Related Activities, Standards, and Policies – GAO-14-655 June 2014 (click on image for larger view)
This will unfold with Raymond Maxwell either demonized or hailed a hero. We don’t think he’s either; he’s just a dedicated public servant unfairly tainted by Benghazi who wants his good name back. It looks like he’ll have to walk through fire before he gets a chance to do that.
We’ve heard about this document scrub allegation this past summer. We understand that there were others who were told about this incident last year. Some NEA folks reportedly also heard this story.
So why now?
Only Mr. Maxwell can answer that. We hope he gets to tell his full story under oath before the Select Committee.
While we refused to see a conspiracy under every rug in Foggy Bottom, and we did not support the creation of the Benghazi Select Committee, this changes it for us.
We just hope the Committee can keep its adult pants on and not turn the Benghazi hearings into a clownsport.
Kenneth M. Quinn, the only three-time winner of an AFSA dissent award, spent 32 years in the Foreign Service and served as ambassador to Cambodia from 1996 to 1999. He has been president of the World Food Prize Foundation since 2000. In the September issue of the Foreign Service Journal, he writes about integrity and openness as requirements for an effective Foreign Service. Except below:
I can attest to the fact that challenging U.S. policy from within is never popular, no matter how good one’s reasons are for doing so. In some cases, dissent can cost you a job—or even end a career. And even when there are no repercussions, speaking out may not succeed in changing policy.
Yet as I reflect on my 32 years in the Foreign Service, I am more convinced than ever how critically important honest reporting and unvarnished recommendations are. And that being the case, ambassadors and senior policy officials should treasure those who offer different views and ensure that their input receives thoughtful consideration, no matter how much they might disagree with it.
In the years that we’ve blogged about the State Department and the Foreign Service, we’ve covered the Office of Inspector General (OIG) quite a bit. The complaints that reports to the OIG were ignored or forwarded to other parts of the bureaucracy are not new. We have readers bending our ears about that specific issue for years.
Recently, we had a Burn Bag submission saying “The OIG can’t and won’t save us. They stress, the Bureaus, not the OIG, should be the “bad leadership police.”
That is troubling, yes? To paraphrase the Dalai Lama, if people lose hope, that’s your real disaster. If employees start thinking and feeling that their institution do not care about them, how soon before the employees stop caring about their institution?
So we sent the following questions to the Office of Inspector General:
Is it true that complaints or allegations of bad leadership or mismanagement are forwarded by the OIG to the bureaus to handle?
Do you think that the bureaus are equipped to police their own ranks?
Who do you go to if you have complaints about mismanagement at the bureau level?
If top officials are not accountable for their bad leadership or mismanagement and as these officials are reassigned from one post to the next, doesn’t this build a negative impact on morale and ultimately on the institution?
I am trying to understand why the OIG, which is often, the last resort in many of these cases, does not think effective management and leadership is a priority as he embarks on his new tenure at State?
Yesterday, we received the following response:
Oops, excuse me, that’s Hutch’s 1977 smash-hit single. If you don’t remember him, that’s because I’m officially an oldster protected by ADEA. And he’s that fellow from the original Starsky and Hutch.
Here’s the official OIG response, republished below in full:
Leadership and management are challenges for the Department and an oversight priority for the Office of Inspector General (OIG). IG Linick has discussed leadership and management issues directly with the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources. Each of the divisions within OIG play a role, often collaborating to hold the Department accountable for ineffective leadership and mismanagement.
OIG’s Office of Investigations (INV) learns of ineffective leadership or management through Hotline reports, from our Office of Inspections (ISP), and in the course of its own investigations. INV addresses complaints about Department leadership and management in a number of different ways. OIG investigators conduct initial reviews of mismanagement involving fraud, waste, abuse, administrative misconduct, or retaliation against whistleblowers, for example, and refer matters to the Department of Justice when there is evidence of possible criminal or civil violations.
There are, however, circumstances that prompt OIG to refer leadership and management concerns to the Department. If, for instance, a complainant’s allegations relate to a personnel matter, such as allegations that an official used abusive language with subordinates, OIG may notify appropriate Department officials about the alleged perpetrator so that they may take action. Thus, if such a complaint were about a COM or DCM, OIG would notify the relevant Assistant Secretary and Director General. Matters referred to the Department are monitored for appropriate follow-up. In other circumstances, when warranted, OIG will send investigators to look into the allegations directly.
OIG’s Office of Investigations notifies OIG inspectors of allegations or complaints about leadership and management at posts and bureaus to help ISP prioritize its work and to identify areas that should be assessed during formal inspections. OIG monitors compliance with its recommendations and brings them to the attention of Congress through formal and informal means. ISP evaluates the effectiveness of leadership and management in the course of its inspections, and it may move up scheduling of a post’s inspection when these types of concerns surface in survey results or by other means.
Over the years, ISP has made recommendations to the Department aimed at improving Department-wide leadership and management issues, such as recommendations that the Department develop directives on leadership or management principles, conduct 360-degree surveys on its leaders, enhance First And Second Tour (FAST) mentoring, and be more innovative in providing sustained leadership and management training to Foreign Service Officers throughout their careers. The Department has already adopted some of OIG’s major recommendations, such as updating the Foreign Affairs Manual to address leadership. It has also begun to conduct its first 360-degree survey of COMs.
We appreciate State/OIG’s effort to address our questions. We hope this is helpful to our readers. We will have a follow-up post later on.
Ambassador Chas Freeman was the U. S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia (1989 to 1992 ) during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under Chester Crockerduring the historic U.S. mediation of Namibian independence from South Africa and Cuban troop withdrawal from Angola. More notably, he was the principal American interpreter during the late President Nixon’s meeting with Mao Zedong in China in 1972. He did tours in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. In the 1990s, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. He is the author of several books including a favorite of ours, the The Diplomat’s Dictionary published by the U.S. Institute of Peace Press. We previously blogged about Ambassador Freeman here and here.
On August 19, he gave a speech at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles California on How Diplomacy Fails. What’s racking up a remarkably poor track record? “Hastily-arranged presidential phone calls, hopscotch huddles with foreigners by the secretary of state, scoldings of foreign leaders by U.S. spokespersons, suspensions of bilateral dialogue, sanctions,” etc, etc — for starters. Glad to hear Ambassador Freeman bring these up. We hope more would speak up.
We are republishing the text of the speech below; a must read as it explains a lot of what ails American diplomacy.
How Diplomacy Fails
We are here to discuss what we can learn from the failure of diplomacy to prevent, halt, and wrap up World War I. We just heard a masterful review of what happened from Geoffrey Wawro. He has already said most of the things I wanted to say. So he’s left me with no alternative but to actually address the topic I was asked to speak about, which is the failings of today’s American diplomacy in light of the deficiencies of diplomacy in 1914.
There are in fact some very disquieting similarities between the challenges statecraft faced back then and those it faces today.
The eve of World War I was also a time of rapid globalization, shifting power balances, rising nationalisms, socioeconomic stress, and transformative military technologies. The railroad networks, barbed wire, dynamite, repeating rifles, machine guns, long-range artillery, aircraft and submarines that altered the nature of war then are paralleled by today’s cyber and space-based surveillance systems, drones, precision-guided munitions, sub-launched and land-based anti ship missiles, missile defense and penetration aids, anti satellite missiles, cyber assaults, hypersonic gliders, and nuclear weapons. Changes in the European political economy set the stage for World War I. Changes in technology made it different from previous wars.
Armed conflict between major powers today would reveal that warfare has again mutated and developed new horrors for its participants. But some factors driving conflict now would parallel those of a century ago. In 1914, as in 2014, a professional military establishment, estranged from society but glorified by it, drew up war plans using new technologies on the fatal premise that the only effective defense is a preemptive offense. Then, as now, these plans evolved without effective political oversight or diplomatic input. Then, as now, military-to-military interactions within alliances sometimes took place without adequate supervision by civilian authority, leading to unmanageable policy disconnects that were revealed only when war actually broke out.
As the 20th century began, successive crises in the Balkans had the effect of replacing the 19thcentury’s careful balancing of interests with competition between military blocs. This conflated military posturing with diplomacy, much as events in the East and South China Seas, the Middle East, and Ukraine seem to be doing today. Then, as now, decisions by the smaller allies of the great powers risked setting off local wars that might rapidly expand and escalate. Then, as now, most people thought that, whatever smaller countries might do, war between the great powers was irrational and therefore would not occur. And then, as now, the chiefs of state and government of the great powers practiced attention deficit diplomacy. They were so engaged at the tactical level that they had little time to give full consideration to the strategic implications of their decisions.
Ironically, in light of what actually happened, few would dispute that the factors inhibiting war in Europe in 1914 were greater than those impeding it today. European leaders were not only personally acquainted but, in many instances, related to each other. They and their diplomatic aides knew each other well. There was a common European culture and a tradition of successful conference diplomacy and crisis management for them to draw upon. European imperialists could and had often solved problems by trading colonies or other peripheral interests to reduce tensions between themselves. None of these factors exist today to reduce the likelihood of wars between the United States and China or Iran, or NATO and Russia, or China and Japan or India – to name only the pairings warmongers seem to enjoy talking about the most.
On the other hand, alliances today facilitate cooperation. In practice, they no longer, as they did in 1914, oblige mutual aid or embody preconcerted common purposes. This welcome but dishonorable fact reduces the moral hazard implicit in American defense commitments to weaker allies and diminishes the prospect that they might act rashly because the U.S. has their back. It also reduces the danger of automatic widening and escalation of local wars.
No one wants war of any kind. But, as events in Europe in the summer of 1914 remind us, discounting the possibility of war and not wanting it are not enough to prevent it from happening. And, as the president suggested in his commencement address at West Point this May, we need to find alternatives to the use of force to advance our interests in the 21stcentury. That means strengthening our capacity for diplomacy.
It is said that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But it is equally true that those who learn the wrong lessons from history must expect reeducation by painful experience. So it’s not surprising that, since the end of the Cold War, American diplomacy has suffered repeated rebuke from unexpected developments. Some of these have taken place in the Balkans, where World War I was kindled – and where we have arranged a ceasefire, installed a garrison, and called it peace.
But most challenges to our problem-solving ability are coming from other places and are producing still worse results. Consider the north Korean and Iranian nuclear issues, Israel-Palestine, 9/11 and our ever-intensifying conflict with militant Islam, regime change in Iraq, the Russo-Georgian war, the Arab uprisings (including that in Syria), “humanitarian intervention” in Libya, the “pivot to Asia” amidst tussles in the South and East China Seas, the collapse of Sykes-Picot and the rise of Jihadistan in the Levant, and the Ukraine crisis, among other tests of American statecraft. It’s hard to think of anything that’s has gone right.
It’s worth asking what we have got wrong. Clearly, military strength alone is not enough to guarantee international order or compel deference to U.S. desires. So Americans are looking for a more restrained and less militaristic way of dealing with the world beyond our borders.
The president nicely captured the national mood when he said that “our military has no peer,” but added that: “U.S. military action cannot be the only — or even primary — component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”
That insight implies that we should be skilled at measures short of war, that is: diplomacy. For many reasons, we are not. To set aside militarism and redevelop the capacity to shape events abroad to our advantage without a feckless resort to force, we need to unlearn a lot of bad habits and to reexamine some of the presuppositions guiding our approach to foreign affairs. Military overreach cannot be offset by diplomatic incapacity.
Part of what is required is correcting dysfunctional assumptions about how to deal with ornery foreigners. Denouncing them and breaking off dialogue with them is petulant. It doesn’t solve problems. Refusing to meet with another government until it accepts and meets our moral standards is a sure recipe for impasse. “Come out with your hands up or we won’t talk to you” is not a persuasive way to begin negotiations. Declaratory “diplomacy” and sanctions entrench confrontation. They neither mitigate it or address its causes. We are seeing that effect now with Russia in Ukraine.
Short of the use of force, without tactfully persuasive conversation very few people and no nations can be convinced to change course. It is difficult to get an adversary to yield when he believes his political survival as well as his dignity depend on not surrendering. So as long as we know what we are going to say and what effect it is likely to have, it is better to talk than not to talk. Those with whom we disagree need to hear directly and respectfully from us why we think they are wrong and harming their own interests and why they are costing themselves opportunities they should want to pursue and risking injuries they should wish to avoid.
It takes time to establish the mutual confidence necessary for such dialogue. It is counterproductive to stand on our side of the oceans and give other nations the finger, while threatening to bomb them. It does not make sense to react to problems in other nations by severing communication with them. As Winston Churchill observed, “the reason for having diplomatic relations is not to confer a compliment but to secure a convenience.” Yet, for example, we routinely withdraw military attachés following military coups. Since our attachés are the only American officials who know and have credibility with the new military rulers, this is the equivalent of gagging, deafening, and blinding ourselves – a kind of unilateral diplomatic disarmament. Our diplomatic technique badly needs an upgrade.
But the more fundamental problem for U.S. diplomacy is the moral absolutism inherent in American exceptionalism. Our unique historical experience shapes our approach to our disadvantage, ruling out much of the bargaining and compromise that are central to diplomacy. In our Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War, we demonized the enemy and sought his unconditional surrender, followed by his repentance, reconstruction, and ideological remolding. The American way of international contention formed by these experiences is uniquely uncompromising. Our rigidity is reinforced by the mythic cliché of Hitler at Munich. That has come to stand for the overdrawn conclusion that the conciliation of adversaries is invariably not just foolish but immoral and self-defeating.
The Cold War reduced most American diplomacy to proclaiming our values, holding our ground, containing the enemy, and preventing inroads into our sphere of influence – the zone we called “the free world.” Despite occasional talk of “rollback,” with few exceptions, our approach was static and defensive – the diplomatic equivalent of trench warfare. In this formative period of American diplomacy, our typical object was not to resolve international quarrels but to prevent their resolution by military means. So we learned to respond to problems by pointing a gun at those who made them but avoiding talking to them or even being seen in their company.
Without our realizing it, Americans reconceived diplomacy as a means of communicating disapproval, dramatizing differences, amplifying deterrence, inhibiting change, and precluding gains by adversaries. For the most part, we did not see diplomacy as a tool for narrowing or bridging differences, still less solving them by producing win-win outcomes. We seem to be having trouble remembering that diplomacy’s usual purpose is to do these very things.
The experience of other nations causes most to see diplomacy and war as part of a continuum of means by which to persuade other states and peoples to end controversies and accept adjustments in their foreign relations, borders, military postures, and the like. Given Americans’ history of isolationism alternating with total war, we tend to see diplomacy and armed conflict as opposites. We describe war as a failure of diplomacy, not as a sometimes necessary escalation of pressure to achieve its aims.
Americans suppose that diplomacy ends when war begins and does not resume until the enemy lies prostrate before us. We imagine that wars end when the victor proclaims his military mission accomplished rather than when the vanquished is brought to accept defeat. Lacking a tradition of war termination through diplomacy, we have great difficulty successfully ending wars, as Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya all attest. We have yet to internalize the need to reconcile enemies to the political consequences of military outcomes and to translate these outcomes into peace agreements – binding acceptances of a new status quo as preferable to its overthrow.
The failure of diplomacy in World War I left most Americans with a very jaundiced view of it. Will Rogers summed this up when he said “the United States never lost a war or won a conference” and added “take the diplomacy out of war and the thing would fall flat in a week.” As a nation, despite our seven decades of superpower status, Americans still don’t take diplomacy seriously. Most of us see it as an expression of weakness – so much namby-pamby nonsense before we send in the Marines. And, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, we still seem convinced that diplomacy is an amateur sport.
We show this in how we staff our country’s statecraft and diplomacy. Our military and our spies are professionals. But, for the most part, our foreign policy is crafted, led, and executed by ambitious amateurs – ideologues, the paladins of special interests, securocrats playing games of musical sinecures, political spin doctors, and the occasional academic. Our ambassadors in important capitals are selected as a reward for their campaign contributions, not for their experience in diplomacy or competence at advancing U.S. national interests abroad. All too often these days, our politicians fiddle while the world turns, leaving the diplomatic ramparts unmanned as crises unfold. As an example, we had no ambassador to Moscow for the five months in which Russophobes and Russians pulled down an already rickety Ukraine, detached the Crimea from it, and reignited East-West confrontation in Europe. On August 1, the U.S. Senate cast its last votes of the season, leaving 59 countries with no American ambassador.
America’s dilettantish approach to national security is unique among modern states. We get away with it – when we do – mainly because our diplomacy is supported by very bright and able career officers. But our foreign service works in an environment contemptuous of professionalism that more often than not leaves its officers’ potential unrecognized, unmentored, and underdeveloped. (If the highest ranks of the diplomatic profession in the United States are reserved for men and women who have made a lot of money in other professions and avocations, why should our most talented young people – even those who want to serve our country – waste time apprenticing as diplomats? Why not do something less dangerous and more lucrative, then buy your way in at the top?) Under the circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that the United States has come to be known for its military prowess, not its foreign affairs literacy, the wisdom and imagination of its statecraft, or the strategic sophistication and subtlety of its diplomacy. This is proving dangerous. In an increasingly competitive world, diplomatic mediocrity is no longer good enough.
Americans must now consider whether we can afford to continue to entrust our diplomacy to amateurs. Hastily-arranged presidential phone calls, hopscotch huddles with foreigners by the secretary of state, scoldings of foreign leaders by U.S. spokespersons, suspensions of bilateral dialogue, sanctions (whether unilateral or plurilateral), and attempted ostracism of foreign governments are racking up a remarkably poor track record in the increasingly complex circumstances of the post-Cold War world. So is the dangerous conflation of military posturing with diplomacy. If we Americans do not learn to excel at measures short of war, we will be left with no choice but to continue to resort to war to solve problems that experience tells us can’t be solved by it.
To prosper in the multipolar world before us, Americans will need to be at the top of its diplomatic game. We are a very long way from that at present. And time’s a wasting.
Frankly, we’re exhausted watching Secretary Kerry fly here and there. We know he meant well, but what does it say when he is required to do the work that his ambassadors or special envoys should be doing? As to the spokespersons, we have to confess that there are days, and there are many of them, when we are overwhelmed with great envy that the Pentagon has a Rear Admiral Kirby behind the podium. Well, boo! for me.
The June 2014 issue of the Foreign Service Journal includes an article, Publishing in the Foreign Service by FSO Yaniv Barzilai, who is serving in Baku on his first overseas posting. He is the author of 102 Days of War—How Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda & the Taliban Survived 2001 (Potomac Books, 2013). Below is an excerpt from that article with a prescription for the improvement of the pre-publication clearance process in the State Department.
There is plenty of room for improvement in the pre-publication clearance process. First and foremost, State must do a better job of adhering to the regulations it has set forth in the Foreign Affairs Manual. Anything short of that standard is unfair to everyone involved.
Second, the department should establish clear guidelines on how it distributes material internally and across the interagency community. That threshold should have nothing to do with terms as vague as “equities.” Instead, offices and agencies should have the opportunity to clear on material only if that material is the result of “privileged information”: information that employees acquire during the discharge of their duties that is not otherwise available.
Third, State needs to ensure that former employees receive treatment comparable to current employees. A significant gap exists between the attention given to current employees by PA and that former employees receive from A/GIS/IPS/PP/LA.
As that lengthy acronym suggests, former employees are relegated to an obscure office in the Bureau of Administration when they seek pre-publication clearance. In contrast, the PA leadership is often engaged and provides consistent oversight of the review process for current employees. This bifurcation not only creates unnecessary bureaucratic layers and redundancies, but places additional burdens on former employees trying to do the right thing by clearing their manuscripts. This discrepancy should be rectified.
These short-term fixes would go a long way toward improving the pre-publication clearance process for employees. In the long term, however, the State Department should consider establishing a publication review board modeled on the CIA’s Publication Review Board.
A State Department PRB would codify a transparent, objective and fair process that minimizes the need for interagency clearance, ensures proper and consistent determinations on what material should be classified, and reduces the strain on the State Department at large, and its employees in particular.
Ultimately, State needs to strike a better balance between protecting information and encouraging activities in the public domain. The pre-publication review process remains too arbitrary, lengthy and disjointed for most government professionals to share their unique experiences and expertise with the American public.
We totally agree that a publication review board is needed for State. Instead of parcelling out the work to different parts of the bureaucracy, a review board would best serve the agency. We have some related posts on this topic on the Peter Van Buren case as well as the following items:
The rules and regulations for publishing in the Foreign Service can be found in the infamous Foreign Affairs Manual 3 FAM 4170 (pdf). Last June, AFSA told its members that for more than a year it has been negotiating a revision to the current Foreign Affairs Manual regulations governing public speaking and writing (3 FAM 4170).
“As mentioned in our 2013 Annual Report, our focus has been to accommodate the rise of social media and protect the employee’s ability to publish. We have emphasized the importance of a State Department response to clearance requests within a defined period of time (30 days or less). For those items requiring interagency review, our goal is to increase transparency, communication and oversight. We look forward to finalizing the negotiations on the FAM chapter soon—stay tuned for its release.”
Last week, we posted a Snapshot: State Dept Key Offices With Security and Related Admin Responsibilities and wondered why Raymond Maxwell’s former office as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the NEA Bureau did not get an organizational box. Our readers here may recall that Mr. Maxwell was one of the bureaucratic casualties of Benghazi. Diplomatic Security officials Eric Boswell, Charlene Lamb, Steve Bultrowicz and NEA official, Raymond Maxwell were placed on paid administrative leave on December 19, 2012 following the release of the ARB Benghazi Report. On August 20, 2013, all four officials were ordered to return to duty. Mr. Maxwell officially retired from the State Department on November 30, 2013. Prior to his retirement he filed a grievance case with HR where it was denied and appealed the case to the Foreign Service Grievance Board where it was considered “moot and thus denied in its entirety.”
Our blog post last week, also received the following comment from Mr. Maxwell:
“[M]y grievance was found to have no merit by HR, and earlier this month, the FSGB found that the State Department made no errors in the way I was removed from my position, shamed and humiliated in the press, and placed on admin leave for nine months, Further, the FSGB found that I was not entitled to the public apology I sought in my grievance because I had retired. I have two options now. I can spend a great deal of money suing the Department in local courts, or I can let it go and move on with my life. My choice of the latter option neither erases the Department’s culpability in a poorly planned and shoddily executed damage control exercise, nor protects future foreign service officers from experiencing a similar fate. There is no expectation of due process for employees at State, no right to privacy, and no right to discovery.”
We spent the weekend hunting down Mr. Maxwell’s grievance case online; grievants’ names are redacted from the FSGB cases online. When we finally found it, we requested and was granted Mr. Maxwell’s permission to post it online.
The Maxwell case teaches us a few hard lessons from the bureaucracy and none of them any good. One, when you fight city hall, you eventually get the privilege to leave the premises. Two, when you’re run over by a truckload of crap, it’s best to play dead; when you don’t, a bigger truckload of crap is certain to run you over a second or third time to make sure you won’t know which crap to deal with first. But perhaps, the most disappointing lesson of all — all the good people involved in this shameful treatment of a public servant — were just doing … just doing their jobs and playing their roles in the proper functioning of the service. No one stop and said, wait a minute …. They tell themselves this was such a sad, sad case; they feel sorry for how “Ray” was treated. It’s like when stuff happens, or when it falls — se cayó. No one specific person made it happen; the Building made them do it. The deciding officials apparently thought, “This was not an easy matter with an easy and obvious resolution.” Here — have a drink, it’ll make you feel better about looking the other away. See he was “fired” but he wasn’t really fired. He was prevented from entering his old office, and then not really. Had he kept quiet and did not write those poems …who knows, ey …
We’re embedding two documents below –1) Maxwell’s FSGB case, also available online here (pdf); and 2) an excerpt from the Oversight Committee report that focused on Mr. Maxwell’s alleged “fault” over Benghazi. Just pray that this never happens to you.
The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the Foreign Service union recently released its Security Recommendations from its QDDR Security Working Group.
The recommendations available here includes the following number one item:
“We are opposed to the creation of a new Under Secretary for Security. Cross cutting decisions involving security and achieving other national priorities need to be consolidated, not further divided.”
Whaaaaat? Here is how the AFSA Security Working Group explains it:
Non-concurrence with Decision to Create new Under Secretary for Security
The Benghazi ARB, the Report of the Independent Panel on Best Practices, and the OIG Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process all focus on the need to tighten and better focus responsibility for security at senior levels. The independent panel report recommends the creation of a new undersecretary level position for security. We disagree.
The problem is not just security but finding the balance between risk, resources, and the accomplishment of national foreign policy objectives. The result, as the OIG report notes (pg. 4), is that contrary positions tend to be “represented respectively by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and the Under Secretary of State for Management.” Creating a new undersecretary for security will do nothing to resolve this problem and, in fact, is likely to prioritize security over our reason for being in risky locations in the first place. The need is for a single location to reconcile the two perspectives and take responsibility for the resulting decisions. This could either be in the U/S for political affairs or, as the IG recommends, at the level of the Deputy Secretary level but it should not be in a new U/S devoted exclusively to security.
All three reports note the 14-year failure at consistent implementation of similar recommendations made previously. A significant challenge for Department leadership will be to put in place and maintain effective implementation mechanisms. Almost as important will be to convince its personnel that it continues to pay attention once the political heat dies down.
Can we just say that we disagree with AFSA’s disagreement? You really want the policy folks to have the last say on security? Really?
Mr. Starr’s response to the question on elevating Diplomatic Security to an under secretary position is perhaps not totally surprising. In the org structure DS reports to M; M being one of the six under secretaries in the State Department. Can you imagine how it would have been received in Foggy Bottom had he publicly supported the creation of the U/S for Diplomatic Security at the start of his tenure?
Meanwhile, Congress which is now on its 4,487th hearing on Benghazi and counting, has also not been a fan of elevating DS to the under secretary level. Last year, this is what the HFAC chairman said:
“I won’t endorse a new undersecretary position until the State Department provides the committee with a compelling rationale,” Representative Ed Royce, a California Republican who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said. “More bureaucracy is not synonymous with effective security.”
Mr. Starr talks about access to the Secretary and his deputies, Congressman Royce talks about an expanding bureaucracy, and AFSA talks about “consolidation” at “P” or the Deputy Secretary level. The Dems think Pfftt and the GOP is basically still talking about those darn “talking points.”
No one is talking about fixing the “span of control” or the “organizational structure” that needs work.
We’re afraid that we’ll be back talking about this again, unfortunately, at some future heartbreak.
Diplomatic Security: Things were a changin’ in the 1980s
According to history.state.gov, the Department of State, by administrative action, established a Bureau of Diplomatic Security headed by a Director holding a rank equivalent to an Assistant Secretary of State on Nov 4, 1985. The creation of the new Bureau followed recommendations of the Advisory Panel on Overseas Security (the Inman Panel), which studied means of protecting Department personnel and facilities from terrorist attacks. Congress authorized the Bureau, to be headed by an Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, in the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Anti-terrorism Act of Aug 27, 1986 (P.L. 99-399; 100 Stat. 856).
What state.gov does not specifically say on its history page is that the creation of the DS bureau was a direct result of the bombing of the Embassy and Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983.
President Ronald Reagan (far left) and First Lady Nancy Reagan pay their respects to the caskets of the 17 US victims of the 18 April 1983 attack on the United States Embassy in Beirut. (Photo via Wikipedia from the Reagan Library)
In the short history of the bureau, there had been four FSOs appointed as assistant secretary and three non-career appointees. The current assistant secretary, Mr. Starr is the first career security official to lead the DS bureau. Since its inception, the bureau has been relegated to the administrative and management bureaus. FSO Robert Lamb who was Administration A/S in 1985 assumed duties as Coordinator of the Office of Security. He was designated Director of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Nov 4, 1985 and appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Securityon March 12, 1987.
According to this, Diplomatic Security is responsible for this:
Diplomatic Security protects the lives of approximately 35,000 U.S. employees under Secretary of State and Chief of Mission authority worldwide, as well as the lives of approximately 70,000 family members of these employees. An additional 40-45,000 locally engaged staff (LES) are also protected during working hours. In sum, with 2,000 special agents, and its network of engineers, couriers, civil service personnel and other critical staff, DS successfully protects almost 150,000 employees and family members during business hours, and about 100,000 U.S. employees and family members around the clock. Approximately 275 foreign service posts abroad, comprising thousands of buildings and residences, also fall under the Department’s responsibility and the DS protective security purview.
Currently, the DS bureau is one of thirteen bureaus including Budget and Planning, Human Resources, Overseas Buildings Operations under the “M” family of offices in the Under Secretary for Management. In essence, the top security official at State is not a security official but a management official.
Badda bing badda boom – Reorganization Sorta Done
The State Department has now created a DAS for High Threat Posts. The State Department could argue that it has done “DS reorganization” with the creation of a new DAS for High Threat Posts.
The new DAS position for High Threat Posts was announced in November 2012, even before ARB Benghazi issued its report. Did it show the State Department’s quick response ahead of the curve? Absolutely. The ARB report would later call the creation of the DAS HTP as a “positive first step.”
Congress was partially mollified, something was being done.
Just because something is being done doesn’t mean what is being done is what is needed or necessary.
We’ve learned in the Nairobi and Tanzania bombings that those missions were not even high threat posts when they were attacked. Also, in the August 2013 closure of posts in the Middle East and North Africa due to the potential for terrorist attacks, only four of 19 were designated as high threat posts. And when we last blogged about this, six of the 17 reported new high threat posts have zero danger pay.
So why an office and a new DAS for HTP?
We think that the creation of a new DAS for HTP was a band-aid solution that everyone could get behind. It did not encroach on anyone’s turf, no one had to give up anyone or anything, it did not require new money from Congress, it’s a new desk in the same shop, under the same old structure. It could be done cheaply and fast. Add a well-respected DS agent as A/S and tadaaaa — badda bing badda boom – reorganization sort of done!
Elevating Diplomatic Security — A 14-Year Old Idea Comes Back
Elevating Diplomatic Security in placement and reporting within the State Department is not a new idea. The Accountability Review Board following the twin bombings of the the US Embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania recommended in January 1999 that “a single high-ranking officer [be] accountable for all protective security matters.”
13. First and foremost, the Secretary of State should take a personal and active role in carrying out the responsibility of ensuring the security of US diplomatic personnel abroad. It is essential to convey to the entire Department that security is one of the highest priorities. In the process, the Secretary should reexamine the present organizational structure with the objective of clarifying responsibilities, encouraging better coordination, and assuring that a single high-ranking officer is accountable for all protective security matters and has the authority necessary to coordinate on the Secretary’s behalf such activities within the Department of State and with all foreign affairs USG agencies.
The ARB Nairobi/Tanzania was not talking about an assistant secretary, since that position was already in existence since 1985. It clearly was talking about a higher ranking official accountable for security.
August 1998: The U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the aftermath of the August 7, 1998, al-Qaida suicide bombing. Eleven Tanzanians, including 7 Foreign Service Nationals, died in the blast, and 72 others were wounded. The same day, al-Qaida suicide bombers launched another near-simultaneous attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, which killed 218 and wounded nearly 5,000 others. (Source: DS Records)
In fact, in the aftermath of the East Africa twin bombings, there was a move to consolidate security and threat intelligence functions under one entity, the Under Secretary for Security, Law Enforcement & Counter Terrorism and having Diplomatic Security report directly to the Secretary of State.
The Cohen-Albright memo proposed combining pertinent security and threat intelligence units into one single unit within the new DS (operational threat intelligence functions of Intelligence & Research (INR), DS Intelligence and Threat Analysis (DS/ITA), and the threat analysis unit of Counter—Terrorism (S/CT). The rationale for this? That “this will ensure that we have one single entity within the Department responsible for all operational security and threat intelligence, and it also establishes clear, formalized lines of communication and accountability on threat matters with the IC and the Department.”Currently, INR continues to reports directly to the Secretary, CT reports to (J) and ITA remains at DS.
One change that did happen as a result of the twin bombings was the relocation of RSOs reporting authority from Management Counselors to the Principal Officers at overseas posts. The (M) at that time, Bonnie Cohen instructed posts that RSOs must now report to, and be evaluated by, DCMS or Principal Officers, rather than their current reporting relationship to administrative counselors. In her memo to Secretary Albright, she wrote: “This will elevate the role of security at posts, ensure that senior post management are engaged in the decision making process of security/threat issues, and establish clear lines of accountability, responsibility and communication. This will correct a number of problems that have arisen by having DS personnel part of the administrative section at post.” See the Cohen to Albright memo here (pdf).
The May 5, 2000 action memo from DS which was approved by Secretary Albright called for placement of the Bureaus of Diplomatic Security (DS) , International Narcotics and Law Enforcement(INL) and the then Office of the Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism (CT) under this newly created Under Secretary. INL and CT currently reports to the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J). The new under secretary position proposed and approved in 2000, an election year, never materialized. Secretary Albright was in office until January 19, 2001. A new administration came into office and in January 20, 2001, Colin L. Powell was appointed Secretary of State by George W. Bush.See the Carpenter to Albright memo here(pdf).
2. The Board recommends that the Department re-examine DS organization and management, with a particular emphasis on span of control for security policy planning for all overseas U.S. diplomatic facilities. In this context, the recent creation of a new Diplomatic Security Deputy Assistant Secretary for High Threat Posts could be a positive first step if integrated into a sound strategy for DS reorganization.
At the Transfer of Remains Ceremony to Honor Those Lost in Attacks in Benghazi, Libya. September 14, 2012. State Department photo by Michael Gross
The Independent Panel on Best Practices was the result of the ARB Benghazi recommendation that the State Department established a Panel of outside independent experts with experience in high threat, high risk areas to support the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, identify best practices from other agencies and countries and regularly evaluate security platforms in high risk, high threat posts. The panel headed by former USSS Director Mark Sullivan made one thing clear:
“One clear and overarching recommendation, crucial to the successful and sustainable implementation of all of the recommendations in this report, is the creation of an Under Secretary for Diplomatic Security.”
Aaand, we’re back exactly where we were in the late 1990s when Booz Allen was asked to look under the rocks on all security concerns about the Department cited in the Inman Panel Report and Admiral Crowe’s Accountability Review Boards and tasked with providing recommendations and best practices to the State Department.
Do you get a feeling that we’ve been going round and round in circle here?
Under Secretary for Diplomatic Security – Signed, Sealed, Delivered – and Ignored?
We should note here that the Independent Panel on Best Practices (IPoBP) report is not locatable at the State Department’s website. The August 2013 report is available here via Al Jazeera. U.S. taxpayers paid for the Panel members to go look under the rocks, interview hundreds of people, write up their report, and the report is only retrievable from AJAM? Seven months after the report was issued, the State Department’s Deputy Secretary Heather Higginbottom met with members of the Best Practices Panel on March 26, 2014.
These two items tell us the clear importance placed by the bureaucracy on the recommendations of outside independent experts. It’s like — it’s done, now go away.
We suspect that had the Independent Panel on Best Practices report did not make it to AJAM, we may not have been able to read it. A copy was also given to The New York Times by someone who felt it was important to publicize the panel’s findings on diplomatic security.
The Best Practices report says that “crucial to the successful and sustainable implementation of all of the recommendations in this report, is the creation of an Under Secretary for Diplomatic Security.”
If this position is created, it would be the seventh under secretary position at the State Department. It would join two other “Security” bureaus: Arms Control and International Security (T) and Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J). It would be at par with its previous home, Management (M). It would be on equal footing with Political Affairs (P). It would control a significant security budget and about 2,000 special agents, and its network of engineers, couriers, civil service personnel , other critical staff and contractors. It could draw bureaus from other under secretaries, similar to the ones approved in 1999 and never implemented, into the DS orbit. Most importantly, it would report directly to the Secretary of State: one accountable security official with the authority necessary to manage on the Secretary’s behalf security matters within the Department of State and with all foreign affairs USG agencies.
That’s a lot of change. There will be tooth and nail fights on lots of corridors. The new Deputy Secretary Higginbottom will have lots of friends who will borrow her ears. And the bureaucracy will go on self-preservation mode.
One good news if this happens? There will be no pointing fingers at each other when something horrible happens. We’ll have one accountable official to drag before Congress.
Speaking of “T” and “J”, a diplomatic security agent asked, “Does that mean we give more importance to ‘international security’ and ‘civilian security’ than we give to our own personnel?”
DS Doesn’t Need to be in the Room?
At posts overseas, the Regional Security Officer reports to the Ambassador not the Management Counselor (see the Cohen to Albright memo here). The Best Practices report notes that this “direct line of authority from the Ambassador to the RSO, utilizing the Country Team and Emergency Action Committee when necessary, was seen as critical to effective post security management and responding to dynamic threats.”In part, the report says:
[A]t the headquarters level, the same clear lines of authority and understanding of responsibilities are not as well deﬁned or understood. This has led to stove-piped support to posts and lack of understanding of security related coordination requirements among DS, the Under Secretary for Management, and the Regional Bureaus, as noted by the Benghazi ARB. In fact, some senior Foreign Service ofﬁcers and DS Agents who met with the Panel identiﬁed the Under Secretary for Management (M) as the senior security official in the Department responsible for ﬁnal decision making regarding critical security requirements.
Among various Department bureaus and personnel in the ﬁeld, there appeared to be very real confusion over who, ultimately, was responsible and empowered to make decisions based both on policy and security considerations. “
Diplomatic Security is only one of eleven diverse support and administrative functions reporting to the Under Secretary for Management. This is a signiﬁcant span of control issue and, if unaddressed, could contribute to future security management failures, such as those that occurred in Benghazi.
So moving DS into an under secretary position under S simply mirrors what is already happening at posts overseas. Except that like everything else in a bureaucracy, it’s complicated.
AFSA says that creating a new under secretary for security will not resolve the contrary positions that typically resides betweenManagement (M) and Political Affairs (P) and would “likely result in prioritizing security” over the reason for being in risky locations in the first place.
A DS agent who supports the creation of a U/S for DS explained it to us this way:
“What they really mean is that security considerations raised by a DS U/S would have to be given equal weight to the other reasons for being in a risky location.”
What we’re told is that all the other under secretaries and assistant secretaries have to do right now is convinced “M” that they need to be at location X. They do not need to work with DS at all. “When D is getting briefed, DS doesn’t even have to be in the room.”
Now, that might explain why DS professionals have very strong feelings about this.
So what if it’s going to be a three-way bureaucratic shootout?
You might have heard that Benghazi has flared up once more. Take a look at this screen grab from one of the emails recently released via FOIA by the State Department to Judicial Watch. Who’s missing from this email?
A Staff Assistant to the Secretary, received an update from the A/S NEA about Benghazi and passed on the update to the senior officials in Foggy Bottom. You’d expect an update from a diplomatic security official, but as you can see in the email header, neither the sender nor the source of this email is even Diplomatic Security.
One more thing –we have occasionally heard what goes on at posts before it goes on evacuation. At one post, the Front Office did not want to go on evac because it was concerned it would become an “unaccompanied post” and thereafter limit the quality of bidders it would get during the assignment season. The decision whether post should go on authorized or ordered departure does not reside with the security professionals but with management and geographic officials.
So basically, if this U/S for Security position becomes a reality, instead of a bureaucratic shootout between P and M, there would be a three-way shootout between P, M and DS. In addition to policy and resource consideration, the bureaucracy will be expected to give security considerations equal weight when standing up a presence in a risky location or on any matter with a security component. If the three could not sort it out, the Deputy Secretary or the Secretary would have the last say.
The Best Practices Panel says that “An effective security function must be co-equal to the other organizational components and have a “seat at the table” to ensure strategic accountability, common understanding of risk, and corresponding mitigation options and costs.”
Frankly, we cannot find a reason to argue with that, can you?
Are we doing this again in 2025?
Here is a blast from the past:
The Under Secretary would coordinate on your behalf all operational threat intelligence and security issues with other USG agencies.[…] This reorganization offers better command, control and accountability of Departmental security functions and responsibilities; streamlines the flow of security and threat intelligence information with DS as the focal point for the intelligence agencies; sends a strong signal to the Hill and others that we are taking security seriously by this reorganization; addresses the ARBs‘ findings; and institutionalizes the security apparatus at State to reflect a robust, progressive and disciplined approach to security, which is unaffected by political or personal preferences.
That reorganization was never implemented. And here we are back to where we were some 14 years ago.
Are we going to do this again in 2025?
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P.S. We’d be happy to put together the top ten reasons for and against the creation of an Under Secretary of for Security. Send your contributions here by this Friday. The names of contributors, for obvious reasons, will not be published. If we get enough submissions, we’ll blogit.