Category Archives: Petition

Online Petition to POTUS: Nominate “Mad Dog Mattis” as Next Ambassador to Moscow

– Domani Spero

Francis Regan of San Francisco, CA has started a petition to nominate General James Mattis, USMC, Ret. to be the next Ambassador to the Russian Federation.  Below is part of his justification:

Ambassador McFaul resigned last month to return to Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, leaving us without a dedicated official envoy to Moscow. We need an Ambassador to advocate for regional stability and economic confidence. We need an Ambassador right now to be a stone in the Putin administration’s shoe, always present and felt with every step. This is not something we should expect of either the Secretary of State or the Deputy Chief of Mission in Moscow, who each have other responsibilities.

Finally, we need an Ambassador with a detailed knowledge of existing US capability across every agency and department; a proven ability to deliver finely calibrated messages in volatile situations; and a keen awareness of the ability and willingness of our allies to stand beside us under any given set of circumstances.

Ambassador McFaul and General Mattis have been colleagues at the Hoover Institution for the past six weeks, where they have undoubtedly been talking through this Ukraine crisis as it has unfolded from unrest, to the shooting of protesters, to the ouster of President Yanukovych, and finally to an undeclared Russian invasion of Crimea.

As of this writing, the petition has 50 signatories. Some of the reasons given by the supporters are below:

  • Because I’m a Marine and I know Mattis takes zero shit.
  • Because General Mattis is a badass.
  • Because I’m begging you, with tears in my eyes…
  • Because Gen. Mattis has a zero-tolerance for bullshit.
  • I know General Mattis personally & professionally and he is by far the answer and the patriot to what this country is facing at this time.

One supporter of this petition which is addressed to President Obama states his reason as, “Because this guy unlike the President has a set of balls.

Obviously, that’s really going to help.

In 2013, Gen. James Mattis, known to his troops as “Mad Dog Mattis,” retired after 41 years of military service. Business Insider called him “an icon of sorts in the Marine Corps, arguably the most famous living Marine” and collected some of his unforgettable quotes. Take a look.

On a related note, WaPo’s Al Kamen reported a few days ago that White House press secretary Jay Carney, rumored to be angling for the top spot in Moscow denied that he wanted the job.  Rumint right now apparently includes national security adviser Susan Rice‘s interest in having a woman in Moscow.  In the Loop threw in some names:
  • Sheila Gwaltney , the current Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy Moscow; was deputy chief of mission during Amb. McFaul’s tenure; was consul general in St. Petersburg from 2008 to 2011. We understand that she is scheduled to rotate out this summer with Lynne M. Tracy, current DAS for South and Central Asia as the next DCM.
  • Pamela Spratlen , U.S. Ambassador to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, who is a former No. 2 at the embassy in Kazakhstan and former consul general in Vladivostok, Russia.
  • Rose Gottemoeller , undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. She just got confirmed on March 6, 2014.

Who else are you hearing?

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Filed under Ambassadors, Ambassadorships, Petition, Staffing the FS, State Department, U.S. Missions

Norwegian-Americans Petition For Withdrawal of Tsunis Nomination as Ambassador to Norway

– Domani Spero

We didn’t know that  Minnesota has the largest Norwegian-American population in the United States. Apparently, it is also home to major Norwegian groups like the Sons of Norway International.  According to MinnPost, days after George Tsunis, the nominee to be ambassador to Norway bungled his appearance at his SFRC confirmation hearing, a group of Minnesotans took up the cause of preventing the hotel magnate from getting the assignment. Twin Cities attorney T. Michael Davis has organized a campaign to either win Norway a new nominee, or, if that does not work, see that the Senate votes down Tsunis’ appointment.

We want the American citizens to have a qualified ambassador in Oslo, and we want the government in Oslo to be dealing with a qualified ambassador,” said Davis, a member of the state’s Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce. “This is just basic common sense.”

Davis and his allies have penned a Star Tribune op-ed on February 12, pushing for the Senate not to approve this nominee (See Obama-Tsunis: Selection for ambassador to Norway cannot stand):

“In a time of hyperpartisanship in Congress — and extreme voter fatigue with respect to party-line loyalties, a bipartisan Nordic community has always had greater hopes and expectations. We, thus, ask our senators to encourage President Obama to withdraw the Tsunis nomination or, barring such, we ask them to work hard in coming days to convince key Senate colleagues to act in the nonpartisan interests of the United States and its taxpayers, and in the interest of our valued ties with Norway, and unanimously reject the nomination of George J. Tsunis.”

Mr. Davis reportedly also wrote White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough directly about the nomination, and he and his allies have been making lots of noises in the Senate.

An online petition at charge.org has also been launched by Tom Lundquist asking for President Obama “to withdraw the Tsunis nomination or, alternatively, that the Senate act in the interests of the U.S., taxpayers, and ties with Norway, thus, rejecting the nomination.” The petition has 308 supporters as of this writing with 192 signatures still needed.

It’s hard to say if these efforts would derail the confirmation of Mr. Tsunis as the next ambassador to Norway.  On February 4, Mr. Tsunis got one step closer to becoming ambassador when the SFRC endorsed his nomination.  The last step in the process is the final vote by the full Senate.

There is, of course, a logjam of nominees over there.  Some have been waiting since January for their confirmation votes.  Given that the votes for these nominations are going in stops and spurts these days, it is likely that Mr. Tsunis’ nomination will be in the waiting line for a while. However, we are guessing that the nomination will squeak by quietly in late spring or early summer when we’re all busy with summer vacations and whatnots.

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Filed under Ambassadorships, Appointments, Congress, Leaks|Controversies, Obama, Petition, Politics, State Department

@United – Amb Gary Locke Goes to Bat for FS Pets and All Mission Employees in China

Foreign service pets and United are still hot. Most recently, our US Ambassador to China, Gary Locke (previously Commerce Secretary) went to bat for the FS pets on behalf of his mission employees and wrote to United’s Beijing office on this issue. He is the only chief of mission, as far as we know who has done this. Excerpt below from the Locke letter to United via AFSA. Read in full here.

Click on image for larger view

US Ambassador to China Gary Locke
(Photo from US Embassy Beijing/Flickr)

You rock, Ambassador Locke!

Domani Spero

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Filed under AFSA, Ambassadors, China, Petition

#United Deeply Offends Diplomatic Tails – It Sucks, Really! Woof! Woof!

We previously wrote about AFSA’s appeal to United Airlines on its new pet travel policy that can cost thousands of dollars to pet owners in the Foreign Service.

About 2800 emails were sent to United in response to AFSA’s appeal. AFSA has a membership of approximately, 16,000 members, so the appeal came from about 17.5% of its membership. Even if every member of AFSA writes to United, the number pales in comparison to the military and the potential backlash from military families.

Here is an update from AFSA on that appeal–

“United’s Senior Manager for Marketing, Customer Service and Business Systems responded to my letter to United CEO Smisek on March 7. He said that United developed the waiver for the military “in recognition of the commitment made by members of our military and the family members (including the four-legged ones) who share in their sacrifice” and intends to limit this “special process” to military families only. United has sent a standard customer relations response to individual e-mails saying that concerns would be conveyed to senior management for disposition.”

There are two troublesome thoughts that crossed my mind after reading this official response. First, the possibility that United’s Senior Manager for Marketing, Customer Service and Business Systems knows squat about the Foreign Service. Try not to roll your eyes. After all, a medical doctor and Ivy League graduate once thought the Foreign Service is like the French Foreign Legion.

Second, and perhaps more troubling, United’s Senior Manager for Marketing, Customer Service and Business Systems may know about the Foreign Service, but may not consider civilian service overseas on behalf of the United States, while representing the people of the United States of America as real service and sacrifice.

As Google says it in French, oh, ça craint, or in simplified English — oh, that sucks! Even, the diplomatic pets are deeply offended.

So poor Fido and his overseas escapades from Albania to Zimbabwe; traveling the world as a diplomatic dog is not sacrifice enough.  It’s not even a sacrifice when the four-legged ones are left behind during evacuations, because current State Department policy allows for the exclusion of pets from evacuation.

And poor Miss H (and Miss Kitty) who once upon a time went on multiple trips with us. The last one, on a long trip after getting poked, microchipped, vaccinated (thank god, no tapeworm treatment for cats) and  issued their own EU passports only to suffer veterinary malpractice and death in a foreign land.  I supposed death overseas is not a sacrifice either.

Miss H. has been gone for two years now and Miss Kitty will not be going overseas again. But there are other cats, dogs, and a host of diplomatic pets who are all offended by United’s unfriendly skyride.

The diplomatic pets do not yet appear to have any Twitter account, although they are considering it and currently in a negotiation on which breed would make the best diplomatic spokespet.  For now, we may have to ask our scaly friend, @BronxZoosCobra  to tweet Miss Kitty’s most pressing question: Dear United, what do you have against diplomatic pets?

Cat writes to United Airlines about misguided pet travel policy affecting diplomatic pets

Um, no answer yet.  Miss Kitty now needs to get off the podium and get her beauty sleep.

Domani Spero

Note: Photo above is of Socks the Cat from the Clinton White House.

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Filed under AFSA, Foreign Service, Huh? News, Petition, Realities of the FS

AFSA Appeals to United Airlines on New Pet Travel Policy

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In early January, United Airlines announced that as part of its efforts to merge the policies and airport procedures of the two airlines, on March 3, United would adopt PetSafe®, Continental’s program for traveling with animals:

Effective for travel beginning March 3, except for small animals who you will carry on board with you*, we no longer check in animals at the airport ticket counter for travel in the cargo area of the plane. Instead, they will be accepted and delivered at cargo facilities or express package SPD (Small Package Dispatch)/QuickPak offices worldwide.

*Small animals may still travel in the cabin in accordance with existing United and Continental policies.

After a blowback from military families, United Airlines made an exception last month for military families who ship their pets on UA when making permanent change-of-station moves.  The Army Times reported on this last month with a quote from UA:

“We evaluated our policies and developed a special process for military families traveling on permanent change-of-station orders only,” said Mary Ryan, a spokeswoman for United Airlines.

Under the policy, military travelers on PCS orders will be able to ship their pets under United’s “PetSafe” program without having to pay an additional fee to a third-party freight forwarder, Ryan said. That fee would add $1,500 to $4,000 per pet to a traveler’s costs, according to some estimates.

In its Call to Action, AFSA President Susan Johnson writes that “AFSA has engaged with the Department of State and United Airlines regarding United’s new policies on pet travel which restrict options, raise costs and pose enormous practical problems for the safe and timely transfer of pets at transit points where a change of plane and carrier is required. ”  Instead of paying approximately $250-$400 per pet, families are expected to pay between $1,000 and $4,000 per pet during relocation overseas under the new pet travel policy.

Below is AFSA’s suggested text to email to UA no later than 5:00 pm EST on Friday, March 9, to generate maximum effect. The email campaign is primarily addressed to Jeffery A. Smisek, the President and Chief Executive Officer of United Continental Holdings. See end of post for additional email addressees:

Dear Mr. Smisek –
Jeff.Smisek@united.com

As a [member of the Foreign Service/spouse or family member of a U.S. Foreign Service employee], I welcome your decision to grant a waiver of certain parts of the new United pet policy to members of the U.S. military on permanent change of station orders, and I urge you to grant the same waivers to America’s Foreign Service traveling with their pets when they are on official “change of station” orders.

Extending the waiver would demonstrate that United recognizes the service of those who work to advance and protect America’s interests abroad, and would modify a policy that unfairly penalizes members of a career service that requires its members to be available worldwide, who rely on and feel deep responsibility to their  beloved animal companions. This policy will cause serious hardship, both financial and emotional, to members of the U.S. diplomatic service and their families when they are assigned to official stations abroad and traveling to and from their official station on government orders.

This is a fair and common sense solution and we urge you to extend the waiver to members of America’s Foreign Service, for the benefit of our animal companions who are such important members of our families and our lives.

Sincerely,
[name]

(please send the message to customerrelations@united.com, Tom.Billone@united.com, Jeff.Smisek@united.com, and member@afsa.org.)

Read in full in AFSA’s page here.

 

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Filed under AFSA, Foreign Service, Petition

Join the Petition: Revised Q21 for the Foreign Service

I don’t know what it is like to have post-traumatic syndrome disorder or PTSD; the closest I’ve been was what I’d call “moving blues” which lasted for about six months. It was dark and depressing but nothing like what Kristin Loken, a Foreign Service officer with USAID had experienced. In the January 2008 issue of the Foreign Service Journal, she writes:

“Strong emotions would come and go without any relevance to what was happening around me. I had regular nightmares about running away from uniformed men with guns trying to kill me. Sometimes I would also have what I called “daymares.” I would encounter a person at work in a meeting and see them suddenly fall victim to some horrible trauma — a car wreck, a shooting, a bomb explosion. These daymares struck quickly, then disappeared, leaving me sitting in a meeting not knowing what I had missed. As I tried to regain normal functioning, I noticed that my mouth wouldn’t work right; I couldn’t talk properly and could hardly communicate with people around me.

There was a great deal going on inside my head, but it had no relevance to what was going on in the world around me. I could answer a direct question in a few words, but then could not say anything more for long periods of time. I didn’t feel sad; I didn’t feel happy. Often I didn’t seem to feel anything at all.”

It seems like every week, I get somebody online with the search phrase “PTSD and security clearance concerns.” It’s been months since the Secretary of Defense has successfully advocated the revision of Question 21 of the SF-86 Questionnaire for National Security Positions for DOD and I have not heard a single thing out of State. With a few remaining days left in office, I doubt if this is going to get any attention from the current occupant of the 7th Floor.

I also find it troubling that none of the webpages of Mental Health Services, Bureau of Diplomatic Security or “M” carry any information nor guidance on mental health consultations/treatment and its relevance to the employee’s medical and security clearance. Please don’t tell me they are on the intranet. Family members and partners do not have ready access to that thing.

In any case, I figure that with an incoming Secretary of State, this would be a good time to initiate a petition. I have considered the pros and cons of an online petition and have reservations not just with publicly posting names of petitioners, but also whether the intended recipients ever actually read online petitions. Thus, this one is going to be an old fashion, paper and snail mail petition.

Below is the text of the petition urging the revision of Question 21 of SF-86 for the Foreign Service. You can download the petition in Word file here or PDF file here. Please sign it, collect five other names/signatures from your immediate colleagues and mail it off to the Mother ship. I also urge you to pass on this petition to family members and friends of the Foreign Service for additional support.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to examine the nomination of Hillary R. Clinton to be Secretary of State on Tuesday (January 13, (9:30 am, SH-216). On January 15, the SFRC will have a business meeting to consider HRC’s nomination. With a simple majority needed for confirmation, I expect that she will be confirmed very shortly after the new president takes office. I would therefore suggest that petition letters be mailed off between now and February 20, 2009 to help ensure that the letters will be at her office when she assumes her duties.

~ ~ ~

Date

The Honorable Hillary R. Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

PETITION: Revised Q21 for the Foreign Service

We, the undersigned call on the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton upon assumption into office, to reaffirm that the Department of State strongly endorses the practice of seeking professional help to address all health- related concerns whether mental or physical; to also reaffirm that the Department of State considers it a mark of strength and maturity to seek appropriate health care whenever required; and to make clear that seeking professional care for mental health issues in and itself is not a reason to revoke or deny an individual’s security clearance. This is important in the Foreign Service, whose members are exposed to traumatic events with psychological impact not only in conflict zones but also in diplomatic hardship assignments worldwide.

Nearly 60% of our Foreign Service personnel are at posts considered by the U.S.Government as “hardship” due to difficult living conditions (for example, violent crime, harsh climate, social isolation, unhealthy air, and/or terrorist threats). Of those hardship posts, half are rated at or above the 15-percent differential level which constitutes great hardship, and where family members are unable to accompany such assignments.

In April 2008, the Secretary of Defense has successfully advocated the revision of Question 21 of the SF-86 Questionnaire for National Security Positions, which asks about mental health treatment. The revised question excludes counseling related to marital, family or grief issues, unless related to violence by the applicant/employee. It also rules out counseling for adjustments from service in a military combat environment. The OSD guidance also points out that failure to seek care increases the likelihood that psychological distress could escalate to a more serious mental condition, which could preclude an individual from performing sensitive duties.

Your immediate predecessor has not released a similar affirmation to encourage the treatment of PTSD and other related mental health issues. The Concerned Foreign Service Officers has noted “the continued revocations of security clearances based on mental health treatment – a practice that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security routinely perpetuates even after DOD and OPM have agreed not to count certain types of treatment, e.g. for PTSD, against the employee.”

The organization of the 21st century will be judged by the wholeness of its people. The first step to getting us there is to help ensure that Foreign Service officers, specialists, and family members and partners obtain the help they need without fear that such consultation/treatment jeopardizes their security clearance and employment.

Sincerely,
Employees, Family Members/Partners and Friends of the U.S.Foreign Service

Your name/signature:

Collect five more names/signatures

Name/signature 1:

Name/signature 2:

Name/signature 3:

Name/signature 4:

Name/signature 5:

References:

Office of the Secretary of Defense – Revised Q21
http://www.army.mil/docs/OSD_Guidance_on_Revised_Q21.pdf

Concerned Foreign Service Officers Warning On Mental Health Treatment
http://www.emaxhealth.com/7/11720.html

Foreign Service Journal January 2008: Focus on PTSD and the Foreign Service
http://www.afsa.org/fsj/2008.cfm

Executive Order 10450
http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/codification/executive-order/10450.html

Executive Order 12968
http://www.opm.gov/extra/investigate/eo12968.asp

~ ~ ~

Download:
Petition in Word
(if you want to insert your own story)
Petition in PDF

Sorry I don’t have a mail budget so the stamp is on you :-). Please mail signed petition to:

Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Many thanks for your help!


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Filed under Diplomatic Security, MED, Petition, PTSD, Realities of the FS, Security Clearance