Category Archives: Realities of the FS

State Dept Seeks Organizational Shrink to Assist in Foreign Service Selection Procedures

– Domani Spero

 

On September 12, the State Department published a solicitation via FedBiz.gov seeking “a certified industrial and organizational psychologist to provide advice, assistance and support for Foreign Service selection procedures.” 

Extracted from the FedBiz documents:

The Foreign Service Act of 1980 tasks the U.S. Department of State (the Department), and the Board of Examiners (BEX) specifically, with the responsibility for the evaluation and selection of candidates for the Foreign Service. The Bureau of Human Resources, Office of Recruitment, Examination and Employment, Board of Examiners (HR/REE/BEX) oversees these examinations, including the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT), Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP), Foreign Service Oral Assessment (FSOA), and selection procedures for Foreign Service generalists, specialists and limited non-career appointments. HR/REE/BEX is seeking a certified industrial and organizational psychologist to provide necessary advice and assistance in support of the Foreign Service Selection Process.

The contractor will assist the Department in ensuring that all examinations for Foreign Service generalists, specialists and limited non career appointments have been professionally validated and constitute a reliable means of identifying those applicants who show the greatest possibility of success in the Foreign Service. The successful contractor will provide consultative and analytical services as requested including formulating program alternatives and operational support for successful implementation of any revisions to testing and hiring procedures.

 

According to the solicitation, the organizational shrink, formally known as the contractor here shall perform the following work, as assigned by the Department:

1. Assist in evaluating the extent to which the generalist, specialist and limited non-career appointment hiring programs are effective in meeting the needs of the Foreign Service.

2. Work with the contractor who develops and administers the FSOT to review test components, as directed by HR/REE/BEX, including redesign of sections where requested; review and advise HR/REE/BEX on any revisions to the FSOT prior to their inclusion in the Department’s hiring process.

3. Attend, as the Department’s expert contractor, meetings of the Board of Examiners for the Foreign Service, established pursuant to Section 211 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, as amended. At the request of HR/REE/BEX, attend meetings with the Director General that involve discussion of Foreign Service selection procedures.

4. Provide advice on the procedures and training involved in the generalist, specialist and limited non-career appointment Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP), and assess the validity of QEP results.

5. Provide advice on the content validation of the Foreign Service Oral Assessment process (FSOA) and prepare FSOA validation reports for use by the Bureau of Human Resources.

6. Work with subject matter experts to create, review and revise all Foreign Service Selection Process assessments (QEPs, interviews, cases, competency tests, etc.). Provide programming and administrative support for online competency assessments.

7. Compile, manage, and report on assessment data. Validate assessments by conducting studies to ensure compliance with legal and professional testing guidelines. Analyze assessment data for statistical quality, adverse impact, and other purposes (e.g., answering questions from management).

8. Create feedback reports for assessors and management. Conduct special studies on the assessments (e.g., passing rates, comparing equivalence, faking, etc.) as requested. To include documenting all validation evidence, analyses, and special studies in technical reports.

9. Monitor all aspects of the implementation of the assessments and make continuous improvements.

10. Provide advice on alternate methods of entry to the FSOA (other than the FSOT) and assess the validity of these programs.

11. Evaluate on a recurring basis the Department’s recruiting and testing procedures, and advise HR/REE on how best to meet its hiring objectives and ensure the validity of any changes made to the examination processes.

12. Develop an online practice FSOT that potential candidates can use to assess their chances of passing the FSOT. Provide support to HR/REE for the Department’s recruiting mobile application.

13. Provide advice on the Department’s specialist hiring program, including possible examination alternatives; to include remote testing. Review and revise specialist and limited non-career appointment vacancy announcements and questionnaires used for initial screening of applicants.

14. Provide the Department with professional expertise in litigation should there be legal challenges to the FSOT, Oral Assessment,specialist examinations, or selection processes, including through production of requested documentation and service as an expert witness.

15. Provide professional advice and consultation to other HR offices within the Department as requested by HR/REE.

16. Define the mission-critical competencies required of entry-level Foreign Service Officers. Use this information to update the 2007 Job Analysis of Foreign Service Officer Positions

17. Conduct organizational or workforce surveys. To include a survey of generalists and specialists who have participated in the Oral Assessment; Entry-level Officers; and other candidate groups as designated by BEX.

Additionally the contractor should be an expert in psychometrics, the statistical science of psychological measures that are used to comprise knowledge tests and shall be conversant with:

  • The Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (1978) . These guidelines were established by federal agencies in charge of enforcing employment anti-discrimination laws. Among those agencies are the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance, and the Department of Justice.
  • The Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures , published by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 {Public Law 88-352 (78 Stat. 241)} prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

 

The State Department expects the following deliverables:

  • Based on its observations, the Contractor shall prepare a comprehensive report on generalist and specialist hiring programs, including the FSOT, Foreign Service Oral Assessment and specialist hiring programs, in addition to test-specific reports. The contractor may be required to brief HR/REE/BEX on the findings contained in the report to the Contract Officer’s Representative (COR).
  • The Contractor shall develop and provide in person (not recorded) an up-to-date Oral Assessment training program for assessors in order to ensure consistency among those conducting the oral assessment. Training shall address at a minimum the following elements: orientation to the concept of assessment centers and their role in pre-hire screening, background on the Foreign Service Oral Assessment process, and any revisions made since the last training session.
  • The Contractor shall provide training to BEX on each of the testing exercises that make up the FSOA (see http://www.careers.state.gov) and shall provide detailed guidance on scoring methodologies and anchors. The contractor shall ensure that the training is consistent with professional and legal standards or guidance.
  • The Contractor shall conduct a job analysis of the five Foreign Service Officer career tracks to determine what knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics FSOs need to perform their jobs effectively. Based on this analysis, the contractor will update the current blue prints being used by the Department.
  • The contractor shall compile evidence on the validity of the FSOA, and prepare a report summarizing such evidence, including a complete analysis of the demographics of those participating in the FSOA.
  • The contractor shall develop, monitor, provide, and maintain a comprehensive training program for the panel members involved in the generalists qualifications/evaluation/assessment (QEP).
  • As necessary, assist the Department, including its legal counsel, in legal matters pertaining to the FSOT, QEP and Oral Assessment, or other selection procedures established for the Foreign Service generalists and specialists.
  • The contractor will be required to compile a library of materials created pursuant to the contract on the content validation for all FSOTs administered during the contract period. Title to the library of materials compiled by the Contractor for which the Contractor is entitled to be reimbursed under this contract shall pass to and vest in the Government.

A couple of thoughts — this organizational psychologist has the potential to impact the hiring process of the State Department. Two, we are not sure if this is one of the results of the EEOC class action, but the requirement that this contractor provide the Department “with professional expertise in litigation should there be legal challenges to the FSOT, Oral Assessment,specialist examinations, or selection processes” seems to indicate that an expected challenge/s may be in the works.

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EEOC Affirms Class Action Certification For Disabled Applicants to the U.S. Foreign Service

– Domani Spero

 

In October 2010, we blogged that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has certified a class action brought on behalf of all disabled Foreign Service applicants against the U.S. State Department.  (see  EEOC certifies class action against State Dept on behalf of disabled Foreign Service applicants).

Related items:

Meyer, et al. v. Clinton (Department of State), EEOC Case No. 570-2008-00018X (September 30, 2010) (certifying class action based upon disability discrimination in State Department’s Foreign Service Officer hiring)

This past June, the EEOC affirmed the class certification for applicants to the Foreign Service denied or delayed in hiring because of their disabilities, based upon the “worldwide availability” policy.  (see Meyer v. Kerry (Dept. of State), EEOC Appeal No. 0720110007 (June 6, 2014)).

The State Department Disability Class Action now has its own website here.  Bryan Schwartz in San Francisco and Passman & Kaplan in Washington represented the class. The State Department’s Office of Legal Advisor and Office of Civil Rights represented the department.

Below is an excerpt from the class action website:

The EEOC decision found that the Class Agent in the matter, Doering Meyer, has had multiple sclerosis (MS) in remission for decades, without need for treatment, but was initially rejected outright for State Department employment anywhere in the world because the Department’s Office of Medical Services perceived that her MS might cause her problems in “a tropical environment.” This was notwithstanding a Board Certified Neurologist’s report approving her to work overseas without limitation.
[...]
The Department challenged the judge’s initial certification decision because, among other reasons, Meyer eventually received a rare “waiver” of the worldwide availability requirement, with her attorney’s assistance, and obtained a Foreign Service post. She is now a tenured Foreign Service Officer, most recently in Croatia, and being posted to Lithuania. Meyer’s attorney argued to the EEOC that she was still delayed in her career growth by the initial denial in 2006, and missed several posting opportunities over the course of an extended period, losing substantial income and seniority. The EEOC agreed with Meyer – modifying the class definition slightly to include not only those denied Foreign Service Posts, but those “whose employment was delayed pending application for and receipt of a waiver, because the State Department deemed them not ‘worldwide available’ due to their disability.”

Schwartz indicated that the case may ultimately have major implications not only for Foreign Service applicants, and not only in the State Department, but for all employees of the federal government abroad who have disabilities, records of disabilities, and perceived disabilities, and who must receive medical clearance through the Department’s Office of Medical Services. He noted that he has already filed other alleged class cases, also pending at the EEOC – one on behalf of applicants for limited term appointments (who need “post-specific” clearance, but are also denied individualized consideration), and another on behalf of employees associated with people with disabilities, who are denied the opportunity to be hired because of their family members who might need reasonable accommodations (or be perceived as disabled).

The Commission had also received an “Amicus Letter” from a consortium of more than 100 disability-related organizations urging the Commission to certify the class.

Read the full ruling at (pdf) Meyer v. Kerry (Dept. of State), EEOC Appeal No. 0720110007 from June 6, 2014 where the State Department contends that since this complaint was filed, the Office of Medical Services has changed many of its procedures in assessing “worldwide availability.”It also suggested that “many of those individuals who were found not worldwide available in 2006 maybe currently worldwide available under new definitions and procedures.”

The Commission, however, says that it “is not finding that changes made to the Medical Clearance process subsequent to the filing of the instant complaint have remedied any alleged discriminatory policy.”  

The order states (pdf): “It is the decision of the Commission to certify the class comprised of “all qualified applicants to the Foreign Service beginning on October 7, 2006, who were denied employment, or whose employment was delayed pending application for and receipt of a waiver, because the State Department deemed them not “world-wide available” due to their disability.”

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U.S. Embassy Yemen Now on Evacuation … No, on Temporary Reduction of Staff Status

– Domani Spero

 

On September 25, the State Department finally ordered the evacuation temporary reduction of USG personnel from the US Embassy in Yemen.  Below is an excerpt from the updated Travel Warning:

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest.  The Department urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Yemen issued on July 21, 2014.

On September 24, 2014, the Department of State ordered a reduction of U.S. government personnel from Yemen out of an abundance of caution due to the continued civil unrest and the potential for military escalation. The Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency and provide routine consular services may be limited. Embassy officers are restricted in their movements and cannot travel outside of Sana’a. In addition, movements within Sana’a are severely constrained and may be further constrained by the fluid security situation.

The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high. The Embassy is subject to frequent unannounced closures.  In May 2014, the Embassy was closed for almost five weeks because of heightened security threats.

Demonstrations continue to take place in various parts of the country and may quickly escalate and turn violent. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid areas of demonstrations, and to exercise extreme caution if within the vicinity of a demonstration.

Read in full here.

In related news, the Official Spokesperson of the State Department released a statement emphasizing that “The Embassy did not suspend operations and will continue to operate, albeit with reduced staff” and that “Consular services have not been affected by this temporary reduction in personnel.”

Serious question — when the USG declares that post is on “temporary reduction” or on “temporary relocation” of personnel, which seems to be the trend these days, are affected personnel considered “evacuees” for allowance and travel purposes?  Or are all the affected personnel put on TDY status to their designated safe havens?  We’re having a hard time locating the citation for “temporary reduction”or “temporary relocation” in the Foreign Affairs Manual.

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Clips via Twitter:

Yesterday:

 

 

Today:

 

 

 

 

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Tired of Another War? Operation Repeat Iraqi Freedom Officially On In Iraq. And Syria.

– Domani Spero

 

Only yesterday:

 

Before you know it, this fellow on Twitter live-tweeted the strikes :

 

The Pentagon soon confirmed the air strikes:

 

Here is the official statement

 

Here’s a YouTube video of the ISIL strike:

 

The new coalition of the willing includes five Arab countries: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar:

 

The five Arab countries and their planes:

 

President Obama’s statement on the Syria bombing:

 

Here is the congressional notification:

 

Here is a longer letter (there were two?) citing authority to carry out Public Law 107-40 and Public Law 107-243).  We’re now at war in Syria, and for the third time, in Iraq:

 

Still “no boots on the ground!?”

 

How much will all this cost?

 

Did Congress say/do anything?

 

How about those war predictions?

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As of this writing, the State Department has not announced any new Travel Warning for Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain or Qatar.  The last Worldwide Caution notice was published on April 10, 2014.

One post out of the five Arab countries in the coalition, the US Embassy in Jordan, has issued a Security Message noting the coalition strikes against ISIL targets and the likely increased of police presence at public and diplomatic buildings throughout the country.

The only other post in the area to issue a Security Message citing “regional events” is the US Embassy in Lebanon.  Embassy Beirut advises U.S. citizens that coalition airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in Syria have begun and notes an increased in kidnappings in  northern and eastern Lebanon. Both embassies say that there is no specific threat against U.S. citizens in their respected countries but caution citizens to exercise security awareness and maintain a heightened level of vigilance.

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Yemen Rebels With “Death to Amreeka” Logo Take Over Sanaa

– Domani Spero

 

On September 13, 2014, ambassadors to Yemen from ten countries, including the United States and the UK released a statement of “grave concern” on the  rising threat to the security of Yemen:

The Group of Ten Ambassadors notes with grave concern the rising threat to the security of Yemen posed by actions of groups and individuals who oppose full and timely implementation of the political transition in accordance with the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and its Implementation Mechanism, as well as the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, and as called for in UN Security Council Resolutions.  The Group reaffirms its abiding commitment to the peaceful transition process as outlined in the GCC Initiative and calls on all parties to abide by the founding principles of the Initiative aimed at ensuring the security, stability, and unity of Yemen.
[...]

The Group of Ten Ambassadors further condemns Ansar Allah’s public statements, which essentially mean threats to overthrow the Yemeni government and holds the group responsible for the deterioration of the security situation in Sana’a, for not fully withdrawing from Amran, and from engaging in armed clashes in al-Jawf as provided in the UNSC Statements of 11/07/2014 and 29/08/2014.

 

Photo via US Embassy Sanaa/FB

Photo via US Embassy Sanaa/FB

As clashes escalated and advanced into the capital city, the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa released an emergency message on September 18.  No updated message has been posted as of this writing:

The Embassy informs the public that ongoing clashes are now affecting the area around 60 Meter Road after Madbah Junction near Eman University.  Due to the continuing civil disorder and the escalating threat of violence, the Embassy advises all U.S. citizens to exercise great caution, avoid travel along 60 Meter Road beyond Madbah Junction, and use Movenpick Road to travel to the airport.    

On September 19, Al Jazeera reports of continued fighting in Sanaa:

On September 20, a tweet from the UK ambassador to Yemen:

 

Also on September 20, a statement from the UN:

A proposal not an agreement:

Curfew imposed:

The UN Yemen deal was signed today, after Huthis rebels swooped on key institutions across Sanaa, including the government headquarters and military sites, after an apparent surrender by security forces, according to France 24:

 

Early on September 21, Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa also tendered his resignation:

A notable part of the newly signed UN-brokered agreement according to Al Jazeera is that the annex, which was not signed by the Houthis, stipulated their withdrawal from Sanaa, Jawf and Amran within 45 days:

 

Need something further to read on this?

 

Okay, now this:

It is.  See this Houthis gallery via Al Jazeera from 2013.

According to Al Jazeera, the Houthis took over several government buildings in Sanaa including the defence ministry’s headquarters, the army headquarters, the parliament building, the Central Bank and the national radio station.

This Middle East Institute piece by Charles Schmitz on the Huthi Ascent to Power says that “The Huthi movement today must choose between pressing ahead militarily and provoking a bloody civil war in the capital or using its considerable political capital to form a wider, more inclusive and legitimate government in Yemen, to begin to address Yemen’s pressing problems. The movement appears to waiver unpredictably between the two options.”

No official statement either from Embassy Sanaa or the State Department concerning the latest developments or movements of personnel has been released.  We will update if we learn more.

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United States Senate of Disaster. Confirmed.

– Domani Spero

 

So last night, the Senate did a few more selective confirmation, then ran out the door for the real fun stuff (see Sorry FSOs: Senate Confirms Lippert, O’Malley, Nell Crocker, Scheinman, Holleyman and Lenhardt).  There are more than 30 ambassadorial nominations pending in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee plus nominations and promotions of career employees awaiting Senate approval.  About three dozens nominees for State/USAID/BBG are stuck on the Senate’s Executive Calendar.

No career diplomat made the confirmation cut during the Senate’s last day in session. Which means, a good number of them will have to wait for confirmation during the lame duck session. Because things will definitely change then. Or not. Failing that, they all presumably will be renominated at the start of the new Congress in 2015, and things will definitely work better then. Or not.

Perplexing thing, though … just the other day, during the Benghazi Select Committee hearing, the Republicans and Democrats in Congress exchanged so many thank-yous “it could have been the Oscars” according to WaPo’s Dana Milbank. At the end of the hearing, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) recalled the four dead Americans, “I want to adjourn in memory of Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Ty Woods and Glen Doherty,” he said. We missed this but according to WaPo, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D- Md.) reportedly also “embraced the theme” saying, “We are Americans … everybody trying to do the best they can to protect our people.”

We missed the group hug but see, they really do care about the career people we send out overseas. Except when they don’t.

In fairness, we must note that the Senate did a full plate of legislative business during its last session including the following:

Adopted S.Res.574: National Estuaries Week

Adopted S.Res.575: Prostate Cancer Awareness

Adopted S.Res.566: South Dakota 125th Anniversary

Adopted S.Res.420 – Naturopathic Medicine Week

Passed S.2040 – Blackfoot River Land Exchange

Passed S.2061 by voice vote – Preventing Conflicts of Interest with Contractors Act

Passed S.2583 – E-Label Act

Passed S.2778 – Secretary of State Reward for Information

 

Clearly, “everybody trying to do the best they can to protect our people “… does not include protecting our people from the Congress.  One might start to think that our elected representatives do not really care about our embassies and career diplomats, they just like saying so when they want to hear themselves talk.

So what if career diplomats are stuck in the Oakwood apartments in waiting mode for a year going on two years?

So what if an embassy has not had an ambassador for over 400 days?

You think the Senate might care more if its a place they want to visit for their next CODEL like Seoul or Paris?  Maybe, but holy guacamole, who’s been on a CODEL to Albania or Timor-Leste in the last 12 months? Anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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State Dept on Former DAS Raymond Maxwell’s Allegations: Crazy. Conspiracy Theory. What Else?

– Domani Spero

 

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:

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 5.54.23 PM

 

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 –

QUESTION: Right.

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?

QUESTION: Correct.

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.

QUESTION: Okay.

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?

MS. HARF: Let’s all hope so.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: Yes, of course.

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Sorry FSOs: Senate Confirms Lippert, O’Malley, Crocker, Scheinman, Holleyman and Lenhardt

– Domani Spero

 

On September 18, the Senate confirmed the following State Department nominations. Also confirmed were the nominees for USTR and USAID.

South Korea: Mark William Lippert, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Korea

Ireland: Kevin F. O’Malley, to be Ambassador to Ireland

State/IO: Bathsheba Nell Crocker, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (International Organization Affairs)

State/NPT: Adam M. Scheinman, to be Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, with the rank of Ambassador

USTR: Robert W. Holleyman II, to be Deputy United States Trade Representative, with the rank of Ambassador

USAID: Alfonso E. Lenhardt, to be Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development

 

Looking at the names of these lucky ones who made it out of the Senate, one simply feels bad for career diplomats who typically do not have BFFs in high places to lobby for their confirmation. Nominees for Palau and Timor-Leste who both have waited over 400 days may be forced to wait many more days unless the Senate act on those nominations in the next couple of days. Or perhaps after the November election? Perhaps next year?  Nominees for Paraguay, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Cabo Verde, all career diplomats are also stuck in the Senate. Confirmation by crisis works as we have seen clearly this year, though not all the time.  But if a coup or a civil strife breaks out in any of these places in the next 48 hours, the nominees might, just might get moved up the Senate’s “we haven’t forgotten you” list before the clock runs out.

Well, what are you waiting for? Start something happening somewhere, pronto!

 

Oh, wait! Too late to start a coup.  The Senate’s gone, people!

 

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U.S. Embassy Bangui Resumes Operations With Chargé d’Affaires David Brown

– Domani Spero

 

On September 11, President Obama notifiesd Congress of the deployment of troops to the Central African Republic in preparation of the resumption of operations at the U.S. Embassy in Bangui (see U.S. Troops Deploy to C.A.R. For Resumption of Operations at U.S. Embassy Bangui).

On September 15, Secretary Kerry announced the resumption of embassy operations in the Central African Republic and the appointment of David Brown as Chargé d’Affaires. Below is an excerpt of the announcement:

I am pleased to announce that we are resuming operations at our embassy in Bangui. The people and leaders of the Central African Republic have made progress in ending the violence and putting their nation on a path toward peace and stability. But we all know that much work remains to be done.

That’s why I asked David Brown to serve as Chargé d’Affaires and to work closely with the transitional government, as well as our international friends and partners, to advance a peaceful, democratic and inclusive political transition. And that’s why, on his arrival in Bangui, we announced an additional $28 million in U.S. humanitarian funding, bringing the U.S. total to $145.7 million this year alone.

With the September 15 transition to the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, we extend our profound thanks to the African Union, its force-contributing countries, as well as the French and European forces, for their important contributions to peace and stability in the Central African Republic. We call on all parties to fully support the UN mission in its vital task ahead as it takes over from the African Union mission. And as we reopen our embassy, I want to thank our dedicated Central African colleagues for their service during these difficult 21 months.

Full statement here.

David Brown is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, and became Senior Advisor for the Central African Republic on August 1, 2013 succeeding Ambassador Lawrence Wohlers.   Mr. Brown was Diplomatic Advisor at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) in Washington, D.C. from August 2011 to July 2013. His prior Africa experience includes serving as the Senior Advisor to the J-5 (Strategy, Plans, and Programs) Director of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) in Stuttgart (Germany); three times as Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassies in Cotonou (Benin), Nouakchott (Mauritania), and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso); and as Economic Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Lubumbashi (Democratic Republic of the Congo).

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State Department Denies Raymond Maxwell’s Document Scrub Allegations. Peeeeriod!!!!

Domani Spero

 

We did a blog post yesterday on former NEA Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Raymond Maxwell and Benghazi (see Former State Dept DAS Raymond Maxwell Alleges Benghazi Document Scrub Pre-ARB Investigation).

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.

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