Category Archives: SFRC

By The Numbers – Foreign Service Promotion Statistics 2012

– Domani Spero

Extracted from State Magazine, June 2013:

The Bureau of Human Resources has compiled the 2012 ForeignService Selection Board results by class and cone for generalists and specialists. The tables show promotion numbers, rates, average time inclass and average time in service for each competition group. The bureau also analyzed and compared certain 2012 promotion rates and levels to the 2011 results and the five-year averages. While the number of generalist and specialists promoted in 2012 was higher than 2011 and the five-year average, the number of eligible employees increased at a faster rate. Thus, the overall 2012 promotion rate for all eligible Foreign Service employees was 23 percent, lower than the 2011 rate of 24 percent and the five-year average rate of 25 percent.

The number of 2012 promotions into and within the Senior Foreign Service increased from 2011 and was greater than the five-year average. Due to an increasein retirements, the number of promotion-eligible employees actually decreased from 2011 and was less than the five-year average.

The 2012 promotion rates and numbers for many specialist skill groups were at or slightly below the 2011 levels and five-year averages. While the number of promotions remained steady formany specialist occupations, the number of eligible employeesoften increased, affecting the promotion rates.

Click on maximize view icon max iconon the lower rightmost end of the ScribD screen to read the extract in full.

On a  related note, the U.S. Senate is reportedly holding the names of 1,300 FS members awaiting tenure and promotion.  The Senate currently has a number of nominees also pending in committee and pending on the Executive Calendar. Also, see WaPo’s At many U.S. embassies, nobody’s home.

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AFSA Threatens to Sue State Department Over Ambassadors Credentials, Again

Updated on March 6, 10:13 pm PST with the “demonstrated competence” requirement in the FS Act of 1980.

– Domani Spero

Via WaPo’s Al Kamen:

The State Department employees union is demanding that the department turn over key documents on three embattled ambassadorial nominees — and all pending Obama administration nominees, both career Foreign Service and non-career folks — by Thursday evening or face a prompt lawsuit for the materials.

The documents, called “certificates of demonstrated competence,” essentially explain the rationale for nominating  each individual. The 28-member governing board of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) voted unanimously to demand the documents.

AFSA had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents in July, but it has not received them.
[...]
Although the board was very concerned about those particular three nominees, “We’re not going to be satisfied with one or two small victories,”AFSA president Robert Silverman said in an interview. “We want the system to be fixed, it’s broken.”

With the certificates in hand, the board, probably by telephone vote, is expected to deal with those three nominees. On the other hand, if AFSA needs to go to court for the documents, it may not get them before the full Senate votes on the nominations.

On AFSA’s Facebook page, the news has yet to generate a wave of response from its membership. Besides over a dozen likes and a few short “bravos,” a couple of concerns were also posted:

One wrote: “While I appreciate the broader issue, and think that it is nice that the press is focused on the service of career diplomats, I wonder how much efforts like this will go to alienate senior leadership in the Department and Administration who might later be called on to advocate for OCP or other issues of concern for the rank and file. I agree the Service would benefit if a few more Ambassadorships went to career diplomats, but I doubt that the senators who right now might applaud the sideshow generated by a lawsuit will feel similarly disposed when a Republican administration is making its appointments.”

Another comment: “While I am concerned about the quality of our Ambassadors I am even more concerned that AFSA has chosen this matter as the defining issue on which to expend its political capital.  I understand your explanation that no publicity is bad publicity but if the choice is to put our support behind an initiative that will benefit a very select few versus a different initiative that will benefit all, i.e. OCP, then I would rather we back the latter. My fellow proletarians may disagree but this seems to me a much wiser use of resources.”

In responding to one FB comment, Mr. Silverman, the AFSA president wrote in part:

“I want to assure you that we are working very closely on this Chief of Mission Guidelines initiative with the senior leadership at State, other Administration and SFRC. That has been the focus since the initiative’s genesis in August. Informally senior State leaders applaud and support this initiative. And we are collaborating closely with State on our single biggest ask of Congress: the third tranche of OCP. From my perspective as AFSA’s president, this collaboration has never been closer. The unprecedented media attention also strengthens AFSA’s voice in general. The goal is to have it help with OCP, and the most urgent issue in front of us – the Senate holds on 1,300 FS members awaiting tenure and promotion.”

Thursday night is reportedly the deadline.  It’ll be an interesting night, or maybe not.

If the State Department releases these “certificates of demonstrated competence” on “all pending Obama administration nominees,” it will, no doubt, be a media field day. We could be wrong, but we don’t think State will roll over a threat that easily.  If it does’t, AFSA will, of course, have to go to court. It won’t be for the first time.  Since we don’t have a drive-thru court, this will certainty take time winding through the federal district court. By the time a hearing is in sight or folks need to appear in court, the ambassadorial nominees potentially would already be confirmed and off to post.

We have not been able to find anything on these “certificates of demonstrated competence” – not in the FAM or anywhere else in state.gov.  Not even in history.state.gov but it is in the FS Act of 1980:(h/t to M!)

Section 304 (4)
(4) The President shall provide the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, with each nomination for an appointment as a chief of mission, a report on the demonstrated competence of the nominee to perform the duties of the position in which he or she is to serve.

Also,  a little digging in ADST’s oral history project gave us an idea on what maybe in these “certificates.” Below is an excerpt from the ADST interview of Charles A. Schmitz who served in the State Department from 1964 to the early 1990′s. He worked in the Director General’s Office from 1976-1978 and served as AFSA Vice President in 1990 when the association took the State Department to court for these “certificates.” Excerpt below, read the full interview here (pdf).

The State Department, in a most conniving, almost criminal way, connived to keep from the public view the description of how bad a lot of these appointees were, in violation of the law. The law requires the State Department to issue a certificate of demonstrated competence for every ambassadorial appointee.
[...]
It is in the Foreign Service Act. It is much ignored, by the way. Pell required it to be written into the law, but then quit taking it seriously. Therefore, the certificate was produced in name only. It was not a certificate of competency at all. It was a brief, usually one page, description of what the person had done. A typical example was of the model…Mr. so-and-so has been a pillar of his community, a successful businessman in running his used car dealership and therefore would make an excellent ambassador of the United States to Spain. It was so bad that these things were not even carefully done. They had typos in them. In one case the last line naming the country was the wrong country.
[...]
Nobody noticed it because they classified it. There is a little operation in the State Department that produced these things. They were not really State Department people, they were White House people sent over to write these things. There were two of them. They then sent them as confidential documents to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That is why we sued him. We said that you can not classify somebody’s resume. Under the National Security Act involving classification this is a violation of the act. We, of course, argued that point until we were blue in the face for months and months with the State Department in negotiations. They refused to move on it, so AFSA sued the Secretary of State in the Federal District Court. Before the matter came to hearing, the State Department compromised and provided AFSA all of the documents which it had withheld until that point. It undertook to provide us the documents as the law should require and denied having done anything wrong.
[...]
These things turned out to be laughable in practice. They were slipshod, superficially done, just marking the boxes So we had to expose that in some fashion. And that was important that it was exposed and ultimately, as I said before, what caused a certain amount of embarrassment. This didn’t defeat any of those nominees, but it may have had some effect on other potential appointees, or the nominators anyway who realized it wasn’t going to be just a free ride to nominate anybody as ambassador.

Remember Battlestar Galactica’s “All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again?”  

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SFRC Clears Barber, Bell, Tsunis, Harper, Talwar, Rose, Gottemoeller, Chacon, Carroll

– Domani Spero

On February 4, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC)  cleared the following State Department nominees.

Robert C. Barber, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Iceland.

Colleen Bradley Bell, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Hungary.

George James Tsunis, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Norway.

Keith M. Harper, of Maryland, for the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as United States Representative to the UN Human Rights Council.

Puneet Talwar, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Political-Military Affairs), vice Andrew J. Shapiro.

Frank A. Rose, of Massachusetts, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance), vice Rose Eilene Gottemoeller.

Rose Eilene Gottemoeller, of Virginia, to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, vice Ellen O. Tauscher, resigned.

Arnold A. Chacon, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Director General of the Foreign Service, vice Linda Thomas-Greenfield, resigned.

On February 4, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs also discharged the nomination of Michael G. Carroll, of New York, to be Inspector General for the United States Agency for International Development (vice Donald A. Gambatesa). Mr. Carroll’s nomination was previously reported out of the SFRC by Senator Menendez on January 15, 2014.

We have no idea at this time when the full Senate will vote on these nominations.

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Got Tired of Laughing — SFRC Confirmation Hearings Now on Audio Only?

– Domani Spero

“Is there a rule ambassadors can’t have set foot in the countries they are going to ambassador? Would it ruin the surprise?” Jon Stewart asked with sort of a straight face.  Then he did double jabs on the corrupt practice of awarding ambassadorships to political donors and bundlers.  This was funny sad, really — well, maybe more sad than funny for Mr. Stewart’s subjects. If you missed the laughs, see below:

Yeah, bet you didn’t know that Iceland cost more than Argentina in the ambo sweeps.  Sure, Argentina has horses, wine, and tango, but Iceland has Westeros, folks.

In any case, Congress must have gotten tired of laughing. The last time we checked, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee only had the audio up on its website for the latest confirmation hearings.  We hope this was because of the snow that week or some glitch and nothing like the remove the Marine Corps Times from the newsstands sort of thing.  Because that would not be cool.

Screen Shot 2014-02-22

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Today at the SFRC: Crocker (IO), Lawson (ICAO), Wood (USCD)

– Domani Spero

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding its confirmation hearings for President Obama’s nominees for  the International Organization AffairsInternational Civil Aviation Organization and the Conference on Disarmament .

Presiding: Senator Markey
Date: Tuesday, February 04, 2014
Time: 03:00 PM
Location: Senate Dirksen 419

Webcast:

This hearing is scheduled to be live webcast. Please return to this page to view the hearing live or see the nominees’ prepared statements.

Nominees:

  • Ms. Bathsheba Nell Crocker
    of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs

Bathsheba N. Crocker is the Principal Deputy Director in the Office of Policy Planning at the Department of State (DOS), a position she has held since 2011.  Previously at DOS, she served as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary of State from 2009 to 2011.  From 2008 to 2009, Ms. Crocker was a Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer for International Affairs at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  She was the Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support at the UN Peacebuilding Support Office from 2007 to 2008.  From 2005 to 2007, Ms. Crocker was the Deputy Chief of Staff to the UN Special Envoy at the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery.  Ms. Crocker worked at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project as a Fellow and Co-Director from 2003 to 2005 and as an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations from 2002 to 2003.  Ms. Crocker was an Attorney-Adviser for the Office of the Legal Advisor at DOS from 2001 to 2002 and from 1997 to 1999.  From 2000 to 2001, she was Deputy U.S. Special Representative for Southeast Europe Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Italy.  From 1999 to 2000, Ms. Crocker was Executive Assistant to the Deputy National Security Advisor for the National Security Council at the White House.  She has served as an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University, and American University.  Ms. Crocker received a B.A. from Stanford University, an M.A. from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. (Via)

  • Mr. Michael Anderson Lawson 
    of California, for the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as Representative of the United States of America on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization

Michael Anderson Lawson is the immediate past President of the Los Angeles World Airports’ Board of Airport Commissioners.  He has been a member of the Board of Airport Commissioners since 2005 and held the position of President of the Commission since 2011.  From 1980 to 2011, he practiced law at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP where he served as partner since 1995.  From 1978 to 1980, he was a staff attorney at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.  Mr. Lawson is a member of the Board of Trustees of Morehouse College, Loyola Marymount University, The Advancement Project, the Music Center at the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County, the California State Teachers Retirement System Board, and the Community Redevelopment Agency Oversight Board for the City of Los Angeles.  Mr. Lawson received a B.A. from Loyola University in Los Angeles and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. (Via)

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US Embassy Oslo: Clueless on Norway, Murder Boards Next?

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– Domani Spero

In the short path to the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway, this episode has now been recorded for posterity.

Also made it to Anderson Cooper’s “RidicuList” and now posted on YouTube.

This episode shows that cramming for a job that takes 30 years to prepare for the regular service can be quite perilous for aspiring ambassadors with deep pockets. Despite a week or so of training at the Foreign Service Institute one can still end up as the Norwegians put it, “trampling through the salad bowl.” Imagine that.

We’ll never look at our salad bowl the same way again.

Maybe the SFRC will start conducting closed hearings for these nominees to save us from the embarrassment?  Well, we hope not. Now that Senator McCain has brought the badass back into the confirmation hearings, we’ll have to start watching these hearings again.  A few more of these incidents and the nominees will need to be put through “murder boards.”

In the meantime, U.S. Embassy Oslo had to managed this “uncomfortable” episode.

Via News In English Norway:

TV2 reported that the embassy expressed in the “private conversations” that Tsunis’ remarks amounted to an episode that was both “uncomfortable” and “regrettable,” and one they gladly would have avoided. They reportedly stressed that Tsunis’ remarks did not represent either the attitudes of the US Embassy in Oslo or US authorities in Washington DC.

Kristian Norheim, a Member of Parliament and international secretary for the Progress Party, confirmed he has “been in dialogue” with the embassy since the hearing and told TV2 there was “no doubt” that Tsunis’ remarks were problematic. “The embassy therefore had a need to clarify that they also think this was an uncomfortable episode,” Norheim told TV2.

Norheim’s party colleague Jan Arild Ellingsen, who demanded an apology from Obama himself last week, said that Tsunis clearly needs to undergo some “adult education” and that both he and other party members would welcome him to a meeting at the parliament, assuming the senate goes through with his confirmation as ambassador.

 

News in English Norway, in a follow-up item today reports this update:  “George James Tsunis, the wealthy New York businessman tapped to be the next US ambassador to Norway, has reportedly told Norway’s TV2 that he regrets remarks he made at his US Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month that showed him to be ignorant of the country where he was being sent.”

We are unofficially sorry for you folks, damage control and all that, but you gotta do what you gotta do. We hope you put the next ambassador on Twitter as soon as he is confirmed.

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Today at the SFRC: Bauchus (China), Chacon (DGHR), Smith (INR)

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–Domani Spero

Today, the  Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding its confirmation hearing for President Obama’s nominee for the next ambassador to China, the Director General of the Foreign Service and the Assistant Secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research.  You know where all the attention will be.

Via sfrc

Via sfrc

Presiding: Senator Menendez

Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Time: 10:00 AM

Location: Senate Dirksen 419

Webcast: This hearing is scheduled to be live webcast. Please return to this page to view the hearing live and see the nominees prepared testimonies:

Panel One:

The Honorable Max Baucus (see WH announcement)
of Montana, to be Ambassador to China

Panel Two:

The Honorable Arnold Chacon (see WH statement)
of Virginia, to be Director General of the Foreign Service
The Honorable Daniel Bennett Smith (see WH statement)
of Virginia, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research
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Senator John McCain’s “No More Questions” at the Senate Confirmation Hearing Gets a GIF

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– Domani Spero

We have not been paying attention to the Senate confirmation hearings at the SFRC.  I mean, these folks get nominated, grilled lightly or well done by the senators and with very few exceptions, they get confirmed. Unless, a senator or two puts  a hold on the nomination, but more often than not, for the wrong, unrelated reason. Yeah, it gets boring after a while.  Anyway, on January 16, the nominees for ambassadorships to the Republic of Iceland, the Kingdom of Norway and to Hungary appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (see the SFRC hearing page here) for their confirmation hearing.

By now, you have already heard about the feedback from Norway on what transpired during the hearing. If you haven’t, click here and here. News in English Norway reports that as local media put it, “the wealthy Greek-American businessman who’s been nominated to be the next US ambassador to Norway “tråkket i salaten” (trampled through the salad bowl) at his recent US Senate confirmation hearing. George J Tsunis’ confusion over Norway’s form of government and who’s actually in it was sparking reaction in Norway on Thursday.” Read all that here. And it’s all over the Internets now.

The nominee “trampled  through the salad bowl” after questioning by Senator McCain.  Here is the senior Senator from Arizona during the hearing with his gif-able moment.

SFRC_SenMc01232014

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Deputy SecState for Management & Resources Nominee Heather A. Higginbottom’s Top Priorities

– Domani Spero

From 2009-2010, Jacob J. Lew was the State Department’s Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and oversaw the civilian surge in Afghanistan. From 2011-2013, Thomas R. Nides was D/MR and delivered State’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).  Most recently, President Obama announced the nomination of Heather Higginbottom, the new Counselor in the Office of the Secretary of State to be the third Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.

Today, Ms. Higginbottom went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) for her confirmation hearing. She indicated in her written statement that she will oversee the second Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), “which will identify important policy shifts, areas for innovation, and management reforms required to address the challenges that we face today and in the future.” If confirmed, she also promised to “bring new focus to innovation at the State Department and USAID. Innovation in what we do, as well as the way we work, is critical to deliver on our foreign policy and development priorities.”

Below is a list of Ms. Higginbottom’s top priorities for the State Department (extracted from prepared statement):

  • First, my top priority will be ensuring that our people and posts are safe and secure. President Obama has made it clear that we need our diplomats fully engaged wherever our vital national interests are at stake – from Colombia to Indonesia, and Kenya to Yemen.   That is why, if confirmed, I will work to make certain that our processes, organization, and culture keep pace with the rapidly evolving threats facing our diplomats and development professionals.
  • Second, if confirmed, I will work to better prioritize the resources and programs of State and USAID. I will see to it that our limited resources are going where we need them most and being used responsibly and effectively.  This is especially important as we continue our efforts to right-size our presence and engagement in key places like Afghanistan and Iraq. In particular, I will work to align resources with policy as we carry out the planned transition in Afghanistan.
  • My third area of focus will be management, reform, and innovation. We must do a better job of aligning our planning, budget, and management functions with our foreign policy and national security priorities.  I will also work to ensure that the remarkable men and women at State and USAID have the training, tools and skills they need to succeed.
  • My fourth area of focus will be better targeting and coordinating our development efforts. These investments aren’t just the right thing to do – they are also the smart thing to do, because helping to promote stability and creating opportunities for future trade and shared growth is in America’s interest.  I will make certain that our key development initiatives like global health and food security deliver results and are sustainable. We must align our business model and investments to have maximum impact.
  • Finally, if confirmed, I will build on the great work that has been done to strengthen the State Department’s economic impact. At his own confirmation hearing earlier this year, Secretary Kerry said that today “foreign policy is economic policy.” More than ever, our prosperity at home depends on our engagement abroad – opening markets, expanding exports, and attracting foreign investment. If confirmed, I will work to help our embassies and consulates abroad do even more to fight for American companies and promote foreign investment that leads to jobs and opportunity here at home.

Read her full statement here.

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Today at the SFRC: Goldberg, Blake, Jr., Stanton, Hyatt

– By Domani Spero

On September 25, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) will consider the nominees to four ambassadorial posts in East Asia and the Pacific (EAP).

 

Presiding: Senator Cardin
Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Time: 02:30 PM
Location: Senate Dirksen 419

Nominees:

  • The Honorable Philip S. Goldberg of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines
  • The Honorable Robert O. Blake, Jr. of Maryland, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia
  • Ms. Karen Clark Stanton of Michigan, to be Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
  • Ms. Amy Jane Hyatt of California, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Palau

 

For Ambassador Goldberg, until recently A/S to State/INR, the Philippines will be his second ambassadorial posting after Bolivia. You might recall that he was appointed to Bolivia in 2006 and in 2008, Evo Knievel’s government gave him 72 hours to leave the country, after declaring him persona non grata.

For Ambassador Blake, Jr., son of retired Ambassador Robert O. Blake, and until recently A/S to State/SCA, Indonesia will be his second ambassadorial posting after  Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

If confirmed, this will be Ms. Stanton’s first ambassadorial appointment.  Prior to this appointment, she was the Executive Director at State/EAP where a recent OIG report says: “The executive director is respected throughout the Department and the bureau for competence, leadership, innovation, and hard work but is also seen as being unnecessarily direct on occasion. Inspectors advised the director to be mindful of the tone used in conveying decisions or responses to requests.”

If confirmed, this will also be Ms. Hyatt’s first ambassadorial appointment. Prior to this appointment, Ms. Hyatt was the Management Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.  

This hearing is scheduled to be live webcast. Click here: http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/nomination-09-25-2013 for video and prepared statements of the nominees.

 

(O_O)

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