Category Archives: Staffing the FS

U.S. Embassy Lesotho Now on Ordered Departure for Non-Employed Family Members

– Domani Spero

 

On August 30, following a reported coup in Lesotho, the U.S. Embassy in Maseru issued a message to U.S. citizens urging them to “take proper precautions when traveling, such as avoiding areas of potential intimidation, routes of marches, and ongoing demonstrations.” It also advised U.S. citizens who choose to move around the capital city to return to their residences by 5:30 pm and remain there overnight.

CIA map

CIA map

Today, the Embassy Maseru informed the U.S. citizen community in Lesotho that the Department of State has ordered the departure of non-employed family members of U.S. Mission personnel due to concerns over a possible deterioration of the security situation in Lesotho. An “ordered departure” means that family members who are not employed at the U.S. mission, do not have an option to stay in country and must depart.  The Security Message includes the following information:

The Embassy is prepared to assist U.S. citizens who wish to depart from Lesotho and recommends those interested in Embassy assistance to contact us at +266 5888 4035.

The U.S. Embassy in Lesotho will be open September 2-3 for emergency American Citizens Services only. Citizens should be aware that depending on the security situation, the Embassy may be forced to suspend operations without advance notice. The international airport in Maseru is currently operating normally, however, flights may be suspended if the current security situation worsens. Land borders are also open at this time, but may close without warning. U.S. citizens who remain in Lesotho despite this Travel Warning are urged to stay in their homes until the security situation returns to normal, to closely monitor media reports, and to follow all official instructions. U.S. citizens who must leave their homes for any reason are urged to exercise extreme caution, be particularly alert to their surroundings, and to avoid crowds, demonstrations, or any other form of public gathering.

U.S. citizens in Lesotho should carry their travel documents (i.e., passport, birth certificate, picture ID’s, etc.) with them at all times. Additionally, U.S. citizens in the area are reminded to stay in contact with friends and family in the United States to keep them apprised of their current welfare and whereabouts.

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Troops have reportedly mounted raids on police headquarters and police stations in the capital, Maseru, on Saturday and there is confusion over who is in control of the country. To understand political parties and democratization in Lesotho, read this (pdf) publication by the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa.

 

 

Embassy Masesu is a small post with about a couple dozen American employees and about 80 local staff according to a 2010 OIG report. According to a State Department listing, as of August 27, 2014, U.S. Embassy Lesotho is currently headed by DCM/CHG Charge John McNamara. President Obama announced Matthew Harrington as his nominee for Ambassador to Lesotho on August 1, 2013.  Mr. Harrington, a career diplomat, has now been stuck in confirmation purgatory for 395 days.

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Opposition to George J. Tsunis Nomination as Norway Ambassador Now a Social Media Campaign

– Domani Spero

 

On September 10, 2013, President Obama announced a slew of executive nominations including that of George J. Tsunis as his nominee for Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway.  In January 2014, Mr. Tsunis made an appearance at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (see  Senator John McCain’s “No More Questions” at the Senate Confirmation Hearing Gets a GIF and US Embassy Oslo: Clueless on Norway, Murder Boards Next?).

In February, a group of Norwegian-Americans made their opposition to the nomination known (see Norwegian-Americans Petition For Withdrawal of Tsunis Nomination as Ambassador to Norway).  The same day we wrote about their opposition, the SFRC panel cleared the Tsunis nomination (seeSFRC Clears Barber, Bell, Tsunis, Harper, Talwar, Rose, Gottemoeller, Chacon, Carroll).

In April, murder boards became real (see State Department Seeks Contractor For Simulated Congressional Hearing Sessions). On August 7, the Washington Times reported that Orlando, Florida-based AMTIS, Inc. was awarded a $545,000 contract by the State Department for simulated congressional hearings and communicating with Congress classes.

Last week, opponents of the Tsunis nomination rolled out a new social media campaign to sink his nomination.  We did not see it until we got poked on Twitter today.   Tom Lundquist who started the original petition asking President Obama to withdraw the nomination posted the following on change.org:

Today looks to have been the first full day of starting out with a never-before-tried social media campaign in this effort to have George Tsunis withdrawn or defeated. An integrated Twitter, Facebook, and Web campaign have been launched!

http://citizensvstsunisdems4compdips.weebly.com/

https://twitter.com/CitizensvTsunis

https://www.facebook.com/citizens.vs.tsunis.dems.competent.diplomats/info

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-26

Twitter profile of Citizens v. Tsunis

 

On its website, the group listed several reasons why they opposed the Tsunis nomination including the following:

Perception of American Incompetence and Arrogance Abroad:

America’s foreign image hasn’t been the best over the last decade or so. Let’s not make it worse. George Tsunis’ wildly inaccurate statements of fact, diplomatic outrages, and lack of qualifications offended a number of Norwegian officials and Members of Parliament, including the mayor of Norway’s capitol city who made it clear that President Obama should send a far more knowledgeable and qualified person. To send Tsunis to Norway would be a fist in the face of a key ally – and an arrogant message to the world. Norway is a vital member of NATO, a key supplier of energy to the EU, an important player in peace efforts in the Middle East, and a strong U.S. ally everywhere. With rising tensions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East the U.S. has to take its diplomacy seriously and treat key allies with respect.

The website also listed the names of four Senators who already made their opposition to the Tsunis nomination known, calling them, Senate Heroes. As well, under the section “Money Bound,” the group listed the names of 9 Senators who were recipients of donations from Mr. Tsunis, urging supporters to email/call the senators and their aides. Check out the Senators Living Dangerously, the Silent Senators, and Our Party’s (Apparent) Worst Enemies. The website also includes the well-circulated clips from Anderson Cooper and the Daily Show.

The group suggests a series of questions constituents should ask their congressional representatives noting that “Until a Senator comes out publicly against the absolute most inane, unqualified nomination the Senate has perhaps yet ever seen, tacit support of Tsunis – and the damage it is doing to our Party and democracy – must be challenged.”

It also adds a carrot for the rabbits in the Senate, “By the Senator making a public commitment to vote against the Tsunis nomination, the Senator’s page here will be removed from this website and the Senator will be promptly added to The Principled Heroes list for all constituents to see.”

Over on Twitter, a new hashtag battle could be brewing — @CitizensvTsunis‘  and what appears to be a parody account by Not George J. Tsunis using the @ambGeorgeTsunis handle with the  hashtag. This could get nasty.

Given the many challenges facing our country these days, we don’t think the White House appreciates this new kind of headache. I mean, who would?  But we also suspect that it would not withdraw the nomination on its own. Once it nominated Mr. Tsunis, the WH is bound to stand by its nominee. The only way we think the WH would withdraw this nomination is if Mr. Tsunis , himself, withdraws his name from consideration.  That might be the most prudent action for Mr. Tsunis to do here. That would give President Obama a fresh start.

Of course, if the Democrats lose the Senate in November, well … maybe none of the nominees will be going anywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dept of Correction for the Record Fail — Diversity Statistics Still in Jaws of SBU Chupacabra!

– Domani Spero

 

Last week, we blogged about the State Department’s missing diversity stats from the FS promotion results (see Foreign Service 2013 Promotion Results — Gender, Ethnicity, Race Stats Still Behind the Great Firewall).  Previously, WhirledView’s Patricia Kushlis blogged about the State Department’s abysmal Hispanic record and gender inequality at the State Department (see  Unfulfilled Promises, Ignored Mandates: State’s Abysmal Hispanic Record and  State’s Female-Proof Glass Ceiling: Breaking into the Good Old Boys Diplomatic Club is Still Hard to Do).

Yesterday, WhirledView posted a new question: What’s the big secret with the State Department’s diversity statistics and why?  Patricia also  shared a fan mail from the State Department’s Bureau of Human Resources.

Via WhirledView:

From: State/HR – Greenberg
To: WhirledView-Kushlis

Regarding: “Going back to 2000, the only year that State published promotion figures based on gender and ethnicity was in 2012, when they appeared in the June 2012 issue of State Magazine.  Those statistics disappeared from State Magazine in 2013 and 2014. “

The 2013 promotion statistics are available on page 32 of the June 2014 online issue of State Magazine at http://digitaledition.state.gov/publication/ and the 2013 Foreign Service promotion statistics will also be published in the July-August 2014 print and digital issue of State Magazine.

The 2014 promotion statistics are simply not out yet.  The promotion boards have just convened.

Brenda Greenberg
HR Public Affairs
202-647-4282

 

<RANT>Why … why… why … in heaven’s name are you wasting your time and other people’s time with this kind of mush?!</RANT>

The italicized portion above is a paragraph in Patricia’s blog post on State’s abysmal record on Hispanic hiring available here.   It is clear that Patricia is  referring to the published promotion figures based on gender and ethnicity. Which are, by the way, while mentioned on State magazine, are actually not included in the published edition. So the HR spox wrote to point out that the stats is you know, available on page 32!

Nope, the promotion figures based on gender and ethnicity are not available on page 32. Here is what State, June 2014 says:

Screen Shot 2014-08-25

Neither the original State mag publication of the promotion stats in June nor the corrected version in July/August 2014 include the gender, ethnicity and race statistics. They are available at http://intranet.hr.state.sbu/offices/rma/Pages/DiversityStats.aspx.  Let’s click on it, just for fun:

Screen Shot 2014-08-25

Ay, caramba! They’re still in the jaws of the SBU Chupacabra (pdf) ?!!

Look — SBU or “sensitive but unclassified” information must not be posted on any public Internet website, discussed in a publicly available chat room or any other public forum on the Internet. You folks know that, right?  Disposition of SBU documents is also important; it includes shredding or burning, or by other methods consistent with law or regulation like chewing and swallowing (Note: Perfectly okay to do this with beer 😉).

Hey, if a State Department HR official can cite a non-existent public report, we, too, can cite a non-existent citation on the FAM that goes well with beer. Because why not?

Also this via WhirledView:

“Why HR even needs its own Public Affairs Office is beyond me but that’s another question for another day er post.  Rumor has it that a piece of the incumbent’s job is to  block relevant WV posts and likely Diplopundit ones too keeping them from Bureau higher ups and staff supposedly under the ignorance is bliss category.” 

Oh, no — no need to block us, we are quite entertaining at times.

Subscription is easy and painless and we occasionally deliver sweet and sour news and opinion!

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USCG Karachi: Goodbye Michael Dodman, Hello Brian Heath

– Domani Spero

 

 

USCG Karachi’s Consul General Michael Dodman recently concluded his 2-year tour in Pakistan.  Here is a memorable photo of Mr. Dodman showing his dance moves at the historic Kot Diji Fort in the Khairpur District of Pakistan’s southeastern province of Sindh.

Photo via USCG Karachi/Flickr

Photo via USCG Karachi/Flickr

Brian Heath assumed charge as the U.S. Consul General in Karachi on August 20, 2014. USCG Karachi released the following official bio:
 A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Mr. Heath most recently served as the Minister-Counselor for Management Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Since joining the Foreign Service in 1998, Mr. Heath’s overseas assignments have included Director of the U.S. Regional Embassy Office in Al Hillah, Iraq; Consul General at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan; Management Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan; General Services and Human Resources officers at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany; and Consular Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai (Bombay), India.
In the course of several assignments in Washington, DC, Mr. Heath has studied at the National War College; worked as a Senior Advisor in the Under Secretary of State for Management’s Office of Management Policy; and served as a Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Administration. Mr. Heath is the recipient of multiple Department of State Superior and Meritorious honor awards.
Mr. Heath graduated from Fordham University with a Bachelor’s degree in political economics, earned a law degree from Rutgers University, and received his Master’s degree in national security studies from the National War College. He is a member of the New Jersey and New York State bars.

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Consular Affairs Bureau Seeks to Expand Visa Waiver and Interview Waiver Programs

– Domani Spero

 

The State Department’s Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs retired last April (see Asst Secretary for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs to Retire Effective April 3).  As far as we know, no successor has been nominated to date.  Pardon me? You want ……..? And you want Overseas Citizens Services DAS Jim Pettit?  Excuse me, Mr. Pettit was already nominated as Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova.  Who else?  You want ……. ? Well, maybe State should have a list of nominees and have all CA employees vote for their next boss per the bureau’s Leadership Tenets. Because wouldn’t that be a screamingly fantastic experiment?

In any case, CA’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Michele Bond has been the Acting A/S since April 2014.  This past June, at a hearing at the Senate Subcommittee on Tourism, Competitiveness and Innovation on  The State of U.S. Travel and Tourism Industry, Ms. Bond discussed how the bureau is meeting increasing demand for visas worldwide, particularly in  Brazil, India, Mexico and China (see prepared statement). Stressing that the State Department’s  “top priority in visa adjudication is always national security,” the prepared statement provides a look at where the bureau is seeking to expand.   Specifically, it seeks legislative authority to expand the Interview Waiver Program and wanted to see an expanded  Visa Waiver Program to include additional countries to the 37 current participants.  The  Interview Waiver Program (visa applications without personal appearances) is potentially controversial given its history, and probably the reason the bureau is seeking legislative authority from Congress.

Below are excerpts from the prepared statement:

Consular Adjudicators

In 2013, Brazilian visitors contributed $10.5 billion to the U.S. economy, a 13 percent increase from the prior year.  During the same period, Chinese visitors contributed $9.8 billion, an 11 percent increase from the prior year, or $5,400 per visitor.  To address this important opportunity to contribute to our country’s economy, 167 officers perform consular work in Mission China.  Consular Affairs created over 50 new officer positions in China in fiscal year 2012 alone.  In the same year, we increased consular staffing in Mission Brazil by 40 percent within six months, and eventually increased staffing by more than 100 percent.  We met the President’s Executive Order target of 40 percent capacity increase in Brazil in June 2012 and in China in November 2012, both ahead of schedule.
[...]

In 2011, we realized our traditional hiring mechanisms wouldn’t allow us to deploy officers quickly enough to meet exploding visa demand in Brazil and China. We weren’t recruiting enough Portuguese- and Mandarin-speaking officers and could not wait for new entry-level officers to learn these essential languages.  In response, the Department created a rapid hiring pilot program to ramp up staffing at critical needs posts.  These adjudicators met a high bar for qualifications and underwent a rigorous screening process to assess their skills and background for these positions.  The first class of these adjudicators, appointed for one-year periods and limited to a maximum of five consecutive years, began in January 2012.  That year, we brought on a total of 24 Mandarin-speakers and 19 Portuguese-speakers, all of whom arrived at posts by mid-July.  In fiscal year 2013, we expanded the program to recruit Spanish-speakers.  To date, we have hired and deployed 59 adjudicators under this program to China, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic, representing an added capacity of 900,000 visa adjudications per year.

Interview Waiver Program

We are utilizing technology and advanced fraud detection techniques to help us expand the pool of applicants for whom interviews can be waived under the Interview Waiver Program.  This allows us to focus resources on higher-risk visa applicants while facilitating travel for low-risk applicants.

We are working with our colleagues across the government to expand this successful program, which became permanent in January 2014.  In fiscal year 2013, we waived over 380,000 interviews, and a recent study showed that tourist and business visitor visa holders whose interviews were waived, all of whom were subject to the full scope of security checks, posed no greater risk for an overstay than those who were interviewed.  We are interested in explicit legislative authority to supplement the existing Interview Waiver Program by adding additional low-risk applicant groups such as citizens of Visa Waiver Program members applying for other types of visas such as student or work visas; continuing students moving to a higher level of education; non-U.S. citizen Global Entry and NEXUS trusted traveler program members; and holders of visas in other categories, such as students and workers, who wish to travel for tourism or business.  The Department is interested in working with Congress on legislation specifically authorizing the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to enhance our interview waiver programs.

Visa Waiver Program

[W]e are working with our U.S. government colleagues to expand the Visa Waiver Program, consistent with U.S. law, as was recently done with the addition of Chile to the program earlier this year.  With this designation, Chile now joins 37 other participants and is currently the only participant from Latin America.  The Department supports the proposed amendments contained in the Senate-passed Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, because we believe they would restructure the Visa Waiver Program in a manner that would strengthen law enforcement cooperation, while maintaining the program’s robust counterterrorism and criminal information sharing initiatives and promoting commerce and tourism in the United States.

No to Premium Visa Processing

However, we do not recommend offering premium visa processing.  We believe many visa applicants would be willing to pay any “premium processing fee” in the false belief that payment of a higher fee will ensure visa issuance, thus making any such program less efficient and compromising the integrity of the visa process.  The best approach to achieve greater efficiencies is the continued prioritization of student, medical, and urgent business travel applications, which is already in effect at consular posts worldwide.  We will also pursue increased visa validity where reciprocal agreement can be obtained with interagency support.

The full statement is available here.

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Foreign Service 2013 Promotion Results — Gender, Ethnicity, Race Stats Still Behind the Great Firewall

– Domani Spero

 

The State Department’s trade publication State Magazine publishes annually the promotion results from the Foreign Service Selection Board. Here is an excerpt from the June 2014 issue:

The Bureau of Human Resources compiled the 2013 Foreign Service Selection Board results by class for generalists and specialists, placing the data into tables that show promotion numbers, promotion rates, average time in class and average time in service for each competition group. The bureau also analyzed and compared certain 2013 promotion rates and levels to the 2012 results and the five-year averages. While the Department promoted more generalists and specialists in 2013 than in 2012, the total number of employees eligible for promotion increased at a faster rate. The overall 2013 promotion rate for all eligible Foreign Service employees was 22 percent, slightly lower than the 2012 rate of 23 percent and the five-year average of 24 percent.

In June 2012, State Magazine said it published the promotion statistics by gender, ethnicity and race for the first time. We were hoping it would make the data public this year. Unfortunately, the 2013 promotion results, the statistics that offer detailed breakouts by grade level for each generalist cone and specialist skill group can only still be found behind the Great Firewall at http://intranet.hr.state.sbu/offices/rma/Pages/DiversityStats.aspx.

The State Department has an Office of Civil Rights. Apparently, it is the first cabinet-level agency to appoint a Chief Diversity Officer with oversight authority to integrate and transform diversity principles into practices in the Department’s operations. The office touts diversity as not just a worthy cause:

At the Department of State, diversity is not just a worthy cause: it is a business necessity. Diversity of experience and background helps Department employees in the work of diplomacy. The Secretary believes that diversity is extremely important in making the State Department an employer of choice.

We’re curious — if indeed, diversity is a business necessity for the agency,and we have folks who are proponents of diversity management issues there, why is the promotion composition of the Foreign Service by gender, race and ethnicity  considered “sensitive but unclassified” (SBU) and still behind the Great Firewall?  And if State Magazine won’t make this data available publicly, why isn’t this information available on the website of the  Office of Civil Rights?

State Mag is under State/HR but S/OCR — whoa! —  reports directly to Secretary Kerry’s office.  So, well, let’s go ahead and ask them why it should not be made available to the general public: Office of Civil Rights, S/OCR, Room 7428, Department of State, Washington, DC 20520, Email: socr_direct@state.gov;  Tel: (202) 647-9295 or (202) 647-9294; Fax: (202) 647-4969.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Diversity, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, John F. Kerry, Leadership and Management, Promotions, Realities of the FS, ScribD, Secretary of State, Staffing the FS, State Department

The State of Foreign Service Family Member Employment 2014 – Which Bureau Tops for Jobs?

– Domani Spero

 

Last year, we posted about the  family member employment in the Foreign Service (see The State of Foreign Service Family Member Employment 2013 — Where Are the Jobs?).  We’ve extracted the following from State/FLO’s April 2014 (pdf) numbers and put them next to last year’s numbers. The female/male numbers for overseas family members remain at 78%/22%.  Family members working inside the mission increased from 24% in 2013 to 25% in 2014.  Those working outside the mission increased from 12% to 13%.  Family members who are not working went from 64% in 2013 to 62% in 2014. A pretty slim change with over 7200 family members still not working either by choice or due to severely limited employment opportunities overseas. We should note that  the FLO data is dated November 2013,which is after the summer transfer season and April 2014, which is before the summer rotation.

Family Member Population Overseas

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 11.32.50 PM

fam pop 2013

Employment Status – Overseas Family Members

2014

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2013

FAM 2013

 

Family Member Employment Overseas – Inside the Mission

By Regional Bureau

2014

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2013

fam reg 2013

SCA –  where 63% of family members at post are working

The FLO employment data does not include details of full-time or part-time work or job shares, or the types of jobs inside or outside the mission. But if you want to work, the chance of getting a job is higher in the Bureau of South Central Asian Affairs (SCA) where 50% of family members are employed with the embassy and 13% are employed outside the U.S. mission. At 63%, SCA has the most number of family members working at post, however, the bureau also has the smallest number of family members located at posts. In the AF bureau, 50% of over 1500 family members at post were able to find jobs inside the mission (35%) and outside the mission (15%).

SCA_Bureau_400_1

 

WHA/EUR – where most number of positions located

Posts in the Western Hemisphere and Europe have the most number of approved positions for overseas family members.  These positions more than double the number of positions approved in each of the SCA and NEA bureaus. However, you will also note that only about 1/5 of family members in those respective bureaus (EUR-21%, WHA-22%) are able to  working inside the mission in April 2014. Last year, EUR had 19% while WHA had 23% working inside the mission.  This is not surprising since EUR and WHA have the most number of family members at post. The larger the family member population, the less jobs available to go around.

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 11.33.58 PM

 

Employment Outside the Mission

2014

Where are the jobs?

The FLO’s break down of outside the mission jobs are perhaps too broad to be useful. For instance, 30% of outside the mission jobs are in the field of education but we cannot tell if these are local teaching jobs, online teaching, or something else. There are 199 family members engaged in telework, but we can’t tell in what fields from looking at this graphic.The same goes for working in the local economy, home business and freelancing.  If this is meant to be more than a snapshot of family member employment overseas, to actually help folks plan career-wise when moving overseas, we’d suggest that this annual report be beef up with additional details.

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 11.34.46 PM

 

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U.S. Relocates More Baghdad/Erbil Staff to Basrah and Amman (Jordan), Updates Aug. 8 Travel Warning

– Domani Spero

 

On June 15, 2014, the State Department went on partial “temporary relocation” of USG personnel in Embassy Baghdad to Basrah, Erbil and Amman, Jordan (see US Mission Iraq: Now on Partial “Temporary Relocation” To Basra, Erbil & Amman (Jordan)).

Today, the State Department issued an update to its August 8 Travel Warning for Iraq noting the departure of  a “limited” number of staff from our posts in Baghdad and Erbil to the Consulate General in Basrah and Amman, Jordan.

CIA map

Map via CIA.gov (click on image to see larger view)

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all but essential travel to Iraq.  Travel within Iraq remains dangerous given the security situation. The Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate General in Erbil remain open and operating, but the Department of State has relocated a limited number of staff members from the Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate General in Erbil to the Consulate General in Basrah and the Iraq Support Unit in Amman. The Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate General in Erbil remain open and operating. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated August 8, 2014, to note the departure of some staff from the Consulate General in Erbil. The ability of the Embassy to respond to situations in which U.S. citizens face difficulty, including arrests, is extremely limited.

U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence.  Methods of attack have included roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including explosively formed penetrators (EFPs); magnetic IEDs placed on vehicles; human and vehicle-borne IEDs; mines placed on or concealed near roads; mortars and rockets; and shootings using various direct fire weapons.  These and other attacks frequently occur in public gathering places, such as cafes, markets and other public venues.

Numerous insurgent groups, including ISIL, previously known as al-Qa’ida in Iraq, remain active and terrorist activity and violence persist in many areas of the country.  ISIL and its allies control Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and have captured significant territory across central Iraq and continue to engage with Iraqi security forces in that region.  In early August, the threat to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) increased considerably with the advance of ISIL towards Kurdish areas.

Due to the potential of political protests and demonstrations to become violent, U.S. citizens in Iraq are strongly urged to avoid protests and large gatherings.

Read in full here.

Three days ago, President Obama ordered U.S. aircraft to drop humanitarian supplies to tens of thousands of Yezidi refugees fleeing the terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in northern Iraq. The president also ordered U.S. combat aircraft to be ready to launch airstrikes to protect Americans in Erbil, Iraq.

On August 8, the Pentagon announced that at approximately 6:45 a.m. EDT, the U.S. military conducted a targeted airstrike against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists.

Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil. ISIL was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil where U.S. personnel are located. The decision to strike was made by the U.S. Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the commander in chief. As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities. 

Pentagon releases indicate that to date, U.S. military aircraft have delivered more than 52,000 meals and more than 10,600 gallons of fresh drinking water to the displaced Yezidis seeking refuge from ISIL on the mountain.

USCG Erbil which remains open is headed by Joseph Pennington, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who assumed his duties as Consul General in Erbil in July 2013.  Prior to his arrival in Erbil, Mr. Pennington served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Prague, Czech Republic (2010-13) and held the same position in Yerevan, Armenia (2007-10).

USCG Basrah is headed by Matthias Mitman, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who assumed post as Consul General in Basrah in September 2013.  He previously served as the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras from 2011-2013 and as the Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow from 2009-2011. He was the Director for Iraq at the National Security Council from 2006-2008 with responsibility for U.S. economic policy in Iraq and international engagement.  Before joining the NSC staff, Mr. Matthias was assigned to U.S. Embassy Baghdad as Senior Economic Advisor.

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U.S. Embassy Liberia Now on Ordered Departure For Family Members, New Travel Warning Issued

– Domani Spero

 

On August 7, the State Department ordered the departure of all family members not employed at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia.  The new Travel Warning issued today says that the U.S. government employees in Liberia will remain on active duty at the Embassy and additional staff are being deployed to assist the Government of Liberia in addressing the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak.  This follows the departure of  the U.S. Peace Corps from Liberia on July 30 as a result of the current outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in the region. Yesterday, the CDC also issued a Level 3 warning urging all US residents to avoid nonessential travel to Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.  

Full State Department statement below:

At the recommendation of the U.S. Embassy in Liberia, the State Department today ordered the departure from Monrovia of all eligible family members (EFMs) not employed by post in the coming days. The Embassy recommended this step out of an abundance of caution, following the determination by the Department’s Medical Office that there is a lack of options for routine health care services at major medical facilities due to the Ebola outbreak. We are reconfiguring the Embassy staff to be more responsive to the current situation. Our entire effort is currently focused on assisting U.S. citizens in the country, the Government of Liberia, international health organizations, local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the Liberian people to deal with this unprecedented Ebola outbreak.

We remain deeply committed to supporting Liberia and regional and international efforts to strengthen the capacity of the Liberian health care infrastructure and system – specifically, their capacity to contain and control the transmission of the Ebola virus, and deliver health care. Additional staff from various government agencies including 12 disease prevention specialists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a 13-member Disaster Assistance Response Team from USAID are deploying to Liberia to assist the Liberian Government in addressing the Ebola outbreak.

A new Travel Warning for Liberia also came out today indicating that the ordered departure of USG family members will begin tomorrow, August 8. The new warning also advised travelers that some airlines have discontinued service and flights to Liberia and that air carriers chartered by medical evacuation insurance companies may not be able to provide timely services in Liberia or the region. Excerpt below:

In May 2014, a case of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) was confirmed in Liberia, marking the first case in a second wave of the EVD outbreak. Since then, EVD has continued to spread and intensify. The latest wave of the outbreak has overwhelmed Liberia’s health system and most health facilities lack sufficient staff or resources to address the continuing transmission of EVD.  Options for obtaining routine medical care are severely limited.  For more information concerning EVD, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.  Please direct inquiries regarding U.S. citizens in Liberia to EbolaEmergencyUSC@state.gov. Callers in the United States and Canada may dial the toll free number 1-888-407-4747.  Callers outside the United States and Canada may dial 1-202-501-4444.

If you arrive in Liberia and subsequently need routine or emergency medical care, you should expect limited, if any, options.  Travelers are advised that air carriers chartered by medical evacuation insurance companies may not be able to provide timely services in Liberia or the region.  Policyholders should confirm the availability of medical evacuation services prior to travel.  While commercial flights are still available from Monrovia, some airlines have discontinued service and flights may become more difficult to obtain.  If you plan to visit Liberia despite this warning, you should purchase travel insurance that includes medical evacuation, and confirm that the coverage applies to the circumstances in Liberia.

According to USAID , the deployed staff came from the Agency’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)  and will be overseeing critical areas of the response, such as planning, operations, logistics in coordination with other federal agencies, including the U.S. Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services. Members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are also on the DART to lead on public health and medical response activities.

USAID has already provided $2.1 million to the UN World Health Organization and UNICEF for the deployment of more than 30 technical experts and other Ebola response efforts.

Two days ago, USAID also announced an additional $5 million in assistance to help ramp up the international community’s Ebola response efforts. This new funding will support outreach campaigns via radio, text messages, and through local media as well as the expansion of Ebola outbreak programs the Agency is already supporting in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. These programs help trace people who may be infected with the disease, as well as provide health clinics and households with hygiene kits, soap, bleach, gloves, masks, and other supplies to help prevent the spread of disease.

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Filed under Africa, Americans Abroad, Consular Work, Defense Department, Evacuations, Federal Agencies, Foreign Assistance, Foreign Service, MED, Realities of the FS, Spouses/Partners, Staffing the FS, State Department, U.S. Missions, USAID

OIG to State: Here’s How to Save $4.3 Million Annually

– Domani Spero

 

State/OIG reviewed the remote voucher processing of the State Department early this year and concluded that the agency can save an estimated $4.3 million annually if embassies with the highest voucher processing costs processed 50 percent of their vouchers remotely. While the remote processing unit (Post Support Unit (PSU) currently charges embassies $12 per voucher, it costs significantly higher overseas. For instance, it cost $71.40 to process a voucher in Paris, $57.59 in Kuwait, and $41.77 in Conakry.  The PSU reports that it is able to keep voucher processing costs low by operating in locations with low labor costs, like Thailand, Bulgaria, South Carolina, and soon the Philippines.

The OIG report says that vouchering costs at large and medium-sized embassies totaled $32 million in FY 2013 but that only 13 percent of embassy-funded vouchers were processed remotely in 2013.  According to the inspectors, the resistance to processing vouchers remotely stems from bureaus’ and embassies’ reluctance to reduce embassy-based voucher examiner positions and associated funding.

The OIG recommends that the Under Secretary for Management “mandate that the 20 embassies with the highest potential cost savings through Post Support Unit use increase the percentage of vouchers they process remotely to 50 percent by the end of 2016 to allow for $4.3 million in savings annually.”

 

via State/OIG

via State/OIG

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Related item:

Review of Remote Voucher Processing (ISP-I-14-21)  [304 Kb]  Posted on July 30, 2014

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