Posted: 1:34 pm EDT
On August 28, President Obama announced the appointment of James O’Brien as Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. The WH released the following brief bio:
James O’Brien is Vice Chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group. Mr. O’Brien joined the Albright Group in 2001 as a Principal. Prior to that, Mr. O’Brien served at the Department of State in a number of positions from 1989 to 2001, including Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State for Balkan Democracy, Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Principal Deputy Director in the Office of Policy Planning. He began his career at the State Department in 1989 as Attorney-Adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser. Mr. O’Brien received a B.A. from Macalester College, an M.A. from the University of Pittsburgh, and a J.D. from Yale Law School.
Special envoys are typically not subject to Senate confirmation. Secretary Kerry also made the following remarks on Mr. O’Brien’s appointment:
On behalf of the State Department, I welcome the appointment of Jim O’Brien as the first Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. Jim is exactly the right person for a job that demands a high level of diplomatic experience and the ability to analyze and find effective remedies to complex problems.
The creation of this new post stems from the U.S. government’s comprehensive hostage policy review which was completed earlier this summer. That review recognized the need for fully coordinated action across U.S. agencies in responding to hostage situations and to the military, diplomatic, legal, and humanitarian issues that such situations generate.
In his new position, Jim will be focused on one overriding goal: using diplomacy to secure the safe return of Americans held hostage overseas. To that end, he will be in close contact with the families of American hostages, meet with foreign leaders in support of our hostage recovery efforts, advise on options to enhance those efforts, participate in strategy meetings with other senior U.S. policymakers, and represent the United States internationally on hostage-related issues. The new Special Presidential Envoy will work closely with the interagency Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell that was also created as a result of the hostage policy review.
Jim O’Brien is currently Vice Chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy and business advisory firm. Previously, he served as Special Presidential Envoy for the Balkans during the late 1990s, helping to chart a path out of the military and political strife that divided the region. He also served as Deputy Director of the State Department’s Office of Policy Planning and as a senior adviser to UN Ambassador and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In those capacities, he helped to formulate the 1995 Dayton Accords, which ended the war in Bosnia; and guided U.S. support for the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which helped bring to justice persons responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Jim O’Brien is a person of proven diplomatic skill with a strong commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes and to justice. I congratulate him on his new assignment and I have made clear to him that he can count on my full support – and that of the entire State Department – in fulfilling his vital mission.
ASG provides strategic advise and commercial diplomacy and is headed by former secretary of state, Madeleine K. Albright, former National Security Advisor to President Bill Clinton, Samuel R. Berger and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 2005 to 2009 under President George W. Bush, Carlos M. Gutierrez. Wendy Sherman, the current Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the fourth-ranking official at State was previously vice chair of ASG.
Posted: 12:47 am EDT
On August 13, we posted this: Q&A With QDDR’s Tom Perriello, Wait, What’s That? Whyohwhyohwhy?. Last Friday, Kathryn Schalow, the new director of the QDDR office sent us the long-awaited answers to our questions with a brief note saying, “As the new director of the QDDR office, I am excited to carry on the work of this office and look forward to working with everyone –both inside and outside the government – who wants to help with the implementation of the review’s recommendations.”
The answers are published below in full:
#1. QDDR/CSO: The 2010 QDDR transformed the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) into the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) to enhance efforts to prevent conflict, violent extremism, and mass atrocities. The 2015 QDDR says that “Some progress has been made in this area.” I understand that CSO no longer has any mission element about stabilization and stabilization operations. It also remains heavy with contractors. One could argue that the current CSO is not what was envisioned in QDDR I, so why should it continue to exists if it only duplicates other functions in the government? Can you elaborate more on what is CSOs new role going forward, and what makes it unique and distinct from the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs’ Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives?
The Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations is one of many offices in State/USAID working to prevent, respond to, and stabilize conflict and crisis. CSO maintains the specific goal of stability in its mission statement. The Bureau advises the Secretary, Regional Bureaus and Ambassadors on diplomatic action to address conflict and prevent mass atrocities, violent extremism and political violence. Central elements of CSO’s mission were reinforced as top priorities for the Department and USAID in the 2015 QDDR, specifically the policy priority to prevent and mitigate conflict and violent extremism. Many elements within the State Department and USAID also work to support the Administration’s policy on this topic, including the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) at USAID, and the Bureaus of Counterterrorism (CT) and CSO at the State Department, as well as Special Envoy and Coordinator for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications Rashad Hussain.
#2. Innovation and Risks: The QDDR talks about “promoting innovation.” Innovation typically requires risk. Somebody quoted you saying something like the gotcha attitude of press and Congress contributes to risk aversion from State and USAID. But risks and risk aversion also comes from within the system. I would point out as example the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications previously headed by Ambassador Alberto Fernandez, and its controversial campaign “Think Again Turn Away” which afforded the USG a new way to disrupt the enemy online. Ambassador Fernandez was recently replaced by a political appointee with minimal comparable experience. It also looks like CSCC will be folded into a new entity. So how do you encourage State/USAID employees “to err on the side of engagement and experimentation, rather than risk avoidance” when there are clear bureaucratic casualties for taking on risks?
The Department encourages informed risk taking and innovation, and the QDDR reports on a number of State and USAID initiatives to facilitate innovation and creativity in solving complex problems. In particular, the Department’s Innovation Roundtable, the Consular Affairs Bureau’s 1CA Office and Teamwork@State initiatives, Public Diplomacy and eDiplomacy Innovations Funds, and USAID’s Global Development Lab demonstrate a commitment to fostering creativity and experimentation. The 2015 QDDR (p. 56) highlights outcomes from these initiatives such as efficiency improvements at U.S. Embassy Mexico City’s American Citizen Services Unit or the LAUNCH open innovation platform founded by NASA, NIKE, USAID and State that is accelerating the market adoption of sustainable technologies.
Ambassador Fernandez retired from the State Department last spring, and Rashad Hussain was chosen as his successor. He has brought to the position his strong academic and professional background in national security, diplomatic experience engaging Muslim-majority countries as Special Envoy to the OIC, and published writings and engagement over the past decade on a range of CVE issues. Under his leadership, the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) remains an innovative organization that works to counter ISIL’s appeal, including by helping other countries and NGOs expand their anti-ISIL messaging capacity within their own societies. The recently-opened Sawab Center in the United Arab Emirates is one example. The CSCC also continues to challenge online extremism on a number of social media platforms in multiple languages. The CSCC remains a stand-alone office reporting to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and has expanded to include a new counter-ISIL cell to the Center’s operation.
#3. Engagement with American Public: The QDDR says: “Make citizen engagement part of the job. Every Foreign Service employee in the Department and USAID will be required to spend time engaging directly with the American people.” Are you aware that there are over 500 blogs run by Foreign Service employees and family members that could potentially help with engagement with the American public? Isn’t it time for these blogs to be formally adopted so that they remain authentic voices of experience without their existence subjected to the good graces of their superiors here or there?
One of our goals is to expand our communication with fellow Americans so that they gain a better understanding of the Department’s and USAID’s work and how it affects them. The Hometown Diplomats program, started in 2002, is the main way we conduct these dialogues with the American people. More than 1200 Department employees – both Foreign and Civil Service – have met with high school and college students, social and professional organizations, and media in their hometowns. So far in 2015 we have organized 56 Hometown Diplomat engagements. The 2015 QDDR has a number of recommendations for boosting the Hometown Diplomats program, as well as creating new outreach initiatives. For instance, technology and social media expand opportunities for employees at overseas posts and in Washington to engage the American people and help educate young Americans about global issues and how U.S. diplomacy and development improve Americans’ lives. The Bureau of Public Affairs has already begun a program of virtual Hometown Diplomats speaking from post via videoconference to domestic audiences, and the preliminary feedback is positive. This year we have held four virtual Hometown Diplomat events from overseas posts that reached almost 300 Americans.
The Department encourages employees, in both their official and personal capacities, to undertake activities, including public communications, devoted to increasing public study and understanding of the nation’s foreign relations. The private blogs of employees can be an important contributor to this effort and they have a role in informing the public about the work and experiences of our officers and their families. The private blogs and social media posts of employees that do not discuss official Departmental policy or actions do not need formal Department adoption (or review) to be part of the broader conversation about U.S. foreign policy.
#4. Eligible Family Members: The State Department has talked about expanding opportunities for eligible family members for a long time now and I regret that I have not seen this promise go very far. There are a couple of things that could help eligible family members — 1) portability of security clearance, so that they need not have to wait for 6-12 months just to get clearances reinstated; and 2) internship to gain experience from functional bureaus or section overseas. Why are we not doing these? And by the way, we’re now in the 21st century and FS spouses still do not have online access to State Department resources that assist them in researching assignments and bids overseas. Employees are already afforded remote access, why is that not possible for family members? Wouldn’t taking care of people start with affording family members access to information that would help them plan their lives every three years?
Work life balance and the wellbeing of our Foreign Service families is of paramount importance to the Department. Programs such as the Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP) and the Global Employment Initiative are increasing the number of jobs for eligible family members and receive positive reviews from FSOs and family members. The QDDR commits us to expanding these programs even further and making them easier to access through a single portal; creating a database to assist EFMs and employers to connect and take advantage of EFM Non-Competition Eligibility earned overseas; and identifying ways to address the challenges with security clearance. This QDDR also commits State and USAID to “continue pursuing mechanisms to facilitate the security clearance process for EFMs so they can begin work at post without lengthy delays.”
The Department has two great sources of information to help employees and their families research post conditions, schools and employment opportunities – both are completely accessible to EFMs. The Overseas Briefing Center manages an extensive comprehensive public website that provides information about preparing for life at overseas posts, the logistical requirements of moving, and much more. EFMs are able to readily receive post-specific material electronically by sending a simple email request to the Overseas Briefing Center. Overseas Briefing Center personnel also engage with EFMs by email, phone, and through social media to offer suggestions and guidance on obtaining resources and resolving questions related to relocating and living overseas. Secondly, the public website of the Family Liaison Office provides extensive resources to help FS spouses interested in pursuing employment overseas – either within a US Embassy or Consulate or on the local economy.
The Department of State is committed to increasing the accessibility and usability of Department information for all Foreign Affairs agency employees and their families. The Foreign Affairs Network 3.0 (FAN3), developed under the Department’s Bureau of Information Resource Management will allow eligible family members to access appropriate State systems using existing credentials. This will greatly facilitate EFM access to Department networks.
#5. Foreign Assistance: One of the criticisms I’ve heard about QDDR is how it did not even address the reality that the United States has far too many foreign assistance programs — “an uncoordinated diaspora of offices and agencies scattered around the bureaucratic universe in D.C. from the Justice Department to the DoD to the Commerce Department to the Export-Import Bank to the Treasury Department and beyond, to the bewilderment of anyone the United States does business with overseas.” What do you say to that?
The number and variety of assistance programs is actually a great strength. The number of U.S. foreign assistance programs is large because there is a broad diversity in need, and specific departments and agencies are best placed to deliver the specialized assistance that is required. For example, USAID is advancing a new model of development that combines local ownership, private investment, and multi-stakeholder partnerships to provide assistance that is coordinated with investments by national/regional/local governments, the private sector, and multilateral development banks. These efforts complement, and are coordinated with, the assistance activities carried out by other U.S. government agencies, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Treasury Department, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
Although interagency coordination can be complex and difficult, the 2015 QDDR builds on recommendations from the 2010 QDDR to improve coordination of assistance by creating Integrated Country Strategies (ICS) and making clear that at posts abroad the Ambassador has oversight over assistance efforts. The ICS serves as an overarching strategy that encapsulates U.S. government policy priorities, objectives, and the means by which diplomatic engagement, foreign assistance, and other tools will be used to achieve them. The development of the ICS involves all agencies in the country under Chief of Mission authority and, as such, incorporates a “whole of government” approach to guide U.S. government activities in each country. The result improves coordination not just for foreign assistance programs, but for our entire overseas interagency presence (see p 61).
#6. Data Collection: Somebody called the second set of “three Ds” — data, diagnostics, and design as the “most revolutionary, disruptive element of QDDR II.” I can see development subjected to these three Ds, but how do you propose to do this with diplomacy where successful engagements are based on national interests and the human element and not necessarily data driven? Also data is only as good as its collector. How will data be collected?
One of the QDDR priorities is to ensure that Department and USAID employees have greater access to, and are better utilizing, the vast amounts of data and information available today. We want diplomats in the field and in Washington to be better informed through a variety of internal and external data sources. We want to better empower and prepare our employees by giving them new tools to better understand the issues they work on and to identify new opportunities for engagement. In many instances our policy is data-driven and similarly, there is benefit to having diplomats who are data-informed. For example, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator combines epidemiological evidence, expenditure data, and local information to determine where PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) resources can have the greatest impact. More broadly, State and USAID are implementing the President’s Open Government Initiative through tools such as the Foreign Assistance Dashboard.
Data are collected from a variety of sources, including governments, international organizations, academia, NGOs and the private sector. We want to lower barriers to information access, provide standardized platforms and better disseminate the data we have. USAID’s Global Development Lab and the agency’s data policies including the Open Data Policy, the Department’s Enterprise Data Quality Initiative, global partnerships including GODAN, and community-engagement based programs such as MapGive have each demonstrated progress in increasing the accessibility and usability of high-quality data. These efforts ensure that we have the infrastructure in place to leverage the information at hand. The QDDR recommends bringing additional organizational support to efforts like these – as well as adding new programs to the mix.
#7. Institutional Weaknesses: Some quarters look at the State Department and points at several institutional weaknesses today: 1) the predominance of domestic 9-5 HQ staff with little or no real field experience, foreign language and other cultural insight, and 2) the rampant politicization and bureaucratic layering by short term office holders with little or no knowledge of the State Department and less interest in its relevance as a national institution. How does the QDDR address these weaknesses? How does the QDDR propose to recreate a national diplomatic service based on a common core of shared capabilities and understanding of 21st century strategic geopolitical challenges and appropriate longer term responses?
The Department and USAID’s greatest asset is human capital. Our employees, whether Civil Service, Foreign Service, non-career appointees, or contractors, are the foundation upon which our institutions stand and the source of our achievements.
The QDDR endorses a common training core, called Diplomatic Mastery, for all incoming Foreign Service generalists, starting from the orientation (“A-100”) course, and continuing in the first two tours, as an additional prerequisite for tenure (along with proficiency in a foreign language). Diplomatic Mastery will include subject areas such as diplomatic history, negotiating skills, and building esprit de corps. A new curriculum will also be made available to Foreign Service Specialists and Civil Service employees. FSI has been developing in-depth, interactive modules to be used overseas for this and other training purposes.
In March 2014 Secretary Kerry introduced a new set of Leadership and Management Principles to serve as a standard for all Department employees (3 FAM 1214). The QDDR complements and supports these principles by recommending strengthened mandatory leadership training, increasing accountability, as well as expanding long-term training opportunities and excursion tours at mid- and senior-levels of the Foreign and Civil Services. These assignments outside the Department will increase expertise and experience through time at a university, in the private sector, at an NGO, or with other U.S. government agencies. This will allow the Department and USAID to make their organizations more flexible and adaptive, with a more agile and mobile workforce.
#8: QDDR Operation: I remember that you sent out a solicitation of ideas and suggestions for QDDR II and I’m curious at the kind of response you got. Can you also elaborate the process of putting together QDDR II? Finally, the success of QDDR II will be on implementation. Who’s leading the effort and what role will you and the QDDR office have on that? Unless I’m mistaken, the QDDR implementers are also not career officials, what happens when they depart their positions? Who will shepherd these changes to their expected completion?
Secretary Kerry launched the second QDDR process in April 2014 and tasked us with creating a “blueprint for the next generation of American diplomacy.” The report was co-chaired by the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, Heather Higginbottom, and USAID Acting Administrator Alfonso Lenhardt. The impact of this QDDR will depend on its implementation and Deputy Secretary Higginbottom is overseeing implementation of the QDDR as a whole, with action on particular recommendations being driven by a range of senior leaders across the Department. The QDDR office is currently staffed by a dedicated team of career FSOs and Civil Service employees, who are facilitating and monitoring the implementation of the report’s recommendations. Individuals throughout State and USAID – in dozens of bureaus and offices – are involved in the implementation.
Over the course of the year-long research and drafting process, we solicited ideas and suggestions through a variety of forums, and we were very pleased with the response and the interest that people took throughout the process. For example, we conducted a QDDR Sounding Board Challenge, garnering 200 ideas and 1,900 votes from over 4,700 viewers, at all levels at the Department. We also conducted meetings with stakeholders from throughout the Department and USAID, the interagency, Congress, and NGOs. With this input and guidance from senior leaders at State and USAID, including an Executive Committee (listed at the back of the report), we determined the policy and operational priorities to highlight. The Secretary also asked us to produce a report that was shorter and more tightly focused than the first QDDR, and we met that objective.
We should note that Tom Perriello was appointed Special Representative for the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) in February 2014, and was the original recipient of our questions. On July 6, 2015, he was appointed Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He succeeds former Senator Russ Feingold in that position. No one has yet been announced as Special Representative for the QDDR as of this writing; the next report is not due for another four years.
Posted: 12:26 am EDT
The State Department published an interim final rule in the Federal Register, 79 FR 51247, on August 28, 2014, amending sections of 22 CFR part 22. Specifically, the rule amended the Schedule of Fees for Consular Services and provided 60 days for comments from the public. During this 60-day comment period, more than 70 comments were reportedly received, either by mail, email, or through the submission process at www.regulations.gov. The most contentious change in the Schedule of Fees is probably the fee increase for the Administrative Processing of Formal Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship from $450 to $2,350. The Federal Register notice on August 25 is the final rule. Below is the State Department’s published analysis from the comments received specific to the renunciation of American citizenship:
The large majority of the comments received expressed concern about the increased fee for the Administrative Processing of Formal Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship.
Most commenters requested to pay a lower fee for the renunciation service, suggesting that they be grandfathered in to the previous fee of $450. The majority of these commenters had initiated the process of renouncing their nationality prior to the announcement of the new fee.  Over half of commenters requested to pay the previous fee after the new fee went into effect, five commenters asked for earlier appointments in order to pay the previous fee, and one commenter requested a refund for the difference between the new fee and the previous fee. Several commenters characterized the 15-day notice of the fee change as unfair and suggested that they should have been notified earlier if the fee was likely to change.
The Department’s policy for citizenship-related services, including the Administrative Processing of Formal Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship, is to collect the fee in effect at the time that the service is provided. Although the renunciation process involves multiple steps, the service is rendered when the oath to renounce one’s nationality is sworn. U.S. nationals who intend to renounce their nationality and have a meeting or information session with the consular post for that purpose, but who change their minds and do not take the oath, are not charged the fee. In the interest of fairness, the Department must assess the renunciation fee when the core service is performed, rather than upon the provision of information. Therefore, the Department does not offer a lower fee or refunds for those who receive the renunciation service after the new fee went into effect on September 12, 2014. Furthermore, embassies and consulates do not have authority to waive the fee, reduce the fee, or provide a refund where the fee is properly collected. In addition, although one commenter contended that the rule-making process was “truncated,” the interim final rule was published pursuant to the “good cause” exceptions set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(3)(B) and 553(d)(3). The Department deemed that delaying implementation would be contrary to the public interest because several fees included in this rulemaking pay for consular services that are critical to national security. Rules that are exempt from notice and comment are often effective immediately upon publication, so the 15-day notice in this case was more notice than is often provided in such instances.
More than one-third of the comments suggested that the increased fee to process renunciations is a burden. These commenters asserted that the new fee is too costly. Some expressed concern about their own ability to afford the higher fee, pointing to personal circumstances including low income, student status, and senior citizen status. In addition, a few of these commenters asserted that nationality renunciation is a constitutional or human right. They stated that the increased fee acts as a deterrent to renouncing one’s nationality, thereby violating the right to expatriate, and suggested that the renunciation service should be offered at no or low cost. Specifically, two commenters cited the Expatriation Act of 1868 and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both of which address the right of expatriation.
In raising the fee to process renunciations, the Department has not restricted or burdened the right of expatriation. Further, the fee is not punitive, and is unrelated to the IRS tax legislation criticized in some comments, except to the extent that the legislation caused an increase in consular workload that must be paid for by user fees. Rather, the fee is a cost-based user fee for consular services. Conforming to guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), federal agencies make every effort to ensure that each service provided to specific recipients is self-sustaining, charging fees that are sufficient to recover the full cost to the government. (See OMB Circular A-25, ¶ 6(a)(1), (a)(2)(a).) Because costs change from year to year, the Department conducts an annual update of the Cost of Service Model (CoSM) to obtain the most accurate calculation of the costs of providing consular services. In addition to enabling the government to recover costs, the study also helps the Department to avoid charging consumers more than the cost of the services they consume. In sum, the increased fee for processing renunciations is a “user charge,” which reflects the full cost to the U.S. government of providing the service.
On a per-service basis, renunciation is among the most time-consuming of all consular services. In the past, however, the Department charged less than the full cost of the renunciation service. The total number of renunciations was previously small and constituted a minor demand on the Department’s resources. Consequently, it was difficult to assess accurately the cost of the service. In contrast, in recent years, the number of people requesting the renunciation service has risen dramatically, driven in part by tax legislation affecting U.S. taxpayers abroad, including the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), materially increasing the resources devoted to providing the service. At one post alone, renunciations rose from under 100 in 2009 to more than 1,100 in the first ten months of 2014. Finally, improvements to the CoSM made the cost of the renunciation service more apparent. For all these reasons, the Department decided to raise the fee to reflect the full cost of the service.
The Department has closely examined comments regarding the right of expatriation, which is addressed in the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The increased fee, however, does not impinge on the right of expatriation. Rather, the increased fee reflects the amount of resources necessary for the U.S. government to verify that all constitutional and other requirements for expatriation are satisfied in every case. As described in detail below, the process of expatriation for a U.S. national requires a thorough, serious, time-consuming process, in view of U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence that declared unconstitutional an involuntary or forcible expatriation. In Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967) and Vance v. Terrazas, 444 U.S. 252 (1980), the Supreme Court ruled that expatriation requires the voluntary commission of an expatriating act with the intention or assent of the citizen to relinquish citizenship. It is therefore incumbent upon the Department to maintain and implement procedures, as described below, that allow consular officers and other Department employees to ensure these requirements are satisfied in every expatriation case.
A few commenters questioned the rationale for raising the renunciation fee, seeking more insight into how the fee is determined. Some commenters disputed that the higher fee actually represents the true cost of processing a renunciation. In particular, one commenter applied the Consular Time Charge of $135 to the renunciation fee and asked whether the service actually takes 17 hours. Another commenter specifically requested more information about the CoSM.
As described in the interim final rule, the CoSM uses activity-based costing to identify, describe, assign costs to, and report on agency operations. Using a process view, the model assigns resource costs such as salaries, travel, and supplies to different activities such as adjudicating an application or printing a visa foil. These activity costs are then assigned to cost objects, or products and services (visas, passports, administrative processing of a renunciation), to determine how much each service costs.
The CoSM demonstrated that documenting a U.S. national’s renunciation of nationality is extremely costly. The cost of the service is not limited to the time consular officers spend with the renunciant at the appointment. The application is reviewed both overseas and domestically, requiring a substantial amount of time to ensure full compliance with the law. Through the provision of substantial information and one or two in-person interviews, the consular officer must determine that the individual is indeed a U.S. national, advise the individual on the consequences of loss of nationality, and determine that the individual fully intends to relinquish all the rights and privileges attendant to U.S. nationality, including the ability to reside in the United States unless properly documented as an alien. The consular officer also must determine whether the individual is seeking loss of nationality voluntarily or is under duress, a process that can be demanding in the case of minors or individuals with a developmental disability or mental illness. At the oath-taking interview, the consular officer must document the renunciation service on several forms signed by the individual seeking loss of nationality. The consular officer also must document the service in consular systems as well as in memoranda from the consular officer to headquarters. All forms and memoranda are closely reviewed at headquarters by a country officer and a senior approving officer within the Bureau of Consular Affairs, and may include consultation with legal advisers within the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the Office of the Legal Adviser. Some applications require multiple rounds of correspondence between post and headquarters.
Each individual issued a Certificate of Loss of Nationality also is advised of the possibility of seeking a future Administrative Review of the loss of nationality, a process that is conducted by the Office of Legal Affairs, Directorate of Overseas Citizens Service, Bureau of Consular Affairs. This review must consider whether the statute pursuant to which the initial finding of loss of nationality was made has been deemed to be unconstitutional. The review must also take notice of any significant change in the analysis of expatriation cases following a holding of the Supreme Court. Furthermore, the review must also take notice of any change in the interpretation of expatriation law that is adopted by the Department. Lastly, the review must evaluate evidence submitted by the expatriate that indicates that his or her commission of a statutory act of expatriation was either involuntary or done without intending to relinquish his/her U.S. nationality.
In addition to the time spent processing renunciations overseas and domestically, the full cost of processing renunciations includes a portion of overhead costs that support consular operations overseas per OMB Circular A-25, Revised. These costs include overseas rent and security, information technology equipment, and applicable headquarters support. The Consular Time Charge of $135 per hour was not used in calculating the cost of a renunciation service. The Consular Time Charge is used in conjunction with other for-fee services listed on the Schedule of Fees for Consular Services that are provided outside of the office or outside of normal working hours.
Four comments asserted that the renunciation should be made more efficient rather than more costly. A few asked if there were ways to reduce bureaucracy and paperwork to lower the cost of the service. Specifically, one commenter pointed to the German renunciation process, which involves an online application, mailed certified copies of certain documents, and no in-person interviews. As described above, certain legal requirements exist in the U.S. system, unique to our laws and jurisprudence, to protect both the integrity of the process and the rights of those renouncing. The renunciation process involves significant safeguards to ensure that the renunciant is a U.S. national, fully understands the serious consequences of renunciation, and seeks to renounce voluntarily and intentionally. In short, the comprehensive process of expatriation under U.S. law does not impinge, but rather protects, the right of expatriation.
Finally, two comments raised questions about payment options and sought clarification on the effective date for the fee change. The new fee for processing renunciations took effect September 12, 2014. Payment by credit card (at most posts) or cash (in local or U.S. currency) is accepted at post at the time that the oath of renunciation is sworn.
The Federal Register notice is available in full here.
Posted: 12:13 am EDT
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley has been keeping the records folks awake in Foggy Bottom. Last week, he directed his attention on the missing permanent IG at the State Department from 2008-2013. Over two years late but this gotta be good.
The previously Senate-confirmed OIG for the State Department was Howard J. Krongard who announced his resignation on December 7, 2007 and left post on January 15, 2008. President Obama nominated the current IG Steve Linick in June 2013. The U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination on September 17, 2013 and Mr. Linick officially started work at the State Department on September 30, 2013. (By the way, on October 1, the federal government went on shutdown and Mr. Linick’s office was one of the very few offices at the State Department whose employees were put on furlough). The vacancy at the IG’s office lasted more than five years before President Obama’s nominee finally took office. (See Senate Confirms Steve Linick; State Dept Finally Gets an Inspector General After 2,066 Days; After 1,989 Day-Vacancy — President Obama Nominates Steve Linick as State Dept Inspector General).
In any case, Senator Grassley now wants to know why the IG vacancy at the State Department lasted, by official count, 2,071 straight days. Late but okay, we’d like to know, too. The senator wrote a letter to Michael E. Horowitz, the Chair of Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) and to Secretary Kerry. Excerpt below:
Congress needs a better understanding of how and why the State Department lacked a permanent IG who could serve as an independent watchdog for 2,071 straight days. Accordingly, please respond to the following by September 11, 2015:
CIGIE Chair Horowitz: Assuming that CIGIE prepared a list of recommended candidates to fill the IG vacancy at the State Department created upon the departure of former IG Howard Krongard in 2008:
a. Who were the candidates?
b. When were they recommended?
c. Who sent the slate of recommendations from CIGIE to the White House?
d. Who received the slate of recommendations at the White House from CIGIE?
e. What was the response, if any, from the White House regarding the slate of candidates?
f. Who, if anyone, at CIGIE received the White House’s response?
g. When and how was any such response from the White House received?
h. Please provide all records from any CIGIE official at the time relating to communications with the White House about the IG vacancy or potential candidates to fill the vacancy.
i. Did CIGIE provide candidate names to the State Department? If so, please provide the Committee with all records from any CIGIE official at the time relating to communications with the State Department about the IG vacancy or potential candidates to fill the vacancy.
Secretary Kerry: Please provide the Committee with all State Department records related to the IG vacancy or potential candidates to fill the vacancy, including communications between and among former Secretary Clinton, her senior staff, or any State Department personnel, any CIGIE official, or any White House official.
In the letter’s footnotes, Senator Grassley cites the testimony of POGO’s Danielle Brian on “Watchdogs needed: Top Government Investigator Positions Unfilled for Years, June 3, 2015.” POGO has previously questioned the independence of the State Department’s acting IG. POGO also published a letter from “very concerned employees” (pdf) dated January 12, 2008 sounding the alarm on the appointment of an acting IG. Senator Grassley is listed as one of the addresses of that letter.
Senator Grassley’s IG vacancy letter cites two cases:
1) The “appearance of undue influence and favoritism” in departmental investigations of three allegations related to Diplomatic Security investigations (see Review of Selected Internal Investigations Conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security | January 2015 (pdf).
[ As an aside — the original OIG draft/report on DS investigations dates back to 2012 and was made part of the Higbie v. Kerry, a title VII employment discrimination case in Texas. That case was subsequently dismissed by the district court and affirmed by the Court of Appeals (pdf) in March 2015. But in 2013, the government sought to exclude the “improperly obtained documents” that Higbie obtained via a subpoena from a retired OIG employee, Aurelia Fedenisn. The government asserted that the documents, including the draft report, were improperly retained by Fedenisn after her employment ended in 2012. We’re reminded of this case in relation to the IG vacancy because the Washington Examiner recently reported that the then acting IG had sought to keep early drafts of a controversial OIG report under wraps in the Higbie case in federal court in 2013. Note that the contents of that draft report have already circulated and were reported on by the press in June 2013].
2) Allegations related to “protected disclosures” at the U.S. Consulate General in Naples Italy, a case currently in the court system (see Howard v. Kerry: Court Denies Motion to Dismiss One Retaliation Claim.
Senator Grassley’s letter is available to read here: 2015-08-27 Grassley | CEG to CIGIE and State Dept (IG Vacancy)
Posted: 5:18 pm EDT
The State Department announced that it will will host, GLACIER, “an important conference in Anchorage, Alaska on August 30-31 that will focus the world’s attention on the most urgent issues facing the Arctic today.”
GLACIER stands for Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement, & Resilience and “will be a global conversation” convened by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. It will reportedly include senior U.S. Government officials and representatives from seven other Arctic nations as well as Arctic experts from the global scientific and policy communities, public and private sector representatives, and Alaskan State, local and indigenous leadership. The conference expects delegations from around 20 countries and about 450 participants.
As a prelude to the event starting Sunday, the State Department held a Special Briefing via teleconference with a senior State Department official. It also issued an “important reminder” that this was an “on-background call, so [Senior State Department Official] should be referred to as a senior State Department official going forward” and asked attendees to “appreciate that courtesy professionally.” “On background” usually means that a reporter can use the information you give them, but cannot name or quote you directly.
Excerpt below from the Senior State Department Official.:
The excitement and momentum are building here in Anchorage as we approach the GLACIER conference. I’ve been here, I think, as I said, since Monday, and have been involved with one other conference, the Alaskan Arctic Conference, which was organized by former Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, who is currently the president of Pt Capital, and Alice Rogoff, who owns the Alaska Dispatch News. I spoke at that conference on Tuesday to wrap that up. And over the intervening days, I’ve had an opportunity to meet with the mayor, the governor, and other senior officials here in Alaska. I visited the University of Alaska; I traveled down to Seward, Alaska to the Alaska SeaLife Center; and also took a walk out to, most appropriately, the Exit Glacier since we’re here for the GLACIER conference. It was a special treat to go out there not just to see the glacier and the beauty of the Alaska countryside, but also to see the dramatic changes that have occurred over the years, particularly looking at pictures and the geography out there on how that particular glacier has receded, and particularly over the last couple of decades.
So it’s a great scene setter for me. I returned to Anchorage yesterday after the seward trip. I met with a series of people, including students at the University of Alaska. Today, I’ll be going out to Alaska Command to talk about our U.S. leadership efforts in the Arctic Council, doing a couple of interviews both on TV and with the press, and most importantly, speaking to all of you today.
GLACIER is going to be a historic event. The media outlets up here have been promoting not just the conference, but in particular, the fact that our final speaker on Monday will be the President of the United States. Even beyond that, he is coming in for the GLACIER conference, but I think as everybody knows now, he’s going to spend some time in Alaska and he will be the first president – the first sitting president to visit the American Arctic, going above the Arctic Circle here in Alaska.
We have a jam-packed day on Monday. There’ll be an opening plenary session with senior officials, leadership from Alaska and Alaska native groups speaking to the entire session. Secretary Kerry, Dr. John Holdren, the science advisor to the President will speak, and then the ministers will be involved in a track for the remainder of the day covering various topics, talking about the challenges in the Arctic. And the other participants – the 300 or so other participants in addition to the delegations will be broken down into two separate tracks which will cover various issues throughout the day as well. Everybody’s brought back together at the end of the day for the final plenary session, at which time we’ll have the President speak to us and we’re all, as I said, very excited about that.
This is obviously a very significant event for Alaska, but I think it’s also a significant event for the world. Whenever the United States gets involved in a project, whenever the United States puts its focus on problems or issues, there is usually action that occurs. And as an individual, as an American, as a retired Coast Guardsman, an employee of the State Department, I could not be more excited that we are now gaining this focus on our Arctic challenges all brought together here in this wonderful conference that’s going to occur on Monday.
— US Arctic (@USArctic) August 27, 2015
— US Arctic (@USArctic) August 27, 2015
According to his brief bio, Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., USCG (Ret.) became the U.S. State Department’s special representative for the Arctic in July of 2014. Prior to his appointment, Papp served as the 24th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, and led the largest component of the Department of Homeland Security. We are aware of no other Senior State Department official who also previously served as a retired Coast Guardsman.
Why the State Department find it necessary to have a special briefing on background with its special representative for the Arctic is perplexing. We’ve come up with zero bucket for reasons. Anybody out there understand the why here, please share.
Posted: 2:58 am EDT
The impact of the 25 April and 12 May earthquakes resulted in over two million people in Nepal losing their houses due to damage. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, during September and October this year, population movements are expected to increase, particularly with the mass outflux from the Kathmandu Valley to districts before the Dashain festival beginning in late October. On a smaller scale, with the end of the monsoon, the majority of those residing in spontaneous settlement and those relocated due to landslide risks will likely return to their original residence. Ensuring comprehensive returns will also depend on the availability of support for shelter reconstruction.
Derek Brown, a Foreign Service spouse and a friend of the blog is helping with shelter reconstruction in a small corner of Nepal. Derek is an American travel photographer, currently based in Kathmandu. He was previously in Pakistan and India with his USAID FSO spouse and has been generous in sharing some of his photos with this blog (see Derek Brown’s Photographs From India — Old Delhi, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, and Kutch; NYT’s India Ink Features Awesome Photographer and USAID/EFM).
In the aftermath of the earthquake, Derek wanted to document Nepalis helping Nepalis, and reached out to his friend Pawan Shakya whom he’d first met in 2013. Pawan who runs a small family publishing business from Durbar Square, the historic center of Kathmand has already embarked on self-funded relief projects aimed at some of the neediest villages following the earthquake. Derek realized that he could help in the planning, funding and execution of Pawan’s projects. He brought in Tyler Driscoll, a graphic designer he knew from San Francisco and together they put up a GoFundMe fundraising to help rebuild a small corner of Nepal.
The relief effort is intended to improve the lives of over 500 earthquake-stricken Nepali villagers in 2 villages. They picked the village of Chhap, 3.5 hours northeast of Kathmandu. Of 250 houses in the area, only 1 remained inhabitable after the earthquakes. The other location Ranipauwa Village is roughly 1.5 hours drive northwest of Kathmandu, and was almost totally destroyed by the earthquake, with essentially none of the houses inhabitable or even repairable.
The villages were selected based on need, the ability of villagers to help each other, and their ability to help themselves. Very importantly, one young man from each village works for Pawan’s family business. Having a person from inside each community not only provides valuable insight into issues and opportunities, but it also facilitates ongoing communication and monitoring that can help avoid all sorts of missteps.
They plan not only to build bamboo relief houses, they also plan to fund chicken farms, replace livestock and provide improved seeds for future plantings in the two villages.
Derek says that neither Pawan nor him will be taking any compensation at any point–Pawan is doing the calendar printing at cost and there will be no charge for Derek’s images. The GFM campaign provides other rewards that do carry cost like mugs, t-shirts, large prints, so do let them know if you do not want them. They have raised about $11K so far in the last two months of their GFM campaign. If you are able to help, check out their GFM campaign: http://www.gofundme.com/nepaltogether.
You may also follow Derek’s photo blog documenting their rebuilding efforts here: http://www.rebuildnepaltogether.com/photo-blog/
Below is a photo of a mother and child washing hair in a creek in Nepal, one of our favorites from Derek’s collection. What a lovely smile! Check out the rest of his photos on Facebook and Tumblr. धन्यवाद
Posted: 1:35 pm EDT
State/OIG released it inspection report of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and its constituent posts. The OIG made 65 recommendations intended to improve Embassy Tokyo’s operations and programs. Mission Japan is headed by Ambassador Caroline Kennedy who arrived in November 2013, and her DCM, Jason P. Hyland who arrived in June 2014. Mr. Hyland’s predecessor is not named in the report. Prior to this inspection, US Mission Japan was last reviewed in early 2008, and a report was issued in June 2008 (link to that report at the bottom of this post).
Let’s start with the key findings:
The Department of State has not addressed security problems, including vulnerabilities which the Office of Inspector General identified in previous inspection reports.
The role and authorities of the Ambassador’s chief of staff are not clearly defined, leading to confusion among staff as to her level of authority, and her role in internal embassy communications.
The embassy’s focus on daily reporting of political and economic developments comes at the expense of building a broad network of contacts and providing in-depth analysis for policy formulation.
The embassy is not coordinating reporting and diplomatic engagement across the mission. Constituent posts in Sapporo, Nagoya and Osaka-Kobe need to be brought up to the high standards set by posts in Fukuoka and Naha.
The level of U.S. direct-hire staffing in the embassy’s political, economic, and consular sections is greater than workload warrants.
The public affairs section faces major management challenges, but has begun to focus on educational exchanges and staffing adjustments to cope with the high visitor load and public outreach needs.
American Presence Post Nagoya should cease offering routine consular services; consular operations in Fukuoka and Sapporo are inefficient.
Although the embassy’s management section has made significant progress on cost containment, senior managers should pay greater attention to management controls over travel and official residence allowances.
Office of Inspector General inspectors identified $122,665 in cost savings and $2,331,787 in funds put to better use during the inspection.
Overview of the mission:
Mission Japan is one of the U.S. Department of State’s (Department) most important missions in terms of its size and the U.S. interests for which it is responsible. The mission includes 13 U.S. Government agencies and 5 constituent posts: consulates general in Osaka-Kobe and Naha, consulates in Sapporo and Fukuoka, and an American Presence Post1 in Nagoya. The mission also includes the Foreign Service Institute language school in Yokohama. Headquarters of U.S. Forces Japan are located nearby at Yokota Air Base, and various U.S. military commands are located throughout the mainland and on Okinawa. The mission has 272 U.S. direct-hire employees and total employment of 727. In FY 2014, total funding for the mission, including other agencies, was $93.6 million. U.S. direct-hire employees were receiving a 25- to 35-percent cost-of-living allowance based on location at the time of the inspection.
Now, the good news:
- Good Scores for Ethics | The Ambassador has made clear to the bureau’s executive office, the management officers at Embassy Tokyo, and her front office staff that she wants all her activities to be conducted in accordance with U.S. Government regulations. This was borne out by the fact that the highest score she received from staff members who completed a personal questionnaire was for her ethical behavior.
- Hague Convention Accession | Japan is second only to Mexico in the number of children abducted from the United States. Japan’s accession to The Hague Convention on International Parental Child Abduction in 2014 was a significant development, due in no small part to Embassy Tokyo’s efforts to encourage Japan to join.
- EFM Employment | A de facto work agreement with the Government of Japan allows family members to apply for work permits with strict rules governing employment. Twenty-seven eligible family members are employed inside the mission, and 34 eligible family members are employed outside the mission, mostly as English teachers.
- RSO: The Tokyo regional security office is responsible for the security and emergency preparedness of a large geographically dispersed diplomatic mission. In discussions and interviews with embassy staff members, the OIG team was told repeatedly that the regional security office is responsive to their needs. Accomplishments of the senior regional security officer include reinvigorating the law enforcement working group, updating and drafting missing or outdated security policies, and implementing modifications to the local guard contract that save the Department approximately $230,000 annually. The regional security office staff uniformly describes the senior regional security officer as a good mentor and communicator.
- Cost Containment: In 2014, to contain cost, the embassy transferred 70 percent of its voucher processing to the Department’s regional voucher processing center. The cost to process a voucher in Japan is three times higher than at the regional center. The transfer resulted in the elimination of at least two voucher examiner positions.
And the not so good news, oh where do we start?
- Leadership | A non-career Ambassador with wide experience in nongovernmental and publishing industries leads Embassy Tokyo. She sees the strengthening of mutual understanding between the Japanese and the American people and the deepening of the security alliance as her prime responsibilities. The Ambassador does not have extensive experience leading and managing an institution the size of the U.S. Mission to Japan. She relies upon two key senior staff members—her non-career chief of staff and a career Senior Foreign Service deputy chief of mission (DCM)—to make sure that Embassy Tokyo and its constituent posts receive the resources and guidance they need to conduct day-to-day operations. The chief of staff, who has extensive experience in public relations and has worked with the Ambassador over a period of years, organizes special projects for the Ambassador, coordinates functions within the embassy, and oversees embassy staff interactions with the Ambassador. The DCM, who arrived in Tokyo 6 months before the start of the onsite inspection process, focuses on internal management of the embassy and coordination with the constituent posts.
- Communication Between the Front Office and Embassy Sections Needs Improvement.
- High Visibility Ambassador Puts a Strain on Some Embassy Elements
- Role of Chief of Staff Needs Refinement
- The Deputy Chief of Mission Should be More Proactive in Exercising Leadership
The leadership section does not include discussion on training, mentoring, and professional development of First and Second Tour (FAST) officers, or mission morale. The report says that “four of seven officers in the public affairs section assigned to Tokyo have left post before their tour end date.” There’s a term for that; it’s called curtailment. A non-career chief of staff, a PR person, who has a large sway in the functioning of this embassy is not named in this report. And just before the arrival of the inspectors, the front office apparently had made some headway on improving communication by holding a town hall meeting to unveil the revised memo outlining the activities the Ambassador would undertake. The report is not clear if this is the ambassador’s first town hall meeting with embassy staff.
- Minister Counselor Positions Under-Ranked
- Economic Section Has Too Many Supervisors
- Economic Section Portfolios Organized Poorly
- Excess Staff in the Political and Economic Sections
- Law Enforcement Working Group Lacks Political Context
- Reporting and Advocacy Needed on Structural Reform
- Economic Section Not Keeping Proper Records and Files
Embassy Tokyo does not have a current records management policy and does not enforce Department and Federal regulations on records management.
The economic section’s reporting relies heavily on media sources. On some policy developments, the OIG team found that embassy reporting did not add value to more timely reporting by the international press. Reporting was mostly single-sourced and did not evidence a range of contacts among Japanese business leaders, legislators or staff, political parties, academia, or other economic leaders or decision makers, as intended by 2 FAM 113.1 c (10) and (11).
- Consular Officer Staffing Is Excessive
- No Coordination of Consular Social Media
- Inefficient Consular Operations in Fukuoka and Sapporo
Note that citizens of some countries including Japan, who are traveling to the U.S. for 90 days less for business or tourism may not need a visa as they are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This report says that Tokyo’s consular section, with 14 officers, has more officer positions than other consular operations of similar workload, with a high proportion of managers to entry-level officers.
- Inconsistencies in Billing Methods Creates Confusion
- Cashiering Violation and Fiscal Irregularity
- Class B Cashier’s Cash Advance is Excessive
- Salaries Inappropriately Paid Directly to Official Residence Expense Staff (this is a pretty common subject in OIG reports)
- Position Descriptions Are Inaccurate
- Delays in Processing Within-Grade Increases
- In-House Post Language Program Is Not Cost Effective
- No In-House Equal Employment Opportunity Training Provided to Staff
- Allegations of Sexual Harassment Not Reported to the Office of Civil Rights
- Unauthorized Use of Motor Pool Shuttle Services
- Living Quarters Allowance Not in Compliance with the Foreign Affairs Manual
- No Emergency Backup Generators at Some Constituent Posts
- The Department’s Office of Fire Safety conducted visits in 2014. The report identified 83 deficiencies of which the mission has corrected 53.
- Locally Developed Software Applications Not in Compliance
- Emergency Communication Does Not Meet Department Standards
- No Logs of Network Maintenance
- Premium Class Train Travel Policy Does Not Comply with Department Regulations
- Extra Travel Costs Inappropriately Approved for Using Indirect Routes
- USCG Naha: Inappropriate Use of Official Residence Expense Funds Instead of Representation Funds
The OIG report says that in the past 8 months, four of seven officers in the public affairs section assigned to Tokyo have left post before their tour end date. That’s called curtailment. Unless they were all medevaced.
- Embassy’s 11-person Media Analysis and Translation Team Lacks a Clear Mandate | Without a survey of the MATT’s customers, the embassy cannot confirm who—if anyone—is reading its products or justify the $1.25-million annual cost of operating the MATT.
- Social Media Lacks Coordination| Several LE staff members work separately with social media, resulting in a multiplicity of uncoordinated messages
- Grants Management Not in Compliance
- No Public Diplomacy Strategy
- The public affairs section was told to take a 26-percent cut. This reduced the public diplomacy allotment from $11.5 million in FY 2011 to $8.6 million in FY 2012. Even at that reduced rate, Mission Japan’s public affairs budget was still the largest in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. As a result of these budget cuts, the public affairs section eliminated 17 LE staff positions. The public affairs section allocated 68 percent of its FY 2014 budget of $8.5 million to LE staff salaries. According to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, this is high by world standards. […]The Ambassador selected the country public affairs officer, who arrived in Tokyo in August 2014, to stabilize the public affairs section, end the curtailments, define LE staff duties in order to clarify the new distribution of duties following the 2012 staff cuts, bring transparency to personnel decisions, and get the entire staff’s commitment to move forward. Since the public affairs officer’s arrival, the public affairs section has had considerable success, particularly with programs on educational exchange and women’s issues
A few more items with notable details extracted from the report:
Commercial Email Usage | In the course of its inspection, OIG received reports concerning embassy staff use of private email accounts to conduct official business. On the basis of these reports, OIG’s Office of Evaluations and Special Projects conducted a review and confirmed that senior embassy staff, including the Ambassador, used personal email accounts to send and receive messages containing official business.
Employee Evaluation Reports do not Reflect Demonstrated Weaknesses | The OIG team reviewed a range of Department employee evaluations written by managers at the U.S. Mission to Japan. They found several examples of evaluations that did not reveal any indication of serious weaknesses, even though the rated officers had required in-depth management and or discipline by their supervisors and had absorbed time and resources from senior embassy officers. The DCM, having been at post only 6 months, has not yet produced employee evaluations. The inspectors advised him to make clear to rating officers that employee evaluations must present an accurate record of each staff member’s strengths and a realistic area for improvement.
Yokohama Language Program Cost-Benefit Analysis Lacking | To provide Japanese-language instruction in Yokohama, it costs the Department an estimated $2.3 million per year. The total cost of operating the school, factoring out fixed expenses, such as leasing residences for the students, post allowance, education allowance, the school director’s salary and benefits, and other sunk costs, is $1 million per year. This translates into a per-student cost of from $83,583 to $200,599 for a student body of from 5 to 12 students. The Department could be incurring higher costs for providing language services.
No Justification for Paying Post Allowance to Family Member Appointees | Worldwide, Embassies London and Tokyo are the only two authorized to pay post allowance to family member appointees. In 2001, the Department granted them an exception on the basis of their inability to recruit individuals for family member positions because of lower salaries and wages, in accordance with 3 FAM 8218.1 c. In Japan, these adverse employment conditions no longer exist. Except for security escort positions, the embassy has had no difficulty filling family member positions. It also has been able to fill some of its LE staff vacancies with eligible family members when they meet all position requirements. The cost impact to the embassy of providing the post allowance to nine full-time family members is $59,190, annually.
Consulate General Naha Not Benefiting from Zero Cost Leasing Offer | In February 2010, the Open Source Center located on the U.S. Army’s Torii Station offered four Government-owned houses located on Kadena Air Base to Consulate General Naha at zero leasing costs. Consulate General Naha has not fully considered this offer. The OIG team estimates accepting the Open Source Center’s offer would save leasing costs of $110,665 per year. The embassy would continue to fund utility and make-ready costs. In Naha, U.S. direct hires already use base services, including the commissary, Post Exchange, and other support services. U.S. direct-hire dependents attend Department of Defense schools. According to 15 FAM 228 b, housing selection should achieve maximum cost benefit to the U.S. Government, and every effort should be made to lease appropriate housing with terms that reflect the likelihood of the housing unit remaining in posts inventory, with lease terms of 5 years or more whenever appropriate.
Private Domestic Staff Inappropriately Housed in U.S. Government-Owned Facility | The embassy continues to house private domestic staff of U.S. direct-hire officers in a separate U.S. Government-owned facility (the former U.S. Marine Dormitory) despite a 2008 Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion cautioning that the legality of operating living quarters for private domestic servants of U.S. Government employees on U.S. Government premises is highly doubtful under Federal appropriations/employment law. The presence of such facilities on U.S. Government-controlled real property also raises liability issues under employment law and tort law. The embassy raised concerns about prior fraudulent domestic staff employment contracts, use of appropriated funds to maintain the facility and collection of utilities reimbursements through the employees association as a probable violation of appropriation law. At the time of inspection, 42 domestic staff resided in the 31-room U.S. Government-owned building designated for domestic staff. According to 15 FAM 244, post personnel may house full-time domestic staff in their own U.S. Government-provided quarters if space is available and approved by the regional security officer. The estimated cost of maintaining the facility is $60,000 per year.
Posted: 1:55 am EDT
NPR News writes that both Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have defended birthright citizenship, but they have said more needs to be done about women who might come into the U.S. expressly to have children. “If there’s abuse, if people are bringing, pregnant women are coming in to have babies simply because they can do it, then there ought to be greater enforcement,” Bush told conservative radio host Bill Bennett this week, as reported by Politico. Like how, or greater enforcement of what?
Birthright citizenship and “anchor baby” are in the front burner of political campaigns these days. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued this report on Birthright Citizenship Under the 14th Amendment of Persons Born in the United States to Alien Parents (via Secrecy News) back in 2012. The report is dated January 10, 2012 but is an interesting read on the various legislative proposals and its history. There is a useful discussion of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 included in the report. In related news, denial of birth certificates to U.S. born children of undocumented immigrants in Texas is now a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Austin, TX.
Peter Van Buren, a consular officer by trade until his retirement from the Foreign Service has written a straight-forward explainer on this subject. Excerpted below:
Explainer: ‘Anchor Babies’ and the Law
by Peter Van Buren (We Meant Well Blog)
Thanks to brave presidential candidates Trump and Bush, et al, the term “anchor baby” is now the subject of interest and ignorance by a media preoccupied with whatever shiny object is held in front of it.
Trump wants to tear up part of the Constitution he unilaterally proclaims is unconstitutional; no one is sure what the other Republicans plan to “do” about this issue, but they sure don’t support it somehow.
So what are “anchor babies” and which parts of American law affect them?
An “anchor baby” (many find the term offensive, referring as it does to a child as an object) is a child born in the United States to a foreign citizen, legally or illegally present in the U.S., who, by virtue of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, automatically and forever acquires American citizenship. The child need only prove s/he was born in the U.S.
The term anchor comes into play because at the age of 21 the child can begin filing green card paperwork for his/her extended family. The single American citizen in a family becomes the “anchor” through which all can eventually become legal permanent residents of the U.S. and soon after, citizens.
Many conservatives feel conveying citizenship so freely cheapens the meaning of being an “American,” and especially object to the idea that a mother illegally in the United States can birth an American citizen. Others are troubled by a growing industry that sends foreign mothers to the U.S. specifically so that they can create such citizens, so-called “birth tourism.”
The concept that anyone born in the U.S. (one exception: those born not subject to U.S. law, which has been held to apply primarily to Native Americans and to children of certain accredited foreign diplomats exempt [immune] from U.S. laws, though there are loopholes even there) is automatically an American citizen is part of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, the so-called Citizenship Clause.
The 14th was adopted in 1868, in the aftermath of the Civil War as part of reconciling the status of millions of slaves forcibly brought to the United States. The Citizenship Clause specifically overruled the 1857 Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford), which had held that Americans descended from African slaves could not be citizens of the United States. The Amendment cleared up any ambiguities, stating “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”
The most significant test of the 14th Amendment came in 1898, via United States v. Wong Kim Ark. The Supreme Court upheld that a child born in the United States automatically became a U.S. citizen. At issue were laws passed after the Wong child’s birth that excluded Chinese citizens from entering the U.S. The decision in Wong has been understood to mean that the legal status of the mother, as well as any secondary immigration laws below the Constitution, have no bearing on the granting of citizenship.
It can get complicated, and there have been unsuccessful efforts to overturn or reinterpret Wong in light of contemporary concerns over immigration.
For those who like their law in Latin, the idea that anyone born in a certain country automatically acquires citizenship there is called jus soli (right of soil.) The opposite, that citizenship is derived only via one’s parents, is called jus sanguinis (right of blood.) No European nation offers unrestricted jus soli, and very few other countries outside the Western Hemisphere do either.
Foreigners, Visas and Babies
While some foreigners who give birth in the U.S. enter illegally by walking across a land border, a significant number of moms enter the U.S. on visas or the rough equivalent, the visa waiver program, which provides less fettered access to citizens from certain countries, mostly Europeans. Some give birth in the U.S.; is this legal?
It is. There is no law whatsoever that prohibits someone from coming to the United States specifically to give birth here and create an “anchor baby.”
Many uninformed commentators point to two visa laws that they feel may prohibit such an act, the “public charge” provision and the fraud provision.
The current issue of Rolling Stone contains a long article on “birth tourism.” Such “tourism” is a huge business in Asia, particularly in China where rising incomes coincide with existing interest in emigration. Companies arrange for everything; a mom need only provide money. The companies legally assist the mother in obtaining a visa, arrange for her to stay in the U.S. in an apartment complex (dubbed “maternity hotels”), usually in California for convenience for flights from Asia, full of other Chinese moms, and then give birth in a local hospital staffed with Chinese-speaking doctors.
There is absolutely nothing illegal about birth tourism under U.S. law.
Read in full Explainer: ‘Anchor Babies and the Law at the We Meant Well blog.