Tag Archives: SFRC

The Odd Story of “Vetting/Scrubbing” the Tenure/Promotion of 1,800 Foreign Service Employees in the U.S. Senate

– Domani Spero

We recently blogged about the hold on the commission, tenure and promotion of 1,705 career Foreign Service employees at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (See Is the U.S. Senate Gonna Wreck, Wreck, Wreck, the Upcoming Bidding Season in the Foreign Service?).

We wondered then if this was one more  unintended consequence from the Senate’s “nuclear” option.

Here’s what we were told by AFSA:

“FYI – this has nothing to do with the nuclear option – its strictly about State’s vetting process.”

AFSA then sent us a link of its April 1 notice to its membership: Ask the Senate to Support Foreign Service Employees!

After reading that, we were struck by the following line:

“We urge the SFRC to address issues regarding vetting of names for criminal background checks collaboratively. Simultaneously we ask the SFRC to grant these men and women the commissioning, tenure and promotions for which they’ve been recommended.”

Huh?

We asked AFSA again — what sort of vetting are we talking about here? All these nominees pending on the SFRC have Top Secret clearances and have been vetted by Diplomatic Security.

We got the following response:

“There are some differences in what the State Department does and what DoD does both in substance and information provided to oversight committees. […] it does NOT have to do with DS vetting and TS clearances.  There may be some periods of time and activity that are not being captured by current vetting process and I think State is amenable to working with committee to resolve.”

We did the underline there.  We don’t know what the heck that means!

So nothing to do with the nuclear option.

Nothing to do with Diplomatic Security vetting.

And nothing to do with TS clearances.

Wow!

What a strange mess! Anybody know what this is really all about?

Again from your elected AFSA official:

“Both the State Department and DoD vet/scrub the lists with internal and external agencies before they send the list to the Senate and its respective committees – SFRC, SASC.  This vetting/scrub is what is being discussed.”

Arghhh! Arff! Arff!

AFSA’s letter to the SFRC Chairman Bob Menendez and Ranking Member Bob Corker does not explain how this mess started in December 2013 but provides some details on the groups impacted by the Senate hold:

Now 1800 FS Employees Stuck at the SFRC

“[W]e are writing to convey our deep concerns about the impact that the delayed confirmations of tenure and promotions for career Foreign Service employees is having on U.S. diplomatic operations and U.S. national interests. When we raised this matter back in December 2013, nearly 1,300 individuals were affected by the holds. As of this time, there are approximately 1,800 members of the Foreign Service from four foreign affairs agencies (Department of State, USAID, Foreign Agricultural Service, and Foreign Commercial Service) who await Senate confirmation of appointment, tenure, or promotion.”

200 FS Employees Waiting to Officially Join the SFS

“Of these, over 200 employees of all four agencies are awaiting confirmation of their promotions into or within the Senior Foreign Service. These members are affected financially in two distinct ways. First, the pay increases earned as a result of their promotions cannot be paid until attestation by the president, nor can the promotions be back-dated so as to overcome this loss of remuneration. Second, unless the promotions are confirmed and attested before April 15, 2014, they are not eligible to be reviewed for, or to receive, performance pay. In addition, uncertainty besets the onward assignments of these 200 members. Failure to confirm these officers as members of the Senior Foreign Service affects the ability of consulates, embassies and USAID missions to conduct the business of the United States overseas.”

Over 900 Waiting for FSO Commissions

“Over 900 of the remaining officers are awaiting commissioning as Foreign Service officers and secretaries in the diplomatic service, almost half of whom have been waiting close to a year. Several of them are approaching the limit of their 5-year Limited Career Appointments. If that expires without their being commissioned, they are supposed to leave the Foreign Service in accordance with Section 309 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 USC §3949.) Moreover, as untenured officers, they are ineligible to receive some pay differentials for positions, which they currently encumber. Overall, this is having a severe effect on their morale and their eligibility for onward assignments. Unfortunately, this prolonged wait and uncertainty is coloring their impressions of public service at the beginning of their careers.”

Over 600 FSOs Without Consular Commissions

“Finally, over 600 new Foreign Service officers, just starting their Limited Career Appointments, have not yet received commissions as consular officers. Without a Consular Commission, these entry-level officers are technically not authorized to adjudicate visas and perform other consular work. In addition, the possession of a Consular Commission is generally a prerequisite to the granting by a host nation of all necessary diplomatic privileges and immunities under the Vienna Convention.”

 

So, when we read this, our immediate reaction was where is the State Department leadership in all this? We know that Secretary Kerry and his top officials are often traveling but  there’s a whole lot of ranking officials in Foggy Bottom who could interface with the leadership and staff of the SFRC. Where is the Under Secretary for Management? Where is the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources?

But see – what we heard from insiders is that the State Department reportedly said: “AFSA had the lead on fixing this.” 

Well, that’s terribly odd, isn’t it?

Secretary Kerry was at the SFRC on April 8, and made passing mention of the nominations, but we sorta think he’s talking about the top ranking nominees.  We don’t even know if he’s aware that 1,800 of his employees are stuck in the committee:

“I also want to thank everybody on the committee for working so hard to move the nominations, which obviously is critical. I think our – it’s not the fault of the committee, but with a combination of vetting process and public process and so forth and the combination of the slowdown on the floor of the Senate, I think we’re averaging something like 220-some days and some people at 300 days and some over 365 days. So I have literally only in the last month gotten my top team in place one year in, and I’m very grateful to the committee.”

The Secretary did not specifically mention that  Ambassador Carlos Pascual who was nominated to be Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources on February 17, 2012 has been stuck in committee with Super Glue for 760 days.

Secretary Kerry also did not specifically mentioned the blanket senate hold during the April 8 hearing that affects about 10% of his agency’s workforce. And really — what do you do with 600 consular officers without their Consular Commissions? Have they been adjudicating visas without their Consular Commissions, and if so, what kind of immunity and diplomatic privileges are afforded these officials overseas?

But wait, like on teevee — there’s more!

We are now also hearing disturbing allegations that the genesis of this mess started long before December 2013, even going back to 2012.

It is alleged that this all started with one name on the promotion list. The original initiator (who apparently is not/not a stranger to AFSA and the State Department) allegedly brought a specific name on the promotion list to the attention of a Senate staffer. It is alleged that the action was taken using personal connections cultivated in the Senate. The key question at that time allegedly revolved around the security clearance of one — one specific individual and resulted in the removal of  this individual’s name from the promotion list.

Now, why would anyone do that?

If we could hire Veronica Mars, she’d definitely bug this  Mr. Initiator guy then we’d have the full story.

It is further alleged that  subsequent to the removal of that one name from the promotion list, the same SFRC staffer also identified several other FSOs who were subjects of “investigations” at some point in their careers. In most cases, these investigations reportedly were in the medium to distant past (as much as 10 or 15 years ago). Our source, clearly frustrated says that the fact that these investigations occurred in the past has not deterred the senator’s office pursuit of these FSOs.

This year’s senate hold reportedly started with an assertion by one senator’s office that the military vets people better than State does, and that the State Department list is “riddled with people” whose actions had been questioned “by OIG and others.”  We don’t know who consists of “others.” Our source familiar with this matter but speaking on background said that one senator reportedly vowed “not to approve any FS name until the matter was resolved.” The same SFRC staffer allegedly involved in the initial promotion list snafu works for this one senator. Senior State Department officials have reportedly demonstrated that, unlike the military, all State employees have TS clearances which include name checks. We’re told that at the senate’s request, the SOP on vetting at the State Department now goes “further” than what is required by the military. We do not know what “further” or additional layers of vetting were added.

The following areas were supposedly contentious:

#1. The automatic exclusion of any employees with criminal convictions.
#2. The separate nomination of any employees with “problems.”

Say, wait — how many State Department employees with criminal convictions have been able to hold on to their Top Secret clearance? One, two, a hundred, five hundred?

The number is .. wait for it …. ZERO.

How many State Department employees under investigation or with criminal convictions have been able to keep their names on the promotion list? Hey, don’t they yank your name from that promotion list as soon as there is an investigation with your name on it?

Employees who previously faced investigations and have successfully prevailed/survived the investigations will now be singled out on the promotion list? Why? Should they also be required to wear  “NOT GUILTY BUT” t-shirts to work?

If these employees have been cleared of wrongdoing, why is the Senate hardballing them?

We do not know the full story about this Senate hold involving some 1,800 FS employees but AFSA and the State Department should know who were the names targeted from the promotion lists and why. And if they don’t know the why, then they should find out, of course. If a Senate staffer who has worked in Congress for years just got out of bed one day and decided he/she wants to put a hold on 1,800 names because the “vetting” and “scrubbing” of names have been unsatisfactory all this time — we should all ask why.

Because.  Motive, motive, motive.

Let’s start at the very beginning… oh, where is Sherlock when you need him?

If  the allegation is true, that this whole merry go round mess was initiated by one Foreign Service insider and got out of hand … now then, you’ve got a mess, Houston. One FS person was initially targeted by another FS person using contacts in the Senate. That’s pretty personal.

It looks like you’ve got a petty little beaver who never left hight  high school …

And he’s representing the United States of America.

On Friday, April 11, AFSA released this: Senate Confirms Tenure and Promotion!

 

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Is the U.S. Senate Gonna Wreck, Wreck, Wreck, the Upcoming Bidding Season in the Foreign Service?

– Domani Spero

 

Do you know how many Foreign Service members are currently awaiting approval for commissioning, tenuring and promotion in the U.S. Senate? 1,705. That’s 1,705 regular folks  in the career service, excluding the ambassadorial nominees.

Some of these names have been submitted since January, and they are all still pending in a dark cauldron brewing in the SFRC.

In a message to its members on March 18, AFSA writes that it “has worked diligently for months on this issue and we would like to alert you that last week, important progress was made in resolving the holds, through the leadership of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Senator Bob Corker (R-TN).   AFSA is confident that both sides have demonstrated the good will necessary to move the process forward and looks now to an amicable and expedited solution to this situation in the coming days.”

The Senate's side of the Capitol Building in DC.

The Senate’s side of the Capitol Building in DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

End of the month and here we are.  Neither the Chairman nor the Ranking Member of the SFRC has anything to say about this logjam on their website.

These employees are waiting Senate attestation so they are officially commissioned, tenured and promoted. And you know what, the Foreign Service “bidding season” is fast eating up the days in the calendar.

Why this can get complicated?

A good number of these employees pending at the SFRC will be “bidding” for their next assignments.   The Foreign Service is a rotational, rank-in-person system.  As a consequence, there will be “real” FS-01s, for example and “FS-02s” who are supposed to be treated as 01s but who technically are 02s.

The State Department reportedly is telling folks looking at bids to treat “02” bidders as “01s” and so on and so forth because of inaction from the Senate.

Oh crap, how do you sort them all out?

One frustrated official writes, “I can’t see how this won’t have a major impact as we’re evaluating employees.”

Not only that, we imagine that the bump in pay and associated hardship/danger/COLA allowances (a percentage of basic compensation) will also not get taken care of until the Senate officially blesses these names.

Since bad news comes in threes — you should know that Ambassador Arnold A. Chacon’s nomination as Director General of the Foreign Service got out of the SFRC in February 2 but has been stuck since then waiting for a full vote in the U.S. Senate.

WaPo recently reported that President Obama may have learned how to finally break through the months-long Senate logjam on his ambassadorial nominations: he or Vice President Biden must travel to the countries where nominees would be headed.

Unfortunately for the Foreign Service, neither President Obama nor VP Biden has DGHR listed in their immediate schedule.

Below is the list of nominations pending in committee:

  • Feb 10, 14     PN1419    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Scott S. Sindelar, and ending Christine M. Sloop, which 6 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 10, 2014.
  • Feb 10, 14     PN1418    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Mark L. Driver, and ending Karl William Wurster, which 59 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 10, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1384    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Beata Angelica, and ending Benjamin Beardsley Dille, which 381 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1383    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Kevin Timothy Covert, and ending Paul Wulfsberg, which 277 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1382    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Matthew D. Lowe, and ending Wilbur G. Zehr, which 242 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1381    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Gerald Michael Feierstein, and ending David Michael Satterfield, which 196 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1380    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Kate E. Addison, and ending William F. Zeman, which 121 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1379    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Kathleen M. Adams, and ending Sean Young, which 112 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1378    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Julie Ann Koenen, and ending Brian Keith Woody, which 94 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1377    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Susan K. Brems, and ending Ann Marie Yastishock, which 45 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1376    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Scott Thomas Bruns, and ending Janelle Weyek, which 23 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1375    Foreign Service Nominations beginning James Benjamin Green, and ending Geoffrey W. Wiggin, which 11 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1374    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Christopher David Frederick, and ending Julio Maldonado, which 3 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 09, 14     PN1317    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Ranya F. Abdelsayed, and ending Fireno F. Zora, which 135 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January  9, 2014.

We can’t help but think that this is one more  unintended consequence from the Senate’s “nuklear” option.  This WaPo piece on President Obama’s inability to fill many of his administration’s most important jobs is not even hopeful.

Doesn’t this remind you of  wreck ‘em Plants v. Zombies, the DC edition?

 

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Today at the SFRC: AM – Gottemoeller, Rose, Scheinman; PM – Broas, Lu, Sherman

– By Domani Spero

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee today will hold confirmation hearings on the nominees to three posts related to arms control  (T Bureau) and nonproliferation. The afternoon hearings will consider the nominations for the ambassadorial posts to Morocco, Albania and Portugal.

Morning Hearings

Presiding: Senator Menendez
Date: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Time: 10:00 AM
Location:Senate Dirksen 419

Nominees:

  • The Honorable Rose Eilene Gottemoeller of Virginia, to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
  • Mr. Frank A. Rose of Massachusetts, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance
  • Mr. Adam M. Scheinman of Virginia, to be Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, with the Rank of Ambassador

 

This hearing is scheduled to be live webcast. Click here http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/nomination-09-26-2013  to view the hearing live or read the prepared statements.

 

Afternoon Hearings:

Presiding: Senator Murphy
Date: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Time: 02:00 PM
Location: Senate Dirksen 419

Nominees:

  • Mr. Timothy Broas of Maryland, to be Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • Mr. Donald Lu of California, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Albania
  • Mr. Robert A. Sherman of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador to the Portuguese Republic

This hearing is scheduled to be live webcast. Click here http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/nomination-09-26-2013-pm  to watch video or read the nominees’ prepared statements.

 

(O_O)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

– By Domani Spero

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

 

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

Nominees:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

(O_O)

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Today at the SFRC: AM – Bush, Childress, Daughton, Harrington, Reddick, Hoover, Hoza; PM – Malinowski, Harper, Nix-Hines, Hamamoto

– By Domani Spero

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has a packed schedule this week. This morning, the Senate will consider seven nominations for ambassadorial posts to Africa. In the afternoon, the SFRC will consider the nominees for State/DRL and three other UN-related nominations.   With a schedule like this, how much time will the Senators have to listen and ask questions?  Or maybe the question might be, how many Senators will actually show up for these hearings?

Morning Hearings – 10:00 AM

Presiding: Senator Coons
Date: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Time: 10:00 AM
Location: Senate Dirksen 419

Panel One:

  • Mr. Dwight L. Bush, Sr. of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco
  • Mr. Mark Bradley Childress of Virginia, to be Ambassador to the United Republic of Tanzania
  • Mr. Thomas F. Daughton of Arizona, to be Ambassador to Namibia
  • Mr. Matthew Harrington of Virginia, to be Ambassador to Lesotho

Panel Two:

  • The Honorable Eunice S. Reddick of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador to Niger
  • Mr. John Hoover of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador to Sierra Leone
  • Mr. Michael S. Hoza of Washington, to be Ambassador to Cameroon
Live webcast of the hearings as well as the prepared statements of the nominees will be posted at
(._.)

Afternoon Hearings:

Presiding: Senator Boxer
Date: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Time: 02:30 PM
Location: Senate Dirksen 419

  • Mr. Tomasz P. Malinowski of the District of Columbia, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
  • Mr. Keith M. Harper of Maryland, to be the United States Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council
  • Ms. Crystal Nix-Hines of California, to be the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
  • Ms. Pamela K. Hamamoto of Hawaii, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva
Live webcast of the hearings as well as the prepared statements of the nominees will be posted at
(._.)

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SFRC Clears Daniel R. Russel, Geoffrey R. Pyatt and Tulinabo Salama Mushingi

—By Domani Spero

On June 25, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the following State Department nominations:

Screen Shot 2013-06-27
Since President Obama has now announced  a nominee for the Office of Inspector General, we are presuming that Senator Cruz has not gone through with his threat to place a blanket hold on all these nominees (see After 1,989 Day-Vacancy — President Obama Nominates Steve Linick as State Dept Inspector General; also Still No Junkyard Dog? Senator Cruz Warns He’ll Place a Hold on All State Dept Nominations).  And if that’s the case, then these nominations should be up for a vote in the full Senate.

(‘_’)

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May 7, 2013: Today at the SFRC – James Knight (Chad), Deborah Jones (Libya)

 

Presiding: Senator Menendez

Date: Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Time: 10:00 AM

Location: Senate Dirksen 419

Webcast: This hearing is scheduled to be live webcast. Please return to this page to view the hearing live at the specified date and time.

NOMINEES:

The Honorable James Knightof Alabama, to be the Ambassador to the Republic of Chad

The Honorable Deborah Kay Jones, of New Mexico, to be the Ambassador to Libya

 

 

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ARB Concludes Work, Unclassified Report May Be Publicly Available on Wednesday

State Department spokespersonn Victoria Nuland confirmed today that the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi has concluded its work, and that the report went to Secretary Clinton this morning.

As it stands right now, the ARB leads Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mullen will reportedly brief the SFRC and the HFAC on Wednesday, December 19 during a closed session.

The following day, December 20,  the Secretary’s deputies – Deputy Secretary Burns and Deputy Secretary Nides – will brief SFRC and HFAC in open session, “responding to the report and talking about the path forward.”

As we have previously speculated, the report has both an unclassified and a classified section. According to the spokesperson, the entire report, at the Secretary’s direction, will be made available to the Hill sometime before the Pickering/Mullen classified briefings on Wednesday.   The reasoning being that this would give members “a chance to look at it before the briefings.” We don’t know how long is this report, but we hope it gets to the Hill tomorrow so people can actually read it before the hearings.

The big question is – when are we going to see it?

Probably sometime on Wednesday according to Ms. Nuland, although she could not confirm those details.

During the DPB, a reporter also asked the official spokesperson on “why Secretary Clinton can’t testify on Thursday about this? It seems that she has not been available to testify on the Benghazi situation on some very key dates, including the Sunday after 9/11 and now this Thursday.”

Here is part of the official response:

But it was her intention to be there. If she had not been ill, she would be there. And she’s also committed, including in a letter today to the committee chairmen, that she looks forward to having an ongoing conversation with them herself.” 

As to whether Secretary Clinton want to testify later, the spokesperson said:

“So she has, including in a letter today to the two committees, made clear that she looks forward to continuing to engage them in January, and she will be open to whatever they consider appropriate in that regard.”

With apologies folks, we actually have no idea how to translate that.

domani spero sig

 

 

 

 

 

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New Diplomatic Security Office to Monitor 17 High Threat Diplomatic Missions (With ARB Update)

CBS News has a report on December 8 on the State Department’s new directorate within Diplomatic Security (DSS) that focuses on seventeen high threat diplomatic posts overseas. The posts listed in the report includes Algeria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Mauritania, Niger, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen. These are in addition to previously designated high threat posts in Iraq and Pakistan Afghanistan.

The new office will reportedly have Bill Miller as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.  According to CBS News, he was described as “an experienced Diplomatic Security Official” by a senior State Department official.  A National Review report dated November 30, said that Bill Miller was a former State Department special agent who coordinated regional security for the Coalition Provisional Authority and the American Embassy in Baghdad. We missed the official announcement on this and could not locate it but according to NR, the State Department said in an announcement that the new assistant secretary will be responsible for “evaluating, managing, and mitigating the security threats, as well as the direction of resource requirements at high threat diplomatic missions.”

These posts previously fell under the portfolio of Charlene Lamb, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs, but apparently the unnamed senior officials who spoke to CBS News denied that this was a demotion for Ms. Lamb or anything like that.  The report also described how her appearance in Congress was widely viewed within Foggy Bottom:

Two senior officials described the decision to CBS News as a matter of shifting of personnel and resources to “elevate the level” of oversight at risky posts and gave those duties to a specifically assigned Deputy Assistant Secretary. They denied that this was a demotion of Charlene Lamb though these posts no longer fall under her portfolio.
[...]
During the night of the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Lamb was the U.S. official at Diplomatic Security Command Center who monitored the fatal assault on “multiple open lines” in “almost real-time” via audio-only feeds according to the testimony that she delivered to the House Oversight Committee on October 10. Her hesitant responses during that questioning was widely viewed within the department as damaging to the agency. She described her role as being responsible for the “safety and security of more than 275 diplomatic facilities.”

Read in full via CBS News: State Department security overhaul

We should note that Kenya was considered a medium threat post when it was bombed in 1998.  Of particular concern here is what happens to posts that are not/not listed in the “high threat” category? According to the IntelCenter cited by the NYT, Al Qaeda has six regional branches and affiliations with at least 14 other terrorist groups. All together, the organizations reportedly have operations in almost 30 countries.  Check out the map of operations here.  So again, what happens to posts not in the “high threat” category? Do you know?

In any case, if this was not a demotion for Charlene Lamb what have they done to her official biography? (h/t to A who writes “either I’m having very selective network problems, or it appears Charlene Lamb’s official bio is no longer available from State’s website.”)

Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs — Charlene R. Lamb
The Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs is responsible for managing and directing all Bureau of Diplomatic Security programs and policies that protect the Department of State’s international missions and personnel from the threats of terrorism, espionage (human and technical), and crime. [biography]

Don’t know what’s going on.  But that [biography] link now lands on a “We’re sorry. That page can’t be found and may have moved” page.

In related news, the WSJ reported (registration required) that Egyptian authorities have detained Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad, the alleged ringleader of an Egyptian terrorist network whose members are suspected of participating in the September 11 attack on Benghazi.  Abu Ahmad is reportedly a former member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad who was freed from prison in March 2011 following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak

ARB-Related News

The AP reported yesterday that the Accountability Review Board report is imminent. The news report also said that Senator Kerry of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had asked that Ambassador Pickering (ARB chairman)and retired Adm. Mike Mullen (ARB member) appear before the committee before Secretary Clinton.

Secretary Clinton officially convened the Board for 60 days on October 4, 2012.  The 60-day deadline hit its mark on December 4.  No announcement of extension was made so we presume that the final report may already be available to the Secretary.  If we recall correctly, the regs also says that Secretary Clinton has no later than 90 days after receipt of the ARB recommendations to submit a report to Congress.

Various news report said that Secretary Clinton will appear before both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after the Accountability Review Board report is released.  No date has been set for the hearings. But it looks like the target adjourned date for the House is December 14, with December 31 for the Senate.

Given the intense public and congressional interest on this case, we suspect that the report will be publicly released sooner rather than later. Probably as early as the next week as we don’t think Congress would want to stay in DC holding hearings for the holidays. Of course, those dates can always change, especially with the fiscal cliffhanger looming large.

domani spero sig

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Filed under Congress, Diplomatic Security, Foreign Affairs, Functional Bureaus, Hearings, Hillary, Regulations, Secretary of State, Security, State Department, U.S. Missions

Angry Congress? Who’s Fault is That? And Here DiploPundit Gets a Scolding …

One of my blog pals scolded me on a serious error in my recent blog post (see Angry Lawmakers Care About the Foreign Service. Seriously. When It’s Convenient!). The lawmakers are political opportunists with more stripes than a zebra but since she has an excellent point, I’ll let you listen to the scolding:

A (I imagine her wagging her finger at me):

State doesn’t want attention from Congress.  The result is a Congress that does not understand State’s mission.

Me: (small voice) Uh-huh, isn’t there a State Dept liaison office in Congress?

A:

It takes two to tango and in this case, State rarely goes to the ballroom.  When State does get near the dance floor, it often steps on its own feet.

Me: Wearing the wrong shoes?

A (ignores me totally):

When State does go to the Hill, compare the general quality of their testimony with that of their military counterparts.  We know the quality of communication matters, even if both sides continue to disagree.  (Call it public diplomacy with the Hill if you want.)

On the quality of the testimony, the Libya hearings provides an immediate example.  Two State people + two military.  Both military were clear in content, substance, and delivery.  On the State side, only Kennedy excelled in all areas with Lamb coming up short across the board.  

Me: (mumble) But those military guys get lots of practice briefing their generals (mumble).

A: 

How do you think the military developed a constituency? Most ascribe that to the military-industrial complex, and while that is a large factor, it creates opportunities not the relationship itself.  The military actively courts the Congress.  Since the 40′s (or late 30′s), it has played one master against the other.  It has realized that it helps to keep the Hill informed.  How do you get money and authorities from a group of lawmakers that have no idea what you do?  Defense is constantly reminded of this.  When budget cuts are threatened, the Pentagon quickly engages members and staff.  The Pentagon and the Hill are no strangers to each other.  State and the Hill, on the other hand, is something else.

Me:  When you put it like that, it seems like State and the Hill are a series of one night stands. Maybe Alec should have stayed home and helped develop a culture of developing constituency in Congress right there in Foggy Bottom?

A:

That the Hill doesn’t know or care about State is largely State’s problem.  Legislative Affairs (H) is more interested with preventing information from moving between the two bodies than increasing understanding and partnership.  Who in Foggy Bottom can you identify has good relationships, either professional or personal, with Hill staff or members (yes, plural)?

Me:  Who?  Well. Um … they don’t sign out with me when they’re doing their engaging over there.  But … oh, wait, there’s an entire bureau working on that.  State says that “H facilitates effective communication between State Department officials and the Members of Congress and their staffs.” In fact since 2001, it has a Capitol Hill House Liaison Office in the Rayburn House Office Building and the Senate Liaison Office since 2010 in the Senate Russell Office Building.  Here is what it says:

Both offices provide a full range of State Department support services to members of Congress and their staff. In particular, it provides services related to consular affairs and travel by members of Congress. In fact, there are two full time Foreign Service Officer who are Consular Affairs specialist and available to assist with questions related to visas and passports.

Oops!  Damn! Primarily just for CODELs?…. isn’t that like the Pentagon having an office in Congress just for miljets?

A – how come I just know that you’re going to ruin my happy, bubbly day?

A:

In terms of the Hill committees, there is the problem of HFAC and SFRC not being known as effective committees.  That does not mean State should ignore them or ignore the Hill.  In most cases, the real power, with regard to foreign operations then, is with the appropriators.  But getting legislation to the appropriators requires going through the authorizers.  Beyond these committees, it would generally behoove State to actively engage the rest of the Congress because you never know when one might change committees or make a public statement.  After all, State truly does have constituents all over the country across all sectors of American life, not just the military-industrial complex like the Pentagon: exchange students, support for businesses operating overseas, tourism, relationships with NGOs based in the US that operate overseas, national security, and more.

Me:  See? There. I know she’s going to get me one of these days.  :cry:

Oh, hey, would it help if FSOs blog about their lives overseas beyond the perfect PD moments and not get eaten by State Department tigers?

Or maybe some senior FSOs reassigned to Foggy Bottom can adopt a congressman or a senator?

State can start with Larry Schwartz, the Public Affairs officer from the US Embassy Cairo who ignited a political firestorm for his condemnation (cleared with the embassy’s acting ambassador) of a YouTube video that mocked the Prophet Muhammad.  Heard that he had just been “relocated” to WashDC, perfect timing. I should mention that Mr. Schwartz’s boss who reportedly cleared that statement had prior experience with the House International Relations Committee and would have been an ideal candidate to adopt Congressman Jordan or Gawdy, too.  Except that he remains stuck in Cairo.

A?  A? Where are you?  She’s a dear pal, but she can only take so much of me sometimes especially when I’m being scolded ….and I get all :eek:

 

 

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Filed under Congress, Functional Bureaus, Lessons, Realities of the FS, SFRC, State Department