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Top Diplomatic Security and Consular Affairs Officials to Step Down: Bill Miller, Kurt Rice, David Donahue

Posted: 3:25 am ET
Updated: 2:33 pm PT

 

Sources informed us that Acting Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Bill A. Miller announced his intention to step down from his post late last week. A/S Miller will reportedly retire next month.  Until his appointment as Acting A/S for Diplomatic Security in January 20, he was the bureau’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) from April 14, 2014.  Previous to that, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High Threat Posts.

A member of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service since 1987, Bill Miller is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. His last overseas assignment was a three-year posting as Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Mission in Cairo, Egypt.  Preceding his assignment to Cairo, Mr. Miller was the Chief of the Security and Law Enforcement Training Division at the Diplomatic Security Training Center in Dunn Loring, Virginia.

Prior to entering duty in 1987 with the Department of State as a Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent, Mr. Miller served as a U.S. Marine Infantry Officer. Mr. Miller was honored as the 2004 Diplomatic Security Service Employee of the Year in recognition for his service in Iraq. In addition, Mr. Miller is a recipient of the Department of State’s Award for Valor, several Superior Honor Awards, the Department of Defense Joint Civilian Service Commendation Award and the Marine Security Guard Battalion’s award as RSO of the Year.

To-date, President Trump has not put forward a nominee to succeed Gregory Starr as Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security.  Mr. Starr retired a week before inauguration day, and Mr. Miller has been in an acting capacity since January 20. Without a newly appointed successor, we were informed that the next senior official, Christian J. Schurman, will be the Acting Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security.  Mr. Schurman is currently the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security/Director of Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) and responsible for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s international and domestic operations and training programs. Beyond his name and title, State/DS does not have an extensive biography for Mr. Schurman.  We don’t know yet who among the seven top bureau officials would be acting PDAS during this time.

Kurt R. Rice, the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Assistant Director for Threat Investigations and Analysis (DS/TIA) will not be one of those officials.  Mr. Rice is also retiring.  Mr. Rice who was appointed to his position in May 2016 was in charge of all threat management programs within Diplomatic Security that analyze, assess, investigate, and disseminate information on threats directed against U.S. facilities and personnel overseas and domestically.

He was also responsible for the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), a public-private partnership that promotes the sharing of security information between the U.S. Department of State and American private sector organizations with operations and personnel abroad. We rely on OSAC for security guidance when there are breaking news overseas.  His office also provides oversight for the Reward for Justice program, the U.S. Government’s premier public anti-terrorism rewards program.

Mr. Rice joined Diplomatic Security in May 1987 and is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. As DAS/TIA, he was the senior Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) advisor regarding intelligence and counterterrorism matters. He is also the DSS organizational representative to the U.S. Intelligence and Counterterrorism communities. He previously served as Regional Security Officer for the Russian Federation, and Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of all DS activities in the embassy and three subordinate consulates. He is a recipient of several State Department Meritorious and Superior Honor Awards, as well as interagency Intelligence Community awards.

There are five office directors under TIA, so anyone of those directors could potentially be appointed as Acting DAS for Threat Investigations and Analysis (DS/TIA) until a nominee is officially announced. Given that there is no nominee for the assistant secretary position, it is possible that the principal deputy assistant secretary (PDAS) position and deputy assistant secretaries (DASes) could get filled before the top bureau appointment is officially identified, nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

At the Consular Affairs Bureau, the Acting Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs David Donahue is also set to step down the end of this week.  We understand that AA/S Donahue’s retirement has been long planned but he will still be missed. The Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs is Ed Ramotowski, who was previously the DAS for Visa Services. Our assumption is that Mr. Ramotowski will now step up as Acting Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs pending the confirmation of Mr. Risch to the Consular Bureau. The CA bureau has three DASes: Overseas Citizens Services DAS Karen L. Christensen, Passport Services DAS Brenda Sprague, and Acting DAS for Visa Services Karin King. One of them will most probably step us as PDAS, so one more office in CA will have a new acting name on its door. 

We’ve endeavored to look for Mr. Donahue’s official biography but state.gov does not appear to carry any biographies for senior officials for  the Bureau of Consular Affairs. The public facing CA website travel.state.gov also does not include biographies of its senior officials.  We were able to get hold of Mr. Donahue’s official biography since we originally put up this blogpost (thank you J!). 

David T. Donahue has been Acting Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Consular Affairs since January 2017. He served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary from September 2015 after serving as Senior Advisor to the Bureau from April 2014.

Prior to this assignment he was Division Director for the Bureau of Human Resources Office of Career Development and Assignment, Senior Level Division. From 2012 to 2013 he served as Coordinator for Interagency Provincial Affairs (IPA) at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan with oversight of all U.S. Civilian Provincial Reconstruction Teams throughout Afghanistan.

Mr. Donahue was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs from 2008 to 2012, where he managed visa operations for our 225 visa-issuing posts overseas and directed visa policy for the State Department. He has also served as the Director of Policy Coordination and Public Affairs for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, 2007 – 2008, and Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs in Mexico City, Mexico from 2005 – 2007.

Mr. Donahue also served tours in the Philippines, Pakistan, Singapore, and Trinidad and Tobago. Other domestic assignments include serving as Watch Officer in the State Department Operations Center, Bangladesh Desk Officer, and Consular Training instructor at the Foreign Service Institute. Mr. Donahue joined the Foreign Service in 1983 and is the recipient of numerous awards including the Presidential Meritorious Service Award.  While assigned in Islamabad, Mr. Donahue went to Afghanistan in 2001 to secure the release of two Americans held by the Taliban. Read more of that here.

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Nomination: CEPA’s A. Wess Mitchell to be Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs

Posted: 1:30 am ET

 

On July 20, President Trump announced his intent to nominate A. Wess Mitchell to be the Assistant Secretary of State for the European and Eurasian Affairs. The WH released a brief bio:

A. Wess Mitchell of Virginia to be an Assistant Secretary of State, European and Eurasian Affairs. Mr. Mitchell is an expert on NATO and transatlantic relations. In 2005 he co-founded the Center for European Policy Analysis and has served as its President and CEO since 2009. He serves on numerous policy boards in the United States and Europe. Mr. Mitchell earned a B.A. from Texas Tech University, a M.A. from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and recently completed his Ph.D. at Freie Universität, in Berlin, Germany. He speaks German and has studied Dutch and Czech.

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Nomination: Amb. John R. Bass to be U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan

Posted: 1:26 am ET

 

On July 20, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Ambassador John Bass to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. The Wh released the following brief bio:

John R. Bass of New York to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.  Mr. Bass, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1988.  He is currently Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey, a position he has held since 2014.  He also served as Ambassador to the Republic of Georgia from 2009 to 2012.  Mr. Bass has spent much of the past decade supporting Federal Government efforts to mobilize allies and marshal resources to combat terrorism and instability in Iraq, Syria, and Southwest Asia.  He has served at six U.S. Missions overseas and in senior leadership positions at the Department of State.  Mr. Bass earned an A.B., cum laude, from Syracuse University.

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Nomination: Ambassador Michele Jeanne Sison to be U.S. Ambassador to Haiti

Posted: 1:25 am ET

 

On July 20, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Michele Sison to be the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti. The WH released a brief bio:

Michele Jeanne Sison of Maryland to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Haiti.  Ms. Sison, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Career Minister, has served as an American diplomat since 1982.  She currently serves as Deputy Permanent Representative at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York, a position she has held since 2014.  A three-time Ambassador, Ms. Sison has been a leader, policymaker, and manager of complex programs in South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and in Washington, D.C.  She has served at eleven U.S. Missions overseas and in senior leadership positions at the Department of State.  Ms. Sison earned a B.A. from Wellesley College.  She speaks fluent French and basic Haitian Creole and Arabic.

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Nomination: Career Diplomat Michael Dodman to be U.S. Ambassador to Mauritania

Posted: 1:22 am ET

 

On July 20, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Michael Dodman to be the U.S. Ambassador to Mauritania.  The WH released a brief bio:

Michael James Dodman of New York to be the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.  Mr. Dodman, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is currently Executive Assistant in the Office of the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment at the Department of State.  A career diplomat since 1987, Mr. Dodman’s previous assignments include Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan; Economic Counselor at the U.S. Mission to the European Union; and Economic Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.  Mr. Dodman received a B.S. from Georgetown University, an M.A. from Boston University, and an M.P.P. from Princeton University.

USCG Michael Dodman, U.S. Consulate General Karachi, Pakistan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘Rexit’ From Foggy Bottom Is Now a Thing … Plus PredictIt Odds

Posted: 1:20 am ET

 

Via CNN:

For weeks, conversations with Tillerson friends outside of Washington have left the impression that he, despite his frustrations, was determined to stay on the job at least through the end of the year. That would allow time to continue efforts to reorganize the State Department and would mean he could claim to have put in a year as America’s top diplomat.
But two sources who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity over the weekend said they would not be surprised if there was a “Rexit” from Foggy Bottom sooner that that.
Both of these sources are familiar with Tillerson conversations with friends outside Washington. Both said there was a noticeable increase in the secretary’s frustration and his doubts that the tug-of-war with the White House would subside anytime soon.

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#TWW: Foreign Ministry Splurges on Vintage Cowboy Art to Redecorate Building

Via The Wicked Wasabi:

According to the minister’s strategic adviser, the building’s entire top floor has cowboy art to remind Minister Haw Haw that he thinks like a cowboy and that he should never waste his bullets. What did guests have for their goody bags?  Rugged cowboy cutouts, and blank bullets!  See more from TWW reporters:

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Thank you, merci, grazie, ve teşekkürler arkadaşlar 💙 💛 ❤️ 💚 💜

 

The Wheat Field With Cypresses below is Van Gogh’s (the Google Art Project is amazing!).  The snippet is the first four lines of Emily Dickenson’s “It’s all I have to bring today”, a poem of grace and devotion.

It’s all I have to bring today—
This, and my heart beside—
This, and my heart, and all the fields—
And all the meadows wide—

Some of you have been with us for years, some of you are new, and some are here because a few have nudged you to support our efforts.   Thank you for thinking of us, and for your enduring support.  We read all your notes and are touched.   Gotta admit, we’re not particularly good at asking, so launching and updating the fundraising campaign are always anxiety and procrastination-filled moments. That’s all on me. Part of that is growing up, and being taught not to solicit help or gifts even from godparents, even during holidays. We know this is something we need to do to keep the lights on but it’s a weird, conflicted process that we go through every time we do this.

We’ve previously announced that we will be here for another year (there’s a hilarious story about that). We are particularly grateful that you still came out to help make our life a little easier.

Thank you, merci, grazie, ve teşekkürler arkadaşlar.

–D 💙 💛 ❤️ 💚 💜

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ExxonMobil “demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions” – @StateDept says go over there for QQQs!

Posted: 12:42 am ET

 

The State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert did one of her twice a week Daily Press Briefing at the State Department and was asked about the Treasury Department’s Exxon fine for violating the Russian sanctions when Secretary Tillerson was the CEO. A quick note here.  We realized that they’ve changed the name of this briefing into “Department Press Briefing” but as a daily reminder that the Bureau of Public Affairs is now unable to handle the daily demands of briefing the press, we will continue calling this the State Department’s Daily Press Briefing.

Below are excerpts from the DPB:

MS NAUERT: The Secretary – we’re not going to have any comments today for you on some of the alleged facts or the facts underlying the enforcement action. Treasury is going to have to answer a lot of these questions for you. I’m not going to have a lot for you on this today. The Treasury Department was involved in this. They were the ones who spearheaded this. And so for a lot of your questions, I’m going to have to refer you to Treasury.

MS NAUERT: Yes. I’m not going to comment on that at this time. The Secretary recused himself from his dealings with ExxonMobil at the time that he became Secretary of State. This all predates his time here at the Department of State, and so —

MS NAUERT: I think I will say this: The Secretary continues to abide by his ethical commitments, including that recusal from Exxon-related activities. The action was taken by the Department of State – excuse me, the Department of the Treasury, and State was not involved in this.

QUESTION: And does – can you tell us if the Secretary believes in the objectives of the Ukraine-related sanctions programs?

MS NAUERT: I know that we have remained very concerned about maintaining sanctions. That will continue. We’ve been clear that sanctions will continue until Russia does what Russia needs to do.

QUESTION: For the record, will he come down and talk with us —

MS NAUERT: Well, I’m sorry, who —

QUESTION: — talk about this? Just for the record, will he come down and talk about this to us himself?

MS NAUERT: Well, I’m here to speak on his behalf and on behalf of the building. There’s not a whole lot that we can say about this right now. Again, you can talk to Treasury or to Exxon about this. Okay.

MS NAUERT: The Secretary has been – not to my knowledge. I can tell you this, that he has been extremely clear in his recusal of anything having to do with Exxon. When this information come to us here at the State Department, it did not come to the Secretary himself. It came to the Deputy Secretary John Sullivan. The Secretary has taken this very seriously, that Exxon-related activities are not something that he is involved with here as Secretary of State.

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In assessing the maximum monetary penalty, Treasury/OFAC outlined the following as aggravating factors (via):

(1) ExxonMobil demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements when it failed to consider warning signs associated with dealing in the blocked services of an SDN; (note: Specially Designated Nationals)

(2) ExxonMobil’s senior-most executives knew of Sechin’s status as an SDN when they dealt in the blocked services of Sechin;

(3) ExxonMobil caused significant harm to the Ukraine-related sanctions program objectives by engaging the services of an SDN designated on the basis that he is an official of the Government ofthe Russian Federation contributing to the crisis in Ukraine; and

(4) ExxonMobil is a sophisticated and experienced oil and gas company that has global operations and routinely deals in goods, services, and technology subject to U.S economic sanctions and U.S. export controls.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks at the 22nd World Petroleum Congress opening ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey, on July 9, 2017. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

 

AND NOW THIS — the State Department’s “employee-led redesign initiative” with no “predetermined outcomes” is a runner up for “Best in Show.”

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GAO Cites Gaps in @StateDept’s Crisis and Evacuation Preparedness for Overseas Posts

Posted: 3:11 am ET

 

The GAO recently released its review of the State Department policies and procedures for evacuating overseas posts. The report notes that from October 2012 to September 2016, the State Department evacuated overseas post staff and family members from 23 overseas posts.  The evacuation was in response to various threats, such as terrorism, civil unrest, and natural disasters. Overseas posts undergoing evacuations generally have three types of movement: authorized departure (voluntary), ordered departure (mandatory) of specific post staff or family members, and suspended operations (closure).

The report also note that in fiscal years 2010 through 2016, State’s reported costs associated with evacuating from posts on 53 occasions were roughly $25.5 million.

“According to State officials, costs associated with evacuations varied due to several factors, including the number of post staff and family members evacuated. In fiscal year 2014, costs associated with evacuating Embassy Maseru in Lesotho were roughly $20,000, while in the same year, costs associated with evacuating Embassy Sana’a in Yemen were roughly $1.9 million.”

Certainly, a big chunk of that cost has to come from security and transportation. Below are the significant gaps cited by the GAO in the State Department’s crisis and evac preparedness:

U.S. personnel working at overseas posts, along with the family members who accompany them, face a range of threats to their safety and security—such as terrorism, civil unrest, and natural disasters. To help protect them, State has established processes to prepare overseas posts for crises and to conduct evacuations. However, State has significant gaps in implementation of its preparedness processes for crises and evacuations at overseas posts.

➥Overseas posts are not completing required annual Emergency Action Plans (EAP) updates

➥ Diplomatic Security is not identifying incomplete updates in its Emergency Action Plan (EAP) reviews

➥ The EAPs themselves are not readily usable during emergency situations

➥ Although regular drilling is a critical crisis preparedness task, very few overseas posts have completed all required annual drills

➥ Because overseas posts are not submitting required after-action reports containing lessons learned following evacuations, the State Department is missing important opportunities to identify challenges and best practices and to make changes to prepare for future evacuations from overseas posts.

The report concludes that “while State has taken initial actions— including some actions in response to our ongoing work—to improve implementation of its preparedness processes for crises and evacuations, significant shortcomings exist.” It also says that “while each of these gaps is of concern, taken together, they increase the risk that post staff are not sufficiently prepared to handle crisis and emergency situations.”

 Other details excerpted from the report:

Late Annual Updates:

In fiscal year 2016, about 1 in 12 overseas posts were late in completing required annual updates. On average, these posts were about 6 months late in completing their EAP updates. For fiscal year 2016, the list of posts that were late in completing their annual EAP updates included 7 posts rated high or critical in political violence or terrorism.

DS Does Not Fully Review Key Sections of EAPs Submitted by Overseas Posts

The FAH directs DS to review each EAP submitted by an overseas post during the annual EAP review cycle to ensure that EAPs include updated information needed by State headquarters and other agencies to monitor or assist in responding to emergency situations at posts.22 To conduct these annual reviews, DS Emergency Plans Review Officers in Washington use a list of 27 key EAP sections that the Emergency Plans Review Office has determined should be updated each year.23 According to DS officials, Emergency Plans Review Officers spot check these 27 key EAP sections to review and approve each EAP. In addition, DS officials told us that Review Officers consider forms included in key EAP sections that they spot check to meet the annual update requirement if the forms were updated up to 3 years prior to the check.24

DS does not document its annual EAP review process. We requested the results of the Emergency Plans Review Officer reviews, including data on who conducted them and what deficiencies, if any, were found. Federal internal control standards call for agency management to evaluate performance and hold individuals accountable for their internal control responsibilities.25 However, DS was unable to provide copies of the reviews completed because the Emergency Plans Review Officers do not document these results.

Emergency Action Plans Are Viewed As Lengthy and Cumbersome Documents That Are Not Readily Usable in Emergency Situations

While officials from State headquarters and all six posts we met with told us that EAPs are not readily usable in emergency situations, officials at five of the six posts we met with also said there is value for post staff to participate in the process of updating EAPs to prepare for emergencies. The process of updating the EAP, they noted, includes reviewing applicable checklists and contact lists before an emergency occurs, which can help post staff be better prepared in the event of an emergency. Officials at two of the six posts we met with also observed that EAPs contain large amounts of guidance because it is easier for responsible staff at post to complete required updates to their specific sections if all the guidance they need is directly written into each EAP.

The GAO reviewers were told that EAPs are often more than 800 pages long. “Our review of a nongeneralizable sample of 20 EAPs confirmed this; the 20 EAPs in our sample ranged from 913 to 1,356 pages long,” the report said.

One other footnote says that “while each major section, annex, and appendix of an EAP had its own table of contents, the full EAP lacked a single, comprehensive table of contents or index.”

A new system sometime this year?

The State Department is reportedly in the process of developing a new electronic system for overseas posts to draft and update their EAPs to address issues with the current system, according to State headquarters officials. According to the report, the State Department plans to launch the new system in the second half of 2017.

Absent a functioning lessons learned process …

The GAO reviewers talk about lessons not learned:

We learned of several challenges that posts faced in different evacuations in discussions with officials from the six posts with whom we met. Different posts mentioned various challenges, including disorganized evacuation logistics and transportation, unclear communication with local staff, confusion surrounding the policy for evacuating pets, problems with shipment and delivery of personal effects, difficulty tracking the destination of staff who were relocated, poor communication with senior State leadership regarding the post’s evacuation status, difficulties getting reimbursement for lodging or personal expenses related to the evacuation, and other similar challenges.

Absent a functioning lessons learned process, State’s ability to identify lessons learned and to share best practices from staff that have experienced evacuations may be constrained.

Back in 2009, Rep Howard Berman sponsored H.R. 2410 during the 111th Congress to provide for the establishment of a Lessons Learned Center for the State Department and USAID under the Under Secretary for Management.  That bill made no specific provision as to staff composition of the Center or its funding, and it also died in committee (H.R. 2410: Lessons Learned Center, Coming Soon?).

In 2016, the State Department and the Foreign Service Institute marked the opening (reportedly after two years of preparation) of its Center for the Study of the Conduct of Diplomacy. Then D/Secretary Tony Blinken said that the Center ensures “that we apply the lessons of the past to our conduct and actions in the future.” Some media outlet called it a ‘lessons learned’ center but its aim is on the study and analysis of diplomatic best practices to study how to effectively apply policy.

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