Dear @JohnKerry: One of Your Foggy Bottom Folks Is Asking — Is This Diversity?

Posted: 1:25 pm ET
Note: In an ideal, healthy organization, this letter would be signed by the author and you’d be reading this and discussing creative solutions on the Secretary’s Sounding Board.  What is clear to us is that the fears of reprisal/retaliation are real. This anonymous letter is one more proof of that.  Except for the four active hyperlinks we’ve added to help readers, the text and photo below are published below as received —


From an anonymous DS Employee: Is This Diversity?

A poignant piece in the President’s Memorandum on Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in the National Security Workforce was the conclusion that “In broad comparison with the wider Federal Government, the federal workforce dedicated to our national security and foreign policy is – on average – less diverse, including at the highest levels.”  Unfortunately, when it comes to the highest levels of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) diversity is not only less than the average – – it is nonexistent!


A review of the facts.

DS senior leadership is composed of an Assistant Secretary, a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, seven Deputy Assistant Secretaries, an Executive Director, and a Coordinator for Security Infrastructure.  Four years ago all of these positions with the exception of the AS were held by active Senior Foreign Service and Senior Executive Service officers.  Two positions were held by female officers and one by a African-American officer.  In the past three years, all three minority members either retired or moved into other positions outside of DS.  Eight of the ten senior leadership positions have become vacant during that time, some more than once, and the current PDAS – Bill Miller, who became subject to Time-in-Class (TIC) restrictions and left active service – was appointed into the PDAS role.

Of the ten opportunities that DS has had to select officers to fill vacancies at the Bureau’s senior-most positions it has consistently selected Caucasian male officers. DS went from a Bureau that from a diversity standpoint was about where the rest of the government is now – less diverse than the average – to one that is now all white, all male, all the time.

We have witnessed the cleansing of DS over the past three years.  It is troubling, and, it should be raising alarm bells throughout the Department.

But is it not.

Instead, the Department is preparing to reward DSS Director Miller with a third appointment year as PDAS of DS.  Furthermore, DS is now expanding the practice of appointing officers subject to TIC up or out restrictions into positions formerly held exclusively by active SFS officers with the appointment of the outgoing Overseas Security Advisory Council Office Director into his own position, as an appointee. This was accomplished quietly, with the Department’s concurrence, devoid of any semblance of transparency.

The lack diversity is not limited to the FE-MC/OC and SES level officers who make up DS’s Senior Leadership.  It also extends to the subordinate staffs.  Unlike the Assistant Secretary’s DS Front Office, which to Gregory Starr’s credit has consistent been composed of a highly qualified and richly diverse staff, the PDAS’ DSS FO has been anything but.  To this day, the DSS FO staff with the exception of the Office Manager consists of…all white males.  One DS Senior sets a model for the Bureau to emulate, the other projects a do as I say not as I do standard.

In May, PDAS Miller brought most of the DS leadership from around the globe to the Department for a two-day leadership forum.  On day two he showcased his all-white, all-male team of seniors on the dais for a full day of Q&As. The one area the PDAS and the rest in the dais were unprepared to discuss were the stream of questions on the topic of diversity that were raised throughout the day and which went largely unaddressed.

It is difficult to reconcile Director General Arnold Chacon’s statements about Department values and principles, and ensuring that the Department’s workforce reflect the nation’s richness and diversity, when matched against the reality of the past three years within DS.  Even more difficult considering that all senior-most assignments in DS require the approval of Department Seniors.

In response, the Department should:

  • first and foremost, acknowledge that there is an appalling lack of diversity in the senior-most ranks of DS that should jar the Department’s Leadership into action to identity immediate steps to rectify the issue;
  • either instill a sense of urgency in current DS Leadership on the topic or allow the next set of leaders to rise to the top positions, with a renewed sense of purpose and focus that truly embraces the ideals that the Department publishes;
  • if the current PDAS is to remain in place for another year, an officer from the Office of Civil Rights should be permanently assigned to his Front Office to help guide him on matters of inclusivity and diversity;
  • mandate that DS develop and publicly publish a comprehensive diversity strategy;
  • understand that it shares in the responsibility for the current state within DS;
  • also, understand the likelihood that this letter will evoke a backlash from those who have been criticized and take steps to guard against the potential for retribution.
A series of conscious decisions led to the current state of DS. This is written in part as a call for accountability. It is also written in the hope that it will trigger action and a sense among the increasingly disenfranchised segment of DS that it is ok to voice concern even when aimed at our most senior leadership.
Related items:




Whoa! What happened to these Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB) files? (Updated)

Posted: 3:26 am ET
Updated: 2:53 pm PT (see below)

An interesting excerpt from an FSGB case:

Grievant “contends that she should not be held to a higher stand (sic) than senior Department officials and a DCM. In two of those cases, very high-ranking officials were found to have been less than candid with the Deputy Secretary of State about their relationships and not to have followed his instructions to “knock it off.””
FSGB: “However, we find it difficult to conclude that she should be held to a standard higher than that imposed on two of the Department’s most senior managers (Employees 2005-103 and 2005-104), who were both charged, unlike grievant, with lack of candor; who failed to heed direct instructions from the Deputy Secretary of State; and whose conduct led to several complaints being lodged with the Director General of the Foreign Service, as well as curtailments from the office in which they worked. Likewise, we do not agree that grievant, an FS-02, should be punished more harshly than the employee charged in FSGB Case No. 2003- 045, who was, at least during part of the conduct at issue, a Deputy Chief of Mission and thus presumably senior to grievant in the instant case, in both rank and responsibility.”

That perked our interest. So we went looking for FSGB cases 2005-103, 2005-104 and FSGB Case No.2003- 045 using the search and browse function at  And lo, and behold, all these files (Record of Proceeding) are missing from the FSGB website (the FSGB case is online, but search function failed to locate it, see explanation below).  We’ve asked the FSGB what happened to these files and why they are not online. We will update this post if/when we get a response.

The Deputy Secretary of State in 2005 is either Richard Armitage who served from March 26, 2001 to February 22, 2005 or Robert Zoellick who served from February 22, 2005 to July 7, 2006, both under President George W. Bush. The Director General of the Foreign Service at that time is W. Robert Pearson who served from October 7, 2003 – February 27, 2006.

Update 2:53 pm PT

In response to our query, FSGB said that the first two numbers we cited (Employees 2005-103 and 2005-104) are not FSGB numbers but numbers assigned by the State Department to employees who faced some sort of discipline; these discipline cases were later presented to the Foreign Service Grievance Board as comparators.  The FSGB website only includes decisions and orders from the Board. It adds:

“We try to post all our decisions and orders online. Sometimes we learn something was missed due to an administrative error, and then we post it as soon as possible when the problem is brought to our attention. We also are reviewing each year’s cases systematically to ensure there are no gaps. We welcome your bringing to our attention any gaps you identify. Please note, however, that a skipped number does not necessarily mean there is something that we are not posting; it could mean that an appeal was withdrawn very early or consolidated with another appeal and given the other appeal’s number before issuance of a decision.”

As to FSGB Case No. 2003-045, it is online and the Board provided us the link here



Related item:
State-13: Foreign Service Grievance Board Records




EEOC Case: Complaint Regarding Comments on Blog Does Not State a Claim

Posted: 1:52 am ET


Complaint Regarding Comments on Blog Does Not State a Claim. The Commission affirmed the Agency’s dismissal of Complainant’s complaint alleging that disparaging comments were posted about him on an internet blog frequented by Agency employees who were members of a professional association. The blog contained a disclaimer that statements “do not reflect any official position” of the Agency, and there was no indication that the blog was sufficiently related to Complainant’s employment. There was also no indication that the blog was sponsored by or affiliated with the Agency or that Agency resources or official time were used to author the article in question. Alfonzo H. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal No. 0120160450 (April 22, 2016); request for reconsideration denied EEOC Request No. 0520160327 (July 20, 2016).

The blog cited in this case is ‘Dead Men Working’ named in the EEOC Appeal filing.  The following appears as footnotes in the same document:

1 This case has been randomly assigned a pseudonym which will replace Complainant’s name when the decision is published to non-parties and the Commission’s website.

2 According to a Declaration submitted by Complainant, officers of the AFSA learned about the contents of the blog because they receive Google alerts to note anything on the internet that mentions “AFSA,” and this blog post popped up in an alert.

3 Complainant, himself, concedes this is not the first name of the agency employee he believes authored the blog.


Anonymous Letter Outs Sexual Abuse of Household Staff, Former DCM’s Husband Pleads Guilty

Posted: 3:18 am ET
Update: 5:08 pm ET


On October 12, the Justice Department announced that Labib Chammasthe husband of the former DCM at the US Embassy in Rabat, Morocco pleaded guilty to abusing a member of the household staff who had worked at the embassy residence for 16 years. He is set for sentencing on January 4, 2017:

Via USDOJ: Husband of Former U.S. Embassy Official in Morocco Pleads Guilty to Sexually Abusing Household Staff Member |  October 12, 2016

The husband of the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Rabat, Morocco, pleaded guilty today to sexually abusing a former household staff member from 2010 to 2013.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia and Director Bill A. Miller of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) made the announcement.

Labib Chammas, 65, of Reston, Virginia, pleaded guilty to one count of abusive sexual conduct before U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper of the District of Columbia.  Sentencing was set for Jan. 4, 2017.

In pleading guilty, Chammas admitted that between August 2010 and February 2013, while living in State Department-owned housing in Rabat, he sexually abused a woman who had worked at the residence for 16 years.  According to the plea agreement, Chammas supervised the staff at the residence and repeatedly threatened to fire staff members.  Out of fear that she would lose her job, the victim complied with Chammas’s requests that she massage his legs, hip and back, and then with his subsequent demands that she “massage” his genitalia.  On at least five occasions, Chammas took the victim by her head or hair and attempted to force her to perform oral sex.

DSS investigated the case.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Hertzfeld of the District of Columbia and Special Counsel Stacey Luck and Trial Attorney Jamie Perry of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section are prosecuting the case.

The original announcement is available to read here.

Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint

According to the May 13, 2016 Affidavit executed by DSS Agent Elizabeth Marmesh, her investigation “determined that between the dates of August 2010, and February 2013, Labib Chammas, a United States citizen, sexually assaulted a female member of his domestic staff within the confines and on the grounds of his U.S. Government-provided embassy residence in Rabat, Morocco. Chammas was married to the Deputy Chief of Mission (“DCM”) of U.S. Embassy Rabat, and resided in U.S. Govemment housing at “Villa Monterey” located at Angle Rue Memissa. No. 79, La Pinede, Rabat, Morocco (“DCM Residence”).”

The Affidavit cites SMTJ for this offense:  Title 18, United States Code, Section 7(9)(B), provides that. with respect to offenses committed by or against a national of the United States, the “Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction of the United States” includes residences in foreign States and the land appurtenant or ancillary thereto, inespective of ownership. used for purposes of United States diplomatic, consular, military, or other United States Govemment missions or entities in foreign States, or used by United States personnel assigned to those missions or entities.

Anonymous letter to OIG outs sexual abuse. We’ve extracted the following main details from the Affidavit. The court document contains much more graphic descriptions of the abuse:

On February 11. 2013, DS/OSI received a referral from the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the lnspector General (OIG). ln the referral, OIG personnel informed OSI that during a routine inspection of the U.S. Embassy in Rabat, the OIG inspection team received an anonymous letter alleging that Labib Chammas, husband of the DCM was sexually assaulting a member of his domestic staff.

On February 11.2013, DS/OSI deployed Special Agents (SAs) to Rabat. DS Agents interviewed Kenneth Hillas, Deputy Team Leader of the OIG inspection team. Hillas stated that he was visiting the U.S. Embassy Rabat. Morocco in order to conduct an OIG inspection of the Embassy. Hillas stated that on Friday, February 8,2012, the OIG staff discovered an envelope addressed to “OIG eyes only” in a pile of letters containing surveys fiom Embassy employees in reference to their inspection. Hillas stated that the envelope contained an anonymous typed letter containing allegations against Labib Chammas of sexual assault. Upon discovering the allegations, Hillas notified the Regional Security office (RSO) at U.S. Embassy Rabat and OSI. Hillas provided RSO with the original letter. Hillas stated that the anonymous letter alleged that Labib Chammas was sexually assaulting one of his domestic staff. Hillas stated that the domestic staff members were not interviewed as part of the OIG’s inspection, as they were not U.S. Government employees.

Interviews and evidence collection

The victim was subsequently interviewed on several occasions by federal law enforcement agents, with the assistance of an interpreter. During the course of subsequent interviews, Victim I elaboraled on the details of the ongoing sexual abuse to which Labib Chammas subjected her to between August 2010 and February 2013.

On February 13. 2013, DS Agents conducted a voluntary interview of Labib Chammas. Labib Chammas stated that he had threatened to call the police on his domestic staff or fire the domestic staff because he believed they were stealing from him. Labib Chammas stated that he had received back and leg massages from two staff members, a male employee, witness 2, and the victim, viclim l, because he would get pain in his hip due to a medical issue. DS Agents asked Labib Chammas if the massages ever involved sexual acts, to which Chammas stated “l don’t recall.” and that it might have happened.

In light of the disclosures of Victim l, on February 19, 2013, DS Agents obtained a search warrant for the DCM’s Residence to obtain possible biological evidence. On February 20,2013. a DS agent and a RSO entered the DCM’s Residence in order to execute the search and seizure warrant.

DS Agents photographed the residence and “TV room” prior to any search. DS Agents conducted an inspection of the “TV room” with an altemative light source (ultraviolet light) and discovered possible biological evidence on two couch cushions, the front couch skirt, and locations on the carpet in front of the couch. DS Agents photographed and seized the two couch cushion covers and swabbed the other surfaces.

The FBI DNA Laboratory, Nuclear DNA Unit, conducted serological and DNA testing on the items seized in the execution of the search warrant. Semen was identifled on the swab from front right skirt of couch from the “TV room.” DNA testing confirmed that Labib Chammas was the source of the DNA obtained from the semen stain on the front right skirt of the couch. Based on a statistical probability calculation in which probability of selecting an unrelated individual at random having a matching profile to the DNA obtained was equal to or less than 1 in 6 trillion individuals.

An Arrest Warrant for Labib Chammas was issued by the U.S. District of the District of Columbia on May 13, 2016. In his State of Offense filed in court on October 12, 2016, we learned a few more details:

When the defendant and his wife moved into the DCM Residence in or about August 2010, three household employees were employed there. The defendant and his wife maintained the employ of each of these household staff members during their tenure at the DCM Residence from August 2010 until February 2013. Each of the employees was a Moroccan national who had worked at the DCM Residence and for the Embassy for well over a decade and throughout the tenure of at least the five prior DCM administrations. The defendant took on responsibility for overseeing the day—to-day work of these employees. According to the employees, the defendant was an abusive head—of—household, frequently yelling at the employees, demeaning them, and telling them that they would be fired for failing to live up to his expectations. The employees lived in constant fear that they would lose their jobs.

Among the household staff overseen by the defendant at the DCM Residence was a female cook (hereafter the “victim”), who had worked at the DCM Residence for 16 years by the time the defendant moved into the DCM Residence. The victim, an unmarried Muslim woman, was 53 years old at the time, had a third grade education, and was the sole source of support for her entire family including her elderly parents and several of her siblings and their children, who all lived together in a single residence in Rabat.

The victim did not disclose the above abuse out of fear of losing her job. The above conduct was reported by anonymous letter and came under investigation as a result.

It looks like the DCM’s tenure in Morocco concluded during this investigation in February 2013 but the affidavit and arrest warrant did not happen until May 2016.

Anybody know why there is such a lengthy gap between the investigation conducted in 2013 and filing the case in 2016?

Also a reminder to folks that we’re still searching for the guidance cables on sexual assault reporting for the FS as they are not on the FAM.



Burn Bag: Worst bidding season EVER — time to scratch the whole system and start over?

Via Burn Bag:

“Bidding never made much sense but this year seems so much worse it really seems time to scratch the whole system and start over.  After a training cycle, PSP cycle, DCM cycle, and all the back room deals, plus three different websites including FSBid and the SharePoint sites for EUR and everyone else ( what’s up with that?), it’s a wonder anyone who makes it to any assignment is actually qualified for it.  Has there ever been an OIG inspection on bidding?”



@StateDept’s Patrick Kennedy Is Back in the Spotlight, and Now, Election Fodder

Posted: 1:56 pm ET
Updated: Oct 18, 3:47 PT


Back in August, we wrote about the State Department’s “M” (see The State Department’s Mr. Fix-It of Last Resort Gets the Spotlight).  On October 17, with the released of more FBI interview summaries (not transcripts), Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy is back in the spotlight. Click here to read the lengthy discussion about this during the Daily Press Briefing. Two congressional reps, you can guess who, have called for his removal.  The State Department and Secretary Kerry have expressed their full confidence on U/S Kennedy according to the official spokesperson.  Meanwhile, on the campaign trail in Wisconsin …


Who will be Secretary of State on Jan. 31, 2017?

Posted: 3:11 pm PT


PredictIt is a real money site that tests your knowledge of political and financial events by letting you make and trade predictions on the future.  The website says it is an educational purpose project of Victoria University, Wellington of New Zealand, a not-for-profit university, with support provided by Aristotle International, Inc., a U.S. provider of processing and verification services.  It involves real money so the consequences of being wrong can be bad for your pocket.

One of its current contracts is Who will be Secretary of State on Jan. 31, 2017? Right now the prediction market is favoring career diplomat, William Burns as the next SecState with Wendy Sherman and John Kerry following at second and third place. The other names making the list is Senator Bob Corker, Senator Rob Portman, and Ron Paul.


click on image to go to predictit


The names above are not the only ones going around these days, take a look:



Why Did Diplomatic Security Compile a Short-List of DS Agents Leaving For the U.S. Marshals Service?

Posted: 3:30 am ET


On October 4, we wrote about DS agents fleeing Diplomatic Security in droves for the U.S. Marshals Service.  On October 14, we did a follow-up piece, Is Diplomatic Security, the State Department’s Law Enforcement Arm Trying to Break the Law? Today, we’ll talk about the list.

As we’ve previously reported, in addition to the alleged warning that DS agents who leave for the U.S. Marshals will not be allowed back into the agency (contrary to 5 USC § 2302(b) and 3 FAM 2130), a State Department official speaking on background shared with us a short-list of DS agents leaving the bureau for the U.S. Marshals Service. The list is allegedly compiled at the direction of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Front Office. We were given the names of the people allegedly involved in this mess but we do not have a paper trail of who said what to who, or who did what for whom so we are not publishing those names at this time. There should be record emails if/when Inspector General Linick decides to look into this matter.

The List:  Where did it come from?

A source with detailed knowledge of the USMS lateral hiring program told us that USMS HR sent out an email but did not blind carbon copy (BCC) the distribution.  It was therefore easy to recognize many names as well as identify agency affiliation as some folks did use their email addresses. Our source suggested that this same email could have made its way to the DS Front Office and may have been the origin of the list. Even granted that this might have been what actually happened, somebody still had to compile that list.

The 30 names on the list includes 19 Special Agents (SA) assigned domestically, 6 Assistant Regional Security Officers (ARSO) assigned overseas, 1 agent from an unidentified office and 4 agents with the Mobile Security Deployments (MSD).  We don’t know how many agents from this list have now successfully transferred to USMS but we’ve since learned that two of the first agents to leave were just given Superior Honor awards for a human trafficking case. So let’s dispel with the notion that these folks walking out the door are  low-performers.

The list is on a 6-column spreadsheet, and includes each DS agent’s name, current assignment, future rotational assignment and/or TED dates.  While there is great concern that the list has a retaliatory intent, we have to grant that there could be other reasons for the bureau to compile such a list. But what? That’s why we asked Diplomatic Security 1) why this list was compiled, 2) what is its purpose, and 3) why DS/IP is reportedly consulting this list during pre-assignment deliberations? But the bureau was mum on this and we received the same non-response to our questions:

“Thank you for your query. We will have no additional comments on this.” 

We’ve sharpied out the last names and all locations outside of DC from the list below because these folks could be easily identifiable in overseas posts and non-DC domestic locations.  If the list was born from a USMS HR email, the other details below particularly rotation information could have only come from State Department systems.



The List: What is it for?

It is alleged that the purpose of this list is retaliation. Whether real or perceived, we understand that there are agents with conditional offers who are now considering withdrawal from the USMS process for fear of being blacklisted or blackballed when it comes to promotions and assignments.  The State Department official who shared the list with us also mentioned assignments and promotions as real concerns and said that though this may sound petty, the bureau can retaliate against these agents through denial of domestic assignments to areas where their families live, denial of overseas assignments, denial of extensions to those assignments, as well as denial of tenure or promotions, etc. The official admits that there is “nothing concrete to support this assumption, just the overall experience of how the game goes.”  That comment in itself is concerning.  It indicates that retaliation is not an isolated action within the bureau, but something that employees view as part of the system and even come to expect as part of a “normal” institutional reaction.

We’ve learned that as concerns for this list mounted later this summer, one official associated with the compilation of this list was removed from his position and a DS Broadcast announced that “effective immediately” a new agent was filling his position. Whether the removal was just coincidence, it did not seem to abate the concerns and fears about the list.

One might argue — and we’re trying hard to find a good argument here — that perhaps the list is just a heads up to the top leadership about folks the bureau is losing to the U.S. Marshals Service.  Or maybe the list was just a harmless “hey look at these co-workers we have to send congratulation cards to.” Okay. Fine. But as far as we know, no one from the top leadership has explained the reason for the list even as it has roiled its rank and file. And there was that alleged warning at UNGA.

Also two things:

#1.  The compiled list is not/not of all DS agents leaving the bureau, but specifically, of all agents leaving the bureau for the U.S. Marshals Service. So they’re not looking at say, a projected attrition data but at a clearly defined group of employees.

#2. DS/IP, the office who has a final say on where agents end up overseas is allegedly consulting this list during pre-assignment consultations/deliberations. Whether true or not, that’s the story racing down the corridors.

So why did Diplomatic Security compile a short-list of DS agents leaving for the U.S. Marshals Service?  We have no good answer. And Diplomatic Security refuses to say. If  there’s a perfectly good reason for all this, the top leadership at Diplomatic Security has not done anything to address the real concerns that people have.

Blowing Up the Security Officers’ Attrition Rate

We were previously told by PA that the overall Special Agent attrition rate for 2015 was 3.66%.  We have since learned that this attrition rate is incorrect as this does not include the number of agents who leave DS for other federal agencies.

According to the State Department’s recently published data, the average annual attrition rate for security officers between 2011-2015 is 58 employees. This is the highest among Foreign Service specialists, by the way, followed by Office Management Specialists (OMS).  With a total force of approximately 2,000 special agents (including nearly 800 special agents posted in regional security offices at over 250 posts worldwide) that makes the average attrition rate in the last five years at 2.9%. The State Department projected that it will have an overall attrition of 296 (retirements and non–retirements) from FY2016 to FY2020; an annual average the next five years of 59 individuals or 2.9%. Note that since we’re using approximate and not the exact number of security officers, these numbers may be slightly off.

The departures for the U.S. Marshals Service would certainly spike that attrition number.  The USMS departures if/when concluded this year would already constitute 55% of the average annual attrition rate and could bump up this year’s attrition rate to 4.4%.  Except that if unconfirmed reports are true, these departures could go higher.  Apparently, there are also agents taking GS-9 and GS-10, entry-level positions with other law enforcement agencies.  We believed that the largest pool of security officers is in the  FS-03 rank which is equivalent in pay to GS-12/13. So if true that folks are taking a pay cut just so they could transfer to other agencies, there’s an even bigger problem at play here. Also how Diplomatic Security handle these departures could potentially have an impact on its projected attrition in the next five years.






Why no appropriate staffing for High Threat Posts? Here is one answer; you may not like it!

Posted: 3:14 pm PT

Updated: 9:25 pm EST
HTP/Africa #1:  One high threat post in Africa should have 3 Regional Security Officers (RSOs).  One rotated out of the position with no replacement. Then there were 2 RSOs. One went on medical evacuation. Then there was 1 RSO. “D.C. Has sent some TDY support when they can, but another permanent RSO is not coming for months.”

Updated: Oct 16, 2016 6:55 pm EST
HTP/Africa #2:  Serving at an HTP Africa post and our Regional Security Office is understaffed and has been for ages. For a while we had the ARSO as our only full time RSO with a lot of TDY coming through but we never had the mandated three RSOs in the office. It would seem the ARSO is good at their job but don’t we deserve an actual RSO at the helm if we are a High Threat Post?

Last week, we received a Burn Bag asking, “Why are our most threatened missions not getting appropriate security staffing?” We are reposting the Burn Bag item below:

“Someone  needs to ask DS leadership why the bureau with the greatest growth  since Nairobi and Benghazi is not fully staffing it’s positions at High Threat  Posts.  I mean DS created an entire new office to manage High Threat posts so  why are our most threatened missions not getting appropriate security staffing? At my post, which is designated as Hight Threat, the two ARSO positions have  been vacant for more than a year.   I understand from colleagues that numerous  other posts have similar significant security staffing gaps.  DS agents leaving for agencies (as reported by Diplopundit) is not going to help what appears to be a significant DS personnel shortage.  Does DS  or the Department have a plan to fix whatever the issues are?”

One reason why Diplomatic Security is not fully staffing its vacancies at High Threat Posts maybe that it is refusing to panel agents who came back through the reinstatement process. Even if those agents have apparently told DS that they are willing to fill these critical need vacancies.

We are now just learning that prior to this mass departures of DS agents for the U.S. Marshals Service (where there was a warning that departing agents will not be allowed back) Diplomatic Security has already refused to panel agents who came back to Diplomatic Security through the reinstatement process. We understand that the Bureau of Human Resources has processed these employees for reinstatement, but Diplomatic Security is refusing to panel the reappointed employees for High Threat priority staffing positions where there are unfilled positions. For those not in the FS, an Assignment Panel is established for the  purpose of reviewing the bids and qualifications of employees for assignment to domestic and overseas positions, and make recommendations on who should go where.

So there are HTP posts with vacancies, there are folks willing to go, but DS refuses to consider these folks for the HTP vacancies. Does that even make sense? We would loved to have Diplomatic Security elaborate their thinking on this. No, not because we are nosy but because even insider folks cannot make heads or tails of what’s going on. And because we have reporting from at least one HTP post saying hey, we are in an HTP post and our two vacancies for security officers have been unfilled for over a year!  Over a year! How many other HTP posts are in a similar pickle? We are collecting information on how many HTP posts  have not been fully staffed. Contact us here.


Related posts:




Is Diplomatic Security, the State Department’s Law Enforcement Arm Trying to Break the Law?

Posted: 4:21 am ET
Updated: 10:37 am PST


On October 4, we wrote about DS agents fleeing Diplomatic Security in droves for the U.S. Marshals Service.  We can now report that approximately 70 agents applied to move from Diplomatic Security to the U.S. Marshals Service and some 30 agents have received conditional offers. A State Department official on background shared with us a short-list of DS agents leaving the bureau for the U.S. Marshals Service. The list was reportedly compiled sometime this summer at the direction of the Diplomatic Security Front Office.  There is now an allegation that Diplomatic Security had asked the U.S. Marshals Service to stop accepting DS agents transfers.  Anecdotal evidence appears to indicate that the list is also being used by DS/IP in pre-assignment deliberations.  This comes amidst reports from sources that DSS Director Bill Miller addressed over 100 DSS agents during a brief in preparation for the UN General Assembly (UNGA), and allegedly stated that any DS agent who leaves for the U.S. Marshals would not be allowed back into the agency.


DS to Departing Agents: Bye, You Can’t Come Back! Seriously?

On the warning delivered at the UNGA brief, a State Department official who talked to us on background said: “I’m not sure how many people in that audience realized that just uttering those words is a prohibited personnel practice under 5 USC § 2302(b).”   

So we went and look up the actual statute: 5 U.S. Code § 2302 – Prohibited personnel practices

(b) Any employee who has authority to take, direct others to take, recommend, or approve any personnel action, shall not, with respect to such authority—

(4) deceive or willfully obstruct any person with respect to such person’s right to compete for employment;

(5) influence any person to withdraw from competition for any position for the purpose of improving or injuring the prospects of any other person for employment;

(10) discriminate for or against any employee or applicant for employment on the basis of conduct which does not adversely affect the performance of the employee or applicant or the performance of others; except that nothing in this paragraph shall prohibit an agency from taking into account in determining suitability or fitness any conviction of the employee or applicant for any crime under the laws of any State, of the District of Columbia, or of the United States;

Could the warning  — that any DSS agent who leaves for the U.S. Marshals would not be allowed back into the agency — influence an applicant for the USMS job to withdraw from competition for fear of retaliation?

If an agent in good standing departs the bureau for another federal job, and decides to come back later, can DS legally discriminate against that agent on the fact that he/she previously left the bureau for another agency?

Isn’t asking the U.S. Marshals Service to stop accepting DS agents transfers considered an obstruction to these agents’ right to compete for employment?

It looks like 5 U.S. Code § 2302 is quite clear about this. Interference with the hiring process of a federal employee is not permissible. Unless, Diplomatic Security is treating 5 U.S. Code § 2302 as a suggestion, and compliance as optional.

We understand that it has been a standard practice at Diplomatic Security that any agent who leaves in good standing is often welcomed back if they wished to return, with minor stipulations for reinstatement. We’re told that typically they would have three years to apply for reinstatement, subject to available vacancies, training requirements, and they may be required to take a hardship tour on the first new assignment upon reinstatement. We should note that 3 FAM 2130 actually says “Because recent familiarity with the Foreign Service is a valuable asset that distinguishes former members from new hires, candidates for reappointment may be considered if they have left the Service not longer than 5 years prior to the date on their reappointment request.”

If it is true — that the top law enforcement official at Diplomatic Security delivered a message not only contrary to practice but also against the law — wouldn’t this generate great concern and trepidation among the troops? Shouldn’t this alarm the top leadership at the State Department and in the Congress?

The State Department official on background told us that every year DS has some attrition to FBI, ATF, OIGs, etc.  but the fact that this lateral USMS announcement came out with the intent to hire experienced agents, at grade, and in significant numbers was “the perfect storm for the poor morale and lack of career control that plagues our mid-level agents.”  The conditional offers to the DS agents reportedly compose nearly one quarter of all offers sent out by the USMS.  We were told that no single agency is as widely represented in that offer pool as Diplomatic Security.

Which is probably embarrassing and all, as folks might start asking uncomfortable questions such as —what the heck is going on at Diplomatic Security these days?

Another source told us  this could have been a lot worse had the vacancy announcement lasted longer than 24 hours. The U.S. Marshals vacancy announcement actually opened on June 8, 2016 and closed on June 8, 2016.

So — we asked the Bureau about this reported bar the agents talk with a Q: PDAS reportedly told folks at UNGA that the departing agents would not be allowed to come back to DS. This sounds a lot like a retaliatory threat and would be a prohibited personnel practice under 5 USC § 2302(b).  After multiple emails and days of waiting, we finally got a non-response on October 12 from Diplomatic Security:

“Thank you for your query. We will have no additional comments on this.” 

Note that we have not received previous comments to these questions although we have sent multiple queries. Heaven knows we don’t expect perfection from our State Department but we do, however, expect it to be responsive and accountable for the reported actions of its top officials.

Look, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) is the security and law enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of State. Which means that an allegation that it is not following the law even in one area cannot stand with just “no comment.” It also cannot just be ignored. We got no clarification, no explanation, no denial.  Maybe State or DS will have comments for the Congressional Oversight folks?

The bureau has several responses we can think of:

#1.  Deny, deny, deny: hey, hey, this is a nothing-burger, go away.



#2. Admit in part/deny in part: there was an official brief, but this warning never happened; you’re barking up the wrong tree.



#3. Aggrieved defense: We are a law enforcement agency, of course we follow the law; are you nuts?



#4. Pride defense: We are the Diplomatic Security Service, we don’t make a habit of threatening anyone just because he/she wants to be like U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard!

#5. Ideal response not coming: We have no greater resource than our people. We have not, and we will not interfere with our employees right to compete for employment.


Next: Why did Diplomatic Security compile a short-list of DS agents leaving for the U.S. Marshals Service?