SFRC Clears @StateDept, @USAID Nominees; Two Senate Holds

USAID

Mr. John Barsaof Florida, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development 

Ms. Bonnie Glickof Maryland, to be Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development

AMBASSADORSHIPS

Mr. Christopher Paul Henzelof Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Yemen

Mr. Michael S. Klecheskiof New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mongolia

Ms. Sarah-Ann Lynch, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Co-operative Republic of Guyana

The Honorable Matthew John Matthewsof Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Brunei Darussalam

Ms. Lynne M. Tracyof Ohio, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Armenia

Mr. Earle D. Litzenbergerof California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenitpotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Azerbaijan

The Honorable Kyle McCarterof Illinois, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to the Republic of Kenya

Mr. Arthur B. Culvahouse, Jr.of Tennessee, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of Australia

FSO LIST: 

Kelly E. Adams-Smith, et al., dated November 13, 2018 (PN 2622), as modified

STATE DEPARTMENT

The Honorable Carol Z. Perezof Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Director General of the Foreign Service

The following nominations were included in the SFRC’s Business Meeting of December 13 but did not make it out of Committee. News report says the following nominees are subject to two separate Senate hold.  

Mr. R. Clarke Cooper, of Florida, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Political-Military Affairs) – Senate hold by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass

Mr. David Schenker, of New Jersey, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Near Eastern Affairs) – Senate hold by Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Apparently DJT’s ALL-CAPS Tweet Functions as Deterrence Mechanism

Try it, try it, you might like it!

 

U.S. Senate votes to end U.S. support for #SaudiWar in #Yemen, condemns #KhashoggiMurder

US Formally Returns #BalangigaBells to the Philippines

State Department’s Robert Palladino who “serves as the @StateDept Deputy Spokesperson under the leadership of the 70th Secretary of State @SecPompeo announced at the Daily Press Briefing, December 11, 2018 the formal return of the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines:

I am pleased to announce that on December 11th, the United States formally returned the bells of Balangiga to the Philippines in a handover ceremony in Manila attended by Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim. The decision follows an extensive consultative process with associated United States veterans organizations and state government officials in accordance with legislative – American legislative requirements to ensure appropriate steps are taken to preserve the history of American service members associated with the bells. Philippine Government officials will transport the bells to the church from which they were removed over 100 years ago, where they will be treated with respect and honor they deserve.

The return of the bells of Balangiga demonstrates the enduring strength of the United States-Philippines alliance and the deep bonds of friendship between the peoples of our nations as we work together to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific. From World War II to today’s struggle to defeat ISIS and the scourge of terrorism, our nations have stood side by side. As we close the painful chapter in our shared history, our relationship has withstood the test of time and flourishes today. As an ally and friend of the Philippines, we will forever honor and respect this shared history.

See our previous post: U.S. to Return the #BalangigaBells to the Philippines After 117 Years

Yo! The Thing. Still Going on in China

We understand that there are still “a lot of curtailments” continuing out of China even now because “The Thing” is still going on according to a note in our mailbox.

In January 2018, the SFRC’s had a Subcommittee Hearing Attacks on U.S. Diplomats in Cuba: Response and Oversight. In September 2018, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting that the Trump administration provide an unclassified version of the State Department’s recent Accountability Review Board (ARB) report on the incidents affecting the health of U.S. personnel serving in Cuba. We have not been able to locate any congressional oversight hearings on the incident in China.  We don’t know if there is an ARB China. If an ARB was convened on the health attacks in China, there does not appear to be any public notification. 

In late October, an NBC News investigation indicates that US diplomats are concerned that the State Department is down-playing a pattern of what’s been called “health attacks” on diplomatic staff in Cuba and China. (see Is @StateDept Working to Minimize the Health Attacks in China? #Cuba #MissingARBs). If curtailments are still going on, that indicates that USG employees and family members in one of our largest overseas missions remain in harm’s way, so who’s talking about it?  Somebody please ask your friendly senior administration official what are they doing about it. Three years ago, we would have had back to back congressional hearings not just on the Havana Syndrome, but also on the China Syndrome, and on the State Department’s response to these attacks. Can we please have some oversight hearings in January, pretty please?   

Via Giphy

MORE:

This one about Canadian diplomats and their families. G&M reports that  nine Canadian adults and four children have been diagnosed with the brain injuries. “The Canadians who were affected in 2017 are all in Canada and still employed by Global Affairs, although several are unable to work because of their symptoms.”

State/OIG: Sustained Failure of Leadership at the National Passport Center

The National Passport Center is located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. NPC opened in 1992 and this past November, it processed its 100 millionth passport application. Below excerpted from State/OIG’s report,  Targeted Review of Leadership and Management at the National Passport Center:

Backgrounder: NPC, the largest of 29 passport-processing agencies and twice the size of the next largest, issued 7.4 million passports in FY 2017, or 38 percent of all passports issued by the U.S. Government from October 2016 to September 2017. Located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the center was created in 1992, and it grew from 60 employees at its founding to approximately 900 following a 2007 surge in passport demand.

At the time of the inspection, NPC’s staff consisted of a GS-15 Director, 6 GS-14 Assistant Directors, 16 GS-13 Adjudication Managers, and 57 GS-12 Supervisory Passport Specialists who supervised approximately 350 Passport Specialists. Additional staff included Customer Service and Fraud
Prevention employees, Passport Operations Officers, and over 400 contractors who were responsible for passport production and other support services. NPC operates two flexible shifts, which together cover 22 hours per day Monday through Friday. In addition, depending on workload, NPC scheduled overtime shifts on Saturday and Sunday.

Work Environment and CA/PPT Leadership: Senior leaders in CA’s Office of Passport Services (CA/PPT) were aware of concerns regarding NPC’s work environment since at least 2013, when several NPC employees made allegations against NPC leadership. The employees alleged harassment, “bullying,” a lack of trust in leadership, favoritism, abusive behavior to employees, improper hiring procedures, and an overall lack of transparency in the operations of the organization. In response to the allegations, CA/PPT instructed the Director of the Northeast Regional Office, who oversees NPC and other passport agencies, to conduct an internal review of NPC, which he did in January and February 2014. […] To address the internal review’s findings, CA/PPT ordered extensive executive coaching and training for NPC’s Director and senior leaders. The training lasted approximately 2 years and ended in 2016.

How not to solve the problem: OIG also determined that CA/PPT and NPC senior leaders were disengaged and, based on OIG interviews, generally aware of concerns regarding harassment, abuse, and misconduct. During OIG’s review, CA/PPT senior leaders told OIG that they blamed some of the issues at NPC on the fact that employees have known each other for a long time, dismissing the allegations as grudges held from high school and referring to employees as “crusty New Englanders.” CA/PPT’s senior leaders moreover acknowledged inappropriate behavior at NPC, but hoped that “being really busy would solve the problem.”

Being really busy is their hopeful solution? Good lord, who are these people? Are they available to work their magic wand as WH chiefs of staff?

It works! OIG Hotline Complaints: Between February and May 2018, OIG received a series of hotline complaints alleging misconduct, harassment, retaliation, and unfair hiring practices at NPC. […] Hundreds of NPC employees reported to OIG that retaliation, harassment, and “bullying” pervaded the work environment at NPC. OIG found that the reported behavior was widespread and was either condoned or perpetrated by nearly all levels of NPC leadership. Seventeen percent (91) of NPC employees who responded to OIG’s survey reported that they had experienced or observed discrimination and harassment. Of the 156 NPC employees OIG interviewed, 54 (35 percent) stated that they had experienced or observed retaliation, 80 (51 percent) stated that they had experienced or observed harassment, and 61 (39 percent) stated that they had experienced or observed discrimination.

Employees reported to OIG multiple instances of perceived or possible retaliation by Assistant Directors, Adjudication Managers, and other Supervisory Passport Specialists in denying awards, promotions, and special assignments.

Multiple employees reported incidents of sexual and gender-based harassment to OIG, which in some cases, had been ongoing, widely known, and accepted as part of the center’s culture.

Holy Guacamole Alert! NPC’s already problematic workplace environment was exacerbated by the fact that communication was ineffective at all levels within NPC. […] One example of poor communication was the lack of a formal and effective process for explaining and interpreting new guidance with Passport Specialists. When CA/PPT Office of Adjudication (CA/PPT/A) issued new or updated adjudication-specific guidance, its implementation instructions to passport agencies stated that Adjudication Managers must meet with Passport Specialists to discuss the guidance, answer questions, and ensure everyone understands how to implement the new guidance.10 However, NPC’s Adjudication Managers consistently and affirmatively refused to meet with Passport Specialists. 

You read that part above and you think that’s just bonkers. If they’re not meeting regularly to discuss new passport guidance, how would they know if the guidance they have is already outdated?

Security Procedures: In the course of examining the leadership and communication issues described previously, OIG also learned that NPC did not comply with all required Department security procedures. Specifically […] NPC did not follow facility access control measures that govern employee entry and exit, creating an opportunity for individuals without approved access to enter the building.

Admonishment from CA/PPT senior leader and NPC managers: OIG also notes that, after its site visit, a CA/PPT senior leader visited NPC. According to an information memo CA prepared for the Deputy Secretary following the visit, the CA/PPT senior leader communicated  to NPC employees that the Department does not tolerate retaliation. However, OIG subsequently received complaints that CA/PPT senior leaders and NPC managers admonished staff for complaining to and speaking with OIG.

We should note that the OIG report does not include the names of the senior leaders at CA/PPT or the managers at NPC but they’re on LinkedIn, is that right? Please don’t make them lead the Consular Leadership Day festivities next year, hookay?

Pompeo Convenes ARB Guadalajara For Jan 2017 Attack on USG Employee

On November 8, the Federal Register published a notice that an Accountability Review Board (ARB) for a security incident where a U.S. national attempted to murder a U.S. diplomat in Guadalajara, Mexico had been convened:

On June 1, 2018, Secretary Pompeo authorized the convening of an Accountability Review Board (ARB) to review a January 2017 attack on a U.S. government employee in Guadalajara, Mexico. Pursuant to Section 304 of the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986, as amended (22 U.S.C. 4834), the ARB will examine the facts and circumstances, and report findings and recommendations as it deems appropriate, in keeping with its mandate. (see American Diplomat Wounded in Targeted Attack in #Guadalajara, Mexico). Last month, the assailant was sentenced to 22 years (see U.S. National Sentenced to 22 Years For Attempted Murder of U.S. Diplomat in Mexico).

The notice includes the composition of the ARB:

Secretary has appointed Lisa Kubiske, a retired U.S. Ambassador, as Chair of the Board. The other Board members are retired Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, retired Ambassador Joan Plaisted, Ms. Carol Gallo, and Mr. John DeSalvio. They bring to their deliberations distinguished backgrounds in government service.

According to the notice, the Board “will submit its conclusions and recommendations to Secretary Pompeo within 60 days of its first meeting, unless the Chair determines a need for additional time. Within the timeframes required by statute following receipt of the report, the Department will report to Congress on recommendations made by the Board and action taken with respect to those recommendations.”

12 FAM 030 on the ARB provides that “The Secretary must convene a Board not later than 60 days after the occurrence of an incident, except that such 60-day period may be extended for one additional 60-day period if the Secretary determines that the additional period is necessary for the convening of the Board.”  The attack occurred in January 2017; we have not been able to locate a notice of an ARB for this incident authorized by Tillerson. Pompeo assumed office in Foggy Bottom on April 26, 2018. ARB Guadalajara was authorized on June 1, 2018, some 17 months after the incident, but less than 60 days from Pompeo’s taking office. 

There is a provision in the regs for a delay in convening an ARB; we can’t tell if the delay here was under this provision or simply because Tillerson’s tenure was beset by chaos: With respect to breaches of security involving intelligence activities, the Secretary may delay the convening of a Board, if, after consultation with the chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate and the chair of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives, the Secretary determines that the establishment of a Board would compromise intelligence sources or methods.  The Secretary must promptly advise the chairs of such committees of each determination to delay the establishment of a Board. 

In any case, we’re still interested in learning more about what happened to ARB Guadalajara. If it’s been concluded, has it been forwarded to Congress? 

#

Miles With Mike: Ouchy Road This Week

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Presidential Casting: Heather Nauert to the UN

On December 7, President Trump announced via tweet his intent to nominate State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert to be the next Ambassador to the United Nations.  Ms. Nauert was previously a news correspondent and a Fox & Friends presenter prior to her appointment in Foggy Bottom. If confirmed, Ms. Nauert would replace Ambassador Nikki Haley who is expected to step down at the end of 2018. There is word that this position will once more be downgraded to a non-cabinet post after Haley’s departure. 

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations was formally established by E.O. 9844 of April 28, 1947. The Chief of Mission has the title of Representative of the U.S.A. to the United Nations, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, and Representative of the U.S.A. in the Security Council of the United Nations. 

The first U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations was the 48th Secretary of State Edward Reilly Stettinius Jr. (1945-1946). According to history.state.gov:

As Secretary of State, Stettinius accompanied President Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference in February of 1945, where they met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin to discuss issues such as the Pacific War with Japan, the future political status of Eastern Europe, and what should be done with Germany following its surrender. Stettinius also chaired the United States delegation to the United Nations Conference, held in San Francisco from April 25 to June 26, 1945, which brought together delegates from 50 Allied nations to create the United Nations. He resigned his position as Secretary of State on June 27, 1945, to become the first U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, a post which he held until resigning in June 1946 over what he saw as President Truman’s refusal to use the United Nations forum to resolve growing Soviet-American tensions.

Prior appointees to this position include Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. (1953–1960), a former senator and nominee for Vice President. He went on to four ambassadorial appointments and as personal representative of the president to the Holy See after his UN tenure. Former President George Herbert Walker Bush served as Representative of the U.S.A. to the United Nations from 1971 to 1973.

Career diplomat Charles Woodruff Yost (1969–1971) was a three-time ambassador with a personal rank of Career Ambassador prior to his UN appointment. Career diplomat Thomas Reeve Pickering (1989–1992) was a four-time ambassador, and assistant secretary of state with a personal rank of Career Ambassador prior to his appointment to the UN. John Dimitri Negroponte (2001–2004), a career diplomat served as an assistant secretary and was confirmed three times previously as ambassador prior to his appointment to the UN.

Madeleine Korbel Albright (1993–1997), the first woman Secretary of State previously served as chief legislative assistant to Senator Edmund Muskie (D-Me) from 1976 to 1978. From 1978 to 1981, she served as a staff member in the White House under President Jimmy Carter and on the National Security Council under National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke (1999–2001) served twice as assistant secretary of state and was an ambassador prior to his UN appointment. 

Folks are up in arms with this appointment for good reasons.  Sometimes — when the U.S. Senate actually takes seriously its exclusive right under Article II, Section 2 “to provide advice and consent” to the president on nominations — things do work out for the best and save us some embarrassment (remember the “tråkket i salaten”?). Other times, it doesn’t, unfortunately. But here’s the thing: this nominee is from presidential central casting; unless Trump changes his mind, this nomination is going forward. Also come January, there is an an enlarged Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.  It is likely that that she will get some hot grilling in the Senate from the Democratic side and the GOP will attempt to show some …um, equal fire in the process.  But it would take GOP senators to sink this nomination. And that’s probably not going to happen.