Confirmed: McHale, Crowley, Benjamin & Blake

The Senate confirmed yesterday the nominations of the following senior officials for the State Department (5/21):

Judith A. McHale, of Maryland
to be Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy.

Philip J. Crowley, of Virginia
to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Public Affairs).

Daniel Benjamin, of the District of Columbia
to be Coordinator for Counterterrorism, with the rank and status of Ambassador at Large.

Robert Orris Blake, Jr., of Maryland
Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service Class of Minister-Counselor to be Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs

This currently leaves us with three nominees stuck in the Senate waiting for a full vote: Susan Flood Burk, Harold Hongju Koh, and Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman.

Congressional Record will be posted as soon as it goes online.


Update @3:37 pm:

Congressional Record
CONFIRMATIONS — (Senate – May 21, 2009)

[Page: S5888] GPO’s PDF

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Officially In: Amb Nancy Powell to be Director General of the Foreign Service

Screencapture from Service to America Medals

On May 21st, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Nancy Powell as Director General of the Foreign Service (DGHR).

Ambassador Nancy Powell currently serves as Ambassador to Nepal. She was U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan (2002-2004), Ghana (2001-2002), and Uganda (1997-1999). Previous overseas assignments have included Ottawa, Kathmandu, Islamabad, Lome, Calcutta, New Delhi, and Dhaka.

In Washington she has served as a Refugee Assistance Officer, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Acting Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Activities, Senior Coordinator for Avian Influenza, and the National Intelligence Officer for South Asia at the National Intelligence Council.

Born in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Ambassador Powell joined the Foreign Service in 1977 following 6 1/2 years as a high school social studies teacher in Dayton, Iowa. She is a 1970 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa. She has studied French, Nepali, Hindi and Urdu.

She is the recipient of the Partnership for Public Service 2006 Service to America Homeland Security Medal and the Arnold L. Raphel Memorial Award.

* * *

Ambassador Powell has been US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Nepal since July 2007. She is career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Career Minister. She would succeed Harry K. Thomas, Jr. who has been DG since September 2007.

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4th of July Celebration – in May?

Photo from Wikipedia

Our embassies and consulates overseas celebrate the 4th of July every year. But this year, one post beat out everyone else. My tipster says that at one US Embassy in the EUR Bureau, a reception was held to celebrate our 233rd year of independence reportedly last week. It was called the “Independence Day Reception.” I don’t know if there were fireworks.

The embassy also published on its website a public acknowledgment for “the following sponsors for their generous support of our 2009 Independence Day reception.” No photos though.

I don’t know folks. I’m confused. The 4th of July celebration in May? What’s next, Christmas in June? Thanksgiving Day in December so we only need to hunt one turkey?

There is one thing that particularly bugs me about these 4th of July receptions – officers going out with their begging bowls to corporate sponsors. It is just so … so tacky. Nobody enjoys doing this, folks complain about it (though not loudly), yet that’s the way it’s been done for many years. At least as far back as 1996 when I started paying attention, but probably this practice dates back to earlier years; just can’t say for sure when.

I know … I know it is not prohibited by regulations. In fact this is what the regs actually says on Gifts for July Fourth Events Abroad (2 FAM 962.1-6):

“Management officers at post may accept cash and in-kind donations for official embassy-sponsored July Fourth events in their host countries. In addition, ambassadors and other principal officers at post may solicit, or authorize the solicitation of, such donations without prior authorization by the Under Secretary for Management, consistent with some detailed guidelines (see page 10).”

Tut…tut … okay, “may accept,” passive action, I supposed that’s fine, but solicit? What else would you call this but simply tacky … or try meretricious … You know entry-level officers would be saddled with this project, don’t you?

The regs also says:

No employee may make any commitment to an actual or prospective donor that implies that the donor will receive any advantage or preferment from the U.S. Government as a result of the donation, including a promise to intervene on behalf of the donor with the host government, a commitment to invite the donor to official functions, or an assurance that the donor would have preferential access to official facilities. In the course of his or her official duties, no U.S. Government employee may afford any donor preferential treatment as a result of a donation (see page 17).

In short, you can get the hamburger guys to donate 1000 burgers for the reception, but when they need USG assistance to deal with their host country problems, you can’t give them any preferential treatment.

Sometimes I do wonder if the folks who write these rules ever live in a real world with real people exhibiting normal human behavior.

This seems to me like one more reflection of our government living beyond its means. If the government wants official diplomatic receptions, then let’s have a reception – but our government should appropriate funds for it. We must pay for our own official party. If we can’t pay for it, well then, can’t have one. We can’t spend what we don’t have, or can we?

It’s a tad like having a birthday party and asking strangers to bring in food and drinks for a large potluck. The only difference is they all have to go through security, and metal detectors — and they can’t bring their BFFs along unless the official host says so…


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Solicitation and/or Acceptance of Gifts by the Department of State
2 FAM 960 (pdf)

This is how we’ve always done it…

NoDoubleStandards, in new FS blog, Calling a Spade a Spade (Rants of a Foreign Service Officer on the things that matter to you — and matter to you not at all) has an excellent post on The Challenge of Effective Consular Management of Locally-Employed Staff. NDS writes:

“Imagine being a member of that local staff. Every three years or so, a new manager. Every two years or so, new American officers working under him/her. Different personalities, different styles, different competencies. Some are outgoing; some hide in their offices. Some are great at setting expectations; others seem to avoid feedback like the plague. Some you may like; some you can’t stand. One thing’s for certain, though: if you don’t like your current rotation of bosses, just sit tight. They’ll all be gone sooner or later, hopefully replaced by more agreeable personalities.”

NDS has some great tips for those managing local employees including my favorite:

“- Don’t dump personnel problems on your successor, just because you don’t have the cajones to deal with them yourself. There are few better ways to secure your “corridor reputation” as a spineless weenie.”

NDS talks about a pretty common phenomenon especially when dealing with senior local employees, who have been on their jobs for 20, 30 some years:

“Very territorial, irrationally married to the status quo because “that’s how we’ve always done it” and, implicit in that rejection of change, imbued with the belief that they know better than you do.”

This, of course, reminds me of one of Eduardo Galeano’s stories from “The Book of Embraces,” where he spins the story of a small bench guarded by a soldier in a courtyard of the barracks. The bench was guarded around the clock, every day, every night, and from one generation of officers to the next the order was passed on and the soldiers obeyed it. No one expressed any doubts or ever asked why. “If that’s how it was done, and that’s how it had always been done, there had to be a reason.”

Until one day, some colonel or general decided to look up the original order. After a good deal of looking around, he found it. Thirty-one years, 2 months and 4 days earlier, an officer ordered a guard to stand next to the bench that had just been painted so no one would sit on the wet paint.

I tell this story every chance I get, but most especially when the crew is enamored with the concept of “this is how we’ve always done it.”

Read NoDoubleStandard’s whole post here.