More on Embassy Rome’s Donated $1.1 Million Wine Cellar

I’m not shock off my socks that Uncle Sam did not foot the bill on the construction of the wine cellar in Villa Taverna. But the OIG Report on US Mission Italy (which has good things to say all around) has an enlightening item on the wine cellar constructed during the tenure of former Ambassador Spogli. 

On October 10, 2008, American and Italian vintners and wine enthusiasts funded a $1.1 million wine cellar for the historic Villa Taverna, the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Italy. The wine cellar’s inventory of 2,426 bottles of wine is valued at about $69,000. The wine cellar’s maximum capacity is 5,000 bottles. The Department approved all donations for the wine cellar and wine.

The wine cellar will be used as a diplomatic tool to emphasize the friendship and commerce between Italy and the United States. It will highlight, through showcasing American and Italian wines, American entrepreneurs’ investment in Italian wines and vice versa.

The mission has a policy in place that requires replacement of wine extracted from cellar for the Ambassador’s personal use. To maintain the wine cellar, the management recommends to the Ambassador that his residence manager advance or bulk purchase wines for consumption at official events and for display in the wine cellar. These wines would be reimbursed as an allowable representation expense. This procedure would also allow for donated wines to be used in lieu of the wine purchased as long as the donated wine is replaced with a similar value wine.

Currently, the residence manager is the only person designated to order, receive, record, and maintain an inventory of the wine. The OIG team believes that management controls should be strengthened. The management section should conduct periodic physical spot checks and conduct an annual inventory. Department guidance requires posts to procure American wines through bulk purchase, with representational funds and to order, receive, inventory, and issue the wines in the same manner as other controlled expendable items. The same practice should be followed with the donated wines.

Recommendation 34: Embassy Rome should complete and implement a standard operating procedure for the ordering, receiving, inventorying, and issuing of wine that includes periodic spot checks and an annual inventory. (Action: Embassy Rome)

For the record — this is the first wine cellar ever constructed in the residence of an American ambassador.

Also, in 2009, Italian exporters shipped $1.2 billion worth of wine to the U.S. while American wineries provided only $60.3 million in wine products that Italy imported. This page on Italian Trade statistics for 2009 indicates that “Italian wine exporters enjoy a competitive advantage in excess of $1 billion over their American trade partners.”

Speaking of US Embassy Rome, the recent OIG report on support for employees in high stress, high threat, unaccompanied posts has singled out the previous leadership at the embassy in its support for returnees from these assignments. Unnamed in the report, but we presumed this was under the leadership of Ambassador Spogli. 

“Depending on the resilience of the employees and what they have experienced in their high threat post, many can overcome these adjustment problems with time. However, their adjustment can be enhanced by the actions of their supervisors and colleagues at their new place of assignment. The OIG survey indicated very few posts where management paid special attention to those employees coming from high stress assignments, to say nothing of creating a program to smooth their transi­tion. One exception is Embassy Rome where the previous leadership helped return­ees develop a program that brought them together for discussions. The group set its own agenda focused on their experiences at their high stress posts and their adjust­ment to life and work in Rome.”

Related posts:

Related items:
-06/30/10   Embassy Rome, Italy, Its Constituent Posts, and the Republic of San Marino (ISP-I-10-59A) June 2010  [628 Kb]

-07/27/10   Review of Support for Employees Who Are Serving or Have Served in High Stress, High Threat, Unaccompanied Posts (ISP-I-10-44) July 2010  [346 Kb]


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Net-Generation: the workforce of the future is here

Net GenerationImage by jovike via Flickr

The Chief Information Officers Council issued a report that you should read if you are a supervisor, a manager or a senior executive or want to be one.

The report, “Net Generation: Preparing for Change in the Federal Information Technology Workforce,” is not only relevant to IT employees but to the large, incoming generation of federal new hires who will bring new dynamics to the entire federal workplace. And to their managers who will face this challenge: “to reconcile the distinct, and sometimes conflicting, expectations, needs, and experiences of their workforce and to establish a context for success that allows the strengths of each generation to shine.”

The Norms of the Net-Gen World.

They don’t want to be labeled.
They want continuous feedback and recognition.
They value genuine mentoring.
They want autonomy, responsibility, and challenges.
They need structured accountability.
They’re not interested in “paying their dues.”
They’re used to having their opinions heard.
They’re used to group/team problem solving.
They expect high tech/constant stimulation.
They’re used to living in a 24/7 environment.

Read more here.

Curious about what contributes to their engagement?

Pride in One’s Work or Workplace
Satisfaction with Leadership
Opportunity to Perform Well at Work
Satisfaction with the Recognition Received
Prospect for Future Personal and Professional Growth
Positive Work Environment with Some Focus on Teamwork

Read more here.

THE NET GENERATION TOP 20 “TO DO” LIST

   1. Show that the organization understands their world.
   2. Rethink authority and hierarchy within the organization.
   3. Include Net-Geners in re-designing work practices.
   4. Design jobs and work spaces to support collaboration.
   5. Become social media savvy
   6. Invest in technology to power high performance, creativity, and collaboration.
   7. Examine how new technology is deployed within the organization.
   8. Refresh organization websites and their capabilities.
   9. Re-examine career paths for all generations.
  10. Customize training programs for individual workers.
  11. Encourage and incentivize Boomer and Net-Gen mentors.
  12. Examine current and future supervisory bench strength.
  13. Measure performance by productivity, not physical presence.
  14. Retool performance recognition programs and provide more continuous feedback.
  15. Create dynamic recruiting programs that employ a cross section of media.
  16. Be authentic when recruiting; emphasize organization values and strengths.
  17. Create a dynamic onboarding program.
  18. Fund and use hiring flexibilities strategically.
  19. Create a more flexible and fun working environment.
  20. Craft lasting networking relationships with employees who leave the organization.

Read the whole thing here.


SFRC Hearings: McCulley, Bond and Jackson

The SFRC held hearings on the nominations of the following executive nominees last Wednesday. Archived video of the hearings and opening statements of the nominees are available here.

Presiding: Senator Feingold
Date:Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Time:10:00 AM
Location: 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

NOMINEES:

The Honorable Terence Patrick McCulley, of Oregon
to be Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Michele Thoren Bond, of the District of Columbia
to be Ambassador to the Kingdom of Lesotho

Robert Porter Jackson, of Virginia
to be Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon


On the Infamous Q21, PTSD (Again) and High Threat Unaccompanied Assignments

The OIG has released its inspection report dated July 2010 on  the State Department’s support for high stress, high threat, unaccompanied posts.  Some interesting details excerpted below. I have also republished the full report in ScribD for easy access (read below).

The Stigma of Seeking Mental Health Care:

The Department of Defense, led by the Secretary of Defense, has undertaken a campaign to reduce or eliminate this stigma. The Department also has made an effort in the past but can do more. The Department, as have the Department of Defense and other federal government agencies, now exempts mental health consultations relating to service in a military combat environment (i.e., Iraq and Afghanistan) from being reported on employees’ security clearance forms (it still has to be reported on medical clearance forms). That is just one, though important, step.

There is still a lack of clarity as to what employees must report on the security clearance form. For example, does a discussion between an employee and a health professional on how to manage stress have to be reported even if it does not involve diagnosis and treatment of a mental disorder? Opinions differ on that point. However, if such “preclinical” discussions have to be reported, that will ensure that fewer will take place, even if the Department is more successful than in the past in reducing the stigma. This would undercut the Department’s efforts to build resiliency among its employees.

The Department needs to address the overall issue of the stigma. The next step should be a message from the Department’s leadership to all employees making some of the following points (which have been made to the OIG team by MED and DS):

  • The Department encourages its employees to seek mental health care. It is a positive act and a normal part of maintaining one’s health and preparedness.
  • Employees could be more likely to put at risk their clearances and job performance when they do not seek such care.
  • Only two employees have lost their security clearances over the past fi ve years because of mental health issues (which did not involve PTSD).
  • Of the 517 cases concerning mental health issues that DS referred to MED during 2009, not one resulted in denial of a security clearance for mental health reasons.

Two years ago, we called for such a high level message from Secretary Rice in On the Infamous Q21, PTSD and the Wholeness of People in the Foreign Service(May 2008): 

Considering that State has its own clearance process and is a separate agency from DOD, I’m waiting for revised guidance for State Department personnel from Secretary Rice herself. Uhm, no offense intended; the guidance from “M” or “DGHR” or “DS” is fine but I don’t think that really cuts the cake here.

I’d like to see the Department of State, at the highest level of the 7th Floor, affirm and strongly endorse the practice of seeking professional help to address all health related concerns, including mental health. The press guidance above only refers to service in Iraq and Afghanistan, but what about service in the rest of the FS hardship assignments? The emotional toll of constant moving and relocation coupled with dangerous and challenging assignments is not something that we can or should ignore.

We’re a small fly in a thick soup, of course; that did not go anywhere.  Secretary Clinton as far as we are aware has not issued a message similar to Secretary Gates’ message

This report by the way, notes that “In the past five years, 18 employees have been formally diagnosed with PTSD. Of these, 10 had served in posts other than Iraq or Afghanistan.” So there are more posts at play here than just the war zones. 

Leadership and Stress:

In practically any conversation about the causes of stress and inefficiency in the Department or at overseas posts, the issue of inadequate leadership/management comes up. For some employees, this is a greater problem than danger and hardship. Good leadership can do a great deal to create high morale and effectiveness at difficult posts. Poor leadership, of course, can be a problem at any post or bureau, but it can be especially harmful at a high stress, high threat post. In the OIG survey, leadership problems were cited by 45 percent of the respondents as a source of stress for them or their colleagues. As noted above, this was less than the percentage citing danger, workload, and separation from families, but leadership problems generated more passionate comments than any other issue. That is probably because, unlike danger and separation, employees feel that something can and should be done about leadership.

This is not to say that poor management is widespread at high stress or more “normal” posts. In fact, OIG inspections have found that at a substantial majority of posts, the top leadership is doing fairly to very well. Also, inspections have found that inexperienced personnel have put an additional burden on top leadership as well as middle managers. (See section below on whether the right people are being assigned.) However, recent inspections have found too many cases of managers at the top and middle levels who cause unnecessary stress and inefficiency and thus impair the morale and smooth functioning of their post, bureau, office, or section.

Are the right people on the right bus?

The OIG survey asked whether the Department generally was assigning employees with the necessary skills, experience, and temperament to high stress, high threat posts. Over 60 percent of respondents said no. In their comments, those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and answered in the negative made observations such as: there are too many people who are there just for the money, their next assignment, or to save a failing career. There are people who do not have the necessary experience or the mental and physical resiliency to be effective; such people make work more difficult for the others. There was a feeling that taking virtually anyone who volunteers has a negative impact on the post.

Lessons not learned, again:

Care should be taken in setting numerical staffing targets. A smaller, higher quality staff can usually do a better job. The OIG inspection of Embassy Baghdad found that many employees thought that staffing levels were too high as a result of the “civilian surge,” even taking into account the need to compensate for the absence of staff because of rest and recuperation leave (R&R) and other factors. The OIG inspection of Embassy Kabul found that the Baghdad experience was being repeated, with staff added before functions were identified and job descriptions developed.

An ALMOST “fitness for duty” policy:

OIG would support the Department’s developing a stronger “fitness for duty” policy that would be fair not just to the individual, but also to his or her colleagues, and that would maintain the effectiveness of a high stress, high threat post. Administrative and legal barriers, however, limit the Department’s options. In a recent review of the issue of physical fitness for high threat posts, the Department concluded that providing employees with the information to make an intelligent self-assessment of their capabilities was the best available means of handling this problem.

Finally, in Recycling News:

Care should also be taken in reviewing the skills and experience of employees hired under the 3161 authority for Iraq and Afghanistan, both for fi rst-time hires and re-hires. A number of people in the OIG survey expressed concern that 3161 employees who did not do very well in Iraq were being hired to go to Afghanistan, and many more thought that 3161 personnel in general needed greater knowledge of the objectives and operations of the Department and other government agencies to be effective in their jobs.

The original OIG report is posted here (OIG Report No. ISP-I-10-44 – Review of Support for High Stress, High Threat, Unaccompanied Posts – July 2010).


Dis disturbing summer, so hot and more and it’s not even over yet ….

Graves at Arlington National CemeteryImage via Wikipedia

On June 6, Wired’s Kevin Poulsen and Kim Zetter reported about the arrest of an Army intelligence analyst who boasted of giving classified U.S. combat video and hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records to whistleblower site Wikileaks.

“SPC Bradley Manning, 22, of Potomac, Maryland, was stationed at Forward Operating Base Hammer, 40 miles east of Baghdad, where he was arrested nearly two weeks ago by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division. A family member says he’s being held in custody in Kuwait, and has not been formally charged.”

Wired also quoted Manning in its report:
“Hillary Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public,” Manning wrote.

A day later, Wikileaks on Twitter writes:

Allegations in Wired that we have been sent 260,000 classified US embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect.
9:44 AM Jun 7th  via bit.ly

On June 8 , The Daily Beast’s Philip Shenon reported about The State Department’s Worst Nightmare:

The State Department and American embassies around the world are bracing for what officials fear could be the massive, unauthorized release of secret diplomatic cables in which U.S. diplomats harshly evaluate foreign leaders and reveal the inner-workings of American foreign policy.

It seems like everyone was waiting for the shoe to fall … and then nothing happens and summer continues to rattle on …

Rattle ….rattle …the sprinklers beckon…

  • Tea-party hearthrobs.  Heatwaves all over America 
  • BP’s top kill, static kill, and the oil mess in the Gulf 
  • Russian spy swaps …
  • Lindsay Lohan gets jail time.
  • ShakesPalin’s “refudiate” threatens record of GWBush’s “strategery” 
  • Lebron moves out
  • Levi and whatshername get back together, reportedly to try on abstinence once more….
  • Meanwhile, one general gets out and another one goes into Kabul
  • One ambassador gets out and another waiting to go into Baghdad ….
  • Packouts … packouts in the four corners of the globe…
  • R&Rs up in full swing, homelessness abound while visiting the homeland…..
  • Damn the airline embargoes, pets and owners not happy-campers…   
  • Al Qaeda jailbreakers get chance a week after jail was turned over to the Ministry of Justice in Iraq… State Department plans own army, hilos and more…
  • Unemployment runs out for a bunch of folks.
  • Congress goes on vacation presumably to places far away from unemployed crowd
  • Shirley Sherrod loses job one day, gets job offer the next.
  • Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, causes heart burns to non-invitees. Tums still cheaper than shrink.  
  • Clinton in Pakistan; $7.5 billion Dale Carnegie’s aid to win friends and influence people makes the news again  

Another day, another suicide of another returnee from the war.

And July moves morbidly along as one of the highest month for casualties in Afghanistan ….  

Then — Dana Priest and William Arkin threatened to ruin the rattling summer with their much anticipated investigative piece Top Secret Americain WaPo.

The Atlantic’s Marc Ambiner posted a copy of a memo sent out by Art House, director of communications for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to public affairs officers in the intelligence community about the Washington Post’s upcoming series on contractors.

On July 16, The Cable’s John Rogin writes that the State Department is bracing for a potentially explosive new feature on the Washington Post website that would publish the names and locations of agencies and firms conducting Top Secret work on behalf of the U.S. government. He reported that “The Diplomatic Security Bureau at State sent out a notice Thursday to all department employees warning them to protect classified information and reject inquiries from the press when the new web feature goes live.” The Notice from DS/EX was published in full here.

Despite the headless chickens running around, Top Secret America appeared on July 19, with two other installments to less than shocking reception. Were you surprised to learn about the huge national security buildup in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks or that contractors make a big part of that operation?  The new use of web tools in the presentation of the investigative piece probably grabbed more attention.

That’s that.  Folks sigh. Folks go back to barbecue and summer sales … until …

Sunday.  Just when we thought the summer heat wave has finally receded, Wikileaks dumped online 75,000 apparently “secret US military reports covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004-2009.”  This from about 91,000 documents it reportedly possessed.

Wikileaks was perfectly accessible Sunday but Monday, it was down.  The dedicated page for the documents are available at the Kabul War Diary — http://wardiary.wikileaks.org/

The website says:
“We have delayed the release of some 15,000 reports from total archive as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source. After further review, these reports will be released, with occasional redactions, and eventually, in full, as the security situation in Afghanistan permits.

Are these part of the allegedly 260,000 documents/cables reported earlier or is that the other shoe that is yet to fall?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Whether or not SPC Bradley Manning, 22, of Potomac, Maryland is the source of these documents remain to be seen. That is, if his case/hearing will be opened to the public. The Help Bradley Manning website has already sprung up as well as a Facebook pages here and here.

There is even a Facebook page in 中文(简体) to Bring Home Bradley Manning. In Chinese. 

Now, what do you make of that?

The HBM website includes the charge sheet which cited among other things — unauthorized disclosures of more than 50 classified United States Department of State cables, exceed authorized access on a SIPRNET on more than 150,000 diplomatic cables and exceed authorized access on a SIPRNET on a classified United States Department of State cable titled “Reykjavik 13″ — at least one cable posted in the WikiLeaks website is allegedly from US Embassy Iceland and titled as such.

Today, the Christian Science Monitors reports that the former chief of Pakistan’s spy agency has derided as “malicious, fictitious, and preposterous” the leaked United States military documents implicating him in a string of attacks against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan: 

Hamid Gul’s name appears no less than eight times in documents leaked Sunday by the online whistle-blower WikiLeaks. In the reports, the retired general and former head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) from 1987 to 1989 is accused of ordering IED attacks against Afghan and international forces in December 2006 and of plotting to kidnap United Nations staff to use as hostages in exchange for militant prisoners.

“This is utter nonsense,” Mr. Gul says in a telephone interview. Asked to respond to the various WikiLeaks reports in which his name appears, he replied: “Malicious, fictitious, and preposterous – and if this is the condition of US intelligence, then I am afraid it is no wonder they are losing in Afghanistan, and they will lose everywhere they try to poke their nose.”
[…]
Gul, however, says that the US itself has orchestrated the latest WikiLeaks exposé to shift attention away from its own failings in Afghanistan. Speaking in an elevated tone and at times furious, he says he believes the US may now use the exposé as a way to force Pakistan’s hand on policy in Afghanistan.

Oh, dear —what’s the world coming to?

National Security Advisor General James Jones released a statement on Wikileaks here strongly condemning “the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) also released the following statement in response to the New York Times story on the leak of classified documents concerning Afghanistan and Pakistan:

“However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Those policies are at a critical stage and these documents may very well underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right more urgent.”

And now we have a problem.  There’s still a few weeks left of summer.  But the Russian spies are back in Russia singing patriotic songs with Vlad, Lindsay Lohan is still in jail, the BP’s thingy seems to be working miles under the sea…

And we’re left with dat Mel and Oksana train wreck show. And this leaky mess.   


SFRC Hearings: Wolff, Palmer, Bridgewater, Powers

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding a hearing on the nominations of the following executive nominees this Tuesday. 

Presiding:Senator Dodd
Date: Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Time: 02:30 PM

Location: 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Panel I

The Honorable Alejandro Daniel Wolff, of California
to be Ambassador to the Republic of Chile

The Honorable Larry Leon Palmer, of Georgia

to be Ambassador to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Pamela E. Bridgewater Awkard, of Virginia

to be Ambassador to Jamaica

Phyllis Marie Powers, of Virginia

to be Ambassador to the Republic of Panama

Livestream of the hearings and prepared statements of the nominees are available here usually on the scheduled date.

Did you hear about the RSO who wanted to know about all your Facebook contacts?

RSO, as in Regional Security Officer.  Apparently at one overseas post, the RSO has asked employees to inform the Security Office of all their Facebook contacts. Did you see that covered in the use of social media under 5 FAM 790?

If I were a paranoid RSO, I’d be thinking that Internet Russian spy sensation, Ana Chapman may have “friended” you guys in Facebook and you forgot about her. Check your Facebook contacts, pronto! 
 
Seriously, let’s see what the new policy of using social media say about this?

5 FAM 792.5 Counterintelligence Awareness
(CT:IM-110; 06-10-2010)

All Department personnel or other U.S. Government representatives accessing Department social media sites in any capacity must be alert to the potential targeting of users for intelligence-gathering purposes. Department personnel must remain aware of their responsibilities as outlined in 12 FAM 260. Personnel must pay particular attention to the contact reporting requirements explained in 12 FAM 262.1

See — did that say anywhere that you must report all your social media contacts?

Let’s err on the side of caution and check out what 12 FAM 262.1 actually says on contact reporting requirements…

12 FAM 262.1 Policy
(CT:DS-154; 04-12-2010)

a. The Department’s regulations have long required employees to report contacts with nationals of certain countries, due to both intelligence and terrorism concerns. Presidential Decision Directive/NSC-12 issued specific instructions and mandated that all U.S. Government agencies implement similar programs. The following procedures meet the President’s requirement that those who serve in America’s most sensitive jobs work with security offices to guard against illegal or unauthorized access to classified or otherwise sensitive information.

b. All employees and contractors must report:

(1) Unofficial contact with a national from a country with critical
HUMINT threat posts listed on the Department’s Security
Environment Threat List (SETL) if the employee and/or critical
threat foreign national suggest, agree to, or actually have a second
meeting after an initial encounter. (The SETL is available on the
classified network via links on the Department’s Web site);

(2) Contact and/or association with a person or organization who the
employee knows or suspects advocate the unlawful overthrow of
the U.S. Government;

(3) Contact and/or association with a person whom the employee
knows or suspects is a member or supporter of foreign terrorist
organizations (FTOs), as designated by the Secretary of State (see
the list of FTOs);

(4) Unofficial contact with a person who the employee knows or
suspects is a member of a foreign intelligence agency, regardless of
nationality;

(5) Illegal or unauthorized access that is sought to classified or
otherwise sensitive information; or

(6) When the employee is concerned that he or she may be the target
of actual or attempted exploitation by a foreign entity.

c. This policy is not intended to limit or impair professional or personal
contacts. Its purpose is to protect the security of the United States and
its employees while ensuring the privacy of employees and their freedom
of association. Further, this policy seeks to ensure that security risks to
persons or to the U.S. Government are identified at the earliest possible
opportunity and deterred, and that protective steps are taken to avoid
compromise of U.S. employees and national security interests.
Employees are considered partners in the management of this regulation.

d. The term “contact” means all manner of personal or impersonal
communication and includes, but is not limited to, written, telephonic,
electronic mail, text messaging, chat room discussion or other social
media, facsimile, wire, and/or amateur radio.

I’m not making this up, dude! This is publicly available material  for anyone.

On closer reading – this also makes it abundantly clear that the regs have not thought out that part about the virtual nature of social media. For example, part of the new regs says: 

All employees and contractors must report …
(1) Unofficial contact with a national from a country with critical HUMINT threat posts listed on the Department’s Security Environment Threat List (SETL) if the employee and/or critical threat foreign national suggest, agree to, or actually have a second meeting after an initial encounter.

Does online encounter in blogs, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, etceeetera — count as initial encounter? Does online encounter counts as a meeting for purposes of “second meeting” described in this section? Given the networked nature of social media, if you are in a “critical HUMINT threat posts” does that indeed means reporting all the names in your Facebook account or your spouse’s Facebook account? Or your kids’, or grandma’s?   

Oh, how tricky is that? 

On second thought, let’s say for a moment that the RSO who wanted to know about all your Facebook contacts is on the right side of the regs — post’s 100 employees have approximately 100 Facebook contacts each, not counting other social media accounts. That’s 1,000 10,000 names that the RSO shall have collected at the end of the day (sorry, misplaced my brain cells last night, thanks Chris)!). So ….

Who will have time to comb through the names or process such info into understandable boxes of data. The RSO, presumably. And while he/she is doing that, who will be doing his/her non-social media police duties?

Somebody might want to ask Diplomatic Security for clarification since they wrote this policy (it looks like — in April this year).  But really, somebody over there who actually uses the various social media and not just looks through them ought to get a red pen and go through the regs once more. 

That said — it may not be Ana Chapman, and this RSO may not have a real good reason for asking about those contacts last month but this week, he’ll have an excellent argument. On June 22, Computer World reports how a fake femme fatale shows the risks of social networks.

Hundreds of people in the information security, military and intelligence fields recently found themselves with egg on their faces after sharing personal information with a fictitious Navy cyberthreat analyst named “Robin Sage,” whose profile on prominent social networking sites was created by a security researcher to illustrate the risks of social networking.  

Image from ComputerWorld

Researcher Thomas Ryan who conducted the experiment said that he used a few photos to portray the fictional Sage on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter as an attractive, somewhat flirty cybergeek, with degrees from MIT and a prestigious prep school in New Hampshire. He also said, “I wanted to see how much intel you could gather from a person just by lurking on a social networking site. I [also] wanted to see who was most susceptible to clicking. I wanted to see how fast this thing would propagate. One of the things I found was that MIT and St. Paul’s [prep school] were very cliquey. If they don’t remember seeing you, they are not going to click. You had less of a chance of penetrating those groups than the actual intel and security communities.”

Read the whole thing here.    

Thomas Ryan will speak at the BlackHat Security Conference in Las Vegas (more eggs on the face next week) where he will point out that though his “28 day experiment, it became evident that the propagation of a false identity via social networking websites is rampant and viral. Much of the information revealed to Robin Sage violated OPSEC procedures.”

Uh-oh!

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Three for Three: Ambassador Kristie Kenney to Bangkok

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of...Image via Wikipedia

On July 15, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Kristie A. Kenney to be Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand. The WH released the following brief bio:

Kristie A. Kenney is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service.  She most recently served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines.  Prior to that, she served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Ecuador.  Her Washington, D.C assignments have included serving as the Executive Secretary of the Department of State, Director of the State Department Operations Center, and as a member of the National Security Council staff under President Clinton. She also served in Argentina, Switzerland and Jamaica.  

She received a Master’s Degree from Tulane University and a B.A. from Clemson University.

* * *

We have previously posted (see links below) about Ambassador Kenney here during her stint as ambassador to the Philippines. Ambassador Kenney is also the other half of a tandem FS couple, her husband is the current ambassador to Colombia. Three for three now. If confirmed, this would be Ambassador Kenney’s third ambassadorial post, after Ecuador and the Philippines. Her  husband, Bill Brownfield currently of Bogota was previously ambassador to Chile and Venezuela. On May 7, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Peter Michael McKinley to be Ambassador to the Republic of Colombia but he has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

Related posts:

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 7/15/10


Officially In: Jo Ellen Powell to Nouakchott

On July 15, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Jo Ellen Powell to be Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.  The WH released the following brief bio:

Jo Ellen Powell is a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor. She most recently served as Consul General in Frankfurt, Germany. Prior to that Ms. Powell was the Executive Director of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Director of the Office of Employee Relations, and Management Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, Australia. Other overseas assignments include France, Italy, Lebanon, and Jordan. In Washington, Ms. Powell served in the Executive Secretariat and the European Bureau Executive Office.  She received her B.A. from Centre College in Kentucky.

If confirmed, she would succeed career diplomat, Mark Boulware who was appointed chief of mission of US Embassy in Mauritania in 2007.


Related item:

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 7/15/10


US Embassy Baghdad: 777,888 Hours or $36 Million of Overtime

Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of Multinational F...Image via Wikipedia

State’s OIG released last Friday an audit of Embassy Baghdad’s Internal Controls for Overtime Pay. Here is the lowdown on overtime according to the report:

Overtime for American personnel is defined as those hours in excess of the 40-hour work week. American personnel eligible for overtime include uncommissioned Foreign Service Officers, Foreign Service specialists, and General Schedule personnel. Senior Executive Service, Senior Foreign Service, and commissioned Foreign Service Officers are not eligible for overtime. Three general categories of American personnel are eligible for overtime:

1. Temporary Duty (TDY) employees. These employees are short-term, lessthan 6 months, and long-term, more than 6 months but less than 1 year.

2. Permanent Change of Station (PSC) employees. These permanent postemployees have assignment orders for a 1- or 2-year tour.

3. Section 3161 hires. These are employees who are hired under a specialauthority (5 U.S.C. 3161). The employees are assigned to the Iraq TechnicalAdvisory Office in Washington, but most are sent TDY to Iraq. The employees’ U.S. Government appointments terminate when their Section 3161 appointments end.

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OIG reviewed overtime for 2008 and 2009 and found that American employees in Embassy Baghdad submitted 777,888 hours of overtime, totaling about $36 million, for those 2 years. During 2008, an average of 287 (50 percent) of 570 Americans claimed overtime during each pay period, with a total cost for that year of $18,207,654. In 2009, an average of 352 (51 percent) of 695 Americans claimed overtime during each pay period, with a total cost for that year of $17,745,039. 

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Although OIG found that the average number of claimants increased for 2009, the number of overtime hours actually decreased, from 400,875 to 377,013 hours. Since the time of OIG’s audit, Embassy Baghdad has initiated a program to monitor the number of overtime hours worked and to send quarterly reports to supervisors for an explanation of excessive amounts. While the Embassy’s program assesses indications of potential abuse of overtime hours, it does not address compliance with supervisory authorization for overtime, supervisory approval of timesheets, or the provision of complete and accurate information to Charleston (SC) Global Financial Services Center for payment.

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Embassy Baghdad did not have adequate internal controls to support the overtime payments because supervisors did not authorize overtime in advance of overtime performed; did not certify timesheets after the work was performed; did not certify overtime for payment in the proper period; and did not require T&A documentation to support overtime payments, such as leave and approved absences. For example, employees and supervisors did not always sign timesheets, and employees used different types of timesheets that often lacked key information, such as lines for supervisor or employee signatures and dates of certification

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Embassy Baghdad’s internal controls for authorizing and approving overtime were weak, and Charleston needed to improve its quality controls for processing overtime payments. Based on its review of overtime payroll records, OIG found noncompliance with policies and regulations for authorizing, reconciling, and documenting T&A reports. Specifically, Embassy Baghdad officials

  • Did not enforce regulations requiring supervisors to approve T&A reports based on actual hours worked and authorize overtime hours in advance of work.
  • Did not require employees to attest to the accuracy of the hours and leave charges shown on their T&A reports.
  • Allowed employees, not their supervisors, to transmit their time sheets directly to Charleston.

Until these deficiencies are addressed, Embassy Baghdad will have no assurance that payroll expenses for overtime and related T&A information is reliable, increasing the risk for fraud and abuse. OIG notes that disciplinary penalties exist at the post for noncompliance with such T&A requirements as signatures and overtime justifications, although OIG was unable to determine whether the post initiated any disciplinary actions. (Time and attendance requirements for American personnel at Embassy Baghdad are summarized in Appendix B.)

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OIG’s July 2009 inspection report on Embassy Baghdad indicated that supervision over overtime claimed by Section 3161 contract employees was inadequate. To determine whether Section 3161 employees had a predominant amount of overtime, OIG analyzed overtime by the three general categories of American personnel eligible for overtime. OIG found that during 2008 and 2009, 44 percent of the personnel were Section 3161 hires, 37 percent were Permanent Change of Station employees, and 19 percent were Temporary Duty employees. While Section 3161 employees received the greatest share of overtime, OIG determined that the amount of overtime was not excessive when compared with that of other types of employees.

Active links added above. Read the whole thing here.

Related item:
OIG Report No. AUD/CG-10-25, Embassy Baghdad Internal Controls for Overtime Pay – June 2010