US Ambassador to Malta in California Car Crash

President of The Catholic University of Americ...Image via WikipediaThe Daily News Wire Services citing the California Highway Patrol reported on August 26 that a car driven by Douglas Kmiec, the U.S. ambassador to Malta, went off a road near Calabasas, in California killing a nun who was a passenger in the vehicle, and injuring Kmiec and another passenger.

The Malta Independent Online had a follow up report on August 28 that Ambassador Kmiec is recovering in a California hospital and information reportedly from the US embassy indicates that he is recovering well without complications. Excerpt: 

The ambassador, aged 58, was involved in a one-car traffic accident in California last Wednesday.

It was also confirmed that the Kmiec family contacted the embassy but they were not given any additional information.

The Malibu Times reported that Prof. Kmiec was taken to the UCLA Medical Trauma Centre for treatment and is reported to be in a good condition.

Sister Mary Campbell, 75, from Our Lady of Malibu Catholic Church was killed in the collision at Las Virgenes Canyon Road and Mulholland Drive on Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, 95-year-old Mons. John Sheridan from OLM was also injured but survived the crash alongside Ambassador Kmiec. Ambassador Kmiec himself was driving the car. Police investigations are underway.
The main political parties and the General Workers’ Union have wished Prof. Kmiec a speedy recovery. Various American-based Catholic websites were inundated with well wishes for the ambassador throughout yesterday.

The US ambassador to Malta is a well-known scholar and popular law commentator. He is also a former professor of law at Pepperdine University. Ambassador Kmiec also served as dean and St Thomas More Professor of Law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.. He also served for nearly two decades on the law faculty at the University of Notre Dame.

Active links added above. Read the whole thing here.

Heartbreaking News: Nicole Grace John , Foreign Service Daughter

As you may have seen in the news by now, Nicole John, the daughter of US ambassador to Thailand, Eric John and Sophia John died from a fall in  New York on August 27.

Until it was deleted soon after her death, Nicole John had a blog in Tumblr.

We can remember what it was like when we were 17.  We are glad the blog is no longer available for everyone to read.

Some news dailies seemed to have mined part of her blog posts (before it was deleted) and also Ambassador John’s official blog to string their stories together. Some of the comments online are sympathetic. A lot are unkind, and extremely judgmental both to the deceased and the parents suffering unimaginable grief and loss at this time. Best to look away, it’ll only break your heart to read some more.

The US Embassy in Bangkok released the following brief statement: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the John family during this very difficult time. We ask that you respect their privacy as they mourn the tragic loss of their daughter Nicole.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends:   

For all the joys this child will bring the risk of grief we’ll run.
We will shelter him with tenderness, we’ll love him while we may
And for all the happiness we’ve ever known, we’ll ever grateful stay.
But should the angels call him much sooner than we’d planned
We will brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand.”

–from God’s Lent Child, Author Unknown





New Mexico Travel Warning: "Authorized Departure" remains in place for Mexico’s northern border cities, Monterrey to go partially unaccompanied with no minor dependents

As the Warden Message on Monterrey was released August 27, a new Travel Warning for Mexico was also issued reflecting the new security conditions in Monterrey.  Excerpt below:

The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens traveling to and living in Mexico about the security situation in Mexico.  The authorized departure of family members of U.S. government personnel from U.S. Consulates in the northern Mexico border cities of Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros remains in place.  However, based upon a security review in Monterrey following the August 20, 2010 shooting in front of the American Foundation School in Monterrey and the high incidence of kidnappings in the Monterrey area, U.S. government personnel from the Consulate General in Monterrey have been advised that the immediate, practical and reliable way to reduce the security risks for children of U.S. Government personnel is to remove them from the city.  Beginning September 10, 2010, the Consulate General in Monterrey will become a partially unaccompanied post with no minor dependents of U.S. government employees. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Mexico dated July 16, 2010 to note the changing security situation in Monterrey.

Read the whole thing here.



Now they’re telling us — Bush’s ‘legacy of waste’ in Iraq, the baghdafication of Kabul and lessons not learned from Iraq

Via the LA Times:

The $53-billion reconstruction effort is not without its successes. But poor planning, violence and a failure to consult Iraqis derailed many projects, which may offer lessons in Afghanistan.

The shell of a prison that will never be used rises from the desert on the edge of this dusty town north of Baghdad, a hulking monument to the wasted promise of America’s massive, $53-billion reconstruction effort in Iraq. Construction began in May 2004 at a time when U.S. money was pouring into the country. It quickly ran into huge cost overruns. Violence erupted in the area, and a manager was shot dead in his office. The Iraqi government said it didn’t want or need the prison. In 2007 the project was abandoned, but only after $40 million of U.S. taxpayer money had been spent.
A recent audit cites the example of an unfinished slaughterhouse in Basra — price tag $5.6 million — that was undertaken without securing a supply of water to wash away the blood.
The $32.5-million cost of a sewage treatment facility for the war-ravaged city of Fallouja, begun in 2005 by the U.S. military, has mushroomed to $104 million, and will now reach only 4,300 homes instead of the 24,500 originally envisioned, if it ever reaches any homes at all. Although the treatment plant is almost complete, the contract did not include a pipeline to connect the plant to the town.
The 94-bed Children’s Hospital in Basra, launched with much fanfare by then-First Lady Laura Bush in 2004, was originally pegged for completion in 2005 at a cost of $37 million. It remains unfinished, and the cost has spiraled to $171 million, $110 million of which was provided by U.S. taxpayers.

Read more here:

I supposed that’s what happen when you break something and is in a hurry to reconstruct what you broke — you end up with what SIGIR says — “cost-plus contracts, high contractor overhead expenses, excessive contractor award fees, and unacceptable program and project delays all contributed to a significant waste of taxpayers’ dollars.” 

SIGIR also says “This question underscores an overarching hard lesson from Iraq: Beware of pursuing
large-scale reconstruction programs while significant conflict continues.”

Please repeat: “Beware of pursuing large-scale reconstruction programs while significant conflict continues.”

‘Xcuse me — are we not doing exactly the same thing in Afghanistan — the baghdafication of the US Embassy in Kabul, including surges in military, civilian, reconstruction projects and money poured down the drain like there’s no limit to the taxpayer’s credit card?


News Just Waiting to Happen: Anti-Corruption Afghan Prosecutor, Fired By Karzai

Via HuffPo: The Deputy Attorney General Fazel Ahmed Faqiryar told the New York Times Saturday that he was fired for refusing to block corruption investigations in “the highest levels” of Karzai’s government.

He said that cases against three or four former Afghan Cabinet ministers had been completed, but had been put on hold and had not been sent to the courts. Five provincial governors have been accused of corruption, he said. Two of the cases involving governors have been sent to court and three remain under investigation, he said.

In addition, Faqiryar said that several Afghan ambassadors to other nations have been accused of corruption. “We have worked on so many,” he said, unable to recall the number of cases involving ambassadors.

Just a week ago, on August 22, Afghan President Hamid Karzai admitted to intervening on behalf of one of his top aides imprisoned on corruption charges.  “Yes, absolutely I intervened,” Karzai said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “Not only did I intervene, but I intervened very, very strongly.”

Next News Just Waiting to Happen: Anti-Corruption Afghan Prosecutor Seeks Asylum in the US.




MAR eCards | Officially too old to work as a diplomat unless …

For FS folks who are subject to mandatory age retirement (MAR), also known as “prompt removal” upon reaching the magic number in the Foreign Service, we have created a new line of ecards to mark this milestone.  

Below is the first in the series we’re rolling out starting this week.  God knows how difficult it is to find a card just for you in the Hallmark aisle. Especially those that says “we appreciate you but you must leave now please … “ If what a former DG says hold true, folks may need these ecards for 35% of the Department’s workforce who will be eligible for retirement in 2012 and for more than half the current workforce who will be retirement eligible in 2017.

Note that Someecards is not intended for use by people under 18 years of age, or by ostriches.

See more of our cards at Someecards — ecards for “when you care enough to hit SEND.” - Happy 65th birthday! You're officially too old to work as a diplomat unless you're a political appointee.




US ConGen Monterrey in Mexico Goes Unaccompanied

Only adult family members allowed effective September 10

The following is an excerpt from the Warden Message released by ConGen Monterrey on August 27, 2010:

The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General in Monterrey have undertaken an immediate security review following the shooting on August 20, 2010, in front of the American School in Monterrey (ASFM).  This review focused on the ability to provide adequate security for the children of U.S. personnel attending school.

Discussions with police and other security officials indicated that the level of violence in Monterrey is increasing, including where our children go to school.  Furthermore, local police and private patrols do not have the capacity to deter criminal elements from areas around the schools attended by the children of U.S. personnel assigned to the Consulate.  Given the increasing level of violence that is occurring all over Monterrey, including near where our children go to school, they are at significantly increased risk and there is not the capacity to adequately mitigate that threat.

Based on this assessment, and combined with the high incidence of kidnappings in the Monterrey area, U.S. government personnel from the Consulate General have been advised that the immediate, practical and reliable way to reduce the security risks for all children is to remove them from Monterrey.  Beginning September 10, 2010, the Consulate General in Monterrey will become a partially unaccompanied post with no minor dependents of USG employees.

Read the whole thing here.

According to its website ConGen Monterrey is one of the largest and busiest consulates in the world.  The Monterrey consular district, includes Nuevo Leon, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi and most of Coahuila. This district has nearly 11 million inhabitants (the size of Texas),  The Consulate General staff includes 54 Americans representing eight U.S. government agencies plus their 98 Mexican employees.

A source informed us that the request to go on partial unaccompanied post was made by Ambassador Pascual following the shooting at the American school in Monterrey this past week.

I expect that the 15% danger pay for post will get a bump up following this development.  And with this new designation, we’re almost certain that families with minor children will return to the US and wait here for the conclusion of the employees’ tour of duty in Monterrey. We don’t know at this time how many families with minor children will be separated, if folks will get a chance to curtail their assignments or if this will have an impact on the length of assignments for Monterrey in the near future. 

American Public Outreach Goes to a Shopping Mall in Jakarta

Pacific Place mall in JakartaImage via Wikipedia
The US Government is seeking a contractor to “operate the @america public outreach center located in a Jakarta, Indonesia shopping mall. The successful offeror must have the capability to provide outstanding public affairs/relations/diplomacy programming in a multimedia environment while at the same time operating the outreach center. Evaluation emphasis will be on programming ability first and operational ability second.”
The Contractor is expected “to provide program, management, operational, security, and janitorial services to operate and maintain the @america Outreach Center in the Pacific Place Mall, Jakarta, Indonesia. The outreach center is a public diplomacy venue that showcases American culture, values, and ingenuity to the Indonesian Public using both personal contact and high technology to deliver the message. The Center must remain open during regular Mall hours (from 10:00AM until 9:00PM) each day.
Services required include:

  • Creating and implementing educational and cultural programming (in cooperation with and subject to the approval of the Government Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR)). Programming could include cultural performances, guest speakers, lectures, digital video conferences, and other activities
  • Overall management of the outreach center
  • Ensuring approved programming is conducted on schedule
  • Marketing the outreach center throughout Indonesia
  • Assisting visitors coming to the center
  • Procuring and supervising catering of events as approved by the Government COR
  • Ensuring a secure environment to include screening visitors with approved security devices
  • Keeping the outreach center clean and maintained

Here’s more about the @america Outreach Center from the solicitation posted at Fedbiz:

The most vibrant democracy in Southeast Asia, Indonesia remains a culture in which personal contact remains essential. The Embassy can SMS our contacts and write blogs, but we have much less impact without the personal connection. The U.S. Embassy created an easily accessible, American funded facility, the @america Outreach Center, that provides that personal contact to invited guests and the wider, younger Indonesian community who can choose to visit at their leisure. @america was created by a separate contract that covered design and the initial operations. This contract will cover operations from the end of the current contract. @america is a hip, happening location with an American face. It is an edgy, technically advanced space to which young adults naturally gravitate. It is located in the heart of Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy and fourth-largest country. @america is easy to drop into and alive with 21st century activities that young adults, including students and professionals, will find of interest to them and thus draw them back again and again. Activities will include such events as films, cultural programs, discussion roundtables, English conversation groups, 21st century research and reference tools, educational advising services, American educational online games and more. With each engaging visit, our visitors will feel more positive about the U.S. and the evolving, strategic U.S.-Indonesia partnership.
Furthermore, as we engage our target audience, we will learn from them what topics they want to learn more about, and we will change our programming accordingly.

The principal place of performance for this contract has been identified as the Pacific Place Mall, Jakarta, Indonesia.
The anticipated five year value of this contract is between USD $5 million and USD $10 million.
See more:
Jakarta, Indonesia – Operation of an American Government Public Outreach Center to Include Providing Outreach Event and Programming
Solicitation Number: SGE50010R0066
Agency: U.S. Department of State
Office: American Consulate General – Frankfurt
Location: Regional Procurement Support Office

FS Blog: The Mantra … "When we’re fully staffed …."

Short HandsImage by CharlesLam via FlickrThis one from Brian of Hick/Hitchhiker/…Diplomat (!?) Two paths diverged in a wood, and I–I left the paths and climbed a mountain:

“When we’re fully staffed…”

Everyone is repeating this phrase. When people curtail (leave for another post early) and quit (as in, quit the FS) it leaves posts short-handed. It also offers great opportunities for newbies to step up to the plate. Not to hit a figurative home run, but to take a couple swings and do their best or maybe get a bunt.
Back to present day. There is no time for playing with ant mounds and I can’t even fathom wanting to quit this career. Not only that, but I currently have three of the five “cones” present in my job description. It is one benefit of serving in a small, under-staffed post from which people have curtailed and quit. I’m busy and being challenged.

So, your take-away lessons: People quit the FS. New people are presented with some very cool challenges. Having a positive attitude can be difficult but is crucial.

Continue reading The Mantra here.

State Dept Seeks A-100 Team Building Contractor

FSI has put out a solicitation for the development and presentation of a two-day experiential education-based teambuilding and leadership offsite for new Foreign Service Officers taking part in their new employee orientation program at the Foreign Service Institute. The two-day program is held at a facility outside the immediate Washington, D.C. area. Below is an excerpt from the published solicitation at FedBiz:

SFSIAQ10R0024_ A-100 Team Building
Solicitation Number: SFSIAQ10R0024
Agency: U.S. Department of State
Office: Foreign Service Institute
Location: Office of Acquisitions, M/FSI/EX/GSACQ

Foreign Service Officer (FSO) Orientation is a five-week program. The course is devoted to helping new FSOs better understand the overall organization in which they work, the terms of their employment, and the competencies needed for success in the organization. Class members will be assigned to U.S. embassies and consulates around the world shortly after completing training; they will not work together as a team beyond
orientation. However, all will work in highly team-focused environments during their Foreign Service careers. All FSOs, regardless of their position, must work effectively with colleagues at all levels of the organization to succeed as individuals and contribute to group accomplishment. The leadership and teambuilding program helps participants assess skills and develop strategies to work most effectively within diverse groups, both as leaders and team members. The program normally takes place during the third week of Orientation.

The contractor is required among other things to:

  • Develop a two-day teambuilding program using experiential education techniques and exercises requiring elementary levels of physical ability but with increasing levels of cognitive difficulty, that address the Foreign Service Core Precepts of leadership, communication, interpersonal and management skills as defined in the attached document (see Fedbiz for attachments).
  • Facilitate a general opening session and a closing wrap-up session with all participants (on average the total number of participants for each session is between 80-89 students). At other times during the program, students will be divided into small groups of approximately 12- 17 people, with each team having one facilitator. Team size and number of teams may vary depending on overall class size.
  • Utilize various teambuilding theories and tools as appropriate to discuss exercises and how group members can apply what they have learned to the workplace in order to better model the Foreign Service Core Precepts listed above. These theories and tools should include one or more of the following: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Three-Circle leadership model, Tuckman’s stages of team development, Situational Leadership, and other tools identified by FSI staff.

Folks waiting for the call may want to know that this solicitation says FSI anticipate eight (8) orientation courses for FY11 (October 1, 2010-September 30, 2011). That’s between 640-712 new employees in the next fiscal year.

Click here to read more.

Be sure to also check out the Foreign Service Core Precepts (in Word Doc),  the guidelines by which Selection Boards determine the tenure and promotability of U.S. Foreign Service employees.  These Precepts will be in effect for the 2008-2009, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 rating cycles. The Precepts define the specific skills to be considered and the level of accomplishment expected at different grades.  They distinguish between apprentice, journeyman and master level – the junior, mid-level and senior ranks.