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.



Second Ex-US President Wins Release of AmCit in North Korea

Who will go to Pyongyang next time another American gets in trouble?

The Carter Center released the following statement earlier today:

ATLANTA….Former President Jimmy Carter announced that he is leaving Pyongyang, North Korea, this morning accompanied by Mr. Aijalon Mahli Gomes.  Mr. Gomes was imprisoned in January of this year and later sentenced to eight years of hard labor with a fine of about $600,000 for the crime of illegal entry into North Korea. At the request of President Carter, and for humanitarian purposes, Mr. Gomes was granted amnesty by the Chairman of the National Defense Commission, Kim Jong-Il.

It is expected that Mr. Gomes will be returned to Boston, Mass., early Friday afternoon, to be reunited with his mother and other members of his family.

This was a private mission of The Carter Center, and was neither requested nor sponsored by the U.S. Government.  Also participating were Dr. John Hardman, CEO of The Carter Center, John Moores, former Board of Trustees chairman, son Jeffrey Carter, and staff aide Nancy Konigsmark.

Meanwhile CBS News reports that the State Department has issued a travel warning for North Korea after former President Carter cleared the country’s airspace and has a message for Americans: Just because President Jimmy Carter was able to enter and exit North Korea doesn’t mean you should start planning your vacation in Pyongyang.

You can read the new travel warning dated August 27, 2010 here.

We remember, of course, that Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States won the release of American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, opened a diplomatic channel to North Korea’s reclusive government and dined with the North’s ailing leader, Kim Jong-il in 2009.

Now, President Carter has now successfully returned with Mr. Gomes.

For those still contemplating a vacation in North Korea despite the new travel warning, here is something to think about — only two remaining ex-POTUS (President of the United States) have yet to rescue an American in trouble in North Korea  — 41st  (George H. W. Bush) and 43rd (George W. Bush).

You might think really, really, hard before you wander off into the hermit kingdom.

We should note that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the formal name of North Korea was designated by George W. (43rd) a member of the “axis of evil in 2002. In 2008, he removed North Korea off the off the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

We thought we’d mention that but don’t let that give you any vacation ideas.