Officially In: Larry Leon Palmer to Bridgetown Plus Six Other Island Countries

President Obama announced his intent to nominate Larry Leon Palmer to be Ambassador to Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

The WH released the following brief bio:

Larry Leon Palmer, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, served as President and CEO of the Inter-American Foundation from 2005 to 2010.  Previously, he was U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Honduras from 2002 to 2005 and Charge D’Affaires in Quito, Ecuador.  Additional overseas posts have included the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Paraguay, Korea, and Sierra Leone.  Ambassador Palmer served as Assistant to the President of the University of Texas at El Paso and President of the 41st Senior Seminar, a senior management course for Senior Foreign Service officers. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Ambassador Palmer served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia.  Ambassador Palmer received a B.A from Emory University, an M. Ed. from Texas Southern University and a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration and African Studies from Indiana University, Bloomington. 

If confirmed, Ambassador Palmer would succeed Mary Martin Ourisman who was appointed by George W. Bush as U.S. ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Carribean from 2006-2008. Two career diplomats have been appointed as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim to the US Embassy Barbados since the conclusion of her tenure.

Now if the name Larry Palmer sounds familiar, that’s because he was officially nominated last year to be our ambassador to Venezuela.  He even got his Senate confirmation hearing.  Before he got a vote on his nomination though, Venezuela withdraw its agrément. We suspected then that he would be renominated for a different post. Barring any controversy, Ambassador Palmer will be the next U.S. ambassador to Barbados.

The list of U.S. ambassadors appointed to our embassy in Barbados with very few exceptions is like a millionaire’s list of political supporters from both Republican and Democratic administrations.  In fact, we have to go back all the way to 1977 to find a career diplomat appointed to this mission (see Frank V. Ortiz, Jr. appointed by President Carter). Mission Barbados, of course, is not like any other diplomatic mission. For one thing, the chief of mission there is also our concurrent ambassador to six other island countries in the eastern Caribbean.  And they don’t have bridges connecting each other, so you need a plane, preferably a personal plane.

When I posted about US Embassy Barbados in 2009, I wrote this:

God help the US Embassy Barbados if they get a career diplomat for their next ambassador. Without
sufficient travel and representation funds or a donated aircraft (and
pilot) and representational funds, the officers in Bridgetown might as
well decamp to Washington or Miami while covering the eastern Caribbean.

Given the current budget outlook, that might still happen, the decamping to WashDC or Miami, I mean.  Of course, if Congress gets its way, we’re looking at five more embassies in the eastern Caribbean.  How crazy is that?

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts | Oct 31, 2011

Officially In: Tara D. Sonenshine to be Under Secretary for State/R

President Obama announced his intent to nominate Tara D. Sonenshine to be Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (“R”).

The WH released the following brief bio:

Tara D. Sonenshine is the Executive Vice President of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).  Prior to joining USIP, she was a strategic communications adviser to many international organizations including USIP, the International Crisis Group, Internews, CARE, The American Academy of Diplomacy, and the International Women’s Media Foundation. Ms. Sonenshine served in various capacities at the White House during the Clinton Administration, including Transition Director, Director of Foreign Policy Planning for the National Security Council, and Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Communications.   Prior to serving in the Clinton Administration, Ms. Sonenshine was an Editorial Producer of ABC News’ Nightline, where she worked for more than a decade.  She was also an off-air reporter at the Pentagon for ABC’s World News Tonight and is the recipient of 10 News Emmy Awards for coverage of international affairs. 

She holds a B.A. in Political Science from Tufts University.

Her USIP bio has additional details:

Sonenshine recently completed a project with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen for the Genocide Prevention Task Force, which was jointly convened by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, The American Academy of Diplomacy and the U.S. Institute of Peace. Tara served in the Clinton Administration as both Deputy Director for Communications on the National Security Council and later as Transition Director for foreign policy planning. She is the winner of 10 News Emmy Awards for her international productions for ABC News’ “Nightline.” She was a Contributing Editor at Newsweek magazine and President of She speaks Russian and Spanish and is an expert on creating and sustaining public visibility around issues, and developing external relations. She is published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Russkoye Novoe Slovo, and other outlets.

If confirmed, Ms.  Sonenshine would succeed Judith McHale who departed in June this year after a 2-year tenure.

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts| Nov 4, 2011

Officially In: Anne C. Richard to State/PRM

President Obama announced his intent to nominate Anne C. Richard to be Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) at the  Department of State.

The WH released the following brief bio:

Anne C. Richard is the Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy for the International Rescue Committee (IRC).  Prior to joining IRC in 2004, Ms. Richard was Director of the Office of Resources, Plans and Policy at the Department of State from 1999 to 2001.  From 1997 to 1999, she was Deputy Chief Financial Officer of the Peace Corps.  She has also served as a budget and policy advisor at the Department of State and as Budget Examiner at the United States Office of Management and Budget.  Ms. Richard was an International Affairs Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations from 1993 to 1994 and was part of the team that created the International Crisis Group.  From 1985 to 1986, she was a fellow of the Robert Bosch Foundation in Germany.  

She received a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and an M.A. in Public Policy Studies from the University of Chicago.

Ms. Richard was in the news sometime back about the militarization of U.S. aid in Afghanistan. She blogs here. Video clip below:

If confirmed, Ms. Richard would succeed Eric P. Schwartz who was confirmed by the Senate as Assistant Secretary of State for PRM on June 19, 2009. In June this year, University of Minnesota Provost Tom Sullivan named Mr. Schwartz as dean of the university’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts| Nov 4, 2011

General Fuller, Didn’t You Know That Keeping It Real in Afghanistan Can Get You Sacked?

Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller, deputy commander of the American-led NATO effort to train and equip Afghan security forces gave an interview to POLITICO last week.  He said lots of things in that interview that you and I already know, and that U.S. officials already think but won’t admit publicly for obvious reasons. 

This is not the first time that President Karzai and “erratic” had been used in the same sentence.  Apparently, frustrated diplomats and foreign statesmen have called the president of Afghanistan “as erratic, emotional and prone to believing paranoid conspiracy theories.” But no one gets fired for writing that in a cable.  Read this account here from the Guardian (WL coverage from the Guardian, you may go blind if read from a work computer).

I am pleased to see that a two-star general went on the record to say the things he said. I’m sorry he got sacked and may be forced to retire.  But you don’t get to become a general by accident or by political connections, unlike some of our ambassadors.  He must know that what he said in the interview will be reported widely. I don’t think he is naive enough to think that there will not be any career repercussions.  It’s not like they’re just kicking cans and this came up.  So, that leaves me thinking — either his frustrations with his Afghan counterparts have become crazy bad, or he knew what’s coming, but may have thought the flap is worth it if this gets some airing.  

I particularly like the “poke me in the eye with a needle,” (ouchy!) and the “cod’s on the menu today.” There is a poem in there somewhere.
Via Politico:

The two-star general flashed irritation when he brought up Karzai’s recent remarks that Afghanistan would side with Pakistan in a war against the U.S., blasting the president’s comments as “erratic,” and adding, “Why don’t you just poke me in the eye with a needle! You’ve got to be kidding me … I’m sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion and now you’re telling me, ‘I don’t really care’?”
Fuller recently involved Afghan generals in a strategic review of the U.S. mission and said that they didn’t understand the extent to which America is in economic distress.

“I said, ‘You guys are isolated from reality.’ The reality is, the world economy is having some significant hiccups. The U.S. is in this [too],” Fuller told POLITICO. “If you’re in a very poor country like Afghanistan, you think that America has roads paved in gold, everybody lives in Hollywood. They don’t understand the sacrifices that America is making to provide for their security. And I think that’s part of my job to educate ’em.”
In fact, the Afghan government made requests for F-16 fighter jets and tanks, even without the budget to use or maintain them, said Fuller. “I actually had someone senior tell me, ‘All I want to do is put them [tanks] on a flat bed and drive them around in a parade,” he said.
“You can teach a man how to fish, or you can give them a fish,” said Fuller. “We’re giving them fish while they’re learning, and they want more fish! [They say,] ‘I like swordfish, how come you’re giving me cod?’ Guess what? Cod’s on the menu today.”

Read in full here.

Below is a brief bio:

As the Deputy Commander for Programs Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller is responsible for planning and executing resources in order to generate and sustain an Afghan Army of 195,000 and an Afghan Police Force of 157,000 by November 2012.

Fuller joined the NTM-A / CSTC-A team from the Program Executive Officer- Soldier.  A native of Andover, Md., Major General Fuller was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1980 after graduating from the University of Vermont with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science. He also holds: a Master of Science in Public Administration, Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, Pa.; a Master of Science in Military Arts and Sciences, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kan; and a Master of Science in Resourcing of the National Security Strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Fort McNair, Washington, District of Columbia.

His awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with two oak leaf clusters); Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Army Meritorious Service Medal (with two oak leaf clusters); Army Commendation Medal (with oak leaf cluster); Southwest Asia Liberation Medal; Army Achievement Medal (with oak leaf cluster); National Defense Service Ribbon; Army Service Ribbon; Army Parachutist Badge; Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge; Army Staff Identification Badge; and the Overseas Ribbon.

Danger Room’s Spencer Ackerman writes that “Getting fired from Afghanistan doesn’t necessarily end Fuller’s Army career. But that career will be in need of serious rehab if Fuller doesn’t opt to retire. All for saying something that a lot of people in the military quietly agree with — even if they know better than to tell it to a journalist.”

Whether he gets his career rehabilitated or he gets retirement, I don’t know. But it seems a certainty that his successor, too will need to educate the Afghans on the sacrifices that America is making to provide for their security. But he must do it gently and carefully so as not to offend their feelings, see?  It doesn’t matter that they, too, offend our feelings.  I’m sure General Fuller’s successor will get a couple of advice like, 1) stay away from loaded words like, “needle”, “poke”, “eye”, “cod”, “erratic”, and a host of other words that are seen as inappropriate. Even if they’re true. And 2) stay away from journalists, because they write stuff down.

Wartime Contracting Records Definitely More Sensitive Than 9/11 Commission Records – Sealed Until 2031!

Logo of the Commission on Wartime Contracting ...Image via WikipediaFrom Jake Wiens of the Project for Government Oversight

The recently dissolved Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC) did just about everything right. Created in the spirit of the Truman Commission, the CWC identified as much as $60 billion in contracting-related waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the process, the CWC held 25 hearings, released 8 reports, and published detailed recommendations intended to prevent waste and fraud from occurring in future overseas contingencies. Perhaps most important, the bipartisan commission was unanimous in its findings and recommendations, notable in a city known for its partisan gridlock.
But the Commission’s decision to seal its internal records for 20 years is just plain wrong. The decision, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, blocks the public and watchdog groups from using the CWC’s source material to build upon the important work of the Commission and to help prevent waste and fraud in overseas contingency contracting in the near term. 

Clark Irwin, the CWC’s spokesman, told the Wall Street Journal the seal was justified because “there is sensitive information in there.” He cited proprietary company information, attorney work products, and classified documents as examples of such records. Another source told the Journal that the expectation that the CWC’s records would be sealed was necessary to encourage sources to speak candidly.

But Irwin’s argument ignores the fact that documents are only released by the National Archives after first going through an extensive vetting process. So whether the seal is 20 years, 20 days, or even if there were no seal at all, the truly sensitive material would be redacted or withheld. 

Sources close to the CWC have told POGO that the commissioners agreed to the 20-year seal after being informed that it was standard practice. But 20 years doesn’t appear to be anywhere near standard. Congress has created six investigative commissions in the last 20 years, the most well known being the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission). 

The 9/11 Commission, which investigated issues of the most sensitive nature, sealed its records for just five years.

Read in full here.

Yo, Commissioners – I think you’ve all been played!

I just finished writing to both my senators and my congressman.  If you’re reading this, please click here and write to your congressional representatives.  We should not tolerate this type of actions in the guise of protecting “sensitive information.” Sensitive information, my foot!  This is pure and simple “cover your ass” strategeries, too laughable if this were not real.  The Commission should reverse the 20-year seal of its internal records. If it is unable to do so, Congress which created this Commission should quickly remedy this situation before they bury the boxes in underground bunkers until 2031.