State/OIG Releases Ambassador Scott Gration’s Embassy Report Card – And Look, No Redactions!

On June 29, US Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration announced his resignation effective July 28 (see US Embassy Kenya: Ambassador Scott Gration Quits Over “Differences” Effective July 28).  Ambassador Gration left Kenya on July 23. Two weeks after the ambassador’s official resignation took effect, State’s Office of the Inspector General posted online its inspection report of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. And its pretty brutal.

Unfortunately for Ambassador Gration, a political appointee, Kenya is not in a “geopolitical situation” like Beirut or Islamabad (see State Dept OIG Reports: Oh, Redactions, Is Double Standard Thy True Name?) so the 68-page report has only a few minor redactions (including the names of the inspection team). The section covering the ambassador’s mission leadership has not/not been Sharpied out to protect the readers.

Here are the key judgments cut and pasted from the published report:

  • The Ambassador has lost the respect and confidence of the staff to lead the mission. Of more than 80 chiefs of mission inspected in recent cycles, the Ambassador ranked last for interpersonal relations, next to last on both managerial skill and attention to morale, and third from last in his overall scores from surveys of mission members. The inspectors found no reason to question these assessments; the Ambassador’s leadership to date has been divisive and ineffective.
  • The Ambassador has damaged the cohesion of Embassy Nairobi’s country team by underscoring differences between offices working directly with Kenya and those with regional responsibilities. Country team members, particularly those from other agencies, relied on the recently departed deputy chief of mission to maintain a sense of common purpose at Embassy Nairobi. Unless corrected there is a risk that the country team will become dysfunctional. The Ambassador needs to broaden his understanding of why various agencies are part of his mission, cease avoiding contact with them, and work with the assistance of a senior Department of State (Department) official and the next deputy chief of mission to restore country team harmony.
  • The Ambassador’s efforts to develop and focus the mission’s work around what he calls “mission essential tasks” have consumed considerable staff time and produced documents of unclear status and almost no value to the Department in approving priorities and assigning resources. His efforts have also created confusion about the relevance of the embassy’s annual Mission Resource Request (MRR). The Office of Inspector General (OIG) team agreed with embassy staff that the mission essential task process added no real value to the management of the embassy.
  • The Ambassador’s greatest weakness is his reluctance to accept clear-cut U.S. Government decisions. He made clear his disagreement with Washington policy decisions and directives concerning the safe-havening in Nairobi of families of Department employees who volunteered to serve in extreme hardship posts; the creation of a freestanding Somalia Unit; and the nonuse of commercial email for official government business, including Sensitive But Unclassified information. Notwithstanding his talk about the importance of mission staff doing the right thing, the Ambassador by deed or word has encouraged it to do the opposite.
  • The Ambassador does not read classified front channel messages and has not established a system to have his staff screen incoming cables relevant to Kenya and U.S. interests in the region.
  • The Ambassador’s initiative to redirect programming for nearly $550 million in U.S. health assistance, while well intentioned, has proven disruptive and created confusion about its relationship to existing programs. He announced to the Kenyans the establishment of a new unfunded program, called Let’s Live, with the unrealistic aim of reducing by 50 percent in 1 year Kenya’s premature mortality rates for infants, mothers, and noncommunicable diseases.
  • The embassy needs to focus the political section’s reporting on the forthcoming March 2013 elections and should draw from a 1-year strategy recently approved by Washington, which includes a plan to engage the Kenyan public and authorities to prevent and mitigate ethnic-political conflict.
  • The respective responsibilities of Embassy Nairobi and the Somalia Unit are clear in principle, but in practice the Ambassador has set a tone that discourages collaboration between the embassy and the Somalia Unit.
  • The Department should consider extending assignments to Nairobi from 2 to 3 years, which would be in line with the large majority of other agency assignments to Nairobi, achieve cost savings of more than $5 million annually, and enhance productivity and effectiveness.
  • Embassy Nairobi’s public diplomacy efforts would be strengthened if there were better internal communication and coordination among agencies to publicize U.S. assistance efforts in Kenya. The Ambassador should be a more integral part of the mission’s public affairs strategy and activities.
  • The consular section handles a complex workload, involving multiple countries and nationalities in a professional manner. Consular management needs to address serious internal communication [REDACTED]
  • Despite rapid mission growth the embassy’s management section functions well. This is the third consecutive report in which OIG recommends replacing the substandard warehouse. The warehouse facilities constitute the greatest management control vulnerability and should be replaced quickly.

The devil in the details, found in various parts of the 68-page report:

  • [T]he exercise has fostered a sense of exclusion among the latter two, and in some instances the latter three, groups. This sense has been strengthened by the Ambassador’s reduction of country team meetings from weekly to biweekly and his ongoing unwillingness to meet agency heads who want to brief him on their programs. After his first year at the embassy, several have still not been given time on his calendar to explain their programs and have stopped asking.
  • Many embassy staff members told the OIG team about other meetings that featured scathing criticism from and humiliating treatment by the Ambassador directed at senior staff. Interviews with agency heads and senior staff indicate that most try to manage their attendance at ambassadorial meetings to minimize any attention he might focus on them. His score as a manager in the relevant inspection questionnaire ranked him 83rd among the last 84 inspected chiefs of mission.
  • Overall morale among U.S. direct-hire employees in Nairobi is slightly below that for recently inspected missions. High threat and crime levels no doubt weigh on morale, but the staff senses that its work is important and leadership has been strong below the level of the Ambassador. In the inspection questionnaires provided to OIG, the Ambassador’s score for attention to morale is the second lowest of more than 80 recently inspected chiefs of mission, and his score on interpersonal relations is the lowest. (Personal questionnaires are distributed to all Department U.S. direct-hire employees and also to the heads of other agencies representated in the mission. The embassy response rate was approximately 72 percent, which is higher than average.) Furthermore, his refusal to accept fully the Department’s decisions on establishing an independent Somalia Unit, on safe havening in Nairobi of families of Foreign Service officers working in extreme hardship posts, and on the non use of commercial email for official government business, except in emergencies, is widely known and a source of confusion and discouragement within the embassy community.

And if you don’t like the survey result, you can always deploy your own –

“Assessing mission morale to be low, the Ambassador designed and deployed his own climate survey of mission personnel. When the results pointed to him as the cause, he told embassy employees that senior officers had done a bad job of explaining his objectives. He subsequently sought—but did not obtain—access to individual survey responses that would have violated the anonymity of the respondents.”

A Personally Designed Health Campaign – Let’s Live!

“After arriving in 2011, the Ambassador showed a disinterest in receiving briefings about the mission’s extensive health assistance programs. Nonetheless, he personally designed a health campaign with the objective of reducing maternal and child mortality, and mortality from noncommunicable diseases, by 50 percent in 1 year. He named the campaign Let’s Live.

Staff found the Ambassador’s goals laudable in principle and consistent with Global Health Initiative (GHI) principles to strengthen and integrate local health systems, and prioritize maternal health. However, they expressed their concerns to him that the goals were not achievable within a year and that programs had to observe applicable legal authorities. At the same time, his assertive stance in pressing Kenya to adopt Let’s Live damaged his relations with senior Kenyan health authorities. Let’s Live created a heavy additional workload for staff as they managed ongoing programs while trying to be responsive to the Ambassador’s taskings, occasionally incurring his anger if he perceived insufficient commitment.”

Safe-havened families – the last to receive embassy support in a crisis because ….

“The embassy currently provides safe-haven for eight families of employees who volunteered for service in Afghanistan, Iraq or Pakistan. One safe-havened spouse is the recipient of the 2012 Avis Bohlen award for advancing American interests by her relations with the American and foreign communities in Kenya. The families received embassy concurrence on their status before the arrival of the current Ambassador, who questioned the safe-havening families in Nairobi, and informed the OIG team that he agreed only under pressure from Washington to allow the families to remain at post. After relenting, the Ambassador told safe-havened family members that he personally wanted them gone, and that they would be the last to receive embassy support in a crisis. The Ambassador also directed that, if safe-havened families did not reside in one of the embassy’s residential gated compounds, they would have to move to one. In addition, he required that each of the families obtain a sponsor from the spouse’s work unit, even if the family had been residing in Nairobi for a long time. The Ambassador’s rationale for these requirements was to enhance the security of the families, but in doing so he has created a separate security standard in contravention of existing Department standards for residential security. Although the Department’s policy on safe-havening families states that this option must be negotiated on a case-by-case basis by the employee taking the hardship assignment and the losing post, the aim is clearly to incentivize and facilitate employees to volunteer for these very challenging assignments. The Ambassador’s treatment of these safe-havening families continues to undermine that objective by imposing additional and unnecessary requirements on safe-havening families.”

Internet in the Bathroom for a boss who needs to be gifted with one of Bob Sutton’s book

“Very soon after the Ambassador’s arrival in May 2011, he broadcast his lack of confidence in the information management staff. Because the information management office could not change the Department’s policy for handling Sensitive But Unclassified material, he assumed charge of the mission’s information management operations. He ordered a commercial Internet connection installed in his embassy office bathroom so he could work there on a laptop not connected to the Department email system. He drafted and distributed a mission policy authorizing himself and other mission personnel to use commercial email for daily communication of official government business. During the inspection, the Ambassador continued to use commercial email for official government business. The Department email system provides automatic security, record-keeping, and backup functions as required. The Ambassador’s requirements for use of commercial email in the office and his flouting of direct instructions to adhere to Department policy have placed the information management staff in a conundrum: balancing the desire to be responsive to their mission leader and the need to adhere to Department regulations and government information security standards. The Ambassador compounded the problem on several occasions by publicly berating members of the staff, attacking them personally, loudly questioning their competence, and threatening career-ending disciplinary actions. These actions have sapped the resources and morale of a busy and understaffed information management staff as it supports the largest embassy in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Wouldn’t you want to know who scored worse as a manager and ranked 84th out of 84 inspected chiefs of mission? Me, too.

We can’t find on paper the issue on the adjustments of heights of all embassy tables or the reported recalibration of official clocks … maybe more later? I’m still reading.

Domani Spero

Pending State Department Nominations as of August 2012

Below is a list of nominees submitted by the President to the Senate for confirmation during the current congress and was still undergoing SFRC consideration when the Senate took its break on August 2, 2012:

Aug 02, 12     PN1876    United Nations
Patrick J. Leahy, of Vermont, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-seventh Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Aug 02, 12     PN1875    United Nations
John Hardy Isakson, of Georgia, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-seventh Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Jul 18, 12     PN1827    Department of State
Richard G. Olson, of New Mexico, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. (reportedly discharged from committee but still listed as “pending” in the SFRC)

Jul 11, 12     PN1802    Department of State
Walter North, of Washington, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Papua New Guinea, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Solomon Islands and  Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Vanuatu.

Jul 11, 12     PN1801    Department of State
Stephen D. Mull, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Poland.

Jul 11, 12     PN1800    Department of State
Dawn M. Liberi, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Burundi.

Dec 05, 11     PN1171    Department of State
Joseph E. Macmanus, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Representative of the United States of America to the International Atomic Energy Agency,
with the rank of Ambassador.

Dec 05, 11     PN1170    Department of State
Joseph E. Macmanus, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Vienna Office of the United Nations,
with the rank of Ambassador.

Oct 17, 11     PN1047    Department of State
Sharon English Woods Villarosa, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of  Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mauritius, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador  Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Seychelles.

Shari Villarosa‘s nomination for Mauritius has been pending in committee since October 2011. And then there’s also Joseph Macmanus for IAEA and UNVIE, pending since December 2011.  Ms. Villarosa was Deputy Coordinator for Regional Affairs in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism when she was nominated last year.  Mr. Macmanus on the other hand was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs when his nomination was announced last year.

Don’t know why these two nominees have been stuck in committee for the last 8-10 months. Mr. Macmanus is heading to IAEA and the UN, the later, of course a favorite pet peeve for some folks in Congress.  Could be that.  Mauritius as you may already know is an island in the Indian Ocean (also the only known habitat of the extinct Dodo bird). Nothing controversial there. She’s a career diplomat who was previously chargé d’affaires for the US Embassy in Rangoon from August 2005 to September 2008.  There was that OIG report while she was CDA in Burma (mostly redacted, of course!).   But that’s not it, is it?

I don’t think these two even had their confirmation hearings put on the calendar at the SFRC.  Interesting, huh? Anybody know why these two nominations have been glued to the SFRC welcome mat for months without action?

Domani Spero

US Mission Afghanistan: USAID Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah, Four Others Killed, Two Wounded in Suicide Attack in Kunar

A suicide attack on August 8 at the Kunar Province of Afghanistan killed USAID Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah, two soldiers, Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy and Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin and airman, Maj. Walter D. Gray. The attack also killed an unnamed Afghan civilian,  wounded an unnamed Foreign Service Officer and seriously wounded Col. James Mingus, the 4th Brigade’s  commander.

According to ABC News, the deadly attack took place Wednesday when two suicide bombers detonated suicide vests as a team of American military and civilian officials approached the provincial council’s office in Sarkowi in Kunar Province.

On August 9, Secretary Clinton released the following statement:

The United States strongly condemns the suicide attack yesterday in Kunar province, Afghanistan, that killed USAID Foreign Service Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah, three ISAF service members and an Afghan civilian, and injured a State Department Foreign Service officer. On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I have sent my deepest condolences to Ragaei’s family and to the entire U.S. Mission in Afghanistan.

Ragaei’s work over the last year was critical to our efforts to support Afghanistan’s political, economic, and security transitions and was an example of the highest standards of service. Over the last 15 months — partnering with local officials — he worked in eastern Afghanistan to help establish new schools and health clinics, and deliver electricity to the citizens of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. Ragaei was so committed to our mission and to the people of Afghanistan that he volunteered to serve a second year.

With the work of people such as Ragaei, the civilian surge we launched in Afghanistan in 2009 has made a tremendous impact, strengthening the capacity of the Afghan Government and laying a foundation for long-term sustainable development. Though we are shocked and saddened by this loss and will miss Ragaei, our efforts will continue.

Read the entire statement here.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah also released the following statement:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On behalf of President Obama, Secretary Clinton and the American people, I have sent my deepest condolences to the family of USAID Foreign Service Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah who died yesterday in Afghanistan along with several members of the International Security Assistance Force and Afghan civilians during a terrorist attack in Kunar Province. This tragedy is a testament to the deep commitment and sacrifice of our dedicated staff who serve in conflict countries like Afghanistan around the world.

Ragaei recently began a voluntary second tour in Afghanistan in order to continue his critical support of Afghanistan’s stability and long-term development.  His hard work has helped to bring key services and improvements to the people of Afghanistan such as schools, health clinics, and electricity to the citizens of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.

Prior to joining USAID, Ragaei had more than 15 years of professional development experience both in the United States and overseas. He was also working to complete a PhD in Planning, Governance, and Globalization at Virginia Tech University.

Read the whole statement here.

Mr. Abdelfattah is survived by his two teenage sons and wife.  We don’t know anything more about him except that he has a Picasa photo gallery with wonderful photos from Cairo and Luxor (and more) and that prior to joining USAID, he worked as a  planning supervisor for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

*  *  *

Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35, of West Point, N.Y., and Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, 45, of Laramie, Wyo who were killed in the same attack were assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo. According to DOD, they died Aug. 8, in Sarkowi, in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when they encountered an insurgent who detonated a suicide vest.  Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38, of Conyers, Ga., was assigned  to the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Carson, Colo. reports that Major Kennedy entered the Army on May 27, 2000, after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He leaves behind wife, Kami, and two twin children, a boy and a girl under age 2. He was awarded a Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart posthumously according to a DOD spokesman.

Sgt. Major Griffin had been deployed to Afghanistan since March 13. It was his first deployment in the country after having served three tours in Iraq. He had also been deployed to Kuwait and the Balkans during his Army career. Griffin was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, according to information provided by Fort Carson.

The AP reports that Major Gray was commissioned in October 1997 through the Reserve Officer Training Corps after serving as an enlisted airman and was one of the Air Force’s first career air liaison officers.

Our thoughts and prayers to the families of the departed and the recovery of those wounded.

How. Many. More?

Domani Spero