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How long will the State Dept’s bureaucratic firewall hold at the bureau level?

4 State Department Resignations Follow Benghazi Report – a headline repeated with some variation since Wednesday.

The bureaucratic casualties as of December 20:  One assistant secretary, and reportedly two of his deputies, and a fourth one who was third level down from his bureau’s assistant secretary.

Only one, the assistant secretary submitted his resignation. The other three apparently were put on  “administrative leave” pending further action. Hey! What does “further action” means?  Does that mean reassignment?  Retirement? Or just go disappear until the press gets tired of this thing?  Does that mean the higher ups who dodged the bullet are still looking up what FAM cite to slap them with? Why? Oh, because the Foreign Affairs Manual is the official rules book. Anything not on it, is not considered to have real teeth.  So, obviously, if you want to line them up on a career firing squad, you better get the FAM citation right. Or Legal would have a fit. And that’ll be a ton of paperwork and what with the holidays next week …

Who the foxtrot wants to be stuck at the office doing that sort of stuff!?

Anyway, one was reportedly preparing to retire, anyway.

Too bad his office was not on the 7th floor.

In any case, if he’s been in with XX years of service, he will get a Certificate of Appreciation personally signed by the Secretary of State. Woohoo!

One presumably did not know what was coming; blithely posting on social media about the NYT story on the ARB report the night it was released.

No one called to say we’re releasing this report tonight and there’s no breach or whatever, but that you might stay home tomorrow because the buzzards will be circling the Truman building?

Nothing like that?

According to Dead Men Working, “one will be sorely missed by DS, which would have benefited greatly from his continued service.”

Career execution is a fairly common practice in public organizations, but since they’re often done in private with few details, there is always talk about inability to discuss such personnel matters.  And since there are few breadcrumbs and even fewer witnesses, no can can definitely say who fired the coup de grâce. (thanks N., you may eat another xmas cookie).

We find the “fixin” the blame ‘er accountability at the bureau level quite disturbing but also laughable.  We are tempted to start calling this the “Accountability for Mid Level Officials Review Board” as suggested below.

More of that from the National Review, below an excerpt from Elliot Abrams:

Does the new report on the State Department’s failures in Benghazi really deliver “accountability?” No: In fact it actually sacrifices a few career officials and protects the higher-ups.

While the report has been called scathing and tough, it does not fix any real responsibility on top officials: the secretary of state, the two deputy secretaries of state, or the assistant secretary for the Near East. The Diplomatic Security bureau takes a lot of hits, but I don’t see in it any serious discussion of the roles played by the under secretary for management, who supervises that bureau, nor of the “Seventh Floor” — the very top officials of the department.
[…]
It is even odder that Secretary Clinton, who once said “I take responsibility. . . . I take this very personally,” also gets off without criticism. It’s not that absolving her or her top deputies is necessarily wrong, but where it leads is bound to affect morale in the department. Look at these events from the perspective of career officials at the office director or deputy assistant secretary level, and what just happened? People like you were just ruined, while people up the chain got off scot free. Being on the Seventh Floor appears to grant immunity. I’m sure that’s what is being said around the water coolers at State, and from what I can see they are not wrong. Pickering led what was called an “Accountability Review Board.” A better name might have been “Accountability for Mid Level Officials Review Board.”

As we’ve noted here, the NEA bureau has been headed by Elizabeth Jones in an acting capacity since June 2012. Don’t know her, never meet her. State always expect that its officers hit the ground running whether in Foggy Bottom or in Burkina Faso.  If we cut her some slack, that’s from our belief, rightly or wrongly, that one needs at least 3-6 months to do an effective transition. We wrote previously that “If she is nudged out when she was on the job barely three months when Benghazi happened, we might think that the pressured shakeup is for purposes of appearances.”

We’ll, it now looks like she’ll be spared but State has now reached down to the third level down at the NEA bureau to find someone “accountable.” And this has nothing to do with appearances and managing perception.

Also the Cable cites the Q&A during the hearing between D/S Bill Burns and Senator Rubio:

When pressed by Rubio over whether the March and July cable requesting more security had reached the upper echelons of the State Department, Burns said they had.

“Well, they certainly would have been reviewed up through assistant secretary level, and it may be that some of my colleagues on the 7th floor saw them as well.” Burns said. “There were certainly memos that came up to the 7th floor that talked about the deteriorating security situation in eastern Libya, yes, sir.”
[…]
Maxwell, according to several State Department sources, had been slated to retire in September but was asked to stay on as DAS for the Maghreb after the attack. Maxwell might have been in a position to directly receive the requests for more security in Benghazi, giving him a direct connection to the security failures, those sources speculated. Those details are confined to the classified version of the ARB report. But State Department officials insist that he would not have been able make any decisions about such matters with consulting with Jones, who would have had the final say.

“Either they have some kind of documentary evidence that puts Maxwell in a bad light specifically, or this could be the Foreign Service elite protecting itself. Maxwell is not a member of the elite, but Jones is,” one senior foreign policy hand who has worked in the State Department said.

So the three future scenarios we’re looking at next:

  1. That the four resignations will temper the noise and hold the firewall at the bureau level.
  2. That the four resignations will increase the noise, add more questions, breach the bureau firewall and one or more of the Under Secretaries will roll.
  3. That with the holiday week coming, people will be riveted by last minute shopping, and will be so Benghazid-out to care.

The next time you guys (those still in the building) attend your mandatory leadership and management training, ask your facilitators how to survive organizational life when your leadership is in crisis. When lower-ranked officials are pressured to take the blame while higher ups in the food chain skate, we don’t call it true leadership.

Also, note that we’re not suggesting that all these bureau officials forced to leave made no errors in judgment.  We don’t know.  But to expect us to believe that these folks alone in a highly structured organization committed a firing offense and that their upper bosses knew nothing about whatever it was they did  … why, that’s a bunch of somethings, dahrlings!

domani spero sig

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