State/OIG Releases Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process

— By Domani Spero

The State Department’s Office of the Inspector General released its Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process.  [See Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process (ISP-I-13-44A)  [491 Kb]  Posted on September 25, 2013].  The inspection took place in Washington, DC, between April 15 and August 13, 2013. The names of the inspectors have been redacted per [FOIA Exemption (b) (6)]  which “exempts from disclosure records or information which if disclosed would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” (Argh!!!)

The OIG report in short form says “The Accountability Review Board process operates as intended—independently and without bias—to identify vulnerabilities in the Department of State’s security programs.”

Among its key judgments are 1) the implementation of Accountability Review Board recommendations works best when the Secretary of State and other Department of State principals take full ownership and oversight of the implementation process; 2) per Benghazi ARB recommendation to enable future Boards to recommend that the Department of State take disciplinary action in cases of unsatisfactory leadership performance related to a security incident, State “plans to revise the Foreign Affairs Manual and request that Congress amend the applicable statute to incorporate this change.”

According to the report, the OIG team interviewed the four secretaries who held office between 1998 and 2012. “All stated that the ARB process was an effective tool that could provide the Department with important lessons for enhancing the security and safety of U.S. diplomatic facilities and employees. The interviews revealed that the secretaries had engaged actively in the ARB process and had taken the ARB and the resulting recommendations with utmost seriousness.”

The report does not include the names of the interviewees but the four SecState would have been Madeleine Albright (1997-2001), Colin Powell (2001-2005), Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009), and Hillary Rodham Clinton (2009-2013)

The very same report notes that the “OIG team was not able to identify an institutionalized process by which the Secretary or Deputy Secretary engaged beyond the drafting and submission of the Secretary’s legislated report to Congress.”

Two former secretaries “raised questions as to whether the process is sufficiently robust for handling investigations of major, complex incidents, especially those in which the interests and actions of several agencies were involved.”

The report further noted that all four former secretaries described the inherent tug of war between risks and rewards as the Department conducts its business in dangerous places around the world:

Typically, the strong preference among those responsible for advancing U.S. policy objectives is to keep posts open whenever possible, even in dangerous places, while those officials responsible for security give priority to the risks and the possibilities for harm. Within the Department, these sometimes contradictory positions tend to be represented respectively by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and the Under Secretary of State for Management. For that reason, two former secretaries were strongly of the view that responsibility for reconciling these perspectives should be vested at the deputy secretary level. Indeed, one former Secretary told the OIG team that this concern was at the heart of the original proposal to create a second deputy secretary position, one that would have as a principal responsibility overseeing and reconciling these competing interests of policy and security on a daily basis.

The second deputy secretary position was first filled in 2009 during Secretary Clinton’s tenure.  The State Department describes the position as the Chief Operating Officer of the Department, but the official title is Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (D/MR).   The position “serves as principal adviser to the Secretary on overall supervision and direction of resource allocation and management activities of the Department.” The job summary posted online makes no special mention of this position as the arbiter when the competing interests between policy and security comes to the fore.

From 2009-2010, Jacob J. Lew was D/MR and oversaw the civilian surge in Afghanistan. From 2011-2013, Thomas R. Nides was D/MR and delivered State’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).  Most recently, President Obama announced the nomination of Heather Higginbottom, the new Counselor in the Office of the Secretary of State to be the third Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.

We hope to do a follow-up post on the ARB Permanent Coordinating Committee and how come no ARB was convened following the attack at the US Embassy in Tunis in September 2012 despite “significant destruction of property.”

 (O_O)

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Snapshot: Accountability Review Boards 1998-2012

— By Domani Spero

Extracted from State/OIG report

Extracted from State/OIG report

We’ve listed 18 since 1986 when the ARB was first mandated under the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986. See 18 State Dept Accountability Review Boards Convened Since 1986 – Only Two Publicly Available.

(O_O)

Today at the SFRC: Goldberg, Blake, Jr., Stanton, Hyatt

— By Domani Spero

On September 25, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) will consider the nominees to four ambassadorial posts in East Asia and the Pacific (EAP).

 

Presiding: Senator Cardin
Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Time: 02:30 PM
Location: Senate Dirksen 419

Nominees:

  • The Honorable Philip S. Goldberg of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines
  • The Honorable Robert O. Blake, Jr. of Maryland, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia
  • Ms. Karen Clark Stanton of Michigan, to be Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
  • Ms. Amy Jane Hyatt of California, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Palau

 

For Ambassador Goldberg, until recently A/S to State/INR, the Philippines will be his second ambassadorial posting after Bolivia. You might recall that he was appointed to Bolivia in 2006 and in 2008, Evo Knievel’s government gave him 72 hours to leave the country, after declaring him persona non grata.

For Ambassador Blake, Jr., son of retired Ambassador Robert O. Blake, and until recently A/S to State/SCA, Indonesia will be his second ambassadorial posting after  Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

If confirmed, this will be Ms. Stanton’s first ambassadorial appointment.  Prior to this appointment, she was the Executive Director at State/EAP where a recent OIG report says: “The executive director is respected throughout the Department and the bureau for competence, leadership, innovation, and hard work but is also seen as being unnecessarily direct on occasion. Inspectors advised the director to be mindful of the tone used in conveying decisions or responses to requests.”

If confirmed, this will also be Ms. Hyatt’s first ambassadorial appointment. Prior to this appointment, Ms. Hyatt was the Management Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.  

This hearing is scheduled to be live webcast. Click here: http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/nomination-09-25-2013 for video and prepared statements of the nominees.

 

(O_O)

Photo of the Day: US Embassy Manila Hosts First “Eco-Fashion” Show

Via US Embassy Manila

Photo via US Embassy Manila/FB

Photo via US Embassy Manila/FB

“U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas Jr. hosted “Forward Fashion,” U.S. Embassy’s first eco-fashion show on September 17, 2013 at his residence. The event was a celebration of U.S.-Filipino collaboration in eco-fashion and design, corporate social responsibility, and sustainable development under the creative direction of Aristeo Tengco and showcasing eco-fashion designs of Dita Sandico-Ong and Paul Cabral. Some of the celebrities who donned the designs for the runway were Anne Curtis, Dennis Trillo, Matteo Guidicelli and Venus Raj.”

(O_O)