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Is the U.S. Senate Gonna Wreck, Wreck, Wreck, the Upcoming Bidding Season in the Foreign Service?

— Domani Spero

 

Do you know how many Foreign Service members are currently awaiting approval for commissioning, tenuring and promotion in the U.S. Senate? 1,705. That’s 1,705 regular folks  in the career service, excluding the ambassadorial nominees.

Some of these names have been submitted since January, and they are all still pending in a dark cauldron brewing in the SFRC.

In a message to its members on March 18, AFSA writes that it “has worked diligently for months on this issue and we would like to alert you that last week, important progress was made in resolving the holds, through the leadership of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Senator Bob Corker (R-TN).   AFSA is confident that both sides have demonstrated the good will necessary to move the process forward and looks now to an amicable and expedited solution to this situation in the coming days.”

The Senate's side of the Capitol Building in DC.

The Senate’s side of the Capitol Building in DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

End of the month and here we are.  Neither the Chairman nor the Ranking Member of the SFRC has anything to say about this logjam on their website.

These employees are waiting Senate attestation so they are officially commissioned, tenured and promoted. And you know what, the Foreign Service “bidding season” is fast eating up the days in the calendar.

Why this can get complicated?

A good number of these employees pending at the SFRC will be “bidding” for their next assignments.   The Foreign Service is a rotational, rank-in-person system.  As a consequence, there will be “real” FS-01s, for example and “FS-02s” who are supposed to be treated as 01s but who technically are 02s.

The State Department reportedly is telling folks looking at bids to treat “02” bidders as “01s” and so on and so forth because of inaction from the Senate.

Oh crap, how do you sort them all out?

One frustrated official writes, “I can’t see how this won’t have a major impact as we’re evaluating employees.”

Not only that, we imagine that the bump in pay and associated hardship/danger/COLA allowances (a percentage of basic compensation) will also not get taken care of until the Senate officially blesses these names.

Since bad news comes in threes — you should know that Ambassador Arnold A. Chacon’s nomination as Director General of the Foreign Service got out of the SFRC in February 2 but has been stuck since then waiting for a full vote in the U.S. Senate.

WaPo recently reported that President Obama may have learned how to finally break through the months-long Senate logjam on his ambassadorial nominations: he or Vice President Biden must travel to the countries where nominees would be headed.

Unfortunately for the Foreign Service, neither President Obama nor VP Biden has DGHR listed in their immediate schedule.

Below is the list of nominations pending in committee:

  • Feb 10, 14     PN1419    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Scott S. Sindelar, and ending Christine M. Sloop, which 6 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 10, 2014.
  • Feb 10, 14     PN1418    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Mark L. Driver, and ending Karl William Wurster, which 59 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 10, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1384    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Beata Angelica, and ending Benjamin Beardsley Dille, which 381 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1383    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Kevin Timothy Covert, and ending Paul Wulfsberg, which 277 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1382    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Matthew D. Lowe, and ending Wilbur G. Zehr, which 242 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1381    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Gerald Michael Feierstein, and ending David Michael Satterfield, which 196 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1380    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Kate E. Addison, and ending William F. Zeman, which 121 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1379    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Kathleen M. Adams, and ending Sean Young, which 112 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1378    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Julie Ann Koenen, and ending Brian Keith Woody, which 94 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1377    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Susan K. Brems, and ending Ann Marie Yastishock, which 45 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1376    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Scott Thomas Bruns, and ending Janelle Weyek, which 23 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1375    Foreign Service Nominations beginning James Benjamin Green, and ending Geoffrey W. Wiggin, which 11 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 30, 14     PN1374    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Christopher David Frederick, and ending Julio Maldonado, which 3 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 30, 2014.
  • Jan 09, 14     PN1317    Foreign Service Nominations beginning Ranya F. Abdelsayed, and ending Fireno F. Zora, which 135 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January  9, 2014.

We can’t help but think that this is one more  unintended consequence from the Senate’s “nuklear” option.  This WaPo piece on President Obama’s inability to fill many of his administration’s most important jobs is not even hopeful.

Doesn’t this remind you of  wreck ’em Plants v. Zombies, the DC edition?

 

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U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell to Retire in May After 37 Years in the FS

— Domani Spero
The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi announced today the retirement of Ambassador Nancy Powell after 37 years in the Foreign Service:

Ambassador Nancy J. Powell Photo via US Embassy India/FB

Ambassador Nancy J. Powell
Photo via US Embassy India/FB

U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy J. Powell announced in a U.S. Mission Town Hall meeting March 31 that she has submitted her resignation to President Obama and, as planned for some time, will retire to her home in Delaware before the end of May.  She is ending a thirty-seven year career that has included postings as U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Ghana, Pakistan, Nepal and India as well as service in Canada, Togo, Bangladesh, and Washington, where she was most recently Director General of the Foreign Service.  Ambassador Powell expressed her appreciation for the professionalism and dedication of the U.S. Mission to India team who have worked to expand the parameters of the U.S.-India bilateral relationship.  She also thanked those throughout India who have extended traditional warm Indian hospitality to her and who have supported stronger bilateral ties.

 

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U.S. Embassy Pakistan to Get ‘Camel Contemplating Needle’ Sculpture at Reduced Price, Let’s Buy Two!

— Domani Spero

 

Joshua White, the deputy director for South Asia at the Stimson Center tweeted this last week:

On March 30, The Skeptical Bureaucrat blogged about it:

The U.S. State Department has purchased for $400,000 a reproduction of that sculpture you see in the photo above, and will display it at the new U.S. Embassy that is now being constructed in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Acquisition of “Camel Contemplating Needle” by John Baldessari. Includes production cost related to the procurement of representational artwork to be displayed at the new US Embassy Islamabad and reproduction rights.

Representational artwork in embassies is intended for cross-cultural understanding through the visual arts, or something like that. So, what does that sculpture say about how the United States sees its relations with Pakistan? Is one of us the camel and the other the needle?

Today, it became a Buzzfeed Exclusive, U.S. Taxpayers To Spend $400,000 For A Camel Sculpture In Pakistan:

A camel staring at the eye of a needle would decorate a new American embassy — in a country where the average income yearly is $1,250.
[…]
Officials explained the decision to purchase the piece of art, titled “Camel Contemplating Needle,” in a four-page document justifying a “sole source” procurement. “This artist’s product is uniquely qualified,” the document explains. “Public art which will be presented in the new embassy should reflect the values of a predominantly Islamist country,” it says. (Like the Bible, the Qur’an uses the metaphor of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.)

To emphasize Baldassari’s fame, the contracting officials pulled a section from Wikipedia. “John Anthony Baldessari (born June 17, 1931) is an American conceptual artist known for his work featuring found photography and appropriated images.”

In a statement, State Department press spokeswoman Christine Foushee said the proposed purchase comes from the department’s “Office of Art in Embassies.” In new construction projects, she said, a small part of the total funds, about 0.5%, is spent on art purchases.

Steven Beyer of Beyer Projects, the art dealer for the project, points out to Buzzfeed that while some Americans may find it frivolous for the government to pay for art, others will find it important. “It depends on what part of the public you are in,” he said. “If you go to the museum and enjoy art and are moved by it, things cost what they cost.”

“Things cost what they cost” would make a nice motto.

In December 2013, The Skeptical Bureaucrat also blogged about the  artwork of Sean Scully that will be displayed at the future new U.S. Embassy in London:

The incomparable State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf displayed some performance art of her own at last Friday’s daily press briefing when she tried to explain why she thinks this purchase is “a good use of our limited resources” (yes, she does):

Okay, on the artwork, we have an Art in Embassies program run through the Office of Art in Embassies which curates permanent and temporary exhibitions for U.S. embassy and consulate facilities. It’s a public-private partnership engaging over 20,000 participants globally, including artists, museums, galleries, universities, and private collectors. For the past five decades, Art in Embassies has played a leading role in U.S. public diplomacy with a focused mission of cross-cultural dialogue and understanding through the visual arts and the artist exchange.

In terms of the London piece, like much of the art purchased by this program, this piece was purchased under the market price after considerable negotiation with both the artist and the gallery. This is an important part of our diplomatic presence overseas. We maintain facilities that serve as the face of the U.S. Government all throughout the world, and where we can promote cross-cultural understanding, and in this case do so for under market value, we think that’s a good use of our limited resources. Yes, we do.

Expect the official response to inquiries on the albino camel with blue eyes contemplating a gigantic needle artwork to take a similar line.

Go ahead, and just write your copy already.

Here’s one that reportedly takes 3 days to clean to bring on the full shine!

Tulips by Jeff Koon U.S. Embassy Beijing, China

Tulips by Jeff Koon
U.S. Embassy Beijing, China Photo via Art in Embassies/FB

 

The Office of Art in Embassies, in the Directorate for Operations, in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO/OPS/ART) curates, plans, and administers exhibitions of original art for the chief of mission residences overseas. It is also the office which oversees all aspects of the creation of permanent collections for new embassies and consulates through the Capital Security Construction Program. With a focus on cultural diplomacy, these collections feature the artistic heritage of the host country and the United States.

So far, we have not been able to locate a list of the artworks in the State Department’s permanent art collection.

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State Dept’s Selfie Diplomacy: #UnitedForUkraine; Now Waiting For Selfie From the Russian Bear …

— Domani Spero

In the last 48 hours, we’ve been seeing a bunch of selfies from the State Department with the hashtag #UnitedForUkraine.  The NYPost writes:

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was mocked Thursday after posting a photo of herself on Twitter holding a sign that read #United­For­Ukraine @State­Dept­Spox.
[…]
Psaki defended her photo.

“The people of Ukraine are fighting to have their voices heard and the benefit of communicating over social media is it sends a direct message to the people that we are with them, we support their fight, their voice and their future,” she said.

Now stop picking on Ms. Psaki, she’s not alone on this and at least she’s no longer using the hashtag #RussiaIsolated. The UK is set to start buying gas directly from Russia this fall despite threats  of  further sanctions against Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.

In any case, here is the Selfie Collection, a work in progress:

UnitedforUkraine_Psaki

Jen Psaki, State Department Spokesperson

unitedofrukraine_stengel

Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel, and Ms. Psaki’s boss’s boss

Selfie Missing:  Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Douglas Frantz, Ms. Psaki’s boss.

unitedofrukraine_evanryan

Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan

UFU_maconphillips

Coordinator for International Information Programs Macon Phillips

Selfie Missing: Coordinator for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications Alberto Fernandez

Unitedofrukraine_michellekwan

Michelle Kwan, State Department Senior Advisor

UFU_embassykyiv

Embassy Selfie:  Ambassador Pyatt with US Embassy Kyiv staff

 

Then our man in London, Ambassador Matthew Barzun ruined the fun and raised the bar with a Winfield House selfie via Vine:

 

Now we just need a selfie from the Russian bear.

Oops, wait … what’s this?  The Russian bear, missing a hashtag…

 

Google'd Putin riding a bear

 

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Photo of the Day: President Obama Meets Pope Francis

– Domani Spero

Photo via US Embassy The Holy See/FB

Photo via US Embassy The Holy See/FB Click on image to view more photos

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U.S. Embassy Bahrain: “Seat of the Pants” Leadership and Management Mess

— Domani Spero

State/OIG posted its March 31, 2014 Inspection Report of the U.S. Embassy in Manama, Bahrain. While there are some pockets of sunshine in this report, it comes across like post is a huge management mess. Post is headed by career diplomat, Ambassador Thomas Krajeski who assumed charge in October 2011. According to the embassy’s website, Stephanie Williams arrived as Deputy Chief of Mission in Manama in June 2010.  The current Deputy Chief of Mission Timothy Pounds arrived at post in March 2013.

The inspection took place in Washington, DC, between September 3 and 23, 2013, and in Manama, Bahrain, between September 25 and October 19, 2013. Ambassador Marianne Myles (team leader), Michael Hurley (deputy team leader), Alison Barkley, Beatrice Camp, Roger Cohen, David Davison, Shawn O’Reilly, Keith Powell II, Richard Sypher, Joyce Wong, and Roman Zawada conducted the inspection.

Post Snapshot:



Embassy Manama is a medium-sized mission with 80 U.S. direct hires, 23 U.S. local hires and 85 locally employed (LE) staff members who oversee a $14 million budget and manage 78 leased properties. The embassy building opened in 1991 and is nearing capacity. Manama is one of the Middle East missions that allow families, and assignments there continue to be 3-year tours. Continuing demonstrations and attacks against government and commercial targets have severely restricted the movement of staff and taken a toll on their morale.

Key Judgments

  • The embassy has two competing policy priorities: to maintain strong bilateral military cooperation and to advance human rights. The Ambassador has forged strong relationships with U.S. military leaders based in Bahrain to promote common goals.
  • The Ambassador’s failure to maintain a robust planning and review process has led to confusion and lack of focus among some staff members and sidelined economic/commercial activities and public diplomacy programs.
  • The embassy has not developed a comprehensive strategy to improve the Ambassador’s negative media image. The Ambassador has agreed to increase his participation in noncontroversial programs and events with potential to generate positive publicity.
  • Public affairs activities suffer from a lack of strategic planning.
  • The mission produces well-sourced and timely political reporting. Economic reporting has been sparse. The embassy does not have a strategy to support the President’s National Export Initiative.
  • Management controls processes are weak across the board, and the embassy should make resolving them a priority. The management officer has been given other duties that prevent him from giving his full time and energy to addressing these weaknesses. A lack of transparency in management policies exacerbates low morale.
  • The embassy and the Department of State have not implemented local labor law provisions that went into effect in September 2012 and have not made a decision on a proposed 2011 locally employed staff bonus.
  • The front office does not give adequate attention to mentoring, especially first-and second-tour employees.
  • The embassy’s innovative practice of providing mobile Internet routers in welcome kits makes the transition process for new employees more efficient.

You’ve got to wonder what’s else is going on when the embassy’s website displays this white space despite its DCM’s arrival at post about a year ago.

 

Screen shot, US Embassy Manama

Screen Capture, US Embassy Manama – March 28, 2014

More details below extracted from the OIG report.

Leadership and Management

 – Ambassador:

  • The Ambassador has forged a strong relationship with the heads of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. Marine Forces Central Command to promote consistent U.S. policy messaging. He is respected by many Bahraini officials and is well liked by mission staff. However, his lack of access to some key government officials, his poor media image, and the lack of an effective strategy to address these issues have created friction with principal officials in Washington.
  • 

The Ambassador has not focused sufficiently on planning processes and implementation as a way to keep staff focused during turbulent times. His belief that reactive “seat of the pants” leadership works best in Bahrain’s challenging environment has left staff members who do not have access to him on a regular basis confused about mission goals. Disdain for planning has trickled down to section heads, leaving most sections without the tools to make the best use of their programs and resources. During the inspection, the Ambassador endorsed a new planning effort launched by the deputy chief of mission (DCM) to create a broad-based plan of action for all sections and agencies. The Ambassador needs to remain personally involved in this effort.
  • Lack of a clear commercial strategy has impeded the Ambassador’s focus on export promotion. He should impart a vision to the economic/commercial section that will involve him in business issues, including making greater use of the Free Trade Agreement.
  • The Ambassador is intensely concerned about the security of mission employees, and they noted this favorably in OIG questionnaires. Despite that focus, he undermined the emergency action committee by allowing the former DCM to remain in a leased DCM residence in an unsafe red zone when other staff members living there were required to move. This decision required costly security measures to protect her and her family. When the new DCM arrived and moved into a new DCM residence, the Ambassador encouraged him to continue looking for yet another DCM residence, despite a 7-year lease and security upgrades that were already in place. The Ambassador’s practice of encouraging staff members to seek new housing is contrary to Department of State (Department) standard operating procedures.
  • 

The Ambassador has a well-received practice of walking around the embassy and dropping in on sections. He converses with staff on a frequent basis in the chancery cafeteria and at community functions. He holds “welcome breakfasts” at his own expense for newly arrived U.S. employees. However, he rarely meets with mission members in formal settings, such as town halls or LE staff committee meetings. There is a desire within the mission for greater engagement by the Ambassador.
  • The OIG team noted anomalies between the Ambassador’s calendar and his time and attendance reports and brought them to his attention through a formal memorandum with an itemized attachment. The OIG team noted that having elected a senior Foreign Service pay plan, the Ambassador is required to account for all leave, as outlined in ALDAC 13 State 26982. The Ambassador challenged two of the team’s assertions in the itemized attachment but declined to discuss other discrepancies, especially personal time spent out of the office on workdays. The issue merits further review, including examining time and attendance records and other documentation.
  • The Ambassador has had a difficult time with the government-dominated media since his arrival. Early in his tenure he wrote some broad policy articles for the newspapers and conducted television interviews. Press reaction was negative and included personal criticism of him. Soon after, the Ambassador reduced his press exposure. The Ambassador agreed to consider OIG team suggestions that he increase his participation in noncontroversial events and programs as a way to gain positive publicity and improve his public image, as well as the image of the United States. He agreed to attempt blogging and to engage first-and second-tour (FAST) employees in the effort. He also agreed to work with the public affairs staff to draw up a media plan, including his engagement in cultural programs.
  • The Ambassador chose not to engage with the OIG team in the exit brief process that is the standard final part of a mission inspection. His decision deprived the embassy of the opportunity to offer clarifications and raise questions directly with the OIG team.

Leadership and Management – Deputy Chief of Mission:

  • The DCM has a sufficient host country network and has served effectively as chargé d’affaires. The DCM meets regularly with section and agency heads. However, he does not provide adequate support and guidance to FAST employees, the LE staff committee, the community liaison office (CLO), or eligible family member (EFM) employees. He also does not move about the embassy enough. Several employees reported never seeing him outside his office. The DCM agreed to circulate in the chancery more often.
  • The DCM has not focused sufficiently on key management issues, including several that affect morale. Lack of clarity in EFM hiring, LE staff hiring and promotions, and housing board decisions have led to perceptions throughout the community of favoritism and unfairness. In addition, the DCM supports allowing employees to move upon request, regardless of the reason, as a way of boosting morale. This approach leads to waste and does not conform to 15 FAM policies on housing.
  • DCM needs to devote more attention to the FAST mentoring program. His approach has left the program largely without guidance. The DCM has not led an effort to establish a new structure for the program, identify a FAST volunteer to chair the program, and meet regularly with the group. The OIG team encouraged leadership and FAST employees to consider best practices used by other embassies with strong FAST programs.
  • 

The DCM has neglected some personnel duties, such as discussing performance expectations with direct-hire employees for whom he is the rating or reviewing officer.
  • The OIG team reviewed consular accountability and found that the consular chief is reviewing subordinate officers’ adjudications properly. However, the DCM is not reviewing those of the consular chief. He should do so.

Econ Section

[T]he volume of economic reporting has been low, with approximately 1 economic cable for every 10 drafted by the political unit. The lack of front office attention to economic matters has left the economic unit with little guidance on issues of potential interest to Washington. The frequent diversion of the economic specialist’s attention to political issues, while the political specialist performs backup protocol duties, has also hurt economic reporting.

Public Affairs Section

The public affairs section has an experienced and dedicated staff conducting innovative programming and responding to intense front office interest in media reporting.
[…]
Post public diplomacy programs would have greater impact if they were part of an overall strategy that included greater participation by the Ambassador. The public affairs officer (PAO) has not directed the section in establishing policies, defining goals, and prioritizing plans to achieve mission objectives. Internal processes for dealing with grants, speakers, and exchanges are not consistent, clearly understood, or readily accessible. The section posts only limited information about its processes and activities on its SharePoint site.
[…]
The government-controlled press is frequently highly critical of the Ambassador but the embassy is cautious about using social media to counter this, concerned that doing so often draws negative comments. The public affairs section posts the Ambassador’s public appearances on Facebook but does not generally tweet his activities. The embassy does not use blogs. Officers adept at social media can help use these tools to improve the Ambassador’s public image and to correct misinformation about U.S. policies.

Management Overview 



There is a need for better management planning across the board, including for staffing, real property acquisition, office space, housing, safety, and maintenance. Management controls are inadequate; in the procurement section, weak controls constitute a serious deficiency. The section requires outside help. Customer satisfaction scores from OIG questionnaires for most support services were low, reflecting a lack of basic processes and standard operating procedures. Embassy Manama should make improving management operations and internal controls a priority.

General Services Office

The general services office suffers from poor communication up and down the chain of command. An accurate arrivals and departures list would enhance the efficiency of all general services sections. The embassy’s internship program is not adequately coordinated with the general services office, creating adverse effects on housing, motor pool, and travel services.

Customs and Shipping 

The customs and shipping staff consists of one LE employee who expedites shipments and has a large contact base at the port and at the airport. This employee has not been able to take leave, even when he has scheduled it well in advance, because of emergencies that require his presence. Sound management requires backup for each critical function.

Human Resources



Work and quality of life questionnaires administered by the OIG team report scores significantly below prior embassy averages in human resources support and services, administration of the awards program, and fairness of family member hiring. Poor leadership, lack of adequate processes, and the absence of transparency and communication have hampered the staff. The human resources officer needs to reinvigorate the section and regain the trust of the mission’s direct-hire employees, LE staff, and eligible family members.

Inspectors encountered a number of shortcomings in the office. The retail price survey had not been completed since 2009. Personnel cables were not being sent using the proper template and each message was being created from scratch. Supervisors were not being notified 6 months prior to LE subordinates’ retirement dates. Staffing patterns contained numerous mistakes.



Foreign Service National Issues

  • Inspectors met with the LE staff committee, whose members expressed concerns about compensation and benefit issues, hiring policy, discrimination and favoritism, unfair dismissals, and a lack of cultural sensitivity displayed by some direct-hire employees. They said their primary points of contact are the management officer and the human resources officer. They occasionally have access to the DCM, but not to the Ambassador. It would be helpful for embassy management to respond to LE staff concerns in writing.
  • The second benefit issue relates to changes to the local compensation plan brought about by a new Bahraini labor law implemented in September 2012. The law grants additional benefits to Bahraini employees in the areas of annual and sick leave, maternity benefits, and pilgrimage leave. As with the bonus, too much time was wasted—this time trying to get an English translation of the labor law that was issued in Arabic. The embassy sent the plan to the Office of Overseas Employment in March 2013; it remains under review.

Cultural Sensitivity

The LE committee cited several examples of culturally insensitive behavior by American employees. It is unclear whether the words and actions were spiteful or occurred because the employees lacked knowledge of Bahraini culture and norms. To guard against such events, it would be helpful for the embassy to incorporate a cultural sensitivity component into its orientation programs for U.S. direct-hire and locally employed staff.

Money Matters

COM Residence:  The chief of mission residence costs $272,000 per year (approximately $22,500 per month) to rent. It is one of the Department’s most expensive short-term leased properties, qualifying it for consideration to purchase. The embassy has requested the Department also consider purchase of a DCM residence and a Marine security guard residence.

Language Designated Positions:  Embassy Manama has 10 language designated positions: the DCM; 4 political/economic officers, 2 consular officers, 2 public diplomacy officers, and the management officer. As half the population of Bahrain is expatriate, many from South Asia, the common language of the country is English. Six of the 10 officers in language designated positions reported to inspectors that they do not use Arabic in their jobs. The number of language designated positions makes finding qualified candidates for embassy jobs more challenging. Moreover, it costs the Department approximately $500,000 to train an officer to speak proficient Arabic.



Management Controls: Management controls at Embassy Manama are inadequate. Despite the embassy’s positive responses to the OIG functional questionnaires, and the positive information provided by the regional bureau, the OIG team determined the breakdown in procurement processes reaches the level of a significant deficiency. 

Though adequately staffed, Embassy Manama paid 2,000 hours of overtime compensation to general services employees and 1,000 hours to facilities management employees in FY 2013. According to the Foreign Affairs Handbook, (FAH) 4 FAH-3 H-525.1-2 the management officer must establish controls for accurate and timely recording and reporting of time and attendance. The mission delegates responsibility for overtime authorization to each section supervisor and time and attendance to the financial management officer. Nobody monitors LE staff overtime, resulting in anomalies and improper overtime approvals.

The report is available to read here (pdf).

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Open Season: This Year’s July 4th Independence Day Celebrations Officially On

— Domani Spero

Actually no, the season officially opened last month when U.S. Embassy Kathmandu celebrated the 238th Anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America on February 22, 2014. Nepal’s Vice President Paramananda Jha was the main guest at the event.  According to Ambassador Peter W. Bodde’s prepared speech, this was the second year the embassy celebrated July 4th early “in the hopes of escaping monsoon weather.”  Also, they chose this week “because in February we honor the birthdays of two of our great presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.” Eleven members of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force Band based in Okinawa, Japan entertained the guests at the chief of mission residence. More photos are available here.

Photo via US Embassy Nepal

Photo via US Embassy Nepal

Photo via US Embassy Nepal February 21, 2014

Photo via US Embassy Nepal
February 21, 2014

 

So, US Embassy Nepal had officially bumped off US Embassy Muscat for the first July 4th celebration of 2014.  On March 25, 2014, the US Embassy in Oman hosted its 238th Independence Day event.  According to ONA, Greta Christine Holtz, the US ambassador to the Sultanate gave a speech during which she affirmed the deep-rooted relations binding Omanis and Americans.  In 2013, the embassy celebrated July 4th on May 24. More photos available here. In 2012, we did, Chew on This: US Embassy Oman Celebrates 4th of July (in February) with Fast Food Sponsors.  It looks like they no longer display prominently the event’s corporate sponsors.

Photo via US Embassy Muscat

Photo via US Embassy Muscat

 

This year, we hope to do a Fourth of July fashion or food round-up.  Give us a heads up if you have something interesting at post.

 

 

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Photo of the Day: VPOTUS Swears in Bruce Heyman as U.S. Ambassador to Canada

— Domani Spero

 

Vice President Joe Biden swears in Bruce Heyman as the U.S. Ambassador to Canada at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on March 26, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Vice President Joe Biden swears in Bruce Heyman as the U.S. Ambassador to Canada at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on March 26, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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2013 Mathilda W. Sinclaire Language Awardees

— Domani Spero

According to AFSA, a generous bequest from retired Foreign Service officer Mathilda W. Sinclaire established a program since 1982 honoring Foreign Service employees who excel in the study of hard languages.  The purpose of Ms. Sinclaire’s bequest was to “promote and reward superior achievement by career officers of the Foreign Service […] while studying one of the Category III or IV languages under the auspices of the Foreign Service Institute.” The guidelines were reportedly amended and updated in October 2001 to expand eligibility for the awards to any career and career-conditional member of the Foreign Service from the Department of State, USAID, FCS, FAS, BBG and APHIS.  The 10 winners of the 2013 Mathilda W. Sinclaire Language Awards are as follows:

  • Miriam R. Asnes – Arabic
  • Sonnet A. Frisbee – Czech
  • Paul F. Narain – Greek
  • Jacob M. Rocca – Hebrew
  • Timothy Shriver – Hungarian
  • Robert Silberstein – Lithuanian
  • Alan J. Smith – Russian
  • Adam T. Stevens – Vietnamese
  • Matthew Wilson – Bulgarian
  • Bryan G. Wockley – Persian/Dari/Afghan

 

We received an email on this noting … “all but one of whom appear to be men. What’s with that?”  We looked at the list of winners from the previous four years and must note that in 2012 seven of the ten awardees were female.

2012: Anne Casper (Kinyarwanda), Vanna Chan (Lithuanian), Rebecca Danis (Pashto), Spencer Fields (Albanian), Christina Le (Greek), Dan McCandless (Dari), Robert Mearkle (Arabic), Nina Murray (Lithuanian), Roshni Nirody (Japanese), Kristen Pisani (Greek) M/F -3/7

2011: Nancy Abella (Dari), Eric Collings (Uzbek), Sarah Grow (Persian/Farsi), James Hallock (Mandarin), Rebecca Hunter (Albanian), Theresa Mangione (Vietnamese), E. Jerome Ryan, Jr. (Japanese), David Vincent Salvo (Serbian/Croatian). M/F-4/4

2010: Daniel Heath Bailey (Latvian), Eric M. Frater (Vietnamese), Melanie Harris Higgins (Indonesian), Bradley Hurst (Hungarian), Andrew J. Partin (Georgian), Daniel Rakove (Mongolian), Stuart Madgett Smith (Greek), Thomas Venner (Tagalog), Vaida Vidugiris (Greek). M/F-7/2

2009: Joshua Baker (Arabic), Laura Brown (Arabic), Zachary Harkenride (Dari), Vincent Traverso (Dari), Meredith Rubin (Icelandic), William M. Coleman (Japanese), Alan Clark (Mandarin Chinese), Scott Hansen (Mandarin Chinese), Denise Shen (Mandarin Chinese), Alfred Boll (Serbian), Adam Hantman (Thai). (Laura Brown was a previous winner for Bosnian in 2003.) M/F-8/2

Arabic as official language

Arabic as official language (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It looks like candidates to the Sinclaire Language Awards may be nominated by the language-training supervisors at the FSI School of Language, the language instructors at field schools, or post language officers. According to AFSA’s website, winners are selected by a committee comprising the Dean of the FSI School of Language Studies (or designee), members of the AFSA Governing Board, AFSA Awards Committee and general AFSA membership. Each winner receives a check for $1,000 and a certificate of recognition signed by the AFSA President and the chair of the AFSA Awards committee.

The nomination requires the submission of DS‐651 Language Training Report or DS ‐1354 Language Proficiency Report if appropriate. In addition to the submission of the S/R (speaking/reading) scores, it also requires a nominating statement (not to exceed one page); and, of course, somebody who’s willing to write up and submit the nomination.

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GIF of the Day: Just checking the Lessons Learned box?

— Domani Spero

Via Burn Bag:

“Wouldn’t the bureau with the most evacuations benefit from listening to evacuees instead of being so defensive and bristling at suggestions for improvement? Instead of checking the Lessons Learned box – try to actually DO something right after that colossal mistake called ordered departure!”

Image via Giphy

Image via Giphy