State Dept to Renovate Kabul’s Pol-i-Charkhi (PIC) Prison. Again.

Posted: 2:52 am EDT
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The State Department has issued a Pre-Solicitation Notice of the Government’s intent to issue a solicitation for the renovation of Pol-i-Charkhi (PIC) Prison in Kabul, Afghanistan.  The project includes renovations in Blocks 1, 2 & 3 and extensive infrastructure and satellite structure improvements to the facility.  Actual solicitation documents are only accessible using the restricted portion of www.fbo.gov, so we have not been able to read the details of this renovation.

This is, however, the same prison which is the subject of an October 2014 SIGAR report, Pol-i-Charkhi Prison: After 5 Years and $18.5 Million, Renovation Project Remains Incomplete (pdf) This is Afghanistan’s largest correctional facility, funded in its initial construction by the Soviet Union in 1973.  It is designed for approximately 5,000 prisoners but housed nearly 7,400 during SIGAR’s inspection last year. Extract below from the SIGAR report:

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  • In June 2009, in response to damage caused by 35 years of neglect, Soviet occupation, and warfare, the Department of State’s Regional Procurement Support Office (RPSO) awarded an INL-funded renovation contract to W (AWCC)—an Afghan firm—for $16.1 million. Following two modifications, the contract’s overall value increased to $20.2 million.
  • In November 2010, the RPSO terminated AWCC’s INL-funded renovation contract at the government’s convenience based on unsatisfactory performance.4 Following contract termination, INL awarded Batoor Construction Company—an Afghan company—a $250,000 contract to document AWCC’s work completed under the renovation contract.
  • More than 5 years after work began, renovation of Pol-i-Charkhi prison has not been completed, and the contract has been terminated for convenience. Following the RPSO’s termination of the INL-funded contract in November 2010, Batoor Construction Company reviewed and documented AWCC’s work completed under the renovation contract. In March 2011, Batoor reported that AWCC completed approximately 50 percent of the required renovation work. Batoor’s report also noted multiple instances of defective workmanship including the lack of backfilling of trenches, not repairing/replacing broken fixtures, lack of proper roof flashing and gutters, and soil settlement issues. For example, the report noted that there were no metal flashing or gutters installed on one of the prison blocks resulting in damage to surface paint and moisture penetration in supporting walls.
  • We conducted our prison inspection on April 19, 2014, but were limited by the fact that the renovation work had been completed more than 3 years prior to our site visit. We found that the prison holding areas had been reconfigured into maximum, medium, and minimum security cells, and the cells contained the required sinks and toilets. Our inspection of the renovated industries building and kitchen facilities did not disclose any major deficiencies. We also found that AWCC procured and installed the six back-up power diesel generators, as required by the contract. However, the generators cannot be used because they were not hooked-up to the prison’s electric power grid before the renovation contract was terminated. INL officials told us that the work necessary to make the generators operational—primarily installing paired transformers—will be done under the planned follow-on renovation contract, which they hope to begin in late 2014 or early 2015.
  • INL officials told us they anticipated an award of a follow-on contract by the spring of 2015 to complete the renovation work initiated in 2009 and a separate contract to construct a wastewater treatment plant. They estimated the renovation work would cost $11 million; the wastewater treatment plant, $5 million.
  • On November 5, 2010, the contracting officer issued a Stop Work Order which noted that AWCC’s performance was deemed unsatisfactory due to its lack of progress on the project, labor unrest at the work site, and a lack of supplies to maintain efficient progress. Then, on November 26, 2012, the RPSO contracting officer issued AWCC a termination for convenience letter.
  • After a 2-year negotiation that concluded in December 2012, RPSO agreed to an $18.5 million settlement with AWCC—92 percent of the $20.2 million contract value. RPSO agreed to the settlement despite INL and Batoor reports showing that AWCC only completed about 50 percent of the work required under the contract. The contracting officer who negotiated the settlement for the U.S. government told us that the final award amount reflected actual incurred costs and not any specific completion rate. The contracting officer noted that an RPSO contract specialist and an Afghan COR10 assisted her in lengthy negotiations with AWCC and joined her for the final round of discussions in Istanbul, Turkey, which concluded with the signed settlement agreement.
  • Although the contracting officer was able to execute some oversight and issue clear warnings to AWCC regarding its performance, INL’s oversight efforts were compromised by a U.S. employee who served as the COR for the AWCC renovation contract as well as the Basirat design and project monitoring contract. The COR served in this capacity until May 2010, when he was suspended after INL and State’s Office of Inspector General found that he had accepted money from Basirat to promote the company’s interests. The COR was convicted and sentenced by a U.S. District Court for accepting illegal gratuities from Basirat.9 As a result, in August 2010, State suspended Basirat from receiving any government contracts. In August 2010, State also suspended AWCC from receiving government contracts based on receiving confidential proposal information from Basirat concerning State solicitations.
  • The contracting officer added that during these final negotiations the COR [contracting officer’s representative] concurred with many of the contractor’s assertions. In June 2013, just 6 months later, the COR’s designation was suspended amid concerns that he may have colluded with another INL contractor, an issue discussed in our May 2014 inspection report on Baghlan prison.11 As noted in that report, INL suspected this COR of enabling a contractor to substitute inferior products and materials, failing to discover substandard construction, approving questionable invoices, and certifying that all contract terms had been met at the time of project turnover to INL even though construction deficiencies remained. The COR resigned in August 2013. SIGAR investigators are currently conducting an inquiry to determine whether the contractor or other U.S. government officials were complicit in these alleged activities.

So  —  the previous contractor collected an $18.5 million settlement,  92 percent of the $20.2 million contract? But it only did 50 percent of the work required under the contract? Maybe we should all move to Kabul and be contractors?

And now, there will be a new $16M contract?  Which will have modifications, of course, and will not really top off at $16M.

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Related items:

Here’s what it looks like in Afghanistan’s largest — and still incomplete — prison (WaPo)

America’s Unfinished Prison in Afghanistan Is a Filthy Nightmare (Medium)

 

 

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State/OIG Inspections Coming Your Way in FY2016

Posted: 1:05 am EDT
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Extracted from State/OIG Work Plan FY2016-2017:

In FY 2015, OIG began a project to refine the way it prioritizes, scopes, and conducts inspections, with the overarching goal of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the inspection process and enhancing the integrity of reports. As part of this project, ISP will be pilot testing new inspection models during FY 2016. The results of this project and the associated pilot tests will influence OIG’s FY 2017 inspection planning and scheduling. At this time, bureaus and posts being considered for inspection in FY 2017 include the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation; Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator; Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Fraud Prevention Programs; and embassies in China, Kenya, South Africa, Sudan, and South Sudan. Once finalized, the FY 2017 inspections schedule will be added to this planning document.

In addition to the FY 2016 inspections listed below, ISP conducts two to four compliance follow-up reviews each year. The subject inspections for these reviews will be identified 30 to 60 days prior to the initiation of the review. ISP’s schedule is contingent upon availability of funds, budget decisions, and changes in inspection priorities, and is, therefore, subject to revision.

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Via state.gov/oig

The Work Plan is available here.

Alaina Teplitz Sworn In as Next U.S. Ambassador to Nepal

Posted: 12:49 am EDT
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Certificate of Competency – Teplitz Alaina B – Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal – April 2015

The WH released the following brief bio when it announced the nomination  in March 2015:

Alaina B. Teplitz, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as the Director of the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation at the Department of State, a position she has held since 2012.  Previously, Ms. Teplitz served as the Management Minister Counselor at the U.S. Mission in Kabul, Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, Deputy Executive Director in the Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs from 2009 to 2011, and Director of Management Tradecraft Training at the Department’s Foreign Service Institute from 2007 to 2009.  Prior to that, she was the Deputy Director of Joint Administrative Services at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels, Belgium from 2004 to 2007, Management Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh from 2002 to 2004, and Program Analyst at the Center for Administrative Innovation at the Department from 2001 to 2002.  After joining the Foreign Service in 1991, she served in the State Department’s Bureau of Administration, as well as in posts in Australia, Albania, and Mongolia.

Ms. Teplitz received a B.A. from Georgetown University.

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Eyes Watching: Real Foreign Service Officers and Puzzle Pieces

Posted: 2:09 am EDT
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Jonathan Haslam is the author of “Near and Distant Neighbors: A New History of Soviet Intelligence,” which was just published.He is the George F. Kennan Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. He was a visiting professor at Harvard, Yale and Stanford, and is a member of the society of scholars at the Johns Hopkins University. He pens the following piece via Salon:

Excerpt:

Other indicators of a more trivial nature could be detected in the field by a vigilant foreign counterintelligence operative but not uniformly so: the fact that CIA officers replacing one another tended to take on the same post within the embassy hierarchy, drive the same make of vehicle, rent the same apartment and so on. Why? Because the personnel office in Langley shuffled and dealt overseas postings with as little effort as required. The invariable indicators took further research, however, based on U.S. government practices long established as a result of the ambivalence with which the State Department treated its cousins in intelligence.

Thus one productive line of inquiry quickly yielded evidence: the differences in the way agency officers undercover as diplomats were treated from genuine foreign service officers (FSOs). The pay scale at entry was much higher for a CIA officer; after three to four years abroad a genuine FSO could return home, whereas an agency employee could not; real FSOs had to be recruited between the ages of 21 and 31, whereas this did not apply to an agency officer; only real FSOs had to attend the Institute of Foreign Service for three months before entering the service; naturalized Americans could not become FSOs for at least nine years but they could become agency employees; when agency officers returned home, they did not normally appear in State Department listings; should they appear they were classified as research and planning, research and intelligence, consular or chancery for security affairs; unlike FSOs, agency officers could change their place of work for no apparent reason; their published biographies contained obvious gaps; agency officers could be relocated within the country to which they were posted, FSOs were not; agency officers usually had more than one working foreign language; their cover was usually as a “political” or “consular” official (often vice-consul); internal embassy reorganizations usually left agency personnel untouched, whether their rank, their office space or their telephones; their offices were located in restricted zones within the embassy; they would appear on the streets during the working day using public telephone boxes; they would arrange meetings for the evening, out of town, usually around 7.30 p.m. or 8.00 p.m.; and whereas FSOs had to observe strict rules about attending dinner, agency officers could come and go as they pleased.

Read in full here. Sounds like his book is an excellent addition to a gift list for OGA friends.

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US Embassy Dhaka Restricts Movement of USG Staff/Families in Bangladesh

Posted: 1:39 am EDT
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Excerpt from the Security Message issued by Embassy Dhaka on September 28:

There is reliable new information to suggest that militants may be planning to target Australian interests in Bangladesh.  Such attacks, should they occur, could likely affect other foreigners, including U.S. citizens.

In light of the increased threat, U.S. citizens should consider limiting their attendance at events where foreigners may gather, including events at international hotels.  U.S. citizens should maintain a high level of vigilance and situational awareness and should exercise caution in public places including restaurants, hotels and other places frequented by foreigners.

The U.S. government continues to receive information that terrorist groups in South Asia may also be planning attacks in the region, possibly against U.S. government facilities, U.S. citizens, or U.S. interests.  Terrorists have demonstrated their willingness and ability to attack locations where U.S. citizens or Westerners are known to congregate or visit.

Until further notice, all official U.S. government personnel are prohibited from attending large gatherings in Bangladesh, including events at international hotels, unless they have obtained Regional Security Office permission.

The Embassy advises U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Bangladesh to remain vigilant regarding their personal security and to be alert to local security developments.

A follow-up message notes that following the fatal attack on an Italian national in Gulshan September 28, the U.S. Embassy instructed its personnel to shelter in place until Tuesday morning September 29. American International School in Dhaka (AISD) will be closed on September 29. The Embassy will be open on September 29, including providing consular services. U.S. government personnel and their families will be limiting their movements.

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US Embassy Bangui: Escalating Violence, Continue to Shelter in Place

Posted: 1:15 am EDT
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Excerpt from the Warden Message:

Violence and looting continued on September 27 and into September 28 in Bangui. We are receiving reports that many roads remain blocked, including the road to the airport; weapons continue to be discharged by armed persons; and large crowds are forming in several locations in the city of Bangui. U.S. citizens should continue to shelter in place and avoid any non-essential movements. The U.S. Embassy in Yaounde has been designated to provide consular services for U.S. citizens currently remaining in CAR. U.S. citizens who are in Bangui should contact Embassy Yaounde at (237) 22220-1500 to report their location. If you are working for an NGO or international organization, please include that information.

U.S. citizens who have decided to stay in CAR despite the travel warning should regularly review their personal security situation. Embassy Bangui cannot provide consular services to U.S. citizens in CAR at this time. U.S. citizens in need of assistance should contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Secretary Kerry announced the resumption of limited operations at the U.S. Embassy in Bangui on September 15, 2014.  U.S. citizens in need of routine assistance are advised to contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon by email to YaoundeACS@state.gov.

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Related posts:

Burn Bag: Get a Portable Career, Bake Cupcakes! Geez Louise!

Via Burn Bag:

Quote from FLO at spouse orientation: “You should consider a portable career – you could bake cupcakes and sell them to the embassy staff”. I am a C-suite executive. Cupcakes.

[protected-iframe id=”b73735b2691a4f09efd0239c3061ccd8-31973045-31356973″ info=”//giphy.com/embed/H3csFiMi8aG5O?html5=true” width=”480″ height=”258″ frameborder=”0″ class=”giphy-embed”]

via GIPHY

FLO -Family Liaison Office. FLO’s mission is “to improve the quality of life of all demographics we serve by identifying issues and advocating for programs and solutions, providing a variety of client services, and extending services to overseas communities through the management of the worldwide Community Liaison Office (CLO) program.”

On Family Member Employment, state.gov/M/DGHR/FLO says: “The Family Liaison Office understands that when most family members join the Foreign Service community, they have already established personal and professional lives. Finding meaningful employment overseas is challenging given limited positions inside U.S. missions, language requirements, lower salaries, and work permit barriers on the local economy. The Family Liaison Office (FLO) has a dedicated team of professionals working to expand employment options and information resources to internationally mobile family members, both at home and abroad. FLO’s employment program team will advise individual family members on overseas employment issues, either in person, via email or phone.”

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Federal Employees With Stolen Fingerprints From OPM Breach – Now Up to 5.6 Million

Posted: 12:05 pm EDT
Updated: 6:39 pm PDT
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Here is the official statement from OPM dated September 23, 2015:

As part of the government’s ongoing work to notify individuals affected by the theft of background investigation records, the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Defense have been analyzing impacted data to verify its quality and completeness.  During that process, OPM and DoD identified archived records containing additional fingerprint data not previously analyzed.  Of the 21.5 million individuals whose Social Security Numbers and other sensitive information were impacted by the breach, the subset of individuals whose fingerprints have been stolen has increased from a total of approximately 1.1 million to approximately 5.6 million.  This does not increase the overall estimate of 21.5 million individuals impacted by the incident.  An interagency team will continue to analyze and refine the data as it prepares to mail notification letters to impacted individuals.

Federal experts believe that, as of now, the ability to misuse fingerprint data is limited.  However, this probability could change over time as technology evolves.  Therefore, an interagency working group with expertise in this area – including the FBI, DHS, DOD, and other members of the Intelligence Community – will review the potential ways adversaries could misuse fingerprint data now and in the future.  This group will also seek to develop potential ways to prevent such misuse.  If, in the future, new means are developed to misuse the fingerprint data, the government will provide additional information to individuals whose fingerprints may have been stolen in this breach.

As we have stated previously, all individuals impacted by this intrusion and their minor dependent children (as of July 1, 2015) are eligible for identify theft and fraud protection services, at no cost to them.  In conjunction with the Department of Defense, OPM is working to begin mailing notifications to impacted individuals, and these notifications will proceed on a rolling basis.

OPM and our partners across government are working to protect the safety and security of the information of Federal employees, service-members, contractors, and others who provide their information to us. Together with our interagency partners, OPM is committed to delivering high-quality identity protection services to impacted individuals. The interagency team will continue to review the impacted data to enhance its quality and completeness, and to monitor for any misuse of the data. The U.S. Government will continue to evaluate the coverage being provided and whether any adjustments are needed in association with this incident.

Sigh. Grrr. Sigh. Grrr. Sigh. Grrr. Sigh. Grrr.

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@StateDept Officials on Clinton Private Email Debacle: Yo! Had Been Caught Off Guard? Ay, Caramba!

Posted: 11:25 am EDT
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Excerpt below with annotation:

“When we were asked to help the State Department make sure they had everything from other secretaries of state, not just me, I’m the one who said, ‘Okay, great, I will go through them again,’ ” Clinton said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And we provided all of them.”

But State Department officials provided new information Tuesday that undercuts Clinton’s characterization. They said the request was not simply about general rec­ord-keeping but was prompted entirely by the discovery that Clinton had exclusively used a private e-mail system. They also said they *first contacted her in the summer of 2014, at least three months before **the agency asked Clinton and three of her predecessors to provide their e-mails.
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She has said repeatedly that it was “permitted” by the State Department and widely known in the Obama administration.

But the early call from the State Department is a sign that, at the least, officials in the agency she led from 2009 to 2013 were concerned by the practice — and that they had been caught off guard upon discovering her exclusive use of a private account.
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***In the spring and summer of 2014, while it was in the process of trying to find records sought by the newly formed House Select Committee on Benghazi, the State Department’s congressional affairs office found Clinton’s personal e-mail address listed on a few records in a batch of Benghazi documents but no government e-mail account for her.

“We realized there was a problem,” said a State Department official who until that moment had not been aware of Clinton’s private e-mail setup. The official, like some others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case.
[…]

The agency is releasing those e-mails in batches, in accordance with a court order stemming from a public-records lawsuit.

The issue has led to frustrations within the State Department in recent months, as some officials have grown tired of having to answer for a political controversy not of their making, according to three senior officials.

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Ay, caramba!

If the State Department had first contacted her in the summer of 2014, we have yet to see that correspondence. It was potentially sent sometime in August 2014, three months before the letters to Clinton and predecessors went out in November 12, 2014 from “M” (see below).  Three months is an early call?  C’mon! Secretary Clinton left State in February 2013.

As to the notion that officials had been “caught off guard” upon discovering her exclusive use of a private account, do spin doctors seriously expect us to buy this on a double discount?

The NYT broke the news that Secretary Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state on March 2, 2015.

It took six months for three senior State Department officials to tell WaPo that they “had been caught off guard” by the secretary of state’s exclusive use of a private account?  These officials “were concerned by the practice”, so much so that they issued a three month-“early call” in the summer of 2014, 1 year and 6 months after the end of the Clinton tenure.  And we’re only hearing about this concern now, 2 years and 7 months after Secretary Clinton left office? Yeah.

Dates of note:

December 11, 2012: NARA Chief Records Officer Paul M. Wester Jr. Email to NARA’s Margaret Hawkins and Lisa Clavelli on how they “should delicately go about learning more” about the transition plans for Secretary Clinton’s departure from State. Concerns that “there are or maybe plans afoot to taking her records from State to Little Rock.” Invokes the specter of the Henry Kissinger experience vis-a-vis Hillary Clinton (view email in pdf). So there were discussions within NARA about the Clinton records as early as December 2012. It appears that NARA’s main contact (pdf) at State is Margaret P. Grafeld, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Global Information Services (A/GIS).It should be interesting to see how or when the Clinton federal records were discussed between NARA and State.

* August 28, 2014: State Department U/S for Management sends memo to department principals on Senior Officials’ Records Management Responsibilities (view memo pdf). See State Department issued instructions for Preserving Email of Departing Senior Officials (view memo p.13 pdf)

** November 12, 2014Letter to Hilary Clinton’s representative, Cheryl Mills re: the Federal Records Act of 1950, November 12, 2014; to Colin Powell, to Condoleezza Rice; to Madeleine Albright;

*** August 11, 2014: The State Department sends its first group of documents to the new Select Benghazi committee, a partial response to a previous subpoena. The production contains a few — less than 10 — emails either to or from Clinton. Committee staffers notice immediately that the emails are from a previously unseen address, hdr22@clintonemail.com. Meanwhile, the committee presses State to meet its legal obligation to fully respond to the pair of subpoenas originally issued in August 2013. (Via Washington Examiner)

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Secretary Kerry Swears-in Hans Klemm as U.S. Ambassador to Romania

Posted: 10:58 am EDT
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Secretary Kerry Congratulates Ambassador Klemm After Swearing Him in as the Next U.S. Ambassador to Romania U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry congratulates the next U.S. Ambassador to Romania, Hans Klemm, after swearing him in during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on September 16, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry Congratulates Ambassador Klemm After Swearing Him in as the Next U.S. Ambassador to Romania
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry congratulates the next U.S. Ambassador to Romania, Hans Klemm, after swearing him in during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on September 16, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Certificate of Competency – Klemm, Hans – Romania – April 2015

The WH release the following brief bio when it announced the nomination on March 24, 2015

Hans G. Klemm, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is a Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Management at the Department of State, a position he has held since January 2015.  Previously, Ambassador Klemm served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department’s Bureau of Human Resources from 2012 to 2015.  Before that, he was Senior Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in 2012, and Senior Coordinator for Rule of Law and Law Enforcement at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012.  He also served as the U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste from 2007 to 2010.  Prior to that, Ambassador Klemm served as Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan from 2006 to 2007, and as Director and Deputy Director of the Office of Career Development in the Bureau of Human Resources from 2004 to 2006.  He was a participant in the Senior Seminar at the Department’s Foreign Service Institute from 2003 to 2004, Director of the Office of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Textile Trade Affairs in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs from 2001 to 2003, and Deputy Director of the Office of European Union and Regional Affairs in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs from 2000 to 2001.  Ambassador Klemm’s earlier assignments with the Department of State included postings in Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Ambassador Klemm received a B.A. from Indiana University and an M.A. from Stanford University.

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