Email of the Day: And why is he on his personalemailaccount.com?

Posted: 3:19 pm EDT
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It looks like John Godfrey served in Iraq and Libya, as well as Counselor for Arms Control at US Mission to International Organizations in Vienna (UNVIE).  His most recent assignment according to his LinkedIn profile, is as chief of staff at the Office of the Deputy Secretary of State since June 2013. The email released through the FOIA litigation is available to read here (PDF).  Note that the email is  cc’ed to another email address that looks like his state.gov address. Alice Wells, a career Foreign Service Officer, has been the U.S. Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan since July 28, 2014.

 

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USCG Erehwon’s New Year’s Resolutions For Disaster Preparedness

Posted:2:05 am EDT
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The elves working at the FAM factory worked long and hard to get their directives out.  The elves know very well that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Nonetheless, they sent an ALDAC to all missions with a reminder to remember disaster preparedness as they start 2016.  There are, afterall, 10 Major Natural Disasters Predicted In The Near Future. If that’s not scary enough, here are the 5 Cities That Will Be Wiped Off the Map by Natural Disasters according to cracked.com.  And just because the world did not end in December 2012 despite the Mayan prediction and the Roland Emmerich movie, doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, right?

The elves point out in the ALDAC that per FAM 1812, a crisis unready organization is one that:

  • Does not know where it is at risk
  • Does not routinely communicate internally or externally
  • Has not considered how to respond
  • Has not identified key managers
  • Has unclear policy guidance
  • Has no emergency procedures checklists
  • Has an uncertain/unclear media policy and strategy
  • Cannot anticipate
  • Is concerned more with liability than results

The American Consulate General Erehwon is vulnerable to natural disasters like flood, cyclones, heat waves, even droughts.  One year it almost drowned in flood, and was almost washed away another year by a super cyclone. The principal officer was wondering if the elves were talking specifically about his post when he saw the ALDAC.  He had nightmares that employees under his command were swept away by flash floods and he was eaten then spit out by an giant snake like Jon Voight in Anaconda.  Nightmares. And that my friends, is how USCG Erehwon ended up with the following New Year’s Resolutions For Disaster Preparedness this year.

#1.  The EAP is boring but a must-read.  I need to get familiar with post’s Emergency Action Plan (EAP). This year, no kidding. I now recognize that a plan is just an illusion of preparedness in a binder unless accompanied by training and constant practice.  We all need to know the plan and know the drill. As one ambassador once said, “we drilled for asylum seekers, for bomb threats, for anything we could think of.” I guess, we’ve got to do it.  Per 7 FAM 1812.1, my broadest and deepest responsibility is to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens in the event of a crisis. I will make sure that the plan is tested, that regular radio tests are done, and we go through the mission’s telephone tree, even if I have to run the tests myself.

#2. I will no longer skip the Crisis Management Exercise (CME).  Yes, the CME scenarios are occasionally fantastic but an earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear meltdown did happen all at the same time at one post. It could happen again elsewhere. Per 7 FAM 1812.1-9, a crisis management exercise at post is an excellent way to test planning and identify problems to address before a crisis hits.  I get that. Really. No, I would not want a Congressional committee asking me on C-SPAN why I missed the crisis management exercise at post.

Debris fills the land in Ofunato, Japan after a tsunami during a search and recovery mission on March 15, 2011. Members of the Los Angeles Search and Rescue Team, Task Force 2 are responding to the recent national emergency in Japan due to the earthquake while providing needed care, rescue techniques and tools.

Debris fills the land in Ofunato, Japan after a tsunami during a search and recovery mission on March 15, 2011. Members of the Los Angeles Search and Rescue Team, Task Force 2 are responding to the recent national emergency in Japan due to the earthquake while providing needed care, rescue techniques and tools. 4th Combat Camera Squadron Photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel St. Pierre Date Taken:03.15.2011 Location:OFUNATO, IWATE, JP

#3. Remember the humans, yes I will. People applying for visas show up whether there’s a flood or a cyclone as long as the consular section is open. Local employees show up as long as the office is open. Per 7 FAM 1812.4-1, while the host government and even other embassy sections may exert pressure to keep visa services open, the protection and welfare of U.S. citizens must always take priority over visa services.  Also postponement of a conference or a dinner party is not/not the end of the world. I will be mindful that local staff supporting a conference or a dinner party have family members to take case of in the event of a crisis or a natural disaster.  When flood water is rising or when the cyclone is roaring, post closure “out of an abundance of caution” actually makes sense.

#4. I will be visible, present and attentive. I will show up for my colleagues, post clients and the community before, during, and after a crisis. I heard that leaders who hide or appear removed from the crisis negate their perceived and expected leadership actions.  I will be there for you next time, and every time after that. I know now that I cannot just show up for a photo-op after a crisis, even if the photo is for DipNote. My colleagues rolled their eyes the last time I did that, and there’s apparently a video of that! So never again!

#5. I will work to improve communication. I was personally distressed at the unfolding calamity. I did not do any town halls though I heard that the RSO did one brief radio announcement.  I know now that my staff needed to hear from me before, during and after the incident. I will endeavor to improve my communication skills to avoid misunderstandings, inaccurate information, and misinterpretations.  One ambassador once used the embassy radio network to brief the staff twice a day during a coup d’état.  After things settled down, staff members expressed their appreciation for these briefings, noting how reassuring it was to know what was going on and, moreover, that someone was at the helm. I will try my best to emulate that.

#6. I will learn to prioritize. I am learning that people are more important than events or things. More important than the blasted dinner reception for the principal officer’s conference. Or that antique china cabinet that needs rescuing from rising flood water. Per 7 FAM 1814.2, a disaster checklist would be helpful to capsulate the plan into a streamlined format that outlines what needs to be done, and in what order.  If there are sacrifices to be made – and there will be – I will step up to the plate first. Yes, everyone will get fuel for their home generators before mine. I promised I will be the last one the support staff will need to worry about in a crisis.

#7 . I will attempt to understand the likely response of the host government. What options are available when ports are closed or when roads are dangerous? What happens if shelter in place is no longer the best scenario? Per 7 FAM 1813.3-1, I will make every effort to learn and understand the response infrastructure the government has in place, get to know the officials who would have primary responsibility for crisis management and identify any predetermined sites the host government plans to use, such as communications centers, emergency shelters, mass feeding areas, etc.  I need to know who can assist post if the unthinkable happens and there are no USG assets to rely on.

#8: I will request mental health services for my staff.  I will make it clear that getting treated for a mental health issue is a sign of strength and responsibility, not weakness, and that my request for a visit from RMO/P is not a “check the box” exercise nor to shield myself from criticisms but in recognition that people handle traumas and crises differently.

9. I will do a debrief. From now on, post will do a lessons learned debriefing exercise and endeavor to share it with others. The exercise will include a collective self-analysis of actions taken and leadership decisions, successes and failures, and perhaps most importantly, what can be made better if the same thing happen again in the future.

#10. I will thank people and show appreciation.  I will learn to show appreciation to everyone who made it possible for post to survive the crisis. I will remember to prepare appropriate awards for staff members, and formal commendations appropriate to persons outside of the mission who provided assistance. I will pat myself on the back but only in private and will not self-nominate myself for any award even if I think I did a most excellent job.

Happy First Week of 2016! If I’m not faithful to these new year’s resolutions, you know what to do!

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Snapshot: @StateDept Processing Time for FOIA Requests From Albright to Kerry

Posted: 12:48 am EDT
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Via State/OIG:

The Department has been particularly late in meeting FOIA’s timelines for requests involving the Office of the Secretary. Table 1, which is based on IPS data provided to OIG, shows the processing time for FOIA requests that were tasked to S/ES and involved the current and past four Secretaries of State. Only 14 of the 417 FOIA requests were completed within the statutory timeframe. Fifty-five of the requests took more than 500 days to process. The majority of the requests, 243 of 417, are still pending; several of these pending requests were received years ago. For example, 10 of the 23 pending requests relating to former Secretary of State Colin Powell are at least 5 years old.

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US Embassy Kabul: Jan 4 Incident is “Getting Lowballed” by US Officials? (POGO)

Posted: 12:29 am EDT
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We’ve recently posted about the attacks in Kabul (see US Embassy Kabul: January 4 Attacks Target USG Employees at Camp Sullivan and US Mission Afghanistan Contractor Survives Taliban Car Bomb, Takes Photo, Quits Job, Goes on Reddit. On January 7, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) asks, Is the US Embassy in Kabul the next Benghazi?

Quick excerpt below:

Based on exclusive photos, videos, and messages the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has been receiving from sources on the ground in Kabul since the housing compound for US Embassy security guards was hit by a bomb on Monday, it is clear that the scope and severity of the blast was significant. However, the US State Department has not mentioned the attack in any of its daily press briefings this week, nor has it provided updates regarding the safety and security of American embassy personnel in Afghanistan. POGO has asked the agency for updated information, but has not received a response at the time of this writing.

An American on the scene at Camp Sullivan, which houses hundreds of US and Nepalese guards, told POGO the blast radius was 100 meters wide and caused a 15- feet deep crater, indicating an explosive charge of at least 2,000 lbs. He said the incident is “getting lowballed” by US officials. A BBC producer in Kabul Tweeted that it was the second largest bomb ever detonated in the Afghan capital.

According to POGO sources on the ground, multiple Afghan nationals were killed (two, according to the Interior Minister) and 11 Nepalese security personnel and one American citizen were injured and flown from the scene. A Kabul hospital reported that nine children were among the wounded in the attack.
[…]

So, how safe are the US embassy and those who defend it?

That’s the question POGO has been asking officials for years at the State Department, Congress, and the Pentagon. Guards defending the facility have long feared that their daily armored convoys to and from the embassy make them sitting ducks for Taliban attacks.
[…]
“If the embassy were attacked, we’d have a huge problem and I don’t want to think about the casualties,” J.P. Antonio, a former medic at the embassy, told POGO in September 2013.
[…]
When a senior State Department official reassured Congress in September 2013 that the the US embassy in Afghanistan was well-protected, POGO challenged the veracity of the centerpiece of his testimony – that the contractors protecting the compound had proven themselves twice in battle – and forced him to correct his testimony when it became clear there were no such tests of the Kabul embassy guard force.

Read in full here.

 

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