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The State Department’s Mr. Fix-It of Last Resort Gets the Spotlight

Posted: 5:04 am ET

 

FP’s John Hudson recently wrote a profile of the the State Department’s powerful Under Secretary for Management (M). The official spox, John Kirby is quoted in the article, as well as former acting assistant secretary for NEA Beth Jones, and former assistant secretary for CA Janice Jacobs. Just about everyone quoted in the profile, even those with complimentary quips, spoke anonymously to avoid getting into hot water

John Hudson’s profile starts with the line — “In a town infamous for throwing bureaucrats under the bus, Patrick Kennedy’s survival is the stuff of legend.”

Here are some of the quotes extracted from the profile:

“Pat Kennedy is the most powerful guy you’ve never heard of,” said a former diplomat, who like many others spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering the influential government boss.

“The guy has nine lives” a former diplomat said of Kennedy, who has spent more than 40 years at the State Department.

“No one works harder and cares more about the day-to-day management of diplomacy,” said a foreign service officer.

“Pat Kennedy is one of the main gateways to getting an ambassadorship,” said a career foreign service officer. “He comes to people’s aid or demise depending on what they’ve done for him.”

“Like Stalin, his power comes from his understanding and control over the bureaucracy,” said a former State Department official.

“He needs to groom a successor, but he hasn’t done that,” said one foreign service officer.

“He’s an extraordinary public servant and a pillar of this Department,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby.

“Kennedy is the quintessential bureaucrat,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.).

“When anything happens in the world, someone at the White House is going to call Pat first,” said Beth Jones, the former acting assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs.

Jones, a longtime Kennedy ally, volunteered during an interview: He knows “where all the bodies are buried.”

“If the next secretary of state asks him to stay on, I bet anything he’ll say yes,” said Jones, a longtime acquaintance of Kennedy and his wife.

“Quite frankly, I’m not sure what Pat would do in retirement. He gives a new definition to the word workaholic,” said Janice Jacobs, a former assistant secretary of state for Consular Affairs and the Department’s current Transparency Coordinator.

Read the entire piece below:

We should add that as of November last year,  U/S Kennedy became the longest serving Under Secretary of State for Management in the history of the State Department. He is apparently 67 years old. That’s two years past the mandatory retirement age for ordinary FSOs.  Sec. 812 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 does says that “Any participant who is otherwise required to retire under subsection (a) while occupying a position to which he or she was appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, may continue to serve until that appointment is terminated.” So there’s that, save by section (a).

He certainly has admirers and critics, even from readers of this blog. When the Hudson profile  came out, half a dozen folks sent us the link to the FP article.

One complaint we’ve heard is that rather than ask, “what’s good for the mission?”management type folks allegedly say things like “Pat would like that” or “Pat wouldn’t like that!”   A State Department staffer who would only speak on background said that “It’s not healthy for an organization when people associate one man with the organization itself.”

The Under Secretary of State for Management serves as principal adviser to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary on matters relating to the allocation and use of Department of State resources (budget, physical property, and personnel), including planning, the day-to-day administration of the Department, and proposals for institutional reform and modernization. Specific duties, supervisory responsibilities, and assignments have varied over the years according to history.state.gov.  There is no/no other position in Foggy Bottom that has a more significant impact on the day to day lives of employees and family members than the Under Secretary of State for Management.

Since 2009, the State Department was authorized a Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (D/MR), the third highest ranking position at the agency.   Jack L. Lew stayed from January 28, 2009 – November 18, 2010, before moving on to better jobs. Thomas R. Nides was in from January 3, 2011 – February, 2013, then rejoined Morgan Stanley as vice chairman.  Heather Anne Higginbottom joined the State Department in 2013 after a stint at OMB. One or two or all of them may show up again if there is a Clinton White House. Or an entirely new crew will show up if there is a Trump White House. Forgive us for imagining that nightmare (by the way, 121 GOP National Security leaders wrote an open letter in opposition to a Donald Trump presidency).

Michael Singh writing about The Dysfunction Exposed by the Clinton Investigation in the State Department and Beyond notes that “the State Department now has two deputy secretaries instead of one, meaning that resolving the tension between resource constraints and policy priorities is now organizationally the responsibility of the secretary rather than a deputy.” Heh!  The thing is, Secretary Kerry is almost never home and his deputy is also often on the road. You’d think that D/MR would be running the agency, that is, if she, too, is not traveling.  But, you can probably guess who actually runs the building.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses for photo at the groundbreaking ceremony for the U.S. Diplomacy Center with former Secretaries of State Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker, III, Under Secretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Madeleine K. Albright, and Colin L. Powell at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC on September 3, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Here is a quick timeline of U/S Kennedy’s career with some of the more significant events the State Department confronted through the years:

1973 | Kennedy joined the Foreign Service

1973 – 1993 | he served in a number of positions in Washington and overseas, including as Management Counselor at the Embassy in Cairo and Executive Director and Deputy Executive Secretary of the Executive Secretariat.

1993 – 2001 | he became Assistant Secretary of State for Administration (State/M/A) during President Clinton’s two terms in the White House from 1993-2001.

— concurrently from August 1996 to August 1997 he served as the Acting Under Secretary for Management

— in 1998 he served as Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security

— from 1997 to 2001, he served as the coordinator for the reorganization of the foreign affairs agencies.

February 2000 | he was nominated as Representative of the U.S.A. to the European Office of the United Nations (Geneva); nomination was not acted upon by the Senate (see)

September 2001 – May 2005 |  he was U.S. Representative to the United Nations for Management and Reform with the Rank of Ambassador.

— During this period he also served from May 2003 to the end of November 2003 as Chief of Staff of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq

— From May 2004 to late August 2004 as the Chief of Staff of the Transition Unit in Iraq

February 2005 to April 2005, | he headed the Transition Team that set up the newly created Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)

April 2005 to May 2007 | he was Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Management (ODNI/M)

May 2007 – November 2007 | he was Director of the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation (State/M/PRI)

November 2007 | he was appointed Under Secretary of State for Management (M). He was one of the three appointees as “M” in the GWBush tenure, and the first career diplomat. He followed Grant S. Green, Jr. who served in the Bush’s first term under Secretary Powell, and  Henrietta H. Fore, who served from 2005-2007 in the Bush’s second term under Secretary Rice. U/S Kennedy was kept on as “M” during the first Obama term under Secretary Clinton, and continued in the same position under Secretary Kerry.

In November last year, U/S Kennedy became the longest serving Under Secretary of State for Management in the history of the State Department.  Besides Ronald Ian Spiers who served as “M” from 1983–1989, Kennedy would be the only other  Foreign Service Officer appointed to this position.

One of the first incidents that publicly featured U/S Kennedy occurred in November 1993.  Then Secretary of State Warren Christopher dismissed two mid-ranking State Department employees, apparently for their role in searching the personnel files of 160 former Bush Administration officials. The NYTimes named two officials who were political appointees rewarded with State Department jobs for their work in Bill Clinton’s Presidential campaign and the transition to the White House. According to the DPB at that time, the Assistant Secretary for Administration Patrick Kennedy “had immediately taken custody of the cartons of files in  question and had put them in a place where they could be reviewed by the  Inspector General;” within 24 hours reportedly of the initial account appearing in the news.

It’s no wonder that we’ve heard Mr. Kennedy dubbed as the State Department’s Mr. Fix-It.  In October 2007, Mr. Kennedy was also involved in the investigation into the behavior of Blackwater Worldwide following the Nisour Square shooting during Secretary Rice’s tenure (see Ambassador Patrick F. Kennedy on the Report of the Secretary of State’s Panel on Personal Protective Services in Iraq). Diplomatic Security’s Richard Griffin resigned in the wake of that deadly shooting and amidst growing questions about the State Department’s use of private contractors to protect diplomats in Iraq.

In March 2008, the State Department fired two employees and reprimanded a third for improperly opening electronic information from the passport file of then Senator Barack Obama. Mr. Kennedy talked about the unauthorized accessed of Obama passport records of yet another on-the-record briefing.

In September 2009, allegations surfaced via POGO on the shortcomings in Kabul embassy security and in State Department oversight of a guard force supplied by ArmorGroup, North America (AGNA), owned by Wackenhut Services, Inc. U/S Kennedy was once again in Congress on behalf of the State Department.

In October 2012, U/S Kennedy made one of his appearances in Congress concerning the Benghazi attack. See Benghazi Hearing: Looking for Truth Amidst a Partisan Divide, Outing OGA, Zingers.

In August 2013, U/S Kennedy testified in the Bradley Manning case on the release of classified diplomatic cables to the WikiLeaks website.

In June2016, he was deposed in connection with an FOIA litigation related to the Clinton email server. See JW v. @StateDept: Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy’s Testimony (Transcript)

Perhaps, one of the most notable case, in the history of the State Department came in 1998. In 1998, the twin embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam occured; the ARB Report dated January 1999 is online here. Mr. Kennedy who was then the Assistant Secretary for Administration (A) — having relinquished his acting capacity in Diplomatic Security, but nevertheless an authoritative spokesman on issues related to security and the recent bombings in Africa” according to the State Department spokesman — was the point man.

Prior to the attack, in December 1997, the then U.S. ambassador to Nairobi, Prudence Bushnell expressed her concerns over the vulnerability of the embassy. She apparently requested a security assessment team and stated her desire to have a new building. In the DPB of August 14, 1998, the press wanted to know who did Ambassador Bushnell write to express her concerns. Mr. Kennedy’s response at that time is worth noting:

“Bonnie Cohen, the Under Secretary for Management, who would be the Under Secretary that an ambassador would communicate with on something that involved security, logistics, construction, management.”

Bonnie Cohen was a non-career appointee who served as “M” from August 1997 to January 2001 under Madeleine Albright.

In the July 9, 2012 cable (12 TRIPOLI 590), Ambassador Stevens reported that, “Overall security conditions continue to be unpredictable, with large numbers of armed groups and individuals not under control of the central government, and frequent clashes in Tripoli and other major population centers.” The cable requested continued TDY security support for an additional 60 days, through mid-September 2012. The request also said that 13 security personnel would be the “minimum” needed for “transportation security and incident response capability.”

In his on-the-record briefing following the Benghazi attack, U/S Kennedy said:

I’ve been confirmed, I think, three or four times. Every time you’re confirmed, you tell the Congress that you will appear before the Congress for hearings. I regard it as both an honor and a privilege to be called. The Legislative Branch of the U.S. Government is incredibly important, and it is my job as a confirmed official to appear before them. They had a lot of questions. We answered lots of their questions. I regard that as my job.

That’s after a long grilling in Congress.

We came up with a bureaucrat’s motto — always willing and ready, and never, ever show an angry face.

What remains striking to us is that one assistant secretary, and three DASes, including one from the NEA bureau with no direct security responsibility for Benghazi was where “the rubber hits the road.”  

Inside Harry S. Truman’s building, named after the president noted for his motto, the buck stops here, it seems that the buck stopped everywhere and nowhere.

Ah — bonus email from Senator BAM of Maryland, the longest-serving woman in the history of the United States Congress via the email dump at foia.state.gov:

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Mark Toner’s Last Briefing Before Vacation: We Can’t Stop Watching!

Posted: 4:40 am ET

 

We’re guessing the State Department’s deputy spox was already thinking of vacation when he did his briefing on Thursday.  Still he was not on the beach yet, but on the podium when this happened.

Transcript via DPB, August 4, 2016:

MR TONER: Hi guys. Happy Thursday.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR TONER: And what makes it even more special is it’s a Thursday in August, which means tomorrow – everybody want to join with me?
QUESTION: No briefing —
MR TONER: True to our tradition, there will be – thank you, Matt – no briefing.
QUESTION: There will be one.
MR TONER: What was that, Said?
QUESTION: There will be a briefing. An old one.
MR TONER: An old briefing. (Laughter.) Anyway, welcome to the State Department. I think we have some interns in the back. Welcome. Good to see you in this exercise in transparency in democracy. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Is that what it is? (Laughter.) I thought it was a —
MR TONER: Sorry, I didn’t mean to break out in laughter. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I thought it was an exercise in spin and obfuscation.
MR TONER: All right. Can you tell this is my last briefing before vacation?

Folks, he needs that vacation, so give him a break, hookay?

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