Secretary @JohnKerry Hosts His Last “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays” For Foreign Service Families

Posted: 3:36 pm PT
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Secretary John Kerry hosted the annual “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays” today at 2:00 p.m. at the State Department.

“The holiday reception honors the families of U.S. government employees with assignments on which they cannot bring their families, leaving both sides to endure long periods of separation from their loved ones, even at the holidays.”

In partnership with the Kennedy Center, the cast of the Broadway hit Wicked — the untold true story of the Witches of Oz — was scheduled to perform the popular songs “The Wizard and I” and “For Good” during the reception.  This event is made possible through public-private partnerships according to the State Department.

In 2013, the State Department said that about 1,100 U.S. foreign service officers were at posts abroad where they are unaccompanied or where there are limits on who can accompany them – usually no children/adult only dependents.  Reuters reported at that time that this was a five-fold increase in unaccompanied American diplomats over the past decade, and represents about 14 percent of U.S. foreign service officers serving overseas.  Since 2016 is no doubt a harsher year than 2013, we can only surmise that the unaccompanied posts this year is higher than the previous years.

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Trump Makes It Official — ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to the State Department, What’s Next?

Posted: 11:02 am PT
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On December 13, President-elect Trump announced his intent to nominate Rex Tillerson, the Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, to serve as Secretary of State. Below is the Trump Transition statement:

Among the most accomplished business leaders and international dealmakers in the world, Mr. Tillerson has spent his career protecting the jobs of his employees, who number more than 70,000. Guiding operations around the world that include more than 200 offices, Mr. Tillerson knows how to manage a global organization and successfully navigate the complex architecture of world affairs and diverse foreign leaders. As Secretary of State, he will be a forceful and clear-eyed advocate for America’s vital national interests, and help reverse years of misguided foreign policies and actions that have weakened America’s security and standing in the world. The American people will once again have a world-class leader working on their behalf, enhancing the prospects for peace and prosperity among nations.

“Rex Tillerson’s career is the embodiment of the American dream. Through hard work, dedication and smart deal making, Rex rose through the ranks to become CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest and most respected companies,” said President-elect Donald J. Trump. “His tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics make him an excellent choice for Secretary of State. He will promote regional stability and focus on the core national security interests of the United States. Rex knows how to manage a global enterprise, which is crucial to running a successful State Department, and his relationships with leaders all over the world are second to none. I can think of no one more prepared, and no one more dedicated, to serve as Secretary of State at this critical time in our history.”

“I am honored by President-elect Trump’s nomination and share his vision for restoring the credibility of the United States’ foreign relations and advancing our country’s national security,” said Mr. Tillerson. “We must focus on strengthening our alliances, pursuing shared national interests and enhancing the strength, security and sovereignty of the United States.”

Rex Tillerson is a native Texan who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He began his career at Exxon Company, U.S.A. in 1975 as a production engineer.

After years of hard work and dedication to his company, Rex then became general manager of Exxon Company, U.S.A.’s central production division, responsible for oil and gas production operations throughout a large portion of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas.

In 1992, Mr. Tillerson was named production advisor to Exxon Corporation. Three years later he was named president of Exxon Yemen Inc. and Esso Exploration and Production Khorat Inc., and in January 1998, he was promoted to vice president of Exxon Ventures (CIS) Inc. and president of Exxon Neftegas Limited. In those roles, he was responsible for Exxon’s holdings in Russia and the Caspian Sea as well as the Sakhalin I consortium operations offshore Sakhalin Island, Russia.

In December 1999, he became executive vice president of Exxon Mobil Development Company. Mr. Tillerson was then named senior vice president of Exxon Mobil Corporation in August 2001, and was elected president of the corporation and member of the board of directors on March 1, 2004. Nearly two years after he was elected, Mr. Tillerson was named as chairman and CEO of the board on January 1, 2006.

Mr. Tillerson is not only a stalwart in his professional life, but also in the community. He is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and a trustee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He is the vice chairman of the Ford’s Theatre Society and a recipient of the Lincoln Medal; immediate past national president of the Boy Scouts of America, a Distinguished Eagle Scout, and a former director of the United Negro College Fund. He was recognized as a distinguished alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin in 2006, and in 2013, was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

The Senate Foreign Relation Committee is a GOP 10/Dem 9 split, the full Senate is a 52 GOP/48 Dem split. A senator can put a hold on a nomination.  If two GOP Senators flip, VP Pence can cast the deciding vote and still confirm the nominee.  Since a simple majority is all that’s needed, three GOP Senators could also flip and sink this nomination. A nomination can also be killed in committee, but that does not look likely here. The SFRC Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN)who was on Trump’s short-list for Secretary of State has said that Tillerson is “a very impressive individual.” After the selection was announced, Senator Corker tweeted, “I congratulate Mr. Tillerson on his nomination and look forward to meeting with him and chairing his confirmation hearing.”  We suspect that the confirmation hearing would occur the day after the Trump inauguration.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) who sits in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and who says “I am a no on John Bolton…” reportedly told a radio show that he is “reserving judgment” on the Tillerson nomination. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) who also sits in the SFRC tweeted “The fact that Condi Rice, James Baker and Bob Gates are recommending Tillerson carries considerable weight. I look forward to the hearings.” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), also an SFRC member said, “While Rex Tillerson is a respected businessman, I have serious concerns about his nomination.”  He released a statement here: .

There are “concerns” but no hard “no” at this time. It doesn’t hurt that former Secretary of State Condi Rice, and former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates of RiceHadleyGates have great things to say about the nominee.

According to the Constitution Center, there were five presidential cabinet nominations that were rejected by the Senate. The last two occurred within the last sixty years — one in 1959 for the commerce secretary nomination and the second one in 1989 for the defense secretary nomination:

In 1959, President Dwight Eisenhower nominated Admiral Lewis Strauss as commerce secretary. The Democrats controlled more than 60 Senate seats and Strauss lost in a contentious nomination process by just four votes.

The fight between the Senate and its former member, John Tower, in 1989 was historic in many ways. Tower had headed the Senate Armed Services Committee until he retired in 1985. President Bush had nominated Tower as defense secretary.

The public debate over Tower’s nomination included a lot of mudslinging, and Tower lost the vote along party lines in the Democrat-controlled Senate. He was the only former Senate member rejected for a cabinet position by the Senate in its history. Dick Cheney was later approved in Tower’s place.

For Senators contemplating sinking the Tillerson nomination, the next question to ask might be, “then what?” Could Trump’s next move after a Tillerson rejection be the nomination of John Bolton as Secretary of State? That is totally possible. And after sinking one cabinet nomination, it is conceivable that a GOP Senate would not want another contentious confirmation. Rejecting the Tillerson nomination would almost assure the confirmation of John Bolton or whoever Trump puts forward in response.

The Financial Times’ Ed Crooks said that conventional wisdom has tagged Rex as “pro-Russia” but that it is probably more accurate to say he’s been pro-Exxon.  Well, his responsibilities were to the Exxon shareholders. Tillerson was once asked by Charlie Rose“… whether it’s Alaska or offshore or wherever it might be, is your philosophy “drill, baby, drill”? Here is Tillerson’s response talking about opportunities and risks:

No, my philosophy is to make money. And so if I can drill, and make money, then that’s what I want to do. But it really is for us it’s about making quality investments for our shareholders. And it’s not a quality investment if you cannot manage the risk around it. And so part of that decision to undertake whether it’s a drilling program or an investment program in some other country, we have to have a very good understanding of what risk are we dealing with, how are we going to manage those. Because you may have a fabulous opportunity but if you manage the risk poorly, you’ve cost yourself not only that opportunity but you’ve probably cost yourself a lot of others.

The bigger question probably is what happens to Tillerson’s huge financial interest in Exxon if he gets confirmed as Secretary of State. This is  something the Senators should be interested in. Of course, they were also interested with conflict of interest or the appearance of it related to the Clinton Foundation leading to then Senator Clinton’s confirmation in 2009 and they voted 94-2.

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Steve Coll on the Tillerson Pick Plus Excerpt From ‘Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power’

Posted: 1:11 am ET
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Steve Coll writes in The New Yorker that Trump’s reported pick of Tillerson as Secretary of State is “astonishing on many levels.”

As an exercise of public diplomacy, it will certainly confirm the assumption of many people around the world that American power is best understood as a raw, neocolonial exercise in securing resources.
[…]
Compared to the records of some of the other people around Trump, Tillerson’s is at least one of professional integrity; Exxon is a ruthless and unusually aggressive corporation, but it is also rule-bound, has built up a relatively strong safety record, and has avoided problems such as prosecutions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, even though it operates in many countries that are rife with corruption.
[…]
In his career at ExxonMobil, Tillerson has no doubt honed many of the day-to-day skills that a Secretary of State must exercise: absorbing complex political analysis, evaluating foreign leaders, attending ceremonial events, and negotiating with friends and adversaries. Tillerson is a devotee of Abraham Lincoln, so perhaps he has privately harbored the ambition to transform himself into a true statesman, on behalf of all Americans. Yet it is hard to imagine, after four decades at ExxonMobil and a decade leading the corporation, how Tillerson will suddenly develop respect and affection for the American diplomatic service he will now lead, or embrace a vision of America’s place in the world that promotes ideals for their own sake, emphatically privileging national interests over private ones.

Read in full here.  Steve Coll is the author of the book on ExxonMobil, excerpt below courtesy of Kindle Preview:

 

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@StateDept Launches Inaugural Leadership Day — Who’s Missing? (Updated)

Posted: 1:07 am ET
Updated: 8:44 pm PT
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In 2014, we saw a FAM update on Leadership and Management Principles for State Department Employees. Long, long, before that, there was Secretary Colin Powell and leadership. In 2000, FSI launched a new Leadership and Management School. Twelve years later, State/OIG still talked leadership (see State Dept’s Leadership and Management School Needs Some Leadership, And It’s Not Alone). For the longest time after Powell exited the State Department, the one part of the State Department that actively pursued leadership as part of it staff development is the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA). CA developed the Consular Leadership Tenets  in 2006 after receiving input from 87 overseas consular sections. In 2007, somebody even got the then Under Secretary for Management Henrietta Fore to “talked” (PDF) about promoting leadership development, specifically citing the consular leadership tenets and what the bureau “is doing to cultivate a culture of leadership and results-oriented professional development.”

Now, we understand that there were a few folks at CA/EX who made possible the leadership initiative there, including Don Jacobson, the founder of GovLeaders.org. He was previously consular boss for Mission Brazil and received the Raphel Memorial Award for  “outstanding leadership and direction” of the consular team.  He once said:

My best assignments have been those that involved “crucible” experiences–intense experiences rich in learning. For example, in Bogota we had a huge spike in workload and nowhere near the resources we needed to get the job done. We implemented some terrific innovations, but I also wound up burning out some of my officers. I learned a lot from that and have tried to take a much more balanced approach since then. At another post, I had some great opportunities to develop a stronger backbone. I terminated two employees and also had to protect my staff from a difficult senior boss. I used to avoid conflict as much as I could, but that is not helpful in a manager. Managers need to have a backbone in order to be effective—to speak truth to power, to protect their staff from abuse, and to deal with poor performance and unacceptable behavior. These things get easier with practice because, as I have found, difficult problems go away if you actually deal with them. 

Unfortunately, it does not look like he has a speaking part in the State Department’s big leadership powwow. Perhaps all those annual leadership awardees at State should be talking about leadership in practice?

Today, the State Department launched its first Leadership Day.  According to AFSA, the inaugural Leadership Day is organized by the State Department’s Culture of Leadership Initiative (iLead), a voluntary group of employees “working to strengthen leadership skills and practice throughout the State Department.” iLead originated with the 2014 release of the LMPs. The iLead forum is currently co-chaired by Carmen Cantor, HR/CSHRM Office Director; Michael Murphy, Associate Dean at FSI’s Leadership and Management School; and Julie Schechter-Torres, Acting Deputy Director of M/PRI.

As outlined in the 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), the success of the State Department rests on its ability to recruit, train, deploy, and retain talented and dedicated professionals. We must prepare people not only to react quickly to crises, but also to proactively advance our interests – all the while caring for the wellbeing and development of themselves and colleagues. To celebrate recent achievements and to foster continuous commitment to the Department’s Leadership and Management Principles, iLead is organizing a Leadership Day to showcase leadership in practice. The event is scheduled to take place on December 13, 2016 with a plenary session in the Dean Acheson Auditorium and a Leadership Expo in the Exhibit Hall at the Harry S Truman building. The event will feature presentations, panel discussions, and short talks on leadership and professional development by Department staff at all levels and from various disciplines.

The preliminary agenda is as follows:

11:00 AM – 1:00 PM Leadership Expo in the Exhibit Hall, HST

1:00 PM – 4:00 PM Plenary Session in the Dean Acheson Auditorium

The Leadership Day plenary session will be comprised of two segments: a senior leadership panel discussion and a series of short talks on the Leadership and Management Principles. The senior panel will highlight reflections on leadership and bureau best practices as championed by the following participants:

Catherine Novelli, U/S for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment;
Michele Thoren Bond, A/S for Consular Affairs;
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, A/S for African Affairs;
William Brownfield, A/S for Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

Interested employees may send questions for the panel to ilead@state.gov.

We noticed the names absent from the above line-up.  The Deputy Secretary of Management and Resources (D/MR) is missing. The Under Secretary for Management (M) is not listed as a speaker. The Director General of the Foreign Service (DGHR) who by the way, has been running a podcast on leadership on iTunes and SoundCloud is also not in the line-up. Of course, they are busy with other stuff but these senior officials have a larger impact on the institution and its people. Wouldn’t you want to hear their thoughts about leadership and management in practice during the inaugural Leadership Day? No?

Update: It looks like the AFSA notice we saw about this event was outdated.  We’ve since learned that Secretary Kerry gave a keynote speech on leadership, and DGHR Arnold Chacon had a speaking role as well. Don Jacobson also did a presentation during the “Leaders Speak” part of this program.  Our source told us that “Leadership Day was organized by an amazing team of volunteers who are passionate about growing leaders for State. They are among the many members of the iLead group that consistently put their discretionary energy into promoting effective leadership at all levels of the State Department.”

The talk, the talk, Throwback Tuesday:

From State Magazine, 2001: “Investment in human capital is critical to maintaining State’s expertise in the 21st century. As Director General Marc Grossman told a Georgetown University audience recently, “I tell everyone who will listen that training and professional development will be key to meeting the challenges of our new world and key to our ability to fashion a diplomacy for the 21st century.”

From AFSA, 2015 – DGHR Arnold Chacon: “We are partnering with AFSA to develop and implement a professional code of ethics for the Foreign Service, based on our core values of accountability, character, community, diversity, loyalty and service. Bringing these values into sharper relief—and tying them to who we are and to what we do that is unique and consequential for our nation—is essential for our conversations with Congress and the American people. We not only want to forge a more capable FS 2025 workforce, but also communicate our accomplishments strategically and well.”

Also, hey, whatever happened to AFSA’s Committee on the Foreign Service Profession and Ethics?

 

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POTUS Designates Amb. Bruce Wharton Acting U/S For Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs

Posted: 12:28 am ET
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On December 8, Ambassador Bruce Wharton was designated as acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R). Quick bio below:

Ambassador Wharton served as as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs from 2015-2016. Prior to that he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe from September 2012 to November 2015. He has also served as the Bureau of African Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy, AF Director of the Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and Deputy Coordinator of the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs. From 2003 to 2006 he was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala.

Bruce Wharton entered the Foreign Service in 1985 and has served at U.S. embassies in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. In Africa, he has also had temporary duty in Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana. From 1992 to 1995 he worked in Washington, D.C. on Andean Affairs and Western Hemisphere policy issues. He has received Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards from the Department of State and the U.S. Information Agency, and was the 2011 recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy.

He is a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin and speaks Spanish and German.

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