Inside @StateDept: Leaked Cable Provides Guidance For ‘America First’ Cost Savings Initiatives

Posted: 1:48 pm ET
Updated: 9:27 pm ET: See Aww, @StateDept Sends Official Take Down Request For April Fools’ Day Cable
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A leaked cable from the State Department provides new guidance to embassies and consulates on cost savings initiatives under President Trump’s “skinny budget.” Amidst a barrage of bad press, Secretary Tillerson’s ALDAC cable not only urges employees to do more with less but also includes morale boosters for an anxious bureaucracy.  The cable is marked Routine and Unclassified so we are publishing it in full below:

DE RUEHC #8174/01 2922053
R 010033Z APR 17


E.O. 12958: N/A

This is an action request. Please see paragraphs 2, 11-13.

#1. Summary.  This cable reiterates the Secretary’s  three values for the State Department, and includes some housekeeping issues and cost savings commendations and initiatives in support of the President’s Budget Blueprint. As posts begin the planning stage for Fourth of July events, this cable also provides guidance for allowable expenditures. This is the first in a series of cables in cost cutting measures to help achieve the President’s agenda to urgently fund defense and homeland security. End Summary.


Three Key Values: Accountability, Honesty, Respect


2.  Department reminds all employees of three key values that the Secretary articulated on his first day in office: accountability, honesty, and respect.  It will be useful to everyone as we go about our daily work in terms of how we interact with each other and in terms of how we interact externally as well.  Posts should ensure that all employees, including locally hired employees and contractors, have viewed the Secretary’s speech or have read the transcript of his remarks outlining the values we  all must adhered to.  Eligible family members (EFMs) are not required to view or read the Secretary’s remarks but are urge to get familiar with these three values.  Innovative ways on how to better imprint these values on Foreign Service communities worldwide are welcome. Suggestions are accepted via email to


Housekeeping Issues


3.  S Trips:  The Secretary todate has made three official overseas trips.  This cable reiterates instructions regarding S trips and all future secretary of state travels. The Secretary’s chief of staff  (Margaret Peterlin) MUST come immediately after S in protocol order, and all seating must reflect this regardless of the ambassador’s or chargés d’affaire’s presence during official visits. This is not a reflection of the Secretary’s opinion of the career service, of which he has only the highest regard.  Department recognizes that this changes the traditional protocol order but requests understanding as S needs his chief of staff to sit next/next to him.

4.  ‘No Eye Contact’ Rumors: Department reminds employees of their obligation not to pass on fake rumors that are detrimental to the efficiency of the service. A recent press report alleged that some career diplomats have been instructed not to speak to S directly or make eye contact.  Note that no such instruction had been issued.  During his recent trip to Turkey, the Secretary did a meet and greet with embassy employees and family members in Ankara, drank lemonade with the mission’s family members who are Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and commended employees for serving in a high-stress posting. The Secretary is determined to get to know the men and women of this agency, and to that end he plans to eat lunch in the cafeteria once a week when he is not traveling.  S/ES is currently working on a lottery that would allow a random employee to be included in the Secretary’s table during the weekly lunches. Lottery guidance will be posted at a later date at


Commendations for Ongoing Cost Savings


5. The Department commends the following bureaus/offices/posts for their demonstrated commitment to a smaller footprint and cost savings for the American taxpayers:

6. S/ES-S: By utilizing a smaller aircraft for the Secretary’s official trips — domestic and international — and eliminating the staff for the “mobile office,” the Secretariat Staff is commended for the most significant cost savings in travel and staffing that have not been seen in this department for the last eight years. As a result, the Secretary is able to travel and work more efficiently using less fuel, less staff, and, without a traveling press corps, less talk.

7. Embassy Minsk saves money by drying and reusing paper towels: With great spills come great opportunity!  Post has divided its used paper towels into two categories: paper towels to toss and paper towels to dry. At the commendation ceremony attended by a very senior State Department official, post’s management officer said matter of factly, “No one said that paper towels have to be used just once.”

8. Embassy Addis Ababa commits to flushing less: The UNICEF says that an estimated 8 million of Ethiopia’s 60 million people are at immediate risk due to drought.  With that in mind, post has been committed to water conservation for the last few years.  Post bidders should be aware that mission has a standing policy on flushing less or as the mission motto goes, “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” At the commendation ceremony, post’s management officer announced that they are currently testing the “weekly flush” at the consular section.

9. Consulate General Yekaterinburg on track on saving 35% of its heating bill:  According to, you can save as much as 10 percent on your heating bill simply by turning your thermostat back seven to 10 degrees for eight hours a day.  The weather-acclimated staff at Consulate General Yekaterinburg asked, “If you can turn it back 10 degrees, why not 15 degrees?” In the first four months of FY2017, post has already saved 20% of their heating bill. Post aims to save 35% of heating bill by end of fiscal year.  During the commendation ceremony, post’s management officer via Skype said that staffers are working to increase their cold hardiness by stripping to their underwear and throwing buckets of icy water and slush over themselves three times a week.


Cost Savings Initiatives


10. Every bureau, office, and post will be required to achieve greater efficiency and to eliminate wasteful spending in carrying out their honorable service to the American people. We are going to do more with less, and make the Government lean and accountable to the people. Under the direction of the Secretary, the Department is rolling out the following cost savings initiatives in support the President’s Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.  These initiatives are not only sensible but also exceptionally rational.

11. Change Font Initiative. 5 FAH-1 H-414 dictates that all written materials prepared for Department principal officers must use Times New Roman 14 pitch as standard font and size. Materials prepared by L/T (Treaty Affairs) and by HR/PAS (Presidential Appointments) for the President’s signature have traditionally used Courier New 12. Effective immediately, the standard State Department font and size without exception will be Garamond 14 pitch.  Garamond’s lighter strokes will require 24% less ink and is projected to save the Department considerable amount in toner and ink.

12. Sheep and Goat Landscaping Initiative .  Where economical to the U.S. Government, posts may now permit the purchase of sheep and goats to clear brush or mow the lawn at embassies and consulates in place of landscape and gardening services. Per 3 FAM 3251.1 sheep and goats may also count for official residence expenses (ORE) for the maintenance of official residences in which principal representatives represent the United States abroad. Studies show that the total cost is typically 75 percent less than human-based work and much more effective. All new landscaping contracts should switch to the sheep or goat landscaping initiative as soon as practical. For high stress posts where employees are travel restricted, the sheep and goat initiative will also provide live animals for feeding and petting, which will translate to stress reduction and less use of telemedicine by embassy employees.

13. Make USG Reports Great Again to Read. The Bureau of Legislative Affairs tracks 310 congressionally mandated reports each fiscal year (e.g. Human Rights Report (HRR), Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), and International Religious Freedom (IRF)). The Bureau of Administration separately tracks 108 recurring reports required by the Department.  Instructions for congressionally mandated and Department-required reports are often overly long and detailed. The reports themselves have become encyclopedic in detail and length. In both instances, shorter would be better. An OIG report estimates that it costs approximately $65 million per year for embassies to produce all the congressionally mandated and Department-required reports.  Effective immediately, the following guidance should be observed in the production of these reports:

1) Stop producing glossy reports.  The thicker the paper, the shinier the pages, the brighter the colors, the more taxpayers think: “Is this where my tax dollars go?”  2) Maximum word limits on the length of individual reports will soon be released.  Long reports that nobody reads are a waste of officer time and a means of avoiding spending accountability. 3) All reports should be digital downloads. On demand printed reports should be made available only for a fee. 4) In the event that a printed report is required, double side printing must be use to save trees. 5) Instructions for report preparation must not/must not be longer than the finished reports. 6) Reports requiring submission per post cannot have more than 20 pages in length for any country.


Fourth of July Expenditures


14. To the maximum extent practicable, use shall be made of American products, including specifically American wine and spirits during representational events. While embassies’ sommeliers may insists on German or Italian wine as the best pairings for formal representational events, the Department reminds posts of the imperative of buying American.

15. The Made in America WH wine is the finest terroir-driven sparkling, white, and red wines bottled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia.  Posts are authorized to bulk order the WH wine brand from the nearest military PX. Alternatively, posts may direct order the WH Super Premium Vodka shipped via the Diplomatic Post Office if ordered no later than May 30, 2017. Note that this vodka is quintuple-distilled in Holland by renowned Dutch master distiller Francois De Latte, but the labels were designed and printed in America, and for procurement purposes, this product is “Buy America” eligible. Where economical to the U.S. Government, wine and spirits may also be purchased locally as long as it is American in brand.

16.  Posts are reminded that per 3 FAM 962.9, donations may be solicited and accepted from a U.S. citizen, a U.S. organization or U.S. company (including foreign subsidiaries, franchisees, or distributors), or a foreign company that meets the criteria in 2 FAM 962.8, subparagraph a(2) only when the individual, organization, or company is neither seeking substantial assistance from post (e.g., nonroutine consular assistance or nonroutine commercial advocacy or assistance) nor would be substantially affected by a pending or reasonably anticipated post official action. Department also reminds posts that representational funds have been significantly slashed todate.  Recommendations for finger foods to serve for Fourth of July affairs include favorite American foods like popcorn, one stick hotdogs, freedom fries, s’mores, and mac and cheese.  Note that the per person cost for invited guests should not exceed $4.50.  As has been the tradition, posts may continue to supplement the all-American feasts with contribution from American companies operating in the host country. Family members of diplomats who are at least 16 years old may be utilized to provide free labor or provide supplemental food for Fourth of July events as long as 1) there is no additional cost to the government; and 2) the volunteered food is American (e.g. chocolate chip cookies are acceptable, not baba ghanoush).

17.  Unless privately funded, there will be no USG-sponsored fireworks at embassies and consulates until further notice.  Posts are reminded that the fireworks freeze does not preclude solicitations for fireworks sponsors. Posts may run a Red, White and You contests for American companies at post to underwrite the fireworks show as long as the cost does not exceed $6,108 USD. Sponsors’ advertising billboards on embassy properties are allowed for the duration of the event, and 24 hours before and after the event.  Specific questions may be addressed to L/M at

18. The Secretary appreciates what all of you are doing on behalf of the State Department, and in particular what you’re doing on behalf of this country to Make America Great Again.  As always, the Department thanks you for your commitment and dedication to this extraordinary team.



10 responses

  1. Hilarious, with enough official sounding gobbledygook to seem pathetically real. If this Is a Domani Spero original you are not permitted to retire.

    Bill Harrop

    ? >

  2. Is this a joke? Seriously, did S really write this cable?

    Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. Eleanor Roosevelt


  3. Wishing the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, well in his endeavors to reign in costs, size and to right the ship. It has been a long time coming.

    #FakeNews with that story about not looking the Secretary of State in the eye is just ridiculous. It’s ashame that it even had to be addressed. Despise the leaks.