Tillerson Signals No Career Nominees For Regional Bureaus? #FoggyBottomBlues

Posted: 2:55 pm PT
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Via BuzzFeed’s John Hudson:

After an intense battle with the White House over his first choice to become the top US diplomat to Asia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is considering a new candidate with a deep resumé in business and economics but little diplomatic experience…
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Olin Wethington, a former Treasury Department official and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, is now a contender for the nomination of assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, four individuals familiar with the matter said.
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Tillerson originally wanted the job to go to Susan Thornton, a veteran diplomat who speaks Mandarin Chinese, two US officials told BuzzFeed News. But White House officials opposed her due to concerns that her views were out of step with the president’s agenda — a claim State Department officials deny.
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Ultimately, in shifting to Wethington, Tillerson appears to be acquiescing to the White House, which has shown a preference for appointments with a strong business background over career diplomatic experience.

Read in full the John Hudson scoop below.

For more of the rumored nominee, see this and this.

Secretary Tillerson once took a few minutes to “communicate” his  “high regard for the men and women of the State Department.

He promised that as secretary of state he would “deploy the talent and resources of the State Department in the most efficient ways possible, and that he would “depend on the expertise of this institution.”

“Your wisdom, your work ethic and patriotism, is as important as ever. And as your Secretary, I will be proud to draw upon all these qualities in my decision-making,” he told his employees not too long ago.

When asked once what inspires him when he comes to work at the State Department every day, Secretary Tillerson said that “the men and women of the State Department inspire me, my colleagues – their professionalism, their commitment, their patriotism.”

As recently as last month, during a hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee defending the gutted budget of his agency, he repeated that “My colleagues at the State Department and USAID are a deep source of inspiration, and their patriotism, professionalism, and willingness to make sacrifices for our country are our greatest resource.”

Despite his “high regard” for the men and women of the State Department, and his promise to “depend on the expertise of the institution” he is now leading, and despite the fact that he declared them a “deep source of inspiration” to him, he apparently does not have any control over his staffing, or for that matter, how his building is run.

And seriously, if Tillerson “loves” the AA/S for EAP Susan Thornton, a career diplomat with deep expertise in the former Soviet Union and East Asia, but could not hire her because she has not sworn a blood oath to the kool aid special, what hope is there for other career professionals in Foggy Bottom?

So the next time, Secretary Tillerson talks about his high regard for his people at the State Department, or how he is inspired by his people’s patriotism, professionalism and their sacrifices, remember that Foggy Bottom is now the “Real Post of the Month” and will remain to be so in the foreseeable future.  Also don’t forget to check your playbook to see what’s next in dramatic plays over in Foggy Bottom. We understand that the plays, Another Load of Old Crap With the Word Inspiration in the Title;  Margaret, Don’t Eat the Government Cheese; and Gone to Texas are all on repeat on BNET.

Please, clap.

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House GOP to Use Holman Rule to Target Staff/Funds of the Congressional Budget Office #Bonkers

Posted: 2:06 pm ET
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In early January, we blogged about the Holman Rule, which was removed from the standing rules in 1983 but reinstated by House Republicans early this year (see House GOP Brings Back Holman Rule to “Retrench” Agency Spending, Cut Pay of Any Federal Employee. According to the Hill, the House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) is trying to eliminate 89 positions from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s staff and require the office to aggregate think tank data instead of using its own professional expertise. The Hill says that Meadows would use the Holman Rule. “In an amendment to be offered to the security-related spending bill scheduled for a House vote this week, Meadows would cut $15 million of funding to CBO staff members responsible for estimating the budgetary costs of bills in Congress…”

This is bonkers.  They don’t like the Congressional Budget Office’s scores, so they’ll eliminate 89 positions and slash the agency’s funding. If they succeed in doing this, they could replicate this at any agency. It will hasten the death of expertise in federal agencies and we will be left with whatever desirable facts and fancy reports will be rolled out by the administration of the day based on aggregated reports from preferred think tanks.

The “Holman Rule” in the rules package passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 234 to 193. WaPo previously reported in January that a majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any amendment to an appropriations bill that targets a specific government employee or program, but that its passage put agencies and the public on notice that their work is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.

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FS Labor Relations Board on AFSA Dues, Foreign Service Retirees, and Annuities ≠ Salaries

Posted: 4:22 am ET
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Last month, the Foreign Service Labor Relations Board (FSLRB) rendered a decision about AFSA dues and Foreign Service retirees.  AFSA filed with the Foreign Service Labor Relations Board (the Board) a “request[ for] . . . interpretation and guidance of § 1018(b)(2) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980. This provision concerns the termination of payroll deductions for union dues when “the individual ceases to receive a salary from the [Agency] as a member of the Service.”

When Agency employees wish to have their Union dues automatically withheld from their paychecks, the employees complete a form that authorizes the Agency to withhold those funds and remit them to the Union.6 According to the Union, the Agency automatically terminates dues withholding when a foreign-service employee retires. The Union asserts that this practice is based on an erroneous understanding of § 1018(b)(2) of the Foreign Service Act …
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[T]he Union argues that the automatic termination of dues withholding causes it to lose dues and, therefore, asks the Board to find that § 1018(b)(2) does not require automatic termination of dues withholding upon retirement.
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The Union contends that the Agency should continue withholding dues from an individual’s retirement benefits based on the same dues-withholding-authorization form that applied to the individual’s salary while in active service.17 We disagree.

Section 1018(b)(2) of the Foreign Service Act requires the Agency to terminate an existing dues-withholding assignment when an “individual ceases to receive a salary from the [Agency].”18 As explained below, retirees generally receive “annuities,” not salaries, upon retirement.19

The FSLRB says it find that § 1018(b)(2) requires the State Department to terminate an existing dues-withholding assignment when a retiring employee stops receiving a salary.

The Department deducts union dues from salaries on the basis of a voluntary act by the Foreign Service employee. The employee has the right to revoke his/her decision at any time. Whenever an employee who has had his/her union dues deducted from salary arrives at the moment of retirement, it must be assumed that he/she continues to believe it had been in his/her interest to maintain both their membership in the union, and the automatic deduction of union dues.

The Board notes that “when a foreign-service employee retires, that “individual ceases to receive a salary from the [Agency].”30 Consequently, under § 1018(b)(2), the Agency must terminate the individual’s previous dues-withholding assignment.”
AFSA has over 10,000 active paying FS members. Its dues range from $95.00 to $400.00 annually based on four employee brackets.  Read the full decision below:

 

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Nomination: Career Diplomat Justin Siberell to be U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain

Posted: 3:08 am ET
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President Trump announced his intent to nominate Justin H. Siberell to be the U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain.  In 2016, Mr. Siberell was designated the Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Mr. Siberell entered the Foreign Service in March 1993, and joined the CT Bureau in July 2012.   He is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and was confirmed by the Senate to the rank of Minister-Counselor. Below is a brief bio via state.gov:

Before joining the CT Bureau, Mr. Siberell was Principal Officer in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Other overseas assignments include service at U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Baghdad, Iraq; Amman, Jordan; Alexandria, Egypt; and Panama City, Panama.

In Washington, Mr. Siberell completed tours in the State Department Operations Center and Executive Secretariat; as Desk Officer for Iran in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs; and as Executive Assistant to the National Security Advisor at the White House.

Mr. Siberell was raised in California, and attended the University of California at Berkeley where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History. Mr. Siberell is a 2002 graduate of the State Department’s Arabic Language Field School in Tunis, Tunisia. Mr. Siberell speaks Arabic and Spanish.

In September 2016, Mr. Siberell was officially nominated to be to be Coordinator for Counterterrorism, with the rank and status of Ambassador at Large (PN1758). The nomination was not acted by the Senate and in January 2017, the nomination was returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI.

Last month, President Trump nominated Nathan Sales to be Coordinator for Counterterrorism (Trump to Nominate Nathan Alexander Sales to be @StateDept Coordinator for Counterterrorism).

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Nomination: Ex-Congressman Peter Hoekstra to be U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands

Posted: 2:56 am ET
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Nomination: Career Diplomat Peter H. Barlerin to be U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon

Posted: 2:47 am ET
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On July 17, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Peter Henry Barlerin to be the U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon. The WH released the following brief bio:

Peter Henry Barlerin of Colorado to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Cameroon. Mr. Barlerin, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1989. He is currently the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State, a post he has held since 2016. Mr. Barlerin also served as Deputy Chief of Mission with senior level appointments at the State Department. An economist, he has served at seven U.S. Missions overseas. Mr. Barlerin earned a M.A. from University of Maryland, College Park and a B.A. from Middlebury College. He speaks French, Japanese, Spanish, and Norwegian.

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Nomination: Career Diplomat Kathleen M. Fitzpatrick to be U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste

Posted: 2:42 am ET
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On July 19, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Kathleen M. Fitzpatrick to be the U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste. The WH released the following really bio:

Kathleen M. Fitzpatrick of the District of Columbia to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. Ms. Fitzpatrick, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1983. She is currently the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the Department of State. Ms. Fitzpatrick earned a M.S. from the U.S. National War College, a M.A. from Georgetown University and a B.A. from the University of Dayton. Her languages include Spanish, French, Russian, Dutch and some Arabic.

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