AFSA Shouts “Fire!” and a @StateDept Spox on Background Asks, “Fire, What Fire?”

Posted: 2:58 pm PT
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The piece below, in case you have not read it yet, is an advance copy of AFSA President Barbara Stephenson’s opinion essay on the depletion of the Foreign Service career ranks. Not NYT or the Washington Post but for a December 2017 column in the Foreign Service Journal, the group’s trade publication with a reported circulation of 17,500 and approximately 35,000 readers (this column was also circulated via an email marketing service). We’ve been watching the departures from the State Department since January, and this is the first time we’re seeing these numbers. And frankly, the first time we’re hearing the alarm from the “voice of the Foreign Service.” We have some thoughts below after the piece.

 

Time to Ask Why
December 2017 Foreign Service Journal
President’s Views

By AFSA President Ambassador Barbara Stephenson

I begin with a reminder that we, the members of the career Foreign Service, have an obligation as stewards of our institution to be effective advocates for why diplomacy matters. That requires some skill in explaining how diplomacy works.

While raising awareness of and appreciation for the Foreign Service is a longstanding goal, one AFSA has pursued with renewed vigor and impact over the past couple years, the need to make the case for the Foreign Service with fellow Americans and our elected representatives has taken on a new urgency. The cover of the Time magazine that arrived as I was writing this column jarred me with its graphic of wrecking balls and warning of “dismantling government as we know it.”

While I do my best, as principal advocate for our institution and as a seasoned American diplomat, to model responsible, civil discourse, there is simply no denying the warning signs that point to mounting threats to our institution—and to the global leadership that depends on us.

There is no denying that our leadership ranks are being depleted at a dizzying speed, due in part to the decision to slash promotion numbers by more than half. The Foreign Service officer corps at State has lost 60 percent of its Career Ambassadors since January. Ranks of Career Ministers, our three-star equivalents, are down from 33 to 19. The ranks of our two-star Minister Counselors have fallen from 431 right after Labor Day to 369 today—and are still falling. 

These numbers are hard to square with the stated agenda of making State and the Foreign Service stronger. Were the U.S. military to face such a decapitation of its leadership ranks, I would expect a public outcry. Like the military, the Foreign Service recruits officers at entry level and grows them into seasoned leaders over decades. The talent being shown the door now is not only our top talent, but also talent that cannot be replicated overnight. The rapid loss of so many senior officers has a serious, immediate, and tangible effect on the capacity of the United States to shape world events.

Meanwhile, the self-imposed hiring freeze is taking its toll at the entry level. Intake into the Foreign Service at State will drop from 366 in 2016 to around 100 new entry-level officers joining A100 in 2018 (including 60 Pickering and Rangel Fellows).

Not surprisingly, given the blocked entry path, interest in joining the Foreign Service is plummeting. I wrote with pride in my March 2016 column that “more than 17,000 people applied to take the Foreign Service Officer Test last year,” citing interest in joining the Foreign Service as a key indicator of the health of the institution. What does it tell us, then, that we are on track to have fewer than half as many people take the Foreign Service Officer Test this year?

As the shape and extent of the staffing cuts to the Foreign Service at State become clearer, I believe we must shine a light on these disturbing trends and ask “why?” and “to what end?”   

Congress rejected drastic cuts to State and USAID funding. The Senate labeled the proposed cuts a “doctrine of retreat” and directed that appropriated funds “shall support” staffing State at not less than Sept. 30, 2016, levels, and further directed that “The Secretary of State shall continue A-100 entry-level classes for FSOs in a manner similar to prior years.”

Given this clear congressional intent, we have to ask: Why such a focus on slashing staffing at State? Why such a focus on decapitating leadership? How do these actions serve the stated agenda of making the State Department stronger?

Remember, nine in ten Americans favor a strong global leadership role for our great country, and we know from personal experience that such leadership is unthinkable without a strong professional Foreign Service deployed around the world protecting and defending America’s people, interests and values.  Where then, does the impetus come from to weaken the American Foreign Service?  Where is the mandate to pull the Foreign Service team from the field and forfeit the game to our adversaries?

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AFSA says that the Foreign Service officer corps “has lost 60 percent of its Career Ambassadors since January.” We winced when we saw that one. Not all career diplomats attain this rank; in fact, only a handful of individuals are nominated by the President to become Career Ambassadors but this is the very top rank of the Foreign Service, equivalent to a four-star general. Imagine if the Pentagon lost 60 percent of its 0-10 but way, way worse because the Foreign Service is a much smaller service, and the loss of one or two officials have significant impact to the leadership ranks.

When we saw the AFSA message Tuesday night, we noticed that social media started latching on to the 60 percent loss.  AFSA could have used actual numbers as it did with the break down of the second and third top ranks in the FS, but for its own reason, it used the percentage instead of actual numbers for the career ambassadors. So that caused a mild feeding frenzy that’s not helpful because when folks realize that 60 percent is really 3 out of 5 career ambassadors, they won’t be happy.

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Snapshot: @StateDept’s Civil Service and Foreign Service Retirements, January-October 2017

Posted: 1:33 am ET
Updated: 11:01 am PT
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The following are clips with the names of Civil Service and Foreign Service employees who retired from the State Department from January to October this year. The names were published in the monthly trade magazine of the State Department. It looks like there are three non-career appointees included in the lists below. Political ambassadors conclude their appointments at the end of their tours, they do not “retire” from the Foreign Service as they are not career members. (Correction: We understand that if, at the time of conclusion of the non-career appointment, the person has sufficient federal government service (in various capacities during an entire career) and is otherwise eligible for federal retirement benefits, then the person can, in fact, “retire.” We do not know if they get Foreign Service retirement). We’ve asked if these names come from the Bureau of Human Resources but we have not received a response as of this writing. An unofficial source told us that these names come from HR but that there is typically a lag of a couple of months from actual retirement to publication of the name in State Magazine.

The *June and *July/August lists are particularly problematic due to some duplication of names on both lists but we’re posting these here for a snapshot of the departures. This does not include non-retirement separations. Based on these imperfect lists, the total retirements for the first 10 months of 2017 are at least a couple hundred employees each for the Civil Service and the Foreign Service. And we still have a couple months to go.

However, since the federal government manages its records by fiscal year, DGHR should already have the retirements and non-retirement separation data for FY2017 that ended on September 30, 2017. The State Department has always been proud of its low attrition rate, if our HR friends want to tout the FY2017 attrition data, let us know.

January 2017 – CS-24; FS-14

February 2017: CS-10; FS-45

March 2017: CS-47; FS-25

April 2017: CS-43; FS-25

May 2017: CS-16; FS-4

*June 2017: CS-54; FS-56


*July/August 2017: CS-41; FS-57
September 2017: CS-17; FS-34

October 2017: CS-11; FS-22


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Michael T. Evanoff Assumes Charge as Asst Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security

Posted: 12:37 am ET
Updated: 11/9; 12:45 pm PT
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Former DSS Agent Michael T. Evanoff was confirmed on November 2 as Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, and on November 7, he was back to lead his old bureau. There are some new names at the top ranks of Diplomatic Security, but the principal deputy slot appears to be vacant at this time. The names are from Diplomatic Security’s leadership page and may not be 100% accurate at this time (we heard one retirement that occurred last week, but the name is still on their page).

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service — VACANT
The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security/Director of Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) is responsible for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s international and domestic operations and training programs.

Deputy Assistant Secretary and Assistant Director for for Countermeasures — Wayne B. Ashbery
The Deputy Assistant Secretary/Assistant Director for Countermeasures formulates security policy and plans for countermeasures in the areas of physical security, technical security, and diplomatic courier operations for the Department of State’s overseas and domestic operations and facilities. [biography]

Cyber and Technology Security — Lonnie J. Price
The CTS Directorate manges advanced cybersecurity programs and risk-managed technology innovation for the department. CTS provides advanced cyber threat analysis, incident detection and response, cyber investigative support, and emerging technology solutions for our department colleagues in headquarters and our missions around the world.

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary and Assistant Director for Domestic Operations — James Murphy
The Deputy Assistant Secretary/Assistant Director for Domestic Operations is responsible for all Bureau of Diplomatic Security investigative programs as well as domestic protection programs and operations.

Deputy Assistant Secretary and Assistant Director for High-Threat Programs — Tim Riley
The Deputy Assistant Secretary/Assistant Director for High-Threat Programs is responsible for evaluating, managing, and mitigating the security threats, as well as the direction of resource requirements as high-threat U.S. diplomatic missions. [biography]

Assistant Director for International Programs — Christian J. Schurman
The Deputy Assistant Secretary/Assistant Director for International Programs is responsible for managing and directing all Bureau of Diplomatic Security programs and policies that protect the Department of State’s international missions and personnel from the threats of terrorism, espionage (human and technical), and crime. [biography]

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Director for Threat Investigations and Analysis — Bartle B. Gorman
The Deputy Assistant Secretary/Assistant Director for Threat Investigations and Analysis is in charge of all threat management programs within Diplomatic Security that analyze, assess, investigate, and disseminate information on threats directed against our facilities and personnel overseas and domestically.

Deputy Assistant Secretary and Assistant Director for Training — Scott Moretti
The Deputy Assistant Secretary/Assistant Director for Training oversees the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Offices of Antiterrorism Assistance, Training and Performance Support, and Mobile Security Deployments. [biography]

Executive Director for Diplomatic Security — Stephen B. Dietz, III
The Executive Director is the principal advisor to the Director of Diplomatic Security Service, and the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security on the Bureau’s administrative, management, planning and resource issues, activities and programs. The Executive Director oversees and ensures the development and implementation of administrative and management policies, plans and procedures to ensure that the Bureau’s resources are allocated, administered, and accounted for in accordance with U.S. law and government regulations. [biography]

Senior Coordinator for Security Infrastructure — Donald R. Reid
The Senior Coordinator for Security Infrastructure oversees the Department of State’s Information and Personnel Security/Suitability programs and key aspects of its network cyber security program. Responsibilities include the management of classified information programs, oversight of the State Department’s Special Security Office, the operation of the Industrial Security program, and the investigation/resolution of security violations. [biography]

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@StateDept Now Has an Official Bio For New Counselor of the State Department Maliz E. Beams

Posted: 12:26 am ET
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On August 23, 2017, we blogged about the appointment of the new Counselor of the State Department (see Former Voya Financial CEO Maliz Beams Reportedly Appointed @StateDept Counselor).

We don’t  recall ever seeing a public announcement of this appointment. The new bio page of Ms Beams indicates that she was appointed to this position on August 17, 2017. We recall searching but not finding her official bio on state.gov. We found it this week. This position reports directly to the Secretary of State, and does not require Senate confirmation.

Via state.gov

The Counselor of the Department, Maliz E. Beams, is a principal officer who serves the Secretary as a special advisor and consultant on major problems of foreign policy and who provides guidance to the appropriate bureaus with respect to such matters. The Counselor conducts special international negotiations and consultations, and also undertakes special assignments from time to time, as directed by the Secretary.

Below is the official bio published by the State Department:

Maliz E. Beams was appointed as Counselor to the Department of State on August 17, 2017. Ms. Beams was the CEO of VOYA Financial Retirement Services, the largest publicly-traded retirement company, for several years. She previously served as President & CEO of TIAA Institutional and Individual Client Services, LLC and as President of Global Business Development for Zurich Scudder Investments. She also held senior management positions at Fleet Bank (now Bank of America), American Express, and Citibank.

Ms. Beams led highly successful organizational transformations in a variety of financial services industry sectors. She was named one of the nation’s Most Powerful Women in Finance – including six years in the top 10 – by American Banker. She was also honored by Legal Momentum for her work on shaping laws and policies that affect gender equality; and she has been listed in the Who’s Who of American Women.

Ms. Beams currently serves on several nonprofit and public company boards including: Columbia Business School’s Executive Board of Financial Studies; New England Aquarium’s Board of Directors; Mount Auburn Hospital-Harvard Medical Teaching Hospital; Vestigo Ventures’ Advisory Board; and Cetera Financial Services Board of Directors. In the past, she has also served on the boards of the Junior Achievement Worldwide Global Board of Governors and The Employee Benefits Retirement Institute.

A native of Boston, Ms. Beams earned her Bachelor Degree from Boston College and completed her post graduate Special Studies in Strategic Planning at Harvard University. She holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Columbia University.

 

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