Trump Nominates Goldberg, Hale, Sison, and Smith For Personal Rank of Career Ambassador

Posted: 2:45 pm PT

 

On July 18, President Trump sent the nomination of four career diplomats for the personal rank of Career Ambassador to the U.S. Senate. The nominations have been placed on the Senate Executive Calendar on July 26. As of this writing, the nominations are awaiting full confirmation by the U.S. Senate. We believe these are the first career ambassador nominations made under this administration.

The following-named Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the Department of State for the personal rank of Career Ambassador in recognition of especially distinguished service over a sustained period:

  • Philip S. Goldberg, of DC
  • David M. Hale, of NJ
  • Michele Jeanne Sison, of MD
  • Daniel Bennett Smith, of VA

Ambassador Goldberg was recently sent to US Embassy Havana to be its chargé d’affaires (see New head of U.S. embassy in Cuba, Philip Goldberg, faces critical road ahead, Feb 2018).

Ambassador Hale has been nominated as the next Under Secretary for Political Affairs. As of July 30, 2018, the nomination is pending in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Ambassador Sison was nominated as U.S. Ambassador to Haiti in July 2017. She was confirmed by voice vote on November 2, 2017.

Ambassador Smith is the current Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR). He was confirmed to that position in 2014 and serving in that capacity to-date, presumably pending the confirmation of this successor Ellen E. McCarthy who was nominated on June 18, 2018.  He has been widely rumored as the next Director General of the Foreign Service but no official announcement has been made to date.

 

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Steve Mull, Last Career Ambassador in Active Service Departs Foggy Bottom

Posted: 1:56 pm PT

 

On July 11, we posted about the nomination of Ambassador David Hale to be the next Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P); also that a second hand source informed us that Ambassador Steve Mull, the acting “P” and the last remaining Career Ambassador in the active Foreign Service is on his way to retirement (see Ambassador David Hale to be @StateDept’s Under Secretary for Political Affairs).

On July 27, Secretary Pompeo held a ceremony for Ambassador Mull. The secretary of state’s schedule only indicated that he was hosting the flag ceremony for Ambassador Stephen D. Mull, at the Department of State at 10:30 a.m. and that the event was “closed press coverage”.

After 36 years in the Foreign Service, Ambassador Mull concluded his diplomatic career this past week with what appears to be a nice official send off from the secretary of state. This is a change from the most recent redesigned practice of pushing senior career diplomats out the airlock of Starship Foggy Bottom.

Secretary Michael R. Pompeo poses with Ambassador Stephen D. Mull and his wife during the flag ceremony, at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., on July 27, 2018. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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Here’s a video from US Embassy Warsaw With Ambassador Mull for our send off:

 

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@StateDept’s Immigrant Visa Processing Portal #CEAC Down For 10 Days Now

Posted: 1:15 pm PT
Update: July 31, 2:32 | It looks like the CEAC website is once again functional as of today.  

 

The State Department’s Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) for immigrant visas has been down since at least July 20th.  We can confirm that the service affected is specific to immigrant visa applicants and does not affect nonimmigrant visa applications.  We understand from a source that  the National Visa Center (NVC) that is using the website to allow applicants to send their paperwork to the consulates doesn’t have any information about the reasons or the possible timeframe on when it will be back on. We were told although we’re unable to confirm that “appointments have been canceled this time as well and it affected every consulate in the world that is using the new “faster” digital processing system.”

On July 26, we requested clarification from the Consular Affairs bureau if this is a scheduled maintenance and if they have a time frame when this will be completed. The following is a comment we received from a State Department official on background in response to our inquiry:

The Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) Immigrant Visa web portal is currently unavailable due to maintenance. During this time, IV applicants will be unable to access/login to the CEAC Immigrant Visa Agent (DS-261), Online Immigrant Visa Application (DS-260), or the Immigrant Visa Fee Payment portal. The CEAC Immigrant Visa application Status Check and Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160) are not impacted by this maintenance. For urgent cases that are already at an overseas post, applicants may be asked to complete a paper-based immigrant visa application (DS-230), which will be provided by the local consulate or embassy. We regret the inconvenience to travelers and recognize the hardship for those waiting for visas, and in some cases, their family members or employers in the United States, during this maintenance period.

A quick scan of a few u.s. embassies’ visa webpages indicate no announcement of the system’s unavailability, however, travelstate.gov does have a highlighted announcement at the top of its page that says:

Immigrant visa forms and fee payments are currently unavailable in the Consular Electronic Application Center. We apologize for the inconvenience. We’re working to resolve this and hope to have the system fully functional as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.

Apparently, some attorneys who made inquiries were told that a planned weekend update to the system resulted in an unexpected “catastrophic failure.” On July 27, travel.state.gov tweeted the following but we’re nowhere near in learning if this was a regularly scheduled update that gone bad, if there are other technical issues, or what is the time frame for bringing this system back online.

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