Trump’s Second Nominee For @StateDept Personnel Chief Has Some #INL Baggage

Posted: 2:58 pm PT

 

In October 2017, President Trump announced his intent to nominate former FSO Stephen Akard to be the Director General of the Foreign Service (see Trump’s Pick For @StateDept Personnel Chief Gets the Ultimate “Stretch” Assignment). After fierce opposition, the White House officially withdrew the nomination of Mr. Akard on March 20, 2018 (see DGHR Nominee Stephen Akard Now Nominated as Director of the Office of Foreign Missions).

On July 31, contrary to the widely circulated rumors about the next DGHR nomination, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate career diplomat Carol Z. Perez of Virginia, to be the next Director General of the Foreign Service .  The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador Perez, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, has served as the Ambassador to the Republic of Chile since 2016. Previously, she was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Human Resources and was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, both at the Department of State. Over the course of her three decades of service in the Department of State, Ambassador Perez has also served as Principal Officer and Consul General at U.S. Consulate General Milan, Italy, Executive Director and Deputy Executive Secretary of the Department of State, and Principal Officer and Consul General at U.S. Consulate General Barcelona, Spain. She earned her B.A. from Hiram College and M.A. from George Washington University. Ambassador Perez is the recipient of a Presidential Rank Award and multiple senior State Department Awards, including the Distinguished Service Award and Distinguished Honor Award.

Click here (PDF) for her most recent testimony at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her confirmation hearing as U.S. Ambassador to Chile in 2016.

The Director General of the U.S. Foreign Service is equivalent in rank to an Assistant Secretary of State. He/She is responsible for all personnel matters affecting the Foreign Service and the Civil Service at the State Department, including appointments, promotions, worldwide assignments, disciplinary actions, etc. Click here for the previous appointees to this position.

In May 2017, State/OIG released A Special Joint Review of Post-Incident Responses by the Department of State and Drug Enforcement Administration to Three Deadly Force Incidents in Honduras (PDF).

Stick with us here. This joint report relates to three drug interdiction missions in Honduras on May 11, June 23, and July 3, 2012, under a program known as Operation Anvil which resulted in four people killed (including two pregnant women) and four others injured after a helicopter with DEA personnel confused cargo in a passenger boat for bales of drugs and opened fire.  No evidence of narcotics was ever found on the passenger boat. In a second incident, a suspect was killed in a firefight that did not actually happen, and in a third incident that involved a plane crash, a Honduran police officer planted a gun in evidence and reported it as a weapon found at the scene.

At the time of these incidents, Ambassador Carol Perez was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) at the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), the second highest ranking official in the bureau.

One of the report’s findings has to do with INL failure to comply with Chief of Mission Authority which undermined the U.S. Ambassador’s exercise of her authority at post. The U.S. Ambassador to Honduras at that time was Lisa Kubiske. Excerpt from the report (see p.323-324 for more):

As a bureau within the Department of State, INL should understand the importance of Chief of Mission authority. However, INL senior officials repeatedly undermined Ambassador Kubiske’s authority and failed to cooperate with the investigations she authorized.

Within a day of the Ambassador authorizing DS to investigate the June and July shooting incidents, INL Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Carol Perez began to raise objections to DS involvement. She communicated these objections to both DS and DEA officials, and although she told the OIGs that she did not intend to obstruct the investigation of the shooting incidents, INL’s support bolstered DEA’s unwillingness to cooperate.
[…]
In addition, INL failed to comply with Chief of Mission authority by refusing to assist DS in its attempt to interview the helicopter crews. As noted in Chapter Ten, the SID agent requested to speak with the pilots and gunners, but INL denied this request. The request was forwarded up to the highest levels of INL, and AS Brownfield instructed his staff not to cooperate. Although he recognized that the request fell under the Chief of Mission authority, he instructed that INL was not to produce the crew for DS to interview. Senior DS and INL officials also discussed the request at a September 2012 meeting, but AS Brownfield remained opposed to providing DS access to the crews. In fact, INL was not even focused on the circumstances of the helicopter opening fire on the passenger boat, because they believed the helicopter fire was suppressive only and not intended as a use of deadly force.

The failure of DEA and INL to provide any cooperation with the investigation requested by the Ambassador resulted in the inability of the SID Agent to complete his investigations and develop conclusive findings regarding the three shooting incidents. DEA’s refusal to follow the Ambassador’s written request for information,supported by INL, not only violated their duties under the Foreign Service Act, but prevented a complete and comprehensive understanding of the three incidents. Ambassador Kubiske and other State officials had grave concerns over the methodology and findings of the various Honduran investigations, so she requested the DS investigation to better understand what could quickly become a diplomatic problem. However, her intentions were never realized because of the failure of DEA and INL to abide by Chief of Mission authority.

Tsk! Tsk! Another part of the report notes that INL sided with DEA in jurisdictional dispute, and also specifically names Ambassador Perez:

On June 28, 2012, INL Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) Carol Perez sent an e-mail communication to INL Assistant Secretary (AS) William Brownfield stating that DEA had “squawked” to INL about the DS investigation in Honduras and that she thought the “DS Office of Special Investigations got out a bit too far on this.”

On the same day, PDAS Perez sent another e-mail communication stating that she had been provided good informationto “buttress our arguments that DS has no role in this except at post at the direction of the COM.”

An e-mail communication the same day from another INL official to the INL Director at the U.S. Embassy stated that DS had launched an investigation of the June 23 shooting but that “INL/FO called DS to turn the investigation off.”

On June 29, after Wallace provided Heinemann with DEA’s position at that time on the DS investigation, noting that “INL shares some of our concerns and that INL is in contact with DS senior management” on the issue, Heinemann contacted a DS attorney requesting information on “what has been happening between INL and DS.” In response, the DS attorney told Heinemann:

I learned that Carol Perez in INL contacted DS Director Bultrowicz about this and said that INL’s position is that DS doesn’t have the authority to conduct an investigation of this DEA shooting.

[…] When we asked AS Brownfield and PDAS Perez about these discussions in late June 2012, they told us that INL had not attempted to stop the DS investigation. They did, however, acknowledge raising some concerns about the authority of DS to investigate and their belief that the investigation should be handled by the Embassy rather than DS Headquarters in Washington, and stated that they were simply trying to resolve the dispute without it becoming a problem for INL.
[…]
Several DS officials told us that it was obvious to them that INL was hostile to the DS investigations and voiced frustration that it was much harder to convince DEA to come to an agreement with DS when DS lacked support from other State bureaus on this matter.

The report also has something to say about then INL A/S Bill Brownfield but he is now retired, and he is not currently under consideration to be top personnel chief of the Foreign Service (see our old post So who told Congress the real story about the deadly force incidents in Honduras in 2012? #OperationAnvil

Ambassador Perez is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. If confirmed, she would be one of the few top ranking female career employees at the State Department, but we believe there are appropriate questions to ask related to her role in the aftermath of the Operation Anvil given the leadership role she will take on as head of a global workforce of over 75,000 employees.

For starters – what are the exceptions for ignoring/undermining Chief of Mission Authority? Click the link to read more about Chief of Mission Authority.  Also what’s the deal with throwing Diplomatic Security under the bus and taking DEA’s side in a jurisdictional dispute overseas? Those were DEA deadly force incidents and these top INL officials somehow thought that DEA should investigate itself instead of Diplomatic Security? Why would INL offer DEA to push the DS investigation“back into the box”?  It was DS not/not DEA, by the way, “who found no evidence indicative of gunfire from the passenger boat.” We look forward to the senators asking relevant questions during the DGHR nominee’s  confirmation hearing.

We should also note that between 2003-2007, Ambassador Perez served as Executive Director at the Executive Secretariat of the State Department; this would have been during the Powell-Rice tenures in Foggy Bottom. State OIG’s ISP-I-07-38 inspection of the office includes the following:

The Executive Director, who has been in the job since 2003, is recognized by her customer offices as a highly professional, competent, and dedicated manager. She has as her twin priorities the overall direction of the office, dealing with the major management issues that arise, and personally assuring that the Secretary gets the pri- ority attention needed to support her mission. […] Having served previously in S/ES-EX, the Executive Director brings a wealth of background and sound judgment in dealing with varied and sensitive management issues ranging from office space, personnel, and travel demands down to who gets parking passes.  Those issues involve a senior level clientele who, by definition, have a high personal sensitivity to anything viewed as impinging on their status. She and her deputy also have to deal with the major resource issues and battle with the Department management offices on the ever increasing space demands emanating from F, S/CT, and the smaller new offices set up under the aegis of S.

Beyond those demands, the Executive Director takes personal responsibility for dealing with support issues involving the Secretary, most visibly the Secretary’s travel. She is responsible for managing the military airlift logistical requirements for the Sec- retary’s foreign travel and accompanies the Secretary on all international trips. That absorbs up to 50 percent of her work time. The Secretary’s staff has only praise for the Executive Director’s performance and her ability to manage logistical crises, large and small, during these trips. They also give her high marks for overall management support of the Secretary’s office.

So there, the links to the two reports are included here and here just in time for your weekend reading.

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