Report: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Lacks Authority to Fire a Political Appointee #DeptofSwagger

 

Foreign Policy recently reported on a State Department town hall meeting where Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan “acknowledged having failed to act more vigorously to shield State Department staffers from retaliation by the Trump administration for their perceived political views” and reportedly said that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lacked the authority to fire a top Trump political appointee accused of inflicting, or abetting, the alleged harassment. (See State Department Failed to Shield Its Diplomats From Political Reprisals, Officials Concede; also Workplace Horror Award Goes to the IO Bureau, @StateDept Offers Counseling in Uppercase Voice).
Most notable items from the report:
— Deputy Secretary Sullivan and P’s David Hale “acknowledged shortcomings in their response and pledged to make amends for staffers whose careers were upended in a long-running controversy that triggered an investigation by the department’s inspector general.”
— “I will be the first to admit the failure on my part to have done more to address the situation,” Sullivan told the gathering, according to an account of the meeting relayed to Foreign Policy
— Hale encouraged staffers whose careers were damaged as a result of political retaliation to come to him to seek some sort of professional remedy or, if they preferred, to pursue a formal grievance against the department. “I’d like to help; I’d also like people to know they can come to me,” Hale said. He pledged to take their case to the undersecretary of state for management, the director general, or human resources “to make amends.”
— “There’s absolutely no doubt that what was going on was completely unacceptable,” Hale said. “Misconduct is a soft word, frankly, to use for what has occurred.” 
–[M]any of the questions revolved around the fate of Moley and why action had not been taken sooner to discipline him. And some noted that officials in other bureaus of the State Department have been subject to similar mistreatment. […] And other staffers privately expressed skepticism that the State Department’s leadership would hold Moley accountable, noting that Foggy Bottom’s top brass had known about the allegations of political targeting for well over a year and had failed to act swiftly to stop it.
— The “general vibe after the meeting was a mix of bitter disappointment and depression,” one State Department official told Foreign Policy, who was skeptical about assurances that Moley would be reprimanded. “Bottom line here is that there will be NO action taken on Kevin Moley.”
— “The decision to ignore the IG report is devastating,” said another staffer in the bureau. “Ultimately, it renders this kind of vicious political targeting acceptable.”
Perhaps the most shocking thing reportedly said by Deputy Secretary Sullivan:
“The secretary can’t fire an assistant secretary appointed by a president, so it adds a layer of complexity there,” Sullivan said.
*
Well, first, this individual is not the only non-career official appointed by the president.  According to AFSA, the State Department has 74 political ambassadors (or 45.4% ) appointed by Trump, and confirmed by the Senate. In addition, there are 55 senior officials in Foggy Bottom where 50 of them (or 90.9%) are also political appointees; almost all of them were presidentially appointed and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
So, we’d like to understand what Sullivan told State Department employees actually means. If Secretary Pompeo cannot fire an assistant secretary appointed by a president, does this mean, he cannot fire any of the politically appointed senior officials and political ambassadors working for him? Those are his highest ranking officials. They are appointed by the president but they do not report to the president or the White House but to the secretary of state.  How can the secretary manage his agency without authority to, as the FAM likes to put it, “promote the efficiency of the Service?”
Good gracious! Who, pray tell, can the Secretary of State fire?
Second, when Sullivan says “The secretary can’t fire an assistant secretary appointed by a president” does this mean Pompeo is not allowed to do so, or was told not to do it (base on what law or regulations exactly?). Or is it that the secretary is using his discretion as agency head not to fire this one individual?
As often the case these days, we’re quite perplexed about this reported excuse. The deputy secretary appears to be making a rather sweeping statement here, not just with this secretary, and not just with this assistant secretary or this president: “The secretary can’t fire an assistant secretary appointed by a president.”
Remember Elizabeth Tamposi?  She was Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs  from 1989 – 1992 during the George H. W. Bush Administration.  She was a political appointee. Her tenure is noted for the scandal related to the search of passport records of then presidential candidates Bill Clinton and Ross Perot  (see Throwback Thursday: An Election, an FOIA, and @StateDept in the Eye of the Storm). She was dismissed by acting Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger.
An acting Secretary of State fired an assistant secretary of state appointed by a president, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Remember Secretary Colin Powell and Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Mary Ryan? She was a widely respected career employee, and the “only U.S. government official to be fired as a consequence of the worst attack ever on U.S. soil” (see Remembering Mary Ryan, FSJ, June 2010)? The secretary of state fired a Senate-confirmed appointee of President George W. Bush. There was apparently another assistant secretary fired by Secretary Powell but we could not find a publicly available citation, so we’re leaving that out.
During the fallout from the Benghazi attack, the assistant secretary, principal deputy, and deputy assistant secretary all lost their jobs in Diplomatic Security. In the NEA bureau, one deputy assistant secretary lost his job; his firing reportedly ordered by the State Department counselor. This report says that then Secretary Clinton accepted the resignation of the DS assistant secretary. Whether “S” or “M” made the decision concerning the departure of the DS assistant secretary is not clear, but somebody in Foggy Bottom had the authority to do it.
In recent years, there were also very public departures by political ambassadors to Luxembourg, Kenya, and Malta; all were presidentially nominated and Senate confirmed.
Now, we have the Deputy Secretary of State telling employees that their agency head lacks this authority; an authority which has clearly been exercised by previous secretaries of state several times in the past, in very public ways. So this is mighty confusing for your poor blogger who can’t make sense of the goings on there.
We do want to know where does Sullivan’s “The secretary can’t fire an assistant secretary appointed by a president” excuse come from. We think this has implications not just for this secretary and the agency going forward but potentially for future secretaries of state. 

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@StateDept’s New “One Team” Award For Employees Includes $10,000 Prize, Certificate, and a Glass Statuette

 

We recently posted about the new ‘One Team’ four-day pilot course at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute (See Foreign Service Institute Rolls Out Pompeo’s Pursuit – A ‘One Team’ Four-Day Pilot Course For “Everyone”). Early last month, DGHR Carol Perez also tweeted about the new ‘One Team’ Award (sorry, the nominations were due on August 29).
In mid-July, the ‘One Team’ Award was official added to the Foreign Affairs Manual. The FAM says that “This annual award recognizes a current employee or contractor who exemplifies the Departments Professional Ethos, a true champion of American diplomacy and servant of the American people.”
This award is open to employees who are in the Foreign Service, the Civil Service, locally employed staff, non-Senate confirmed political appointees, and contractors. It carries a prize money of $10,000 USD, a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and a glass statuette. Please note that if the awardee is a contractor, he/she will only receive a certificate and letter of recognition both signed by the Secretary of State and provided to the individual’s company, but no monetary award.
A lucky runner-up will also receive a letter from the Secretary of State. The Department employee recipient will have that letter placed into his/her personnel file.
The Foreign Affairs Manual says that the winning nominee will be chosen by a Selection Committee chaired by the Deputy Secretary or his/her representative and including three other committee members designated by the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (Director General). We’ve asked DGHR Carol Perez for the names of the Selection Committee members. Easy question, nothing sensitive, it’s a Pompeo project, and we’ve used please and thanks, you guys. But some folks, you know, pretend we’re just a ghost in space, and can’t hear us. That’s all right, somebody please use a ghost whisperer and let us know who gets the $10K and the glass statuette this year. 

3 FAM 4832.25 The One Team Award

3 FAM 4832.25-1 Description

(CT:PER-952; 07-18-2019)
(State Department)
(Applies to Foreign Service, Civil Service, Locally Employed Staff, non-Senate confirmed political appointees, and Contractors)

a. This annual award recognizes a current employee or contractor who exemplifies the Departments Professional Ethos, a true champion of American diplomacy and servant of the American people. The award recognizes an employee or contractor whose exceptional professionalism, integrity, responsibility and leadership enabled results-producing teamwork, particularly in the face of challenging circumstances.

b. Department employee recipients will receive $10,000, a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, a glass statuette which is a miniature of the large One Team Award, and a letter from the Secretary of State for his/her official personnel file.

c. Contractor recipients will receive a certificate and letter of recognition, both signed by the Secretary of State and provided to the individuals company in appreciation of the contractors performance, in coordination with the contracting officer.

d. A runner up will be selected and will receive a letter from the Secretary of State. For Department employee recipients, the letter will be placed into his/her personnel file.

3 FAM 4832.25-2 Eligibility

(CT:PER-952; 07-18-2019)
(State Department)
(Applies to Foreign Service, Civil Service, Locally Employed Staff, non-Senate confirmed political appointees, and Contractors)

All current Department of State employees serving in the Foreign Service, Civil Service, as Locally Employed staff, or as non-Senate confirmed political appointees, and current contractors are eligible for nomination and consideration. Only employees are eligible to receive the monetary award and statuette. Contractors are not Department employees.

3 FAM 4832.25-3 Criteria

(CT:PER-952; 07-18-2019)
(State Department)
(Applies to Foreign Service, Civil Service, Locally Employed Staff, non-Senate confirmed political appointees, and Contractors)

Selection is based on exceptional leadership by an individual who:

(1) Demonstrates and communicates a clear understanding of the link between individual and team contributions, and the importance of working together with a shared mission and sense of purpose;

(2) Takes ownership and accepts responsibility for his/her actions and decisions, and projects uncompromising personal and professional integrity, as exemplified in the Departments Professional Ethos Statement;

(3) Fosters effective collaboration within and across office, Bureau, and mission lines that produces outstanding results; and

(4) Respectfully guides and supports teams to enable them to overcome challenging circumstances and achieve Department objectives.

3 FAM 4832.25-4 Nominating and Approval Procedures

(CT:PER-952; 07-18-2019)
(State Department)
(Applies to Foreign Service, Civil Service, Locally Employed Staff, non-Senate confirmed political appointees, and Contractors)

a. Any current employee may nominate an eligible individual who they think meets the award criteria.

b. Nominations do not require endorsement or supervisory approval.

c. Nominations should be submitted using the one-page nomination submission form available on the HR/PE website.

d. The winning nominee will be chosen by a selection committee chaired by the Deputy Secretary or his/her representative and including three other committee members designated by the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (Director General). Members of the selection committee must recuse themselves if they have any financial interest in or personal ties to any nominated contractor or contracting company under consideration for the award.

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MidEast Envoy Jason D. Greenblatt Resigns, Kushner Aide to Take Expanded Role in ‘Deal of the Century’

 

 

The president announced via tweet the departure of Jason D. Greenblatt, his former real estate lawyer and Special Representative for International Negotiations since December 2016. Together with Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, Greenblatt is credited as co-author of the Trump Middle East peace plan. According to Reuters, Greenblatt is one of only four senior officials with access to Trump’s plan for Middle East peace, alongside Jared Kushner, Ambassador David Friedman and Kushner aide Avi Berkowitz.
Politico reports that with Greenblatt’s departure, Kushner aide, Avi Berkowitz, a 30-year old, 2016 Harvard graduate  will take on an expanded role in the talks (as will as the State Department’s special representative to Iran, Brian Hook). Berkowitz previously worked for Kushner Companies and  later as Assistant Director of Data Analytics in early 2016 for the Trump campaign. This is really going very well don’t you think?

John Lansing Resigns From USAGM to be CEO For National Public Radio (NPR)

 

The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM, @USAGMgov) will soon be without a chief executive officer. USAGM released a statement on the departure of its CEO John Lansing. He joined USAGM (then known as BBG) as CEO and Director in September 2015. Excerpt below:

After four years serving as the first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Director of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), John F. Lansing will be leaving USAGM—an independent federal agency providing accurate, objective, and professional news and information worldwide—at the end of this month to start the next chapter of his career as the President and CEO of National Public Radio (NPR).

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs also released a statement. Excerpt below:

“It’s important that when John steps down, there is continuity of leadership at USAGM. Changes in the law adopted in 2016 provided for a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed CEO to lead the agency. But the Senate has not confirmed such a nominee and until it does so, the existing Board of Governors retains the power to name a replacement. I urge the Board to do so immediately, as we can’t predict when the Senate may act on the President’s nominee. This is too important a job to be left vacant for even a day.”