Read: Opening Statements By FSOs Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson in #ImpeachmentInquiry

 

Foreign Service Officers Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson appeared on the Hill today for their closed door depositions. The links to their Opening Statements are provided below.

Catherine M. Croft is a Foreign Service Officer with nine years in service. According to her Opening Statement, she started work on Ukraine in 2013, when she was posted to the U.S. Mission to NATO. After Russia invaded Crimea, she was assigned to NATO headquarters in Brussels. From August 2015 to July 2017, she served as one of several Ukraine Desk Officers in Foggy Bottom. In July 2017 she joined the National Security Council Staff at the White House as Director covering Ukraine. She left  the NSC in July 2018 and started studying Arabic at the ForeignService Institute in preparation for a tour in Baghdad. But in May 2019, she was asked to take over as Ambassador Volker’s Advisor. She spent the month of June at the US Embassy Kyiv “to prepare and then spent the week of July 8 overlapping with” her predecessor, Christopher Anderson.

Christopher J. Anderson is a Foreign Service Officer with fourteen years of service. According to his Opening Statement, he has been in the Foreign Service since 2005. His work in Ukraine began with a three-week temporary duty to Kyiv in March 2014 “just after Russia invaded and occupied Crimea.” He returned to Kyiv in September 2014 to serve as the External Unit Chief in the Political Section of Embassy Kyiv. He served in Kyiv from 2014–2017 and “worked closely with Ambassador Yovanovitch from 2015–2017.” In August 2017 Ambassador Volker reportedly asked him to serve as Special Advisor for Ukraine Negotiations. He served in that position from late August 2017 until July 12, 2019. He was succeed on his job by Catherine Croft.

 

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D/Secretary John Sullivan on the Effort to Smear Former US Amb to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch

On October 30, 2019, Deputy Secretary John Sullivan appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation. His 2-page Opening Statement is available to read here. Given his prior confirmation, and what appears to be bipartisan support in the Senate (plus GOP got the votes), it is likely that he will sail through this confirmation process and may be in Moscow by Thanksgiving Day.

House Passes Resolution Recognizing 1915 Armenian Genocide

From our 2015 clips: When Henry Morgenthau, Sr. resigned in 1916 as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, his reasons included his “failure to stop the destruction of the Armenians.”  Ambassador Morgenthau’s story is available to read online here.   It was not until the Second World War when we had a term for the intentional destruction of an entire people.
In 1943 Raphael Lemkin coined the word “genocide” to characterize the intentional mass murder of a whole people, basing the concept on the Nazi extermination of Jews and the Ottoman massacres of Armenians. He worked tirelessly to achieve the United Nations Convention against Genocide and was among the representatives of four states who ratified the Genocide Convention.  Raphael Lemkin is cited by the Oxford English Dictionary for coining the term “genocide” by combining Greek genos(γένος), “race, people” and Latin cīdere “to kill” in his work Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (1944) (via).
On October 29, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 405-11 agreeing to H.Res. 296 “Affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide”. October 29 is also Turkey’s Republic Day, the 96th anniversary commemorating the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
H.Res. 296 includes the following:

Whereas the Honorable Henry Morgenthau, United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913 to 1916, organized and led protests by officials of many countries against what he described as the empire’s “campaign of race extermination”, and was instructed on July 16, 1915, by United States Secretary of State Robert Lansing that the “Department approves your procedure … to stop Armenian persecution”;

Also see 1915 Armenian Genocide — The “G” Word as a Huge Landmine, and Diplomatic Equities April 24, 2015
John M. Evans: The diplomat who called the “Events of 1915” a genocide, and was canned for it April 24, 2015

 

 

SFRC Ranking Member Menendez Calls For OSC Hatch Act Review Into Pompeo’s Kansas Travel

 

 

On October 29, the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), requesting a review to determine whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has violated the Hatch Act, a federal law passed in 1939, which limits certain political activities of federal employees. According to OSC, the law’s purposes are “to ensure that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure that federal employees are advanced based on merit and not based on political affiliation.”​​​​ ​​

I write to request an immediate review and assessment of the Secretary of State’s compliance with the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326.
[..]
Since March 2019, the Secretary has taken three official trips to Kansas, apparently at the expense of the Department of State. During the latest trip, from October 24 to 25, 2019, the Secretary visited the Wichita State University Tech National Center for Aviation Training, participated in a workforce development roundtable, visited Textron Aviation Longitude and Latitude Production, and met with students from Wichita State University.  

In an interview, he refused to discuss matters related to Ukraine, insisting he was “here today to talk about workforce development. I came here today to talk about the great things that are going on here in Kansas.” The events in Kansas were aimed largely at promoting the President’s “Pledge to American Workers,” which has no discernible relation to the Department of State. According to The Wall Street Journal, he also “discussed the U.S. Senate race in Kansas” with Charles Koch, the head of Koch Industries, and former top contributor to his political campaigns, as well as backer of Pompeo’s prior business.  Textron Inc., the parent company of Textron Aviation, was also a major contributor to then-Congressman Pompeo’s political campaigns. 

For months, public reports have persisted that the Secretary was considering running for U.S. Senate in Kansas.  Many in Kansas perceive his appearances in the state to be a de facto campaign effort.  Indeed, an October 25, 2019 Kansas City Star editorial titled “Mike Pompeo, either quit and run for U.S. Senate in Kansas or focus on your day job,” seems to indicate his actions are already being construed as evidence of a possible candidacy by members of the press and the public in Kansas.  And following his trip, the Department of State’s official twitter handle posted a workforce and Kansas-centric video montage of the Secretary’s visit, which appears to have no nexus to the Department’s official work.    

Secretary Pompeo is not any federal employee. Rather, he is one of the most prominent members of the President’s cabinet. He appears frequently on TV and for interviews, and, as is true for many Secretaries of State, is known and recognized by the American public. Thus, it is even more crucial that he and the Department maintain a clear line between his actions as a federal employee and steward of the U.S. government, and any efforts that could be perceived as political in nature or laying the groundwork for potential campaign activity. I therefore ask that you review his travel and his interactions in Kansas closely, and determine whether any violations have occurred or additional guidance to the Department or the Secretary may be warranted.

The full letter is available to read here.

U.S. Embassy Maseru: A Small Post That Works Better Than Foggy Bottom’s 7th Floor

 

State/OIG recently released its review of the US Embassy in Maseru, Lesotho. Post is headed by Ambassador Rebecca Gonzales with Daniel Katz as deputy chief of mission. The full report is available here (PDF). Excerpt below.

Post Overview

The Kingdom of Lesotho is a small, mountainous country slightly smaller than the state of Maryland and completely surrounded by the country of South Africa. In 2019, an estimated 51 percent of Lesotho’s population of almost 2 million were under the age of 25. More than half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line, and its HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is the second highest in the world. Human trafficking is also a significant issue, as Lesotho serves as a source and a destination for trafficking in both adults and children. Approximately three-fourths of Lesotho’s citizens live in rural areas and engage in animal herding and subsistence agriculture.

Staffing

The FY 2019 authorized staffing levels for Embassy Maseru included 32 U.S. direct-hire positions, 3 eligible family members, and 91 locally employed (LE) staff members. Additionally, the Peace Corps had 93 volunteers serving in Lesotho. Other U.S. Government agencies represented in the embassy were the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Defense, and MCC.

Front Office and Leadership/Management Principles

The Ambassador, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, arrived in Lesotho in January 2018. She previously served as the Chief of Staff for the Assistant Secretary for Administration and, prior to that, as the Deputy Executive Director of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. The Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), also a career member of the Foreign Service, arrived in Maseru in October 2017. His prior assignment was the Mission Deputy at Embassy Koror, Palau. OIG found that, overall, the Ambassador and the DCM led the embassy in a collegial manner and worked together effectively. The Ambassador, a management officer, provided the DCM with guidance on management operations, while the DCM, a political officer, advised the Ambassador on political issues. For example, the Ambassador worked with the DCM to resolve an LE staff tax withholding issue, described in more detail below, and the DCM helped the Ambassador strategize on how best to engage the Government of Lesotho on political matters. The Ambassador and the DCM had an open-door policy, which the American staff confirmed. The Ambassador held monthly meetings with all agency and section heads, in addition to a weekly Country Team meeting. The DCM attended these meetings and also met weekly with section heads to discuss and resolve outstanding problems.

OIG found the Ambassador demonstrated the Department of State’s (Department) leadership and management principles outlined in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214. OIG questionnaires and interviews indicated embassy staff found the Ambassador to be open, honest, caring, and passionate about her work in Lesotho. OIG interviews and surveys showed that she encouraged staff at all levels to bring their ideas, concerns, and questions to her, which led to productively identifying and resolving problems. She actively solicited feedback on issues affecting morale and sought to resolve them. For example, when embassy employees had difficulties crossing the border into South Africa, the Ambassador raised the issue with the Government of Lesotho, and the situation improved.

Embassy employees told OIG the DCM modeled 3 FAM 1214 leadership and management principles that relate to valuing and developing people, as he was skilled in mentoring and committed to subordinates’ professional development. Employees also described the DCM as approachable and collaborative, and they appreciated that he organized embassy community events that included both LE and American staff.

The Front Office Led an Effort to Resolve a Tax Issue for Local Staff

OIG found that the Ambassador and DCM strengthened relationships with both LE staff and the host country by resolving a tax issue involving the LE staff. Based on Department policy, the embassy had not withheld local taxes for the LE staff. Instead, employees were expected to pay their taxes directly to the Lesotho tax authority. However, local employees had not always complied with this requirement, and the Lesotho tax authority eventually began seizing funds from LE staff members’ bank accounts for back taxes. After the LE staff asked the Front Office to help resolve the issue, the Ambassador worked with the Department to allow the embassy to withhold taxes from LE staff pay. She also met with the LE Staff Committee on several occasions to hear their concerns. Furthermore, beginning in June 2018, the DCM, along with the Management Officer, met with the LE Staff Committee at least once every 3 weeks to work through the details of resolving the tax issue. The Front Office also used Country Team meetings and town halls to keep the embassy community apprised of developments. In April 2019, the embassy began withholding local taxes and sending the funds to the host country’s tax authority on behalf of the LE staff.

Spotlight on Success: Crisis Preparedness Fair (Report notes that RSO is Dennis Jones)

In December 2017, the Regional Security Officer organized a Crisis Preparedness Fair as part of a broader crisis management exercise. The Crisis Preparedness Fair was an effort to involve the entire embassy community—especially LE staff and American family members— in emergency planning. Most embassy sections hosted their own emergency preparednessthemed activities. For example, the Public Affairs Section held a question and answer game show, the Information Management Office displayed emergency communication equipment, the Regional Security Office and Health Unit had trauma and medical treatment demonstrations (including CPR), and the Facilities Management Section offered fire extinguisher training. The fair included information for participants to take home. In addition to providing training and exposure to emergency resources and personnel, it gave key external contacts an informal environment in which to meet the embassy staff with whom they would interact in an emergency. The fair was well received within the community, and the Regional Security Officer planned to make it an annual event.

Spotlight on Success: Management Section Instituted a Continuous Process Improvement System to Improve Management Controls (Report notes that MGT is Jacob Rocca)

In 2018, while working on the annual Chief of Mission Management Control Statement of Assurance, the Management Officer instituted a continuous process improvement system that significantly improved the embassy’s ability to track and resolve its internal control deficiencies. The embassy also created a quality coordinator position, currently filled by an eligible family member, to run the tracking system. The system includes all deficiencies identified through the statement of assurance process as well as in OIG questionnaires and recommendations in past OIG reports of other embassies. The quality coordinator tracks the deficiencies, meets regularly with the employees responsible for addressing these concerns and enters into the system updates on the embassy’s progress in resolving the problems. A deficiency is not considered “corrected” until preventative measures are in place to ensure that it does not re-occur. As of April 2019, the embassy had successfully resolved 62 items identified since the process began in December 2018.

 

 

Senior Career Diplomat Matthias Mitman to be the National Security Council’s Executive Secretary

 

On October 23, the White House announced Trump’s intention to appoint senior career diplomat Matthias Mitman of Virginia, to be the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council. The WH released the following brief bio:

Mr. Mitman, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, most recently served as Chief of Staff to the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs.  He previously served as Principal Officer in U.S. Consulates General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Erbil, Iraq; and Basrah, Iraq.  Mr. Mitman was also the Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa, Honduras and Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at U.S. Embassy Moscow, Russia.  This will be his third detail to the National Security Council, having earlier served as Senior Duty Officer in the White House Situation Room and as Director for Iraq.  Before joining the Foreign Service, Mr. Mitman taught as an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ball State University.  He is a Distinguished Graduate of the National War College and earned an A.B. from Wabash College.

The most recent Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien was named this Administration’s fourth National Security Advisor in September following the departure of John Bolton (see Trump Names Hostage Envoy Robert O’Brien His Fourth National Security Advisor).

 

The Sad Swagger of Mike Pompeo (Button Format)

 

A selection of online comments about the “artifact” of international embarrassment that may soon join other actual diplomatic artifacts at the U.S. Diplomacy Center.
“This is so sad.”
“At least they’re not spending money on graphic design”
“That is a crappy use for a public affairs budget.”
“stupid buttons.”
“I will take substance over swagger any day.”
“It was once a noble calling.”
“The background text… I just can’t. “coolness” “cool vibe””
“Sweet mercy this is embarrassing”
“Cheesy. Trying to play the kids for suckers.”
“I love how my taxpayer dollars are spent”
“cool vibe. Swagger. CRINGE!!! This is so bad. Incredibly out of touch with reality.”
“And just makes it more pathetic. If you have swagger, do you need a button telling everyone?”

 

Read: NSC’s Ukraine Expert Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s Opening Statement #impeachmentinquiry

 

According to his opening statement, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the Ukraine expert at the NSC has been in the U.S. Army for more than two decades. As an infantry officer, he served multiple overseas tours, including South Korea and Germany, and a deployment to Iraq for combat operations. He was wounded in an IED attack in Iraq, and was awarded a Purple Heart.

Since 2008, he has been a Foreign Area Officer specializing in Eurasia. He previously served at the United States’ embassies in Kiev, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia. He also served as a politico-military affairs officer for Russia for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs . In July 2018, he joined the National Security Council.

State/EUR’s Philip Reeker on the Hill Despite Bulatao’s Letter Not to Testify

 

It is Saturday, but Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker is on the Hill for a deposition in the impeachment inquiry. On Friday, the Undersecretary for Management Brian Bulatao reportedly sent a letter to Ambassador Reeker’s lawyer ordering him not/not to testify.

Below is his official bio via state.gov:

Ambassador Philip T. Reeker is the Acting Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs since March 18.

Prior to his appointment, Ambassador Reeker assumed his duties as the USEUCOM Civilian Deputy and POLAD November 2017 and will continue to serve in this position until May 31, 2019. Prior to that he served as the United States Consul General in Milan, covering northern Italy beginning in September 2014. From July 2011 through 2013, Ambassador Reeker served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs focused on the Balkans, Central Europe, and Holocaust Issues.

He was U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia from 2008 to 2011, and Deputy State Department Spokesman/Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, under Secretaries of State Albright and Powell (2000-2004). Previous assignments also include: Minister Counselor for Public Affairs under Ambassador Ryan Crocker at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq (2007-2008); Deputy Chief of Mission in Budapest (2004-2007); and Director of Press Relations at the State Department (1999-2000). He was Spokesman for the Special Envoy for Kosovo, Ambassador Christopher Hill. Ambassador Reeker joined the Foreign Service in 1992, and served earlier tours in Budapest, Hungary and Skopje, Macedonia.

Ambassador Reeker is the 2013 Recipient of the Robert C. Frasure Memorial Award for “his commitment to peace and the alleviation of human suffering caused by war or civil injustice” in the Balkans; the National Albanian American Council presented Ambassador Reeker with its “Hands of Hope Award” the same year. He received the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy in 2003, and several State Department Superior Honor Awards.

Ambassador Reeker is a graduate of Yale University (1986), and received an MBA from the Thunderbird School of International Management in Arizona (1991). Born in Pennsylvania, Ambassador Reeker grew up in several U.S. cities and spent his high school years in Brisbane, Australia. His foreign languages are: Hungarian, Macedonian, Italian, and German.

With Foggy Bottom Under Attack, Pompeo Jets Off to Kansas For Ahem… Workforce Development

 

The calls for Mr. Pompeo to step up and defend the diplomats working for him are getting louder every day. Our dedicated diplomats have been called many nasty names in multiple news cycles now. Mr. Pompeo had lots of opportunities to defend them but so far no apparent reaction could be seen from where we sit. We think folks ought to reconcile themselves to the reality that the 70th Secretary of State likes to talk tough about protecting State Department employees when it’s convenient (“I will not tolerate such tactics, and I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead and serve alongside at the Department of State) but will not likely expend political capital to defend his people when needed because doing so could put him in the crosshairs of his unpredictable and erratic boss.
Uh-Uh, what’s this?
He recently told a reporter (“amid the ornate seventh floor of the State Department, adorned with oil paintings of his predecessors”): “I look at these pictures on the wall every day, and I think, ‘Oh my gosh. Madison, Monroe, Jefferson. Pompeo. Wow. Which of those doesn’t belong in that group?’”
Oh, what a joker, that’s easy peasy.
His latest ‘Miles With Mike” boasts of getting to Ankara, Turkey “in a hurry for some tough diplomacy.” It’s so tough, the other guy got everything on his wishlist. And of securing “an agreement with Turkey that saved many lives.” Also of continuing “to ensure that the ISIS Caliphate remains defeated”,  of “assisting with humanitarian challenges” and “to do these things as one team, with one mission.” 
Who writes this stuff? What universe are they living in?
The latest MWM reportedly came with happy pictures from the “ceasefire” trip where the United States double ditched its Kurdish Allies in Syria, who Mr. Pompeo, by the way, once called “great partners). Asking about U.S. credibility is not really an “insane” question as he told the reporter in Wichita, Kansas, it’s just a new version of his “It’s like you’re working for the DNC” bark of tricks.
Anyway, things are apparently peachy he could afford to jet off to Kansas, but why are we hearing Foggy Bottom being described as “coo-coo-ville” these days?