Diplomacy in Crisis Report, Also Pompeo Says He “Fought on the Border of East Germany”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democratic Staff issued a report ‘Diplomacy in Crisis: The Trump Administration’s Decimation of the State Department’ on July 28. If you’ve been following the goings on at State, there’s not a lot of surprises in this report.  Never mind the swagger by the WSOS in modern times, but one has to be living in a parallel universe not to see the sad and distressing state of the Department of State.
Quick excerpts below:
    Key Findings:
    • Vacancies and acting officials at the Department have persisted through two Secretaries of State, despite numerous commitments to fill key positions.
    • Three and a half years into the Administration, 11 Assistant Secretary or Under Secretary posts—more than one-third—are vacant or filled by acting officials.
    • As of July 2020, more than half of Senate-confirmed Department positions have been filled at least once by someone who had not been confirmed.
    • Career public servants report that senior leadership exhibits a sense of disrespect and disdain for their work, prompting many to leave and contributing to a loss of expertise at the Department.
    • Senior leadership’s lack of accountability and refusal to defend career employees against attacks has contributed to declining morale and a drop in confidence in leadership.
    • From 2016 to 2019, employees in key bureaus reported steep increases in fear of reprisal for reporting suspected violations of law and declining confidence in senior Department leadership.
    Key Recommendations:

This report makes 10 recommendations aimed at reversing the downward trends in morale, strengthening protections for employees, and ensuring that the individuals leading our foreign policy are of the caliber that the American people deserve in their diplomats.

      • Rebuild and retain expertise in the State Department’s ranks.
      • Reduce barriers to restoring lost expertise and for former diplomats and civil servants to return to the Department.
      • Promote more career employees to senior positions.
      • Increase diversity at senior ranks and throughout the Department.
      • Formalize the State Department exit survey process.
      • Initiate a review of how the “corridor reputation” system at the Department enables or exacerbates the challenges outlined in the report.
      • Restore and commit to minimum vetting standards for nominees.
      • Prioritize and fill senior leadership slots.
      • Maintain an independent Inspector General.
      • Enforce accountability for improper personnel practices and management.
Chapter 4 presents “some of the more concerning trends reported by the Department’s employees—results that are not evident in the aggregated Department-wide data that the State Department has released—which provide critical and troubling insights into the consequences of corrosive and negligent leadership on our diplomatic corps.231”
Some of the trends highlighted by the report are as follows:
  • Office of the Legal Adviser (L):
    A 34 point increase among those reporting that the Department’s senior leaders did not maintain high levels of honesty and integrity, rising from 0 percent in 2016 to 34 percent in 2019.
  • Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM):
    An almost ten-fold increase in the percentage of respondents reporting that senior leaders did not maintain high standards of honesty and integrity, rising from 3 percent in 2016 to 29 percent in 2019.
  • Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism (CT): 
    A nearly two-fold increase in the percentage of respondents who reported that their senior leaders did not generate high levels of motivation and commitment, increasing from 28 percent in 2016 to 55 percent in 2019.
  • Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR):
    An eight-fold increase in the percentage of respondents reporting that the Department’s senior leadership did not maintain high standards of honesty and integrity, rising from 3 percent in 2016 to 24 percent in 2019.
  • Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO):
    A nearly tripling in the percentage of respondents reporting that senior leaders at the State Department did not maintain high standards of honesty and integrity, increasing from 12 percent in 2016 to 35 percent in 2019.
Note: Indeed the aggregated report publicly available does not include any of that. Click here (PDF) for what the State Department released to the public.  Like, what concerning trends, hey?
The DGHR notes that “the results show satisfaction with supervisors and with the work itself remains strong. The results indicate that the Department’s challenge areas relate to performance management, fairness, and perceptions of leadership.” Yay!
Note: Click here (PDF) for the nice Message from Director General Carol Z. Perez Regarding the 2019 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey Results and Next Steps.
The report has a section on Measurable Damage to Integrity, Leadership, and Workplace Culture

The mass exodus of senior and mid-level leadership, and a drop in interest of joining the Foreign Service coincides with a large drop in the Department’s ranking of workplace culture and sinking morale levels. After consistently ranking as one of the top five large federal government agencies to work at since 2012, the State Department fell from a ranking of 4 in 2016 to 8 in 2017 after the Trump presidential transition.266 After a year of Trump administration leadership, the Department’s ranking dropped even more in 2018, from 8 to 14.

The Partnership for Public Service’s Best Place to Work historical rankings from 2003 to 2019 is available to download here (see Scores and Rankings) with the State Department ranking as follows for large agencies:
#3 (2012)
#4 (2013)
#3 (2014)
#3 (2015)
#4 (2016)
#8 (2017) worse than 2010 at #7 and 2011 at #7
#14 (2018) worse than 2005 at #10 but hey, not as bad 2003 at #19, right?
#13 (2019) one step up the hole, but still worse than 2005 at #10 and not as bad 2003 at #19. 

BONUS PIECE:

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Open Technology Fund, et.al v. Michael Pack: Where the Accountability Rests – At the Ballot Box

 

OPEN TECHNOLOGY FUND, et al., Plaintiffs, v. MICHAEL PACK, in his official capacity as Chief Executive Officer and Director of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, Defendant
For nearly 80 years, international broadcasting sponsored by the United States has served as a trusted and authoritative global news source, a forum for the expression of diverse viewpoints on the most pressing topics of the day, a model of journalistic excellence and independence, and a beacon of hope for those trapped within authoritarian regimes. Despite being funded by American taxpayers, U.S. international broadcasting has typically remained free of governmental interference. Indeed, its autonomy and its commitment to providing objective news coverage has often been viewed as key to its ability to advance the interests of the United States abroad. Our country’s commitment to this model of cultural export has largely been viewed as a rousing success, helping to undermine and topple some of history’s most oppressive regimes—including Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union—by spreading freedom and democracy around the globe. The current Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) of the United States Agency for Global Media (“USAGM”)—the defendant, Michael Pack—is accused of putting this legacy at serious risk. Since taking office less than a month ago, Pack has upended U.S.-sponsored international broadcasting. Most relevant to the current dispute, on June 17, 2020, Pack unilaterally removed the operational heads and directors of four USAGM-funded organizations—Open Technology Fund (“OTF”), Radio Free Europe (“RFE”), Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (collectively, “Networks”)1—and replaced the directors with five members of the current Trump Administration as well as an employee of Liberty Counsel Action, a conservative advocacy organization.
[…]
Pack’s actions have global ramifications, and plaintiffs in this case have expressed deep concerns that his tenure as USAGM CEO will damage the independence and integrity of U.S.- sponsored international broadcasting efforts. If they are correct, the result will be to diminish America’s presence on the international stage, impede the distribution around the world of accurate information on important affairs, and strengthen totalitarian governments everywhere. Yet, Congress has decided to concentrate unilateral power in the USAGM CEO, and the Court cannot override that determination. If Pack’s actions turn out to be misguided, his appointment by the President and confirmation by the Senate points to where the accountability rests: at the ballot box. Based on an evaluation of plaintiffs’ likelihood of success on the merits, the solution is likely not in this Court.
Read in full here:

https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2020cv1710-22

PSA: Think Oct 20 For Vote By Mail Voters in U.S., Aug 1 For Overseas Voters #NowNotLater

WH Announces Nomination of Retired Col. Douglas Macgregor to be U.S. Ambassador to Germany

 

On July 27, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate retired US Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Germany. The WH released the following brief bio:
Colonel Douglas Macgregor, United States Army (Retired), of Pennsylvania, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Germany.
Colonel Douglas Macgregor is a decorated combat veteran, author, and a consultant. Colonel Macgregor is widely recognized as an expert on force design and grand strategy.  He is a frequent radio and television commentator on national security affairs and his writings on military affairs have been influential in the transformation of United States ground forces, NATO, and the Israeli Defense Force.
During his military career, Colonel Macgregor worked in support of Ambassador Holbrooke’s team during the Proximity Talks in Dayton, Ohio.  Later, he worked closely with senior military and political leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany as the Chief of Strategic Planning and, subsequently, as the Director of the Joint Operations Center at Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe, during the Kosovo Air Campaign.
Colonel Macgregor earned a B.S. degree from the United States Military Academy and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Virginia.  He is the recipient of numerous awards from his military service, including the bronze star with “V” device for valor for his leadership under fire.
There are currently 75 nominations pending on the Executive Calendar; with 51 nominations pending in the SFRC.  Of the 51 nominations, 17 are currently listed for consideration during the SFRC’s business meeting on July 29, as well as seven FS lists.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens with these nominations.
Senate calendar (PDF) indicates that the Senate will be in session August 3-7; Sept 8-25,30; Oct 1-9, then 2 weeks in November after the elections, and three weeks in December with December 18 as its target date of adjournment.
Even if political appointees get confirmed next week and are able to travel to post immediately, that leaves the new appointees with barely 20 weeks in office. They won’t even have six months to adjust to their new jobs, much less their new host country.

U.S. Ambassadors in the News: Iceland, United Kingdom, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, South Korea

ICELAND

UNITED KINGDOM

ESWATINI (SWAZILAND)

ZIMBABWE

SOUTH KOREA

 

FSGB Case: When “there were no mitigating circumstances” considered despite conditions identified by MED

 

Via FSGB: FSGB Case No. 2019-034, July 2, 2020
Held – The Board found that the Department of State (the “Department” or “agency”) did not establish cause to separate the charged employee from the Foreign Service because the Deciding Official (“DO”) did not consider evidence of his personality problems as a mitigating circumstance. The Board was persuaded by evidence in the record that the agency should exercise its authority to initiate, as an alternative to separation, the option of a disability retirement, pursuant to 3 FAM 6164.3(a).
Case Summary – The Department charged the employee with Improper Personal Conduct based upon a pattern of unprofessional and inappropriate conduct toward colleagues, primarily hundreds of unwanted emails and text messages with sexual content. The Department’s Bureau of Medical Services (“MED”) had conducted a mental health evaluation of the charged employee and concluded that “to a reasonable degree of certainty,” the charged employee exhibited “behavior or symptoms (which may not rise to the level of formal diagnosis) of an emotional, mental or personality condition that may impair his reliability, judgment or trustworthiness.” The DO determined that the charged employee committed the charged offenses and that there were no mitigating circumstances. In finding no mitigating circumstances, the DO attested in the separation hearing that she did not take into consideration either the charged employee’s emotional, mental or personality condition that MED identified or the charged employee’s emails to coworkers that included references to his communications with divine beings as well as references to his own possible mental illness. The DO notified the charged employee of her proposal to separate him from the Foreign Service and provided him the opportunity to reply in person or in writing. The DO recommended separating the charged employee to promote the efficiency of the Service. The charged employee did not respond in person or in writing to the DO’s notification of her proposal to separate him from the Service recommendation or participate in the separation hearing. The Board found the Department did not establish cause to separate the charged employee because the DO did not consider the so-called Douglas Factor #11 on the agency’s checklist that relates to mitigating circumstances surrounding personality problems, and did not exercise the agency’s authority under 3 FAM 6164.3(a) to initiate a disability retirement on behalf of the charged employee as an alternative to disciplinary action.

[…]

We do not claim medical or psychological expertise, but, in our perusal of the record, we found indicators that the charged employee was described as exhibiting personality problems, and possibly more serious mental impairment or illness, from the emails and text messages he sent to former colleagues. For example, in specification 84, the charged employee is charged with offering to help Ms. B draft a complaint and get himself fired and committed to a mental hospital for the rest of his life. Also, in specifications 86 and 87, respectively, the charged employee is alleged to have first made reference to someone wanting him to commit suicide, then later noted asking God if his wife would commit suicide and informing Ms. D that the Virgin Mary told him to inform Ms. D that he knew she was worried that he might kill himself. Further, the charged employee displayed unusual behavior when he emailed Ms. B on June 6, 2017 at 8:31 p.m. that he had declined to see a psychiatrist before consulting attorneys about his options to file a lawsuit.11 That suggests the possibility that someone raised with the charged employee the matter of seeking a psychological consultation or examination.
In addition, DS ROI #1 included a statement by the charged employee’s wife that she believed her husband suffered from mental impairment, requiring medical treatment. The record further contains evidence, according to the spouse, that MED had conducted a thorough mental health evaluation of the charged employee on four separate dates. Similarly, DS ROI #2 concluded that the charged employee had expressed that he heard voices and instructions from God, the Devil, and the Virgin Mary. (See Specifications 6-8, 25, 29, 38, 76 and 87).
[…]
In the instant case, while the agency has provided credible evidence that the charged employee’s conduct does not promote the efficiency of the Service, we find the decision falls short on consideration of so-called Douglas Factor #11 on the agency’s checklist that relates to personality problems as a mitigating factor. We also credit the charged employee’s 19 years of distinguished service before his display of conduct that gave rise to the LOR and the proposal to separate him from the Service.12
Moreover, the Board is unaware of a requirement that a DO must be privy to private medical information or be a medical professional to initiate an application for disability retirement. To the contrary, under 3 FAM 6164.2-3, HR/ER, in consultation with MED, can initiate an application for disability retirement on behalf of an employee if, inter alia, 1) the agency has issued a proposal to remove the employee, 2) the agency has a reasonable basis to conclude that illness may be the cause of the employee’s conduct which renders him unable to work satisfactorily, or 3) the employee is incompetent and there is no guardian willing to file an application on the employee’s behalf. The existence of any one of these three conditions is sufficient for the agency to initiate an action for disability retirement, and the Board finds that the conditions in 1) and 2), supra, are apparent in this case.
Accordingly, the Board is of the view that the agency has not considered all mitigating factors before recommending separation for cause and has not exercised its authority to initiate, as an alternative to separation, the option of a disability retirement for the charged employee where grounds for such a retirement are apparent on the record. Pursuant to 3 FAM 6164.3(a), MED then would determine whether the charged employee is incapacitated for useful and efficient service, which is the standard for disability retirement.

@StateDept Did Not Comply With Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Requirements

 

Via FSGB: FSGB Case No. 2018-003
HELD – The Board granted grievant’s appeal, finding that the U.S. Department of State (Department) did not comply with the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) when it failed to provide grievant with a reasonable accommodation for her disability. The Board directed, among other things, that the parties engage in the interactive process required under the ADA to determine a reasonable accommodation.
SUMMARY – Due to a lengthy illness with cancer grievant, while serving on a limited noncareer appointment in the consular skill code, did not receive an Employee Evaluation Report (EER) from an overseas posting. A Commissioning and Tenure Board (CTB) deferred a decision on tenure until she was able to be appraised on her performance at an overseas posting. The Department assigned grievant to an overseas posting to enable her to receive such an EER. However, as a consequence of her chemotherapy, grievant experienced neuropathy in her hands, and she developed an allergy to nickel. Accordingly, she requested that she be permanently reassigned assigned to the economic skill code, which she said would require handling a smaller volume of materials. The Department denied that accommodation request but did provide her with special office equipment that it said would address her nickel allergy. Grievant continued to experience neuropathy during her overseas assignment and was medically curtailed from post without receiving an EER. As a result, her next CTB recommended that she not receive tenure, and the Department terminated her appointment. The Board held that the Department failed to meet the requirement under the ADA and Department regulations to engage with an employee with a qualifying disability, such as grievant, in an “interactive process” to determine a reasonable accommodation. Although grievant’s request to be permanently reassigned to another skill code would be a “last resort” under Department regulations, that did not relieve the Department of the duty to consider other options such as assigning grievant to positions in the consular skill code that did not involve processing large numbers of passport and visa applications. Further, the Department had an ongoing duty to find a reasonable accommodation when it became clear that the accommodation it did provide was not effective. Accordingly, the Board directed that when grievant was cleared medically to serve in an overseas posting, the parties engage in the interactive process to identify an effective accommodation for grievant’s disability.

 

U.S. Mission China Bids Farewell to U.S. Consulate General Chengdu

 

A press release from the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced the closure of the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu, China at 10 o’clock in the morning on Monday, July 27, 2020).
“At 10am July 27, as required by the Chinese side, the US Consulate General in Chengdu was closed. China’s competent authorities then entered through the front entrance and took over the premises.”
As of this writing, there was no announcement from Foggy Bottom.
On Sunday, July 26, US Mission China did post a video saying “Today, we bid farewell to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu. We will miss you forever.”

 

Related posts:
Related item:

 

Inbox: Warrior Culture, Militarization, and Diplomatic Security

We received the following from Sender A, writing anonymously I would happily critique or call out any regional or functional bureau in the Department of State under my true name, but I do not believe it would be safe to do the same in this case.” The writer says he/she had over 30 years of experience with the State Department, with almost all overseas service at differential posts. Service in Washington, D.C.  included top ranking positions at more than one bureau. –D

~ * * * ~

Warrior Culture, Militarization, and Diplomatic Security
I’m puzzled that, with all the attention being paid to policing and law enforcement reform in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, no one seems to have instigated any scrutiny of the policies and practices of Diplomatic Security.  Watching the heavily armed, camouflage clad federal officers operating in Portland certainly demonstrated that federal law enforcement in general has become significantly militarized; the same is true, in my experience of DS.  Given the shortfall in consular revenue and the likely upcoming budget impact of coronavirus, it seems to me that a genuine cost/benefit analysis of Diplomatic Security and its practices is overdue.  My hope is to start this discussion.
As a retiree and former Chief of Mission, I’ve observed with dismay for many years the militarization of diplomatic security and the proliferation of “security theater” by which I mean practices don’t actually make us safer but make the practitioners feel more powerful.  At my COM post, with a new secure chancery in a low threat country, the entry procedure for visitors (including mine) was so onerous that most contacts were unwilling to meet with me in my office.  They invariably preferred to meet in restaurants, which tells you something about the real level of threat.  Despite three years of trying, I was unable to make much of a dent in this.  I also saw a lot of security theater during tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The emphasis on weapons (the heavier the better), vehicles, and security technology often outweighed any reliance on cultural or political understanding and mostly served to keep very expensive American employees hunkered down inside US facilities.
The militarization of the State Department, while most acute in DS, is not confined thereto.  It reached a peak during the GW Bush presidency, when Sec. Rice constantly exhorted us to become “expeditionary.”  While the warrior diplomat model seems to have waned, especially in light of the limited and often short-lived results of the Provincial Reconstruction Team experiment (gains accomplished at great risk and high cost in lives), the warrior ethos remains strong in DS.
Consider also the 20-story DS headquarters building in Rosslyn, that was built and kitted out mostly with antiterrorism funds (or so I was told).  What really goes on there that is not duplicative of work already done elsewhere, (e.g., intelligence analysis)?  At my last security clearance update, I was surprised to learn from the investigator (who worked out of his car!) that DS contracts out virtually 100% of clearance investigations, including new hires.  
Then there’s the new training center, far away from Washington, about 60 miles SW of Richmond Virginia.  I am baffled that the Department’s leadership allowed DS to slip the net and take their training so far away, apparently with no oversight.  How will DS employees be integrated into the work of the Department when they have no interaction with the rest of us in training.  Who will even know what is contained in DS curriculum.  Why isn’t DS training at least structurally under the Foreign Service Institute, as is the training for (as far as I know) every other speciality.
I’m old enough to remember DS before its employees became law enforcement special agents, when they focused on soft skills, contacts, and interpersonal skills to solve problems, and when DS employees occasionally served tours outside DS which enhanced their understanding of other functions of the mission.  I don’t miss everything about the “olden days,” especially not the derelict buildings that housed many of our missions, but I do believe that something was lost.  Setbacks and blast resistant buildings aside, I’m not convinced that we’re that much safer with current security practice.
I acknowledge the many sacrifices that DS agents and other employees have made to keep Embassies, consulates and employees safe, and I’ve respected and liked many DS agents with whom I’ve worked.  This letter is about leadership, risk management, which we claim we practice, and most of all about organizational culture.  I’ve read with interest a number of past Diplopundit items about DS’s response to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and complaints from female agents about the work environment and believe that many of these problems have their roots in warrior culture as well.   

Nominee For Peru Ambassadorship Lisa Kenna Gets a Late Thunderbolt

 

Via Politico:
Lisa Kenna, Pompeo’s executive secretary — a gatekeeper of sorts to his office — told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she was unaware of the substance of Giuliani’s outreach at the time, but now knows it was an effort to discredit Yovanovitch. Giuliani made calls and delivered documents to Pompeo that came from Ukrainian figures viewed as corrupt by the State Department.
“At the time, I did not know what the documents were about. It’s deeply disturbing,” said Kenna, who is being vetted by the committee for the ambassadorship to Peru.
Ms. Kenna’s prepared testimony for the SFRC is available to read here.