We recently posted ARB on Havana Syndrome Response: Pray Tell, Who Was in Charge?. While reading that report, we requested an update from the State Department on actions the Secretary of State took in response to the ARB report. We were also interested in learning about any outstanding issues from the ARB Havana Report not addressed under the previous administration, and what actions Secretary Blinken intend to do to fully address the recommendations of the ARB Board. And we were very interested if WHA, EUR, EAP and the Secretariat had been tasked with putting together a full timeline and lessons learned based on the official State Department response to the Havana syndrome incidents in Havana, Guangzhou and Tashkent?
So far, under new management, Foggy Bottom has responded to our inquiry. The following is a response from a State Department spokesperson:
We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. personnel, their families, and other U.S. citizens.
The U.S. Government is working to determine what happened to our staff and their families and to ensure the well-being and health of our officials going forward. That investigation is ongoing and is a high priority.
Secretary Blinken requested a comprehensive briefing on the issue during the transition, and he has received updates during his time in office. He has made clear that this is a priority for him, and those updates will continue on a regular basis.
The Department established an interagency task force to coordinate the U.S. government’s response to these incidents in May 2018. To reassert the Department’s leadership and responsibility for U.S. government personnel overseas, this week we elevated the coordinator role to a senior level position so that a high-level official will be empowered to advise senior Department leadership, coordinate the Department’s interagency response to the health security incidents, and provide continuing support to affected personnel. This advisor will be positioned in a senior role and report directly to the Department’s senior leadership to ensure that we continue to make significant strides to address this issue and to ensure our people are receiving the treatment they need.
We will have additional details on this new role in the coming days.
We’ll be in the lookout!