@SecBlinken’s Memo on COVID-19 Vaccinations and His Commitment to @StateDept Employees

Last week, Secretary Blinken sent a memo to State Department employees titled, “COVID-19 and My Commitment to You.”
The memo notes that “Our first priority must be to take care of our people—the more than 76,000 women and men who carry out the work of the Department in good times and tough times.”
He addressed the vaccination question:
“I know that many of you are asking, “When will I be vaccinated?” “When will my family be vaccinated?” My team and I want to get you and your families vaccinated as soon as possible—and we want to make this process as transparent as possible, so you have a better sense of how long it will take. We won’t stop until the entire workforce has the opportunity to be vaccinated. I wish this process were faster, but rest assured that we are pushing hard, and we will get there.”
The memo further notes that the State Department has “deployed nearly 80 percent of our received vaccine allotment to our overseas workforce” to-date. “Everyone at a given post is offered the vaccine at the same time. As the national supply increases, we will keep making the case for the State Department to receive our full allotment—as the lead foreign affairs agency and an integral member of the national security community with employees deployed in every corner of the globe, often in harm’s way,” Secretary Blinken wrote.
In his memo, Secretary Blinken also said, “we commit to keeping you informed with regular updates in the weeks ahead.”
He also encouraged all employees “to use leave to rest and recoup—and to seek help when necessary” and urged the need “to care of ourselves—and each other.”
Finally, Secretary Blinken said that he reminded the leadership team that we have no greater responsibility than the health, safety, and wellbeing of the people we’ve been entrusted to lead. Collectively, we are doing everything we can to support our entire workforce. We will get through this. And until then, let’s be sure to show one another the consideration, respect, and kindness everyone deserves. That’s how we will emerge from this crisis a strong—maybe even stronger—team, just as we’ve done in the face of other challenges throughout our long history.”
Also see @StateDept’s Vaccination Efforts For Overseas Posts Under Fire, a Test for @SecBlinken.




@StateDept Updates FAM For Individuals Serving as Designated Chiefs of Mission

One part of the ARB-Cuba report addressed guidance provided to the chief of mission (see ARB on Havana Syndrome Response: Pray Tell, Who Was in Charge?):
The ARB report reveals: “In exploring the guidance given to the COM regarding his responsibility for the security of all executive branch employees, the Board learned the COM did not have a letter of instruction. Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed ambassadors all receive a letter of instruction from the President detailing their responsibilities. Typically the responsibility for the safety and security of American citizens and U.S. government employees features prominently in these letters. In other posts where a COM is not Senate confirmed, the Department sometimes issues a letter of instruction from the Secretary of State which serves a similar purpose.”
On February 19, 2021, the State Department updated 3 FAM 1420, the Transfer of Office for Chiefs of Mission and Other Principal Officers.  The updated regs actually is in referenced to “Designated Chief of Mission” positions.  Assignments as CdA a.i. to designated COM positions go to the D Committee for approval and are approved by either the secretary or deputy secretary.  See 3 FAH-1 H-2425.8-2(B).  The new updates also notes that Designated COMs must “receive a briefing on intelligence oversight responsibilities from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) and confirm in writing that they have read and understood the Secretary’s guidance to individuals performing the functions of a COM (3 FAM 1427).”
One section addresses the general policy:
(CT:PER-1028 ;  02-19-2021)
(State Only)
(Applies to Foreign Service Employees Only)
a. This policy establishes the roles, responsibilities, and processes for ensuring relevant statutory and other requirements are met when designating individuals to serve as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim (CdA a.i.) in the absence of the Chief of Mission (COM).  The requirements set forth in this policy apply regardless of the length of time the individual will be serving as CdA, a.i. This policy also addresses transfer of the principal officer at consulates and interest sections.
b. The term “transfer of office”, as used here refers to the permanent or temporary transfer of the authorities and responsibilities vested in the principal officer for the management of the post and the conduct of its operations.  A permanent transfer of office occurs whenever an officer relinquishes charge of a post and does not expect to resume charge of that post, or whenever directed by the Department.  A temporary transfer occurs whenever an officer relinquishes charge of a post with the expectation of resuming charge of the post.
c.  The legal authorities cited in 3 FAM 1421 support the practice of designating principal officers at certain posts as CdA, a.i., Consul General, or principal officer with COM authority.  These three categories are referred to as Designated Chiefs of Mission (List available at 2 FAH-2 H-112).  Incumbents in Designated COM positions are not appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate and do not have the ambassador title.  They also do not receive a Letter of Instruction by the President. The policy in 3 FAM 1420 also applies to individuals serving as Designated COMs and provides guidance to those individuals on their responsibilities. Designated COMs, like other CdAs, a.i. need approval by the Under Secretary for Management (M) and required guidance and briefings, but because Designated COMs are not filling in during the absence of a COM, the transfer of office provisions in 3 FAM 1420 do not apply.
Another section addresses the criteria for individuals serving as CDAs.  This update says that individuals on a Foreign Service limited non-career appointment  or a while actually employed (WAE) appointment, which is an appointment into the Civil Service, do not qualify as career FSOs and therefore may not serve as CdA, a.i. See 3 FAM 1427 for guidance outlines responsibilities for CdA, a.i.s.
(CT:PER-1028;  02-19-2021)
a. Any individual serving as CdA pursuant to Section 502(c) of the Foreign Service Act must be a career FSO.  This includes retired career FSOs recalled for service under section 308(a) of the Foreign Service Act. Recall appointments are approved by the director general of the Foreign Service and the individual recalled must also be approved by the Under Secretary for Management (M) in order to serve as CdA, a.i.  Individuals on a Foreign Service limited non-career appointment  or a while actually employed (WAE) appointment, which is an appointment into the Civil Service, do not qualify as career FSOs and therefore may not serve as CdA, a.i.
b. Factors regional bureaus may consider when nominating individuals to serve as CdA, a.i. include: past experience as CdA, a.i. or DCM, experience managing multi-dimensional and complex teams, experience working with the interagency, relevant country and regional experience, number of years of service, and demonstrated ability to mentor and lead staff.
c.  Pursuant to Section 502(c) of the Foreign Service Act and Delegation 462, M approval is required in order for an individual other than a DCM or suitable senior officer at post to serve as CdA, a.i. The regional bureau’s assistant secretary must send an action memo to M identifying the individual identified to serve as CdA, a.i. and outlining the individual’s qualifications and the rationale for designating the individual’s qualifications and the rationale for designating the individual as CdA, a.i.
d. Individuals who serve or are expected to serve as CdA, a.i. for more than 30 consecutive days, including Designated COMs, must also have authorization to access to Sensitive Compartmented Information. Additionally, he/she must receive a briefing on his/her intelligence oversight responsibilities from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR).  If already at post, he/she should contact INR/OPS to receive a secure virtual briefing. 
e. Regional bureaus must ensure that the individual does not travel to post or assume charge until required briefings have been completed.
f.  Prior to departing for post, any individual who will be serving as CdA, a.i. must confirm in writing that he or she has read and understands the Secretary’s guidance to individuals performing the functions of a COM (3 FAM 1427).  If already at post, this written confirmation should be part of the notification process outlined in 3 FAH-1 H-1425.



PSA: Things You Cannot Send Via Diplomatic Post Offices


According to the Foreign Affairs Manual, 39 U.S.C. 413 authorizes the United States Postal Service (USPS) to establish U.S. Post Office branches at U.S. diplomatic missions abroad.  It also authorizes the Department of State to enter into an agreement with USPS to perform postal services at such branch post offices through personnel designated by the Department of State.  The Tripartite Agreement between the Department of State, Department of Defense, and USPS exercises that authority, providing a framework for the establishment and support of Diplomatic Post Offices (DPOs).
The DPO must be used only for personal mail.  Official mail, including official supplies, is not permitted in the DPO.  The mailing of dangerous goods via the DPO may present serious dangers to aircraft and passengers, and/or cause serious diplomatic concerns with host nations. 
IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations, Section 9, requires DPM (Diplomatic Pouch and Mail Division) to report to the appropriate authorities of the State when undeclared or misdeclared dangerous goods are discovered in cargo or mail.  Incidents discovered anywhere in the USPS supply chain must be reported to DPM via a Postal Offense Report in ILMS DPO.  DPM will notify the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), and the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA).
Items known as hazardous, restricted, or perishable are prohibited for dispatch by DPO from the United States to either abroad, or from abroad to the United States, or from post to post (consult USPS Publication 52). 
See some of the restricted items below (expanded list is available via 14 FAM Exhibit 761.4 here):

Human remains are only authorized when sent via Priority Mail Express International Service (NOTE:  Express mail is not authorized to/from a DPO);

Alcoholic beverages (e.g., beer, wine, liquor, any liquid containing alcohol);

Electronic Cigarettes (e-Cigarettes).

Agriculture products (e.g., plants, seeds, bulbs, soil, fertilizer, plant food, wood chips, fruits, etc.);

Animals:  Endangered species products (e.g., lab samples, insects, etc.);

Compressed gases and aerosols (e.g., hairspray, cylinders containing residual pressure, inhalers for asthma);

Flammable liquids (e.g., nail polish and remover, hand sanitizer, lens wipes, medication containing alcohol, perfume, or cologne);

Flammable solids (e.g., safety matches);

Incendiary materials such as road flares, cigarette lighters, self-starting charcoal, MRE meals with heaters, etc.;

Items for resale (e.g., Girl Scout cookies, magazines, etc.) per 14 FAM 742.4-3;

Household Effects (HHE) or Unaccompanied Baggage (UAB) per USPS Postal Bulletin restriction N, and 14 FAM 761.4-4, Private Property in the DPO;

Firearm/ammunition/explosive devices (e.g., blanks, caps, shells, simulated ammo);

Explosives or inert training devices resembling explosives;

Firearms and objects resembling weapons or dangerous objects (e.g., air rifles, paintball guns, training weapons, weapons and/or gun parts made/fashioned by three-dimensional (3D) printers, etc.), per USPS Postal Bulletin restriction U4;

Weapons or items that resemble weapons (e.g., any spring-loaded knife (switchblade), tactical knives, fixed-bladed fighting/hunting knives, firearms, or components thereof, sling shots, bows, arrows, BB guns and pellet guns, firearms, throwing stars/spikes, ceremonial swords, toys closely resembling weapons, etc.).  NOTE:  Kitchen knives are permitted but highly discouraged; 

Per 14 FAM 310, for official supplies and equipment from the United States, the Department, the foreign affairs agencies and other U.S. Government civilian (i.e., non-DOD) agencies utilize the U.S. Despatch Agents and their Consolidated Receiving Point (CRP) Programs for shipment.
Anybody knows the restrictions for med flights?