@StateDept Updated Assignment Restrictions Regs in 2020, Also Where’s the Preclusion Data?

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Last week, Politico published a piece about hundreds of people of color at the State Department handed “assignment restrictions” due to concerns over split loyalties or being susceptible to foreign influence. See Foreigners in their own country: Asian Americans at State Department confront discrimination. In 2017, The Foreign Service Journal published In Pursuit of Transparency in Assignment Restriction Policies by FSOs Christina T. Le and Thomas T. Wong who at that time were the current and past presidents of the Asian American Foreign Affairs Association (AAFAA). Excerpt below:

Employees’ concerns regarding the assignment restrictions process were plentiful: it was unfair, lacked transparency and was based on ethnic origin or family heritage. Our advocacy to the State Department on the issue began in 2009 and continued in earnest through 2016.

The case was framed by input from countless numbers of employees who came to us expressing real frustration, disillusionment and anger over the lack of transparency and accountability in the process. In some cases, the department had prioritized hiring these officers because of their language skills, only to turn around and preclude them from using those valued language skills overseas.

While assignment restrictions affect many State department employees of different backgrounds, we accumulated substantial anecdotal evidence that it has disproportionately affected employees of AAPI descent. Our data suggested assignment restrictions were levied with race as a factor, with disregard for mitigating circumstances and even based on incorrect facts.

According to the authors, the efforts to confront these issues went back many years: “Mariju Bofill first raised the issue with the Secretary of State in 2009, after consultations with the department’s legal advisor, and continued to raise it during the following three years. Cecilia Choi took the baton in 2012, working with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security to try to come to a fair solution. In 2013, The Washington Post featured an article on the subject, “At the State Department, Diversity Can Count Against You,” highlighting the perspectives of several Foreign Service officers.”
In May 2017, AFSA issued guidance on new provisions governing assignment limitations as negotiated with the State Department; these were reportedly implemented on October 21, 2017 and can be found in 12 FAM 233.5.  The latest update were done on June  24, 2020:

Per FAM, assignment restrictions are conditions placed on a security clearance.  They are used to prevent potential targeting and harassment by foreign intelligence services as well as to lessen foreign influence and/or foreign preference security concerns; for example, if an employee and/or his or her close family members maintain citizenship or dual citizenship with that country or have substantial financial interests or foreign contacts there.  Foreign influence and preference are two of the U.S. Government’s Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information.

Assignment restrictions may be determined when the initial clearance determination is made, during periodic reinvestigation, or when an individual’s personal situation changes; i.e., marriage, cohabitation, etc. (see 12 FAM 270).  An individual may be restricted from permanent assignment to a particular country or countries, or in some cases, a desk and/or program where that country or countries are the primary focus.  Desks or other positions may present vulnerabilities for targeting when there is frequent official contact with foreign individuals.  Individuals with an assignment restriction to a country may not serve temporary duty (TDY) in that country for more than a total of 60 days during any 365 day period.

The 2020 FAM update allows for a review within 30 days of receiving the assignment restrictions at an employee’s request, on exceptional circumstances the employee/applicant may also request an additional 15 days review, and there us a review on the assignment restrictions by DS/SI/PSS each time an individual’s continued eligibility for access to classified information is re-adjudicated, typically every five years.
The thing that’s clear in the regs is that the initial assignment restriction is conducted by Diplomatic Security. The  reviewer is also Diplomatic Security. After that review, the decision by DS/DSS becomes final. There is no appeal authority above Diplomatic Security. The State Department’s personnel chief, yes, the DGHR said in a congressional hearing that she “does not know enough about the process to answer the question” (see video below).
The updated regs also do not indicate who tracks, and keep the data about these assignment restrictions. The report on Politico points out that the State Department is required by law to provide to Congress “the number and nature of assignment restrictions and preclusions for the previous three years”. This was part of the Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017 dated December 16, 2016 (see 22 USC 2734c: Employee assignment restrictions).  Which means Tillerson in 2017 or Pompeo in 2018 would have been required to submit preclusion data to Congress dating back at least three years.  And yet, the Politico report said that a State Department spokesperson was unable to say how many diplomats across the department are currently subject to restrictions.
Well, now.  So either the State Department ignored a congressional reporting requirement or the information is available but in a lock box?  Who wants to share?
Congressional representatives like Andy Kim of NJ who previously worked for the State Department has publicly voiced a demand that “we fix this problem.”

Below is the top official in charged of personnel including assignments at the State Department told by the congressman from California to “Maybe you might want to find more about this process since you’re Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Global Talent and this is affecting your State Department employees … “

 


 

 

Samantha Power Before SFRC on 3/23, USAID Announces 19 New Biden-Harris Appointees

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On Tuesday, March 23, former USUN Ambassador Samantha Power will have her confirmation hearing as President Biden’s nominee to be the next Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). A live video of the hearing will be available to watch here.  
Meanwhile, on March 15, 2021, USAID announced almost two dozens new Biden-Harris appointees at the agency:
Today, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) welcomes Gideon Maltz as the Agency’s Chief of Staff. Gideon joins the growing body of Biden-Harris appointees that continue to build out the Agency with wide-ranging expertise. They look forward to contributing to the world’s premier development agency as part of a vibrant, dedicated workforce, representing the best of the American people.
Together, the team, celebrating 60 years of successes, will build the USAID of tomorrow, leading and always innovating international development and humanitarian efforts to save lives, reduce poverty and strengthen democracy.
Senior Staff
      • Travis Adkins, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Africa
      • Jeremy Bernton, Executive Secretary, Office of the Executive Secretariat
      • Natasha Bilimoria, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Global Health
      • Nikole Burroughs, Deputy Assistant to the Administrator, Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning
      • Sarah Charles Phillips, Assistant to the Administrator, Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance
      • Gabi Chojkier, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, Bureau for Legislative and Public Affairs
      • Megan Doherty, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Middle East
      • Mileydi Guilarte, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean
      • Diala Jadallah-Redding, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Legislative Affairs, Bureau for Legislative and Public Affairs
      • Anjali Kaur, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Asia
      • Jeremy Konyndyk, Executive Director for COVID-19, Office of the Administrator
      • Zeppa Kreager, White House Liaison
      • Mike Michener, Deputy Assistant to the Administrator, Bureau for Resilience and Food Security
      • Raj Panjabi, President’s Malaria Initiative Coordinator, Bureau for Global Health
      • Neilesh Shelat, Deputy Assistant to the Administrator, Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance
      • Michele Sumilas, Assistant to the Administrator, Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning
      • Margaret Taylor, General Counsel
      • Rebecca Wexler, Special Advisor, Office of the Administrator
Click on the hyperlinks to view their bios.
With the exception of Jeremy Konyndyk who previously served in the Obama Administration from 2013-2017 as the director of USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), all are new political appointees to USAID; some previously worked on the Hill, NGOs, consulting firms, or  think tanks.
Also Rebecca Wexler who is the new Special Advisor to the Office of the Administrator previously served as Special Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. when Samantha Power was at USUN.
We’re still looking for the career appointees but where are they hiding them? We haven’t found them yet!

 

 

 

Presentations of Credentials: U.S. Ambassadors to Timor-Leste, Venezuela

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