Philippine President Duterte Retracts Kill Order For Visiting Forces Agreement With the United States #VFA

 

In February 2020, the Philippines sent the United States  a Notice of Military-Pact Termination.  On July 29th, during Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s visit in Manila, the Philippine Defense Secretary tweeted that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is “in full force again after Secretary Austin’s meeting with President Duterte. No challenge is insurmountable between longstanding allies that are committed to attaining shared goals of regional peace and stability.”

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FSGB: Salary Determination Per SOP 134D1? What’s that?

 

Via FSGB Case No. 2019-049:
Held – Grievant failed to establish by a preponderance of evidence that the Department of State (“Department” or “agency”) committed a grievable error in its initial determination, or its resolution of, the appeal of grievant’s salary determination. However, grievant did establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the Department erred in not following its own standard operating procedure (“SOP”) regarding the provision of notice of the right to appeal the salary determination and affording her sufficient time to prepare an appeal. The Board ordered the Department to permit grievant to submit supplemental appeal materials to a new Salary Review Committee (“SRC”).
Case Summary – Grievant became a Foreign Service generalist career candidate in 2018. She contended that in determining her starting salary for that position, the Department Office of the Registrar violated published policy and acted arbitrarily and capriciously by declining to credit a number of theatrical stage management jobs she had held as qualifying experience that would have resulted in a higher starting salary. Believing that she had less than 12 hours to appeal, grievant quickly submitted arguments to the SRC for reconsideration of the salary determination, but that body confirmed the starting salary offered by the Office of the Registrar.
Grievant accepted the position, but several months after her start date, she grieved the starting salary. She contended in her grievance that the SRC was unfamiliar with the primarily intellectual nature of stage management jobs and, therefore, wrongly concluded that some, but not all, of her stage management positions did not constitute qualifying experience. She further contended that both the Office of the Registrar and the SRC miscalculated the duration of one or more of the jobs that they found were qualifying, by interpreting her month/year description of these short-term positions as lasting to the beginning of the ending month, rather than through the entire last month. Grievant further contended that she was never given the necessary information about appeal procedures from the decision of the Office of the Registrar. She claims that, in violation of Department SOPs, she was given only a few hours, rather than the required 30 days to prepare and submit her appeal.
The Board concluded that grievant failed to establish by preponderant evidence that either the Office of the Registrar or the SRC had violated published policy or acted arbitrarily or capriciously in determining her starting salary. The Board found, however, that the Department erred by deviating from its SOPs that mandated the provision of 30-days’ notice to career candidates about the appeal procedure from decisions of the Office of the Registrar, which caused grievant to submit a rushed appeal to the SRC. The Board further concluded that the error may have been a substantial factor in the SRC’s decision to confirm her starting salary. The Board, therefore, denied the grievance in part and upheld it in part. As a remedy, the Board ordered the Department to permit grievant to submit supplemental appeal materials to a new SRC within 30 days.
[…]
The September 21 email, containing the salary offer, but none of the other information described in SOP 134D1, and the subsequent email correspondence (which informed the candidate only that “your file is marked to be reviewed”), clearly did not meet the requirements laid out in SOP 134D1. The October 4 email, containing the appointment letter, meets the requirements of the SOP, without explicitly referring to SOP 134D1. This was apparently meant to be the beginning of the review and appeal process, not the end. By not clearly distinguishing for grievant the difference between an informal preview/review process in the Registrar’s Office and the 30-day deadline for a formal appeal to the SRC, the Department committed a procedural error that generated unnecessary fog in an already rushed process. We conclude that grievant was denied a clear and meaningful opportunity to present clarifying information to the SRC. In addition, we conclude that she has established that the procedural error may have been a substantial factor in the action of the SRC. We note that she does not have to prove that the additional material that she proffered in the grievance appeal would have caused the SRC to reconsider her salary.
In cases where the Board finds procedural error that may have been a substantial factor in an agency action, the burden of proof shifts to the agency to show, by preponderant evidence, that the agency, (the SRC in this instance), would have taken the same action had the procedural error not occurred. See C.F.R. 905.1(c). The Department has explained the reasoning of the SRC, but it has not presented a persuasive argument, supported by preponderant evidence, that the outcome would have been the same had grievant been given timely notice of her right to file an appeal to the SRC, i.e., that, had it followed its own SOP, the grievant would have submitted additional documentation and the SRC would have made the same determination with respect to each of grievant’s numerous short-term stage management positions and arrived at the same grade and step level.
The Board therefore finds that the Department has not carried its burden of proving that the SRC would have come to the same result absent the procedural error. Accordingly, the Board grants grievant’s request for a reconstituted SRC to review her initial salary determination after reviewing any additional relevant information that she would like to provide, in conformity with SOP 134 D1.
Note: Depending on the browser you’re using, the FSGB cases may not be available to read online; each record may need to be downloaded to be accessible. With Firefox browser, however, you may select “open with Firefox” if you want to read the case file, or save the file to your computer. Please use the search button here to locate specific FSGB records.

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Nominated: State/ENR PDAS Virginia E. Palmer to be U.S. Ambassador to Ghana

 

 

President Biden announced his intent to nominate career diplomat Virginia E. Palmer to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Ghana. The WH released the following brief bio:

Virginia E. Palmer, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Ghana

Virginia E. Palmer, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor, is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources.  She has served as Acting Assistant Secretary since January 20, 2021, overseeing U.S. foreign policy engagement at the critical intersection of our energy, climate and national security goals.  Before assuming her current position, Palmer was the Deputy Commandant and International Affairs Advisor at the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy at the National Defense University.  She served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Malawi from 2015 until 2019.  Prior to that, she was Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires a.i., at the U.S. Embassy in South Africa;  Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires a.i. at the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam; the State Department’s Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism; and Director of the Bureau of East A’s Office of Economic Policy and the alternate U.S. Senior Official for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC).  Other postings include assignments in Canada, Zimbabwe, the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, and Kenya.  Palmer obtained her M.A. from the University of Virginia and a BSFS from Georgetown University.  She also attended Washington University in St. Louis.  She speaks Chinese and French.

If confirmed, Ambassador Palmer would succeed Ambassador Stephanie S. Sullivan who has been Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Accra since September 6, 2018.

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Nominated: Ankara DCM Jeffrey M. Hovenier to be U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo

 

President Biden announced his intent to nominate career diplomat Jeffrey M. Hovenier as the next U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo. The WH released the following brief bio:

Jeffrey M. Hovenier, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Kosovo

Jeffrey M. Hovenier, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor, currently serves as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, where he served as Chargé d’Affaires a.i. from August 2018 through July 2019.  Prior to that, he was Acting Deputy Chief of Mission and Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany.  He also served at U.S. missions in Croatia, Greece, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru; at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); and on the staff of the UN Special Envoy for Kosovo Status.  His Washington assignments include service as Director for Central and Southeastern European Affairs at the National Security Council and in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs with responsibility for NATO and Central European Affairs.  He has a Master’s degree from Georgetown University and a Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University.  He speaks German, Greek, Croatian, and Spanish.

If confirmed, Mr. Hovenier would succeed Ambassador Philip S. Kosnett who was confirmed by the Senate in September 2018 and is the current Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Pristina. Coincidentally, Ambassador Kosnett’s most recent assignment prior to Pristina was as Deputy Chief of Mission and subsequently Chargé d’Affaires ad interim in Ankara, Turkey from 2016-2018.

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@StateDept Opens Swastika Incident Investigation in Foggy Bottom

 

 

Following reports that a swastika was found etched into the wall of an elevator in Foggy Bottom, the State Department has reportedly opened an investigation into the incident. Axios which broke the news of the incident writes:

“The defacement raises troubling questions about security inside the nation’s foreign policy nerve center, and the potential for antisemitism within an outward-facing element of the United States government.”

While the State Department has over 76,000 employees worldwide, the latest June 2021 data from State/GTM indicates that there are some 15,279 Foreign Service and Civil Service Domestic Employees.  There are also various federal contractors working in Foggy Bottom but we do not have a good estimate for those type of employees.
Axios points out that most employees are working from home and that “All of elevators within “Main State” are within a secure perimeter, and security cameras — and, in many cases, uniformed guards – cover entrances to all secure areas.” The investigation including the availability of camera footage would be under Diplomatic Security’s responsibility.
One unintended consequence of this incident is it has raised further awareness among the State leadership and the general workforce that this scourge exists and should not be tolerated. And that, as one employee told us, “when it’s detected anywhere – domestic or overseas — within our midst and work environments, there needs to be tangible and swift consequences.” It has also been pointed out to us that State has an “occasional propensity” to sweep things under the rug because it’s embarrassing and/or inconvenient.
Well, hopefully, not this time. Too many people are paying attention for that to happen.
When the culprit is caught, what might be the penalty? Where would this offense be in the penalty list for 3 FAM 4540? Or 3 FAM 4370?
There is also 18 U.S. Code § 1361 which says “If the damage or attempted damage to such property exceeds the sum of $1,000, by a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than ten years, or both; if the damage or attempted damage to such property does not exceed the sum of $1,000, by a fine under this title or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.”
And of course, there is always notoriously disgraceful conduct.
Let’s pay close attention to what happens next.

 

Here is Secretary Blinken’s note:
'Hate Has No Place Here' note, Secretary Blinken, July 27, 2021

‘Hate Has No Place Here’ note, Secretary Blinken, July 27, 2021

 

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Biden Taps @Penn’s Amy Gutmann to be the Next U.S. Ambassador to Germany

President Biden announced his intent to nominate University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Germany. The WH released the following brief bio:

Amy Gutmann, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Federal Republic of Germany

Amy Gutmann is the eighth President of the University of Pennsylvania, serving since 2004.  She is also the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science, and a Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication.  Her focus on global engagement fueled the creation of Penn’s Perry World House on campus, Penn Wharton China Center in Beijing, and the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington, D.C.  Previously, at Princeton University, Gutmann was Provost, Dean of the Faculty, Founding Director of The University Center for Human Values, Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics, and Director of the Program in Ethics and Public Affairs.  She also worked at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and at the University of Maryland.  Gutmann is an award-winning author and editor of 17 books, many centered on understanding and defending constitutional democracy and human rights. The daughter of a German Jewish refugee, and first in her family to graduate college, she earned a B.A. at Harvard-Radcliffe College, an M.S. at the London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. at Harvard.  She was named by Fortune in 2018 as one of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.”

If confirmed, Ms. Gutmann would succeed Richard Grenell who served from May 2018 – June 2020.  She would also be the first female American ambassador to Berlin. According to AFSA’s tracking, 12 of 17 ambassadors appointed to Germany since 1960 or 70.6% were non-career appointees.

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NSC’s Mallory Stewart to be Assistant Secretary of State For Arms Control, Verification and Compliance

 

President Biden announced his intent to nominate Mallory Stewart to be the next Assistant Secretary for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (State/AVC). The WH released the following brief bio:

Mallory Stewart, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State (Arms Control, Verification and Compliance)

Mallory Stewart currently serves as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Arms Control, Disarmament, and Nonproliferation on the National Security Council. Previously, Ms. Stewart was Senior Manager for Global Nuclear Security and Nonproliferation as Sandia National Laboratories.  She also has served as a Nonresident Fellow in the WMD, Nonproliferation and Security Program at the Stimson Center, as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies and as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Emerging Security Challenges and Defense Policy in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. She worked in the State Department Legal Advisor’s Office on arms control issues and, among other roles, served as the lead lawyer and one of the primary architects of the U.S.-Russia Framework to eliminate Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile.

Ms. Stewart earned an A.B degree from Harvard College and her J.D. degree from Stanford Law School.  She has written extensively on issues related to arms control and verification and was the recipient of the Secretary of State’s Award for Excellence in International Security Affairs among other honors.

If confirmed, Ms. Stewart would succeed Yleem D. S. Poblete who served from 2018–2019.
On September 8, 2020, the U.S. Senate received the nomination of Ryan Michael Tully, of New York, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance) and the nomination was referred to the SRFC. On January 3, 2021, that nomination was returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate.

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MacArthur Genius Atul Gawande to be Asst Administrator For USAID’s Bureau for Global Health

 

President Biden announced his intent to nominate Atul Gawande to be Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Global Health at USAID.  The WH released the following brief bio:

Atul Gawande, Nominee for Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Global Health, United States Agency for International Development

Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, is the Cyndy and John Fish Distinguished Professor of Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Samuel O. Thier Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Dr. Gawande is also founder and chair of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and of Lifebox, a nonprofit organization making surgery safer globally. During the coronavirus pandemic, he co-founded CIC Health, which operates COVID-19 testing and vaccination nationally, and served as a member of the Biden transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. From 2018 to 2020, he was CEO of Haven, the Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase health care venture. He previously served as a senior advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services in the Clinton Administration.

In addition, Atul has been a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine since 1998 and written four New York Times best-selling books: Complications, Better, The Checklist Manifesto, and Being Mortal. He is the winner of two National Magazine Awards, AcademyHealth’s Impact Award for highest research impact on health care, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the Lewis Thomas Award for writing about science.

 

 

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@StateDept Releases Tijuana Accountability Review Board (ARB) Fact Sheet

 

On July 26, the State Department released a Tijuana Accountability Review Board Fact Sheet. A notice dated March 9, 2021 posted on regulations.gov announced the convening of ARB-Tijuana (see Convening of an Accountability Review Board to Investigate the Murder of an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Locally Employed Staff member in Tijuana, Mexico).

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As best we could tell, the Tijuana ARB report has not been released publicly.  Below via the State Department Fact Sheet:

On January 4, 2021, former Secretary of State Pompeo convened an independent Accountability Review Board (ARB) to review the facts and circumstance surrounding the murder of Mr. Edgar Flores Santos, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) Locally Employed (LE) Staff member in Tijuana, Mexico that occurred on September 30, 2020.  The body was discovered on October 1, 2020. The Tijuana ARB, as well as local and American law enforcement officials, concluded this unfortunate incident was a case of Mr. Flores being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

The ARB’s mandate was to determine the extent to which the incident was security related; whether security systems and procedures were adequate; whether those systems and procedures were properly implemented; the impact of intelligence and information availability; and other factors and circumstances which may be relevant to appropriate security management of U.S. missions abroad.

The ARB first met on February 23, 2021.  Former Ambassador George M. Staples served as Chair of the Board.  Board members included Ambassador Janice Jacobs, former USAID Mission Director Dirk Dijkerman, former Diplomatic Security Service Special Agents John Eustace, and Kimber Davidson.  On April 23, 2021, the Board submitted a report of its findings and recommendations to Secretary of State Blinken.  The Department of State appreciates the judgment and insight contained in the report and is grateful for the service of the Board.  Pursuant to law, the Secretary submitted a report to Congress on July 22, 2020, outlining the ARB’s recommendations and actions taken in response.

The United States Department of State, the USDA APHIS operations, and many other U.S. government agencies have a broad presence and role in Mexico.  The United States is Mexico’s largest agricultural trading partner and the growing agricultural ties between the United States and Mexico have created a vital role for the USDA’s APHIS in ensuring that existing trade between the two economies flows smoothly.  In particular, APHIS provides critical safeguarding of U.S. agriculture, helping to prevent the spread of animal and plant pests and diseases. 

Advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives inherently involves diverse types of risk, and the Department recognizes that taking considered risks is often essential to achieving U.S. government objectives abroad.  Working in dangerous locations such as Mexico’s northern border area is critical to maintaining the safety, security, prosperity, and welfare of Americans.  The work accomplished by Mr. Flores and his USDA APHIS colleagues is vital to the agricultural security of the United States; the Department of State is grateful for their service.   

In the Tijuana operating environment, the Board found that the Department’s security systems and procedures were overall adequate and properly implemented, though the Board identified a few challenges in communication and information sharing that were immediately rectified following this incident.  Moreover, the Board did not find any U.S. government employee engaged in misconduct or perform unsatisfactorily in a way that contributed to this incident. 

The ARB issued 11 recommendations that focus on security systems and procedures and security management.

Security Systems and Procedures:  The ARB found that by all accounts, Mexican law enforcement and U.S. law enforcement agencies at the embassy responded quickly to the incident and shared available information and assisted the Regional Security Officer (RSO) in response to this incident.  However, the Board recommended that APHIS and the RSO take steps to ensure closer monitoring of security-related incidents, information sharing and integration of that intelligence into APHIS’s operational decisions.  The Department of State in coordination with USDA/APHIS will review policies and procedures to strengthen the security of APHIS personnel overseas.  U.S. Embassy Mexico City and all posts with an APHIS presence in their district will engage in robust publicity efforts to raise public awareness about what APHIS does, how it works, and how the work benefits Mexico.

Security Management:  The Board also made several recommendations that USDA and State will take to improve the safety of field inspectors related to their roles and responsibilities; program requirements considering threats and vulnerabilities; and enrolling USDA/APHIS locally employed staff in the Department of State’s worldwide standardized emergency notification system.