@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.





Executive Secretariat’s Howard A. Van Vranken to be U.S. Ambassador to Botswana



President Biden announced his intent to nominate career diplomat Howard A. Van Vranken to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Botswana. The WH released the following brief bio:

Howard A. Van Vranken, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Republic of Botswana

Howard A. Van Vranken, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Executive Director and Deputy Executive Secretary for the Executive Secretariat at the U.S. Department of State. Previously, he was Executive Director and Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs and Deputy Executive Director in the Executive Office for the Bureaus of Near Eastern Affairs and South and Central Asian Affairs. Earlier, Van Vranken was Management Counselor and, prior to that, the Deputy Political Counselor, for U.S. Embassy Baghdad.  Van Vranken served in Israel as Management Officer and later as Acting Political Counselor in Jerusalem and as the Human Resource Officer at the Embassy in Tel Aviv. He was also the leader of a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Babil Province, Iraq. Van Vranken earned his B.A. degree from the University of California, Davis and his M.A. from Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. He speaks Arabic, Farsi, and Norwegian.  He is the recipient of as the Presidential Distinguished Service Award.

If confirmed, Mr. Van Vranken would succeed Ambassador Craig Cloud who has been chief of mission at US Embassy Gaborone since April 2019. According to AFSA, of the 17 ambassadors appointed to Botswana since 1960, only 4 or 23.5% were non-career appointees.


State/E Chief of Staff Kent Doyle Logsdon to be U.S. Ambassador to Moldova



President Biden announced his intent to nominate Kent Doyle Logsdon to be the next Ambassador to Moldova. The WH released the following brief bio:

Kent Doyle Logsdon, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Moldova

Kent Doyle Logsdon, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister-Counselor, is Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment.  Previously, he served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Energy Resources, and was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany, serving as Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. from January 2017 to May 2018.  Prior to that, Logsdon was the Executive Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, and Deputy Executive Secretary of the State Department.  Previous positions include Director of the Operations Center, Director of the Office of Russian Affairs, and Deputy Chief of Mission in Tbilisi, Georgia.  Logsdon also served in Kyiv, Ukraine; Bangkok, Thailand; Almaty, Kazakhstan; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Stuttgart, Germany.   He holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Virginia and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Notre Dame.  The recipient of a Presidential Meritorious Service Award, Logsdon speaks Russian, Ukrainian, Thai and German.

If confirmed, Mr. Logsdon would succeed career diplomat Dereck J. Hogan who served as chief of mission at the US Embassy in Chisinau from November 2, 2018–till this month. Moldova is one of some 30 countries, mostly in Africa, where all appointees for ambassadors since 1960 have been career diplomats.


Blinken Attends Inaugural Meeting of @StateDept’s Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council



Secretary Blinken reportedly delivered remarks at the inaugural meeting of the State Department’s Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council. State.gov does not appear to carry a transcript of those remarks, and it looks like the members of this leadership council are not publicly available.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken delivers remarks at the inaugural meeting of the Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on July 21, 2021. Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley joined Secretary Blinken. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]



U.S. Special Envoy and Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland Visits Tripoli


On July 26, the State Department announced U.S. Special Envoy and Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland’s visit to Tripoli:

U.S. Special Envoy and Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland visited Tripoli, Libya July 26 where he met with interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dabaiba, attended a signing ceremony for a new 5G telecommunications contract between Libyan company Hatif and U.S. company Infinera, and held other meetings with Libyan and international representatives.  Ambassador Norland underscored the need for Libya’s leaders to make key preparations to ensure successful nationwide elections in December, including determining a constitutional basis and the election law that will govern them.  He emphasized that Libya’s leaders must make the necessary compromises to meet the Libyan peoples’ expectation of free and fair elections, an essential step towards a stable, unified, and democratic Libya.  Ambassador Norland also reaffirmed that stability and continued progress on the political and security track will lead to greater economic opportunities, foreign investments, and prosperity for Libyans.  Ambassador Norland was accompanied by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Treasury Eric Meyer.