@StateDept Inspector General Vacancy Now at 657 Days and Counting

 

By the time you’re reading this, it would be 657 days since the State Department had a Senate-confirmed Inspector General. Despite the beating that office suffered during the previous administration, the current administration does not seem to be in any great hurry to nominate an Inspector General for the State Department.
IG Quick Facts:

IG Independence | Congress created OIGs to strike a workable balance for IGs and agency principals. This balance is accomplished through a number of provisions of the IG Act.

The IG Act specifically prohibits agency management officials from supervising the IG. This organizational independence helps limit the potential for conflicts of interest when an audit or investigative function is placed under the authority of the official whose programs are being scrutinized. The IG Act insulates IGs against reprisal and promotes independent and objective reporting. Additionally, the IG Act promotes independence through individual reporting of OIG budgets. For example, Section 6(g) requires OIG’s requested budget to be separately identified within the Department of State’s budget. Section 6(g)(3) authorizes OIG to comment to Congress on the sufficiency of its budget if the amount proposed in the President’s budget would substantially inhibit the IG from performing the duties of the office. Additionally, the Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017, requires annual certification by the Secretary that the Department has ensured the integrity and independence of OIG’s network, information systems, and files.

IG Access to Agency Principal | The IG is required to have direct and prompt access to the agency principal when necessary to perform his or her functions and responsibilities. This helps ensure that the agency principal is directly and promptly alerted to serious problems and abuses within the agency. Conversely, the Department of State is required to submit to OIG—within 5 business days of becoming aware of the allegation—a report of any allegation of (1) waste, fraud, or abuse in a Department program or operation; (2) criminal or serious misconduct on the part of a Department employee at the FS1, GS-15, or GM-15 level or higher; (3) criminal misconduct on the part of a Department employee at any level; and (4) serious, noncriminal misconduct on the part of any Department employee who is authorized to carry a weapon, make arrests, or conduct searches.

IG Reporting Obligations | The IG Act creates a dual-reporting obligation for IGs—to keep both Congress and the agency principal fully and currently informed about deficiencies in agency programs and operations.

Unfortunately, the Quick Facts does not include what can be done when the agency principal gets the IG fired for no reason beyond the office conducting oversight investigations that made the IG “a bad actor” in the eyes of the principal and his cronies.
The last time there was a lengthy vacancy at the IG, it was for almost 2,000 days or 5.4 years (see After 1,989 Day-Vacancy — President Obama Nominates Steve Linick as State Dept Inspector General).
Harold W. Geisel served as Acting IG from 2008-2013. Steve Linick served from 2013-2020. After Linick’s firing, Stephen Akard served as Acting IG for three months, Diana Shaw was Acting IG for a month, and Matthew Klimow served as Acting IG from August-December 2020. Diana Shaw once again became Acting IG for the State Department in December 2020 and continues to serve in that role to-date.
Congressional members made lots of noises, of course, after the Linick firing. They even conducted hearings. Which did not amount to anything really. Nothing happened besides a bad news cycle for Mikey Po so what could possibly dissuade any agency principal from doing exactly the same thing?
Defense (2,245 days) and OPM (2,204 days) currently have longer IG vacancies than State but the WH has previously announced the nominees for those agencies and they are currently awaiting confirmation. Whereas State (and Treasury) have been forgotten by the time lords.
We hope this isn’t a purposeful omission that could last the entire Blinken tenure.
It also occurred to us that one can avoid all the messiness of firing an IG by not appointing one.
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@StateDept Issues Guidance For Ukraine Land Border Crossings

 

On March 1, the State Department issued new guidance on land border crossings for U.S. citizens departing Ukraine.

U.S. citizens wishing to depart Ukraine by land have several options, listed below. We understand that most border crossings into Poland and all main crossing points into Moldova are severely backed up and some are experiencing extremely long wait times (well over 30 hours in some cases). We recommend that, if possible, U.S. citizens consider redirecting to border crossings with Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, which are currently experiencing lower wait times to cross.

Note that conditions at each border can change very quickly and wait times can increase at any time without warning. Be prepared to wait for many hours to cross:

    • Have extra batteries and power banks for your mobile phones.
    • Bring enough food and water for at least two days.
    • Stock up on diapers and baby food, if applicable.
    • Bring blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothes.
    • Ensure enough pet food if you are with your pet.
    • Bring hard copies of important documents (birth certificates, passports [even if expired], any other identification) and don’t rely on cell phones and computer batteries.
    • Book accommodations prior to arrival, as many hotels near the borders are already booked.

Local authorities in Romania, Poland, and Moldova have reception centers immediately beyond most border crossings, where you can find food, temporary lodging, clothes, and transportation to the next bigger town.

Specific info on entering neighboring countries from Ukraine

Read more here.

US EMBASSY POLAND

US EMBASSY ROMANIA

US EMBASSY HUNGARY

US EMBASSY SLOVAKIA

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