So, what’s going on at the State Department’s Office of Civil Rights?

 

Via state.gov

“At the Department of State, diversity is not just a worthy cause: it is a business necessity. Diversity of experience and background helps Department employees in the work of diplomacy. The Secretary believes that diversity is extremely important in making the State Department an employer of choice. The Secretary has delegated both tasks of advancing diversity within the Department and ensuring equal opportunity to all employees to the Director of the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR), who also serves as the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO).

The mission of the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) is to propagate fairness, equity and inclusion at the Department of State. S/OCR’s business is conflict resolution, employee and supervisor assistance, and diversity management. S/OCR manages the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) administrative process for the Department and works to prevent employment discrimination through outreach and training.

S/OCR advises and assists the Secretary and other principal officers in equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy and diversity management issues that relate to the Department of State. The office is symbiotically separated into three sections: Diversity Management and Outreach, Intake and Resolution, and Legal.”

We’ve received a long list of disturbing allegations that says in part “history shows the State department(sic) will not enforce accountability unless abuses of power are brought to public light.”
If you know what’s going on over there, we’re here.
State/OCR is one of twenty offices (20!) reporting directly to the Secretary of State.
State/OCR’s only response to our email inquiry is an automated response as follows:
You have reached the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Civil Rights, which is a federal office that seeks to propagate fairness, equity, and inclusion in the U.S. Department of State’s domestic and overseas workplaces, including the U.S. diplomatic service and embassies and consulates overseas. Please be advised that the following are protected characteristics covered under antidiscrimination laws: race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, and genetic information. The Department also may not engage in reprisal for participation in the EEO process or opposition to illegal discrimination.
We are only able to provide service to direct employees, former direct employees, applicants for direct employment, or others who have direct relationship with the Department of State (including its missions in other countries and domestic facilities) who feel that they have suffered discrimination. Please be sure to include the following information in a follow-up email (or an affirmative statement that the questions do not apply) or else we will not be able to assist you:
    1. Are you an American citizen?
    2. What is your employment status with the Department of State?
    3. Are you alleging discrimination based on one of the EEO categories listed above? Which one?
    4. Please provide a short a narrative of your allegation of discrimination to include date(s).
    5. Where are you currently located?
    6. Please provide a contact information (i.e. phone number and email).
From State/OIG, we only got total radio silence.
By the way, this is a good opportunity to note that it has been 605 days since the Inspector General for State/OIG went vacant according to the oversight.gov tracker. You might recall that former IG Steve Linick was fired urgently under cover of darkness. Now, almost a year into President Biden’s tenure and no nominee has been announced. Who’s happity with that?

Billy Goat on Grass Field by Pixabay

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Prince Talleyrand Talks “Not getting hands dirty” and Hostage Diplomacy with US Senate

 

Via Prince Tallleyrand (retired statesman) with commentary on diplomacy and world affairs and goes by ‘surtout, pas trop de zèle’ by way of introduction:
“So far as one can tell, there are no major diplomatic initiatives, negotiations, or plans awaiting delivery. Those boxes are ticked, with one botched announcement of a submarine deal with Australia and Britain, and another, more badly botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. The president and the secretary did not escape criticism in those instances but neither man got his hands too dirty.
Not getting hands dirty so far appears to be the main principle at play. There is an effort being waged by a special envoy, a boyhood friend of the secretary, to salvage the Iranian nuclear deal. There is another effort waged by a special envoy, a diplomat pulled out of retirement, to keep a larger regional conflict from breaking out in East Africa. There is yet another effort waged by a special envoy, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to stand between Russia and Ukraine as the two nations threaten to go to war. There is another such envoy, a holdover from previous administrations, overseeing diplomacy towards Iraq and Syria. And there is John Kerry shuttling around the world battling climate change.
About the only major effort engaging the highest levels of the administration directly is its hostage diplomacy with the US Senate over the confirmation of presidential nominees.”
Hostage diplomacy, indeed! My favorite post remain that thing about porcupines and strategic ambiguity.
Read more here.

Afghanistan Evacuation: A “Management Failure” Ripe For Review. By the GAO, Please

 

Secretary Blinken has reportedly ordered an internal review of the Afghanistan evacuation.  Who has been tasked to do the review? Wait, he did not ask the Deputy Secretary for Management or the Acting Under Secretary for Management to do it, did he?
Or the OIG? The OIG has seen what the State Department overlords can do to the entity and its personnel. While the overlords are not the same, we doubt that folks can shake that nightmare quickly. The State Department still does not have a Senate confirmed Inspector General. After what the previous administration did to the OIG and Steve Linick, you’d think that the Biden Administration would work quickly to fill that position. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Also if this debacle is causing seasoned employees to consider leaving the Service, you’d want to know, right?
We do think that the GAO should conduct this review; after all, part of its mandate is the evaluation of operations and performance. The GAO undertakes work through congressional requests, so let’s go ahead, let’s write to our favorite reps so GAO can get tasked with looking under the rugs.

Related items:

Blinken Announces New Appointees For #HavanaSyndrome Task Force

 

Last Friday, Secretary Blinken made an on-camera remarks at the State Department  to talk about the “Department’s Health Incidents Response Task Force” including the appointments of  Ambassador Margaret Uyehara as the agency’s senior care coordinator and Ambassador Jonathan Moore as the head of the Health Incident Response Task Force in Foggy Bottom.
Blinken on Ambassador Uyehara as “senior care coordinator”:

“I’m very pleased to share that we recently appointed Ambassador Margaret Uyehara to serve as our senior care coordinator. A career member of the Foreign Service with three decades of experience at the State Department, she has already gotten to work advocating for those affected, including assisting them with workers’ compensation and the benefits process. She’s compassionate; she’s effective. We’re grateful for her and her commitment to this vital issue. Additionally, last month, the State Department began a partnership with Johns Hopkins University to expand the top-tier care available to employees and families who have been affected by Anomalous Health Incidents.Now they can access the university’s outstanding medical professionals and facilities as well.”

There does not appear to be an official bio for her at state.gov right now. It appears that she retired from the Foreign Service so  it is likely that her work hours, like other State Department’s re-employed annuitants will also be capped at no more than 1,040 hours during her appointment year.
A throwback from her Montenegro appointment:

Uh-oh! Also another throwback via ISP-I-17-41 Inspection of Embassy Podgorica, Montenegro:

While embassy employees told OIG that the Ambassador and DCM held themselves to the high ethical standards that 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214 establishes, American staff consistently evaluated the Ambassador negatively against the leadership principles that are described in 3 FAM 1214. For instance, some employees described the Ambassador as a micromanager which delayed the clearance process for embassy memos and reports. Employees told OIG that rapid-fire taskings, shifting priorities, and the Ambassador’s ambitious agenda hindered their ability to perform their core responsibilities. Further, employees expressed that they hesitated to offer differing points of view as the Ambassador did not proactively solicit their input and was not receptive to dissent. Some embassy personnel described the Ambassador as intimidating in her interactions with American and LE staff, which inhibited staff discourse and negatively affected mission morale.

Such characteristics and interactions as described above are not in accord with the highest standards of interpersonal conduct as outlined in 3 FAM 1214. The Department sets clear expectations for leadership to follow certain principles because it fosters the highest attainable degree of employee productivity and morale, all of which are essential to achieving mission goals and objectives. The Ambassador assured OIG that she valued the Department’s leadership principles and would use her unique position to lead by example.

Blinken on Ambassador Jonathan Moore:

“I’m pleased to announce the new head of our Health Incident Response Task Force: Ambassador Jonathan Moore. Jonathan brings decades of experience grappling with complex policy challenges. His career in the Foreign Service has taken him from posts around the globe, from Bosnia to Namibia, and he’s managed portfolios ranging from Russia policy to engagement with the United Nations.Across each of his assignments, Jonathan has brought a strong analytical capacity and fidelity to the facts.He knows the State Department.He knows the inter-agency process.And he cares about the people he works with, which is particularly important for this assignment, for which treating people with empathy and decency is absolutely key.”

According to his official bio, Ambassador Moore was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs, where he oversaw policy regarding the United Nations and UN agencies – including on health, environment, science, and technology – between November 2018 and March 2020. It looks like his tenure overlapped for a year with the infamous tenure of Kevin Moley who was bureau assistant secretary from March 29, 2018 – November 29, 2019 (see IO’s Kevin Moley Accused of Political Retribution Finally Leaves the Building). The OIG report is available to read here:  Review of Allegations of Politicized and Other Improper Personnel Practices in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
Previously, he was DCM at US Embassy Minsk in 2006 and later served as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim from March 2008–July 2009. The OIG report for Embassy Minsk had some good things to say about him:

A newly arrived Ambassador and DCM are exercising firm, clear direction at Embassy Minsk. While emphasizing the preliminary nature of their observations and judgments, Americans at the embassy scored both officials highly on OIG questionnaires. In interviews during the inspection, American staff praised the officials for their openness and willingness to engage deeply in the details of all embassy policies and operations.

Embassy Minsk is a small, well-run mission that now attracts a sufficient number of qualified Foreign Service bidders. Operating in a hostile political environment, the embassy is a 25-percent hardship differential post.
[…]
The DCM (sometimes with the Ambassador) meets with the consular section chief in her office weekly, although issues can easily be raised at any time. The DCM reviews the consular chief ’s visa decisions and supports a by-the-book visa referral policy that is reviewed annually.

We’re hoping to see improvements on how these cases are handled.
Let’s see what happens.

 

Related:

 

POTUS Signs the Havana Act Into Law But Hey! Where’s the Appropriation to Fund It?

 

President Biden signed the Havana Act into law on October 9, 2021. Nine days later, the State Department’s Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM) “Care Working Group” finally sent a “Dear colleagues” letter to agency employees on October 18. Basically informing employees that 1) the Act  was signed; 2) this will go through a Federal rules-making process and inter-agency consultations and clearances” (translation– it’ll take a while); 3) there will be no interim updates (translation- don’t call us, we’ll call you).

President Biden signed the HAVANA Act on October 8th.

We know you are eager to get updates and to have a sense of when the Department will be able to offer the benefits provided under the law.

The HAVANA Act also applies to non-State employees under Chief of Mission authority, which means that our implementation of the Act will have to go through the Federal rules-making process, which is lengthy, and requires consultations and clearances with multiple other Federal agencies.  The bill also requires an appropriation in order to fund it. That appropriation has not yet been passed.

In the Act, Congress requires the Secretary of State (and other Federal agency heads) to prescribe regulations no later than 180 days after the enactment of the Act. We are collaborating with subject matter experts across the Department and the interagency to get this done. We want to make sure that the benefits will be equitable across all agencies. We’re not likely to be able to give you a lot of interim updates, but we want you to know that we are working on it, and if there’s something we can share with you, we will.

The message does not include an individual’s name, only labeled as coming from “The Care Coordination team.” We’re starting to wonder if there’s anyone in charge there, or is this a bot on detail at GTM?

Diplomatic Security Gets Career DSS Special Agent Carlos F. Matus as New DS/PDAS and DSS Director

 

Last month, the State Department named career DSS agent Carlos F. Matus as PDAS for Diplomatic Security  (DS) and director of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). Below is his official bio:

Carlos F. Matus, a career Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) special agent and DSS senior official, was named principal deputy assistant secretary (PDAS) of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and director of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), U.S. Department of State, on September 13, 2021. He previously served as acting DSS director.

As PDAS and DSS director, Matus is responsible for the operations of the most widely represented law enforcement and security organization in the world, with offices in 33 U.S. cities and 275 U.S. diplomatic posts overseas. DSS is the law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. Department of State and is responsible for protecting U.S. diplomacy and the integrity of U.S. travel documents.

Matus, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, joined DSS as a special agent in 1987. Throughout his 34 years of service, Matus has served around the world at U.S. embassies in Honduras, Panama, Afghanistan, Austria, Haiti, Pakistan, Brazil; DSS field offices in Washington, D.C., and Miami; and at DSS headquarters.

Among his most recent career highlights, Matus served as director of protective intelligence investigations, 2016; senior regional security officer, U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan, 2016-17; deputy assistant secretary for the high threat programs directorate, 2017-19; and acting deputy assistant secretary for threat investigations and analysis until he assumed the position of acting DSS director in 2020.

Matus is an individual recipient of multiple State Department meritorious and superior honor awards. The U.S. Marine Corps recognized him twice as Regional Security Officer of the Year for D Company. Most recently, he received the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executive.

Before joining DSS, Matus graduated from the University of Maryland and the Inter-American Defense College. He holds a Master’s degree in Security and Hemispheric Defense from the University of Salvador, Buenos Aires, Argentina. More information about Carlos Matus is available at: https://www.state.gov/biographies/carlos-f-matus/

In 2016, we published  an submitted letter from a Diplomatic Security employee about the lack of diversity in the top ranks of the bureau leadership (see Dear @JohnKerry: One of Your Foggy Bottom Folks Is Asking — Is This Diversity?).   At that time, there were two senior positions held by female officers and one by an African-American at the bureau.
Today, the leadership at Diplomatic Security remains overwhelmingly male and white, with but ONE senior female official occupying the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Assistant Director Training Directorate. There are currently , three African Americans in its leadership positions including the assistant secretary. Given that Diplomatic Security is one of the top five bureaus with the highest number of sexual harassment complaints, you’d think that the bureau would work harder in growing the ranks of senior female officials in its leadership ranks.
It looks like that’s not happening anytime soon. So will Diplomatic Security ever appoint a senior female agent anywhere besides the International Programs Directorate or the Training Directorate? (see Inbox: A belief that there’s no place for a female in Diplomatic Security agent ranks especially at HTPs?).  As DSS Director? Or as a Principal Deputy? No?
Well, now, we’d like to know why. Why are female officials hard to find in the bureau’s senior leadership ranks?

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Related posts:

SFRC Senators Express “Concern” to @SecBlinken For @StateDept’s Handling of #HavanaSyndrome

 

In a letter to Secretary Blinken, Senators from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee writes We believe this threat deserves the highest level of attention from the State Department, and remain concerned that the State Department is not treating this crisis with the requisite senior-level attention that it requires. “
Also that the Senators continue to hear concerns that the Department is not sufficiently communicating with or responding to diplomats  who have been injured from these attacks. We are also concerned that the Department is insufficiently engaged in interagency efforts to find the cause of these attacks, identify those responsible, and develop a plan to hold them accountable. “
The Senators urged a replacement for Ambassador Spratlen imediately:
“We urge you to immediately announce a successor to Ambassador Spratlen to lead the Department’s Health Incident Response Task Force. Critically, this post must be a senior-level official that reports directly to you. It is incumbent that this individual has the experience to engage effectively with affected individuals and with the interagency. As you know, pending bipartisan legislation in the Senate would require the Secretary to designate an agency coordinator for AHIs who reports directly to you. We ask that you take this step now to demonstrate that the State Department does take this matter seriously, and is coordinating an appropriate agency-level response.”
Finally, the senators write, We wish to support the State Department and U.S. personnel through every means possible, and to support the Department in effectively addressing this national security threat. We look forward to receiving your response, and to your heightened engagement on this issue.”
The letter is available to read here.
The State Department has a response from the podium but we’ll save you the anguish of having to read the same thing all over again.
Just yesterday, we got another email in our inbox that says “Those DPB comments are utter bullshit.”
The spox did say that “… we want to make sure that those who have come forward are getting the care that they need. And I can give you quite a bit in terms of what our Bureau of Medical Services has done, including since January of this year, to ensure that those who come forward are getting that care.”
But …. but… how are they getting the care they need?
If folks can’t even get an email response from MED except for a form email?
At least there’s a form email, right?
But that feeling when you’re worried you may have a brain injury and you get a form email — apparently, that does not generate a warm feeling of WE’RE HERE FOR YOU, WE CARE.
The senators are right to remain concerned. Foggy Bottom typically responds to a few external pressures — the courts, the press, and yes, attentiveness from the Congress.

 

Related post:

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#HavanaSyndrome at U.S. Embassy Bogotá: Who should be in the business of confirming these incidents?

 

Via Daily Press briefing, October 12, 2021:
QUESTION: … And can you confirm the Havana syndrome cases or deny it, or just address that in Colombia embassy in Bogotá, in U.S. Embassy in Bogotá?
MR PRICE:  …. When it comes to Havana syndrome, you will probably not be surprised to hear me say we are not in the business of confirming reports. But —
QUESTION: But I don’t understand, why are you not in the business of confirming reports? This is squarely about State Department personnel. These are happening at U.S. embassies. Who should be in the business of confirming these incidents?
MR PRICE: We are in the business of, number one, believing those who have reported these incidents, ensuring that they get the prompt care they need in whatever form that takes, whether that is at post, whether that is back here in the Washington, D.C. area. We are in the business of doing all we can to protect our workforce and the broader chief of mission community around the world.
QUESTION: So have they reported in Bogota U.S. embassy?
MR PRICE: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Have they reported – like, are you doing all of those things for U.S. embassy in Bogota?
MR PRICE: We are doing this everywhere an anomalous health incident is reported. But we are also doing things universally, and we are communicating with our workforce. We are instituting new training modules to ensure that outgoing State Department officers know how to detect a potential anomalous health incident, they know how to report a potential anomalous health incident, they know who – to whom to turn should they need to report it, they know the type of assistance that they can receive. Their families are apprised of these dynamics as well. And as you know, the Secretary has had an opportunity to meet with some of those who have reported AHIs.
There is no higher priority that the Secretary has to the health, the safety, the security of our workforce. I’ve said this before, but even before he was Secretary of State, one of the briefings he proactively requested as the nominee for the office he now holds during the transition was a comprehensive briefing on so-called Havana syndrome or anomalous health incidents. He wanted to make sure he entered this job understanding where we were and what we had done, and importantly, what this department could do better to support our workforce at all levels. And we have taken a number of steps, including in terms of communication, in terms of care, in terms of detection, in terms of protection for our workforce, and that is something that will continue to be a priority for the Secretary.
Francesco.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, it was this building that (inaudible) spoke about those cases in Havana and then in China. Why aren’t you confirming for the sake of transparency where there are cases reported – if they are Havana syndrome or not, it’s another thing, but where there are reported incidents, why aren’t you doing that? And then I have another question on Cuba protest.
MR PRICE: So in many cases it is a matter of privacy of individuals, wanting to respect privacy. But let me just make clear that when cases have been reported, our posts overseas have communicated that clearly to the community within the embassy. We have also engaged – Brian McKeon has engaged with posts that have reported a number of anomalous health incidents. So it is not – certainly not – the case that we are ignoring this. We are just not speaking to the press, we’re speaking to our workforce, as you might expect when it comes to a matter of their health and safety and security.
GRRRR! STOP THAT BROKEN RECORD!
Excuse me, was I loud? That’s nice that they value the privacy of individuals.
Requesting a confirmation of reported cases at one post does not require that the State Department released the names of the affected individuals. Did it happen there or not? So how does that actually compromises employees’ privacy?
And while we’re on the subject of “when cases have been reported” … how many emails do employees need to send to how many entities within State/MED –MEDMR? MEDHART? MEDFART? MEDFUCKIT– before anyone get the courtesy of a response?
We regret to say this but there’s no shortage of opportunities for Foggy Bottom to disappoint these days.
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So CA/OCS May Survive a Funding Crunch Only to Fall Apart at the Seams?

 

The largest public facing bureau of the State Department is the Bureau of Consular Affairs. For those who may need more familiarity, the major sub-divisions within this bureau are passport services (PPT), visa services (VO) and overseas citizen services (OCS). The identification and repatriation of remains of Americans overseas are handled by OCS. Evacuations of American citizens during natural disasters and civil unrest are also handled by OCS.  When somebody goes missing overseas, or becomes a victim of crime, these cases are handled by CA/OCS. In addition to the recent Afghanistan evacuations, the bureau also managed the massive COVID repatriation around the globe.
Consular operations are mostly fee-based; you pay for visa processing, passport issuance, notarial services and so on.  With the Trump travel bans and the subsequent COVID travel restrictions, passport and visa fee collection significantly cratered. At the same time, CA undertook two massive repatriation and evacuation.
In a congressional hearing in 2020, the State Department projected a $1.4 BILLION loss which was about 50 percent of Consular Affair’s revenue in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2020. It also projected comparable losses in FY2021 and FY2022. We’re sure the numbers are available internally, but we have yet to see publicly the cost of the global COVID repatriation and the Afghanistan evacuation.
During that same 2020 hearing, CA’s top official told Congress that services for American citizens “will not be put out of business.” We’re now wondering if the OCS directorate was saved from the funding crunch only to fall apart at the seams. Let’s consider a few things that we’ve learned:
STAFFING
–The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (CA/OCS – DAS) recently sent a memo to staff acknowledging that the long hours and lack of sleep has taken an “unacceptable health toll”.
— The  Director of the Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (CA/OCS/ACS) abruptly retired, reportedly one year into a two year tour and only months after making the Senior Foreign Service.
— The Managing Director of CA/OCS took a week off after acknowledging to the staff that the MD’s well-being had been put at risk, and indicated the need for some time off “to regroup.”
— Several of the staff who flew into Afghanistan are reportedly still struggling with what they saw.
— Staffers who made the thousands of phone calls to US citizens in Afghanistan have reportedly been traumatized by what they hear.
— During the inbound call phase early in the operation these staffers reportedly “suffered abuse at the hands of the US public, self-identified military callers who blamed the Task Force for Afghans left behind, and congressional staff who called in to yell at phone bank workers.”
A FOREVER TASK FORCE AFTER THE END OF A FOREVER WAR
— The Task Force continues – until when?
— “We are still staffing 24 hour task force support, which is just wearing people out.”
LEADERSHIP OBSESSES OVER NUMBERS AS EXHAUSTION BITES
— The Leadership is reportedly “totally focused” on the numbers. “All that matters in the Bureau is the number of people called, put on lists, and flown out.  Getting everyone out who wants out is a great goal, but from the top it is clearly just numbers.”
— “A/S and PDAS are only focused on this, basically never in SA17. Everyone is exhausted.”
— Somebody noted to us that “The idea that “around 100″ citizens remain in Afghanistan is absurd, as we never knew how many were there in the first place. And if it is such a low number who are posts from Mexico to Pakistan calling?”  Initially these posts were apparently calling the same folks who had reached out to the US over and over to try to determine who is ready to go. It was relayed to us that most of the times, State didn’t actually have a flight for them to get on or a solution to their problems (no passport, can’t leave family), leading to some testy exchanges.
— Department leadership allegedly “appears blind to the fact that the obsession with getting the number of American Citizens  in Afghanistan to zero has crippled OCS.”
For those who agree that the US should rightfully obsess in a zero AmCit number in Afghanistan, we should point out that the United States left thousands of U.S. citizens stranded in Yemen in 2015 and the show ponies in Congress did not care to interrupt their beauty sleep. (see Stranded in Yemen: Americans left to find own way out, but exactly how many more AmCits are left there?Yemen Non-Evacuation: Court Refuses to Second-Guess Discretionary Foreign Policy DecisionsFor U.S. Citizens in Yemen, a New Website and a New Hashtag Shows Up: #StuckInYemen).
REALITY CHECK
— “CA is ill prepared to continue on this path, and a second major crisis would be almost impossible for the Bureau to address.”
— “CA and OCS people need a break.”
— “COVID is still an issue around the world, regular OCS work doesn’t go away, so fewer people have to handle that and these are the same people that did the COVID repatriations.”
— “It’s not just OCS though, the SIV cases are still out there, and posts everywhere are short staffed, tired, and working under a variety of local restrictions”
— “CA needs what it always needs: money, staff, training, and a Department leadership that values more than a visa referral or a quote for the Secretary.”
Well, now you know.
How soon before we hear about the leadership tenets and taking care of people?

 

Related posts:

 

 

Blinken Gets ‘Ratioed’ For His “We honor Jamal Khashoggi” and Condemn [WHO?] Tweet