@StateDept Announces Return of Amb. Kenneth Merten as @USEmbassyHaiti Chargé d’Affaires

 

On September 23, following Ambassador Foote’s resignation as Special Envoy for Haiti, State/D Sherman did a damage control interview. When asked who will replace Daniel Foote, she responded:

“I don’t know that we need a replacement.  In part we had named a special envoy after the assassination of the president of Haiti in the aftermath of the horrible storms and earthquakes and all of the other plights that the Haitian people have had to face – the ongoing confrontation of poverty.  But we have an excellent ambassador in Haiti, Michele Sison, who is a nominee for a future post here in the United States.  We have tremendous faith in her and in her leadership.”

So less than a month after that interview, Ambassador Sison has apparently left Haiti.  Secretary Blinken has also announced the former Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten as Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Port-au-Prince:

MR PRICE: I am happy to reiterate what the Secretary said. We are grateful that Ken Merten, an experienced department hand, will be going to serve in Port-au-Prince as our chargé d’affaires. As you know, Ambassador Sison is – has been nominated for an important post here. She has returned to the United States. And we’re grateful that Ken Merten has accepted the ask that he go serve in this important role.

QUESTION: So does that mean that she’s, like, left?

MR PRICE: That’s right. That’s right.

QUESTION: So she’s back here?

MR PRICE: That’s correct.

Hookay. So who’s going to assume post as the Bureau of Global Talent Management where Ambassador Merten has been posted as “Senior Bureau Official”? His state.gov bio says he was appointed Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Global Talent Management in January 2021. He became Senior Bureau Official after DGHR Carol Perez was elevated as Acting M.

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Special Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote Resigns in Protest, @StateDept & Friends Mount Concerted Attack

 

Back in July when the State Department announced the appointment of Ambassador Foote as Special Envoy to Haiti, it said, “Special Envoy Foote brings extensive diplomatic experience to this role – including as Deputy Chief of Mission in Haiti and as the U.S. Ambassador to Zambia. The Department congratulates Special Envoy Foote as he takes on his new role and thanks him for his continued service to his country.”
Today, as his resignation in protest over Haiti policy became public, the State Department as well as the Biden White House are mounting a concerted effort to smack him down.  The spoxes in Foggy Bottom and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue both had something to say; it was not to thank him for his brief service as special envoy.
State Department spox Ned Price in his statement said …”not all ideas are good ideas.” The WH spox Jen Psaki said that Ambassador  Foote’s views were put forward, and they were were valued, they were heard …”. Also that “Special Envoy Foote had ample opportunity to raise concerns about migration … He never once did so.”
The State Department’s number #2 official, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman took time out from her busy schedule to give an exclusive interview to @McClatchy about this resignation – “You know, one of the ideas that Mr. Foote had was to send the U.S. military back to Haiti,” Sherman said. “It just was a bad idea.” she said. Then she said what the State Dept spox already said in his statement: “Some of those proposals were harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy….”. For him to say the proposals were ignored were, I’m sad to say, simply false,” Sherman said. She did say, you know, that she’s sad to say that.
Also Secretary Blinken being Tony and nice just said “I really understand the passion that comes with this.”
So then according to one reporter, an unnamed senior Biden Administration official also claimed that Ambassador Foote has a “toxic personality” & that Foote would often “shout people down and cut people off.” Toxic and shouty, and cut people off, blah, blah, blah!  And this is all coming out now after he resigned in protest? When are they going to tell us he also kicks his dog?
See, here’s the thing. They’re not just saying his ideas were valued and heard but oh, they were also just bad. But hey, did you know he wanted to send troops back to Haiti? Isn’t that also bad? And in case that doesn’t work, some official told a reporter, that the guy who quit has a toxic personality and was shouty, anyway.
This appears to be the first protest resignation under the Biden Administration. And you can see the all hands effort here. It is likely that 1) they recognized that the Foote letter would  resonate with a lot of people, 2) they’re looking at the domestic component and potential political fallout and 3) this serves as a warning for future dissenters on policy. Had Ambassador Foote just resigned quietly to spend more time with his family, State may have given him their “One Team” Award.
The Miami Herald says Ambassador Foote did not respond to requests for comment Thursday. Which makes the parade of named and unnamed characters talking about Foote’s resignation just stark by comparison.
Folks, he quit; he’s done. Why are y’all wasting time on the guy who already left the room?
Meanwhile, your Haiti policy is till a hot mess. Get to work, good grief!
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Senate Confirms Amb. Daniel Kritenbrink as Asst Secretary For East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP)

 

 

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Blinken’s #HavanaSyndrome Meeting, Also Spratlen is Out as Task Force Advisor

 

On September 3, we blogged about the Havana Syndrome again: Blinken Talks the Talk on Unexplained Health Incidents, Where’s the Walk? #HavanaSyndrome.
On September 21, NBC News reported that Secretary Blinken finally did meet with diplomats who were afflicted with the  Havana Syndrome mystery illness. It did not go very well, did it?
Via NBC News:

“It’s just incredibly sad. It’s the worst part of bureaucracy,” one of the diplomats said, describing the call as “identical to so many other phone calls” where they’re told about protocols in place to ensure proper treatment. “It’s so maddening because those protocols aren’t in place — not the way they think they are.”
[…]
A senior State Department official, responding to questions about Blinken’s call with the diplomats, acknowledged that there’s “frustration” among the group about a perceived stigma or lack of empathy by their colleagues, but said it did not extend to those at the top.

“That’s certainly not the case with the secretary and the senior leadership,” the official said in an interview. “Everyone is taking it seriously as a real issue that is affecting people who are experiencing real symptoms.”

Which members of the senior leadership is the SDO official talking about?

Diplomats told NBC News they were dismayed that Ambassador Pamela Spratlen, tapped by the Biden administration to oversee the State Department’s response, declined to conclusively rule out the mass hysteria theory.
[…]
One diplomat on the call described that response as “invalidating and inconsiderate.” Another said that Spratlen was “very clearly saying that she has not ruled out that we’re crazy.”  “In the end, we were interrupting Spratlen to try to get people in” to speak, a third diplomat on the call said. “It was ugly.”

Folks, if they’re talking about protocols in place that aren’t in place almost seven months after Blinken took office, then one can’t help but agree that Secretary Blinken is treating this “as an afterthought” as per former Senior CIA official Marc Polymeropoulos.
Another reason why we agree? Ambassador Spratlen who was appointed as Senior Advisor to the Havana Syndrome Task Force back in March is reportedly leaving after six months on the job. “The State Department says she’d reached her threshold of allowed labor hours under her status as a retiree.
Well, dammit! So Foggy Bottom did not know that she’s going to max out on her allowed labor hours? Excuse me, did they think this job is going to be done after 950 hours on the job? (Also see Havana Syndrome Questions @StateDept Refuses to Answer). Note that State Department’s re-employed annuitant employees can work no more than 1,040 hours during their appointment year.
McClatchy says that Blinken “considers choosing her [Spratlen’s] replacement an important decision, a senior State Department official said.
“The secretary has been seized with this issue even before he became secretary,” the official said. “One of the meetings he proactively requested before the transition was on this issue.”
Oh holymoly guacamole, give it a rest PR people! This is an old, old tired trick, even an old dog would not pick up this stick!
Frankly, this is  getting to be so exhausting! Look. The fact of the matter is it doesn’t matter if Secretary Blinken requested “proactively” a meeting on the Havana Syndrome issue BEFORE the transition.
In fact, the next State Department official to bring up Blinken’s request for a Havana Syndrome briefing before the transition should be promptly fired for persistently living in the past.
What matters is — what Blinken is doing about this issue NOW.

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US Amb to Rwanda Peter Vrooman to be Ambassador to Mozambique

 

President Biden recently announced his intent to nominate Peter Hendrick Vrooman to be the next Ambassador to Mozambique. The WH released the following brief bio:

Peter Hendrick Vrooman, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Mozambique

Peter Hendrick Vrooman, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Rwanda.  Ambassador Vrooman recently served as the Chargé d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Prior to that he served as the spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi; Director for Iraq on the staff of the National Security Council in Washington, D.C.; and Deputy Political Counselor in Tel Aviv and at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.  He also worked at the U.S. embassies in Baghdad, Beirut, and Djibouti, as well as the U.S. Liaison Office in Mogadishu, Somalia.  In Washington, he was a Watch Officer in the Department of State’s Operations Center and the Desk Officer for Algeria in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.  A native of New York, Ambassador Vrooman graduated from Harvard College with a B.A. in Social Studies and earned an M.S. in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces, now known as the Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy.  Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he worked as the special assistant to the President of the American University in Cairo.

If confirmed, Ambassador Vrooman would succeed Ambassador Dennis Walter Hearne, a career diplomat who was served in Maputo since January 2019.

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Biden Nominates John Bass to be Under Secretary of State For Management

 

President Biden announced his intent to nominate former Ambassador John Bass to be the next Under Secretary of State for Management. The WH released the following brief bio:

John R. Bass, Nominee for Under Secretary of State for Management

John R. Bass, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Career Minister, currently is a Senior Advisor at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute. He has served as Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey, and Ambassador to the Republic of Georgia.  Previously, Bass focused, among other things, on supporting U.S. government efforts to mobilize allies and marshal resources to combat terrorism and instability in Iraq, Syria and Southwest Asia.  He served at seven U.S. Missions overseas including as Team Leader of Provincial Reconstruction Team – Baghdad at the American Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.  In addition, he was the Executive Secretary of the State Department and held other senior leadership positions at the Department of State.  Bass earned an A.B. Cum Laude from Syracuse University. 

According to his online bios, Ambassador Bass began his diplomatic career in 1988 with early postings reportedly in Chad, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy.
In 1992, he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate for appointment as Foreign Service Officers of Class Four, Consular Officers and Secretaries in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America.
In 1998, he went to work for Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott (1994-2001) first as a special assistant for Europe and Eurasia and later as Talbott’s chief of staff in 2000 (presumably until Talbott’s departure from Foggy Bottom in 2001).
He served at the U.S. Embassy in Rome from 2002 to 2004.
From 2004 to 2005, Bass was a special advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney for Europe and Eurasia.
From 2005-2008, Bass was director of the State Department Operations Center during Condoleezza Rice’s tenure as secretary of state.
About 19 years after joining the Foreign Service, he was promoted into the Senior Foreign Service (SFS). In 2007, he was confirmed as a Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Counselor.
He led the Baghdad Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) from 2008-2009.
President Obama nominated him as Ambassador to Georgia where he served from August 2009 to 2012.
In 2011, he was promoted within the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor
He served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of State and Executive Secretary from 2012–2014, partly during Clinton’s tenure (2009-2013), and during Kerry’s tenure (2013-2017).
He served as Obama’s Ambassador to Turkey from 2014-2017
He served as  Trump’s Ambassador to Afghanistan from December 2017-January 2020.
Some 10 years after his promotion into the SFS, he was promoted within the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Career Minister in 2017.
In January 2020, he stepped down from a two-year tenure as Ambassador to Afghanistan.
We’re not sure where he went after Kabul but 18 months later, he was back in the news.
On July 21, 2021, President Biden announced his intent to nominate him as Under Secretary for Management at the State Department.
On August 18, the State Department sent him to Kabul to help with the evacuation (see @StateDept Sends M Nominee John Bass to Kabul to Leverage “Logistics Experience” in Evacuation).
As of this writing, his nomination (PN922 ) is pending at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
There is no/no other position in Foggy Bottom that has a more significant impact on the lives of employees and family members than the Under Secretary of State for Management. Now, we know that press clips say this appointment is part of the Biden’s administration’s “efforts to revive a demoralized diplomatic corps.”   We’ve also heard some quarters argue that the nominee is a 7th floor denizen who has never served in the Bureau of Administration or any of the functional bureaus under M, etc. etc. Remains to be seen either way what impact he makes once he is in office; he will be facing not just morale issues but also a host of internal management challenges.
Some added perspective –Ambassador Bass is not the secretary of state’s BFF unlike his predecessor; one could consider that good news. Also, he’s been in the service for 33 years, so with few exceptions, he knows more than most people appointed as State/M. He won’t need six months getting to know the institution and learning all the acronyms! If confirmed, he would only be the third career diplomat appointed as Under Secretary for Management (the others being Ronald Ian Spiers who served as “M” from 1983–1989 and Patrick F. Kennedy  who served from 2007–2017).
Hey, three career appointees out of the total 16 appointees since 1953 is a record!
Also good news, Ambassador Bass doesn’t have an Operation Anvil baggage coming into the job currently encumbered by …. ah, what were they thinking?!

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