Amb. Rena Bitter to be Asst Secretary of State for Consular Affairs

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On April 21, President Biden announced his intent to nominate SFSO and former Ambassador Rena Bitter to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs. The WH released the following brief bio:
Rena Bitter, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State, Consular Affairs, Department of State
Rena Bitter, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is Dean of the Leadership and Management School at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute and a former U.S. Ambassador to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.  Previously, she was the U.S. Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and chief of the consular section in Amman, Jordan.  She also served in London, Bogota, and Mexico City.  In Washington, she was Director of the State Department’s Operations Center, and a Special Assistant to the Secretary of State.  Bitter has a Bachelor’s Degree from Northwestern University, and a J.D. from Southern Methodist University.  She is a recipient of American Citizens Abroad’s Thomas Jefferson Award for outstanding service to the American community abroad.  She speaks Spanish, Arabic and Vietnamese.

CG Rena Bitter with Ambassador Ted Osius | Via FB (2016)

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (Jun 27, 1952; P.L. 82-414; 66 Stat. 174) established within the Department of State a Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs, headed by an Administrator designated by the Secretary of State with rank equal to that of an Assistant Secretary. In 1962, this position became a Presidential appointee subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. In 1977, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1978 changed the Administrator’s title to “Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.”
All appointees to the Consular Affairs bureau from 1953 to 1980 were non-career appointees. This trend was interrupted by the appointments of career FSOs Diego Asencio in 1980, and again in 1983 with  Joan Clark. Political appointees assumed charged of the bureau in 1989 when Elizabeth Tamposi was appointed, and more recently in 2017 with Carl Risch’s appointment. If confirmed Ambassador Bitter would only be the seventh career FSO to lead the most public facing bureau of the State Department.

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New Biden Nominations: DGHR, EUR, NEA, AF, IO, DS and CSO

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On April 15, President Biden announced his intent to nominate the following individuals for top positions in the geographic and functional bureaus of the State Department.
  • Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat to be Director General of the Foreign Service and the Chair of the Board of the Foreign Service (DGHR)
  • Karen Erika Donfried to be Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR)
  • Barbara A. Leaf to be Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (NEA)
  • Mary Catherine Phee to be Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (AF) and Member of the Board of Directors of the African Development Foundation (AFD)
  • Michele Jeanne Sison to be Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (IO)
  • Gentry O. Smith to be Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security (DS)
  • Anne A. Witkowsky to be Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) and Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization
For the geographic bureaus, President Biden previously nominated Ambassador Brian Nichols to be A/S for Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) and Ambassador Daniel J. Kritenbrink for  the East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP). With these new nominees for EUR, NEA, AF and IO, we are now waiting for just SCA to complete the line up under the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P). The nominee for “P”, Victoria Nuland had her confirmation hearing before the SFRC on 4/15/21.
If all these nominees are confirmed, it looks like at the regional bureaus, Foggy Bottom will have  one non-career appointee (EUR), one retired FS (NEA), four active career FS (WHA, EAP, AF, IO) , and one as yet unknown for SCA. During the previous administration, these top geographic bureau positions were all filled with non-career appointees (the assistant secretary for the AF bureau was a retired FS). This is a hopeful start.
The WH released the following brief bio:
Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, Nominee for Director General of the Foreign Service and the Chair of the Board of the Foreign Service

Marcia Bernicat, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as the Senior Official for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment and as Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs of the Department of State.  Previously, she was the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh, U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea Bissau, and Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Human Resources at the State Department.  She also served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassies in Barbados and Malawi and as Principal Officer of the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca, Morocco. Bernicat earned a Master of Science in Foreign Service Degree at Georgetown University and a Bachelor’s Degree at Lafayette College.  Her foreign languages are French, Hindi and Russian and she is a recipient of the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award.

Karen Erika Donfried, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs

Dr. Karen Donfried currently serves as President of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF).  Before assuming this position in April 2014, Donfried was the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council.  Prior to that, she served as the National Intelligence Officer for Europe on the National Intelligence Council.  She first joined GMF in 2001 after having served for ten years as a European specialist at the Congressional Research Service.  When she was at GMF from 2005 to 2010, she first served as senior director of policy programs and then as executive vice president.  From 2003-2005, she worked in the Policy Planning office at the U.S. Department of State, handling the Europe portfolio.  Donfried has written and spoken extensively on German foreign policy, European integration, and transatlantic relations.  She is a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Center for European Studies.  The King of the Belgians awarded the Commander of the Order of the Crown to her in 2020 and she became an Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 2018.  Additionally, she received the Cross of the Order of Merit from the German Government in 2011 and a Superior Service Medal from the National Intelligence Community in 2014.  She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Council on Germany.  Donfried has a Ph.D. and MALD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, a Magister from the University of Munich, Germany and holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University.  She is fluent in German. 

Barbara A. Leaf, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs

Barbara A. Leaf is the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Middle East and North Africa Affairs on the National Security Council.  Prior to this, she was the Ruth and Sid Lapidus Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Director of the Beth and David Geduld Program on Arab Politics.  She previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Arabian Peninsula in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq at the State Department.  She directed the U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team in Basrah, Iraq and was the Department’s first Director of the Office of Iranian Affairs.  Leaf also has served in Rome, Sarajevo, Paris, Cairo, Tunis, Jerusalem and Port-au-Prince.  She speaks Arabic, French, Italian and Serbo-Croatian.  Leaf has a Bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary and a Master’s degree from the University of Virginia. 

Mary Catherine Phee, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the African Development Foundation

Mary Catherine Phee, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor, currently serves as Principal Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation at the State Department.  She was U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan from 2015 to 2017.  Previously, she served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and as Chief of Staff in the Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.  She also was the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs and Deputy Security Council Coordinator at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, handling UN engagement in Africa for both portfolios.  Earlier in her career, Phee served as Director for Iraq at the National Security Council and as Senior Civilian Representative of the Coalition Provisional Authority to Maysan Province, Iraq.  She began her career in Amman, Jordan and also worked at U.S. Embassies in Cairo, Egypt and Kuwait City, Kuwait.  She received the Robert C. Frasure Memorial Award for conflict resolution and peacemaking, the James A. Baker, III-C. Howard Wilkins, Jr. Award for Outstanding Deputy Chief of Mission, the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the Order of the British Empire Award, and a Presidential Rank Award.  She speaks Arabic.  A native of Chicago, she is a graduate of Indiana University and holds a Master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. 

Michele Jeanne Sison, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs

Michele Jeanne Sison, a five-time Ambassador, has extensive experience in advancing U.S. interests through multilateral diplomacy.  Sison has served as U.S. Ambassador to Haiti since 2018.   She also served as Deputy Representative of the United States to the United Nations (with the rank of Ambassador) from 2014 to 2018, where she helped build global coalitions to counter transnational threats to peace and security and advocated for a more effective, efficient, and accountable UN and multilateral system.  She also has long experience with UN peacekeeping and the UN entities responsible for development, humanitarian relief, and human rights in the field.  Previously, she served as U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Assistant Chief of Mission in Iraq, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, and Deputy Chief of Mission in Pakistan.  Her earlier tours include India, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Benin, Togo, Haiti, and Washington.  Sison received a B.A. from Wellesley College and is the recipient of numerous State Department awards, including the Distinguished Service Award and the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Service.  She holds the personal rank of Career Ambassador, the highest rank in the U.S. Foreign Service.

Gentry O. Smith, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security

Gentry O. Smith leads The Gentry Group, LLC, a security consulting firm.  A former career member of the Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, he served as the Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Countermeasures in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and the Director of Physical Security Programs in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the State Department.  Other State Department postings include assignments as Regional Security Officer at the U.S.  Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, Deputy Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, Burma.  Smith also served as a Special Agent in the Criminal Investigative Liaison Division, Special Agent on the Secretary of State Protection Detail, and Assistant Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.  He earned a B.A. in political science from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Anne A. Witkowsky, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations and Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization

Anne A. Witkowsky most recently served as the Co-Director of the Task Force on U.S. Strategy to Support Democracy and Counter Authoritarianism, a partnership of Freedom House, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the McCain Institute.  She has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Stability and Humanitarian Affairs in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy at the Pentagon and as the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Coordinator, and Deputy Assistant Coordinator, in the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism.  Witkowsky was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC and earlier served as Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control on the National Security Council Staff at the White House.  She earned a Master in Public Administration degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and a Bachelor’s degree from Yale. She has been recognized with a number of awards including the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service and the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Civilian Service.

 

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Career Diplomat Brian A. Nichols to be Asst. Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA)

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On March 26, 2021, President Biden announced his intent to nominate senior career diplomat Brian A. Nichols to be Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA). The WH released the following brief bio:

Brian A. Nichols, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Career Minister, currently serves as U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe.  He was U.S. Ambassador to Perú from 2014 to 2017.  Previously, Nichols served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).  Prior to that he was a Deputy Assistant Secretary in INL.  He also served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia, Director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs, and Counselor for Political Affairs at the American Embassy in Indonesia.  Earlier in his career, Nichols served as Deputy Political Counselor in Mexico.  He also worked in the Office of UN Political Affairs, the Office of Central American Affairs, and the Executive Secretariat. Nichols began his Foreign Service career as a Consular Officer in Perú and then as a Political Officer in El Salvador.  He received the 2016 Charles E. Cobb, Jr. Award for Initiative and Success in Trade Development, two Presidential Meritorious Service Awards, and 13 Senior Performance Awards.  He speaks Spanish.  A native of Rhode Island, he is a graduate of Tufts University.

According to history.state.gov, the Department had first established a Division of Latin American Affairs in 1909. The Department of State created the position of Assistant Secretary of State for American Republic Affairs during the general reorganization of Dec 20, 1944, after Congress had authorized an increase in the number of Assistant Secretaries of State from four to six (Dec 8, 1944; P.L. 78-472; 58 Stat. 798). On January 12, 1999, the Bureau assumed responsibility for Canada and was renamed the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. More here.
The most recent career diplomat confirmed by the U.S. Senate to lead the Western Hemisphere bureau was Thomas Alfred Shannon Jr. who served from 2005–2009. He was succeeded by political appointees: Arturo Valenzuela (2009–2011), Roberta S. Jacobson (2012–2016) under the Obama Administration and Kimberly Breier (2018-2019) under the Trump Administration. At least four designates have also served in an acting capacity: political appointee Mari Carmen Aponte; SES Michael Kozak, career diplomats Francisco “Paco” Palmieri and Julie J. Chung .
According to AFSA’s appointment tracker going back to 1975, the Western Hemisphere bureau has a 50 percent split between career and political/other appointees.
The AP notes that Ambassador Nichols would be the first Black assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs since Terence Todman in the late 1970s (see Terence Alphonso Todman ).

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Brett M. Holmgren to be Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR)

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On March 26, 2021, President Biden announced his intent to nominate Brett M. Holmgren to serve as  Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR). The WH released the following brief bio:

Brett M. Holmgren served as the Deputy for Nominations for the Biden-Harris Transition Team, and as Co-Chair of the Intelligence Working Group for Biden for President.  Earlier, Holmgren was Vice President for Technology Risk Management at Capital One Financial.  Prior to that, he was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council, where he also previously served as Senior Policy Advisor to the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.  Earlier, Holmgren was Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Director for Counterterrorism at the National Security Council, and a political analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency.  Holmgren began his government service as a counterterrorism analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency.   Holmgren is the recipient of numerous performance awards, including the Director of National Intelligence Superior Service Award, the Central Intelligence Agency Director’s award, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense Exceptional Civilian Service Award.  He received a Bachelor’s Degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Master’s Degree, summa cum laude, from Johns Hopkins University.

According to history.state.gov, on Oct 10, 1957, the Department of State elevated the position of Special Assistant to the Secretary for Intelligence and Research to that of Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, with rank equivalent to that of an Assistant Secretary of State. Since 1947, the Special Assistant had been in charge of intelligence functions that the Department of State first received after the abolition of the wartime Office of Strategic Services in 1945. An Act of Congress (P.L. 99-93) of Aug 16, 1985, authorized the appointment of an Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research. Prior to this date, the Secretary of State designated all Directors of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Since Aug 1986, all incumbents have served as Assistant Secretaries of State and been commissioned by the President.
The most recent career diplomat to head INR was Ambassador Daniel Bennett Smith who served from 2014–2018, and then was sent to oversee the Foreign Service Institute. Ambassador Smith was  INR Assistant Secretary for two years at the end of the Obama administration and two years at the beginning of the Trump administration.
According to AFSA’s appointment tracker, 57.1% of INR appointees were career appointments. Four of the career appointees to INR since 1986, also have the personal rank of career ambassador: Morton Isaac Abramowitz (1985–1989); J. Stapleton Roy (1999–2001); Philip S. Goldberg (2010–2013); and Daniel Bennett Smith (2014–2018).
If confirmed, Mr. Holmgreen would succeed Ellen McCarthy who served at INR from January 2019 until January 2020.
Related post:
March 2019: Secretary Mike Pompeo Swears-In New INR Assistant Secretary Ellen E. McCarthy

 

 

Ambassador Daniel B. Smith to be Acting Secretary of State Pending Tony Blinken’s Confirmation

–Update below on State/M

The 70th Secretary of State left Foggy Bottom for good before the presidential swearing-in of January 20. Finally. A short clip here from CNN correspondent Kylie Atwood shows the now former secretary of state leaving through the empty halls of HST, apparently  “to a small round of applause from political appointees.” Whatever. We could see Foggy Bottom’s smoke of relief from our house.
We should note that Rex Tillerson got a polite goodbye when he left in 2018 (see Foggy Bottom Bids Goodbye to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson).
Soon after the now former secretary’s exit, the ‘ethos for some but not for others’ wall decors also came tumbling down.  The new State Department spokesperson Ned Price told the AP’s Matt Lee, “We are confident that our colleagues do not need a reminder of the values we share.
Excuse me, who inherited the swagger swags?
Also on January 20, President Biden announced the acting agency leadership across the Biden-Harris administration pending confirmation of permanent leadership by the U.S. Senate. For the State Department, the Acting Secretary of State is Ambassador Daniel Smith, one of the few senior career officials at the agency with the personal rank of Career Ambassador. Until his appointment to the acting position, he was the Director of the Foreign Service Institute. Prior to that, he was Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research from 2013 to 2018 and was Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic from 2010 to 2013.
Traditionally, the highest ranking career official, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P) is appointed as Acting Secretary of State pending confirmation of the new secretary of state.  This would have been David Hale, a career FSO (also with personal rank of Career Ambassador) who has been on that job since September 2018. That’s not the case this time. It is, of course, the administration’s prerogative who to appoint in an acting capacity.
We’ve seen one reporting that attributes the Hale skip over to the statements he made in December following the reported COVID-19 diagnosis of Pompeo’s wife. At that time, the State Department also “slammed the leak of Susan Pompeo’s diagnosis” according to Fox News. The person who spoke for the State Department and blamed his colleagues for “the persistent culture of leaks” was not the spokesperson.  Should be interesting to read the oral history related to this at some point.
Given that all but two of the under secretary and assistant secretary positions in the State Department were filled with political appointees, January 20 also came with the departure of the top functional and bureau officials in Foggy Bottom. The only two positions encumbered by Senate-confirmed career officials were U/Secretary for Political Affairs (David Hale) and the Director General of the Foreign Service (Carol Perez). As best we could tell, Hale is still U/Secretary for Political Affairs. DGHR, however, is now encumbered by Ambassador Kenneth Merten as the bureau’s senior official according to state.gov.  Update 1/21 11:32 am: Carol Perez is listed as senior official for the U/Secretary for Management (this also skips the Deputy M).
All regional bureaus under the U/Secretary for Political Affairs are currently headed by career officials designated as “senior official” or “senior bureau official.” The same goes for all functional bureaus. Overseas, it looks like all political ambassadors have stepped down, except for a few who are non-FS but are in the Civil Service. The US Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan, a former Deputy Secretary of State appears to have remained at post as of this writing. When this happens during the transition, it is typically with the approval of the new administration.
President Biden has previously announced the nomination of the following senior officials:
Ambassador Wendy R. Sherman as Deputy Secretary of State
Brian P. McKeon as Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources
Dr. Bonnie Jenkins as Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs
Ambassador Victoria Nuland as Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Uzra Zeya as Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
Unless we’ve missed the announcement, the nominees for the following positions are still forthcoming:
Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment
Under Secretary of State for Management
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs

 


 

 

 

 

@StateDept Skirts Thresholds in Arms Transfers to Saudi Arabia and UAE, Avoids Congressional Notifications

 

On August 10, a Senior State Department official held an on-background briefing on State/OIG’s  still unreleased report of the May 2019 Emergency Certification for Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Jordan.
The State Department also released a statement Inspector General Confirms No Wrongdoing in Emergency Arms Sales to Counter Iran, The Secretary’s “Emergency Certification Was Properly Executed” and “Complied with the Requirements” of Law.
The cover memo to Pol-Mil that accompanied the IG report dated August 10 says that “OIG will distribute a copy of this report to Congress and post a redacted version of this report on OIG’s public website within 2 business days.” Then the agency basically Bill Barred the IG report, putting a fine spin on the IG report, most likely expecting a couple of days of most favorable headlines.
State/OIG posted the report online on Tuesday, August 11. But nice try by Foggy Bottom’s spin-doctors. Now folks got to read the actual report though a redacted one. The IG report says that “In a memorandum dated July 27, 2020, the Department asserted that its requested redactions were necessary to protect executive branch confidentiality interests and, further, stated its position that the Secretary “has the authority to direct the OIG not to disclose privileged information, and the Department may do so without any final assertion of executive privilege.”
Well, not only redactions from the public report, but a more extensive redactions from the classified report that they also want to withhold from the Congress:

“On August 5, 2020, the Department provided its redactions to OIG’s report. Although the Department withheld relatively little information in the unclassified portion of the report,4 it withheld significant information in the classified annex necessary to understand OIG’s finding and recommendation.”
[…]
“Department asserted that the redactions made to the classified annex should be withheld from Congress because the underlying information implicates “executive branch confidentiality interests, including executive privilege.”

But see, if the State Department could assert any redaction for State/OIG’s work products, including in the classified annex to be withheld from Congress, what’s to keep Pompeo from asserting the same thing over IG investigations related to him, his wife, or any other senior officials?
It’s high time for the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) to go in and take a look at the State Department given the circumstances of the Linick firing, the abrupt resignations of the acting State OIG, as well as the dismissal of other IGs in multiple agencies. Starting with the State Department, CIGIE can then “address the integrity, economy, and effectiveness issues that transcend individual Government agencies.”
Summary of Review of Arms Transfers

“In response to congressional requests, OIG reviewed the Department of State’s (Department) role in arms transfers to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates following the Secretary’s May 2019 certification that an emergency existed under Section 36 of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA). 2 The Secretary’s emergency certification3 waived congressional review requirements for 22 arms transfer cases to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,4 with a total value of approximately $8.1 billion. Congress had previously placed holds5 on 15 of the 22 arms transfer cases included in the May 2019 emergency certification. At the time the Secretary certified the emergency, 6 of the 15 cases had been held by Congress for more than a year. The held cases included at least $3.8 billion in precision-guided munitions (PGMs) 6 and related transfers. In explaining the decision to place the holds, members of Congress cited concerns about the actions of the Saudi-led Coalition (Coalition)7 in Yemen since 2015, including high rates of civilian casualties caused by Coalition airstrikes employing U.S.- supplied PGMs.

For this review, OIG examined the process and timeline associated with the Secretary’s May 2019 use of emergency authorities contained in the AECA. OIG also evaluated the Department’s implementation of measures designed to reduce the risk of civilian harm caused by Saudi-led Coalition military operations in Yemen and analyzed Department processes for reviewing arms transfers that do not require notification to Congress. 8 The AECA affords the President or Secretary considerable discretion in determining what constitutes an emergency. Moreover, the AECA does not define the term “emergency.” Accordingly, OIG did not evaluate whether the Iranian malign threats cited in the Secretary’s May 2019 certification and associated memorandum of justification constituted an emergency, nor did OIG make any assessment of the policy decisions underlying the arms transfers and the associated emergency.

OIG determined that the Secretary’s emergency certification was executed in accordance with the requirements of the AECA. However, OIG also found that the Department did not fully assess risks and implement mitigation measures to reduce civilian casualties and legal concerns associated with the transfer of PGMs included in the May 2019 emergency certification.9 In addition, OIG found the Department regularly approved arms transfers to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that fell below AECA thresholds that trigger notification to Congress. These approvals included items such as PGM components on which Congress had placed holds in cases where the transfers reached the thresholds requiring congressional notification. However, the AECA does not require the Department to notify Congress if it approves transactions below those thresholds specified in the law. OIG issued one recommendation to the Department in a classified annex10 that accompanies this report.”

Wait, the “emergency certification was executed in accordance with the requirements of the AECA” but the OIG made no evaluation whether it was an emergency?  So, that’s something. Was this the same position taken by the former IG Steve Linick?
Per footnote:

Sections 36(b)(1), 36(c)(1), and 36(d)(1) of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. § 2776) specify the types of arms transfers that must be notified to Congress. For example, transfers to countries other than NATO members, Japan, Australia, the Republic of Korea, Israel, or New Zealand of major defense equipment in excess of $14 million and non-major defense equipment in excess of $50 million must be notified to Congress.

4,221 Below-Threshold Arms Transfers Estimated at $11.2 Billion

OIG reviewed Department records on approved arms transfer cases involving Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that fell below the AECA thresholds that trigger notification to Congress.41 The records show the Department approved a total of 4,221 below-threshold arms transfers involving Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with an estimated total value of $11.2 billion since January 2017. Components of PGMs were among the below-threshold transfers to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates approved during this period. Although the Department approved below-threshold transfers of PGM components as early as January 2017, the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security notified the Secretary in 2018 and 2019 that the Department intended to proceed with additional below-threshold approvals notwithstanding congressional holds on larger, above-threshold transfers of similar items.

So basically, the State Department did separate below threshold arms transfers to Saudi Arabia and UAE and avoided the required congressional notifications. Apparently, it will continue to do so despite congressional holds on similar items.
Looks like the State Department is daring Congress to do something about this. Here’s Pompeo also touting full “vindication.”

Also on August 11, Politico’s tireless reporter Nahal Toosi covering the State Department published a copy of the same OIG report, unredacted.
The unredacted document is posted here labeled in red “FOR INTERNAL U.S. GOVERNMENT/COMMITTEE USE ONLY – NOT FOR PUBLIC RELEASE MAY NOT BE FURTHER DISCLOSED WITHOUT CONSENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE.  Wow! Now you can see which part of the public report, the State Department asserted the public should not see (it has to do with the timeline of the emergency declaration and the bureau involved. And oh, money, money, money).

OIG Issues Recommendation For US Embassy London: EUR Says Nah! Y’all Can Just View Workplace Harassment Videos

The long awaited OIG report on US Embassy London was finally released on August 12 (PDF). The inspection was conducted from September 3 to December 9, 2019. Copies of the draft report were furnished to “Department stakeholders” including the EUR bureau and the US Embassy in London. The report does not say when this draft report was sent out for comments. It also does not indicate if it sent a copy of this draft report to the Under Secretary for Management and Pompeo BFF Brian Bulatao. The State Department left a Senior Bureau official in EUR to respond on behalf of State Department Management.
Late April. According to the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), the inspection report went to US Embassy London for comment (see Watchdog Firing Came Amid Probe of Trump’s Friend, the U.S. Ambassador in London).
On Friday, May 15, 2020,  the Senate-confirmed OIG Steve Linick was fired  (Trump to fire State/OIG Steve Linick who is reportedly investigating Pompeo). NYT reported that Linick has been locked out of his office, despite a law mandating a 30-day waiting period for Congress to raise objections.
May 15, 2020, the President appointed Stephen Akard as Acting Inspector General (PDF).
On May 27, 2020, the US Ambassador to London Woody Johnson wrote a memo to the OIG Assistant Inspector General for Inspections Sandra Lewis in response to the draft report.
June 4, 2020: Acting OIG Stephen Akard informed Congress that he stepped away from OFM operations and is recused on “all matters related to OFM”, “matters I worked on”, and matters involving individuals he know personally (PDF).
On July 1, 2020, the EUR Bureau’s Senior Official Philip Reeker (they’ve given up on having a Senate-confirmed assistant secretary) responded to the draft report according to State/OIG.  Reeker’s memo sent to State/OIG Sandra Lewis , appended to the OIG report, does not include the date it was written, and contains just one paragraph in response to OIG’s Recommendation 1. The EUR bureau did not even bother to respond to OIG Recommendation 9 related to the $31.5 million deficit in the the defined benefit pension plan for the LE staff of US Mission London.
August 5, 2020: Politico reported that Acting OIG Stephen Akard has resigned and not expected to return to the office for the remainder of the week.
August 7, 2020: Acting Inspector General Stephen Akard officially resigned from his position (PDF).
On August 12, 2020, State/OIG under Acting IG – Diana R. Shaw (deputy to Linick, then Akard) released its report of US Embassy London, omits from its front page summary the topics that merited the longest response from both the EUR bureau and the ambassador. Should be interesting to see what that draft report looked like. Excerpt below from publicly available OIG report (PDF):

Tone at the Top and Standards of Conduct

The Chief of Mission, a first time, non-career ambassador, arrived in August 2017 and presented his credentials to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in November 2017. From New Jersey, he was a businessman and philanthropist. The DCM, a career Senior Foreign Service officer, arrived in January 2019 following an assignment as acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Egypt and North Africa. Prior to that, she had multiple domestic and overseas assignments, principally in or involving the Near East.

When the Ambassador arrived at Embassy London in late summer 2017, he assumed responsibility from the previous DCM who had served as Chargé d’Affaires for approximately 7 months. OIG learned that the relationship between the Ambassador and the former DCM deteriorated during the year that they worked together, affecting mission morale and ending in the DCM’s reassignment. Based on interviews with embassy staff, OIG concluded that the Ambassador did not always model the Department’s leadership and management principles as contained in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214 and, in particular, 3 FAM 1214b(4) and (6) regarding communication and self-awareness. For example, some embassy staff told OIG that when the Ambassador was frustrated with what he interpreted to be excessive staff caution or resistance to suggestions about which he felt strongly, he sometimes questioned their intentions or implied that he might have them replaced. This caused staff to grow wary of providing him with their best judgment. With the arrival of the current DCM, chosen by the Ambassador, staff generally reported to OIG that they saw better communication from the Front Office and an increased confidence from the Ambassador in the mission’s staff.

OIG also found that some staff were impacted by the Ambassador’s demanding, hard driving work style and it had a negative effect on morale in some embassy sections. In addition, OIG learned, through employee questionnaires and interviews, that the Ambassador sometimes made inappropriate or insensitive comments on topics generally considered Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)-sensitive, such as religion, sex, or color. According to 3 FAM 1526.1, offensive or derogatory comments, based on an individual’s race, color, sex, or religion, can create an offensive working environment and could potentially rise to a violation of EEO laws. Based on the information that OIG learned during the inspection, and pursuant to the requirements in 3 FAM 1526.2, a more thorough review by the Department is warranted.

Recommendation 1:

The Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, in coordination with the Office of Civil Rights, should assess the Chief of Mission’s compliance with Department Equal Employment Opportunity or leadership policies and based on the results of the review, take appropriate action. (Action: EUR, in coordination with S/OCR)

Washington interlocutors plus “coffee and donuts”

At the time of the inspection, OIG interviews indicated that both the Ambassador and the DCM modeled 3 FAM 1214 attributes of strategic planning and decisiveness. The Ambassador advised the embassy staff on the importance of spending U.S. taxpayer monies wisely, and he and the DCM practiced proper procedures with respect to receipt of gifts. Both mission employees and Washington interlocutors told OIG the Ambassador was reaching out to U.S. direct-hire and LE staff in an effort to know them better, to convey his appreciation for their work, and to continue to familiarize himself with the many aspects of the complex, multiagency mission he was leading. OIG also learned of several efforts by the Ambassador to engage with his staff, including an event at his residence, Winfield House, for LE staff with 30 years or more of service. He also invited staff to join him for informal “coffee and donuts” gatherings in the embassy. Staff and senior Washington interlocutors told OIG they were encouraged by the constructive and effective partnership formed between the Ambassador and the DCM.

Johnson’s Response to Recommendation 1, May 27, 2020 Memo to OIG:

During my tenure as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom and indeed for the entirety of my professional life, I have respected both the law and the spirit of EEO principles and have ensured that all employees under my direction do the same. If I have unintentionally offended anyone in the execution of my duties, I deeply regret that, but I do not accept that I have treated employees with disrespect or discriminated in any way. My objective is to lead the highly talented team at Mission UK to execute the President’s policies and to do so in a way that is respectful of our differences, with zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. I believe that team cohesion in our mission is better than ever and as is stated in the OIG report’s narrative, that I have taken extensive measures to get to know all of the staff and thank them for their contributions. I am especially proud of how the Mission UK team has handled these challenging times of COVID-19.

In order to address the concerns documented in your report, perceived or real, I have reviewed an S/OCR course on discrimination in the workplace and have instructed the entire Mission UK country team to do the same, with 100% compliance by the end of May. I respectfully disagree with Recommendation 1 and ask that the OIG consider the absence of any official complaints against me during my three year tenure and the generally positive tone of the OIG report on Mission UK before including the recommendation in the final report and concluding that my actions have negatively affected morale.

Management Response (State/EUR) to Recommendation 1, Memo to OIG:

In its July 1, 2020,2 response, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs disagreed with this recommendation. The bureau stated, that given the concern expressed, the Ambassador has viewed the Office of Civil Rights video on workplace harassment and has instructed all section and agency heads to do the same. He has also encouraged all staff to take the Foreign Service Institute training on mitigating unconscious bias. The bureau also represented that the Ambassador “is well aware of his responsibility to set the right tone for his mission and we believe his actions demonstrate that.” Accordingly, the bureau reported it did not believe a formal assessment was required, but proposed that, in coordination with the embassy, it would instead work with the Office of Civil Rights to provide advice and additional training to all staff, including the Chief of Mission, to heighten awareness on these important issues.

Here is the full undated response from the bureau via State/OIG:

OIG Reply to EUR’s response: SIR! Have you meet your obligations under 3 FAM 1526.2, SIR?

OIG considers the recommendation unresolved. OIG acknowledges the actions that the mission has taken with regard to training of staff and the stated bureau proposal to work with the Office of Civil Rights to provide advice and additional training to all staff. These actions, however, do not address the recommendation which calls for an assessment of Chief of Mission compliance with Department Equal Employment Opportunity or leadership policies. The recommendation can be closed when OIG receives and accepts documentation that the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs has met its obligations under 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1526.2.

Read on:
3 FAM 1526.2 The Department’s Responsibilities Under This Policy
[Under 3 FAM 1520 – NON-DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF RACE, COLOR, NATIONAL ORIGIN, SEX, OR RELIGION]
(CT:PER-631;   12-14-2010)
(State) (Foreign Service and Civil Service Employees)

a. If the Department receives an allegation of discriminatory harassment, or has reason to believe such harassment is occurring, it will take the steps necessary to ensure that the matter is promptly investigated and addressed.  If the allegation is determined to be credible, the Department will take immediate and effective measures to end the unwelcome behavior.  The Department is committed to taking action if it learns of possible discriminatory harassment, even if the individual does not wish to file a formal complaint.

b. The Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) is the main contact point for questions or concerns about discriminatory harassment.  S/OCR is responsible for investigating or overseeing investigations of alleged discriminatory harassment.  S/OCR is committed to ensuring that all investigations are conducted in a prompt, thorough, and impartial manner.

c.  Supervisors and other responsible Department officials who observe, are informed of, or reasonably suspect incidents of possible discriminatory harassment must immediately report such incidents to S/OCR, which will either initiate or oversee a prompt investigation.  Failure to report such incidents to S/OCR will be considered a violation of this policy and may result in disciplinary action.

d. S/OCR will provide guidance as needed on investigating and handling the potential harassment.  Supervisors should take effective measures to ensure no further apparent or alleged harassment occurs pending completion of an investigation.

e. The Department will seek to protect the identities of the alleged victim and harasser, except as reasonably necessary (for example, to complete an investigation successfully).  The Department will also take the necessary steps to protect from retaliation those employees who in good faith report incidents of potential discriminatory harassment.  It is a violation of both Federal law and this policy to retaliate against someone who has reported unlawful harassment.  Violators may be subject to discipline.

f.  Employees who have been found by the Department to have discriminatorily harassed others may be subject to discipline or other appropriate management action.  Discipline will be appropriate to the circumstances, ranging from a letter of reprimand to suspensions without pay to separation for cause.  A verbal or written admonishment, while not considered formal discipline, may also be considered.

So, who you gonna call? 
Dammit, the Ghostbusters!

 

Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Michael Evanoff Resigns

 

WaPo’s John Hudson is reporting that DS Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Michael T. Evanoff has informed DS employees of his resignation with an expected departure next week. He reportedly has a new job at a “multinational company.  Mr. Evanoff who was a career special agent in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security from 1985 to 2011 was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security (DS) on November 3, 2017. Prior to his return to State in 2017, he was the Vice President for Asset Protection & Security for Walmart International, Inc. in Arkansas. He also previously served as Chief Security Officer at Coca-Cola HBC, in Zug, Switzerland and Athens, Greece, and as Global Director of Security at Och-Ziff Capital Management Group in New York.
This is the top security position at State so we hope a new nominee is announced and confirmed quickly but it is also likely that we may not see a new nominee until next year.  When DS appointee David Gordon Carpenter’s appointment ended in June 29, 2002, his successor, Francis Xavier Taylor  did not assume charge until November 18, 2002. Similarly, when DS appointee Richard J. Griffin‘s ended his appointment on November 1, 2007, his successor, career appointee Eric J. Boswell did not assume charge until July 8, 2008.
Traditionally, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) who is also the Director of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) assumes charge of the bureau in an acting capacity. That would be Todd J. Brown who has been in the bureau’s number two position since March 2018. However, given the appointment practices in this administration, we’ll have to wait and see who will actually becomes interim bureau head. We should note that despite the proliferation of political appointees in Foggy Bottom, DS is one bureau where the top leadership ranks are career officials (or former career officials). 

Michael T. Evanoff

Some Dings and Cheers For the Bureau of Counterterrorism in New OIG Report

State/OIG recently released its inspection report of the Bureau of Counterterrorism.

“At the time of the inspection, the bureau’s authorized staffing included 112 Foreign Service and Civil Service positions, augmented by 53 contractor positions and 43 additional personnel and detailees from other U.S. Government agencies. The bureau has 13 offices in addition to the Front Office. Nine offices support policy issues, such as counterterrorism finance, aviation security, collection of biometric information, foreign terrorist fighters, and bilateral and multilateral diplomatic engagement. Two offices carry out operational responsibilities related to the Department of Defense, and one office designs and manages CT-funded assistance programs. Finally, the Office of the Executive Director focuses on bureau administrative requirements and also provides support to the Office of the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs. The bureau managed $642 million in active foreign assistance program funds that spanned multiple fiscal years, including through annual and multiyear projects involving other Department bureaus and Federal agencies.”

The report says that the CT Coordinator “exhibited decisive leadership” but apparently, CT bureau employees and senior officials from other Department bureaus “told OIG about occasions on which the Coordinator lost his temper in meetings with U.S. Government officials and foreign partners. When OIG spoke with the Coordinator about the issue, he acknowledged the problem and responded positively to OIG’s suggestions for improvement.”
The report notes that “staff in interviews and in responses to OIG questionnaires gave the Coordinator lower marks for adherence to leadership principles found in 3 FAM 1214b(6) and (9) regarding self-awareness and managing conflict.” 
The Bureau concurred with all 11 recommendations and the OIG considered all recommendations resolved.
Summary of OIG Findings:

• The Coordinator for Counterterrorism exhibited decisive leadership, marked by setting clear strategic goals and communicating them effectively to staff. This enabled the Bureau of Counterterrorism to navigate major shifts in its mission since 2016.

• At times, the Coordinator engaged in conduct that negatively affected employee morale and productivity.

• The bureau established effective internal policy coordination and communication processes.

• Employees from other Department of State bureaus and Federal agencies expressed differing opinions about the bureau’s effectiveness in promoting its policy goals in interagency processes.

• The Bureau of Counterterrorism did not provide sufficient policy guidance, training, and administrative support to overseas employees responsible for coordinating and reporting on regional counterterrorism issues.

• Vacancies in 22 percent of the bureau’s Civil Service positions hampered operations.

• The bureau’s Office of the Executive Director did not have systems in place to measure the results of key administrative activities and efficiently communicate with customers. As a result, bureau staff expressed dissatisfaction with the administrative and support services delivered by the office.

• The bureau did not follow Department procedures for software development.

•The lack of information technology contingency plans placed at risk the bureau’s ability to support these functions in the event of an unplanned disruption.

Executive Direction:

Tone at the Top and Standards of Conduct : The Coordinator assumed his position in August 2017. At the time of the inspection, he also served as acting Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. Prior to joining the Department, the Coordinator was a law professor. He previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the Department of Homeland Security and worked on counterterrorism policy and judicial confirmations in the Office of Legal Policy in the Department of Justice. The Principal Deputy Coordinator, a career member of the Senior Executive Service, arrived in 2016, after having previously served as Coordinator for U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, among other senior positions in the Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Coordinator Decisively Led Bureau During Major Mission Shifts, but Travel Schedule and Temperament Issues Resulted in Employee Stress: The Coordinator exhibited decisive leadership during a major expansion of the bureau’s counterterrorism efforts. CT employees and others interviewed by OIG described the Coordinator’s operating style as decisive, strategic, and action-oriented — qualities that are consistent with leadership principles in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214(2) and (3). The Coordinator demonstrated a command of complex technical and diplomatic policy issues in meetings OIG observed, consistent with responsibilities outlined in 1 FAM 481.1. Since 2016, the bureau had broadened its efforts to counter violent extremism, launched the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF) initiative, 9 assumed responsibility for aspects of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and took over responsibility for the sensitive policy area of terrorist detentions. OIG concluded the Coordinator took appropriate steps to set and communicate policy priorities for these new responsibilities.

Nonetheless, despite positive comments regarding his decisiveness, staff in interviews and in responses to OIG questionnaires gave the Coordinator lower marks for adherence to leadership principles found in 3 FAM 1214b(6) and (9) regarding self-awareness and managing conflict. Staff described the Coordinator as unaware of the demands his travel schedule placed on employees and said that at times they lacked a clear understanding of the purpose and outcomes of the Coordinator’s travel, which included 21 international trips in FY 2019, of which 1 was to a CTPF focus country.10 Additionally, the Coordinator’s practice of scheduling trips on short notice burdened staff, who had to put regular duties on hold to prepare briefing documents and handle travel logistics. OIG advised the Coordinator to share readouts of the outcomes of his travel with his staff to broaden their understanding of the purposes and results of his trips. Although it is within the Coordinator’s discretion to determine the extent and nature of such readouts, providing at least some information would be consistent with the Department’s leadership principles in 3 FAM 1214(4) and (7) pertaining to communication and collaboration.

Bureau employees and senior officials from other Department bureaus also told OIG about occasions on which the Coordinator lost his temper in meetings with U.S. Government officials and foreign partners. When OIG spoke with the Coordinator about the issue, he acknowledged the problem and responded positively to OIG’s suggestions for improvement. OIG advised the Coordinator to review the Leadership and Management Principles for Department Employees in 3 FAM 1214, which he agreed to do.

The Coordinator delegated many operational and policy tasks to the Principal Deputy Coordinator, with whom he had a productive relationship. In responses to OIG’s questionnaire, bureau staff gave the Principal Deputy Coordinator strong scores on her performance and leadership. In addition, several bureau employees cited her improvements to, and transformation of, the bureau’s budget and program management functions as positive developments for the bureau. Outside observers also noted the Principal Deputy Coordinator’s leadership and support for CT staff as being essential to the bureau’s success at a time of rapid change and significant pressure.

The CT Coordinator is Nathan Sales. The Principal Deputy Coordinator at the time of this review was Alina Romanowski. She was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait in December 2019. The inspection team was headed by Ambassador Joseph Macmanus, former U.S. Ambassador to UNVIE and Executive Secretary of the State Department from 2014-2017.

SCA Acting Asst Secretary Alice Wells to Retire After 31 Years of Service