@StateDept Honors DSS Agents For Heroism in the Radisson Blu Hotel Attack in Mali

Posted: 3:41 am ET



Related posts:

Shelter in Place Advisory After Radisson Blu Hotel Attack in Mali

Photo of the Day: The Room Numbers on His Arm

U.S. Embassy Bamako: Family Members on ‘Authorized Departure’ From Mali. Again.

US Embassy Mali Now on Authorized Departure For Non-Emergency Staff and Family Members




Community Liaison Officers: The Glue That Helps Keep Embassy Communities Together

Posted: 1:14 am ET


The M. Juanita Guess Award is conferred by AFSA on a Community Liaison Officer who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, dedication, initiative or imagination in assisting the families of Americans serving at an overseas post.  Since 1995, Clements Worldwide has sponsored the M. Juanita Guess Award (named after Clements’ co-founder).

In 2016,  the award went to Sara Locke of U.S. Embassy Beirut, Lebanon with Berna Keen of U.S. Embassy Dhaka, Bangladesh as runner-up. Below via afsa.org:

Sara Locke | U.S. Embassy Beirut – 2016 M. Juanita Guess Award for Exemplary Performance by a Community Liaison Officer

Sara E. Locke is the recipient of this year’s M. Juanita Guess Award for Exemplary Performance by a Community Liaison Officer for her outstanding leadership, dedication, initiative and imagination in assisting the employees and family members of U.S. Embassy Beirut.

Embassy Beirut enthusiastically nominated Ms. Locke, stating: “There is probably no other person in the mission who receives as much unanimous, universal praise as Sara for her efforts in turning around the rapidly deteriorating morale at Embassy Beirut.” Working with members throughout the community, her leadership has dramatically improved morale through innovative programs and activities, re-establishing U.S. Embassy Beirut as a post actively sought by Foreign Service bidders. Her tireless efforts on behalf of employees and family members are absolutely impressive.

When Ms. Locke arrived at post in 2014, morale among embassy staff was plummeting and curtailments were increasing at an alarming rate. She recommended to the ambassador that post conduct a morale survey, and then coordinated closely with him and the regional psychiatrist (RMO/P) to figure out how the downward spiral could be reversed. She not only designed and conducted the first survey, but after a very insightful analysis, which she presented to the ambassador and deputy chief of mission, Ms. Locke created an “Action Committee” to respond to the complaints and suggestions.

As a result, many policies and practices on the compound were changed, and new innovative ideas were brought forward and implemented. Thanks to Ms. Locke’s efforts, the situation has improved so much that employees are now requesting extensions to their assignments, and positive responses to a recent morale survey are at an all-time high. The fact that community members now feel they are being heard has had a profoundly beneficial impact on life on a small compound at a high-threat post with very restrictive security requirements.

Ms. Locke has continued doing surveys every six months to measure changes and to solicit ideas on how to continue improving morale, but her influence extends beyond Beirut. Former U.S. Ambassador to Beirut David Hale (who had been in Beirut when Ms. Locke created the survey) wrote to Ms. Locke from his new post: “I owe you such a debt of gratitude and would appreciate any advice on how to maximize this product here,” he said, requesting that she share her thoughts and recommendations with his deputy chief of mission and management section.

Beirut is a challenging place in the best of circumstances: terrorist threats are real, security restrictions limit off-compound movements and permanent employees live and work in cramped, dilapidated facilities. The role of the CLO as an advocate for community members is absolutely critical, and Sara truly embraces it. She lobbies hard on behalf of family members to find rewarding jobs in the mission. She includes spouses in all aspects of embassy life, from social events to emergency preparations. She recently hosted a series of seminars on evacuation planning and community resources for the mission. She is the person many individuals turn to for support and guidance.

Just one example: immediately after a suicide bombing in downtown Beirut in November 2015, just a few miles from the embassy compound, Ms. Locke reached out to the embassy community to ensure accountability and reassure colleagues. When things quieted down, she developed a variety of innovative programs, trips and activities to allow employees to experience Beirut, always working closely with the embassy’s regional security section to stay within the constraints of strict security parameters. She helped increase the number of trips off compound to grocery stores, and then helped put in place a very popular weekend shopping shuttle. This change alone significantly improved morale and gave embassy employees a whole new perspective on life here; previously, only one trip off the compound per week was permitted.

Ms. Locke is extremely creative, constantly seeking out new entertainment venues and cultural events (concerts, museums, restaurants, wine tastings, food festivals), always coordinating well in advance with the regional security officer. She put together a long list of embassy recreational events, including scuba diving, hiking, skiing and snowshoeing. She also organizes a multitude of events for embassy families on the compound. She is an invaluable resource to everyone in the mission.

Berna Keen | U.S. Embassy Dhaka – 2016 M. Juanita Guess Award for Exemplary Performance by a Community Liaison Officer Runner-Up

Berna Keen, runner-up for this year’s M. Juanita Guess Award for Exemplary Performance by a Community Liaison Officer, is recognized as an exemplary CLO by her colleagues at U.S. Embassy Dhaka during what has been a turbulent period of terrorism and violence in Bangladesh. Her conscientious and compassionate approach to each and every member of the mission, the creativity she employs in bringing people together and her exceptional talent for organization has substantially increased morale at post.

A rash of “hartals,” violent political demonstrations, in 2015 crippled embassy operations in Dhaka. Ms. Keen experienced this violence firsthand when a vehicle she was riding in was hit with an explosive device. Incredibly, this only strengthened her commitment to her work. She communicated with everyone in the mission on shelter-in-place days, sending out ideas for activities to do with kids stuck indoors. She became a key voice on the Emergency Action Committee and created an EFM email list, subsequently added to the Global Address List, ensuring that security messages were received by everyone in the mission simultaneously.

With all of Dhaka on edge after a series of murders committed by Al-Qaida-allied fanatics and members of the so-called Islamic State group, embassy personnel were restricted to a two-square-mile area, could not walk outside and had a 10 o’clock curfew. School buses ridden by embassy children were accompanied by an armed police escort. Outside entertainment was off-limits to embassy personnel. In this tense environment, Ms. Keen brought the embassy community together, planning a staggering number of events—nearly 90 in 150 days—despite the fact that her office was understaffed.

Ranging from wine and cheese parties to pet playdates, she successfully provided people with an outlet for normal social activity. She brought the local market to the embassy, snagging pearl vendors, antique dealers and rug and clothing sellers to sell to the embassy community. Her continual reminders to the EAC on the importance of communication has kept the community well-informed and engaged during this trying time.


Burn Bag: @StateDept announces its disappointment … 👀 OMG! It’s nice to feel valued!


Via Burn Bag:

[Last week] we got the word that the Department will have to pay out on the 2013 MSIs.  They lost once, appealed and the review board denied the appeal.

Unbelievably, they added this line to the cable “The Department is disappointed by the  [review board] decision.”

It’s nice to feel valued.

via reactiongifs.com

via reactiongifs.com

To read more about the implementation disputes governing the award of the 2013 Meritorious Service Increases (MSIs), check the files below. The Foreign Service Grievance Board found in AFSA’s favor last year. The Department appealed this decision to the Foreign Service Labor Relations Board (FLRA), which rendered its decision on April 20, 2016, see below:


Related files

  • AFSA v. State Department – Decision FSGB No. 2014-028  (PDF)
  • AFSA v. State Department – Timeliness FSGB No. 2015-006 (PDF)
  • AFSA v. State Department – Timeliness FSGB No. 2015-005 (PDF)



Email of the Day: Wow! What’s With These @StateDept “Make Them Whole” Awards?

Posted: 1:50 am EDT


Via foia.state.gov released through the Leopold v. State Department FOIA litigation. These “make them whole” awards are given because the “sucessesors (sic) got the award and they didn’t.” Wait, what? Does this mean the employees got these awards because the folks who followed them on these jobs got the awards but they didn’t? Help us, we don’t understand this award type. Is this like those competition where everyone gets a trophy?



Ambassador Michael Punke’s ‘The Revenant’ — on NYT Best Sellers For 9th Week

Posted: 7:31 pm EDT


Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s movie  The Revenant has been nominated for 12 Academy Awards in this year’s Oscars including Actor in a Leading Role for Leonardo DiCaprio, Actor in a Supporting Role Tom Hardy, and directing and best picture.  The New York Times writes that among the hopeful novelists who will be closely watching Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, only one has negotiated a $1.3 trillion global trade deal. The NYT is talking about Michael Punke, the deputy United States Trade Representative and the United States ambassador to the World Trade Organization. He is the author of the 2002 novel “The Revenant” which inspired the movie. The book  sold around 15,000 copies after it was first published according to NYT.  It had apparently been out of print before the movie started shooting but a new hardcover came out in 2015. “The Revenant” has reportedly sold more than half a million copies, and Picador has reprinted the book 21 times.

Ambassador Punke was originally nominated by President Obama as Deputy Trade Representative – Geneva, Office of the United States Trade Representative in 2009. He was recess appointed in 2010 and finally confirmed by the Senate in the fall of 2011 (also see Deputy USTR Ambassador Michael Punke’s The Revenant: Now a Movie With Leonardo DiCaprio).

Due to his government position, he reportedly can’t give any interviews about the book, or even sign copies. The NYT says that “Federal ethics rules prohibit him from any activities that would be “self-enriching” or could be seen as an abuse of his post.”  The Office of Government Ethics has a handout relating to book deals and government employees (PDF), and a pretty complex guidelines for particularly covered noncareer (CNC) employees and Presidential appointees to full-time noncareer positions (PA).

It took 14 years but on the week of January 17, 2016, the book hit #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers and has remained on the list for the last 9 weeks.  Enjoy the excerpt courtesy of Amazon/Kindle Instant Preview:

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@StateDept Honors 47 Employees For Exceptional Performances at Home and Abroad

Posted: 12:20 am EDT


The Department-wide annual awards ceremony was held on November 5, 2015 at the Ben Franklin Room with Secretary Kerry, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom and DGHR Arnold Chacon in attendance. As its usual practice, the names of awardees are usually announced via cable to all posts in fall but the public release of names occur via publication in the agency’s official rag, State Magazine, which typically occurs in January of the following year.

Extracted from State Magazine, January 2016:


Related items:

Awards of the United States Department of State (Wikipedia)

3 FAM 4800 Department Awards Program (Foreign Affairs Manual):
4810 Awards Program-General
4820 Honor Awards
4830 Annual Awards
4840 Recognition Awards
4870 Honor Award for Exceptionally Arduous Service



OPM Issues Guidelines For Incentive Awards During 2016 Election Period

Posted: 12:55 am EDT


On January 11, Acting Director Beth F. Cobert issued the  OPM guidelines for Appointments and Awards During the 2016 Presidential Election Period. Below is an excerpt on the prohibition of awards  from June 1, 2016 – January 20, 2017:

Under 5 U.S.C 4508, an incentive award may not be given during the period beginning June 1, 2016, through January 20, 2017, to a senior politically appointed officer, defined as:

  1. An individual who serves in an SES position and is not a career appointee as defined in 5 U.S.C. 3132(a)(4), or
  2. An individual who serves in a position of a confidential or policy determining character as a Schedule C employee.

Because Limited Term/Limited Emergency appointees are not “career appointees,” they meet this definition of senior politically appointed officer and cannot receive incentive awards during the 2016 election period.

In addition, all political appointees continue to be covered by a freeze on discretionary awards, bonuses, and similar payments.  This freeze was established by Presidential Memorandum on August 3, 2010 (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/presidential-memorandum-freeze-discretionary-awards-bonuses-and-similar-payments) and continues to remain in effect until further notice (https://www.chcoc.gov/content/guidance-awards-fiscal-year-2014). Agencies should continue to apply this freeze in accordance with OPM’s guidance at https://www.chcoc.gov/content/guidance-freeze-discretionary-awards-bonuses-and-similar-payments-federal-employees-serving.

For additional guidance regarding appointments of current or former political appointees to competitive service, non-political excepted service, or career SES position, contact Ana A. Mazzi, Deputy Associate Director for Merit System Accountability and Compliance, at (202) 606-4309 or PoliticalConversions@opm.gov.  For guidance on awards during the 2016 Presidential election period, contact Steve Shih, Deputy Associate Director for Senior Executive Services and Performance Management, by calling (202) 606-8046 or Performance-Management@opm.gov.

Read more here.




USCG Dhahran Consular Team Wins 2015 President’s Award for Customer Service

Posted: 3:51 am EDT

Via state.gov:

A State Department consular team has won the prestigious 2015 President’s Award for Customer Service. The team was honored at an awards ceremony at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on December 15.

Administered through the Federal Customer Service Awards Program, the President’s Award for Customer Service is designed to recognize, promote, and reward service excellence, professionalism, and outstanding achievement by federal employees, including teams working on initiatives with a direct impact on customers. The Award also seeks to help agencies identify practices that can be reproduced across the government.

This year, the Department of State was cited for the work performed by Foreign Service and Locally Employed Staff members of the consular section in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, who overcame security and technical hurdles to offer on-site consular customer service to the hundreds of U.S. citizens building the world’s largest petrochemical facility in Jubail. By setting up regularly scheduled visits to academic, corporate, and residential sites, the Dhahran team reduced U.S. citizens’ risks faced during road travel in Saudi Arabia.

Further information about the 2015 President’s Award for Customer Service can be found here.



Our consular section is sporting their college gear in support of Back to School Week. August 2015 (Photo from U.S. Consulate General Dhahran/FB)

USCG Dhahran is headed by Consul General Mike Hankey who arrived at post on July 8, 2014. According to the Key Officers List, the consular section chief is Kelly Landry.  The Dow-Aramco petrochemical complex in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, is said to be the world’s largest. Once complete it will reportedly be home to 30 production plants and provide approximately 4,000 jobs.

The Travel Warning for Saudi Arabia dated September 21, 2015 notes that there have been attacks on U.S. citizens and other Western expatriates within the past year and there continue to be reports of threats against U.S. citizens and other Westerners, as well as sites frequented by them.  On January 30, 2015, two U.S. citizens were fired upon and injured in Hofuf in Al Hasa Governorate (Eastern Province). On October 14, 2014, two U.S. citizens were shot at a gas station in Riyadh. One was killed and the other wounded.


The 10 Best of Public Diplomacy — Nominations Open Until Dec 28

Posted: 11:08 pm EDT


We’re passing this along for our friends at the Public Diplomacy Council:

It’s time for you to nominate one or more of the ten best public diplomacy acts, actions, ideas, programs or decisions of 2015.

The rules are simple: anyone can make a nomination.  In fact, nominations are welcome from active and retired public diplomacy officers as well as from Ambassadors, DCM’s and other observers of public diplomacy in academe, business and government.

The procedure is simple too:  use a subject line of no more than a dozen (12) words to identify the action, idea, program or decision you are nominating.  Then, if you want to, in the body of the message, in 140 characters or less, say why you believe this nomination is one of the year’s ten best in public diplomacy. Or, maybe it’s obvious?

Send your nomination to the Public Diplomacy Council’s special “Ten Best” inbox at “PD10Best@gmail.com

Nominations must be received in the email inbox by noon Monday, December 28, to be considered.

Identity of the person or group nominating will remain confidential.  All decisions in selecting the “Ten Best” of 2015 are made by a jury of PDC members, are final, and are not subject to appeal.

 The 10 best of Public Diplomacy will be announced on December 31 on the Public Diplomacy Council website.

 Send your nominations now!  and pass this message on!

The Public Diplomacy Council was founded in 1988 as the Public Diplomacy Foundation. Dedicated to fostering greater public recognition of public diplomacy in the conduct of foreign affairs, the Foundation evolved to serve also as a resource and advocate for the teaching, training, and development of public diplomacy as an academic discipline. The Council is a nonprofit organization committed to the importance of the academic study, professional practice, and responsible advocacy of public diplomacy.