Under Budget Cut Clouds, Tillerson Visits Memorial For @USEmbassyKenya Bombing Victims

Posted: 2:21 am ET

 

On March 11, Secretary Tillerson delivered the following remarks at the Wreath-Laying Ceremony at the August 7th Memorial Park;  in Nairobi, Kenya.

As all of you well know, 1998 terrorists thought they could demoralize and destroy the Kenyan and American people by attacking the U.S. embassy here in Nairobi. Of course, they were wrong. Nearly 20 years later, we meet here to honor those who we lost and those who were injured. Hundreds of lives were taken and hundreds if not a thousand more were changed forever. Some of our current embassy colleagues who survived this tragedy, including Ambassador Godec and his wife Lori and our current locally employed staff at the embassy that day of the bombing, are with us as well. And it’s an honor to meet all of you, and I appreciate you being here.

To the survivors present, please know that the American people remember your service and your sacrifice as well as those who are not with us today and have been forever lost. Our hearts are with the many who lost family, friends, and colleagues on that tragic day.

Today we remember them and their bravery, the compassion, and the sacrifice, as well as many who without hesitation that day and at risk to themselves rushed into action to save lives and help others. We honor those heroes and the courage they displayed as well. They are all examples to us.

As our work continues to end terrorism, those who sought to divide us here have failed. Our commitment to work together as Americans and Kenyans is steadfast, it is enduring, and we will build on the shared values and our shared future, which remains very strong. We will never forget the names on this wall. Thank you.

The FBI says that the investigation continues, with the following fugitives still wanted for their alleged roles in the attacks:

January 1999: Report of the Accountability Review Boards on the Embassy Bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam on August 7, 1998.

As the NYT notes, the Africa Embassy bombings “may have done more to transform the State Department than any other event of the past 50 years.”

It also points a fact that’s not lost on anyone — “Mr. Tillerson has twice proposed slashing the department’s budget to about $35 billion from about $50 billion, saying that doing so would return spending levels to those before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”

And just watch, he won’t stop at his second try.

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Consular and Border Security Programs: Increases/Decreases in FY2019

Posted: 3:54 am ET

 

This is a follow-up post on the item we did on consular revenue forecasts last week (see@StateDept Revises Downward Its Consular Revenue Forecasts). The following summarizes projected obligations for Consular and Border Security Programs in FY2019, including increases/decreases from the FY 2018 Request.  These are the areas that get spending allocations from consular revenue generated by Consular Affairs. If the consular revenue continues to shrink, we think that the programs and offices below will see the impact with the decreased funds — from salaries to OBO and MED; and it won’t stop there.

via reactiongifs.com

Domestic Executive Support: $35,430,000

Domestic Executive Support includes $35.4 million in CA leadership and support operations. This amount will maintain core activities and programs, as well as new initiatives to increase operational efficiency, provide necessary staffing, improve customer service, and promote management best practices. The decrease of -$6.8 million from the FY 2018 Request is largely due to a reduction in contract service costs and a decrease in support costs related to the CA Domestic Facilities Planning Board.

Fraud Prevention Programs: $5,768,000

The Office of Fraud Prevention Programs (CA/FPP) strengthens the integrity of the consular process by building skills, developing techniques, and increasing data-sharing to enable consular personnel to detect fraud domestically and overseas. The FY 2019 Request of $5.8 million funds the overall operations required for CA to enhance U.S. border protection and security through fraud prevention work. The decrease of -$0.5 million from the FY 2018 Request is due to reductions in travel, fraud prevention workshops and purchases of equipment for the Counterfeit Deterrence Laboratory.

Visa Processing: $248,397,000

The Visa Services Directorate (VO) administers the visa portion of the U.S. immigration system, supporting overseas posts in visa adjudication. VO considers visa adjudications to be national security decisions and works with other agencies to screen all applicants efficiently and accurately for security threats and other potential ineligibilities. The FY 2019 Request of $248.4 million supports the reduced costs of adjudication for immigrant visas (IVs) and non-immigrant visas (NIVs), FBI fingerprint checks, screening workloads, and other support costs. This includes funding for the Affidavit of Support Program (AoS) and the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Program, as these two fees support overall VO services in the adjudicating and processing of visa requests. The decrease of -$73.6 million from the FY 2018 Request reflects reduced NIV demand and corresponding reductions to the FBI Fingerprint Checks reimbursements, purchase of visa products and consumables and overall costs for general visa operations.

Passport Directorate: $924,480,000

The Passport Services Directorate (PPT) adjudicates U.S. citizenship and nationality, determines entitlement, and issues U.S. passport documents to eligible U.S. citizens and nationals. These efforts help facilitate legitimate U.S. travel, trade, and tourism by providing secure travel documents to those eligible, thereby strengthening U.S. borders and national security. The FY 2019 Request of $924.5 million reflects a decrease of $98.3 million from the FY 2018 Request and includes funding for supplies and overhead costs for the production of U.S. travel documents, and supports the rollout of the Next Generation Passport (NGP) book, which are demand-driven expenses.

American Citizens Services: $17,467,000

The Directorate of Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) is responsible for the protection and safety of U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad, and provides emergency and nonemergency services to U.S. citizens. The FY 2019 Request of $17.5 million allows OCS to meet its protection and safety responsibilities for U.S. citizens residing and traveling abroad, including consular crisis management, protection of children, crime victim assistance, welfare and whereabouts of citizens, voter assistance, and emergency information programs, and emergency support to imprisoned and destitute citizens. This increase of $1.3 million from the FY 2018 Request is attributable to market research contract cost increases.

Consular Affairs Overseas Support: $938,037,000

Overseas consular posts provide the full range of consular services to U.S. citizens abroad and to foreign citizens who want to visit, do business in, or immigrate to the United States. The Request of $938.0 million maintains core programs that are coordinated and administered in Washington, D.C., but support worldwide consular operations. Funding decreases of -$353.1 million from the FY 2018 Request are attributable to revised calculation methods for overseas funding requirements and changing consular workload.

CBSP SUPPORT/DEPARTMENT OF STATE PARTNERS: $536,535,000

Bureau of Diplomatic Security: $66,174,000

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) coordinates and facilitates investigations involving U.S. and foreign travel documents. Investigations include fraudulent issuance, acquisition, and use of U.S. passports, and visa fraud cases including fraudulent issuance, procurement, counterfeiting, and forgery of U.S. visas. The FY 2019 Request of $66.2 million reflects a -$0.5 million decrease from the FY 2018 Request and realigns funding from Passport Services to fund security equipment at various passport facilities, and to realign funding from Visa Services to fund renovations at Kentucky Consular Center. It also supports domestic and overseas DS operations that combat fraud and human trafficking, and supports uniformed protection officers assigned to domestic CA facilities.

Foreign Service Institute: $25,921,000

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) provides training in consular work, language studies, professional development, leadership, information technology, and security. The Request of $25.9 million consists of a -$1.7 million reduction from the FY 2018 Request for Consular and Professional Training due to increased distance learning and a reduction in IT training costs

Bureau of Overseas Building Operations: $264,421,000

The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) directs the worldwide overseas building program for the Department of State. OBO supports the overseas consular facilities, including office space (functional leases) and housing space (residential leases) for consular personnel, CA’s share of new embassy and consulate capital construction projects through the Capital Security Cost-Sharing Program (CSCS), and as necessary, targeted facility infrastructure improvement projects for consular sections overseas. The FY 2019 CBSP Request of $264.4 million, transferred to OBO’s ESCM appropriation, is a $0.4 million decrease from the FY 2018 President’s Request and results from reduced funding needed for functional leases and non-recurral of targeted facility improvement projects. The decrease is offset by a $31.5 million increase for CA’s share of CSCS.

Post Assignment Travel: $47,907,000

Post Assignment Travel (PAT) for overseas consular personnel includes training, travel, and change of station costs, including the shipment of personal effects and baggage. PAT is crucial for staffing worldwide missions with the trained Foreign Service staff needed to meet visa demand overseas. The FY 2019 Request of $47.9 million is a reduction of $0.8 million and refines cost calculations for overseas travel.

Bureau of Human Resources: $14,203,000

The Bureau of Human Resources (HR) provides onboarding and administrative support for domestic and overseas consular employees, to support the staff increases needed to address consular workload changes. The FY 2019 Request of $14.2 million reflects a $1.6 million increase from the FY 2018 Request and funds a new dedicated CA Limited Non-Career Appointments (LNA) subunit in HR related to gateway online testing and other support costs to facilitate the expeditious vetting of Consular Fellow candidates to fill consular staffing gaps overseas.

Bureau of Administration: $54,269,000

The Bureau of Administration (A) supports CA by operating and maintaining facilities at the National Visa Center (NVC) and National Passport Center (NPC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC), the Charleston Regional Center (RCO), and SA-17, and CA’s headquarters building in Washington, D.C. The Bureau also offers technical expertise and assistance for incoming mail threat detection, ergonomic assessments of office environments, indoor air quality assessments, and other environmental health and safety programs at all CA-occupied facilities throughout the United States. The FY 2019 Request of $54.3 million includes contract cost adjustments. This request is a $1.0 million increase from the FY 2018 Request.

Bureau of Medical Services: $292,000

The Bureau of Medical Services (MED) safeguards and promotes the health and well-being of America’s diplomatic community worldwide. It provides medical clearances for employees filling consular positions, including Foreign Service Officers, LNAs, and Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFMs).

CBSP STAFF / AMERICAN SALARIES: $644,812,000

Human resources are the most vital component of CBSP-funded programs and activities. The Department devotes a significant amount of effort and resources towards increasing efficiency and capacity in the visa and passport processes, ensuring adequate staffing levels both domestically and overseas. CBSP-funded payroll includes 4,914 funded positions in CA and in Department partner bureaus that receive CBSP funding.

Repatriation Loans: $789,000

The CBSP funds the administrative costs for the Repatriation Loans program, which assists destitute U.S. citizens abroad who have no other source of funds to return to the United States.

Comptroller and Global Financial Services (CGFS): $1,044,000

The Bureau of the Comptroller and Global Financial Services (CGFS) provides financial services in support of ongoing consular-related activities, including vouchering, payroll processing, accounts payable, receivables, and refund processing.

Confidential Investigations: $500,000

Confidential Investigations conducts certain law enforcement activities related to visa and passport fraud. The FY 2019 CBSP Request of $0.5 million funds the Office of Emergencies in the Diplomatic and Consular Services.

Bureau of Information Resource Management: $60,686,000

The Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM) provides systems technology and backbone support for critical visa and passport systems. The FY 2019 Request of $60.7 million reflects a $0.4 million increase from the FY 2018 Request and supports all consular domestic and overseas IT initiatives such as Network Services, Enterprise Server Operations Center (ESOC) Hosting Services, Global IT Modernization (GITM) Program, SharePoint, and SMART. The increase is due to contract cost adjustments.

Office of the Legal Adviser: $329,000

The Office of the Legal Adviser (L) provides legal advice and services to Department of State bureaus and officials on consular-related matters, such as interagency efforts and international negotiations, benefits and services to U.S. citizens abroad, international children’s issues, international judicial assistance, and the performance of other consular functions by U.S. consular officers or U.S. protecting powers abroad.

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@StateDept Revises Downward Its Consular Revenue Forecasts

Posted: 1:52 am ET

 

The State Department’s FY2019 Budget Proposal discusses Consular Affairs:

The Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) supports U.S. national security objectives by protecting the interests of U.S. citizens overseas, strengthening border security, and facilitating legitimate travel to the United States. CA provides routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens overseas, adjudicates U.S. passport and visa applications, and undertakes fraud prevention and detection efforts. Together with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Intelligence Community, the Department of the Treasury, and the Law Enforcement Community, the Department has built a layered visa and border security screening system that rests on training, technological advances, biometric innovations, and expanded data sharing.

Revenue from Department-retained consular fees and surcharges funds CBSP activities. The fees and surcharges collected and retained for consular services include: Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fees, Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) surcharges, Passport Security surcharges, Immigrant Visa (IV) Security surcharges, Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery fees, Fraud Prevention and Detection (H&L) fees, and Affidavit of Support (AoS) Review fees. Each consular fee or surcharge is used to fund CBSP programs and activities consistent with the applicable statutory authority.

We understand that since the beginning of FY 2013, the Consular and Border Security programs (CBSP) was completely funded using consular fees collected and retained by CA, that is, congressionally appropriated funds were not used for CA operations.

Consular Affairs charges user fees for many of the consular services it provides to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, including fees for services associated with passport issuance and non-immigrant visa processing/issuance. Congress permits the State Department to collect and retain revenue generated from certain consular fees, but the bureau is required by law to remit other amounts collected for consular fees to the Department of the Treasury. The retained consular fees are used to fund the Consular and Border Security Program (CBSP).

Consular and Border Security Programs

During FY 2014, the State Department collected $3.7 billion in consular fees. The revenue is generated primarily from the issuance of 467,370 immigrant visas and 9,932,480 nonimmigrant (temporary) visas and border cards. Note that the State Department only releases its visa issuance number and does not provide a public accounting of the total number of visa applicants. Visa processing fees are collected from all applicants (with few exceptions), and visa issuance fees are collected from certain countries based on reciprocity. (PDF)

In FY 2015, the Department collected $4.1 billion in consular fees that came from immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants including 531,463 immigrant (permanent) visas issuance and 10,891,745 nonimmigrant (temporary) visas and border cards issuance. FY2015 is the first time, nonimmigrant visa issuances hit the 10 million mark. (PDF)

We should point out that the consular revenue came from many different fees that cover a variety of services, like fraud prevention fees that are charged to particular visa applicants to fees charged to American citizens for expedited processing of passports. Consular revenue also includes surcharges that are imposed on some services. According to State/OIG, the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee includes a legislatively imposed $2 surcharge to support programs to combat human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, tuberculosis, and malaria.

Trends

For the last several years until 2016, there had been an upward trend in visa demands. In 2012, the USG recognized the growth of foreign visitors from emerging economies with growing middle classes in China, Brazil and India. Then President Obama tasked the Department with increasing non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40% in 2012; and ensuring that 80% of non-immigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application (see Visa Hot Love for China and Brazil, Why No Hot Love for Mexico?).

For immigrant visas, the  issuance trend went down in FY2014, then went up in FY2015 and FY2016. In FY2017,  the issuance went down by over 58K. We don’t know at this time what function, if any, or how much, the Trump travel ban contributed to the decrease.

For nonimmigrant visas, the upward trend continued from FY2013-FY2015, then started dipping in FY2016. The decrease in number of nonimmigrant visa issuances continued in FY2017. The chart below also indicates a decrease of over 32,000 in border crossing card issuances in FY2017. To get a sense of what this means in direct U.S. dollars, check the consular fees here for visa services.

The State Department’s FY2019 Budget Proposal recognizes what could be a trend, telling Congress that “Due to new decreased revenue forecasts, the spending plans for FY 2018 have been revised downward from the FY2018 Request. Decreased spending is anticipated within the Bureau of Consular Affairs, partner bureaus, and other support activities.”

The Trump Administration has now submitted two budget proposals to Congress that include deep cuts to the State Department and USAID’s budgets. We have no reason to believe that its proposals for FY2020 and FY2021 would look anything different. But if what we’re seeing in consular workload is the start of a downward trend in revenue, the State Department could be in for a double whammy.

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@StateDept: “…We’ll wait and see what the House and the Senate do for FY18”

Posted: 3:49 am ET

 

Via state.gov:

QUESTION: Hi, I – yeah, just an arithmetic question, really. When the OCO money, the 12 billion, is brought under the caps, does that effectively expand the 39.3 up to 50 billion? Or will that be rolled into the 39.3?

MR PITKIN: It’s all part of the 39.3. So previous to this adjustment, if you look at the printed materials that are going to come out today from both our initial budget and OMB, that 12 billion will be separate. So it’ll be 30 – about 27 in the base budget, and then 12 billion —

QUESTION: So that 12 billion is just being renamed.

MR PITKIN: It’s being renamed or —

QUESTION: It’s not disappearing or —

MR PITKIN: Right. Right, right.

QUESTION: — being added onto anything?

MR PITKIN: It’s still the same topline amount. The advantage is it’s now all now under the same spending caps that all the other agencies have to operate under as well.
[…]
QUESTION: That is relative to a decrease, as Josh pointed out, of something like 30 percent from 2017, though. So —

MR PITKIN: That’s true. But again, I think, the – as the Secretary has said that we did not think that the $55 billion that was provided last year, including a supplemental, was sustainable over the long term. So I think even the House and the Senate – we’ll wait and see what the House and the Senate do for FY18. I think until we have to – it’s hard to compare what we’re requesting now versus ’18 because the House and the Senate still have to act on FY18 appropriations, take into consideration these caps. But we would note that the levels that the committees marked up back several months ago did not even there reach the $55 billion level. But again, we have to wait and see what Congress says for ’18 before we can make a true apples-apples comparison. But even they were not at the FY17 level; they were down as well.

Doug Pitkin
Director of the Bureau of Budget and Planning/State
Briefing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of State and USAID
Feb 12, 2018

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USAID Anticipates @StateDept Hiring Freeze Will Last At Least Through End of FY2018

Posted: 1:52 am ET

 

Secretary Tillerson is scheduled to hold a Town Hall at the State Department on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. EST in the Dean Acheson Auditorium. According to the notice that went out, the Secretary “will provide an overview of the past year and will discuss how the Redesign will better enable you to do our job going forward.”  Questions are pre-screened. Employees interested in asking the Secretary a question, are asked to submit them by noon EST on Monday, December 11, 2017.

Employees are instructed to plan on arriving between 9:15 a.m.- 9:45 a.m. as seating in the Dean Acheson Auditorium is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. There will be overflow seating in the Loy Henderson Conference Room. For those unable to attend, the event will be carried live on BNET.

Meanwhile, we’ve learned that USAID had informed Congress that the State Department hiring freeze “remains in effect” and anticipates that “it will last at least until the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018” (end of fiscal year 2018 is September 30, 2018).

We have reported previously that USAID also told Congress that it is considering whether to seek waivers from the Secretary of State to fill additional positions “aligned with future workforce needs that are in line with the Redesign and the Administration’s policies.”  As of late November, it has yet to make a determination whether these USAID FSO positions “could qualify for an exception based on the national security criteria.” (see USAID Reinstates Pre-Employment Status of FSO Candidates After Congressional Interest).

The agency told Congress that it is authorized to employ “up to 1,850” Foreign Service officers. In 2017, it hired five (5) Payne Fellows as FSOs under the Congressionally-mandated fellowship, and filled eighteen (18) Foreign Service Limited (FSL) positions. FSL positions are non-career appointments hired for specific appointments. These are time limited and are reportedly not subject to the hiring freeze. Incumbent to these position do not receive credit toward any FS requirement if they are FSO candidates.

For context, in 2016, the USAID workforce composition is as follows:

[T]he Agency’s mission was supported by 3,893 U.S. direct hire employees, of which 1,896 are Foreign Service Officers and 253 are Foreign Service Limited, and 1,744 are in the Civil Service. Additional support came from 4,600 Foreign Service Nationals, and 1,104 other non-direct hire employees (not counting institutional support contractors). Of these employees, 3,163 are based in Washington, D.C., and 6,434 are deployed overseas. These totals include employees from the Office of Inspector General.*

In 2009, USAID also launched its Development Leadership Initiative (DLI) which created 820 positions over three years. While USAID recently told Congress that none of the DLI positions have been cancelled, we have yet to learn what kind of staff shrinkage is in the future for our country’s development professionals. Maybe Mr. Tillerson’s Town Hall will answer this and a host of other questions tomorrow.

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Tillerson’s Staff Reduction Plan Threatens Gains in Bridging @StateDept Language Gaps

Posted: 4:03 am ET
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The ability to speak and read foreign languages is a key Foreign Service competency. All FS Officers (Generalists) and some FS Specialists are required to reach general professional (3/3) proficiency in at least one foreign language during their careers. In 2016, the State Department said that its  success in staffing positions with officers with the required language proficiency was due, in great part, to the increased resources received in the Diplomacy 3.0 initiative.

Last year, the agency developed a plan to continue to bridge its language gaps — to “continue to expand the training complement, as resources are made available to enhance foreign language skills.” The Department said that it’s language requirements “are much greater today than before 9/11″ but it also noted that the budget environment threatens to reduce the significant progress the Department has made. Even before Rex Tillerson happened to the State Department, the agency already warned last year that “without funds to hire staff above attrition, the Department is not likely to make significant progress in increasing the number of LDPs [language designated positions] filled with fully qualified officers.”

A good number of our readers already know about language training in the State Department, but we also have readers who are not familiar with it, so this part is an explainer. The State Department’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI) grouped languages into four broad categories based on their difficulty to learn:

Category I Languages include the most English-like or the easiest languages for native speakers of English to learn. Included in this category are the Romance languages, such as Spanish and Portuguese, as well as other Western European languages, such as Swedish and Dutch. On average, these languages require 24 to 30 weeks of full-time study to achieve the 3/3 proficiency level.

Category II Languages generally take 36 weeks of full-time study to achieve the 3/3 proficiency level. Included in this category are Indonesian, Swahili, and German, among others.

Category III Languages generally require 44 weeks of full-time study to achieve a 3/3. These languages are substantially harder to learn because they are less like English. Among the Category III languages are Hindi, Dari, Persian, Russian, and Urdu.

Category IV Languages are the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn. This category includes Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, which require training for roughly 88 weeks, including a ten-month language immersion in country, to obtain the general professional (3/3) proficiency level.

The general professional (3/3) proficiency level means being able to use the language with sufficient ability participate in most formal and informal discussion on practical, social, and professional topics. It means being able to conceptualize and hypothesize. An 0/0 in speaking/reading indicates only a cursory level knowledge of the language while a 5/5 proficiency means highly articulate, well-educated, native-speaker proficiency. If you want to send a diplomat to a radio station to better explain U.S. foreign policy to host country nationals, you don’t send somebody with “basic” language skills. If you send a DSS agent to a high threat post without appropriate language training, it can limit not just his/her communication with the local guard force but also situational awareness and his/her ability to protect the mission.

The State Department defines priority languages as languages that are of critical importance to U.S. foreign policy, languages that are experiencing severe shortages or staffing gaps, or present specific challenges in recruiting and training.  So for example, Mandarin Chinese, Dari, Farsi, Pashto, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, and Arabic—all are languages spoken in China, Iran, India, Korea, and throughout the Near East—and are considered priority languages.

It took the State Department 12 years to get from 303 to 475 Chinese Mandarin speakers. Persian-Iranian speakers increased from 14 in FY2003 to 44 in FY2015, an increase of 214.3%. Persian-Afghan speakers went from 12 in 2003 to 85 in 2015, a 608% increase. Hindi speakers went from 12 to 75 or a 525% increase. The State Department’s Arabic speakers increased 47% between 2003-2015, from 232 to 341. Let’s not forget Korean speakers, where State had 76 3/3 speakers in 2003 and 102 in 2015.

In 2013, State/OIG estimated training students to the 3/3 level in easier world languages such as Spanish can cost $105,000 while training students in hard languages such as Russian can cost $180,000. Training in super hard languages such as Chinese and Arabic can cost up to $480,000 per student.  Students learning super hard languages to the 3/3 level generally spend one year domestically at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) and then a second year at an overseas training facility.  The OIG’s estimates were reportedly developed based on the FSI weekly tuition rate, the standard number of weeks for 3/3 raining, the salary of a midlevel FSO, benefits based on Congressional Budget Office  figures, and per diem based on 14FAM 575.3 and Federal Travel Regulations. Cost estimates for super-hard languages were developed using the above methodology for the  domestic portion of training and data provided byEmbassy Beijing and NEA and data in State’s standard overseas support cost model for the overseas  portion of language training.

Is we use the OIG cost estimate of $480K to train a student in super hard language, it means U.S. taxpayers already spent $48M to train 102 diplomats to speak Korean.  We don’t know who are planning to take the buyouts, but let’s say for the sake of argument that all 102 Korean speakers take Tillerson’s buyouts. That’s $48M down the drain. How about the $163M taxpayers already spent on 341 Arabic speakers? Or the $228M spent to train 475 Chinese Mandarin speakers? Or $84M already expended the last twelve years to train 175 Japanese speakers?

What happens when they leave? Does the State Department then hire contractors on an “as needed” basis to track and report the goings on in the Korean peninsula and everywhere else where the U.S is planning to shrink its presence?

It is important to underscore that these gains in the Foreign Service’s language capacity did not happen overnight. And when people leave, as projected in Mr. Tillerson’s reported plan, replenishing their ranks, skills and experience will not happen overnight. Congress can appropriate new funds in the future, of course, but there is no currency that can buy the U.S. time.

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House Foreign Affairs Committee Holds Hearing on @StateDept ReDesign With Tillerson Oops, Sullivan

Posted: 2:24 am ET
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On Tuesday, September 26, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on the State Department’s redesign efforts. You’d think that the chief sponsor of this entire endeavor, Secretary Tillerson would be at the hearing to answer questions from congressional representatives. But it looks like Mr. Tillerson is meeting the Holy See Secretary for Relations with States Paul Gallagher at the Department of State at 10:25 a.m.. That leaves his Deputy John  Sullivan as “it” for the hot seat instead.

Chairman Royce on the hearing: “This hearing is the latest in our ongoing oversight of the State Department’s vital work. It will allow members to raise important questions about the State Department’s redesign plan, and help inform the committee’s efforts to authorize State Department functions.”

The American Academy of Diplomacy previously wrote to Secretary Tillerson requesting that the reorganization plan be made public and was refused (see Former Senior Diplomats Urge Tillerson to Make Public @StateDept’s Reorganization Plan).  The group has now written a new letter addressed to the House Foreign Affairs Committee expressing its support for the “sensible streamlining and the elimination of offices and positions in order to promote effective diplomacy.” It also tells HFAC that it believes that “the Administration should reconsider the decision to declare its plan for reorganization “pre-decisional.” The Congress should ask that the plans to date and those to be considered be made available for public comment.” More:

The Academy believes certain principles should guide the reorganization.
–Change only those things which will strengthen U.S. diplomacy.
–People are more important than programs. Programs can be rebuild quickly. Getting a senior Foreign Service takes 5 to 20 years.
–As a rule, front-line personnel should be increased, although there are Embassies where there are more people, including those from other agencies, than U.S. interests require

It points out that the Foreign Service has a built-in RIF in its system:

The Foreign Service, as up-or-out service, loses about 300 – 400 FSOs and Specialists each year by selection out for low ranking, expiration of time in class, failure to pass over a promotion threshold or reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65. Only Foreign Service personnel are subject to world-wide availability. With their experience, capabilities and languages, they can be sent anywhere, anytime to meet America’s foreign policy objectives. Over the last 12 years the largest personnel increases have been the additions of Civil Service personnel in State’s Regional and, particularly, Functional Bureaus.

And there is this interesting request for clarity on potential appointees; are there talks that DGHR would be filled by a political appointee?

We believe the key positions of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, the Director General, and the Dean of the Foreign Service Institute should be career Foreign Service Officers. The Director General, a position established by the Act, should be appointed from those that have the senior experience and personal standing to guide the long-term future of the staff needed for effective diplomacy. We respectfully ask that Congress get clarification as to whether it is the Department’s intention to nominate an appropriately senior serving or retired Foreign Service Officer for the position of Director General.

The group also writes that it “encourage the Congress to press hard for clarity about the objectives of this reorganization process: is the goal increasing effectiveness or rationalizing budget decisions?”

Read the letter below or click here (PDF).

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Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves FY2018 State & Foreign Ops Appropriations Bill

Posted: 1:59 pm PT
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On September 6, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs announced that it approved “a $51.35 billion appropriations bill to strengthen federal programs and operations that support national security and American values abroad.”  The minority announcement notes that the allocation is $10.7 billion above the President’s request as scored by CBO, but it is $1.9 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level when factoring in fiscal year 2017 funding for famine relief but not the Security Assistance Appropriations Act, 2017. The State Department’s reorganization/redesign is huge news; this bill provides for notifications and consultations with the subcommittee on proposed changes. Most notably, it requires the Government Accountability Office and Department of State and USAID Inspectors General (IG) to review the redesign plans.

Senator Patrick Leahy notes that ““The President sent us a budget that was irresponsible and indefensible.  We were provided no credible justification for the cuts that were proposed, which would have severely eroded U.S. global leadership.  This bill repudiates the President’s reckless budget request, and I commend Chairman Graham for reaffirming the primacy of the Congress in appropriating funds.” Also this:

The bill does not endorse the reorganization or redesign of any part of the Department of State, USAID, or any other entity funded in the bill absent consultation with, and the notification and detailed justification of any proposed modifications to, the Committees on Appropriations.  In addition to such consultation and notification requirements, section 7083 of the bill requires any such proposal to first be submitted to GAO for review. The bill further restricts changes to, and provides specific amounts of funding for, certain bureaus, offices, and positions, and removes authority for the administration to deviate from certain operating and assistance funding levels.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee said: “Through the bill and report, the Subcommittee has articulated its vision of an active American role in the world today.  ‘Soft power,’ as it’s commonly called, is an essential ingredient to national security.  This bill recognizes and builds upon the significance of ‘soft power.’”  

Below excerpted from the the Appropriations Subcommittee statement:

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs today approved a $51.35 billion appropriations bill to strengthen federal programs and operations that support national security and American values abroad.

The FY2018 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill provides $51.2 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs.  Of this amount, $30.4 billion is for enduring costs and $20.8 billion is for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

Full committee consideration of the bill is scheduled for Thursday (http://bit.ly/2gGCwhL).

Bill Highlights:

Supports Key Allies, Counters Extremism, and Promotes Democracy and Human Rights
•    $3.1 billion for military aid for Israel, $7.5 million for refugees resettling in Israel; and continues restrictions on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
•    $1.5 billion for economic and military assistance for Jordan.
•    $120 million for the Countering Russian Influence Fund.
•    $31 million for the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai.
•    $165.4 million for assistance for Tunisia, and requires an assessment of the feasibility of establishing a multi-year Memorandum of Understanding with Tunisia.
•    $500 million for the Relief and Recovery Fund to hold, repopulate, and establish governance in areas liberated from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other extremist groups.
•    $19 million for a program to assist women and girls at risk from extremism in predominantly Muslim and other countries.
•    $2.3 billion for democracy programs, and an additional $170 million for the National Endowment for Democracy.
•    $15 million to promote democracy and rule of law in Venezuela.
•    $8 million for programs to promote human rights in North Korea.

Promotes and Protects International Religious Freedom – $25 million for programs to promote international religious freedom, and $5 million for atrocities prevention programs.  In addition, the bill provides $6 million for the Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom, and $2 million for the Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom in the Near East and Central Asia.

Strengthens Embassy Security – $5.8 billion to ensure the safety of American diplomats, development professionals and facilities abroad.

Provides Assistance for Refugees – $3.11 billion for Migration and Refugee Assistance, maintaining the long-held United States commitment to protecting and addressing the needs of refugees impacted by conflict and other natural and manmade disasters.

International Disaster Assistance – $3.13 billion for International Disaster Assistance, which is $311.5 million above the FY2017 level, excluding emergency assistance for famine relief.  Funds provided in excess of the FY2017 level are made available for famine prevention, relief, and mitigation.

Does Not Include Funds for the Green Climate Fund – The bill does not include funds for grants, assistance, or contributions to the Green Climate Fund, as none were requested by the President.

Protects Life – The bill expands the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits U.S. assistance for foreign nongovernmental organizations that promote or perform abortions, and caps family planning and reproductive health programs at $461 million.  The bill continues provisions relating to abortion, including the Tiahrt, Helms, and Kemp-Kasten Amendments.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE OPERATIONS AND OTHER FUNDING

Administration of Foreign Affairs – $11.51 billion for the administration of foreign affairs, including funding to maintain staffing and operations levels at the Department of State consistent with prior fiscal years.  Funding is also provided to implement the recommendations of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board report.

Reorganization or Redesign – Maintains funding for Department of State and USAID personnel levels consistent with prior fiscal years; prohibits funds from this and prior acts from being used to close, move, or otherwise incorporate USAID into the Department of State; requires submission of notifications and reports on any proposed reorganization or redesign plans; and requires the Government Accountability Office and Department of State and USAID Inspectors General (IG) to review plans.

USAID Operations – $1.35 billion for USAID operating expenses, including to maintain staffing and operational levels consistent with prior fiscal years.

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If @StateDept Refuses to Spend $80M Appropriated Funds, Could It End Up in Court? #GAO

Posted: 3:48 pm PT
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Last month, we wrote about the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act; the Act  inspired by then President Nixon’s refusal to disburse nearly $12 billion of appropriated funds by Congress.

Today, Politico is reporting that Secretary Tillerson is resisting the pleas of State Department officials to spend nearly $80 million allocated by Congress for fighting terrorist propaganda and Russian disinformation.

“It is highly unusual for a Cabinet secretary to turn down money for his department. But more than five months into his tenure, Tillerson has not issued a simple request for the money earmarked for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, $60 million of which is now parked at the Pentagon. Another$19.8 million sits untouched at the State Department as Tillerson’s aides reject calls from career diplomats and members of Congress to put the money to work against America’s adversaries.”

The $60 million will expire on Sept. 30 if not transferred to State by then, current and former State Department officials told POLITICO.
[…]
Last month, Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio pressed Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan on whether Tillerson considers the Global Engagement Center a priority and urged that hiring caps be lifted so the center can expand.

We anticipate that Congress could allocate more funds for the State Department than requested by the Trump Administration.  Given that the Administration has proposed some 30% cuts in its own request, it will be worth watching what Tillerson will do with the bulk of appropriated funds that the Administration did not ask for. The reported $80 million for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center that the State Department has not released could be the first test.

The State Department could violate the 1974 Impoundment Control Act (ICA) if it refuses to obligate funds for policy reasons without President Trump sending a special message to both Houses of Congress.  It is also considered a violation is if it sets aside funds or intentionally slows down spending, or if it proposes a deferral but the timing is such that funds could be expected to lapse before they could be obligated.

Under ICA, an impoundment is any action or inaction by an officer or employee of the federal government that precludes obligation or expenditure of budget authority.  The Act applies to salaries and expenses appropriations as well as program appropriations.

The Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (ICA) provides authority for agencies to “impound” or withhold the obligation of funds in certain circumstances. There are two ways for withholding funds, through a deferral or through proposed rescission. In both both cases, the President is required to send a “special message” to the House and the Senate specifying the following:

(1) the amount of budget authority which he proposes to be rescinded or which is to be so reserved;
(2) any account, department, or establishment of the Government to which such budget authority is available for obligation, and the specific project or governmental functions involved;
(3) the reasons why the budget authority should be rescinded or is to be so reserved;
(4) to the maximum extent practicable, the estimated fiscal, economic, and budgetary effect of the proposed rescission or of the reservation; and
(5) all facts, circumstances, and considerations relating to or bearing upon the proposed rescission or the reservation and the decision to effect the proposed rescission or the reservation, and to the maximum extent practicable, the estimated effect of the pro- posed rescission or the reservation upon the objects, purposes, and programs for which the budget authority is provided.

A deferral is used if the President wants to temporarily withhold obligation of funds (but not beyond the end of the fiscal year). A rescission is used if the President wants to permanently withhold funds from obligation and for Congress to cancel the budget authority (before that authority would otherwise expire). The latter can be accomplished only through legislation.

The GAO’s Principles of Federal Appropriations Law notes that “The President is authorized to withhold budget authority that is the subject of a rescission proposal for a period of 45 days of continuous session following receipt of the proposal. Unless Congress acts to approve the proposed rescission within that time, the budget authority must be made available for obligation.”

Since Congress is on break in August, and the fiscal year ends on Sept 30, we don’t think there’s enough time to notify Congress of the rescission if that’s something the State Department is considering for the $80 million GEC funds.

So what happens if an agency withholds appropriated funds, and refuses to spend it?

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Nixon and the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act

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Posted: 3:09 am ET
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The 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act turned 43 years old this week.  It moved the fiscal year from July 1 to October 1 and created the budget committees in the House and the Senate. It also established the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). But there’s one other thing that folks may have forgotten — that the Act was inspired by then President Nixon’s refusal to disburse nearly $12 billion of appropriated funds by Congress. This seems relevant under the current circumstances where Congress may appropriate more funds than the Trump Administration’s budget request for the State Department.  Although apparently, loopholes can always be found if one is skilled enough.

The 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act modified the role of Congress in the federal budgetary process. It created standing budget committees in both the House and the Senate, established the Congressional Budget Office, and moved the beginning of the fiscal year from July 1 to October 1.

The 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act created a set of institutional changes designed to help Congress regain power over the budget process. The Act was inspired by Richard Nixon’s refusal to disburse nearly $12 billion of congressionally-appropriated funds in 1973-74 through the executive power of impoundment, as well as more generalized fears about the budget deficit. Nixon claimed that the deficit was causing high inflation and that as a result he needed to curb government spending. To this effect, in the 1972 presidential election he called on Congress to grant the President authority to cut federal spending so as to keep the budget under control. Congress opposed Nixon’s proposal and instead sought to reform Congress’ budgetary role. In 1972 Congress created a Joint Study Committee on Budget Control which called for procedural reforms to enable Congress to examine the federal budget from an “overall point of view, together with a congressional system of deciding priorities.” Following Nixon’s impoundment Congress acted on these recommendations and in 1974 passed the Act over the President’s veto.

The Act had two main goals: (1) strengthen and centralize Congress’ budget authority; (2) reduce the President’s impoundment authority. The latter was done by drafting detailed guidelines restricting how the President can impound funds already appropriated by Congress. The former—which has proven the more significant of the two—was done through a variety of means. The Act created the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to give Congress independent economic analysis and end the Executive Branch’s monopoly on budgetary information created by the 1921 Budget and Accounting Act. It created standing budget committees in both the House and the Senate, provided for greater numbers of staff for these and other committees involved in budget decisions, and made changes in the procedure of passing a budget. The new budget committee was required to pass a ‘concurrent budget resolution’ (to be passed by Congress no later than May 15) outlining the government’s overall expenditures and receipts, based on CBO estimates. The concurrent resolution would then serve as the blueprint for the regular work of the authorizing and appropriating committees as they drafted the budget. (Via University of California)

 

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