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Today: Tillerson Before SFRC and Appropriations Hearings For FY18 State Dept Budget Request

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Posted: 3:24 am ET

 

Today, Secretary Tillerson is scheduled to appear before two Senate panels on the FY2018 State Department Budget Request. He will appear before the the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) for a Review of the FY 2018 State Department Budget Request in the morning. That hearing will be chaired by SFRC Chairman Bob Corker. This will be Secretary Tillerson’s first public Senate appearance since his confirmation as Secretary of State. Questions will be specific to the FY18 budget but we expect that there will also be questions on the planned agency reorganization, staffing gaps, morale, and a host of items that have surfaced on the news since he was confirmed in February. He is also scheduled to appear before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee in the afternoon. That hearing will be chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham. 

Date: Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Time: 10:00 AM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Corker

The prepared statement and live video will be posted here when available.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
Date: Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Time: 02:30 PM
Location: Dirksen Senate Office Building 192
Presiding: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)

The live video will be posted here when available.

But what in heavens name is this all about?

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@StateDept’s Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC): Status Update

Posted: 1:20 am ET

 

The State Department recently posted a video update of its Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) at Fort Pickett in Virginia.

FASTC will provide hard-skills security training to State Department personnel and the foreign affairs community.  In 2015, GSA purchased property and secured land use agreements for approximately 1,400 acres of publicly held land. On February 25, 2016, construction began for the FASTC project.  According to the State Department, the Master Construction Schedule for the FASTC construction is being completed through three construction contracts. Contractors began construction activities on February 25, 2016 and overall project substantial completion is anticipated for July 2019.

Related posts

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click here for video update

The FASTC Site Plan below shows the general areas where the hard-skills training venues are currently being built for Contract 01 and Contract 02.  According to state.gov, AECOM of Virginia Beach, VA has provided Construction Management as Agent and Commissioning Services since the Design Phase for the FASTC Ft. Pickett, VA site and is responsible for the numerous comprehensive facets of the construction process, including ongoing site communication, safety, security, and circulation of deliveries and construction vehicles on site.

CONTRACT 1: 2015 – April 2017

Jan. 2017 – Build out of Live Fire Shoot House interior
Feb. 2017 – Rappel Tower wood and rock wall installation
Mar. 2017 – Permanent power to all venues

  • Mock-Urban Tactical Training Area
  • Rappel Tower
  • Smoke House
  • Static Training Device Pad
  • Tactical Maze as well as Interior of the High Bay, Classroom and Breakroom
  • Explosives Demonstration Range
  • Viewing Shelter and Storage Building
  • Live Fire Shoot House as well as Interiors

CONTRACT 2: 2016 – September 2018

Jan. 2017 – Tree clearing and grading continues
Feb. 2017 – Ductbank complete and A01 Foundations begun
Mar. 2017 – Slab on Grade placement at A01, tree clearing finishes

  • A01 (Administrative Office Building 01) and T01 (Training Classroom Building 01)
  • Vehicle Maintenance Shop
  • Ring Road Bridge C-300 and C-307
  • Central Ammo and Explosives Storage
  • High-Speed Driving Track
  • High-Speed Track
  • High-Speed Driving Track Bridge
  • Tank Trail
  • Post-Blast Training Range

CONTRACT 3: 2017 – July 2019

August 2017 – Award
July 2019 – Estimated substantial completion

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All In: Tillerson on Trump’s FY2018 @StateDept/@USAID Budget

Posted: 2:44 am ET

 

We previously blogged about President Trumps FY2018 budget request (see FY2018 Trump Budget Word Cloud: Cuts, Reduction, Elimination) and #TrumpBudget Proposal FY2018: Most Volatile Geographic Bureaus Get the Deepest Cuts).

On May 23, President Trump sent his first budget request and FY2018 proposal for 4.1 trillion to Congress. The 32% cut to the international affairs budget has been called irresponsible.  Senator Lindsey Graham warns that the Trump budget cuts to the State Department is “a lot of Benghazis in the making.” Meanwhile, 225 corporate executives sent a letter to Secretary Tillerson on Monday arguing that “America’s diplomats and development experts help build and open new markets for U.S. exports by doing what only government can do: fight corruption, strengthen the rule of law, and promote host country leadership to create the enabling environment for private investment.” The business executives note the importance of U.S. international affairs programs to boost their “exports abroad and jobs here at home” and urged Secretary Tillerson’s support for a strong International Affairs Budget for Fiscal Year 2018.

While it is doubtful that Congress will support the Trump proposal in its current form, we suspect that the Administration will come back next year and every year thereafter for additional bites.  After all the border wall is estimated to cost anywhere between $21B-$67B and for FY18, the Trump Administration has requested $1.6 billion for “32 miles of new border wall construction, 28 miles of levee wall along the Rio Grande Valley and 14 miles of new border wall system that will replace existing secondary fence in the San Diego Sector…” on the 1,933-mile U.S.-Mexico border. And since the president has already kicked off his 2020 re-election campaign, we can be sure that the noise about the border wall will remain in the news for the foreseeable future.

Important to note, however, that this is only a budget request and that the Congress is the branch that actually appropriates the funds. In March, the Trump Administration sought cuts to the State Department and USAID funding (see Trump Seeks Further Funding Cuts From @StateDept/@USAID, This Time From 2017 Budget).  In early May, Congress did not give in to the request and appropriated funds comparable to the previous administration requests but as pointed out here, this is just the beginning of the budget wars.

The Secretary of State who believed he has to earn President Trump’s confidence every day stepped up to the plate once more, and released a statement calling the proposed -32% budget for his agency  as “responsive to the realities of the world in the 21st century.”

Today, President Trump requested $37.6 billion for the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) budget in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. This budget request reflects the President’s “America First” agenda that prioritizes the well-being of Americans, bolsters U.S. national security, secures our borders, and advances U.S. economic interests.

This budget is responsive to the realities of the world in the 21st century, and ensures that the State Department and USAID can quickly adapt to an ever-changing international environment. Activities and programs supported in this budget will support our effort to defeat ISIS and other terrorist organizations and combat illegal migration and trafficking. This budget will also support our efforts to combat corruption and address threats to good governance, which helps level the playing field for American workers and businesses.

The FY 2018 budget supports the President’s commitment to make the U.S. government leaner and more accountable to the American taxpayer, while maximizing our diplomatic and engagement efforts, including with our international partners. As we advance the President’s foreign policy priorities, this budget will also help lay the foundation for a new era of global stability and American prosperity.

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#TrumpBudget Proposal FY2018: Most Volatile Geographic Bureaus Get the Deepest Cuts

Posted: 3:03 am ET

 

Diplomatic Security’s 2015 Political Violence Against Americans publication notes that attacks involving U.S. citizens or interests occurred predominantly in the Near East (NEA), South Central Asia (SCA), and Africa (AF).

Some of the significant attacks against U.S.diplomatic facilities and personnel in 2015 occurred in Dhaka, Bangladesh (protesters threw flammable liquid at a U.S. Embassy vehicle); Dili, Timor-Leste (a hand grenade was thrown over the wall of a U.S. Embassy residential property); Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (a U.S. Embassy vehicle transporting two U.S. congressional staffers to their hotel was hit by pedestrians throwing rocks); Sana’a, Yemen (a mortar or rocket round exploded on the road in front of the U.S. Embassy and Houthi rebels opened fire on two U.S. Embassy Quick Reaction Force (QRF) vehicles dispatched to assist locally employed embassy staffers detained at a rebel checkpoint); Erbil, Iraq (a vehicle laden with explosives detonated outside the U.S. Consulate General, killing two Turkish nationals and injuring 11 others, including a U.S. citizen); and Bangui, Central African Republic (an individual opened fire on a U.S. Embassy two-vehicle motorcade transporting eight passengers to the airport).

The FY2018 budget request proposed to cut funding deepest in the geographic areas that are most volatile and dangerous:  NEA -$45.1M;  SCA -$43.7M; AF – $32.7M; EUR -$24.3M; EAP -$12.6M; WHA -$12.6M.

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The Bureau of African Affairs (AF) promotes the Administration’s foreign policy priorities in 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) through 44 U.S. embassies, four constituent posts, and the U.S. Mission to the African Union. AF addresses key foreign policy initiatives and development challenges across Africa by focusing on five overarching policy priorities to: 1) advance peace and security; 2) strengthen democratic institutions and protect human rights; 3) spur economic growth through two-way trade and investment; 4) promote development including better health; and 5) advance diplomatic effectiveness through appropriate staffing and facilities.

In support of U.S. national security interests, AF has provided significant assistance to ensure that the African Union could play a major role in mitigating continental peace and security challenges. AF also supports the African Union’s ability to act as a standard bearer for democracy and human rights, the rule of law, and economic prosperity. AF also strongly supports African efforts to counter terrorism in the Sahel and West/Central Africa, Somalia and wider East Africa, and the Lake Chad Basin region. Finally, the Bureau and other State Department entities are working with counterparts throughout sub-Saharan Africa to provide humanitarian assistance to drought-stricken populations in the Horn of Africa; aid refugee populations; curtail trafficking of people, drugs, and arms; and facilitate the path towards an AIDS-free generation.

The Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP) advances vital U.S. national interests in the Asia Pacific region. Home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, the emerging engagement occurring between the United States and nations in the Asia Pacific region reaffirms that America’s future security and prosperity will be shaped by developments in the region. EAP is comprised of 43 embassies, consulates, and American Presence Posts located in 24 countries from Mongolia to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. EAP has 861 foreign and civil service positions in overseas posts and domestic offices. The Bureau also provides support to the American Institute in Taiwan, a non-governmental organization that represents U.S. interests in Taiwan.

EAP leadership and diplomats reinforce rules-based order in the region by building an international commitment to defeat ISIS. EAP works to promote cooperation on transnational threats such as cyberspace and health pandemics, as well as threats from state actors, such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and defending freedom of navigation in the region’s maritime spaces, including in the South China Sea.

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To support American prosperity and security, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs’ (EUR) strategic objective over multiple administrations has been to support a Europe “whole, free, and at peace.” The bureau’s range of tools includes the 50 EUR missions and important multilateral platforms including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). European nations are the United States’ most capable and globally engaged partners and can be force multipliers. Maintaining these alliances and partnerships is vital to U.S. defense and to our ability to enhance international stability, counter Russian aggression and subversion, and confront complex global challenges, such as proliferation, terrorist threats, and combatting organized crime and violent ideologies.

The total FY 2018 EUR Enduring Request is $470.6 million, a -$24.3 million decrease to the FY 2017 estimate, including $1.1 million in OCO. With these resources, and in conjunction with foreign assistance resources allocated to the region, EUR will continue to work to achieve the full range of State Department priorities, and seek to generate greater operating efficiencies and cost containment initiatives.

Through 25 embassies and consulates, stretching from Morocco to Iran, the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) promotes U.S. interests by combating terrorism and violent extremism, and leading the Global Coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS); promoting the free flow of commerce; and preserving Israel’s security, working toward a comprehensive and lasting Middle East Peace between Israel and its neighbors. The region’s primary causes for volatility include: terrorist groups, including ISIS and al-Qa’eda, who have found safe havens that threaten U.S. interests and allies; Iran’s malign regional influence impends U.S. partners’ strategic security; and the ongoing Syrian civil war that exports instability and undermines the stability of its neighbors with humanitarian crises.

In order to defeat ISIS and stabilize liberated areas, Mission Iraq will vigorously engage with the Government of Iraq, international organizations, regional neighbors, economic partners, and the Iraqi people to support improvements in governance, economic development, Iraq’s regional relations, and to maintain a strong enduring partnership with Iraq under the Strategic Framework Agreement. Mission Iraq’s 5,500 personnel working at Embassy Baghdad, the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center (BDSC), Consulate General Basrah, and Consulate General Erbil are essential to pursuing the above-stated goals.

The FY 2018 Request is $413.3 million ($175 million Enduring and $238.3 million OCO), a -$45.1 million decrease below the FY 2017 estimate. The request strives to gain efficiencies via a more stringent management of travel, contract, and International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) operations throughout the region. Additional efficiencies are being pursued through the review of programs/operations such as aviation assets and support, consulate operations, and financial support provided to outside entities by way of agreements.

The Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) is responsible for promoting U.S. interests in one of the most populous and dynamic regions of the world. With a combined population of more than 1.5 billion people, the 13 countries that make up SCA are home to almost a quarter of the world’s population, including one-third of the world’s Muslims and 850 million persons under age 30, making continued engagement in South and Central Asia vital to U.S. national security and regional stability.

Department operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and across South and Central Asia remain critical to ensuring the security and prosperity of the United States. On the security front, the efforts of the U.S. and bilateral and regional partners have combated multiple terrorist threats. Continued programs to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and deter nuclear proliferation in the region will continue to improve security for the homeland and U.S. global partners.

SCA’s request will also support two major regional initiatives: the New Silk Road (NSR) focused on Afghanistan and its neighbors, and the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor linking South Asia with Southeast Asia.

The Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) is comprised of 52 Embassies and Consulates encompassing Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. WHA’s primary goals include helping to shut down illicit pathways to the United States to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism. The bureau will continue to work with partner governments and civil society in support of democratic values and human rights. WHA will support bilateral trade agreements that respect U.S. national sovereignty and promote U.S. investment and jobs. WHA will use all possible sources of leverage to encourage other countries to open markets to U.S. exports of goods and services, to provide adequate and effective enforcement of intellectual property rights. The Department seeks to expand security, prosperity, and democracy in the Hemisphere through partnerships that benefit the United States and its strategic national security partners.

The WHA FY 2018 Request is $256.2 million, a -$12.6 million reduction to the FY 2017 Estimate. WHA will implement contractual services reductions in order to absorb the reduction.

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The Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO) and its seven diplomatic missions play a central role in U.S. efforts to advance national security through the multilateral system, including the United Nations (UN). IO works through organizations that offer opportunities to achieve multi-national solutions to complex global issues.

U.S. multilateral engagement is an important component of a robust U.S. foreign policy, and particularly in promoting U.S. priorities through transnational action. International organizations comprise a global architecture that can extend U.S. influence at a reduced cost to the American taxpayer over bilateral or unilateral actions.

The UN system, in particular, has principal convening power for multilateral action within its main bodies, funds and programs, and specialized agencies. Through the UN system, the United States can take internationally-recognized action on issues affecting U.S. citizens that may not be resolved elsewhere, including aviation safety and security, public health, internet governance, and global postal services. IO’s multilateral engagement extends beyond the UN system to buttress multi-national resolutions outside the UN’s walls.

 

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FY2018 Trump Budget Word Cloud: Cuts, Reduction, Elimination

Posted: 10:23 am PT

 

President Trump’s FY2018 federal budget was rolled out today. Here’s the first of the highlights as we’re combing through the document.

Via FY2018 Budget Proposal

Request For Diplomatic Engagement

The FY 2018 Request for Diplomatic Engagement is $12.3 billion in discretionary enduring and OCO appropriations, $4.7 billion in fee-based spending, and $159 million in mandatory funding for the Foreign Service Retirement Disability Fund. The FY 2018 Request focuses on key Presidential and Departmental priorities including defeating ISIS and other terrorist groups; strengthening our borders; enabling our allies and partners to defend shared interests; ensuring operational and personnel safety at posts; strengthening cybersecurity; and ensuring accountability and efficiency with taxpayer resources.

Reduction of State’s on-board employment by nearly 2,000 through FY18

The Department is implementing the principles outlined in the Administration’s plan for reforming the Federal government and reducing the Federal civilian workforce. This includes a detailed review of State and USAID’s core missions, personnel, programs, and operations. The results and recommendations of this reform process will be released no later than February 2018. In the meantime, the Department is responsibly reducing its Foreign Service and Civil Service workforce through ongoing attrition and anticipated targeted (FY 2018) buyouts, which are projected to reduce State’s on-board employment by nearly 2,000 through September 2018.

Reduction of Funds for the UN

The FY 2018 Request proposes to reduce funding for the UN and affiliated agencies as well as other international programs and organizations that do not substantially advance U.S. foreign policy interests, fail to demonstrate effectiveness and transparency, and/or for which the funding burden is not fairly shared amongst members. The FY 2018 Request sets the expectation that these organizations rein in costs, and that the funding burden be shared more fairly among member states.

Facility Upgrades in Somalia, Turkey, Afghanistan

The Department appreciates Congressional support for security investments in the Security Assistance Appropriations Act, 2017 (SAAA), which provided a combined $1.7 billion for Diplomatic and Consular Programs – Worldwide Security Protection (WSP) and Embassy Security Construction and Maintenance (ESCM). These resources are enhancing security protection and facilities for civilian personnel on the front lines against ISIS and other terrorist organizations. As the WSP funding supports expanded Diplomatic Security operations through FY 2018, those funds are largely non-recurred in this request. Within ESCM, $0.6 billion of the SAAA is being applied towards State’s share of the FY 2018 Capital Security Cost-Sharing and Maintenance Cost-Sharing program, including facility upgrades for Somalia, Turkey, and Afghanistan. This reduces the level of new FY 2018 ESCM appropriations needed to sustain the $2.2 billion interagency level recommended by the Benghazi Accountability Review Board.

Elimination of Funds for East West Center and Asia Foundation

As part of the Administration’s plans to move the Nation towards fiscal responsibility and to redefine the proper role of the Federal Government, the budget proposes to eliminate earmarked appropriations for the East-West Center (EWC) and The Asia Foundation (TAF). Elimination of line-item Federal funding will not terminate these organizations, due to their non-profit status, and they remain eligible to apply and compete for federal grant funding opportunities, as well as receive private sector contributions.

Cuts Direct Funding in Half for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) 

The request cuts direct funding in half for the Educational and Cultural Exchange Programs from the FY 2017 Estimate. In a fiscally constrained environment, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) will focus its support on core global programs such as Fulbright and the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).

New “Consular and Border Security Programs” (CBSP) Account

The FY 2018 President’s Budget proposes creation of a new fund in which to deposit the receipts from retained consular fees. The new fund, known as the “Consular and Border Security Programs” (CBSP) account, will consist of the fees listed under the Bureau of Consular Affairs, and will support the provision of consular services, with expedited passport fees continuing to support the Department’s information technology programs. The CBSP chapter will continue to include the H and L Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee, but as the CBSP’s only collection scored as mandatory, the H and L fee will continue to be collected in a standalone account outside of the new CBSP account.

Diplomatic and Consular Programs – Enduring

The Department’s FY 2018 Request for D&CP Ongoing Operations is $3.9 billion and includes $3.5 billion for Program Operations and $452 million for PD. The request is -$283 million below the FY 2017 estimate of $4.2 billion, and includes $42 million for the American pay raise, -$97 million to absorb all other current-services adjustments, such as overseas and domestic price inflation, base adjustments, GSA rent and Locally Employed (LE) staff wage increases, and -$325 million in program changes.

The Department has begun engaging its entire workforce with a listening tour to provide the Secretary with input for a broader reorganization proposal to be released in 2018. The Department has begun to reshape its workforce and will reduce staffing levels through attrition and anticipated targeted buyouts. By the end of FY 2018, the Department anticipates reducing its workforce by approximately 8 percent. The D&CP request for American Salaries funding reflects this projected attrition, as adjusted for the American pay raise. However, this Request generally does not show reductions in bureaus’ authorized position levels, as Department’s strategic workforce analysis is still underway. Detailed information regarding personnel adjustments will be provided once the comprehensive plan to reorganize the Department is finalized.

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@StateDept Targets Umbrella Schools For Homeschooling Foreign Service Families

Posted: 4:18 am ET

 

An umbrella school is an alternative education school which serves to oversee the homeschooling of children to fulfill government educational requirements.  Umbrella or cover schools can provide options that homeschoolers might not have on their own, including field trips, resources, team sports opportunities, and tutoring. They also have widely different requirements regarding curricula, record-keeping, and even religious affiliation.

On May 15, the State Department issued an “Educational Allowance Home Study Payment Guidance” which says “indirect or third party service provider fees, such as umbrella school/cover schools not providing direct instruction, course, or accredited virtual education, are not reimbursable fees or recognized as advisory fees.” Any supplementary or gifted and talented instruction fees are included in this restriction.

The new guidance further states:

An educational provider receiving payment as a result of an education allowance must be providing the course teaching and evaluations directly to the student. The course of study provided by the educational provider may be online, by correspondence, or through other appropriate materials. Indirect or third party service provider fees, such as umbrella school/cover schools not providing direct instruction, course, or accredited virtual education, are not reimbursable fees or recognized as advisory fees (this also applies for any supplementary or gifted and talented instruction). However, a parent can elect to pay them as a personal expense. Third party service providers billing for the direct educational providers’ fees may only be paid directly by the FMO or reimbursed to the officer as described below. Agreements, rules, procedures, or contracts (if completed) between the officer, third party service providers, and/or the school must be made available to Post as part of any claim for reimbursement or request for direct payment.

Prior to this guidance, the State Department pays the homeschooling allowance for the Foreign Service child to the umbrella school. The school can then use it for school items for the child or reimburse parents for the school items they purchased. By restricting the use of umbrella schools, post’s Financial Management Officer (FMO) now becomes the “decider” for the FS child’s homeschool allowance. Foreign Service families can still homeschool but the FMO at post has to okay each and every purchase expenditure. Parents have to take their receipts to the FMO and hope that he/she will reimburse them for that specific math curriculum.

We don’t know how much the State Department is saving by going after umbrella schools. At some posts, homeschooling may be the family’s only educational option. And at other posts, there may not be an FMO and this could become one more collateral duty for the Management Officer.

We should note that Foreign Service families can only choose from three educational methods for their kids: 1) school at post, 2) school away from post, and 3) home study/private instruction. Guess which one is the cheapest.

So a hiring freeze for family members with very few exceptions, and now, we’re asked why the State Department is picking on homeschoolers?  What should we make of this? They’re absolutely not saying parents can’t homeschool their kids.  They’ll just make the process burdensome enough, as a way to rein in the cost?

In late April, Bloomberg reported that “Tillerson was taken aback when he arrived on the job to see how much money the State Department was spending on housing and schooling for the families of diplomats living overseas.”

When we look back at that reporting and then look at this new guidance, we get a sense that this is just the opening salvo in a one sided fight projected to inflict deep cuts at the State Department. This is just the first cut but the axe is out.

 

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AFSA Elections 2017: Three of Four Top Elected Posts Are Uncontested. Again.

Posted: 12:10 am ET

 

It’s that time of year again. AFSA is having an election for the 2017 Governing Board.  For the second time in four years, three of the four top elected posts are again, unopposed: President, Secretary, Treasurer.  As in 2013, only the State VP position has two candidates.  Also uncontested slots are: USAID VP, FAS VP, APHIS Rep, BBG Rep, FAS Rep and USAID Rep.  The Foreign Service had seen this movie before in the 2013 elections.

Barbara Stephenson is running unopposed for reelection as AFSA’s president. In her latest FSJ column addressing the 30% funding cut, she writes that she has become over the years, a “cheerleader for making the most of transitions to reexamine priorities.” In hedging off potential criticisms for AFSA’s noticeable silence over these budget cuts, she cites “AFSA’s record-high membership levels and the response and feedback from our “structured conversations” (now in their second year) and other communications tell me that many members are open to a sophisticated approach by AFSA that draws on our core competencies as diplomats.”

Following Secretary Tillerson’s recent address to State Department employees, WaPo’s Joe Davidson writes“Tillerson seems more in touch with the tension reorganization can generate among employees than the union representing them. A statement from American Foreign Service Association President Barbara Stephenson didn’t address worker apprehension as she said “this reorganization effort offers a rare opportunity to make American diplomacy stronger.”

Former Ambassador Tom Boyatt running unopposed for AFSA Secretary says in his campaign message that he “registered the unprecedented uncertainties in the current budget proposal, the reorganization and “streamlining” being considered and the possible RIF flowing therefrom.”

First time candidate for AFSA office, former Ambassador Tony Wayne running in an uncontested seat for the Treasurer slot says that he “cannot recall a period when the misunderstanding was so serious regarding the vital role that American diplomats and American diplomacy play.  AFSA must be as effective as possible in explaining the importance of the non-military tools in America’s international policy. The proposed budget cuts are deeply concerning.” 

Ken Kero-Mentz running for State Vice President under the Stephenson slate writes, “I believe we must forge new alliances, build new bridges, and plan for a stronger future, together. […] I believe AFSA must be a place where everyone can share concerns and ideas, safely. I know how to work with senior management, and I know how to advocate for our Foreign Service and our Department.”

Joe De Maria, an independent running for State Vice President says, “I have served 26 years in the Foreign Service. I’ve served at six posts and in five functional bureaus with many fine generalists and specialists. I’ve served as a consular officer, a Pearson Fellow, HRO, Labor Officer and Congressional Advisor. I know the Department well.[…] I know what works well and what doesn’t, and what motivates us to keep plugging away year after year. Let me put this experience and knowledge to work for you and your families.”

Ann Posner for USAID Vice President in an uncontested seat writes: “As USAID Contingency VP, I want to press onward to assure that the Agency streamlines systems that affect FSOs’ work and careers.”

Daniel Crocker running for FCS Vice President as part of the sole slate: “I’ll help ensure that FCS’s role in promoting U.S. economic security is a core component of your country team at post. I’ll challenge Commerce to support a first-tier Foreign Service. And my communication with you will be transparent and timely.”

Independent Steve Morrison is running for FCS Vice President says that he “Cannot be promoted, SFS “window” not open so ONLY WORKS FOR YOU AND YOUR INTERESTS!”

The contested Retiree VP slot is between Bill Haugh who is running as part of the only slate and John Naland running as an independent. Haugh writes: “I want to strengthen AFSA’s capacity to help you transition to retirement. Every retirement is unique, so I propose to strengthen AFSA casework. I am a career management officer with decades of experience navigating the bureaucracy.”

AFSA President twice and former AFSA VP John Naland writes that he is the “only retiree candidate who has pledged to dedicate 20 hours per week to AFSA, I have the time to apply my experience and knowledge to advancing AFSA’s agenda.  As an independent candidate, if the need arises to urge our AFSA President to speak out more strongly in defense of the Service, I will be freer to do so than her fellow slate candidates whose elections she made possible.”

As an aside — we have not made a habit of endorsing AFSA candidates and we are not about to start now, but we will always remember John Naland as an AFSA president who was willing to address members’ concerns long before we had this blog. He was accommodating and sensitive to the issues of Foreign Service members and their spouses, even those who were not paying members of the organization.  He certainly talked the talk and walked the walk.

Frankly, we are sorry to see that he is not at the top of the ticket.

Former Ambassador Alphonse F. La Porta for Retiree Representative talks about “another and lesser known threat: the gutting of employee rights and the labor-management system for which AFSA is responsible as the exclusive representative of the Foreign Service. The law-based and carefully-negotiated rights of federal unions are under attack on the Hill to limit due process, employee protections, and AFSA advocacy.”

Philip A. Shull for Retiree Representative as part of the sole slate writes that “If elected as your Retiree Representative, I will use my skills and 30+ years of experience in marketing and coalition building to win over even more converts.”

George Colvin is running as an independent for Retiree Representative. In his campaign statement, he writes:

According to prominent legal theorist Jack Goldsmith, the Trump administration is conducting “the greatest presidential onslaught on international law and international institutions in American history,” including “trying to gut State Department capacity across the board.” News stories feature bewildered Department staff fearful of budget cuts that could produce a Foreign Service RIF, as well as a drastic and damaging reorganization. The Secretary is a taciturn recluse and policy bystander.

Faced with conditions that threaten both the national interest and the future of the Foreign Service, Barbara Stephenson and her colleagues have nothing to say.

I am running as an independent candidate for retiree representative because I believe AFSA must engage on these concerns, and must be seen to do so. We are the Foreign Service, not the Silent Service; and it is past time for the “Voice of the Foreign Service” to start speaking.

Oh boy! Mr. Colvin might just stir things up on the Board!

Several folks are also running for State Representatives. Some candidates’ statements do not talk about what they hope to accomplish  as AFSA representatives but about the um… “true appreciation of the work” of AFSA President Ambassador Stephenson or Stephenson’s “leadership.”  

Below is a list of nominees.

 

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Spending Agreement FY2017 – Notable Elements For @StateDept and Foreign Ops Funding

Posted: 2:48 am ET

 

In March, we blogged about the proposed funding cuts by the Trump Administration on the FY2017 budget. The fiscal year ends on September 30, 2017 (see Trump Seeks Further Funding Cuts From @StateDept/@USAID, This Time From 2017 Budget). WaPo reports that  an agreement was reached last night for a spending package to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year. “The House and Senate are expected to vote on the package early this week. The bipartisan agreement includes $12.5 billion in new military spending and $1.5 billion more for border security, a major priority for Republican leaders in Congress.”

Below are some of the notable elements included in the bill. We have not compared this with the Trump wish list for cuts in FY17 but we note that Trump’s proposal included reduction in Educational and Cultural Exchanges and in this spending agreement the Committees on Appropriations specifically recognize the unique role of educational and cultural exchanges, and provided additional funding for certain educational and cultural exchange programs. Power of the purse. Excerpted from DIVISION J – STATEFOPs SOM OCR FY17:

Diplomatic and Consular Programs: The Act provides $6,147,254,000 for Diplomatie and Consular Programs in this title, and an additional $2,410,386,000 in title VIII under this heading is designated for OCO/GWOT pursuant to BBEDCA. Within the total provided under this heading in this title, up to $1,899,479,000 is for Worldwide Security Protection (WSP) and may remain available until expended; and $4,247,775,000 is for operations, ofwhich $637,166,000 may remain available until September 30, 2018. Not later than September 1, 2017, the Secretary of State is directed to report to the Committees on Appropriations on projected amounts available for operations beyond fiscal year 2017 by category and bureau. Title VIII ofthis Act includes funds for embassy operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq and other areas of unrest.

No funding for new, non-security positions:  Act does not include funding for any new, non-security positions, unless specifically noted herein. The Secretary of State may fill existing positions that become vacant due to attrition, as needed. If the Secretary intends to create and fill new positions, 15 days prior to posting such positions or filling such positions with internai candidates the Secretary shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations a reprogramming request which shall inelude for each new position: a justification; a description of the job duties; the estimated fiscal years 20 17 and 2018 costs; and the funding sources to be used for such costs, including funds to be reallocated from savings due to the elimination of other positions, contract services, and other reductions or cost saving measures.

The agreement includes sufficient funds to support the authorized positions for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in fiscal year 2017.

Training Requirements: The Secretary of State shall ensure that all security-cleared employees comply with training requirements for the classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying of national security information in accordance with Executive Order 13526: Classified National Security Information, as appropriate.

What’s with this? The Secretary of State is directed to identify the embassies or consulates that did not regularly utilize the Department of State’s model visa denialletter in fiscal year 2016, and include such information in the report required by the House report under the heading Border Security Program, Visa processing and training.

FASTC Reporting Requirement: Not later than 45 days after enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations a progress report on the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center project. Such report shall be updated and submitted to such Committees semi-annually until completion ofthe project. The report shall include the requirements described under this heading in the House and Senate reports.

Holocaust Issues: The Secretary of State is directed to implement directives under this heading in the House report and the Introduction to the Senate report concerning atrocity prevention, including continued support for the Atrocities Prevention Board and the Office of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues.

Anti-Semitism: The Secretary of State is directed to fill the position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism authorized by Public Law 108-332 in a timely manner.

Trafficking in Persons: The agreement includes $12,500,000 for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons for support of activities and directives described in the House and Senate reports.

Workforce Diversity: The Secretary of State is directed to continue the workforce diversity initiatives described under this heading in the House and Senate reports.

Public Diplomacy: The agreement includes sufficient funds to support public diplomacy programs at not less than the fiscal year 2016 level. In addition, the Secretary of State is directed to inelude projected funding levels for public diplomacy in the operating plan required by section 7076(a) ofthis Act.

WHTI Surcharge: Section 7034(k)(1) ofthis Act extends for one year the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative surcharge authority, which is the same extension of authority included in prior fiscal years.

OCP: Section 7034(k)(4) of this Act continues the Foreign Service overseas pay comparability authority, but, as in prior fiscal years, prohibits implementation of the third phase ofthe authority.

Discrimination/Abuse Prevention: The Secretary of State is directed to implement the recommendations in the Senate report regarding prevention of discrimination and abuse under this heading and the Operating Expenses heading.

Additional Funds for Educational and Cultural Exchanges: Committees on Appropriations recognize the unique role of educational and cultural exchanges for advancing American leadership and ideals abroad. Department of State funded exchanges are an important instrument of United States foreign policy and diplomacy efforts, and promote United States security interests. To that end, the agreement includes additional funding for certain educational and cultural exchange programs.  Funds made available for the Citizen Exchange Program that are above the fiscal year 2016 program plan are intended for the purposes described under this heading in the House and Senate reports.

Embassy Security, Construction, Maintenance, and NEC Vietnam: The Act provides $1,117,859,000 for Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance in this title, ofwhich $358,698,000 is for Worldwide Security Upgrades (WSU) and $759,161,000 is for other construction, operations, and maintenance. An additional $1,238,800,000 is provided in title VIII under this heading that is designated for OCO/GWOT pursuant to BBEDCA, ofwhich $1,228,000,000 is available for WSU.

Not later than 45 days after enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall report to the Committees on Appropriations on plans to construct a New Embassy Compound in Vietnam, including options for the purchase of appropriate land for such construction.

 USAID: The Act provides $1,204,609,000 for Operating Expenses in this title, ofwhich

$180,691,000 may remain available until September 30, 2018, and an additional $152,080,000 in title VIII under this heading is designated for OCO/GWOT pursuant to BBEDCA.

The USAID Administrator shall ensure that all security-cleared employees comply with training requirements for the classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying of national security information in accordance with Executive Order 13526: Classified National Security Information, as appropriate.

The agreement includes $250,000 under this heading to train USAID personnel in genocide and mass atrocity prevention.

The USAID Administrator is directed to consult with the appropriate congressional committees prior to any decision to begin discussions with a foreign government regarding the closure of a USAID Mission.

Section 7081. Consular and Border Security Programs (new): The Act establishes in the Treasury a Consular and Border Security Programs account into which authorized border security program fees shall be deposited for the authorized purposesofsuchprogram. Subsection(c)doesnotincludetheexpandedauthoritycontained in the Appendix, Budget ofthe United States Govemment, Fiscal Year 2017.

Section 7083. Afghan Allies (new): The Act provides for an additional 2,500 visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program. The Secretary of State shall ensure that such visas are only issued to individuals who meet the strict qualifications ofthe program for assisting the United States Govemment in Afghanistan, and that vetting processes remain rigorous and thorough.

The Act includes funds for various countries.

Israel: The Act makes available $75,000,000 under Foreign Military Financing Program for Israel from the Security Assistance Appropriations Act, 2017 (division Bof Public Law 114-254), which is in addition to funds made available under such heading in title IV ofthis Act. The total amount provided under Foreign Military Financing Program for assistance for Israel in fiscal year 2017 is $3,175,000,000.

Burma (where no one has yet been nominated to be chief of mission): The Act provides responsibility for democracy and human rights programs in Burma to the United States Chief of Mission in Burma, in consultation with the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Department of State. Such responsibility shall include final approval for the specific uses of funds regardless of the bureau or agency managing such funds. […]Not later than 45 days after the enactment of this Act and prior to the initial obligation of funds made available for assistance for Burma, the Secretary of State shall submit a report detailing steps taken by the Government of Burma to address human rights abuses committed by the armed forces ofBurma against ethnic minorities, including the use of rape as a weapon of war.

People ‘s Republic of China: The Secretary of State and USAID Administrator are directed to provide no assistance to the central Govemment ofthe People’s Republic of China under Global Health Programs, Development Assistance, and Economie Support Fund, except for assistance to detect, prevent, and treat infectious diseases.

Philippines (whose President has been invited to the White House): Extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, particularly those committed in the conduct ofthe anti-drug campaign, call into question the commitment ofthe central Government ofthe Philippines to human rights, due process and the rule of law. The Secretary of State shall inform the Committees on Appropriations in a timely manner of the United States policy toward the Philippines, including the response to such killings.  The report required in subsection (f) shall include an assessment of the following information: (1) the status of diplomatie relations between the United States and the Philippines, and significant changes in the policy ofthe Government ofthe Philippines on matters of of national interest to the Govemment ofthe United States; (2) the degree to which the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) benefits from United States assistance, armaments, equipment, systems, and training; (3) the impact ofUnited States assistance on AFP modemization, maritime domain awareness, and operational capabilities ofthe Philippines Coast Guard, including to maintain an effective presence in Philippine territorial waters; (4) the impact of United States assistance on economie growth in the Philippines, including through United States-Philippines Partnership for Growth programs; (5) the importance of United States markets for Philippine exports, such as computer components, automobile parts, electrical machinery, and textiles; (6) the importance of United States foreign direct investment in the Philippines, and the influence of the United States as an investor and market for the Philippine business process outsourcing industry; (7) the economie benefit of annual remittances to the Philippines from the United States; (8) the adherence of the Govemment ofthe Philippines to the rule of law, including due process, particularly in efforts to counter illicit narcotics; (9) efforts by the Govemment ofthe Philippines to credibly investigate and prosecute individuals or organizations responsible for inciting, directing, or carrying out extra-judicial killings in the Philippines; and (10) the threat of Islamist terrorist groups in Mindanao and elsewhere in the southem region of the Philippines, and the impact of the United States military in supporting counterterrorism efforts. The Secretary of State shall also comply with the reporting requirement in the Senate report under Foreign Military Financing Program with respect to certain actions by the Govemment of the Philippines.

Countering Russian Influence Fund: The Act provides not less than $100,000,000 for the Countering Russian Influence Fund (CRIF). Funds should be made available to civil society and other organizations that seek to mitigate the expansion of such influence and aggression, including through public awareness campaigns and exchange activities. The Secretary of State and the USAID Administrator, as appropriate, shall ensure that CRIF programs are coordinated among Federal agencies and program implementers, and that information and lessons-learned are shared. The Secretary of State shall make public!y available the report required by subsection (c)(4), except that such report may include a classified annex.

We’re still reading, more here:

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Trump Seeks Further Funding Cuts From @StateDept/@USAID, This Time From 2017 Budget

Posted: 2:51 am ET

 

Last December, Public Law No: 114-254 (12/10/2016) was signed into law to provide continuing appropriations for most federal agencies through April 28, 2017. This continuing resolution (CR) was passed and it prevented a shutdown of the federal government that would have occurred when the previous CR expired on December 9, 2016 (at that time, eleven of the twelve FY2017 regular appropriations bills that fund the federal government had not been enacted).  The bill funded most projects and activities at the rate established for FY2017 spending by the Budget Control Act of 2011 including additional emergency, disaster relief, and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding.

It looks like the House will be in session for eight calendar days in April, while the Senate will have ten days. With six months left in the current fiscal year and while Congress is expected to wrestle once more with that CR next month, the Trump Administration is also seeking cuts from the FY2017 budget.  The “savings” from the proposed cuts in the current fiscal year will reportedly also go to DOD for additional military spending, and to help build that wall.

Via usnews.com:

memo sent by the administration on Friday to the House and Senate appropriations committees provides the first detailed look at the proposed cuts, and is expected to meet resistance as the budget blueprint did from lawmakers who have fewer than a dozen legislative days to craft and pass the trillion-dollar spending legislation to keep the lights on.
[…]
All told, the programs overseen by the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education subcommittee would see the greatest reductions, totalling $7.26 billion, followed by $2.88 billion from the subcommittee for State and Foreign Operations, including $1.16 billion to USAID foreign aid programs going to combating climate change, family planning and other global health initiatives.

The list of proposed reductions below is via Politico (see pages 11-12 above for the proposed cuts for the State Department).

Some programs will be slashed while others are zeroed out under the proposed cuts from the State/USAID budget for FY2017. In the case of PEPFAR (Aids) the proposal calls for “slowing the rate of new patients on treatment in FY17.” It slashed funds for peacekeeping operations, family planning/reproductive health, and refugee programs “because of lower projections in FY 2017 of refugee admissions.” Here are some of the most notable programs targeted for cuts this year under Trump’s proposal:

Development Assistance (DA) (-$562M): Proposed savings in the DA account include reducing support for bilateral climate change programs that are part of the previous Administration’s Global Climate Change Initiative. Further savings from the FY 2017 CR level can be achieved by reducing economic assistance in other sectors to programmatically sufficient levels, such as through reductions of up to 20 percent in basic and higher education (which has a large pipelines of unspent funds); biodiversity; democracy, human rights, and governance; agriculture and food security (while still addressing key objectives and priorities in the Global Food Security Act); and other sectors.

Economic Support Fund (ESF) (base) (-$290M): This decrease accepts the topline reduction in the House bill (-$274 million vs. CR), which included zeroing out the GCF. It then also reduces several sectors, including bilateral climate change, basic/higher education, democracy/governance, and economic growth.

President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)/Global Health Programs (-$242M): This reduction would achieve savings by requiring PEPFAR to begin slowing the rate of new patients on treatment in FY 17, by reducing support to low-performing countries, by reducing lower-priority prevention programs, or by identifying new efficiencies or other savings.

International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (-$200M): This account can absorb a $200 million reduction from the annualized base CR rate with insignificant impact to the account, given carryover, the slow rate of FY 2016 obligations, and resources recaptured through de-obligations, recoveries, and proceeds of sale.

Foreign Military Financing (-$200M): This account can absorb a $200 million reduction from the annualized base CR rate by cutting funding for high income countries and consistent with funding restrictions for certain countries in the FY 2017 House and Senate bills.

International Organizations and Programs (-$169M): This account provides for non-assessed contributions to international organizations. This reduction would eliminate such contributions to most organizations funded through the account including the UN Population Fund and some contributions to climate change programs but preserve flexibility to make contributions to some organizations such as UNICEF as well as those supporting global security functions.

Educational and Cultural Exchanges (-$140M): Reduction or elimination of programs based on the ability to fund outside of ECE, ability to merge with other programs, and legacy programs in high income countries. Scale back of programs to prior year levels and/or 5-10% reductions given budgetary constraints.

Global Health Security (-$72M): This proposal zeroes out global health security programs at USAID in FY 2017 to realize up to $72.5 million in savings. These programs are currently supported with 2-year funds and it is unlikely the agency will obligate a significant portion of these funds under the current CR. This proposal instead seeks legislative authority to repurpose $72.5 million in remaining Ebola emergency funds to support these programs in FY 2017.

Specified Other Global Health Programs at USAID (-$90M):To achieve additional savings, reduced levels for:
• Tuberculosis (-$44.6 million below FY 17 CR)
• Polio eradication (-$7.9 million)
• Nutrition (-$16.3 million)
• Vulnerable children (-$7.5 million)
• Neglected tropical diseases (-$13.3 million)

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Former Top Diplomats Make a Case For Sensible Funding of the State Department Budget

Posted: 2:21 am ET

 

In light of the Trump Administration’s proposed FY18 budget, the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Council of American Ambassadors wrote a joint letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to make a case for sensible State Department funding in the federal budget.  The letter was signed by Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, AAD Chairman; Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann, AAD President; Ambassador Bruce S. Gelb, CAA Chairman; and Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel CAA Chairman Emeritus. We understand that identical letters were also sent to Senators Cardin, Corker, Graham, Leahy and Schumer in the Senate, and Representatives Engel, Lowey, McCarthy, Pelosi, Rogers, and Royce in the House.

Sept 14, 2012: Thousands of protestors attacked the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, setting fire to the Consular Section entrance, and causing extensive damage. (Source: U.S. State Department/DS)

Below is the text of the letter AAD/CAA sent to the Hill:

On behalf of the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD) and the Council of American Ambassadors (CAA), we believe the proposed magnitude of the cuts to the State Department budget pose serious risks to American security. After the military defeat of the Islamic State, intensive diplomatic efforts in Iraq and Syria will be essential to stabilization, without which the radical movements that we now contest will reappear. Afghanistan requires the same attention.

As a general principle, diplomacy is far less costly than war to achieve our national purposes. Diplomacy is most often the first line of America’s defense. When the Islamic State suddenly appeared in Mali, it was our Embassy that was able to recommend action based on knowing the difference between terrorists and local political actors who needed support. When Ebola in West Africa threatened a worldwide pandemic, it was our Foreign Service that remained in place to establish the bases for and support the multi-agency health efforts deployed to stop the disease outbreak. It is to our embassies that American citizens turn for security and evacuation abroad.

Our embassies’ commercial work supports US companies and citizen entrepreneurs in selling abroad. This creates thousands of American jobs. Every dollar spent on this work returns hundreds in sales. Peacekeeping and political missions are mandated by the Security Council where our veto power can ensure when, where, how many, and what kind of peacekeepers used in a mission support US interests. Peacekeeping forces are deployed in fragile, sometimes prolonged, circumstances, where the US would not want to use US forces. UN organized troops cost the US taxpayer only about one-eighth the cost of sending US troops. Our contributions to refugees and development are critical to avoid humanitarian crises from spiraling into conflicts that would draw in the United States and promote violent extremism. Budget cuts of the amounts contemplated endanger basic US security interests.

US public diplomacy fights radicalism. Educational exchanges over the years have enabled hundreds of thousands of foreign students truly to understand Americans and American culture. This is far more effective in countering radical propaganda than social media. The American Immigration Law Foundation estimates that 46 current and 165 former heads of government are US graduates.

These few examples should show why so many American military leaders are deeply opposed to the current budget proposals. They recognize that when diplomacy is not permitted to do its job the chances of Americans dying in war increase. When the number of employees in military commissaries or military bands exceeds the number of US diplomats, the current budget proposal is indeed not a cost-effective way to protect America and its interests.

The Academy, representing the most experienced and distinguished former American diplomats, both career and non-career, and the Council have never opposed all cuts to the State Department budget. The Academy’s detailed study American Diplomacy at Risk (2015) proposed many reductions. We believe streamlining is possible, and we can make proposals to that end. However, the current budget proposals will damage American national security and should be rejected.

The original letter is here: Letter re Proposed DOS Budget Cuts – Senator McConnell.

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