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U.S. Senate Confirms USAID’s Mark Green, 2 @StateDept Nominees, and 11 New Ambassadors

Posted: 12:05 am ET

 

On Thursday, August 3, the U.S. Senate confirmed a slew of nominees for the State Department, including 11 new ambassadors.  Also confirmed was Ambassador Mark Green as USAID Administrator and nominees for OPIC, and the United Nations.

The Senate will adjourned on Friday to convene for pro forma sessions only with no business conducted between now and September 1. Hey, that means no recess appointments.  The Senate will next convene at 3:00pm on Tuesday, September 5, 2017.

 

STATE DEPARTMENT

Executive Calendar #229 – Nathan Alexander Sales to be Coordinator for Counterterrorism

Executive Calendar #239 – Carl Risch to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Consular Affairs)

AMBASSADORS

Executive Calendar #291 – John P. Desrocher to be Ambassador to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria

Executive Calendar #227 – Kelly Knight Craft to be Ambassador of the United States to Canada

Executive Calendar #228 – Sharon Day to be Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Costa Rica

Executive Calendar #289 – Michael Arthur Raynor to be Ambassador to Ethiopia

Executive Calendar #232 – Luis Arreaga to be Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Guatemala

Executive Calendar #233 – Krishna Urs to be Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Peru

Executive Calendar #230 – George Edward Glass to be Ambassador of the United States to the Portuguese Republic

Executive Calendar #231 – Robert Wood Johnson IV to be Ambassador of the United States to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Executive Calendar #235 – Lewis Eisenberg to be Ambassador to the Italian Republic, and to serve concurrently as Ambassador to the Republic of San Marino

Executive Calendar #290 – Maria E. Brewer to be Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone

USAID

Executive Calendar #166 – Mark Andrew Green to be Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

NATO

Executive Calendar #234 – Kay Bailey Hutchison to be United States Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

UNITED NATIONS

Executive Calendar #237 – Kelley Eckels Currie to be Representative of the United States on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC)

Executive Calendar #238 – Kelley Eckels Currie to be an Alternate Representative of the United States to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA)

OPIC

Executive Calendar #236 – Ray Washburne to be President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation

Executive Calendar #245 – David Steele Bohigian to be Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation

 

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

Posted: 3:48 pm PT

 

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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VP Pence Swears-In U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty

Posted: 2:58 am ET

 

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House GOP to Use Holman Rule to Target Staff/Funds of the Congressional Budget Office #Bonkers

Posted: 2:06 pm ET

 

In early January, we blogged about the Holman Rule, which was removed from the standing rules in 1983 but reinstated by House Republicans early this year (see House GOP Brings Back Holman Rule to “Retrench” Agency Spending, Cut Pay of Any Federal Employee. According to the Hill, the House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) is trying to eliminate 89 positions from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s staff and require the office to aggregate think tank data instead of using its own professional expertise. The Hill says that Meadows would use the Holman Rule. “In an amendment to be offered to the security-related spending bill scheduled for a House vote this week, Meadows would cut $15 million of funding to CBO staff members responsible for estimating the budgetary costs of bills in Congress…”

This is bonkers.  They don’t like the Congressional Budget Office’s scores, so they’ll eliminate 89 positions and slash the agency’s funding. If they succeed in doing this, they could replicate this at any agency. It will hasten the death of expertise in federal agencies and we will be left with whatever desirable facts and fancy reports will be rolled out by the administration of the day based on aggregated reports from preferred think tanks.

The “Holman Rule” in the rules package passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 234 to 193. WaPo previously reported in January that a majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any amendment to an appropriations bill that targets a specific government employee or program, but that its passage put agencies and the public on notice that their work is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.

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SFRC Grills D/S Sullivan About @StateDept FY18 Reauthorization Bill and Reorganizational Plans

Posted: 4:22 am ET

 

Deputy Secretary John Sullivan appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 18 for a hearing intended to Review the State Department Reauthorization Bill for FY 2018 and the State Department Reorganization Plans. As we expected, the deputy secretary cited the “listening tour” as the “cornerstone” of the agency’s redesign efforts:

In the 21st century, the United States faces many evolving threats to our national security. As the Committee knows well, the State Department – with a workforce of more than 75,000 – must respond to these challenges with the necessary speed and the appropriate resources. In other words, the nature of our work at the State Department demands flexibility and adaptability to an ever-changing world. We ask that the Committee keep this in mind as you continue to evaluate proposals for the Authorization Bill.

We also appreciate the great interest and support the Committee has shown to the Department’s efforts to make our programs and organizations more efficient and effective. The cornerstone of this redesign effort has been the input and feedback received from State Department employees.

Our main take away from watching the hearing is that D/Secretary Sullivan is a more personable and reassuring presence when talking about the State Department and USAID. He comes across as a champion of his agency without contradicting his superiors. He sounded reasonable and accommodating to the requests of the senators. At one point during the hearing, Senator Udall (D-NM) complained that he sent the Department a letter asking for specific information but has not received a response in four months. D/Secretary Sullivan quickly apologized, saying this is the first he’s heard of it, and he will make sure it is acted soonest.

There were lots of concern about the reported merger of State and USAID.  D/S Sullivan assured the senators that there is no predetermination in absorbing USAID to State. He also told Senator Menendez that there is no intention to fold USAID into State. He explained that the merger is a proposal made by people outside of the State Department but that there has not been an intention to absorb USAID to State.

He was also asked about the idea floated by the WH of moving CA and PRM functions to DHS. He told the panel that it is not the intent of the Department to move these functions.  He told the senators that it is something that if it were raised, they would  consider it but that it would be from a position that the two are vital to the mission of the State Department. Senator Shaheen (D-NH) informed him that if this  happens, she would be one of those leading the charge against it.

Senator Udall said the panel need significant oversight language in the bill to ensure that Congress has a say on the reorganization at State. Senator Cardin said that he expect State to implement what Congress has authorized and wanted some some assurance that when Congress passes the appropriation and authorization that it would be carried out. D/S Sullivan assured him that his agency will comply with the law, execute the law, and follow the instructions of Congress.

Special envoys is a big topic for the panel. Apparently there are about 68 special envoys; of that 7 are permissive positions (Congress uses may instead of shall) and 11 are mandated positions.  The senators worry that they all come with large staff. One senator wanted to know — if Congress is the authorizing body, do they have to put these positions in a statute? And should the Senate provide advice and consent for all of them. Senator Corker notes that despite the complaints about the multiple special envoys, Secretary Tillerson had recently appointed a Special Envoy for Ukraine. He notes that if we have somebody working on policy that the individual should go through confirmation.

In addition to the budget request and the reorganization, other topics discussed include diversity, employee welfare (Mission Juba got a mention from Senator Coons), Global Engagement Center (a mention from Senator Portman), morale problems and isolated leadership (Senator Udall’s concerns), hiring freeze, and the Russian diplomatic properties.

Senator Corker closed the meeting with a compliment for D/S Sullivan about the latter bringing a lot to the Department at the time when it is most needed.

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Nixon and the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act

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Posted: 3:09 am ET

 

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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Appropriations Committee Releases FY2018 DHS Bill, Includes $1.6 Billion For Border Wall

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Posted: 2:22 am ET

 

On July 11, the House Appropriations Committee released its proposed fiscal year 2018 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill, which will be considered by the subcommittee on July 12. The legislation directs $44.3 billion in discretionary funding for DHS, an increase of $1.9 billion above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. The bill includes $1.6 billion for physical barrier construction along the U.S. southern border. It also includes $6.8 billion – the same as the President’s request – for disaster relief and emergency response activities through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to the Committee’s statement.

The bill highlights include the following:

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

The bill contains $13.8 billion in discretionary appropriations for CBP – an increase of $1.6 billion above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. These resources ensure our borders are protected by putting boots on the ground, improving infrastructure and technology, and helping to stem the flow of illegal goods both into and out of the country. Within this total, the legislation includes:

  • $1.6 billion for physical barrier construction along the Southern border – including bollards and levee improvements – meeting the full White House request;
  • $100 million to hire 500 new Border Patrol agents;
  • $131 million for new border technology;
  • $106 million for new aircraft and sensors; and
  • $109 million for new, non-intrusive inspection equipment.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – The bill provides $7 billion for ICE –$619.7 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Within this total, the legislation includes:

  • $185.6 million to hire 1,000 additional law enforcement officers and 606 support staff;
  • $2 billion – an increase of $30 million above the requested level – for domestic and international investigations programs, including efforts to combat human trafficking, child exploitation, cybercrime, visa screening, and drug smuggling;
  • $4.4 billion for detention and removal programs, including:
  • 44,000 detention beds, an increase 4,676 beds over fiscal year 2017;
  • 129 Fugitive Operations teams; and
  • Criminal Alien Program operations, including the addition of 26 new communities to the 287(g) program, which partners with local law enforcement to process, arrest, and book illegal immigrants into state or local detention facilities.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

The bill includes $7.2 billion for TSA – a decrease of $159.8 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This includes full funding ($3.2 billion) for Transportation Security Officers, privatized screening operations, and passenger and baggage screening equipment, in order to speed processing and wait times for travelers and cargo. This also includes $151.8 million to hire, train, and deploy 1,047 canine teams to further expedite processing time.

Cybersecurity and Protection of Communications

To combat increasingly dangerous and numerous cyber-attacks, the bill includes a total of $1.8 billion for the National Protection and Programs Directorate to enhance critical infrastructure and prevent hacking.

Within this amount, $1.37 billion is provided to help secure civilian (.gov) networks, detect and prevent cyber-attacks and foreign espionage, and enhance and modernize emergency communications. Funds are also included to enhance emergency communications capabilities and to continue the modernization of the Biometric Identification System.

Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS)

The legislation does not fund most CIS activities, as these are funded outside the appropriations process through the collection of fees However, the bill does contain $131 million for E-Verify, which is funded within CIS and helps companies ensure their employees may legally work in the United States.

SEC. 107 of the bill requires the following:

(a) Not later than 30 days after the date  of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Committees on the Judiciary of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate, and the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives, a report for fiscal year 2017 on visa overstay data by country as required by section 1376 of title 8, United States Code: Provided, That the report on visa overstay data shall also include—

(1) overstays from all nonimmigrant visa categories under the immigration laws, delineated by each of the classes and sub-classes of such categories; and 

(2) numbers as well as rates of overstays for each class and sub-class of such nonimmigrant categories on a per country basis.

(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall publish on the Department’s website the metrics developed to measure the effectiveness of security between the ports of entry, including the methodology and data supporting the resulting measures. 

For the complete text of the FY 2018 Subcommittee Draft Homeland Security Appropriations bill, see: http://docs.house.gov/meetings/AP/AP15/20170712/106241/BILLS-115HR-SC-AP-FY2018-HSecurity-FY2018HomelandSecurityAppropriationsBill-SubcommitteeDraft.pdf

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New Report on Tillerson-Miller Battle Over Visa and Refugee Functions

Posted: 12:40 pm ET

 

The Bureau of Consular Affairs via history.state.gov:

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (Jun 27, 1952; P.L. 82-414; 66 Stat. 174) established within the Department of State a Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs, headed by an Administrator with rank equal to that of an Assistant Secretary. From Mar 1 to Dec 30, 1954, the Bureau was renamed “Inspection, Security, and Consular Affairs.” From 1953 to 1962, the Secretary of State designated incumbents to this position. The Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (Jun 28, 1962; P.L. 87-510; 76 Stat. 123) made the Administrator a Presidential appointee subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. In 1962, the Department transferred the security function to the Deputy Under Secretary for Administration, but the title remained unchanged until 1977, when the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1978 (Aug 17, 1977; P.L. 95-105; 91 Stat. 847) changed the Administrator’s title to “Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.” This title has been given in full in all subsequent commissions to this office.

WaPo’s John Rogin reported on Sunday about the internal administration debate over which part of the government should be charged of deciding who gets into the United States.  WH policy adviser Stephen Miller has reportedly been pushing Secretary Tillerson to get “tougher” on immigration, vetting and refugee policy at the State Department.   Rogin writes that a White House official told him that if Tillerson doesn’t go along with the changes that Miller and others (???) in the White House are pushing the State Department to implement internally, the plan to strip Foggy Bottom of its role supervising these functions could gain traction.  Rogin’s report quotes State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert saying that Tillerson believes that two bureaus should remain where they are and the Secretary of State reportedly views consular and refugees work “as essential to the Department’s mission to secure our borders and protect the American people.” We linked to Rogin’s report below.

Stephen Miller is widely regarded as the principal author of Trump’s travel ban.  We have a feeling that the only “tougher” vetting that Miller and company will find acceptable is shutting down the U.S. border.

We know that some folks are already distressed with the news about the the potential transfer of consular function to DHS. It doesn’t help that Secretary Tilleron’s “listening tour” recommended it (see @StateDept Survey Report Recommends Moving Issuance of Visas, Passports, Travel Docs to DHS).  Neither is it helpful to discover that the nominee to be the next Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs is on the record supporting this move (see Ex-FSO Who Once Advocated Moving Visas to DHS May be the Next Asst Secretary For Consular Affairs. And we haven’t forgotten that the nominee to be the next “M” is a seasoned GOP budget aide (see Trump to Nominate Top GOP Budget Aide Eric Ueland to be Under Secretary for Management #StateDept).

But take a deep breath.

Last March, OPM released a publication titled, Workforce Reshaping Operations Handbook (pdf). Under Transfer of Function, OPM writes:

An interagency transfer of a function and/or personnel requires specific statutory authorization. Without a specific statutory basis, there is no authority for an agency to permanently transfer a function and/or personnel to another agency on the basis of a memorandum of understanding, a directive from the Executive Office of the President, a reimbursable agreement, or other administrative procedure.

So Congress would have a say whether or not consular function should be stripped from State and moved to DHS. We anticipate that Congressional representatives — especially those with oversight responsibilities are already aware of the many improvements over the visa and refugee vetting process — would need a compelling justification for moving both functions to another agency.  Like how would DHS make it better, with Agatha and a pre-crime division?

Per historical record, on April 18, 1997 then President Clinton announced the reorganization of foreign affairs agencies. In December 1998, he submitted a report to Congress on the reorganization as required by the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, the Act that provided authority to reorganize the foreign affairs agencies. On March 28, 1999, the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) was integrated into the State Department. The United States Information Agency (USIA) was integrated into State on October 1, 1999.  The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), part of USIA, became a separate federal entity. The Act also provided that USAID remained a separate agency but on April 1, 1999, the USAID Administrator reported to and came under the direct authority and foreign policy guidance of the Secretary of State.  Shrinking State’s budget started in 1993 during the first Clinton term under Warren Christopher. The reorganization did not get completed until halfway through Clinton’s second term.

We cannot say whether or not this is going to happen. After all, during the Clinton years, GOP Senator Jesse Helms was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. So we need to pay attention where this is going, but would not do any good to panic over something that appears to be a floated idea at this time. It would, of course, be helpful if we can hear directly from Secretary Tillerson.

Notable Details From Tillerson’s Congressional Appearances on FY18 Budget Request

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Posted: 2:55 am ET

 

Secretary Tillerson appeared on the Hill for hearings on the FY2018 State Department Budget Request, the first under the Trump Administration. On June 13, he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (see video here), and later that same day, he was before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (see video here). On June 14, Secretary Tillerson also appeared before the full House Foreign Relations Committee (HFAC) to talk about the Trump budget request for the State Department.  During the HFAC hearing, Representative Eliot Engel told Secretary Tillerson that “a member of your staff informed my staff that the reorganization you’re planning  of the State Department will require statutory changes ….”

Should be interesting to find out what kind of changes Tillerson is seeking from Congress in restructuring the agency.  Are we going to see the merging of some functional bureaus? Geographical bureaus realigned to mirror DOD’s combatant commands? Post closures? A new under secretary position swapped for a different one? A brand new mascot to improve morale?

Below are some details from Mr. Tillerson’s testimonies (all in quotation marks) with a few comments of our own.

#1. Reorganization Objective

“I think when this is all said and done, our objective is to enable the people – our Foreign Service officers, our civil servants, our people in our missions, foreign nationals – to deliver on mission with greater efficiency and effectiveness. And in effect, we’re going to get an uplift in effort delivered to the mission.”
— June 13, Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee

#2. Themes and Organizational Boxes

“…Several themes emerged, and I think the overarching theme, obviously though, is the extraordinary dedication and patriotism of the men and women in the State Department and USAID and why they undertake a career like this. And that is a strength that we will build upon. What we heard from a number of people is they are dedicated to this broad mission of representing America’s interests around the world, but from time to time – not just now, but historically as well – there have been mixed messages within the department, between the department and USAID, between the State Department and embassies, missions themselves. So a greater clarity around how the mission is defined and how direction is given.”
–June 13, SFRC

“So most of the themes have to do with – and this was the nature, though, of what we wanted to engage people with – is not, “Is this the right objective or are these the right organizational boxes?” Tell us how you get your work done, and tell us what gets in the way of you getting your work done, and what frustrates you, because that translates to inefficiency and ineffectiveness. As I said, we have no preconceived notions going in. It would have been very easy to approach this, take the organization chart, start collapsing boxes, start making it flatter in an uninformed way. I don’t have any number in mind as to what the efficiency will be, whether it is going to be 10 percent, whether it’s going to be 25, 30; we’re going to let the redesign drive what those efficiencies will be. That’s my experience in doing this in very large organizations both in the private sector and in the nonprofit sector where I’ve taken a similar approach. At the end of it, we capture significant efficiencies, but let’s let the work of the redesign drive that, not go in and say, “I’m looking for 20 percent.” Because those generally are not sustainable changes then.”
–June 13, SFRC

#3. Performance and Accountability

“We also heard a theme that they do not feel that people are held accountable for their work at the State Department, that poor performers are not dealt with. And the people in the State Department know who is getting the work done and who is not getting the work done, and it’s demoralizing to them when they see that we don’t deal with those who are not delivering on their responsibilities. That gets to how we praise performance, how we give people feedback, how we work to improve their performance, so we have a number of human resources processes that we believe can be improved, and a number of leadership areas that need to be addressed.”
–June 13, SFRC

 

#4. Surveys Completed – 35,000 (out of 84,048 overall staffing for State and USAID)

“We have just completed collecting information on our organizational processes and culture through a survey that was made available to every one of our State and USAID colleagues. Over 35,000 surveys were completed, and we also held in-person listening sessions with approximately 300 individuals to obtain their perspective on what we do and how we do it. I met personally with dozens of team members who spoke candidly about their experiences. From this feedback we have been able to get a clearer overall view of our organization. We have no preconceived outcomes, and our discussions of the goals, priorities, and direction of the State Department and USAID are not token exercises.”
–June 13, Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee

NOTE: How do we reconcile Tillerson’s “we have no preconceived outcomes” with #10 “by the end of Fiscal ’18, we think we’ll be down about 8 percent overall” before his reorganization study/listening tour is even done?

#5. Eliminating Obstacles

“Well, that’s what the entire redesign exercise is about, is understanding better how the work gets done. What we’ve learned out of this listening exercise is the – our colleagues in the State Department and USAID can already identify a number of obstacles to them getting their work done efficiently and effectively. If we eliminate some of those obstacles, it’s like getting another half a person, because they have their time available now to direct it at delivery on mission, as opposed to managing some internal process that’s not directly delivering on mission. I just use that as an example.”
–June 13, Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee

#6. Redesign Timeframe

“I think we will finalize the listening report here in the next few weeks, and we’re going to make that available so people can see that. Out of that report, though, there are about 13 themes that emerged and these were extremely valuable to begin to help us focus on where are the greatest opportunities to remove obstacles for people, because that’s really what this is about, is how do we allow people to get their work done more effectively and more efficiently? And we will be going after the redesign. Some of this is internal processes, some of it is structural, some of it are constraints that, quite frankly, Congress puts on us through some of the appropriation structures. And I understand all well-intended to ensure accountability and oversight, but it ends up adding a lot of layers. So we’re going to be getting at that. We hope to have the way forward, the next step framed here in the kind of August timeframe, so that we can then begin the redesign process itself September. I’m hoping we can have all of that concluded by the end of the calendar year, and then ’18 will be a year of how do we implement this now? How do we effect the change and begin to get that into place?”
–June 13, Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee


#7. Implementation in 2018

“I’ll get a final report. I’m interviewing a couple of individuals who will come in and help us now with the next stage, which is the redesign effort itself, which will be – which will involve the colleagues in the State Department and USAID. That effort likely we’ll have that framed over the course of the summer. The effort itself will likely get underway sometime in August, September timeframe when we have our pathway for the process, how we want to engage our colleagues, how we want to get at various elements and themes that emerged from the listening session. Now, some of this is work process, some of it is how we handle people, some of it is how decisions are made. It’s a very broad set of issues which were quite informative. So we’ve got to map out how do we want to get at each of those, but the work itself will start towards the end of the year. Hopefully, we will have some clarity around what that looks like by the end of this year; early next year, we’ll begin implementation.”
–June 13, SFRC

 

#8. Who’s coming to Foggy Bottom?

“… Having done this in the private sector once or twice and in a big nonprofit once, there is a process that I know has delivered for me in the past. So we just concluded this listening effort, which will inform us and shape how we feel we need to now attack the redesign and the way forward. Now, I’ve interviewed a couple of individuals to come in and help me lead that effort.”
–June 13, Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee

#9. Institutionalizing Change

“Well, I think that perhaps the difference in how we’re thinking about this, not a – just is what people think about things differently. The effort that we’re undertaking is to institutionalize change so that it stays and we capture, now and forevermore, these efficiencies.”
–June 13, SFRC

#10. State Department Workforce Projected to be ⬇︎8% by End of FY18 — 1:3 Replacement

“We actually are up about 50 Foreign Service officers from the start of the year, about a half a percent. The effect will come later, as what we’re doing is just allowing normal attrition to bring the numbers down. And as we look forward, we know we’ve got to continue to replenish our Foreign Service officer corps, so we are still interviewing people. And as we look ahead, we’ll probably be looking at a one-for-three kind of replacement. But the Foreign Service, if you – if we look further out, and I think we’ve said this publicly – by the end of Fiscal ’18, we think we’ll be down about 8 percent overall on the permanent State Department Foreign Service/Civil Service. Foreign Service is actually only going to be down about 4 percent; civil servants are going to be down about 12. So it’s being managed in a deliberate way, but being very mindful of not diminishing the strength of our Foreign Service officers.”
–June 13, SFRC

NOTE: On May 10, careers.state.gov posted this note in the forum: “The Office of Recruitment, Examination and Employment sent letters to all candidates on the Generalist registers notifying them of the opportunity to join the Consular Fellows Program. This program is a priority initiative for the US Department of State in the coming years and we encourage all of our qualified candidates to consider joining the Foreign Service to fill this important role.”  HR is telling FSO candidates waiting to be called to a class (career tracks) that they can join the Consular Fellow Program (non-career track, 60 months tenure). Why would anyone want to do that?  This tells us that State has hiring authority for the CF program, but may not have one for the career candidates. Also see #14 below.

#11. Staffing the Top Ranks of the State Department

“We’re at about, I would say, the 50 percent mark in terms of undersecretaries/assistant secretaries. In terms of people that have been identified, names are actually being submitted so they can begin to work their way through the White House PPO process, but also, for a lot of people, they have to get this paperwork behind them. And I would tell you that is no small challenge. As I check on the status of various people we have recommended and nominated to the White House, what I’m finding is more o[en than not it’s the paperwork that is slowing them down. In my own case, I had to hire eight people to help me get mine done. Most people can’t afford to hire eight people to help them get their paperwork done, so it takes a very long time. But we’re about 50 percent of the way through, and we have other names that are in process. What we’re doing, we try to get the candidate list of people we think are – would be useful to talk to down to a couple, and then we actually interview them face to face and then make a decision and submit them. So this is a pretty active process. It’s one I sit down with the people that are helping me coordinate it about every 10 days just to see where are we, make decisions on other people. If we’re hearing feedback, we talk to folks, maybe they don’t want to do it after all. So it’s moving, and that’s about where we are within the State Department and the bureaus.”
–June 13, SFRC

RELATED POSTS: 
America’s Cushiest Ambassadorships Will Go Vacant By Inauguration Day;
Who Will Be Acting Secretary of State Pending Rex Tillerson’s Confirmation? (Updated);
Tillerson/Priebus Standoff on Ambassadorships, Plus Rumored Names/Posts (Updated);
Snapshot: @StateDept Presidential Appointee Positions Requiring Senate Confirmation;
Is Foggy Bottom’s T-Rex as Stealthy and Cunning as His Theropod Namesake?;
Rex Tillerson’s Inner Circle Photo Album, Say Cheese Con Quezo!

 

#12. No firing program planned

“We’re not going to have to fire anyone. This is all being done through the hiring freeze, normal attrition, with a very limited, if needed – because we haven’t determined whether we’ll even need it – a very limited buyout program between the end of this year and next. So there is no firing program planned.”
–June 13, Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee

Note: The last time the State Department suffered through a 27% budget cut between 1993-1996, the agency trimmed more than 1,100 jobs at the State Department, 600 jobs at  the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), and shuttered consulates in 26 foreign cities. USAID lost about 2,000 jobs and closed 28 aid missions abroad (see The Last Time @StateDept Had a 27% Budget Cut, Congress Killed ACDA and USIA).  We understand that there are plans to close the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah, Iraq, as well as several smaller posts. If those plans are implemented, how can the State Department avoid a firing program? In the case of Basrah, will American employees simply be relocated to other posts, and will local employees simply be absorbed by Baghdad and other posts in the region? (see U.S. Consulate General #Basrah, Iraq: Six-Year Old Diplomatic Outpost Faces Closure).


#13. EFM Hiring Freeze

“State Department family members that are eligible to be hired in mission – we have a waiver process in place for that, and I have approved a number. The freeze does extend, in answer to your question, to all of those. But where we have critical missions, like in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, where we really need these positions filled by family members who are willing to go to those tough locations, I have been providing waivers in those circumstances.”
–June 13, SFRC

NOTE: We’ve blogged previously about the hiring freeze and EFM jobs. According to the November 2016 data, there are about 300 EFM positions in SCA (bureau covers AfghanistanPakistanBangladesh), 560 positions in AF, and almost 400 positions in NEA (bureau covers IraqEgyptLebanon). Back in April, we were hearing that some 70+ EFM waivers were requested. At that time, we understand that Tillerson only granted waivers for 6 EFM positions, and all are for priority posts. Since the State Department’s Public Affairs office refuses to answer routine questions from this blog, we’re hoping that congressional reps will ask follow-up Questions For the Record (QFRs).

If the Secretary of State is only issuing EFM waivers to family members accompanying FS employees to critical missions like Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, he’s basically ignoring the potential fallout of this decision to smaller posts, or posts with high turn-over this transfer season.

Posts typically depend on EFMs to provide support in consular sections, facilities management, security, health unit, vetting, grants, etc. When post has only about a dozen Direct Hire (DH) American employees, this support is just as critical to these mission.  So when these EFMs leave their posts during the ongoing transfer season, these positions will not be filled due to the hiring freeze; and they can’t be hired at their next posts because of the same hiring freeze. When posts are unable to hire EFMs, these jobs still need to be done, so DH employees will need to do their jobs and the EFM jobs. And if there are other gaps in staffing, folks could be wearing three-four hats.  Until when? Potentially until Tillerson lifts the freeze. Which won’t happen until the reorganization plan is “fully developed.” Which may not happen until fall or end of the calendar year. Maybe he’ll wait until early 2018 when the plan is implemented?  Oh, who knows? Does he even care?

READ MORE:
Snapshot: Geographic Distribution of Family Member UnEmployment Overseas;
Oy! That Rumor About Foreign Service Family Member Employment as “Corporate Welfare”;
Are #EFM positions literally about to become…extinct under #Tillerson’s watch?;
No thaw in sight for @StateDept hiring freeze until reorganization plan is “fully developed”

 

#14. Rangel and Pickering Fellows

“I don’t think we’ve frozen the Rangel and Pickering programs in terms of people that are in process. We’re continuing and we’re going to continue to take applicants as well. But let me follow up with you because I don’t think there’s a full freeze in place of those.”
–June 13, SFRC

“There is no freeze. The structure of the program Rangle-Pickering which is very important to us, and we have every intention of continuing it. The obligation and the contract that the young people and others engage with us when we fund their tuition and for their graduate studies is that we confirm that we offer them a position in Consular Affairs. That is confirmed and it’s a five-year commitment on their part to serve. We then say, we will put you on the list for consideration for the next A-100 Foreign Service class.  We are holding the next A-100 Foreign Service class because quite frankly right now our Foreign Service officer staffing were actually up about 50 people from the beginning of the year with our expected manning — which we’re looking at an 8% reduction by the end of fiscal 2018 — in order for us to have time to manage how we want that to occur so that we do not diminish the strength of the Foreign Service corps. We are holding the next A-100 class so nothing has been frozen and we want people to continue to apply and they’re all offered a position in Consular Affairs. And that is no change from the past. There’s never been a guarantee that anyone would have a clearer offer or pathway to the Foreign Service that would be considered for Foreign Service based upon the work they completed but they always have an offer to go to work in Consular Affairs.”
–June 14, HFAC in response to Congressman Meeks

Note: The Charles B. Rangel Fellows and the Thomas R. Pickering Fellows are two of the nine fellowship programs under the State Department’s  Diplomacy Fellows Program (DFP) designed to advance eligible candidates to the Foreign Service Oral Assessment for the competitive selection of entry level Foreign Service Officer Candidates.  The careers.state.gov website states  “We are not currently accepting applications for the Diplomacy Fellows Program.”  Also see the DPB of June 15, 2017.  A total of 31 members signed a letter to Tillerson calling on the Secretary of State to exempt the Rangel and Pickering Fellows from the State Department hiring freeze.

The Secretary told Congress that the State Department is holding the next A-100 class but the classes for July and September have not been confirmed. The next FSO/Generalist class is scheduled to start on July 10.  As of June 8, 2017, careers.state.gov is telling applicants “Still no decision has been taken regarding A-100 classes for Foreign Service Specialist and Generalist candidates this year.” There has been no recent update on start dates as far as we could tell.

Tillerson appears to be saying there’s no assurance for the diplomacy fellows to get a spot in A-100 class (career appointment) but that there was always an offer  for them to go work for Consular Affairs. What? That can’t be right. He did not specifically mentioned Consular Fellows but since he also talked about Consular Affairs and a 5-year commitment, we suspect that this is the program he is talking about.

Consular Fellows are hired via limited non-career appointments (LNAs). The Consular Fellow LNA appointment is for 5 years, but may be terminated at any time based on performance and/or needs of the Service. These are paid, non-career positions. The Consular Fellows program, similar to its predecessor, the Consular Adjudicator Limited Non-Career Appointment (CA LNA) program, is not/not an alternate entry method to the Foreign Service or the U.S. Department of State, i.e. this service does not lead to onward employment at the U.S. Department of State or with the U.S. government.  See more here: https://careers.state.gov/work/foreign-service/consular-fellows.

If the Consular Fellows Program will be the hiring priority initiative this year and in the coming years, before long the Foreign Service will be encumbered by career Foreign Service officers/specialists (1:3 hiring to attrition) and non-career Consular Fellows on a 60 month limited appointment who can only do consular tours.  At some point, unless there is a correction, the Foreign Service will again be divided into career diplomatic employees, and a consular corps with a limited career track that does not go beyond 5 years. That’s the future we’re reading.

HIRING: We’ve blogged previously about this here:
@StateDept Gets Exemption From Trump Federal Hiring Freeze, March Classes Are On;
Snapshot: Historical and Projected Foreign Service Attrition;
With Zero Information From @StateDept, Foreign Service Candidates Remain in Limbo;
OMB Issues Initial Guidance For Federal Civilian Hiring Freeze (Read Memo);
President Trump Freezes Federal Hiring Regardless of Funding Sources (Read Memo);
@StateDept Sends Out Job Offers to Prospective FSOs For March 6 Class But — Will There Be Jobs?

 

#15. Safety as the Highest Priority

“We’ve made the safety of not just our State Department employees but Americans broadly our highest priority, certainly as it relates to our embassy presence, our consular office presence, and our missions around the world. If you examine the security elements of the budget, our budget for Diplomatic Security is actually up 11 percent, year on year. Where we have reductions has to do with some of the construction, the buildings, part of the budget for embassies and other facilities. Part of that we’ll manage with some multiyear commitments across ’17 to ’18, and some of this has to do with just our ability to move projects along promptly. We are clearly committed to the Benghazi ARB recommendations, and I’m monitoring those carefully. We have some gaps we need to close. The OIG has helped us identify some of those. We’re going to stay on top of those. If there were more funds there, we would simply try to step up more activity on some of the building and maintenance issues. So most of the reduction is in building and maintenance efforts, which we believe are manageable, at least through Fiscal Year ’18.”
–June 13, SFRC

#16. Security and Embassy Construction – Back to Standard Design

“The current budget around security, both security services as well as embassy construction will allow us to maintain our program pretty much through 2018. We will begin to have planning difficulties in 19 at this level and we’re in discussions with OMB about that. And I think to your points about the execution against embassy construction, it really is an execution issue and I agree we need to get back to standard designs, fear scope changes, we don’t need to be unique every place. Plus I’m a fit for purpose guy and we ned to build what’s needed first to deliver the mission.”
— June 14, HFAC

#17. Money Spent Not/Not Indicator of U.S. Commitment 

“I am listening to what my people tell me are the challenges facing them and how we can produce a more efficient and effective State Department and USAID. And we will work as a team and with the Congress to improve both organizations. Throughout my career, I have never believed, nor have I experienced, that the level of funding devoted to a goal is the most important factor in achieving it. Our budget will never be determined – will never determine our ability to be effective; our people will.”
–June 13, Appropriations Sub-Committee

“….That long list of challenges on that board over there have been around for a while. The level of spending we’ve been carrying out hasn’t solved them. I go back to my view that I don’t think the money we spend is necessarily an indicator of our commitment. I think how we go about it – and we’ve got to take some new approaches to begin to address some of these very daunting challenges. The aid and the support and what we can bring to the issue is important. I’m not in any way diminishing that. But I don’t – I think if we equate the budget level to somehow some level of commitment or some level of expected success, I think we’re really undercutting and selling short people’s intellectual capacity to bring different approaches to these problems.”
–June 13, Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee

 

#18. Refugees

“I would take exception to the comment that we’re walking away from our responsibilities in that region with all of the men and women in uniform we have fighting and the State Department diplomatic resources we have to get at the reason the refugees are in Jordan. And I would tell you in working with the region, they all understand – Turkey, Jordan, others understand – we’d like the refugees to stay close to their homes so they can go back. Having them come all the way to the United States doesn’t – may not achieve that. So our approach on the significant problem of refugee migration locally is to solve the problem that allows people to go home. We have already seen some success in the liberation of Mosul and other cities. We hope to replicate that kind of success in Syria where we have come behind the military quickly when they liberate an area, create a secure zone, restore power and water, restore hospitals, restore schools. We have close to 40,000 children back in school in East Mosul already. People will come back if we create the conditions. So we really want refugees to return; it’s not the objective to have Jordan have to house those refugees now and forevermore.”
–June 13, SFRC

#19. Russia Sanctions

“I think it is important that we be given sufficient flexibility to achieve the Minsk objectives. It is very possible that the Government of Ukraine and the Government of Russia could to come to a satisfactory resolution through some structure other than Minsk that would achieve the objectives  of Minsk which we’re committed to. So my caution is I would not want ourselves handcuffed to Minsk if it turns out the parties decides to settle this through a different agreement.”
— June 14, HFAC

#20. Russian Dachas and Irritants 

“So we segmented the big issues from this list of what I call the irritants. The dachas are on that list. We have things on the list, such as trying to get the permits for our consular office in St. Petersburg. We’ve got issues with harassment of our embassy employees in Moscow. We have a list of things; they have a list of things. I don’t want to suggest to you this is some kind of a bartering deal. It’s more, let’s start working on some of the smalls and see if we can solve them. As to the dachas, these two properties have been in ownership of the Russians dating back to the Soviet Union – 1971. They’ve owned these properties and have used these properties for a very long time. They were transferred to the Russian Federation Government for $1 at the breakup of the Soviet Union. We have continued to allow them to use these properties, and they have used these properties continuously for all that time. President Obama, in response to the interference with the election, expelled the 35 Russian diplomats and seized these two properties. What we’re working through with them in this conversation is: Under what terms and conditions would we be, would we allow them to access the properties again for recreational purpose? We’ve not taken the properties from them; they still belong to them. So we’re not going to seize properties that are theirs and remove their — but we are talking about under what conditions would we allow you to use them for recreational purposes, which is what they have asked.”
–June 13, SFRC

#

So who told Congress the real story about the deadly force incidents in Honduras in 2012? #OperationAnvil

Posted: 4:32 am ET

 

The joint report by State/OIG and DOJ/OIG concerns three deadly force incidents in Honduras that occurred in 2012.   Four people were killed (including two pregnant women) and four others were injured after a helicopter with DEA personnel confused cargo in a passenger boat for bales of drugs and opened fire.  No evidence of narcotics was ever found on the passenger boat. In a second incident, a suspect was killed in a firefight that did not actually happen, and in a third incident that involved a plane crash, a Honduran police officer planted a gun in evidence and reported it as a weapon found at the scene.

The 424-page report provides in great detail what happened during the three incidents and the response/actions made by DEA, State/INL, State/WHA, the US Embassy in Honduras, and the stories officials gave to the Congress and the public about the incidents.

The report says that “DEA officials also did not disclose the existence or results of the video enhancement and analysis by the DS video analyst who found no evidence indicative of gunfire from the passenger boat. Moreover, DEA continued to inaccurately and incompletely characterize its role in Operation Anvil as being supportive and advisory only.”

State Department briefers also “never informed Congress of the DS investigations, despite numerous questions from the Senate Appropriations staff regarding whether State planned to investigate the shooting incidents.”

State Department officials never informed Congress of the DS investigation, including the video analysis, which could have contradicted prior DEA assertions.

The US Embassy in Honduras had received a report from the TRT officer dated July 3, 2012 which stated that the pilot “died instantly.” But after the July 3 shooting, WHA and INL officials developed press guidance that did acknowledge that DEA agents “were involved with the shooting,” but stated that “both suspects were given first aid and transported via helicopter to a secure location.” This guidance was repeated verbatim by State’s spokesperson during the daily press briefing on July 9, 2012.

Chief of Mission Authority Undermined

It is notable that then U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske authorized State’s Diplomatic Security (DS) to investigate the three incidents “after she became frustrated by her inability to obtain information from DEA.” The report says that DEA refused to share information with DS or provide access to relevant personnel.  DEA operates at the US Embassy in Honduras under Chief of Mission authority and it refused to provide the ambassador the information she required.

The situation was “exacerbated by senior INL officials who told DS that DS had no authority to investigate the incidents and refused to provide the helicopter crews for DS to interview.”

That’s the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

A subheading in the report says:

INL Failed to Comply with Chief of Mission Authority and Undermined the Ambassador’s Exercise of Her Authority

The report states that within a day of the Ambassador authorizing DS to investigate the June and July shooting incidents this happened:

INL Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Carol Perez began to raise objections to DS involvement. She communicated these objections to both DS and DEA officials, and although she told the OIGs that she did not intend to obstruct the investigation of the shooting incidents, INL’s support bolstered DEA’s unwillingness to cooperate.

There’s more:

AS Brownfield also raised internal and external objections to DS involvement. Immediately following the Ambassador’s request for DS involvement, he e-mailed Deputy Administrator Harrigan and offered to push the investigation “back into the box.” Likewise, in the September 2012 meeting between DS, INL, and WHA, AS Brownfield minimized the failure of DEA to cooperate and ascribed partial blame to DS.

State/OIG notes the following:

DEA’s refusal to follow the Ambassador’s written request for information, supported by INL, not only violated their duties under the Foreign Service Act, but prevented a complete and comprehensive understanding of the three incidents.

Excerpt via State/OIG and DOJ/OIG:

Operation Anvil began in April 2012 as a 90-day pilot program designed to disrupt drug transportation flights from South America to Honduras. Members of DEA’s Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Team (FAST) and officers from a vetted unit of Honduran National Police known as the Tactical Response Team (TRT) comprised the ground team on the interdiction missions. The stated role of the FAST team members was to train and advise the TRT officers and assist them on these missions. State Department-owned helicopters provided transport and armed air support on the missions. The Honduran Air Force provided door gunners and, on certain missions, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) aircraft provided detection and surveillance capabilities. In addition, State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) provided operational support from the command center in Honduras.

May 11 incident:

DEA conducted internal shooting reviews regarding all three incidents. DEA initially decided not to review the May 11 incident because early reporting was that no DEA agent fired a weapon and because the Hondurans who fired were foreign law enforcement officers (LEOs). DEA changed its mind after a local Honduran police report asserted four people were killed (including two pregnant women) and four others were injured after a helicopter with DEA personnel confused cargo in a passenger boat for bales of drugs and opened fire…..No evidence of narcotics was ever found on the passenger boat.

June 23 incident:

Following this interdiction, DEA officials reported that during a search for suspected drug traffickers, FAST and TRT officers encountered an armed suspect who failed to drop his weapon after being ordered to comply and was shot and killed by a FAST agent. Similarly, State officials reported that a FAST agent shot and killed an armed suspect after the suspect attempted to draw a gun. However, the TRT report did not mention FAST’s use of deadly force and instead stated that multiple suspects fired at the TRT, and the TRT returned fire for a few minutes. According to FAST, this reported firefight did not happen.

July 3 incident:

TRT submitted two reports describing the July 3 events. The first made no mention of FAST’s use of deadly force and stated that the second pilot died from injuries sustained as a result of the plane crash. The second stated this pilot had aimed and fired a handgun at the officers, and the officers responded with deadly force. Both reports made reference to a 9mm handgun found at the scene, but FAST personnel told the OIGs they never saw a handgun at the scene. DEA officials told us they were advised that following the incident, a Honduran police officer planted a gun in evidence and reported it as a weapon found at the scene.

U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske authorized State’s Diplomatic Security (DS) to investigate the three incidents after she became frustrated by her inability to obtain information from DEA and concerned the Honduran investigation would not satisfy those interested in the May 11 incident. DEA refused to share information with DS or provide access to relevant personnel. DS continued its own investigations, and issued reports on all three incidents stating it was unable to make definitive or conclusive findings because of DEA’s refusal to provide access to evidence and what it described as shortcomings in the Honduran investigations.

  • Embassy officials told the OIGs that in the days after May 11, the U.S. Embassy tried to address questions raised about the possibility that innocent Hondurans had been killed in the operation. However, DEA Headquarters instructed DEA personnel not to provide information about the May 11 incident, and later the June 23 and July 3 incidents, to those outside DEA while DEA’s own internal reviews were in progress. Frustrated by her inability to obtain information from DEA, and by conflicting findings of the various Honduran investigations, Ambassador Kubiske approved DS investigations into all three shooting incidents. However, DEA refused to participate in joint investigations with DS, to make FAST members available to DS for interviews, or to share with DS the evidence DEA collected as part of its own investigations. Within State, INL was not supportive of the DS investigations and suggested as an alternative that DEA share its final report with State. DEA eventually agreed to provide a summary of its findings to the Ambassador and DS upon completion of its investigations.
  • DS nevertheless continued with its own investigations and issued reports on all three incidents. DS’s investigation of the May 11 incident included a review of the video footage by a DS video analyst who found no contrasts of light, which would be indicative of gunfire, originating from the passenger boat. However, DS was unable to make any “definitive findings” regarding the shooting because of DEA’s refusal to provide access to evidence. In addition, because INL did not allow DS access to evidence regarding the INL helicopters, the DS report did not address actions taken on the helicopters, such as whether there was an instruction to fire. DS also reached “inconclusive” findings on the June 23 and July 3 incidents, citing the lack of access to DEA evidence and shortcomings in the Honduran investigations.
  • The DOJ OIG concluded that DEA’s withholding of information from the U.S. Ambassador was inappropriate and unjustified. DEA’s presence in Honduras was at the pleasure and discretion of the Ambassador, and requesting and receiving information about the results of law enforcement operations involving American personnel, which the Ambassador herself personally authorized, was clearly within her supervisory responsibilities and authority as Chief of Mission.
  • DOJ OIG found that DEA’s obligations to DS were less clearly defined, and that this likely contributed to the dispute between DEA and DS over investigative jurisdiction. Although DEA told us that they resolved this dispute through an “agreement” with DS, this agreement appears to have been more of a unilateral expression of the limited terms to which DEA would agree, namely that DEA would provide a presentation and short, summary report to the Ambassador and the Embassy’s Regional Security Officer at the conclusion of the DEA internal review.
  • DOJ OIG also found that even though State officials pressured Honduras to conduct an investigation into the May 11 incident, DEA – with State’s concurrence – did not grant Honduran requests for information other than allowing them to watch the video, and specifically refused to provide DEA’s investigative report and the opportunity to question DEA personnel involved in the operation. DEA officials provided us with several reasons why DEA refused GOH access to DEA personnel, including the desire to insulate U.S. personnel from host nation jurisdiction and that multiple witness statements could harm U.S. judicial proceedings against Anvil drug traffickers. Even assuming the validity of these reasons, it was inconsistent for DEA and State to assert to congressional staff that GOH should investigate the May 11 incident but not give Honduran authorities the information necessary to conduct a thorough investigation.
  • DOJ OIG found that the lack of cooperation between DEA, State, and GOH during their respective investigations was closely related to the deficiencies in pre- operation planning for what would happen in the event of a critical incident. And even under DEA’s construct that each entity would investigate its own personnel, there was no mechanism for ensuring access to relevant information across the entities or for resolving or even identifying conflicting evidentiary or investigative gaps created by such a division of responsibility. The result was that no one did a comprehensive and thorough review of the May 11 incident.
  • It also was concerning that, in some instances, DEA officials described information favorable to DEA’s positions while omitting unfavorable information, such as video evidence of TRT officers shooting at people who had fallen or jumped into the water, the inconsistent TRT reporting and TRT gun-planting incident, and the results of a preliminary report from the Honduran National Police (described in Chapter Six) that made findings critical of law enforcement actions on May 11. DEA officials also did not disclose the existence or results of the video enhancement and analysis by the DS video analyst who found no evidence indicative of gunfire from the passenger boat. Moreover, DEA continued to inaccurately and incompletely characterize its role in Operation Anvil as being supportive and advisory only.
  • In addition, DEA officials told us that following the July 3 interdiction, a Honduran officer planted a gun into evidence and reported it as a weapon found at the shooting scene. Although the gun-planting report reached senior DEA officials, no steps were taken to address it other than ensuring that DEA did not rely heavily on TRT information to support any U.S. prosecutions.

State/OIG:

State OIG concluded that DEA failed to comply with the Chief of Mission authority granted to Ambassador Kubiske. Longstanding executive orders direct executive branch employees in a host country to comply with the direction of the Ambassador, who is the President’s personal representative to the host nation government. However, DEA repeatedly refused to comply with the Ambassador’s instructions to provide her and DS with information regarding the three incidents. This conflict was exacerbated by senior INL officials who told DS that DS had no authority to investigate the incidents and refused to provide the helicopter crews for DS to interview.

State OIG also found that State officials made inaccurate and incomplete statements to Congress and the public regarding Operation Anvil, including representations that it was a Honduran-led operation, which these officials knew to be inconsistent with how the operation actually proceeded. In addition, State officials never informed Congress of the DS investigation, despite numerous questions about whether the United States would conduct an investigation of the deadly force incidents.

INL Failed to Comply with Chief of Mission Authority and Undermined the Ambassador’s Exercise of Her Authority

  • As a bureau within the Department of State, INL should understand the importance of Chief of Mission authority. However, INL senior officials repeatedly undermined Ambassador Kubiske’s authority and failed to cooperate with the investigations she authorized.
  • Within a day of the Ambassador authorizing DS to investigate the June and July shooting incidents, INL Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Carol Perez began to raise objections to DS involvement. She communicated these objections to both DS and DEA officials, and although she told the OIGs that she did not intend to obstruct the investigation of the shooting incidents, INL’s support bolstered DEA’s unwillingness to cooperate.
  • Likewise, AS Brownfield also raised internal and external objections to DS involvement. Immediately following the Ambassador’s request for DS involvement, he e-mailed Deputy Administrator Harrigan and offered to push the investigation “back into the box.” Likewise, in the September 2012 meeting between DS, INL, and WHA, AS Brownfield minimized the failure of DEA to cooperate and ascribed partial blame to DS.
  • In addition, INL failed to comply with Chief of Mission authority by refusing to assist DS in its attempt to interview the helicopter crews. As noted in Chapter Ten, the SID agent requested to speak with the pilots and gunners, but INL denied this request. The request was forwarded up to the highest levels of INL, and AS Brownfield instructed his staff not to cooperate. Although he recognized that the request fell under the Chief of Mission authority, he instructed that INL was not to produce the crew for DS to interview. Senior DS and INL officials also discussed the request at a September 2012 meeting, but AS Brownfield remained opposed to providing DS access to the crews. In fact, INL was not even focused on the circumstances of the helicopter opening fire on the passenger boat, because they believed the helicopter fire was suppressive only and not intended as a use of deadly force.
  • The failure of DEA and INL to provide any cooperation with the investigation requested by the Ambassador resulted in the inability of the SID Agent to complete his investigations and develop conclusive findings regarding the three shooting incidents. DEA’s refusal to follow the Ambassador’s written request for information, supported by INL, not only violated their duties under the Foreign Service Act, but prevented a complete and comprehensive understanding of the three incidents. Ambassador Kubiske and other State officials had grave concerns over the methodology and findings of the various Honduran investigations, so she requested the DS investigation to better understand what could quickly become a diplomatic problem. However, her intentions were never realized because of the failure of DEA and INL to abide by Chief of Mission authority.

Statements to Congress

State briefers also never informed Congress of the DS investigations, despite numerous questions from the Senate Appropriations staff regarding whether State planned to investigate the shooting incidents. According to Wells, he was reluctant to inform the staff of the DS investigation and did not offer DS officials to brief the staff because Congress may have come to realize the conflict between DS and DEA. Therefore, Congress was never informed of the investigative work performed by DS, including the video analysis, which seemed to challenge DEA’s previous statements to Congress that the passenger boat had fired upon the pipante.

Statements to the Public

  • On several occasions, State officials prepared press guidance to be used to discuss Operation Anvil and the shooting incidents with media and public audiences. However, these talking points contained information that was not accurate. For example, INL and WHA officials prepared press guidance immediately after the May 11 incident that repeatedly referred to DEA acting only in a “supporting” and “advisory” role with the “highly trained” Honduran law enforcement officers in the lead. These statements were repeated by State’s spokesperson in the daily press briefing on May 17, 2012. Similarly, Embassy officials prepared talking points for the Ambassador’s interview with the Associated Press on May 25, 2012 that stated that the DEA agents were involved in “a supporting, advisory role only” with “highly trained and vetted” Honduran officers “who operate with advice from U.S. Government law enforcement agents.” As noted above, both INL and WHA officials were aware of the limitations of the TRT and that they were not capable of leading such operations.
  • After the July 3 shooting, WHA and INL officials developed press guidance that did acknowledge that DEA agents “were involved with the shooting,” but stated that “both suspects were given first aid and transported via helicopter to a secure location.” This guidance was repeated verbatim by State’s spokesperson during the daily press briefing on July 9, 2012.  As noted in Chapter Eight, this statement was inaccurate. All three FAST medics told the OIGs that the pilot was already dead when they first assessed him at the scene and that they focused their attention to the other pilot who had significant injuries from the crash. This questionable statement may have originated from the INL Senior Aviation Advisor or the Delta Team Leader, and the INL and WHA officials who drafted and approved the press guidance may not have realized it was incorrect, although the Embassy had received a report from the TRT officer dated July 3, 2012 which stated that the pilot “died instantly.”
  • State officials failed on numerous occasions to provide accurate information to Congress and the public regarding Operation Anvil and the three shooting incidents. In an effort to avoid highlighting DEA’s failure to cooperate with the DS investigation, State officials never informed Congress of the DS investigation, including the video analysis, which could have contradicted prior DEA assertions. These incomplete and inaccurate statements have contributed to the continued uncertainty regarding what actually occurred during the three shooting incidents.

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