Senators Van Hollen and Sullivan Introduce the Foreign Service Families Act (S.1293)

 

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), cofounders of the bipartisan Foreign Service Caucus, have introduced the Foreign Service Families Act (S.1293), a bill to expand employment opportunities for spouses of Foreign Service officers.

Senator Van Hollen’s press statement notes that “This legislation will help ensure that the State Department is able to attract and retain a world-class diplomatic corps by providing expanded career options and services to eligible family members. For many of these family members, the process of finding employment isn’t easy — frequent moves, language barriers, and limited options pose significant challenges. This legislation will address that issue so our Foreign Service can continue to serve the best interests of Americans at home and abroad.”

According to Senator Van Hollen’s press statement, The Foreign Service Families Act would provide authority to the State Department to offer the same services to Foreign Service family members overseas that the Defense Department is permitted to provide to military families. This includes:

  • Expanded hiring authority and preference for qualified spouses
  • Ensuring that Foreign Services spouses receive notice of State Department vacancies and that those who apply receive consideration
  • Making space available in State Department facilities for outside entities to provide career services
  • Developing partnerships with the private sector to enhance employment opportunities for Foreign Service spouses, and
  • Incorporating hiring preferences for qualified Foreign Service spouses into contracts between the Department of State and private-sector entities.

Additionally the legislation:

  • Directs the State Department to expand telecommuting opportunities for Foreign Service family members, so that family members can continue to work federal civilian and private sector jobs while overseas
  • Ensures that family members in the Expanded Professional Associates Program, which offers career opportunities for family members with advanced education and professional experience, are not held to unfair hiring standards, and
  • Makes sure that the State Department has fully implemented the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps, a program intended to speed hiring and improve clearance portability for Foreign Service family members.

The bill has been “read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.” We’ve searched for the text but have not yet been able to locate it.  According to congress.gov, as of 05/10/2019 text has not been received for S.1293: “Bills are generally sent to the Library of Congress from GPO, the Government Publishing Office, a day or two after they are introduced on the floor of the House or Senate. Delays can occur when there are a large number of bills to prepare or when a very large bill has to be printed.”

Govtrack notes that the United States Congress considers about 5,000 bills and resolutions each year, but of those only about 7% will become law. All bills not enacted by the end of the session on Jan 3, 2021 die, and Congress will start over.

 

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SFRC Clears 15 @StateDept Nominees

 

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has not actually forgotten the nominees from the State Department. On April 3, the panel finally cleared a few nominations and advanced the following nominees for their full Senate  votes. As of this writing, the following nominees are still pending in the Senate’s Executive Calendar.

Career Nominations

PN122 Michael J. Fitzpatrick, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Ecuador.

PN133 W. Patrick Murphy, of Vermont, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Cambodia.

PN146 Matthew H. Tueller, of Utah, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Iraq.

 

Non-Career Nominations

PN104 Stephen Akard, of Indiana, to be Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, with the rank of Ambassador.

PN108 Lynda Blanchard, of Alabama, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Slovenia.

PN114 Joseph Cella, of Michigan, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Fiji, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Kiribati, the Republic of Nauru, the Kingdom of Tonga, and Tuvalu.

PN123 Kenneth S. George, of Texas, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Oriental Republic of Uruguay.

PN126 Jeffrey Ross Gunter, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Iceland.

PN129 Ronald Douglas Johnson, of Florida, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of El Salvador.

PN143 Donald R. Tapia, of Arizona, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Jamaica.

PN116 R. Clarke Cooper, of Florida, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Political-Military Affairs).

PN141 David Stilwell, of Hawaii, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (East Asian and Pacific Affairs).

PN260 Keith Krach, of California, to be an Under Secretary of State (Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment).

PN105 John Barsa, of Florida, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

PN101 Richard C. Parker, of North Carolina, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

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Congress Demands Pompeo Turn Over Documents on Political Targeting of @StateDept Employees

 

On March 15, Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Senator Bob Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations “denounced the State Department’s attempts to obstruct investigations into reports of politically-motivated retaliation against career Department employees.”

In a letter to Secretary Pompeo, they demanded that “the Department comply with past Congressional requests for information on this matter, stretching back over the past year.”

“To date, despite three specific requests and multiple follow-up efforts by our offices, the Department has failed to respond to our requests for interviews or provide any responsive records. After nearly a year, it suggests the State Department is stonewalling a legitimate congressional request for information on matters that are squarely within our Committees’ oversight jurisdiction. We are therefore restating our demand for a response to our prior queries on this matter and are prepared to use appropriate tools at our disposal to prompt a substantive response.”

The congressional demand requires that the Department submit all documents requested by March 21 and facilitate Committee interviews with Department officials implicated in this matter by April 30.

Among the items requested:

(1) all documents and communications referring or relating to any reassignment or proposed reassignment that was considered or ordered since January 20, 2017, of career or civil service employees at the Department;

(2) all documents and communications referring or relating to any proposed or actual reassignment or removal of career or civil service employees at the Department since January 20, 2017, based on alleged personal political beliefs, prior service with previous Administrations, or work on prior Administrations’ foreign policy priorities, including any documents authored by, copying, involving, or referring to:

(a) Christine Ciccone;

(b) Makan Delrahim;

(c) Sean Doocey;

(d) Julia Haller;

(e) Brian Hook;

(f) Edward Lacey;

(g) Matthew Mowers; or

(h) Margaret Peterlin; and

(3) all documents and communications referring or relating to proposed or actual personnel actions since January 20, 2017, against Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, including the curtailment of her detail to the Policy Planning staff.

The congressional request also notes:

“To the extent that the Department may have been relying on a legal theory that our requests somehow lapsed at the end of the 115th Congress, we write today to dispense with that argument and hereby formally restate our prior requests.”

The congressional request asks for transcribed interviews with the following individuals.

A schedule of availability for the Committees to conduct transcribed interviews with each of the following individuals, with the first interview to be conducted no later than April 1, 2019, and with all interviews to be conducted no later than April 30, 2019:

(a) Christine Ciccone;

(b) Makan Delrahim;

(c) Sean Doocey;

(d) Julia Haller;

(e) Brian Hook;

(f) Edward Lacey;

(g) Matthew Mowers;

(h) Margaret Peterlin;

(i) Andrew Veprek;

(j) John Zadrozny; and

(k) Kevin Moley

This request has been overgrown with grass;  some of those they want to interview are no longer in Foggy Bottom. It looks like Congress sent their first request on March 15, 2018, two days after Tillerson was fired in a tweet. The full statement from Rep. Engel and Senator Menendez is available here. The letter to Secretary Pompeo is here.

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Pompeo on @StateDept: What They Needed Wasn’t More Money, What They Needed Was a Leader Who … Who’s That?

The Trump budget proposal for the FY2020 State Department funding is now out. HFAC already called the proposal which includes a 23% cut ‘dead on arrival” on Capitol Hill. Even if this request doesn’t pass, it clearly reflects the administration’s views on diplomacy and development. If a Foggy Bottom joker starts calling prior State Department funding levels unsustainable, we may fall off our chair and scream out loud. The Administration’s budget request for DOD was $686.1 billion in FY2019 and $750 billion in FY2020. And $750 billion is sustainable? Anyway, brief run-down of the budget requests in the last few years:

FY2017:  The FY2017 budget request under the Obama Administration amounted in $52.78 billion in new budget authority for the State Department, Foreign Operations, and Related Appropriations (SFOPS). When Congress passed the appropriations bill, the  total enacted SFOPS funding for FY2017 was $57.53 billion, an 8.8% increase over the FY2016 SFOPS funding level. According to the CRS, the increase is entirely due to a 40% total increase in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding.

FY2018: President Trump submitted his FY2018 budget request to Congress on May 23, 2017. The request sought $40.25 billion (-30% compared with FY2017 enacted) for SFOPS, including Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds. The 115th Congress enacted the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, which provided FY2018 funding for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS). Division K of the act―State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS)― provided a total of $54.18 billion, including Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds and rescissions. This represented a decrease of 6.1% from the FY2017 actual funding level according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

FY2019: The Trump Administration submitted to Congress its FY2019 budget request on February 12, 2018. The State Department budget proposal under Rex Tillerson included $41.86 billion for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS). CRS notes: Comparing the request with the FY2018-enacted funding levels, the FY2019 request represents a 22.7% decrease in SFOPS funding. The proposed State and related agency funding would be 18.2% below FY2018 enacted and the foreign operations funding would be reduced by 24.7%. Both the House and Senate appropriations committees have approved FY2019 SFOPS bills that include funding at higher levels than the Administration requested and equal to or greater than FY2018 enacted funding. Congress eventually appropriated $56.1 billion, ensuring that the agency has the resources it needs.

FY2020: Trump’s FY2020 budget request for the State Department, the first under Pompeo, proposes $40 billion for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). State’s Bureau of Budget and Planning guy Doug Pitkin said, “the last two budgets, for example, included reductions to State and AID personnel. This budget does not propose that.” He also argued that despite the almost 25% cut, this  budget request apparently “does support diplomacy and development”.

All that to highlight what Secretary Pompeo said in an interview recently. Secretary Pompeo  (who we imagine is known …er fondly in Foggy Bottom as Swagger Mike) gave an interview to McClatchy’s Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle on March 11. We must admit that since this was an interview, we certainly could not blame his speechwriters for the gems here. Neither the video nor the transcript of this interview appears on state.gov, as of this writing but the reporters have a short video clip which we embedded below, and you can read the report with the quotes here.

“I’ll testify on Capitol Hill in a week or two on our budget and I’m very confident that the State Department will have the resources it needs,” Pompeo said. “It always has. President Trump has ensured that it has. And we’ll get to where we’ll need to be.”

 

 

“The people at the State department understand what’s going on,” Pompeo said.

 

“What they needed wasn’t more money,” he said. “What they needed was a leader who was prepared to empower them, was prepared to let them go out and do their job.”

“When I talked about swagger it was about going out in the world and having the confidence that as an American diplomat you represent the greatest nation in the history of civilization,” he said.

“That’s what the people of the State Department want and need. We’re giving it to them in spades. They’re responding to it wonderfully. We’re doing wonderful work all around the world.”

Secretary Pompeo Issues a Statement on SOTU #ButWhosFirst?

Big mystery.

On February 5, 2019 10:32 pm, the State Department’s Press Office released  an official statement from the 70th Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “On President Trump’s State of the Union Address”:

In his first two years, President Trump has strengthened America at home and abroad by putting the interests of the American people first and reasserting American leadership around the world. History will remember this period not only for what America has achieved on its own, but for the partnerships we have built with strong, sovereign, and independent nations and the contributions we have inspired from our partners. From making historic progress with North Korea, to confronting the regime in Iran, to supporting the Venezuelan people against tyranny, and more, President Trump’s diplomatic agenda has made America safer, more respected, and more prosperous.

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“History will remember this period …for the partnerships…” kind of does not really work when … what’s that? Recent bureau departures are attributed  to fears  that Trump will pull us out of NATO? Pardon me? Top ranking folks really did not want to be associated with that? But … but.. he said history …. okay, never mind.

Anyway, we had a hard time recalling any secretary of state releasing an official statement on the SOTU. Except it turned out, T-Rex also did a statement when Trump delivered his first SOTU on February 28, 2017.  On March 1, Tillerson released a 100-word statement.

Trump delivered his second SOTU on January 30, 2018. Then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not appear to release any statement prior to the SOTU but delivered a Remarks at the High-Level Opening Session of the Inaugural U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue on the same day.

By the way, former Secretary of State John Kerry did not issue statements on President Obama’s SOTUs. We’ve looked.

So we should note that while Pompeo maybe one of the firsts to be out with the statement, he got some company (see DHS Secretary Nielsen’s statement, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s statement , Labor Secretary Acosta’s statement, Agriculture Secretary Perdue’s statement, and who knows who else?  Cabinet secretaries and public affairs people burning their late night oil to come up with these statements on the night of February 5.

But you know, folks really need to get these statement night-stamped, otherwise, how will Trump know which statement went out first or last?

It’s probably worth mentioning that Energy Secretary Perry released his state of the union statement on February 6!  February 6. He was the “designated survivor” and he is a day late with his statement?! That’s unforgivable. Yeah, so no cookies for him or his his PA people.

Hostage Crisis – Day 32: Federal Hostages Are Still Hostages #EndThisMitch

Operation Chaos: $4.2Billion and counting, this is the ongoing #TrumpShutdown cost to U.S. taxpayers

Posted: 12:13 am EST

Via shutdowncalculator.com

Note: We will keep this counter on the blog’s side bar until the federal government reopens. Thanks XX!  For those who do not like the name of this shutdown, please watch this “I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it” video before sending us a love letter.

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Trump Shutdown Day #22: Longest Ever, Also Can “Better Off” Federal Hostages Eat Vacation Days?

 

Marking the 22nd day of the Trump Shutdown. This is now officially the longest government shutdown in history.

Also here is a White House official who need not worry about a paycheck, calling the current chaos and debacle on government workers’ lives as somehow putting them in a “better off” universe.

Trump Shutdown Day #21: Across America, Federal Hostages Are Hurting

Posted: 1:06 am EST

Today marks the 21st day of the Trump Shutdown, making it exactly as long as the 1995 Gingrich Shutdown, a 21-day shutdown which was apparently caused  by this pettiness: “Gingrich confessed he’d forced the closing of the federal government partly because Bill Clinton had relegated him to a rear cabin aboard Air Force One on the way home from Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral in Jerusalem.”

Then as now, the federal government furloughed 800,000 workers.

By Saturday, this sh*tshow, which somebody publicly said he is proud to own, will be the longest shutdown in history. Congress can do its duty as an equal branch of our government and pass a bill over the president’s objections and re-open the government. This requires a two-thirds vote in the House and in the Senate. A two-thirds supermajority in the Senate is 67 out of 100 senators, and  two-thirds supermajority in the House is 290 out of 435 representatives. The 116th Congress is now a 47 Democrat, 53 GOP split  in the Senate, while the House is 235 Democrat, 199 GOP. See the challenge there? But there is apparently already a bill to reopen the government, why won’t they call it on the floor for a vote? Is the leadership afraid that it will pass both houses, and the president would look worse when he vetoes it?

James Fallows writes: “On December 18, Mitch McConnell’s GOP-run Senate passed, on a unanimous voice vote, a “clean” funding measure, to keep the government open and postpone funding fights about “the wall.” They did so with guidance from the White House that Donald Trump would go along. Then the right-wing mocking began; then immediate funding for the wall became an “emergency”; then Trump preferred a shutdown to appearing to “lose.” Mitch McConnell’s GOP of course switched right along with him—and against the measure all of its members had supported just days ago. One man’s insecurity, and his party’s compliance, are disrupting millions of lives.”

Well, maybe some of these folks really believed that a 30-foot wall works over a 35-foot ladder or 30-feet tunnel or maybe all their spinal bones are just made of jello. The larger public may soon start to realize that these elected representatives do not much care for 800,000 of their fellow Americans and their families. Or care much for their fellow citizens and their families who rely on the people and services that make our government work. We’ve taken for granted that the checks and balances in our system works … but take a look.

As this shutdown continues, we are struck at the high tolerance for people and their families to be put in great hardship, all for a fucking wall that Mexico was supposed to pay.

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Snapshot: Appropriations Funding Gaps, FY1977-FY2014

Posted: 10:15 pm PST

Via CRS:

The federal government shutdown is now on its third week, and at the 18th day, it is now the second longest since 1977. In three days, it will be as long as the Gingrich Shutdown in 1995 which lasted for 21 days. If the government is not reopened by this Friday, the Trump Shutdown will become the longest shutdown in over 40 years.  Quick call Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (touting his clout in DC) or tweet to @senatemajldr felicitations and congratulations for his exceptional non-adherence to the Framers’ system of checks and balances at this bonkers moment in history.