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Three Reasons For Sullivan’s Town Hall, Plus Feedback, and Some Re-Design Concerns

Posted: 4:30 am ET

 

We recently blogged Why Tillerson Not Sullivan Needs the Town Hall: Morale Is Bad, “S” is Accountable.  We also posted our comments on Deputy Secretary Sullivan’s on-the-record briefing with the State Department Press Corps (see Deputy Secretary Sullivan’s Town Hall With @StateDept Employees Now in Gifs).

We now understand that Deputy Secretary Sullivan had three reasons for holding a town hall with State Department employees.  It appears like he missed some marks.

State/USAID full merger no longer in the planning?

The first reason for the town hall was reportedly to make clear to employees that for planning purposes there will not be a full merger between the State Department and USAID. All Working Groups (now known as “Workstreams”) involved in the redesign were previously instructed to assume that State and USAID will “remain separate” but be “mutually dependent” entities. That is, USAID will not be fully subsumed but it will also not be further separated from State. Our understanding it that the Working Groups would consider consolidation at the management and program levels if it is best or moving things from USAID or State depending on who has the expertise. The important point that folks expected Mr. Sullivan to clarify was to make clear that the full merger is no longer in the planning. Apparently, this he did not do.

Based on the on-the-record briefing with D/Secretary Sullivan, he only mentioned USAID once when he said, “Nothing’s off the table, everything is going to be evaluated by them, the Secretary has not given – other than a mandate to make a better State Department and USAID more efficient and effective for the 21st century, he’s not directed that any outcome result from this redesign.” During the town hall, he reportedly told attendees that “The redesign is not the dismantling of State and USAID.”  Expectant folks were  disappointed, and were perplexed why Mr. Sullivan did not mention that the full merger is no longer in the planning.

Preparation, Organization, Skepticism

The other two reasons were more challenging. One, he was supposed to impressed upon employees that the re-design process is “truly employee-led” and two, he was supposed to provide some motivation to the staff.

On the re-design, we understand that there are two issues. First, the issue with trust is reportedly a huge concern.  In addition, employees also believe that the contracted firm has more access to Secretary Tillerson than all of the current leadership.  The State Department leadership reportedly doesn’t understand why no one believes that the process isn’t rigged.  So, they do all these things to try and convince folks that is not the case but without much success. Latest examples are the town hall with inadequate answers, and a stakeholder meeting last week with NGOs who do business with State/USAID. Both did not go very well.  In the latter, the State Department representatives apparently tried to take a poll on foreign aid priorities. Sources told a reporter that the poll questions were dumb and the answer choices were often irrelevant. NGO representatives told the reporter that they felt like they were being talked down to and offered BS responses.

The second concern has to do with preparation and organization. Apparently USAID is seen as seeming more prepared and organized in these meetings and in the Workstreams. State reportedly appears seemingly scattered and State folks more likely to disagree with other State people.  At this time, we only know that career employees are in these working groups. We don’t know if there are political appointees working with them and what roles are played by the consulting firms.

Below are the short and the long bits on D’s town hall.

via tenor.com

 

Town Hall Feedback

One blog feedback we received: I was there and DS Sullivan might as well have not showed up. 80 percent of the questions seemed out of his league. Huge disappointment!”

One State Department employee told us he/she gave Deputy Secretary Sullivan a “B” for effort and style, and a “D” for substance, as there were too many questions that he could not answer. If the questions were collected from the Secretary’s Sounding Board, he should have been prepped better.

LGBT

We were informed that Mr. Sullivan did give a pretty good answer on diversity when he was asked if the Department was doing anything to help LGBT employees with the family member accreditation issue (now that State/HR has changed the Fair Share rule to 20% posts or greater, we’ve also learned that only 33% of posts are places where LGBT FSOs can serve accompanied by their families).

The Q&A from the town hall and a few comments in [brackets] below are provided anonymously through one of our contacts:

Re-design

Q: When will the redesign be complete? “There are a couple of steps in that process…when will we get to the point where the redesign is implemented that requires steps from Congress and OMB…as soon as we get clearance from OMB we will start…”

“The redesign is not the dismantling of State and USAID” [he really felt he had to say that out loud]. “Despite what you might read in the newspaper”[….fake news!!]

Future hiring

Q: AFSA: …We found the same thing Insigniam did – we love our jobs but are driven to distraction by onerous process…but as to the hiring freeze and the FS…because it’s an up or out system, we have a built-in RIF…so we are RIFing right now unless we are hiring…what can you tell us about hiring ELOs next year so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past? “The issues you raise are important” [oh boy…] “that’s why we have ambassadors and career FSOs working on this in the working groups…it’s an important issue we’re working on.”

CA to DHS

Q: One recommendation from the listening tour report was to move CA to DHS? “Nothing is off the table – because this is a bottom up employee-led process, but I have told S how important CA is, it’s not his intent nor mine to move CA. But nothing is off the table.”

Lateral transfers

Q: Why are you preventing lateral moves for civil servants? He’s explaining the hiring freeze... “it’s not a sign of disrespect”. [OMG he just said] “I’ll give you two examples of great civil servants I know.”

Delegations of Authority

Q: On delegations to P – ability to act for S and D in their place – how do we do legal necessary things if you aren’t available? “This process is ongoing…we will ensure decision making is launched at the right level…” [whaaaaaaT?! In the meantime we are f*****g drowning!]
(DS NOTE: Oops! On July 31, Secretary Tillerson issued DA-245-2 from S to the Deputy Secretary (Sullivan); we have yet to see the DA from the Secretary to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (Shannon). 
“S” Clearance for International Travel
Q: We have just been notified we need S’ clearance on all international travel…as you just said the survey mentioned so many of us mentioned the clearance process as onerous. “The means by which we authorize employees to travel is one of these issues that has been raised to me many times…I’m not completely familiar with the issue you raise…but what I can address is, delegations of authority, and the NYT said my authorities were removed because of something I did, but that’s not factually true…we found there are hundreds of delegations of authority and there’s no central way to keep track…but as to travel, I’ll have to get back to you…”
(DS NOTE: Guidance was issued Monday evening, August 7, that ALL overseas travel “to participate in events” must now be approved via action memo to the Secretary himself. It also requested a detailed budget breakdown of the trip and information on other participants. The same guidance was rescinded by Tuesday evening. On delegations of authority, the notion that there’s no way to track delegations of authority – that’s just incorrect. A/GIS/DIR maintains an electronic listing and database of all current and rescinded Department delegations on the A/GIS/DIR website). 
EFMs and hiring freeze

Q: Hiring freeze especially hard for EFMs. Will the freeze be reconsidered? “We will endeavor to lift the freeze as quickly as possible. In the interim there are waivers” [yeah but S insists on reading each waiver personally!!]

Vacancies

Q: You began your speech with how important Tom Shannon is, but there are a number of other people who could be helping you and poor Tom – the empty AS and under secretaries – why aren’t these being filled? (Applause) “There is no delay or freeze on nominating political appointees though many think there should be...[silence]...that’s a joke!” [Ugh.] “The process is underway, hasn’t gone as quickly as we’ve hoped but it’s underway…I think it’s gaining steam…”

 

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@StateDept Awards $422M Contract For New Consulate Compound in Erbil, Iraq

Posted: 3:49 am ET

 

On June 30, the State Department awarded a $422,470,379.00 contract to B.L. Harbery International, LLC of Alabama for the construction of the New Consulate Compound in Erbil, Iraq (NCC Erbil).

The new Consulate Compound will be constructed on U.S. Government property located in Erbil, Iraq. The site is approximately 50 acres and is located 8.1 miles from the city center.  The scope includes: New Office Building, Marine Security Guard Residence (MSGR), Consulate General Residence (CGR), shops, storage, and maintenance facilities (SPX), perimeter security, vehicle and pedestrian access control pavilions (CACs), utility building (UTL), and vehicle parking. Staff Housing, Visitor Accommodations, a Community Center with bathhouse/cabana and compound landscaping are also part of the project.

Delal Bridge, Zakho City, Duhok Province
Photo via USCG Erbil/FB

Consulate General Erbil serves the four provinces of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq: Dohuk, Erbil, Halabja and Sulaimaniya. The Consulate General consists of an executive office headed by the Consul General and sections covering political affairs, economic affairs, public diplomacy, rule of law, management, and security. Co-located with the U.S. Consulate General is the USAID office serving the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.

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USG Seeks Jerusalem Hotel Room Services For Estimated 2,704 Room Nights For a Year

Posted: 3:06 am ET

 

On July 20, the US Embassy in Tel Aviv issued a solicitation for Jerusalem Hotel Room Services.

The Embassy intends to conduct a pre-proposal conference, and all prospective offerors are invited to attend. The pre-proposal conference will take place at 10:00 AM local Israel time, on August 1, 2017, at the US Embassy Annex Facility located at 11 Galgalai Haplada St., Entrance B, 3rd floor, Herzelia Pituach, Israel.

The requirement is for the providing of lodging rooms for Official US Government visits to the City of Jerusalem.  The estimated number of hotel rooms for one year is 1,202 rooms and 2,704 room nights.  The anticipated performance is for a base period of twelve months and two one -year periods at the option of the Government.

The scope of services requires the contractor to provide a minimum of 40 (forty) and a maximum of 6,500 (six thousand five hudred) single hotel rooms in Jerusalem. According to FedBiz, the contract type will be indefinite quantity.

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Inbox: Female Contractor at DS Training Center Fired 3 Hours After Filing Harassment Complaint

Posted: 3:19 am ET

 

In response to our June 20 post Diplomatic Security’s Basic Special Agent (BSAC) Training: Sexual Harassment Alert!, we received the following:

To add:

There are only two female DS Agents assigned to the DS Training Center.

There is currently an EEO suit being brought by a contract female instructor who was fired from the DS Training Center three hours after she submitted a harassment complaint. In the complaint, a male PSC co-worker frequently harassed the female instructor, and, given the timing of the termination, this is an egregious violation of whistleblower/EEO diversity/harassment free workplace regulations and policies. The male PSC employee is still employed and complaints about his dealings with female students and employees persist.

 

via reactiongifs.com’

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@StateDept Says It’s “Unfortunate” That It Withholds Employee Survey Results From Public 😢 Hu-Hu!

Posted: 1:59 am ET

 

Via govexec.com:

“Unfortunately, the results of the survey will not be available,” said Nicole Thompson of the department’s Office of Press Relations. That position comes in spite of the fact that a copy of the 110-page survey report from Insigniam, a consulting firm, was leaked to the Wall Street Journal, which published excerpts.

Hey, that’s the $10K/page report that the American taxpayers paid for but cannot read publicly. “Unfortunate” is an understatement. We also don’t know who owns the data collected during this study. Do you?

The contractor has asserted its copyright on the report — provided for under the FAR — in which case, “when claim to copyright is made the Contractor grants the Government, and others acting on its behalf, a license to the work.” Also that “The Government’s license includes the right to distribute copies of the work to the public for government purpose.” So in this case, by not making the report public, the State Department has decided that the American public does not have a right to see a report it paid for.

Folks, this is going to be the document that Mr. Tillerson will cite in reorganizing, no, excuse me, downsizing his own agency, the oldest executive agency in our history, and the public is not allowed to read it?  Holy moly guacamole! Help me! I can’t stop crying 😢 😢 😢 …

If Contractor is Allowed to Assert Copyright in a Work Produced Under a Government Contract, What Rights Does the Government Have?

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) was established to codify uniform policies for acquisition of supplies and services by executive agencies. The following from the Frequently Asked Questions About Copyright Issues Affecting the U.S. Government  addresses the issue of copyright from an operations perspective:

A contractor’s assertion of copyright in a work produced under a DFARS contract does not provide any restrictions to the Government’s use of the work (see DFARS 227.7103-990 and 227.7203-991). In a FAR contract, if the contractor is permitted to assert copyright, the Government will acquire a license to the copyrighted work. The extent of the license may depend on the type of work created (see FAR 52.227-1492).

Under the FAR, when a contractor asserts copyright in a work first produced in the performance of a contract with a civilian agency or NASA, the contractor must place a copyright notice acknowledging the government sponsorship (including contract number) on the work when it is delivered to the Government, as well as when it is published or deposited for registration with the U.S. Copyright Office (see FAQ Section 4.8). If no copyright notice is placed on the work, the Government obtains unlimited rights in the work. Unlimited rights allow the Government to provide the work to another contractor and distribute the work to the public, including posting the work to a public web site. Otherwise, when claim to copyright is made the Contractor grants the Government, and others acting on its behalf, a license to the work.

The Government’s license is a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to use, modify, reproduce, release, perform, display or disclose the work by or on behalf of the Government. The Government may use the work within the Government without restriction, and may release or disclose the work outside the Government and authorize persons to whom release or disclosure has been made to use, modify, reproduce, release, perform, display, or disclose the work on behalf of the government. The Government’s license includes the right to distribute copies of the work to the public for government purpose. While the contractor may assign its copyright in “scientific and technical articles based on or containing data first produced in the performance of a contract” to a publisher, the Government’s license rights attach to the articles upon creation and later assignment by the contractor to a publisher are subject to these rights. Under some FAR data rights clauses, if the work is a computer program, the right to release or disclose the computer program to the public is not included in the Government’s license. If there is any question as to the scope of the Government’s license, the Contracting Officer or your General Counsel should be consulted.

An example of a copyright statement, which includes a government license, for use with works created under contracts with civilian agencies and NASA is:

COPYRIGHT STATUS: This work, authored by ______________ employees, was funded in whole or in part by _________________ under U.S. Government contract _______________, and is, therefore, subject to the following license: The Government is granted for itself and others acting on its behalf a paid-up, nonexclusive, irrevocable worldwide license in this work to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies to the public, and perform publicly and display publicly, by or on behalf of the Government. All other rights are reserved by the copyright owner.

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Former U.S. Naval Attaché to US Embassy Manila Michael Brooks Sentenced in Navy Scandal

Posted: 2:35 am ET

 

On June 16, 2017, USDOJ announced that a former U.S. Naval Attaché and Military Advisor to the U.S. Ambassador in the Philippines was sentenced for taking bribes in a massive U.S. Navy corruption scandal.

A Retired U.S. Navy Captain was sentenced in federal court today to 41 months in prison for his role in a massive bribery and fraud scheme involving foreign defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis and his firm, Singapore-based, Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA).

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson Southern District of California, Director Dermot O’Reilly of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and Director Andrew Traver of the NCIS made the announcement.

In addition to the 41-month prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino ordered Michael Brooks, 59, of Fairfax Station, Virginia, to pay a $41,000 fine and $31,000 in restitution to the U.S. Navy.  Brooks pleaded guilty in November 2016 to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.

Brooks, who served as the U.S. Naval Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines, from 2006 to 2008, has admitted accepting bribes of travel and entertainment expenses, hotel rooms and the services of prostitutes. In return, Brooks admitted that he used his power and influence to benefit GDMA and Francis, including by securing quarterly clearances for GDMA vessels, which allowed GDMA vessels to transit into and out of the Philippines under the diplomatic imprimatur of the U.S. Embassy. Neither GDMA nor any other defense contractor has ever been granted such unfettered clearances.

Brooks admitted that he also allowed Francis to ghostwrite official U.S. Navy documents and correspondence, which Brooks submitted as his own. For example, Brooks admitted allowing GDMA to complete its own contractor performance evaluations. A November 2007 evaluation, drafted by GDMA and submitted by Brooks, described the company’s performance as “phenomenal,” “unsurpassed,” “exceptional” and “world class.” Brooks also admitted providing Francis with sensitive, internal U.S. Navy information, including U.S. Navy ship schedules and billing information belonging to a GDMA competitor, at times using a private Yahoo! e-mail account to mask his illicit acts.

Twenty-one current and former Navy officials have been charged so far in the fraud and bribery investigation; 10 have pleaded guilty and 10 cases are pending. In addition, five GDMA executives and GDMA the corporation have pleaded guilty.

NCIS, DCIS and DCAA are conducting the ongoing investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Patrick Hovakimian of the Southern District of California and Assistant Chief Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.

Anyone with information relating to fraud, corruption or waste in government contracting should contact the NCIS anonymous tip line at www.ncis.navy.mil or the DOD Hotline at www.dodig.mil/hotline, or call (800) 424-9098.

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That time when a real property lease in Iraq jumped from $124,000/mo to $665,000/mo

Posted: 2:25 am ET

 

And no one noticed for about five months?

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A former government contractor was sentenced today to four years in prison for his role in a government contract kickback scheme that caused a loss of more than $3.4 million to the U.S. Department of State.

According to court documents, Wesley Aaron Struble, 49, a U.S. citizen of Batangas, Philippines, engaged in a conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Act in 2011 and 2012 while employed in Iraq as a government contractor. Initially employed by a business identified in court documents as Company B, Struble learned that another business, identified in court documents as Company A, was seeking a lease of real property for use related to a U.S. Department of State contract. Struble knew that Company B was paying approximately $124,000 per month to a third business, identified in court documents as Company C, for a lease of real property. According to court documents, Struble became a manager for Company A, and together with another manager for Company A, engaged in a conspiracy with associates of Company C to make the lease of property available to Company A at an inflated rate of $665,000 per month.

Court documents explained that Struble and the other manager of Company A influenced Company A to lease the property at the inflated rate and in return received at least $390,000 in cash kickback payments from associates of Company C. Struble then concealed cash in packages sent back to family members in the United States, including hiding cash inside stereo speakers. Struble also directed that cash be deposited in bank accounts in a manner designed to avoid detection. The U.S. Department of State, which ultimately paid the lease of real property between Company A and Company C, suffered a loss of approximately $3.4 million. In addition to Struble’s prison sentence, he was also ordered to pay approximately $3.4 million in restitution.

Two of Struble’s co-conspirators—Jose Rivera and Emil Popescu—were charged by indictment on March 30, for their roles in the conspiracy. According to court documents, Jose Rivera pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a jury trial on August 7. The United States is seeking Emil Popescu’s extradition from Romania.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Steve A. Linick, the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of State; and Andrew W. Vale, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian D. Harrison and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly R. Pedersen prosecuted the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:17-cr-44 and 1:17-cr-052.

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Raymond Davis Writes About How He Landed in Prison and Ignited a Diplomatic Crisis in Pakistan (Excerpt)

Posted: 4:59 am ET

 

For three months in the early part of 2011, Raymond Davis was the biggest news out of Pakistan (see links below). This week, he released a book of his account from landing in Pakistani prison to igniting a diplomatic crisis.

Raymond Davis is a former United States Army soldier and military contractor who became the center of an international maelstrom after his involvement in a shooting in Lahore, Pakistan on January 27, 2011. Born and raised in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, Davis spent 10 years in the army, the last six of which he spent as a member of the Special Forces. After being discharged from the army in 2003 because of an injury, Davis worked as a private contractor providing operational security in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (via Amazon)

Leon E. Panetta, Chairman of The Panetta Institute for Public Policy writes: “Reading Ray’s account brought back a lot of memories about the difficult challenges he faced. The book is a tribute to those public servants like Ray who quietly do their job, put their lives on the line, and will do whatever is necessary to protect and defend their country. He is a silent patriot.” (via Amazon)

Excerpt below via Kindle Preview:

Clips:

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New U.S. Embassy Beirut to Open in Lebanon in 2022

Posted: 1:38 am ET

 

On April 20, 2017, the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard broke ground on the new U.S. Embassy compound in Beirut, Lebanon.

The multi-building compound will be located in the suburb of Awkar on a 43-acre site. The compound will provide a safe, secure, sustainable, and modern platform that supports U.S. Embassy staff in representing the U.S. Government to Lebanon and in conducting day-to-day diplomacy.

Professionals from the United States, Lebanon, and other countries will work side-by-side to complete this new diplomatic facility. Morphosis Architects of Culver City, California, is the architect for the project. B.L. Harbert International of Birmingham, Alabama is the construction contractor.

The construction contract was awarded in December 2016, and completion of the project is anticipated in 2022.

The multi-building complex project with a total budget of $1,026,043,688 will be constructed on a 43.87-acre site in the Awkar suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, located approximately 9 miles northwest of downtown Beirut and in close proximity to the existing Embassy Compound.

The project will reportedly include a Chancery; Marine security guard residence; support annex and buildings; representational, staff and temporary housing; facilities for the community; and parking.  Extending from the Chancery, ribbon-like residential buildings are designed to frame the campus’ central service and circulation corridor.

According to State/OBO, this compound is OBO’s first project designed to earn LEED for Neighborhood Development certification.  The design will reportedly achieve significant water use reduction both inside and outside the Chancery with over 75% of wastewater to be reused on-site for irrigation to reduce the utility costs, stress on the local infrastructure, and to improve overall resiliency of the site.

An estimated workforce of 2,000 American, Lebanese, and third-country workers are expected to be involved in the construction of the new Embassy.

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We have been a reader-supported blog since 2014. We want to keep this blog as open as possible and that’s the reason we don’t have a subscription fee. You know best whether our work is of value to you or not. If it is, and if your circumstances allow it, we could use your help to carry on for another year: Help Diplopundit Get to Year 10 ⚡️

 

New Ambassador to NZ Scott Brown to Arrive at Post With Some Ready Made Headaches in Waiting

We have been a reader-supported blog since 2014. We want to keep this blog as open as possible and that’s the reason we don’t have a subscription fee. You know best whether our work is of value to you or not. If it is, and if your circumstances allow it, we could use your help to carry on for another year: Help Diplopundit Get to Year 10 ⚡️
Posted: 12:25 am ET

 

In January, we heard several concerns about the ongoing construction project at the U.S. Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand related to safety issues, structural and health concerns and communication issues in the work disruption that followed the Kaikoura earthquake in November 2016 (see US Embassy New Zealand’s Chancery Rehab Project: Safety and Health Concerns With Ongoing Construction).  In State/OBO’s response to our prior inquiry, we were told that rehabilitation project of the existing chancery in Wellington to meet seismic and security requirements is scheduled for completion in early 2018.

The new Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa Scott Brown is reportedly expected to arrive in Wellington this week (also see New Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa Scott Brown Introduces Self in Home Video). Below is from a new howler we got which shows the new ambassador has ready made headaches to welcome him at his new gig.

“Regarding Embassy Wellington’s seismic upgrade, the latest completion date is now “mid-2019”.

“No deaths on site so far, although there have been a few more injuries, fires, power outages and evacuations.”

“Staff members are now back at the British High Commission with their workspaces scheduled to be consumed by the project again, because we didn’t learn from our mistake last time.”

On a positive note, OBO built post a beautiful new kitchen…which we can’t use during business hours because the only entrance is through the Embassy’s *one* meeting room.

“Will incoming Ambassador Brown be able to make any sense of this mess when he arrives this week?”

“It’d be lovely to have a town hall to welcome him, except that the multi-purpose room is scheduled for teardown this week, too.”

via replygifs.net

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