Pompeo Appoints West Point Pal, Ulrich Brechbuhl as @StateDept Counselor

Posted: 4:28 am PT

 

A day after the 70th Secretary of State is formally sworn into office in Foggy Bottom, the State Department announced the appointment of Secretary Pompeo’s old friend from West Point, Ulrich Brechbuhl (Class 1986) as State Department Counselor. Another old buddy from West Point, Brian Bulatao, joined then Director Pompeo at the CIA as chief operating officer following his appointment there in 2017.

This position does not require Senate confirmation.  Given the existing relationship between the new secretary of state and the new counselor, it is highly likely that this appointment would last more than the three- month tenure of his predecessor, Maliz Beams who was appointed Counselor to Rex Tillerson  back when the State Department was drowning in bad Redesign juju (history.state.gov has not even bothered to update its list of counselors).

History.state.gov notes that the Counselor, who currently under law holds rank equivalent to an Under Secretary of State (P.L. 98-164; 97 Stat. 1017), serves as an adviser to the Secretary of State. The Counselor’s specific responsibilities have also varied over time. After career diplomat Kristie Kenney stepped down following Tillerson’s arrival at State, there were loud signals that the Counselor position would not be filled; only for it to be filled months later by a non-career appointee who was tasked with managing the redesign efforts that eventually fizzled.

Recent appointees to the Counselor position includes the following:

The Waldorf School of Garden City has a detailed undated bio of its alumnus, Ulrich Brechbuhl who the website says currently serves as the President of Appenseller Point, LLC a family investing and consulting business.

From 1994-1998, Ulrich was a consultant and manager with Bain & Company, a strategic management consulting firm. During his time at Bain, he led teams in a variety of industries (including high tech, aerospace and defense, construction etc.) that developed business unit as well as corporate level growth strategies, valued new business opportunities, designed and implemented reorganizations, and led cost cutting and profit enhancement projects.

Having been born in Switzerland, Ulrich hails from Garden City, New York and is fluent in four languages. He attended the Waldorf School of Garden City from Nursery through Grade 12. Upon reflecting on his years at Waldorf, he writes, “The variety of people I met and experiences I had during my formative years at Waldorf helped prepare me for the extremely disparate situations I have found myself in, both in the military as well as in civilian life.” He then attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, earning a Bachelor of Science degree with distinction in 1986. During his six and one-half years of active duty service as a cavalry officer, Ulrich experienced a myriad of assignments from leading troops patrolling the Iron Curtain with the Second Calvary, to serving as a general’s aide, to working as an operations officer during the Persian Gulf War with 1-7 Cavalry, First Cavalry Division. Ulrich’s service culminated with the successful command of an armored cavalry troop at Fort Hood, Texas.

Ulrich left the military in 1992 to attend Harvard Business School, from which he received his MBA in 1994. He currently serves on the Board of Alcentra Capital Corporation, a publicly traded business development company, and is an active member of the Rotary Club of Atlanta, the West Point Society of Atlanta, of which he is a past president, and the HBS Club of Atlanta.   He and his wife, Michelle, have three sons, Hans (17), Jacob (16) and Pirmin (14) and are very active in their church, the North Atlanta Church of Christ. He is also involved in a number of other civic organizations including serving on the Greater Atlanta Christian School Foundation Board, serving as an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 379, Atlanta Area Council, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Area Council, BSA.

Read more below:

Ulrich Brechbuhl

Wichita Business Journal’s profile of Thayer Aerospace in December 1998 highlights the relationship of the new secretary of state and the new counselor, and the origin/capital of their company.

Pompeo is the chief executive officer of Thayer Aerospace, a new player in Wichita’s rapidly changing machine shop industry.

Only 21 months old, Thayer is using the powerful force of new capital to buy established companies and consolidate them under one umbrella. […] The company’s capital base is drawn in part from Wichita’s Koch Venture Capital, a division of Koch Industries Inc., the nation’s second largest private company. Thayer also has capital flowing from two Dallas-based private equity groups: Cardinal Investment Co. and Bain & Co. […] Pompeo’s team is basically a reunion of a quartet of West Point buddies from the United States Military Academy class of 1986.

Also included are Brian Bulatao, chief operating officer; Ulrich Brechbuhl, chief financial officer; and Michael Stradinger, who is in charge of mergers and acquisitions. At West Point, the quartet’s members were no academic sloths. Pompeo graduated first in his class, Brechbuhl was fourth in the class and Bulatao was in the top 5 percent.

Like Pompeo, most enjoyed their time in the military after graduation, but were looking for new challenges. And they feared endless assignments to a series of desk jobs, a standard requirement to ascend in the military chain of command.

With backgrounds in engineering as well as management, they got together and discussed a possible future in a business entity. Out of that discussion came the birth of Thayer Aerospace (named after Col. Sylvanus Thayer, the founder of the U.S. Military Academy).

Read more here.

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Adm Harry B. Harris Jr – From PACOM Commander to U.S. Ambassador to Australia

Posted: 2:50 am ET

 

The WH announced last week the President’s intent to nominate PACOM’s Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr. to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Australia. If confirmed, Admirall Harris would succeed political appointee Morrell John Berry (1959–) who was Ambassador to Canberra from 2013–2016. The last career diplomat appointed to Australia was Edward William Gnehm Jr. (1944–) who served from 2000–2001.

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Andrea L. Thompson to be Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security (T)

Posted: 1:33 am ET

 

On December 13, the WH announced President Trump’s intent to nominate retired U.S. Colonel Andrea L. Thompson to be the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. The WH released the following brief bio:

Andrea L. Thompson of South Dakota to be the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. Ms. Thompson, a former military officer, currently serves as a Special Advisor in the Office of Policy Planning at the Department of State. Previously, she was Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President at the White House. A former Director of the McChrystal Group Leadership Institute, Ms. Thompson has more than 25 years of military service in the U.S. Army including deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bosnia. She has also served as National Security Advisor to the House Homeland Security Committee, Executive Officer to the Under Secretary of the Army, Senior Military Advisor to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a Senior Fellow with the Army’s strategic studies group. She earned a B.A. in both journalism and Spanish at the University of South Dakota, a M.S. from Long Island University and a M.A. from the National Defense University.

If confirmed, Colonel Thompson would succeed Rose Eileen Gottemoeller who served from 2014–2016, and was subsequently appointed to NATO (see Rose @Gottemoeller Moves to @NATO as First Female Deputy Secretary General).

Via history.state.gov:
Congress, in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1971 (P.L. 92-226; 86 Stat. 28), authorized the President to appoint, with the advice and consent of the Senate, an officer for the purpose of coordinating the government’s security assistance programs. Under this act, the President has commissioned all incumbents as “Under Secretaries of State for Coordinating Security Assistance Programs.” Since then, the Department of State has assigned the position different functional designations. On Aug 22, 1977, the Department changed the designation from “Under Secretary for Security Assistance” to “Under Secretary for Security Assistance, Science, and Technology.” On Apr 30, 1990, the Department changed this designation to “International Security Affairs.” In addition to coordinating U.S. security assistance programs, duties associated with this position have also included at one time or another: nuclear non-proliferation; control of technology transfers and strategic goods; and coordination of international communications policy. Title changed to Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs on May 12, 1994.

 

The previous appointees to this position are as follows:

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@StateDept Public Affairs Game Show: Tillerson Attends “Private Event”? #ButTelevised

Posted: 1:39 am ET

 

AND NOW THIS – WITH JUST A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR ….

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U.S. Mission Somalia on Ordered Departure of “Non-Essential” U.S. Citizen Employees

Posted: 12:26 am ET
Updated: 1:09 pm ET
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We understand that the State Department did not/did not put US Mission Somalia on ordered departure. This explains the absence of a new Travel Warning. Our understanding is that the post directive was for embassy U.S. citizen employees to depart, and not all American citizens. It looks like the U.S. Ambassador to Somalia is based in Kenya, so we don’t even know how many U.S. and local embassy staffers are actually in Mogadishu. When we asked US Mission Somalia whether there is an updated Travel Warning, we were directed to its security message of November 4 with a link to the January 11, 2017 Travel Warning, which specifically notes that “There is no U.S. embassy presence in Somalia.” The most recent Travel Warning for Somalia is actually dated August 3, 2017 which similarly notes the absence of U.S. embassy presence in Somalia. So who were actually directed to depart? Can post “direct” the departure of just embassy employees without triggering an update in Travel Warning? Wouldn’t that run afoul of the “no double standard” policy? Is this a case of folks just not knowing what they’re doing? Other missions in the past have restricted travels of staff members from various parts of their host countries citing “no-go” or red zones where employees are not allowed to go. But U.S. Mission Somalia uses the words “direct” implying a directive and “non-essential” which is usually used in reference to evacuations.

In May this year, we blogged that the @StateDept Plans to Build a “Somalia Interim Facility” in Mogadishu For $85-$125M. Also see D/SecState Blinken Swears in Stephen Schwartz, First U.S.Ambassador to Somalia in 25 Years.

On November 4, U.S. Mission Somalia announced that it has directed “its non-essential (sic) U.S. citizen employees” to depart Mogadishu until further notice due to specific threat information against U.S. personnel on the Mogadishu International Airport. The order came a day after AFRICOM announced that it conducted air strikes against ISIS in northeastern Somalia.

The directive for personnel  to go on authorized or ordered departure has to come from the State Department. Also U.S. Mission-Somalia’s original tweet says it directs “all non-essential U.S. citizen employees”; note that the corrected one says it directs “its non-essential U.S. citizen employees.” Who does that exclude? Everyone not under Chief of Mission authority? But all agencies fall under COM authority with the exception of those under the authority of combatant commanders, or has that changed?

We don’t know how many State Department U.S. citizen employees are actually in Mogadishu but the solicitation back in May to pre-qualify firms for design-build construction services for the construction of a Somalia Interim Facility in Mogadishu referred to a “20- acre site located on the Mogadishu International Airport (MIA) Compound” with “currently” three firms working on the compound: Bancroft Global Development, RA International, and SKA Group.

As far as we can tell, no updated Travel Warning had been released reflecting the departure of “non-essential” employees from Somalia.  And folks, if you keep calling evacuated employees “non-essential”, we’re going to start wondering what were they doing there in the first place if they were not essential.

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Libyan National Charged in 2012 Attack on U.S. Special Mission and Annex in #Benghazi

Posted: 2:22 am ET
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Media reports say that U.S. special forces have captured a militant who was allegedly involved in the 2012 deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya.  The suspect has been identified as Mustafa al-Imam. An unnamed official told the AP that the suspect was captured in Misrata, on the north coast of Libya and was taken to a U.S. Navy ship at the Misrata port for transport to the United States.

Per DOJ announcement:

Mustafa al-Imam, a Libyan national approximately 46 years old, has been charged for his alleged participation in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Special Mission and Annex in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans.

“The murder of four Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 was a barbaric crime that shocked the American people. We will never forget those we lost – Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Ambassador Christopher Stevens – four brave Americans who gave their lives in service to our nation,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  “We owe it to them and their families to bring their murderers to justice. Today the Department of Justice announces a major step forward in our ongoing investigation as Mustafa al-Imam is now in custody and will face justice in federal court for his role in the attack.  I am grateful to the FBI, our partners in the intelligence community and the Department of Defense who made this apprehension possible.  The United States will continue to investigate and identify all those who were involved in the attack – and we will hold them accountable for their crimes.”

“The apprehension of Mustafa al-Imam demonstrates our unwavering commitment to holding accountable all of those responsible for the murders of four brave Americans in a terrorist attack in Benghazi,” said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia.  “Together with our law enforcement partners, we will do all that we can to pursue justice against those who commit terrorist acts against the United States, no matter how far we must go and how long it takes.”

Mustafa al-Imam is charged in a recently unsealed three-count criminal complaint.  The complaint, which was filed under seal on May 19, 2015, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, charges al-Imam with:

  • Killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility involving the use of a firearm and dangerous weapon and attempting and conspiring to do the same.
  • Providing, attempting and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists resulting in death.
  • Discharging, brandishing, using, carrying and possession of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.Al-Imam is in U.S. custody, and upon his arrival to the U.S. he will be presented before a federal judge in Washington, D.C.

Read the full announcement here.

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U.S.Embassy Bamako: Army Green Beret Logan J. Melgar’s Death in Mali Under Investigation as Homicide

Posted: 12:33 am ET
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Media reports say that Army Staff Sgt. Logan J. Melgar was found dead in his room in embassy housing in Bamako, Mali on June 4, 2017 and that two members of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six are reportedly under investigation in his death. One official told ABC News that the death is being investigated by the Navy’s Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) as a homicide and that investigators are looking into Melgar’s suspected asphyxiation.

Sgt. Melgar died in Bamako far from battlefield, in an “odd event” that  requires an investigation. But the death occurred in June and even if there is an ongoing investigation, why is the public hearing about this death almost five months after the incident?  The death also reportedly occurred in an embassy housing. Since NCIS (and not Diplomatic Security) is investigating, we suspect but that these DOD members are not/not under Chief of Mission Authority (pdf) while at post but under AFRICOM.

To the inevitable next question as to what our troops are doing in Mali,  we understand that France is in the lead to counter Al Qaida/ISIS affiliates and the US military works in support of French operations in that country. It is also our understanding that there are six western hostages being held in Mali including one US citizen.

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Avoidable Mess: U.S. to Help Chad After “Important Partner” Withdraws Troops From Niger Following Visa Sanctions

Posted: 3:33 am ET
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On September 24, President Trump announced new security measures that establish minimum requirements for international cooperation to support U.S. visa and immigration vetting and new visa restrictions for eight countries, including Chad. See Trump Announces New Visa Restrictions For Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, Somalia:.

Chad – Although it is an important partner, especially in the fight against terrorists, the government in Chad does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information, and several terrorist groups are active within Chad or in the surrounding region, including elements of Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa, and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Chad, as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, is suspended.

Via BuzzFeed: Experts from the State Department to humanitarian organizations were stunned when the Chad was added to the travel ban in late September. The country is home to a US military facility and just hosted an annual 20-nation military exercise with the US military’s Africa Command to strengthen local forces to fight extremist insurgents. Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, is the headquarters of the five-country Multinational Joint Task Force battling Boko Haram.

What kind of visa numbers do we have for Chad? For temporary nonimmigrant visas the last five fiscal years, see below via travel.state.gov:

FY2016: 1,355 | FY2015: 1,352 | FY2014: 1,294 |  FY2013: 731 |  FY2012: 624

So given Chad’s counterterrorism cooperation, and the carved out already given to Iraq in the September 24 order, why was Chad included in the visa restrictions?  FP proposes this:

One possible explanation for this discrepancy, which would be preposterous in any administration except this one, is that the architects of the ban, having repeatedly heard the phrases “Boko Haram” and “Lake Chad” in the same sentence, assumed that Chad must be the epicenter of Boko Haram. (Lake Chad in fact lies on the border of Chad and three other countries, and Boko Haram is mostly confined to northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, and southeastern Niger.)
[…]
In the wake of the new travel ban announcement on Sept. 24, Chad has withdrawn hundreds of troops from neighboring Niger, where up to 2,000 of its soldiers were part of a coalition battling Boko Haram. The Chadian government has not yet offered an official explanation for the pullout, but Communications Minister Madeleine Alingué condemned Chad’s inclusion on the travel ban, saying that it “seriously undermines” the “good relations between the two countries, notably in the fight against terrorism.”
[…]
The Chadian president is likely betting that with his forces withdrawn from Niger, the Trump administration will quickly come to appreciate his country’s security contributions and remove it from the list.

But it turns out — Chad had simply run out of passport paper!

AP’s Josh Lederman writes that Chad lacked the passport paper and offered to furnish the U.S. with a pre-existing sample of the same type of passport, but it was not enough to persuade DHS.  A congressional official told the AP that DHS working with the White House “pushed Chad onto the list without significant input from the State Department or the Defense Department.” 

Without significant input from agencies with people on the ground in Chad. If we were in Chad’s shoes, wouldn’t we do exactly the same? Obviously, being called an “important partner” does not make up for having your citizens banned from traveling to the other country. The action telegraphed careless disregard of the relationship, and Chad most likely, will not forget this easily. “Remember that time when the U.S. put Chad on the visa sanctions list while we have 2,000 soldiers fighting in Niger?” Yep, they’ll remember. We actually would like to know who among the local contacts showed up for the new embassy dedication, by the way (see @StateDept Dedicates New $225M U.S. Embassy in N’Djamena, Chad).

The DHS/WH architects of these visa bans/sanctions really are the best people with the best brains, hey?

Federal court has now issued a TRO for the latest travel restrictions that includes Chad. So basically, a carefully constructed bilateral relationship ends up in a mess, and it was all for nothing.

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Sharon Weinberger: The Imagineers of War (Excerpt)

Posted: 12:25 am ET
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We mentioned Sharon Wienberger’s book a couple days ago in 16 USG Employees in “Sonic Attack” and More on The Secret History of Diplomats and Invisible Weapons.  For readers who may be interested, below is an excerpt courtesy of Kindle Preview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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