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American values? Tillerson: “The president speaks for himself.” Uh-oh!

Posted: 4:51 am  ET

 

Axios writes: “We’ve been hearing for weeks, from sources who’ve spoken to the president, that Trump is getting more and more fed up with Tillerson, who has still yet to staff his agency.” The report enumerates multiple criticisms directed at Tillerson:
1) why he still doesn’t have political appointees in the top roles at the State Department;
2) Tillerson hasn’t put in the time to build goodwill with Washington’s foreign policy community or with the media;
3) reports that Tillerson has destroyed morale at State, empowering only the tiniest inner circle;
4) Qatar;
5) Venezuela and Tom Shannon;
6) Iran;
7) Tillerson’s Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin

AND NOW THIS —

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The World Watches Another Trumpster Fire Week #WhatNowPublicDiplomacy?

Posted: 2:38 am ET

 

Last June, USC’s Center on Public Diplomacy did a piece on Islamophobia & U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Trump Era. In another post on re-thinking social engagement, CPD writes that “in the age of Trump though, global organizations, especially those with American origins, must do all they can now to shore up their reputational capital and strengthen bonds of trust with the people they engage with and serve – customers, employees, influencers, citizens – around the world.” On Wednesday, USC Annenberg will host P.J. Crawley, former spox and Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs for a conversation on U.S. domestic politics and the future of America’s global leadership in the age of Trump.

Former FSO John Brown once wrote that at its best, public diplomacy “provides a truthful, factual exposition and explication of a nation’s foreign policy and way of life to overseas audiences,”  — how do you do that particularly after what happened last week? After a new underground railroad from the United States to Canada is widely reported to “escape a harsh new U.S. regime”?

Also a quick reminder that the State Department’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R) who leads in America’s public diplomacy outreach is currently vacant. Ambassador Bruce Wharton, the acting “R” retired in late July. There are no announced nominees for the undersecretary or for the assistant secretaries for the Bureau of Public Affairs (PA), Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), or for Special Envoy and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center (GEC).

Some cartoonists below looking at the United States.

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U.S. Mission Russia: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Yekaterinburg #ThinkingofYou

Posted: 3:35  pm PT

 

We’re thinking about the staffers at U.S. Mission Russia, at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and the U.S. Consulates General in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, and Yekaterinburg.  Those who will remain at posts will have to make do without the help of their colleagues and local staff, and those who are required to depart will have to find temporary homes at other posts until they can locate new assignments.  We’re only a few weeks away from school opening, so we anticipate that some Foreign Service kids could also be affected.  We have no doubt that our Foreign Service folks are resilient and will face the next weeks with strength and fortitude, but these will be difficult times nonetheless.

This will be especially hard for a large number of employees at U.S. Mission Russia who are local employees and do not have relocation as an option. We don’t know at this time if they will be placed on administrative furlough, or if there are other options specific to the Russian posts.  3 FAM 7732.4 provides for separation by reduction in force (RIF) for local employees for “lack of funds, reorganization, decrease of work, or similar reason.” OPM says that agencies must follow RIF procedures for furlough of more than 30 continuous calendar days, however it also says that employees may be placed on an extended furlough when the agency plans to recall the employee to his or her position within 1 year. The FAM provides for reemployment of  FSNs “separated upon expiration of a short term of employment” but we won’t really know how long this will last, do we?

 

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#TrumpChicken Thanks Putin For Kicking Out U.S.Mission Russia Staffers

Posted: 4:19 pm PT

 

On August 10, 2017, Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States announced for all the world to hear that he wanted to thank Russian leader Vladimir Putin for slashing the United States own diplomatic staff at U.S. Mission Russia.  He was under the impression that this would result in a smaller payroll.  If he were a little bit more curious about our diplomatic missions, he would know that our career diplomats and their families would be reassigned to other posts. And he would realize that when our diplomats are kicked out from a certain country, it would impact the United States ability to analyze, report, negotiate, and improve bilateral relation with that country.

If he were a little bit more informed, he would know that the reduction in staff — beyond the upheavals it would bring to the lives of mission staffers and their families — would hinder the embassy’s ability to investigate allegations of mistreatment of or discrimination against U.S. investors in Russia. If the U.S. does not have sufficient staff, it would jeopardize cooperation with Russia in addressing pressing global challenges where U.S. core national security interests align:

  • nonproliferation
  • nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) security
  • preventing atrocities and humanitarian crises
  • combatting violent extremism and terrorism

But Mr. Trump is not curious, and he is ill informed, and he has not shown signs that he will improve with age. Unfortunately, this also shows us as clear as day that he sees no usefulness for diplomacy nor appreciation for the people who labors in it.

Frankly, the only way we are actually able to process this latest edition in bonkers news is if we imagine that Trump Chicken delivered this message and the real President of the United States is somehow working, not golfing, with the dedicated personnel at Area 51.

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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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Trump and Tillerson Show Off Incoherent Qatar Policy in 90-Minute Cliffhanger

Posted: 3:10 am ET

 

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

Posted: 2:44 am ET

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clips:

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

Posted: 2:48 am ET

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Act includes funds for various countries.

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

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

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

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

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

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Tillerson in Moscow to Talk #Syria, #DPRK, US-#Russia Relation

Posted: 2:50 am ET

 

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

Posted: 2:21 am ET

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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