Foggy Bottom’s State of Affairs: No Active Service Diplomats as Lead in Geographic Bureaus

During Tillerson’s brief tenure at the State Department, there was quite a shock when a large number of offices at the top of the State Department were left empty. We’re not sure if that was intentional (so control remains with the Secretary’s inner circle absent  the presidential appointees), or if this was because Tillerson and the White House could not agree on the same nominees for these offices. In some cases there were career diplomats appointed in acting capacities, in others, there were only senior bureau officials.  We’re almost at the two year mark of this administration, and the State Department is already on its second secretary of state in a four year term, so we’ve decided to take a look at the geographic bureau appointments.  For non-State readers, note that embassies do not report directly to the secretary of state, just as ambassadors do not report directly to the White House; they report through the geographic bureaus. Of course, these days, the traditional reporting structure seems to be breaking apart (which invite chaos), but the staffing is worth taking a look nonetheless.

According to AFSA’s appointment tracker, out of 49 total appointments at the top ranks of the State Department right now, only five are career appointees. The five appointments include three active Foreign Service officers, U/S Political Affairs David Hale (confirmed), Carol Z. Perez as DGHR (nominated, pending confirmation) and USAID’s Michael T. Harvey as Assistant Administrator, Middle East (nominated, pending confirmation). The other two are recalled retired FSOs Tibor Nagy, Jr. for African Affairs (confirmed), and Ronald Mortensen for Population, Refugees and Migration (nominated, pending confirmation). There are also two previous members of the Foreign Service (Diplomatic Security’s Michael Evanoff and Consular Affairs’ Carl Risch) who were two of Trump’s earliest appointees but are considered political appointees.

Going back to 1960, the European and Eurasian Affairs (70.6%), Near Eastern Affairs (85.7%), and African Affairs (53.8%) have the highest numbers of career appointees at the assistant secretary level.  The largest number of noncareer appointees in the geographic bureaus  are in International Organizational Affairs (23.1%) followed by East Asian And Pacific Affairs (42.9%). South and Central Asian Affairs (50.0%) and Western Hemisphere  Affairs (50.0%) are split in the middle between career and noncareer appointees.

During Obama’s first term, the assistant secretary appointments at the regional bureaus was 57% noncareer and 42% career. On his second term, this flipped with career appointees leading four of the seven bureaus.

George W. Bush made a total of 19 appointments (career-8; noncareer-11) in the geographic bureaus during his two terms in office. This translates to 57.8% noncareer and 42.1% career appointments.

Right now, Trump’s overall State Department appointments are 89.8% noncareer and only 10.2% career appointees. His career appointments in the geographic bureaus is currently at 1 out of 7. We do need to point out that with the exception of African Affairs (AF) where the appointee is a recalled retired FSO, there are no active service diplomats tasked with leading a geographic bureau in Foggy Bottom.  It is possible that this Administration will bring in a career diplomat to head the South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) bureau, but then again, if they have not found one before now, who’s to say that they will ever find a career diplomat that they like enough to nominate in the next two years?

Of course, everything’s fine. It’s not like we have an ongoing war in Afghanistan, yeah?

Below is the staffing/vacancy status of assistant secretaries at the geographic bureaus as of this writing.

African Affairs (AF): The bureau covers these countries in sub-Saharan Africa but not those in North Africa.

CURRENT Assistant Secretary:  Tibor P. Nagy, Jr. (2018-
Retired FSO/Confirmed

 

East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP): Click here for the countries covered by the bureau. Department website notes that “The Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, headed by Senior Bureau Official W. Patrick Murphy deals with U.S. foreign policy and U.S. relations with the countries in the Asia-Pacific region.”

CURRENT: No Acting Assistant Secretary

NOMINATED: David Stilwell (NonCareer/Pending at SFRC)

 

European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR): The Department of State established the position of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs in 1949. The name changed to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs on August 8, 2001. The bureau covers these countries.

CURRENT Assistant Secretary: A. Wess Mitchell (2017-)

NonCareer/Confirmed

 

Near Eastern Affairs (NEA): The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) deals with U.S. foreign policy and U.S. diplomatic relations with AlgeriaBahrainEgyptIranIraqIsraelJordanKuwaitLebanonLibyaMoroccoOmanPalestinian TerritoriesQatarSaudi ArabiaSyriaTunisiaUnited Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Regional policy issues that NEA handles include Iraq, Middle East peace, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and political and economic reform

CURRENT: Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs
David M. Satterfield (Career FSO)

NOMINATED David Schenker
(NonCareer/Pending at SFRC since 4/2018)

 

South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA): The Bureau of South Asian Affairs was established Aug 24, 1992, and is responsible for relations with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and the Maldive Islands. It has since expanded to cover these countries.

CURRENT: No Acting Assistant Secretary

NO NOMINEE ANNOUNCED

 

Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA): On January 12, 1999, the Bureau assumed responsibility for Canada and was renamed the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. The Department of State had first established a Division of Latin American Affairs in 1909. The bureau covers these countries.

CURRENT Assistant Secretary:  Kimberly Breier (2018-)
(NonCareer/Confirmed)

 

International Organization Affairs (IO): The Department of State created the position of Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs in February 1949, using one of the six Assistant secretary positions originally authorized by Congress in 1944 (Dec 8, 1944; P.L. 78-472; 58 Stat. 798). On June 24, 1949, Secretary of State Dean Acheson established the Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO) as part of the U.S. effort to meet the needs of post-World War II diplomacy.  IO is the U.S. Government’s primary interlocutor with the United Nations and a host of international agencies and organizations.

CURRENT Assistant Secretary: Kevin Edward Moley (2018-)
NonCareer/Confirmed

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Trump to Nominate Retired Air Force General David Stilwell to be Asst Secretary For East Asian & Pacific Affairs

On October 17, the WH announced the President’s intent to nominate Air Force veteran David Stilwell to be the next Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP). The WH released the following brief bio:

David Stilwell of Hawaii, to be an Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State.

Mr. Stilwell is an Air Force veteran with more than 35 years of experience as a pilot, commander, and Korean linguist. He retired in 2015 with the rank of Brigadier General. Currently, Mr. Stilwell is the Director of the China Strategic Focus Group at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Headquarters in Hawaii and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the East West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Previously, he served as Staff Officer for Joint Staff Plans and Policy (Asia) at the Pentagon and Defense Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Mr. Stillwell earned his B.S. from the U.S. Air Force Academy, and M.A. degrees from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, U.S. Air Command and Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College. He is the recipient of the Department of Defense Superior Service Award and speaks Korean, Chinese, and limited Japanese.

In December 2017, WH nominated career diplomat Susan Thorton to be A/S for EAP (see Career Diplomat Susan A. Thornton to be Asst Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP)). Her nomination became one more casualty of politics, particularly following the departure of former Secretary Tillerson. In July this year, she announced her retirement after a 27-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service (see Former State Department diplomat settles on historic Maine farm).

If confirmed, General Stilwell would succeed Daniel R. Russel who served from 2013 to 2017. Other prior appointees to this position include Winston Lord (1993–1997); Paul D. Wolfowitz (1982–1986); Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke (1977–1981); William Averell Harriman (1961–1963), and David Dean Rusk (1950–1951) to name a few.

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Sonnets from the Hermit Kingdom 45: How do I love thee?

 

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Special Rep for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun to Retire This Week

Posted: 2:55 am ET

 

Another senior FSO, a member of the shrinking minister-counselor ranks of the Foreign Service is heading for the exit. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun is stepping down later this week, a decision that he told reporters, “is really my decision.” NBC News says that Yun has “decided to retire for personal reasons,” according to a State Department spokesperson.

Ambassador Yun who was previously U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia (2013-2016) was appointed Special Representative for North Korea Policy and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Korea and Japan in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (State/EAO) in October 2016.

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Career Diplomat Susan A. Thornton to be Asst Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP)

Posted: 2:31 am ET

 

On December 19, the WH release a statement of the nominations it sent to the Senate. The list includes the names of retired military officer Andrea L. Thompson to be Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security (T) whose nomination was  announced on December 13, and of senior career diplomat Susan A. Thornton to be the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP). As of this writing, and we’ve looked hard, the statement on the nominations forwarded to the Senate appears to be the only one that came out of the WH reflecting Ms. Thornton’s nomination. Maybe the official announcement will come later. Or maybe not.

According to BuzzFeed’s report, Alex Wong, the former foreign policy adviser to Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, is also poised to join the Department as a deputy assistant secretary in the EAP Bureau, a position that does not require Senate confirmation.

Below is Ms. Thornton’s official bio via state.gov:

Susan Thornton assumed responsibility as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in February 2016, after serving for a year and a half as Deputy Assistant Secretary. A career-member of the United States Foreign Service, Ms. Thornton joined the State Department in 1991 and has spent the last twenty years working on U.S. policy in Eurasia, focused on the countries of the former Soviet Union and East Asia.

As Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Ms. Thornton is responsible for policy related to China, Mongolia, and Taiwan.

Previous Foreign Service assignments include Deputy Chief of Mission to the U.S. Embassy in Turkmenistan, Deputy Director of the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs at the State Department in Washington, Economic Unit Chief in the Office of Korean Affairs, and overseas postings in Beijing, Chengdu, Yerevan and Almaty.

Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Ms. Thornton worked at the Foreign Policy Institute in Washington, DC, where she researched and wrote about Soviet bureaucratic politics and contemporary Russia. She speaks Russian and Mandarin Chinese.

A quick summary of this position via history.state.gov:

The Department of State established the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs in 1949, after the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of Government (Hoover Commission) recommended that certain offices be upgraded to bureau level and after Congress increased the number of Assistant Secretaries of State from six to ten (May 26, 1949; P.L. 81-73; 63 Stat. 111). On Nov 1, 1966, the Department by administrative action changed the incumbent’s designation to Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. The Division of Far Eastern Affairs, established in 1908, was the first geographical division to be established in the Department of State.

If confirmed, Ms. Thornton would succeed Daniel R. Russel who served from 2013 to 2017. Other prior appointees to this position include Winston Lord (1993–1997); Paul D. Wolfowitz (1982–1986); Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke (1977–1981); William Averell Harriman (1961–1963), and David Dean Rusk (1950–1951) to name a few.

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@USAmbNZ Scott Brown Gets Ahead of Bad News Over “Insensitive” Comments Probe

Posted: 12:31 am ET
Updated: Oct 27 | 12:44 am ET
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Stuff New Zealand reported on October 26 that the US ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown faced complaints over ‘cultural misunderstanding.’

US Ambassador Scott Brown has fronted over mounting “innuendo and rumour” about a State Department investigation into his behaviour. Speaking to Stuff with wife Gail Huff at his side, Brown confirmed there had been an official “administrative inquiry” into his conduct at a Peace Corps event in Samoa in July.

It is not clear if the inquiry is conducted by HR, EEOC or OIG (we’ve asked but have not received a response) but whatever it is, talking to the local media, bound to be picked up by U.S. news media, is a calculated way to get ahead of the potential fallout from a probe that has not been publicly known until now.

We hope he’s learned his lesson that he’s not just some ex-politician from New Hampshire or Massachusetts anymore. He speaks for the United States at all times now until he steps down; and as with career folks who are considered on duty 24/7, the ambassador no longer has the luxury of personal views, only official ones. For Exhibit A, see @StateDept: Ambassador Friedman’s comment “does not represent a shift in U.S. policy”; for Exhibit B, see @StateDept on Amb. Friedman’s comment (again): “should not be read as a change in U.S. policy”.

Below is the official response from the State Department: 

The State Department takes allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate them thoroughly. We hold all employees to the highest standard. The Office of Inspector General has conducted an independent review of the allegations and reported its findings to the Department. Senior leadership at the State Department has been in contact with Ambassador Brown and he has been counseled on standards of conduct for government employees, which also includes Ambassadors.

So hey, while we’re on the subject of “insensitive” or “inappropriate” comments, say…we’ve posted about this and more related to Diplomatic Security. Has anyone sent in investigators over there to see about Special Agent Sticky Balls and what he’s up these days?

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What POTUS told “our wonderful Secretary of State” (and all) about Rocket Man

Posted: 12:12 am ET
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AND NOW THIS —

😭 😭 😭  😭 😭 😭  😭 😭 😭  😭 😭 😭  😭 😭 😭

Current Visa Sanctions: Cambodia, Guinea, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Plus The Gambia #INA243(d)

Posted: 1:38 am ET
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We previously blogged about visa sanctions in January 2017 for countries who refused to accept their deported nationals (see On Invocation of Visa Sanctions For Countries Unwilling to Accept Their Deported Nationals. Also read @StateDept Notifies Foreign Countries of New Information Sharing Standards Required For U.S. Travel.

Note that the Trump Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States include section 12 on countries who refused to accepted their nationals who are subject to removal by the United States:

Sec. 12.  Recalcitrant Countries.  The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State shall cooperate to effectively implement the sanctions provided by section 243(d) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1253(d)), as appropriate.  The Secretary of State shall, to the maximum extent permitted by law, ensure that diplomatic efforts and negotiations with foreign states include as a condition precedent the acceptance by those foreign states of their nationals who are subject to removal from the United States.

Read more: U.S. to Invoke Visa Sanctions For Four Countries Unwilling to Accept Deported Nationals

On September 12, the State Department released an update of its FAM guidance 9 FAM 601.12 on the “Discontinuation of Visa Issuance Under INA 243 (D).   Per 9 FAM 601.12-2(C), the following countries are currently subject to discontinuation of visa issuance under INA 243(d): Cambodia, The Gambia, Guinea, Eritrea, and Sierra Leone.

Kevin Brosnahan, the spokesperson for the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs released the following statement:

The Secretary of State has ordered consular officers in Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia to implement visa restrictions effective September 13, 2017. The Secretary determined the categories of visa applicants subject to these restrictions on a country-by-country basis. Consular operations at the U.S. embassy will continue. These visa restrictions do not affect other consular services provided, including adjudication of applications from individuals not covered by the suspension.

The Department of State received notification under Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act from the Department of Homeland Security for Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia. According to that section of the law, when a country denies or unreasonably delays accepting one of its nationals, the Secretary of Homeland Security may notify the Secretary of State. The Secretary must then order consular officers in that country to discontinue issuance of any or all visas.   The Secretary determines the categories of applicants subject to the visa restrictions.

via travel.state.gov

Below are the four countries, in addition to The Gambia that are currently under visa sanctions/restrictions. With the exception of  Eritrea where the sanctions affect “Eritrean citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents,” the restrictions for the other countries are currently directed at government officials and their families.

CAMBODIA (see full notice here)

As of September 13, the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia has discontinued issuing B1, B2, and B1/B2 visas for Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs employees, with the rank of Director General and above, and their families, with limited exceptions.

Under Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, when so requested by the Secretary of Homeland Security due to a particular country’s refusal to accept or unreasonably delay the return of its nationals, the Secretary of State must order consular officers to suspend issuing visas until informed by the Secretary of Homeland Security that the country in question has accepted the individuals.

GUINEA (see full notice here)

As of September 13, the U.S. Embassy in Conakry, Guinea has discontinued issuing B, F, J, and M visas to Guinean government officials and their immediate family members, with limited exceptions.

ERITREA (see full notice here)

As of September 13, 2017, the United States Embassy in Asmara, Eritrea, under instructions from the Secretary of State, has discontinued the issuance of non immigrant visas for business or pleasure (B1/B2) to Eritrean citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents. The Department of State may make exceptions for travel that is in the U.S. national interest, for emergency or humanitarian travel, and other limited exceptions.

SIERRA LEONE (see full notice here)

On Wednesday, September 13, the United States Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone will discontinue the issuance of B visas (temporary visitors for business or pleasure) to Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and immigration officials.

Consular operations at the U.S. embassy or consulate will continue.  These visa restrictions do not affect other consular services provided, including adjudication of applications from individuals not covered by the suspension.

THE GAMBIA (see announcement here)

The sanctions placed on The Gambia occurred last year. As of October 1, 2016, the United States Embassy in Banjul, The Gambia discontinued issuing visas to Gambian government officials, others associated with the government, and their families.  The announcement says that the Department may make exceptions for travel based on U.S. international obligations and to advance humanitarian and other U.S. government interests.

Per  FAM 601.12-3(C) (a) Public Notice of Discontinuation of Visa Issuance:  During the period of discontinuation, posts should continue receiving and adjudicating cases; however, posts should explain the discontinuation of visas to all applicants covered by the order.  The explanation should note that visas cannot generally be issued for certain visa classifications or categories of applicants as determined by the Secretary’s order, and explain that visa fees will not be refunded, but that the cases will be reviewed again once visa issuance resumes.  The notification may be provided by flyers posted in the consular section and/or on the post’s website.

All the above notices are posted under the “News/Events” section of the embassies’ websites, which is understandable, but that is also not the section that visa applicants would first look when searching for visa information. One post did not include the information on non-refundable fees.

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All U.S. Passports Invalid for Travel to North Korea Without Special Validation Effective 9/1/17

Posted: 11:37 am PT
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On July 21, the Department of State declared that all U.S. passports are invalid for travel to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) unless the travel meets certain criteria.

The Department of State has determined that the serious risk to United States nationals of arrest and long-term detention represents imminent danger to the physical safety of United States nationals traveling to and within the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), within the meaning of 22 CFR 51.63(a)(3). Therefore, pursuant to the authority of 22 U.S.C. 211a and Executive Order 11295 (31 FR 10603), and in accordance with 22 CFR 51.63(a)(3), all United States passports are declared invalid for travel to, in, or through the DPRK unless specially validated for such travel, as specified at 22 CFR 51.64. The restriction on travel to the DPRK shall be effective 30 days after publication of this Notice, and shall remain in effect for one year unless extended or sooner revoked by the Secretary of State.

The notice was published in the Federal Register on August 2, 2017.

photo from travel.state.gov

Per 22 CFR 51.63 Passports invalid for travel into or through restricted areas; 

(a) The Secretary may restrict the use of a passport for travel to or use in a country or area which the Secretary has determined is:

(1) A country with which the United States is at war; or

(2) A country or area where armed hostilities are in progress; or

(3) A country or area in which there is imminent danger to the public health or physical safety of United States travelers.

(b) Any determination made and restriction imposed under paragraph

(a) of this section, or any extension or revocation of the restriction, shall be published in the Federal Register.

Per 22 CFR 51.64 Special validation of passports for travel to restricted areas.

(a) A U.S. national may apply to the Department for a special validation of his or passport to permit its use for travel to, or use in, a restricted country or area. The application must be accompanied by evidence that the applicant falls within one of the categories in paragraph (c) of this section.

(b) The Department may grant a special validation if it determines that the validation is in the national interest of the United States.

(c) A special validation may be determined to be in the national interest if:

(1) The applicant is a professional reporter or journalist, the purpose of whose trip is to obtain, and make available to the public, information about the restricted area; or

(2) The applicant is a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross or the American Red Cross traveling pursuant to an officially-sponsored Red Cross mission; or

(3) The applicant’s trip is justified by compelling humanitarian considerations; or

(4) The applicant’s request is otherwise in the national interest.

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

Posted: 2:58 am ET
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