OPM Sample Letters to Creditors During Furlough Have Been Around At Least Since 2013

The sample letters to creditors issued by OPM is available here.
Or click Sample Letters for Creditors, Mortgage Companies and Landlords (Word file) [85.5 KB]

We understand that the OPM sample letters to creditors during the furlough are actually driving some of our readers “insane.” This blogpost is for you. The first Wayback Machine capture of opm.gov was January 23, 2013. You will note that the website does not include sample letters to creditors. But there was a shutdown on Tuesday, October 1, 2013, which lasted for 16 days. A December 31, 2013 capture of opm.gov includes a longer Furlough Guidance including Sample Letters for Creditors, Mortgage Companies and Landlords (Word file) [49.87 KB]. The four-page document includes a cover page titled, “Sample Letters”, and three temple template letters to creditor, mortgage company, and landlord.

In December 2016, OPM similarly had undated issued a Sample Letters for Creditors, Mortgage Companies and Landlords (Word file) [85.5 KB] online. This document includes basically identical sample letters from 2013. The sample letters issued by OPM on December 27, right to that note about consulting “your personal attorney” is identical to the 2013 and 2016 versions. There were other government shutdowns prior to 2013, but the Wayback Machine does not include any opm.gov archive before 2013. It is possible that these letters existed prior to 2013 and they were just not archived online or they may have been created first in 2013 during the October 2013 shutdown to assist federal employees who encountered problems with creditors, mortgage companies, and landlords during a two-week shutdown. If you were at OPM or OMB and was nerdy enough to follow this in 2013, let us know.

OPM’s current version of the sample letters, although not marked as an update in the OPM website, removed the reference to a “personal attorney” and now just says “Following are sample letters that you may use as a guide when working with your creditors.  OPM is not able to provide legal advice to individual employees.”  This version is still four pages long but, it appears that OPM had also removed the last letter, the “Sample Letter to Landlord” and page 4 is now just an empty page. The Landlord sample letter includes the item about “the possibility of trading my services to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments” which garnered a lot of attention on social media.

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FBI Offers $20,000 Reward For ID in Nov 30 U.S. Consulate Guadalajara Grenade Attack

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is seeking the public’s assistance in learning the identity of the two individuals allegedly responsible for the November 30 grenade attack on the U.S. Consulate compound in Guadalajara, Jalisco. The FBI is offering a reward up to $20,000 dollars in exchange for information leading to the identification and arrest of these individuals.  Anyone with information about this incident or the identity or the whereabouts of these individuals is urged to contact investigators at a toll free number 001-800-225-5324 or at 33-3268-2349.   All information can remain anonymous and confidentiality is guaranteed. Read more below:

Jim Mattis Quits in Protest Over Trump’s Chaos Strategery

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
3000 DEFENSE PENTAGON
WASHINGTON, DC 20301 41060

Original Document (PDF) »   

December 20, 2018

Dear Mr. President:

I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.

I am proud of the progress that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance. Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong U.S. global influence.

One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.

Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions – to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.

My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability Within the Department.

I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732,079 civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people.

I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.

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OSC’s Hatch Act Guidance: No Advocacy For/Against Impeachment, No #Resist, #ResistTrump Use

 

On November 27, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) — not Robert Mueller’s but the federal agency with authorities to investigate cases related to the Civil Service Reform Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Hatch Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) — issued a new guidance regarding political activity. It says that  its Hatch Act Unit has received several questions regarding whether the following constitute “political activity” for purposes of the Hatch Act:

1. Is strong criticism or praise of an administration’s policies and actions considered political activity?

Criticism or praise that is directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group is political activity. Absent evidence that the criticism or praise is so directed, criticism or praise of an administration’s policies and actions is not considered political activity. Whether a particular statement constitutes political activity depends upon the facts and circumstances.

Consider, for example, the administration’s recent decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. An employee who strongly criticizes or praises that decision during a workplace discussion with a colleague in the days immediately following the decision is less likely to be engaging in political activity than one making those same statements in the run-up to the next presidential election—when the decision will likely have been out of the news for several years—to a colleague that the employee knows has strong feelings about
the subject.

Read more here.

2. Is advocating for or against impeachment of a candidate for federal office considered political activity?

Yes. Read more here.

3. Is activity related to “the Resistance” considered political activity?

To the extent that the statement relates to resistance to President Donald J. Trump, usage of the terms “resistance,” “#resist,” and derivatives thereof is political activity. We understand that the “resistance” and “#resist” originally gained prominence shortly after President Trump’s election in 2016 and generally related to efforts to oppose administration policies. However, “resistance,” “#resist,” and similar terms have become inextricably linked with the electoral success (or failure) of the president. During the period when President Trump was not considered by OSC to be a candidate for reelection the terms did not raise any Hatch Act concerns. Now that President Trump is a candidate for reelection, we must presume that the use or display of “resistance,” “#resist,” “#resistTrump,” and similar statements is political activity unless the facts and circumstances indicate otherwise.

Note that this presumption is only relevant to employee conduct that takes place on duty, in the workplace, while wearing an agency uniform or insignia, or while invoking any official authority or influence. Provided that they comply with the Hatch Act’s restrictions, employees are free to engage in political activity while off-duty and away from the federal workplace.

In OSC’s example, if you tweet “I must #resist the temptation to eat another donut from the break room” – you would not/not be engaging in political activity but OSC would presume that “the use or display of the hashtags #resist and #resistTrump, in isolation, is political activity under the Hatch Act.”  Read in full here.

The thing is, Foreign Service folks are considered on duty 24/7, so what does this guidance means in the real world? We’ve asked the OSC; will update if we hear anything back.

You may also call the Hatch Act Unit at 202-804-7002 or send an e-mail to Hatchact@osc.gov  for your Hatch Act-related questions.

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Thanksgiving 2018

 

 

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Snapshot: Student and Exchange Visitor Visas-Issuances/Refusals (2012-2017)

Via GAO | August 2018:

There are three categories of nonimmigrant visas for prospective students and exchange visitors. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement administers the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, under which schools are certified for enrollment of foreign students (i.e., F and M visa holders) pursuing academic, vocational, or other nonacademic studies. The Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program manages the issuance of J visas to exchange visitors with programs for foreign nationals such as teachers, certain scholars, au pairs, camp counselors, and professorial programs. Foreign nationals on F, M, or J visas in the United States are monitored through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.

  • F Student in an academic or language training program and their dependents.
  • J Exchange visitor and their dependents.
  • M Vocational student or other nonacademic student and their dependents.

Top 5 nationalities (FY 2017): Chinese 19%, Indian 10%, Korean 4%,  Vietnamese 4%,  Brazilian, 3%

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USG Sends 5,200 Armed Troops to Border Against Purported Migrant “Invasion” a Week Before Elections

DHS/CIS clearly states that people may only apply for asylum if they are arriving in or already physically present in the United States. To apply for asylum in the United States, foreign nationals may ask for asylum at a port-of-entry (airport, seaport, or border crossing), or, if they are already in the United States, they may file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, at the appropriate Service Center. They may apply for asylum regardless of their immigration status, whether they are in the U.S. legally or illegally.

Per 2 FAM 220 on asylum cases, U.S. embassies and consulates may not/may not grant or in any way promise “asylum” to any foreign national:

Although foreign nationals may request “asylum,” posts should be aware that the term has specific meaning in U.S. immigration law. Persons may apply for asylum under U.S. law only if they are physically present in the United States or at a land border or port of entry and may be granted asylum only if they meet the definition of a refugee under U.S. law and are otherwise admissible. The United States does not recognize the granting of asylum at posts abroad. Requests for asylum by persons in the United States are handled by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the immigration courts of the Executive Office for Immigration Review within the Department of Justice. Refer questions relating to such procedures to the Department, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Office of Multilateral and Global Affairs (DRL/MLGA).

On Refugees:

Posts may not in any way promise that an individual will be admitted to the United States as a refugee. A U.S. embassy may refer any individual who appears to meet the definition of a refugee to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for consideration. Embassies may refer someone to ensure protection or provide a durable solution in compelling circumstances. Due to resource constraints and other foreign policy concerns, posts usually refer individuals only because of a significant humanitarian concern; a particular U.S. Government interest; or an especially close link to the United States. Acceptance of a referral by the program does not guarantee that an individual will be admitted to the United States as a refugee.

So when POTUS says “If they want to come into the country, you have to apply, like other people,” that’s what people are actually trying to do: presenting themselves at a U.S. border crossing because U.S. law requires that for people applying for asylum.

AND NOW THIS: “NO ONE IS COMING TO GET YOU”

MEANWHILE, ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD OF LIGHT WHERE FEAR IS NOT A STRIKE ANYWHERE MATCH HEAD:

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#2018Sammies: USAID’s Andrew M. Herscowitz and the Power Africa Team

 

The Service to America Medal’s (Sammies) 2018 WINNER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS is USAID’s Andrew M. Herscowitz and the Power Africa Team.

Congratulations!

Via the Partnership for Public Service:

Power Africa, an ambitious public-private partnership led by Andrew Herscowitz of the U.S. Agency for International Development, has worked with more than 20 African governments, 140 American companies and financial institutions,12 federal agencies and a host of international organizations to bring electricity to more than 50 million people.

Starting from scratch in 2013, Herscowitz and the Power Africa team built a solid foundation for this highly ambitious foreign policy initiative designed to advance U.S. national security interests while fostering economic development and stability in Africa.

To date, Herscowitz and his team of 56 people in the U.S. and South Africa have advanced 90 electric power projects worth more than $14 billion that will produce 7,500 megawatts of electricity. The U.S. government has disbursed about $500 million to help finance this effort, but Power Africa also has stimulated the export of an equal amount in U.S. goods and services, and helped secure thousands of jobs at American companies.

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DOD’s Tad Davis Moves to @StateDept as Overseas Buildings Ops Bureau Director

Addison “Tad” Davis was appointed last year as DOD’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and the Environment. He has reportedly assumed charge of the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) as of September 17, 2018. OBO directs the worldwide overseas building program for the Department of State and the U.S. Government community serving abroad under the authority of the chiefs of mission. OBO also sets worldwide priorities for the design, construction, acquisition, maintenance, use, and sale of real properties and the use of sales proceeds.

The bureau director reports to the Under Secretary for Management (currently vacant pending the Senate confirmation of nominee and Pompeo West Point pal, Brian Bulatao). This OBO position does not require Senate confirmation. Mr. Davis (also a West Point graduate) succeeds Lydia Muniz who was OBO Director from 2012 to 2017).

Below is Mr. Davis’s bio via OSD:

Mr. Tad Davis was appointed by the Secretary of Defense as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and the Environment on September 5, 2017. In this position he supports the Assistant Secretary in providing budgetary, policy, and management oversight of the Department of Defense’s real property portfolio which encompasses 28 million acres, over 500 installations with over 500,000 buildings and structures valued at a trillion dollars while enhancing the Department’s planning, programs, and military capabilities to provide mission assurance through military construction, facilities investment, environmental restoration and compliance, installation and operational energy resilience, occupational safety, and defense community assistance programs.

Mr. Davis has extensive senior executive experience with the Federal Government. From 2004 to 2005 he served as the Assistant Deputy Director (Demand Reduction) at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy where he served as the Drug Czar’s principal advisor on drug awareness, intervention and treatment programs, student drug testing, and the drug court program. From 2005 to 2010 he served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety & Occupational Health where he led a $1.7 billion program in support of the Army’s global mission. Additionally, he served as the Department of Defense Executive Agent for the Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) Cleanup Program, the National Defense Center for Energy and Environment, the OSHA Voluntary Protection Program, and the Unexploded Ordnance Center of Excellence. He co-chaired the Army Safety Council, served as the Army’s Federal Preservation Officer and led the Army’s sustainability initiative. From 2010 until 2013 he served as the Chief Executive Officer / Director of Services and Infrastructure for the U.S. Army Reserve where he provided executive leadership for military construction, facilities investment, contracting, installation energy, civilian personnel management, and family programs for over 200,000 Army Reserve Soldiers and 12,000 civilians serving at over 1,200 facilities worldwide.

Prior to his appointment, Mr. Davis served from 2015 to 2017 as the city manager for Spring Lake, N.C. and in the private sector from 2013 to 2015 as the Managing Director for Corvias Solutions, an emerging business line of the Corvias Group that focused on the development of public private partnerships (P3s) to address municipality stormwater management challenges in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Mr. Davis served over 26 years on active duty with the U.S Army, to include duty as the Garrison Commander of Fort Bragg, N.C. where he led the Army’s initial Compatible Use Buffer Program, established the Army’s largest privatized housing partnership, privatized the installation’s electrical distribution system, and led the Army’s first installation-wide sustainability program.

Mr. Davis received a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Harvard University. He was a National Security Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University and served as an Assistant Professor at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. From 2005 to 2013 he served on the Conference Board’s Environment, Health, and Safety Council.

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USG, Inc. Attempts to Derail World Health Assembly’s Nonbinding Resolution on #Breastfeeding

 

On June 7, the community editor of Malnutrition Deeply’s Amruta Byatnal reported about the attempt of the United Staes Government to derail a nonbinding resolution on breastfeeding at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.

What should have been a non-controversial discussion on breastfeeding turned rancorous at the recent World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.Advocates at the event have accused the U.S. delegation of trying to stop a resolution on infant and young child feeding from being introduced. The U.S. representatives later pushed for diluted text that removes references to regulating aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes.

[snip]

The first draft was originally supported by Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Nepal, and contained several references to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, which outlines what levels of marketing are acceptable while seeking to protect the health of infants and young children.

[snip]

This opposition made its way to the WHA, where the U.S. delegation allegedly threatened countries with trade retaliation if they introduced the resolution, according to civil society advocates. Ecuador, which had led the drafting of the resolution, actually pulled out from introducing it.

[snip]

The United States also attempted to stall this passage, advocates say, by suggesting an alternative text that omitted any reference to the WHO code or any of the text relating to specific guidance around inappropriate marketing of infants foods.

Reports say that the U.S. delegation was led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar who reportedly declined requests to provide on-the-record comments to news deeply.  Remember this is the same guy who told Congress  that he could find separated kids with basic keystrokes.

“There is no reason why any parent would not know where their child is located,” said Azar during a Senate hearing Tuesday. “I sat on the ORR portal, with just basic key strokes and within seconds could find any child in our care for any parent available.”

On July 8, NYT also reported the threats against Ecuador:

The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.

In the end, the Americans’ efforts were mostly unsuccessful. It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure — and the Americans did not threaten them.

Oh-uh!

An anonymous HHS spox (not a blogger) provided a statement to the NYT:

“The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children,” an H.H.S. spokesman said in an email. “We recognize not all women are able to breast-feed for a variety of reasons. These women should have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so.” The spokesman asked to remain anonymous in order to speak more freely.

So, it looks like there’s a growing list of cabinet secretaries and others who go on national TV, or speak from the podium to eternal, historical embarrassment … pray tell, who taped them to those lying microphones?

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