Inbox: Warrior Culture, Militarization, and Diplomatic Security

We received the following from Sender A, writing anonymously I would happily critique or call out any regional or functional bureau in the Department of State under my true name, but I do not believe it would be safe to do the same in this case.” The writer says he/she had over 30 years of experience with the State Department, with almost all overseas service at differential posts. Service in Washington, D.C.  included top ranking positions at more than one bureau. –D

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Warrior Culture, Militarization, and Diplomatic Security
I’m puzzled that, with all the attention being paid to policing and law enforcement reform in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, no one seems to have instigated any scrutiny of the policies and practices of Diplomatic Security.  Watching the heavily armed, camouflage clad federal officers operating in Portland certainly demonstrated that federal law enforcement in general has become significantly militarized; the same is true, in my experience of DS.  Given the shortfall in consular revenue and the likely upcoming budget impact of coronavirus, it seems to me that a genuine cost/benefit analysis of Diplomatic Security and its practices is overdue.  My hope is to start this discussion.
As a retiree and former Chief of Mission, I’ve observed with dismay for many years the militarization of diplomatic security and the proliferation of “security theater” by which I mean practices don’t actually make us safer but make the practitioners feel more powerful.  At my COM post, with a new secure chancery in a low threat country, the entry procedure for visitors (including mine) was so onerous that most contacts were unwilling to meet with me in my office.  They invariably preferred to meet in restaurants, which tells you something about the real level of threat.  Despite three years of trying, I was unable to make much of a dent in this.  I also saw a lot of security theater during tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The emphasis on weapons (the heavier the better), vehicles, and security technology often outweighed any reliance on cultural or political understanding and mostly served to keep very expensive American employees hunkered down inside US facilities.
The militarization of the State Department, while most acute in DS, is not confined thereto.  It reached a peak during the GW Bush presidency, when Sec. Rice constantly exhorted us to become “expeditionary.”  While the warrior diplomat model seems to have waned, especially in light of the limited and often short-lived results of the Provincial Reconstruction Team experiment (gains accomplished at great risk and high cost in lives), the warrior ethos remains strong in DS.
Consider also the 20-story DS headquarters building in Rosslyn, that was built and kitted out mostly with antiterrorism funds (or so I was told).  What really goes on there that is not duplicative of work already done elsewhere, (e.g., intelligence analysis)?  At my last security clearance update, I was surprised to learn from the investigator (who worked out of his car!) that DS contracts out virtually 100% of clearance investigations, including new hires.  
Then there’s the new training center, far away from Washington, about 60 miles SW of Richmond Virginia.  I am baffled that the Department’s leadership allowed DS to slip the net and take their training so far away, apparently with no oversight.  How will DS employees be integrated into the work of the Department when they have no interaction with the rest of us in training.  Who will even know what is contained in DS curriculum.  Why isn’t DS training at least structurally under the Foreign Service Institute, as is the training for (as far as I know) every other speciality.
I’m old enough to remember DS before its employees became law enforcement special agents, when they focused on soft skills, contacts, and interpersonal skills to solve problems, and when DS employees occasionally served tours outside DS which enhanced their understanding of other functions of the mission.  I don’t miss everything about the “olden days,” especially not the derelict buildings that housed many of our missions, but I do believe that something was lost.  Setbacks and blast resistant buildings aside, I’m not convinced that we’re that much safer with current security practice.
I acknowledge the many sacrifices that DS agents and other employees have made to keep Embassies, consulates and employees safe, and I’ve respected and liked many DS agents with whom I’ve worked.  This letter is about leadership, risk management, which we claim we practice, and most of all about organizational culture.  I’ve read with interest a number of past Diplopundit items about DS’s response to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and complaints from female agents about the work environment and believe that many of these problems have their roots in warrior culture as well.   
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@StateDept Projects Over $1.4Billion Loss in Consular Fees This Fiscal Year, Plus Comparable Losses Next FYs

HFAC/Oversight and Investigations Committee
July 212020 10:00 AM
Witnesses

Ian Brownlee
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Consular Affairs
U.S. Department of State

Karin King
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Overseas Citizen Services
U.S. Department of State

The State Department projected a $1.4 billion loss which is about 50 percent of Consular Affair’s revenue this fiscal year (ending September 30, 2020). It is also facing comparable losses in FY2021 and FY2022.
This is a big deal.
PDAS Brownlee told the committee that CA is looking at $359M savings from FY2020  — he talked about significant reduction in this year’s spending but only cited contractors in visa waiting rooms, and a number other unspecified projects domestic and overseas that would be impacted. He did say that services for American citizens “will not be put out of business.”
Where are we going to see funding cuts?
The reality though is consular fees do not just fund visa operations overseas but also passport operations domestic and overseas. It also funds various parts of the State Department. And most notably, it funds 4,859 U.S. Direct Hire personnel under Consular Affairs and “partner bureau positions.” A $1.4 billion loss this fiscal year and in each of FY2021 and FY2022 will have a cascading effect in various parts of the organization.
Revenues from Department-retained consular fees and surcharges fund Consular and Border Security Program (CBSP) activities. The State Department’s congressional justification in FY 2020 for CBSP funding includes the following:
  • Consular Systems and Technology: $453.4 million
  • Domestic Executive Support: $34.3 million
  • Fraud Prevention Programs: $5.4 million
  • Visa Processing: $237.5 million
  • Passport Directorate: $810.3 million
  • American Citizen Services: $16.2 million
  • Consular Affairs Overseas Support: $964.6 million
  • FSN Separation Liability Trust Fund: $4.9 million

CBSP SUPPORT/DEPARTMENT OF STATE PARTNERS: $524.3 million

  • Bureau of Administration: $53.8 million
  • Bureau of Diplomatic Security: $66.3 million
  • Foreign Service Institute: $25.9 million
  • Bureau of Information Resource Management: $58.3 million
  • Office of the Legal Advisor: $0.3 million
  • Bureau of Overseas Building Operations: $264.4 million
  • Repatriation Loans: $0.8 million
  • Comptroller and Global Financial Services (CGFS): $1.0 million
  • Confidential Investigations: $0.2 million
  • Post Assignment Travel: $39.1 million
  • Bureau of Human Resources: $13.9 million
CBSP STAFF / AMERICAN SALARIES: $703.5 million

Human resources are a vital component of CBSP activities. The Department devotes a significant amount of effort and resources towards increasing efficiency and capacity in the visa and passport processes, ensuring adequate staffing levels both domestically and overseas. The FY 2020 Request of $703.5 million, a $58.7 million increase from the FY 2019 Request, supports 4,859 U.S. Direct Hire personnel. These positions are primarily in the Bureau of Consular Affairs but also include CBSP-funded partner bureau positions. This increase restores the eight percent reduction included in the FY 2019 President’s Budget Request and annualizes costs associated with the Department’s FY 2018 and proposed FY 2019 Strategic Hiring Plans.

 

 

 

Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Michael Evanoff Resigns

 

WaPo’s John Hudson is reporting that DS Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Michael T. Evanoff has informed DS employees of his resignation with an expected departure next week. He reportedly has a new job at a “multinational company.  Mr. Evanoff who was a career special agent in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security from 1985 to 2011 was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security (DS) on November 3, 2017. Prior to his return to State in 2017, he was the Vice President for Asset Protection & Security for Walmart International, Inc. in Arkansas. He also previously served as Chief Security Officer at Coca-Cola HBC, in Zug, Switzerland and Athens, Greece, and as Global Director of Security at Och-Ziff Capital Management Group in New York.
This is the top security position at State so we hope a new nominee is announced and confirmed quickly but it is also likely that we may not see a new nominee until next year.  When DS appointee David Gordon Carpenter’s appointment ended in June 29, 2002, his successor, Francis Xavier Taylor  did not assume charge until November 18, 2002. Similarly, when DS appointee Richard J. Griffin‘s ended his appointment on November 1, 2007, his successor, career appointee Eric J. Boswell did not assume charge until July 8, 2008.
Traditionally, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) who is also the Director of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) assumes charge of the bureau in an acting capacity. That would be Todd J. Brown who has been in the bureau’s number two position since March 2018. However, given the appointment practices in this administration, we’ll have to wait and see who will actually becomes interim bureau head. We should note that despite the proliferation of political appointees in Foggy Bottom, DS is one bureau where the top leadership ranks are career officials (or former career officials). 

Michael T. Evanoff

Secretary of State to be Sole Recipient of ARB Report, Will Also Determine Its Subsequent Distribution.

 

On June 1, 2020, the State Department updated its Foreign Affairs Manual (12 FAM 030) covering the Accountability Review Board (ARB). The chair of the ARB Permanent Coordinating Committee will now be the director of the Office of Management Strategy and Solutions (M/SS). If we remember correctly, this used to be the director of M/PRI (Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing and Innovation (M/PRI). Another update relates to the classification authority of Board Members; they have no original classification authority; M/SS will exercise original classification authority on the Board’s work materials.  On the ARB’s findings, the Board submits its findings to the Secretary of State through M/SS.  The updated regs make clear that “the report will initially be provided solely to the Secretary, who will determine its subsequent distribution.”
The updated regs has not eliminated 12 FAM 036.4  which refers to Reports to Congress (an update from 10-05-2017). Per the ARB statute, the Secretary will, not later than 90 days after the receipt of a Board’s program recommendations, submit a report to the Congress on each such recommendation and the action taken with respect to that recommendation.”
The Secretary is required to submit “a report” to the Congress not later than 90 days but the regs does not require him/her to submit the ARB report. The new regs says the secretary of state will determine the report’s “subsequent distribution.”

12 FAM 035  FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

12 FAM 035.1  Findings
(CT:DS-332;   06-01-2020)

a. Examination:  A Board will examine the facts and circumstances surrounding the security-related incident or a visa incident.

b. Written submission:  In its report to the Secretary, a Board makes written findings, which may be classified, as necessary.

c.  Dissemination of findings:  The board submits its written findings directly to the Secretary through the M/SS director, whose role is only to classify the document as appropriate (the Board members do not have original classification authority), and L, whose role is to offer legal advice about the report, including ensuring that the report meets the legal requirements laid out in 22 U.S.C. 4834.  The report will initially be provided solely to the Secretary, who will determine its subsequent distribution.  The Board’s written findings are distributed as directed by the Secretary following the Secretary’s receipt of the Board’s written findings.

12 FAM 034.2-5  Classification Authority
(CT:DS-332;   06-01-2020)

Members of the Board do not have original classification authority.  The director of M/SS will exercise original classification authority for materials originating from Board activities.

12 FAM 032.1  ARB Permanent Coordinating Committee (ARB/PCC)
(CT:DS-332;   06-01-2020)

a. Purpose:  The ARB/PCC will, as quickly as possible after an incident occurs, review the available facts and recommend to the Secretary to convene or not convene a Board.  (Due to the 1999 revision of the law requiring the Secretary to convene a Board not later than 60 days after the occurrence of an incident, except that such period may be extended for one additional 60-day period, the ARB/PCC will meet within 30 days of the incident if enough information is available.) In addition, the ARB/PCC will meet yearly to review the ARB process, existing policies and procedures, and all past ARB recommendations, and ensure that any necessary changes are effected.

b. Membership:  The ARB/PCC will be composed of the following members:

(1)  The director of the Office of Management Strategy and Solutions (M/SS), who will chair the ARB/PCC; or designee

(2)  The Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security or designee;

(3)  The Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research or designee;

(4)  The coordinator for Counterterrorism or designee;

(5)  The assistant secretary or designee of the relevant regional bureau(s)

(6)  One representative designated by and representing the DNI; and

(7)  The Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs or designee.

    NOTE:  Designees must have the authority to vote at ARB/PCC meetings on behalf of their principal; they may not defer decisions until they have briefed the principal.

c.  Other participants:  As a result of the State-Justice Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) dated September 20, 2001, the Department of Justice has attended PCC meetings.  The Department’s Deputy Legal Adviser, director of the Bureau of Medical Services, and Executive Secretary of the Executive Secretariat, or his/her designees, will attend PCC meetings.  Also, as determined by the chairperson, representatives of other offices and agencies may be invited to work with the ARB/PCC.  Participants listed in this section do not vote.

 

@StateDept Updates Regulations to Include New Compensation For Certain Injuries #MysteryIllness #TheThing

 

On May 28, 2020, the State Department updated the Foreign Affairs Manual to include Compensation for Certain Injuries for State, USAID, USAGM, Commerce, Foreign Service Corps-USDA Foreign Service and Civil Service Employees who becomes injured “by reason of a qualifying injury and was assigned to a duty station in the Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, or another foreign country as designated by the Secretary of State under 3 FAM 3666.”

3 FAM 3660 COMPENSATION FOR CERTAIN INJURIES
(CT:PER-994;   05-28-2020)
(Uniform State/USAID/USAGM/Commerce/Foreign Service Corps-USDA)
(Applies to Foreign Service and Civil Service Employees)

a. Pursuant to Public Law 116-94, Division J, Title IX, section 901, Congress allows the Secretary of State to pay benefits to certain Department of State personnel under chief of mission authority who incurred a qualifying injury and are receiving benefits under section 8105 or 8106 of Title 5, United States Code.  It further authorizes the Secretary of State to pay for the costs of diagnosing and treating a qualifying injury of a covered employee, as defined in 3 FAM 3662, that are not otherwise covered by chapter 81 of Title 5, United States Code (the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA)) or other provision of Federal law; and to pay the costs of diagnosing and treating a qualifying injury of a covered individual or covered dependent, as defined in 3 FAM 3662, that are not otherwise covered by Federal law.

b. The Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM) administers this program.

c.  Under this program, covered employees, as defined in 3 FAM 3662, may qualify for a monthly monetary benefit if they are receiving benefits under section 8105 or 8106 of Title 5, United States Code.

d. Under this program, a covered employee, covered individual, or covered dependent, as defined below, may qualify for reimbursement for the costs of diagnosing and treating a qualifying injury which are not otherwise covered.

e. Payments made under this provision are not considered workers’ compensation payments.

[…]

Covered employee:  An employee of the Department of State who, on or after January 1, 2016, becomes injured by reason of a qualifying injury and was assigned to a duty station in the Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, or another foreign country as designated by the Secretary of State under 3 FAM 3666.

(1)  For purposes of 3 FAM 3663, the following career-type employees are considered “employees of the Department of State” to whom this benefit may apply:  Department of State Foreign Service Officers, Department of State Foreign Service Specialists, and career Department of State Civil Service employees working overseas on detail or a Limited Non-Career Appointment (LNA).

Note that per FAM: The following are NOT considered “employees of the Department of State” for purposes of 3 FAM 3663:  retired employees and employees of other agencies; employees on limited appointments including LNAs (except as discussed above), Family Member Appointments (FMA), Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC), Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP), and Consular Affairs – Appointment Eligible Family Member (CA-AEFM) Adjudicator positions. Employees hired on a Personal Services Agreement (PSA) or Personal Services Contract (PSC) are also not employees under this section.     

 (2)  For purposes of 3 FAM 3664, the following employees are considered “employees of the Department of State” to whom this benefit may apply: Department of State Foreign Service Officers; Department of State Foreign Service Specialists; Department of State Civil Service employees; employees on Limited Non-Career Appointments (LNA), Family Member Appointments (FMA), Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC), Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP), and Consular Affairs – Appointment Eligible Family Member (CA-AEFM) Adjudicator positions.

Note that the following are not considered “employees of the Department of State” for purposes of 3 FAM 3664:  employees hired on a Personal Services Agreement (PSA) or Personal Services Contract (PSC); retired employees, and employees of other agencies.

Covered individual:  An individual who, on or after January 1, 2016, becomes injured by reason of a qualifying injury and is

(1)  detailed to a duty station in the Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, or another foreign country designated by the Secretary of State under 3 FAM 3666; or

(2)  affiliated with the Department of State, as determined by the Secretary of State.

(3)  Per Memorandum signed 24 April 2020, the Under Secretary for Management has determined that other agency employees under chief of mission authority are “affiliated with the Department of State.”

Covered dependent:  A family member of a Federal employee who, on or after January 1, 2016,

(1)  accompanies the employee to an assigned duty station in the Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, or another foreign country designated by the Secretary of State under 3 FAM 3666; and

(2)  becomes injured by reason of a qualifying injury.

Family member:  An individual who is an “Eligible Family Member” as defined in 14 FAM 511.3.

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For Sale: U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Tel Aviv For $87 Million

 

1

Asst Secretary for Legislative Affairs Mary Elizabeth Taylor Resigns Over Trump’s Response to Racial Injustice

 

Via state.gov:
Mary Elizabeth Taylor is the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs for the U.S. Department of State.  Previously she served as senior advisor in the Office of the Counselor.  From 2017 to 2018, Ms. Taylor was Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs at the White House.  In that role, she led the process and strategy guiding Senate nominations, spearheading the successful confirmations of more than four hundred nominees, including the high-profile confirmations of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, and CIA Director Gina Haspel.  Previously she served in the office of United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, working on the Senate floor as the Senior Cloakroom Assistant and acting as a liaison between the majority and minority leadership to negotiate agreements on legislative and executive matters.  Ms. Taylor also provided Members of Congress with parliamentary advice and counsel on floor strategy during consideration of pending legislative matters.  A Washington, D.C. area native, Ms. Taylor holds a B.A. degree in political science and Spanish from Bryn Mawr College.
The Bureau of Legislative Affairs (H) coordinates legislative activity for the Department of State and advises the Secretary, the Deputy, as well as the Under Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries on legislative strategy.

A 29-Page “Eagle Plan” to Overhaul Social Security and Medicare From @StateDept Chief Strategery Official?

 

 

Some Dings and Cheers For the Bureau of Counterterrorism in New OIG Report

State/OIG recently released its inspection report of the Bureau of Counterterrorism.

“At the time of the inspection, the bureau’s authorized staffing included 112 Foreign Service and Civil Service positions, augmented by 53 contractor positions and 43 additional personnel and detailees from other U.S. Government agencies. The bureau has 13 offices in addition to the Front Office. Nine offices support policy issues, such as counterterrorism finance, aviation security, collection of biometric information, foreign terrorist fighters, and bilateral and multilateral diplomatic engagement. Two offices carry out operational responsibilities related to the Department of Defense, and one office designs and manages CT-funded assistance programs. Finally, the Office of the Executive Director focuses on bureau administrative requirements and also provides support to the Office of the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs. The bureau managed $642 million in active foreign assistance program funds that spanned multiple fiscal years, including through annual and multiyear projects involving other Department bureaus and Federal agencies.”

The report says that the CT Coordinator “exhibited decisive leadership” but apparently, CT bureau employees and senior officials from other Department bureaus “told OIG about occasions on which the Coordinator lost his temper in meetings with U.S. Government officials and foreign partners. When OIG spoke with the Coordinator about the issue, he acknowledged the problem and responded positively to OIG’s suggestions for improvement.”
The report notes that “staff in interviews and in responses to OIG questionnaires gave the Coordinator lower marks for adherence to leadership principles found in 3 FAM 1214b(6) and (9) regarding self-awareness and managing conflict.” 
The Bureau concurred with all 11 recommendations and the OIG considered all recommendations resolved.
Summary of OIG Findings:

• The Coordinator for Counterterrorism exhibited decisive leadership, marked by setting clear strategic goals and communicating them effectively to staff. This enabled the Bureau of Counterterrorism to navigate major shifts in its mission since 2016.

• At times, the Coordinator engaged in conduct that negatively affected employee morale and productivity.

• The bureau established effective internal policy coordination and communication processes.

• Employees from other Department of State bureaus and Federal agencies expressed differing opinions about the bureau’s effectiveness in promoting its policy goals in interagency processes.

• The Bureau of Counterterrorism did not provide sufficient policy guidance, training, and administrative support to overseas employees responsible for coordinating and reporting on regional counterterrorism issues.

• Vacancies in 22 percent of the bureau’s Civil Service positions hampered operations.

• The bureau’s Office of the Executive Director did not have systems in place to measure the results of key administrative activities and efficiently communicate with customers. As a result, bureau staff expressed dissatisfaction with the administrative and support services delivered by the office.

• The bureau did not follow Department procedures for software development.

•The lack of information technology contingency plans placed at risk the bureau’s ability to support these functions in the event of an unplanned disruption.

Executive Direction:

Tone at the Top and Standards of Conduct : The Coordinator assumed his position in August 2017. At the time of the inspection, he also served as acting Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. Prior to joining the Department, the Coordinator was a law professor. He previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the Department of Homeland Security and worked on counterterrorism policy and judicial confirmations in the Office of Legal Policy in the Department of Justice. The Principal Deputy Coordinator, a career member of the Senior Executive Service, arrived in 2016, after having previously served as Coordinator for U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, among other senior positions in the Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Coordinator Decisively Led Bureau During Major Mission Shifts, but Travel Schedule and Temperament Issues Resulted in Employee Stress: The Coordinator exhibited decisive leadership during a major expansion of the bureau’s counterterrorism efforts. CT employees and others interviewed by OIG described the Coordinator’s operating style as decisive, strategic, and action-oriented — qualities that are consistent with leadership principles in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214(2) and (3). The Coordinator demonstrated a command of complex technical and diplomatic policy issues in meetings OIG observed, consistent with responsibilities outlined in 1 FAM 481.1. Since 2016, the bureau had broadened its efforts to counter violent extremism, launched the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF) initiative, 9 assumed responsibility for aspects of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and took over responsibility for the sensitive policy area of terrorist detentions. OIG concluded the Coordinator took appropriate steps to set and communicate policy priorities for these new responsibilities.

Nonetheless, despite positive comments regarding his decisiveness, staff in interviews and in responses to OIG questionnaires gave the Coordinator lower marks for adherence to leadership principles found in 3 FAM 1214b(6) and (9) regarding self-awareness and managing conflict. Staff described the Coordinator as unaware of the demands his travel schedule placed on employees and said that at times they lacked a clear understanding of the purpose and outcomes of the Coordinator’s travel, which included 21 international trips in FY 2019, of which 1 was to a CTPF focus country.10 Additionally, the Coordinator’s practice of scheduling trips on short notice burdened staff, who had to put regular duties on hold to prepare briefing documents and handle travel logistics. OIG advised the Coordinator to share readouts of the outcomes of his travel with his staff to broaden their understanding of the purposes and results of his trips. Although it is within the Coordinator’s discretion to determine the extent and nature of such readouts, providing at least some information would be consistent with the Department’s leadership principles in 3 FAM 1214(4) and (7) pertaining to communication and collaboration.

Bureau employees and senior officials from other Department bureaus also told OIG about occasions on which the Coordinator lost his temper in meetings with U.S. Government officials and foreign partners. When OIG spoke with the Coordinator about the issue, he acknowledged the problem and responded positively to OIG’s suggestions for improvement. OIG advised the Coordinator to review the Leadership and Management Principles for Department Employees in 3 FAM 1214, which he agreed to do.

The Coordinator delegated many operational and policy tasks to the Principal Deputy Coordinator, with whom he had a productive relationship. In responses to OIG’s questionnaire, bureau staff gave the Principal Deputy Coordinator strong scores on her performance and leadership. In addition, several bureau employees cited her improvements to, and transformation of, the bureau’s budget and program management functions as positive developments for the bureau. Outside observers also noted the Principal Deputy Coordinator’s leadership and support for CT staff as being essential to the bureau’s success at a time of rapid change and significant pressure.

The CT Coordinator is Nathan Sales. The Principal Deputy Coordinator at the time of this review was Alina Romanowski. She was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait in December 2019. The inspection team was headed by Ambassador Joseph Macmanus, former U.S. Ambassador to UNVIE and Executive Secretary of the State Department from 2014-2017.

First Person: DSS Agent Assaulted By Spouse Says “Our HR process is garbage”

 

The following is a first person account shared by a Diplomatic Security agent who was assaulted twice by his spouse in USG quarters temporary housing located in the Washington DC area.  He wrote that he wanted  to call attention to a situation he faced in the hope that “others who find themselves in similar circumstances know what to expect.”  He added that “with the ongoing pandemic and quarantine other employees may find themselves in similar situations as they are trapped with their spouses under stressful circumstances.” He told us he was a DS Agent with a few years on the job.  “Despite being relatively junior, I was a good agent that made tenure, had no disciplinary issues, and I received several awards.” 
The individual who wrote this told us that he resigned from the State Department and is now employed by another agency in his home state.
This is his story, as sent to us. We’ve added links in [brackets] for the relevant offices:  

I was assigned to an HTP [High Threat Post] post in Africa and I was there for several months.  While there, a medical issue surfaced that couldn’t be treated at Post.  I went on leave to my home state (which was also the location of my previous assignment and where my spouse and child lived while I was at post) and saw a specialist.  While on leave, I was “caught out”-the medical condition I was diagnosed with while on leave prevented my return to post.  I was told by MED [Bureau of Medical Services] that I could not return to Post, my medical clearance was downgraded, and (after what seemed like an eternity), I was eventually assigned to a position in the DC/NOVA area.  Never mind that I burned through all my leave so that I could keep getting paid and the medical per diem that I was authorized didn’t pay out until the very end.  I rented out my house in my home state and prepared to move my family to the NOVA area.

 While in temporary housing at one of the Oakwood properties, my spouse assaulted me.  Our relationship had been badly strained by the long durations apart for training and an unaccompanied tour (while at post, things got so bad that I retained a lawyer and initiated divorce proceedings).  After the assault, my spouse was arrested by the local police-and after the mandatory separation period we decided to try to patch things up and try again.  Thankfully our child was not present when this happened; several weeks later we brought our child to Virginia.  I also started looking for a position with another agency knowing that the foreign service lifestyle was taking its toll.  We wound up buying a condo in one of the suburbs and moved in.

I went on a brief TDY and this separation caused issues to resurface to in our relationship.  I committed to restarting the divorce proceedings.  However, court proceedings, custody issues, and property would be decided in my home state-not in Virginia.  I could not afford another residence in Virginia, and I could not stay with my spouse due to the violent outbursts.  I was essentially homeless.  I reached out to Employee Consultation Services and my CDO [Career Development Officer] and asked about being transferred back to my home state.  At least in my home state I would be able to stay with family and see the divorce through.  Remaining in Virginia would mean continuing to “crash” at AirBnBs until my tour was up…another 18 months.  After several weeks, my spouse assured me that it was safe to return to the condo and I wanted to see my child.

Approximately 3 weeks after returning from this TDY things again took a turn for the worse and my spouse assaulted me-this time with a weapon.  I only sustained minor injuries, but my spouse was arrested and this left me responsible for taking care of our child alone.  My chain-of-command was incredibly understanding and supportive and I was able to meet family and work obligations without issue.  Unfortunately, or HR system was much less understanding and supportive. There were open positions in my home state that I wanted to return to.  However, it seems like it takes an act of God to get an employee to one of them.  I was told that my request to “the panel”…which was supported by police and court reports, and an affidavit from my attorney which explained the need to be in my home state for the divorce, may not be sufficient justification for reassignment.  According to one of the CDOs I was dealing with (more on that later), the panel is concerned that people may “take advantage of (domestic violence) situations” and try to get reassigned.  I guess that it is more career enhancing to just continue to get abused and windup losing custody than to transfer an employee.  Thankfully, I was able to secure a position with another agency in my home state.  I won’t be homeless and I can see the divorce through to the end.  Although the pay cut hurts, at least I am safe and will see my child again.

Overall, DS [Diplomatic Security] was a great experience.  The work and the people were great.  The same goes for all of the Foreign Service and Civil Service colleagues that I had the pleasure of working with.  We hire some very talented people, but we don’t do a good job retaining them.  Our HR process is garbage.  [HR office is now officially the Bureau of Global Talent Management].

I understand that everyone has unique circumstances but just be aware that the programs that you think can help you cannot be relied upon.  By all means, try to stay with the foreign service if you like the job…had they been able to accommodate me until my issue was resolved I’d have done 20 and retired.  Your DS experience, training, and security clearance make you marketable to other agencies….keep trying and one will come through.  If DS (and the Dept. as a whole) were serious about retaining employees, they would fix the HR system.  I am now looking to see if I have any legal recourse; others shouldn’t have to go through this.  As a wise person said, “at the end of the day it is just a job”.  It was an interesting and rewarding job-but still just a job.  There is other good work out there.  If you think things may go bad, get your applications in.  Constantly have applications going with other agencies so you always have a parachute…that is what saved me.

Below are his “lessons learned,” shared for those who may be in similar circumstances:

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