Havana Syndrome Questions @StateDept Refuses to Answer

13 GoingOn 14: Help Keep the Blog Going For 2021 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

The questions below were sent to the State Department on March 16, 2021 for Ambassador Pamela Spratlen, the newly designated  Senior Advisor to the Havana Syndrome Task Force (officially called  the Health Incident Response Task Force (HIRTF) .  She was appointed with direct reporting responsibility to the Department’s senior leadership. The State Department’s media arm confirmed receipt of these questions on March 17.
To-date, the State Department has not responded to these questions despite our follow-up. It looks like the PA leadership has fed our questions to their email-chewing doggo. Poor bow wow!!! PA folks still sore about this, hey? Inside @StateDept: Leaked Cable Provides Guidance For ‘America First’ Cost Savings Initiatives. Oh, dear!
Anyways. If you’re the unofficial kind and have some answers to these questions, please send your howlers here or via Twitter and we’ll get back to you. We’ll write as many follow-up posts as needed.

 

Task Force: 

—1. The State Department spokesperson said that there is an individual on the Health Incident Response Task Force (HIRTF) who is responsible solely for engaging with those who may have been victims of these incidents. The individual was not publicly named. I understand that the 41 recognized victims apparently also have no idea who this individual is or who are the members of the task force. Shouldn’t the State Department be transparent and name all the people on the task force? How do potential victims, (including spouses and foreign nationals) contact the individual tasked with engaging with them?
—2. The ARB Cuba report clearly demonstrates the botched response to these incidents in Havana. It was also an interim report. In addition, we have received allegations that the Department’s response to the incidents in China was much worse. Are there plans to convene an ARB for China? Is there a plan to expand the time frame and places of possible incidents covered in this investigation? We are aware of at least one case that occurred much earlier than December 2016. How many reported cases of mystery illness were excluded by State? With so many varied symptoms, and many unknowns, is it fair to rule out anyone without the full constellation of symptoms? How did the State Department determine that Patient Zero, widely reported to have been injured in December 2016, is really Patient Zero and not Patient Two, or Patient 10 or Patient 20? 
—3. What is the status of the implementation of the ARB Cuba recommendations?
—4. Can you confirm that the mystery illness has been reported domestically (WH staffer in Arlington, a couple at UPENN)?
—5. There were employee/s who suffered grievous treatment in the aftermath of these incidents (e.g. alleged retaliation, uncovered medical expenses). Is Amb Spratlen willing to meet with employees suffering from  medical and bureaucratic chaos brought about by these incidents?

 

National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Report:

—6. I recognized that there is new leadership at State but the HIRTF has been there since 2018. Why did State sit on the NAS report of August 2020 and only released it in December 2020? It is an unclassified report, so national security concerns should not have been an issue.
—7. Has the State Department accepted that the illness is due to microwave exposure? If so, how are employees protected from the next attacks? Why hasn’t State fully implemented the recommendations in the NAS report?

Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) and Bureau of Medical Services (MED)

—8. Why is Diplomatic Security still acting (and conducting searches in apartments) as if the cause could be toxic chemicals when NAS ruled out chemical exposure as a cause and pointed to the reported signs, symptoms and observations as consistent with the effects of directed, pulsed radio frequency (RF) energy?
—9. Why is Diplomatic Security still conducting briefings that “only one person was found by State/MED to be affected in China” when USG has officially diagnosed 15?
—10. How many employees who complained of unexplained illness to MED or DS were told to undergo psych evaluations or told to “get their act together” by the bureaus tasked with protecting their welfare? How many mystery illness were reported globally by employees, family members and local employees before State took them seriously?

 

3 FAM 3660 Implementation

—11. 3 FAM 3660 has been in the Foreign Affairs Manual since May 2020 but we’ve heard reports that State is blocking implementation of the prescribed benefits for employees from other agencies. Can you discuss where the responsibility for adjudicating cases under the provisions of 3 FAM 3660 falls? What is the processing time for requests made under these regulations for State and non-State employees? 
—12. There are numerous employees and family members as you know who still have symptoms but because they are not in the group of 41, they do not qualify for the 3 FAM 3660 provisions and therefore are on their own.  What are the treatment options for the hundreds of employees/family members who were medevaced but were not enrolled like the 41 cases in the UPenn study and designated by Department of Labor to get workers compensation benefits?
—13. How many foreign nationals connected with USG missions/residences where the attacks occurred reported similar symptoms as USG American employees and family members? What support and treatment options were available to them? 
—14. As you know, under 3 FAM 3660, a covered employee is 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. What other countries have been designated by the Secretary of State under 3 FAM 3666 to-date?  
—15. Members of the 41 officially diagnosed say State has caused irreparable harm with a “see no evil” response and just wants the problem to go away. Do you recognize the harm of State’s botched past response and lack of transparency?
—16. A” being the highest and “F” being failing, how would you grade the previous State Department leadership’s response to the health incidents?

###

 

Related posts:

 

 

Brett M. Holmgren to be Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR)

13 GoingOn 14: Help Keep the Blog Going For 2021 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

 

On March 26, 2021, President Biden announced his intent to nominate Brett M. Holmgren to serve as  Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR). The WH released the following brief bio:

Brett M. Holmgren served as the Deputy for Nominations for the Biden-Harris Transition Team, and as Co-Chair of the Intelligence Working Group for Biden for President.  Earlier, Holmgren was Vice President for Technology Risk Management at Capital One Financial.  Prior to that, he was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council, where he also previously served as Senior Policy Advisor to the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.  Earlier, Holmgren was Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Director for Counterterrorism at the National Security Council, and a political analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency.  Holmgren began his government service as a counterterrorism analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency.   Holmgren is the recipient of numerous performance awards, including the Director of National Intelligence Superior Service Award, the Central Intelligence Agency Director’s award, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense Exceptional Civilian Service Award.  He received a Bachelor’s Degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Master’s Degree, summa cum laude, from Johns Hopkins University.

According to history.state.gov, on Oct 10, 1957, the Department of State elevated the position of Special Assistant to the Secretary for Intelligence and Research to that of Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, with rank equivalent to that of an Assistant Secretary of State. Since 1947, the Special Assistant had been in charge of intelligence functions that the Department of State first received after the abolition of the wartime Office of Strategic Services in 1945. An Act of Congress (P.L. 99-93) of Aug 16, 1985, authorized the appointment of an Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research. Prior to this date, the Secretary of State designated all Directors of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Since Aug 1986, all incumbents have served as Assistant Secretaries of State and been commissioned by the President.
The most recent career diplomat to head INR was Ambassador Daniel Bennett Smith who served from 2014–2018, and then was sent to oversee the Foreign Service Institute. Ambassador Smith was  INR Assistant Secretary for two years at the end of the Obama administration and two years at the beginning of the Trump administration.
According to AFSA’s appointment tracker, 57.1% of INR appointees were career appointments. Four of the career appointees to INR since 1986, also have the personal rank of career ambassador: Morton Isaac Abramowitz (1985–1989); J. Stapleton Roy (1999–2001); Philip S. Goldberg (2010–2013); and Daniel Bennett Smith (2014–2018).
If confirmed, Mr. Holmgreen would succeed Ellen McCarthy who served at INR from January 2019 until January 2020.
Related post:
March 2019: Secretary Mike Pompeo Swears-In New INR Assistant Secretary Ellen E. McCarthy

 

 

Snapshot: Qualifying Injury Under 3 FAM 3660 – Compensation For Certain Injuries

13 GoingOn 14: Help Keep the Blog Going For 2021 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

 

A section in the Foreign Affairs Manual was added on May 28, 2020 (see 3 FAM 3660 Compensation for Certain Injuries). It is based on Public Law 116-94, Division J, Title IX, section 901, where:
“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.”
3 FAM 3660 also includes definitions on who are covered employees, or covered individuals, what’s a “qualifying injury”, and the description of recognized and eligible qualifying injuries as of June 26, 2018.

3 FAM 3662  DEFINITIONS
(CT:PER-994;   05-28-2020)
(Uniform State/USAID/USAGM/Commerce/Foreign Service Corps-USDA)
(Applies to Foreign Service and Civil Service Employees)

Qualifying injury:  The term “qualifying injury” means the following:

(1)  With respect to a covered dependent, an injury listed in (3) below incurred

(a)  during a period in which a covered dependent is accompanying an 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;

(b)  in connection with war, insurgency, hostile act, terrorist activity, or other incident designated by the Secretary of State; and

(c)  that was not the result of the willful misconduct of the covered dependent.

(2)  With respect to a covered employee or a covered individual, an injury listed in (3) below incurred

(a)  during a period of assignment 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;

(b)  in connection with war, insurgency, hostile act, terrorist activity, or other incident designated by the Secretary of State; and

(c)  that was not the result of the willful misconduct of the covered employee or covered individual.

(3)  Recognized and eligible qualifying injuries, as of 26 June 2018, based on the University of Pennsylvania-identified criteria, include the following:

        • sharp localized ear pain;
        • dull unilateral headache;
        • tinnitus in one ear;
        • vertigo,
        • visual focusing issues;
        • disorientation;
        • nausea;
        • extreme fatigue;
        • cognitive problems, including difficulty with concentration, working memory, and attention;
        • recurrent headache;
        • high-frequency unilateral hearing loss;
        • sleep disturbance;
        • and imbalance walking.

3 FAM 3666  SECRETARY OF STATE COUNTRY DESIGNATION
(CT:PER-994;   05-28-2020)
(Uniform State/USAID/USAGM/Commerce/Foreign Service Corps-USDA)
(Applies to Foreign Service and Civil Service Employees)

a. Under Public Law 116-94, Division J, Title IX, section 901, the Secretary of State may designate another foreign country for the purposes of this section, provided that the Secretary reports such designation to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, and includes in such report a rationale for each such designation.

b. The Secretary of State may not designate an added foreign country or duty station for the purposes of providing additional monetary benefit pursuant to 3 FAM 3663 or 3 FAM 3664 for a qualifying injury to covered employees, covered dependents, or covered individuals under this section unless the Secretary of State

(1)  provides to the Committees on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives 30 days’ notice of the designation of a particular additional country or duty station and the rationale for such an addition; and

(2)  provides no such additional monetary benefit pursuant to 3 FAM 3663 or 3 FAM 3664  to covered employees, covered dependents, or covered individuals for a qualifying injury until the 30-day notice period expires, unless there is written agreement by both the Chair and Ranking Members of both the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives that there is no objection to proceeding with provision of such monetary benefit compensation in less than 30 days.


 

 

FSGB: A Tandem Couple Gets a Penalty, You Guess It — For Being Married

13 GoingOn 14: Help Keep the Blog Going For 2021 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

One of the cases highlighted in the recently released FSGB Annual Report for 2020 is one relating to finances involving  an FS-06 Office Management Specialist (OMS)  married to a Diplomatic Security Special Agent. Two FS employees married to each other is called a tandem couple.
In FSGB Case No. 2019-024, the Board overturned the Department’s application of several Standard Operating Procedures to grievant and her tandem spouse that denied her per diem and related travel benefits during a four-month period of mandatory language training in Washington, D.C. between her first and second assigned posts overseas. The Board found that in addition to internal inconsistencies, the Standard Operating Procedures applied by the Department conflicted with applicable federal statutes and regulations that otherwise governed grievant’s right to receive travel and per diem benefits.
FSGB Case No. 2019-024 Summary

Grievant was an untenured Foreign Service officer of the Department of State (“Department,” “agency”) who was part of a tandem couple. Grievant was directed to her first assignment overseas, at the end of which, she planned to take Home and Annual Leave, followed by sixteen weeks of mandatory language training at the Foreign Service Institute (“FSI”) in Washington, D.C., in advance of an onward assignment. Grievant’s husband, also a Foreign Service officer, requested and was granted Leave Without Pay (“LWOP”) in order to accompany grievant on her first tour. The Department considers LWOP on paper to be an assignment to Washington, D.C. At the end of the LWOP period, grievant’s husband planned to return to Washington to serve in a bridge assignment and to attend work-related training, followed by the same sixteen weeks of mandatory language training and the same onward assignment.

At the end of grievant’s first tour, pursuant to a Standard Operating Procedure (“SOP”), the agency assigned grievant’s husband to “long-term” training at FSI. Under federal statutes and agency regulations, an officer who is in long-term training is authorized to receive locality pay and a Home Service Transfer Allowance but not authorized to receive per diem or an allowance for meals and incidentals. An officer is entitled to per diem and related expenses if he or she is on temporary duty of six months or less.

Another agency SOP requires both members of a tandem couple to be in the same status. Therefore, the Department assigned grievant to “long-term” training at FSI to match her husband’s assignment. Grievant requested and was denied a temporary duty assignment for the duration of her training. She filed a grievance challenging the agency’s application of SOPs that denied her the right to receive federally authorized per diem and related benefits.

The Department denied the grievance, arguing that because grievant was not contending that any of the applied SOPs was contrary to law, regulation, or collective bargaining agreement, she was not legally allowed to challenge them. The Department argued further that the federal benefits statutes and regulations upon which grievant relied did not apply to her because of the operation of the agency SOPs that required tandem couples to be in the same assignment status. The Department maintained that grievant did not establish that any of the SOPs were misapplied.

The Board reviewed the primacy of the federal legislation and regulations versus the agency SOPs and concluded that the federal statutes and regulation were controlling. The Board concluded that under the applicable statutes and regulation, grievant was entitled to per diem and related benefits, in the absence of application of the SOPs. The Board further found that the SOPs were internally inconsistent and conflicted with federal law and, therefore, grievant’s challenge to them was grievable. The Board concluded that grievant proved by preponderant evidence that the SOPs that were applied in this instance improperly prevented her from receiving per diem and other benefits to which she was entitled. The grievance was therefore sustained and the Department was ordered to reimburse grievant for the benefits she should have received under federal law.
[…]
Grievant points out that she and her husband did not have a local residence in the Washington DC area, therefore, they were obligated to spend money on housing, meals and incidentals. As proof that the SOPs were erroneously applied to her family, grievant cites the fact that the Department spent more money assigning her to Washington, D.C. than if she had been detailed to FSI in a TDY capacity. She states that the Department delivered to her rental property in Washington, D.C. her household effects (“HHE”), her privately owned vehicle (“POV”), and items that had been in storage; unpacked their belongings; and then repacked them less than six months later. Had the Department allowed her to receive per diem while on short-term training, her husband would not have received HSTA and they would not have received the HHE, POV transportation, or storage shipment.

The Board concluded that grievant, a member of a tandem couple, proved by preponderant evidence that the Department of State improperly denied her per diem and related benefits when it applied several Standard Operating Procedures that were at times internally inconsistent and that conflicted with applicable federal statutes and regulations that otherwise governed grievant’s right to receive travel benefits during a period of sixteen weeks of language training between two overseas.
Grievant argued that the Department’s SOP A-11a discriminates against tandem couples by treating them as a single entity, rather than two separate employees, each with their own respective, individual entitlements. She argues that there is no law or existing regulation that mandates that both members of a tandem couple remain in the same assignment status.
Grievant explained the practical difficulties of the policy application when she wrote to HR/CDA:

Since HR/CDA does review on a case-by-case basis and exceptions have been granted in the past, we do kindly ask guidance on how to pursue having [the denial of our request for per diem] reviewed. …. [W]e have been told we may have to be assigned as a PCS [Permanent Change of Station] vs TDY. … The arbitrary interpretation of an SOP, rather than a ruling that is backed by the FAM, is going to create undue hardship on our family and unnecessary expenses for the State Department by having to receive all of our HHE, storage, POV, etc, only to have it packed back up again within 4 months. Shipping our HHE from to DC where it will be unpacked then repacked, then shipped again to is going to cost significantly more than having it held in temp storage in ELSO [European Logistical Support Office] then sent directly. I understand that we have the option to pay to keep our belongings in storage, but that forces us into a furnished apartment for 4 months. I contacted Oakwood, and a 2 bedroom apartment will cost over $23,000 for this time frame, which is just absurd. Even with DC locality and HSTA that is an extreme amount of money that I have to pay to attend required training.

Note that a hypothetical FS-06/1 employee earns approximately $42K. A 4-month rental of a furnished apartment at $23K would cost more than half that employee’s annual salary.
FSGB’s take on SOPs vs. Federal Statute:

“… where there is conflict between a state law and a federal one, the Supreme Court has stated that the federal statue must take effect. It follows, then, a fortiori, that where there is conflict between a unilaterally established agency procedure and a federal law or regulation, the procedure must equally give way to the operation of a federal statute “where it is impossible … to comply with both.” Id. Here, the Department could not comply with the federal per diem statutes, as grievant requested, solely because of its application of legally inferior SOPs. We conclude that this was clear error.”

16 Weeks is a “Long Term Assignment”, Who Knew?

“We further find that by mandating that grievant was on an assignment to long-term training in Washington, D.C., when she was in fact in training for no more than sixteen weeks, she did not have a home in Washington, she had not previously been assigned there, and she was mandated to take language training for her onward assignment overseas, the Department violated its own SOPs. Specifically, the Department violated the provision in SOP A-11a that, “The Department’s policy is to ensure that no advantage or disadvantage accrues to any employee through the assignment process on the grounds of marital status.” (Emphasis added). Application of this SOP put grievant at a clear disadvantage because she was not permitted to receive the benefits of the federal statutory per diem and M&IE benefits, solely because she was part of a tandem couple. The record is clear that had grievant not been married to her husband, she would have been entitled to seek a TDY assignment to Washington for her short-term training.

A tandem married couple penalty:

“… the Board finds that the purpose of the SOPs applied in this instance was to prevent any one employee from receiving duplicate benefits, such as per diem and locality pay, or employee benefits and family member benefits. Nothing in the SOPs suggests that the purpose was to prevent one employee from receiving certain benefits on the basis solely that the employee was married to another employee who received different benefits. If this were the case, then the procedures would advantage unmarried, but cohabiting, couples over tandem married couples.

Here’s the nutty part. When the FSGB became aware that AFSA was requesting a change in the very policies at issue in this case, it asked the Department about the proposed revision. The Department told FSGB:

Please find attached a copy of the revised SOP A-11a, which was implemented by the Department in December 2019 and is currently being announced within the Department. … As the revisions to SOP A-11a were implemented after [grievant’s] assignment in this case, the revisions have no impact on the application of the prior version of SOP A-11a to [her]. In her appeal, [grievant] contends that SOP A-11a should not have been applied to her and that she should have been placed on TDY status, that SOP A-11a was contrary to law, and that SOP A-11a discriminated based on marital status. The revision of SOP A-11a does not validate any of the arguments raised in [grievant’s] appeal.

Holymoly macaroni! It does, good heavens, it does validate all! Exclamation points added !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Seriously, how does one learn to think with such mental and linguistic contortions?
We could almost imagine the FSGB Board members shaking their heads in disbelief when it said:  “The Department concedes that the policy has changed officially, precisely as grievant requested in her case. Essentially, the Department argues that the revised policy should not be applied retroactively and, therefore, grievant’s appeal should be denied.”
FSGB cases cannot be read online without downloading the files.  Files are available here.

 


 

 

@StateDept Expands Interview Waiver Eligibility For Visas

13 GoingOn 14: Help Keep the Blog Going For 2021GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

On March 11, the State Department announced in a brief statement the expansion of visa interview waiver eligibility:
Secretary Blinken, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has temporarily expanded the ability of consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying for a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification.  Previously, only those applicants whose nonimmigrant visa expired within 24 months were eligible for an interview waiver.  The Secretary has temporarily extended the expiration period to 48 months.  This policy is in effect until December 31, 2021.  This change will allow consular officers to continue processing certain nonimmigrant visa applications while limiting the number of applicants who must appear at a consular section, thereby reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission to other applicants and consular staff.  Travelers are encouraged to review the website of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for detailed information on what services are currently available as well as eligibility information and instructions on applying for a visa without an interview. 
The original announcement is available here.

via travel.state.gov

 


 

Is @StateDept Suppressing the IG Report on Protocol Officials? What’s Happening to the Whatchamacallits @StateOIG?

The least surprising thing about this report is that a State Department spokesperson strongly defended Henderson and attacked the inspector general. Have you heard the Acting State/OIG Matthew Klimow offer any defense for his people or their work product? We have not. Is A/IG going to say he does not comment on leaked reports? But since there is no plan to release this report apparently, there is also no reason to offer a defense? Is that it? But wait, the State Department has commented on the leaked report and has attacked the inspector general office. Is that how this works?
The State Department spokesperson also shared testimonials purportedly from three unnamed State Department officials (they all have nice things to say!). Also, the spokesperson shared a lengthy comment from one of Pompeo’s two BFFs in Foggy Bottom, Counselor Ulrich Brechbühl.
HuffPost notes that “No part of the State Department’s response directly refuted the idea that Henderson regularly drank to excess on the job.”
If you remember, in November 2019, State/OIG also released a report on the Review of Allegations of Politicized and Other Improper Personnel Practices Involving the Office of the Secretary.  The State Department’s response includes Brian Hook’s 8-page response as well as an official response by  you guess it — Counselor Ulrich Brechbühl who wrote: “The Department disagrees with the finding in the report that improper considerations played a role in the early termination oof Employee One’s detail. The report ignores the compelling evidence provided by Brian Hook that his personnel decision in this matter was actually made prior to any of the non-merit factors being brought to his attention, and that the decision was mad for entirely professional and lawful reasons.”
Hey, isn’t this the same office that stayed quiet as mouse when career professionals were attacked by political characters, particularly last year?
Wondering why parts of this report kept getting leaked. Some questions though.
Is the State Department suppressing this IG report?
On what grounds? Hurt feelings?
Is the Acting State/OIG Matthew Klimow now allowing the State Department to decide which of the IG reports can be made public?

So what’s happening to the whatchamacallit …. the Linick-era investigations of you know who? Shhhhhh!  Shhhh!!! Keep it low. Top aides knew about it, but they were so bad they never bothered to tell their boss they knew the name of the fella in the IG’s crosshairs and then surprise, the former IG got fired and prevented from returning to his office. And they could not keep their excuses for the IG firing  in a straight line, the excuses kept toppling over like drunken sailors on liberty call. Then you know some staffers left or got fired. Then, the replacement guy quit. And then a career person stepped in, but then got replaced. Again.  So what’s happening to the whatchamacallits …. go ahead, tell us, just whisper….

New @StateDept Bureau to Take $26 Million, Plus 98 Staffers From the Medical Services  Bureau

Updated 1:24 pm PDT 
We just learned that the Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao is pushing for the formation of a new bureau called Crisis and Contingency Response (CCR) under the Management umbrella. This would expand the “M” family to 14 bureaus and offices (including a more recent creation called Office of Management Strategy and Solutions (M/SS). 
We understand that Mr. Pompeo has formally signed off on this new office.  CCR will reportedly take $26 million funding from the Bureau of Medical Services (MED). It will also  pull 98 positions from MED and it will share EX and IT services with the Medical Services bureau.   
We also learned that the “7th floor loves Dr. Will Walters” because he and his Directorate of Operational Medicine are reportedly not only “providing OpMed flights during COVID, repatriation flights, logistics flights, but have also provided the Secretary with medical support during his travels.”
“Very sexy stuff, whereas what MED providers do is the more mundane day-to-day care of diplomats and their families overseas.”
Many medical providers are said to be up in arms about the rapid formation of this new Bureau — which happened in a span of just four months — with apparently no input from the field.
“Medical services to diplomats and their families abroad may suffer.”
We asked what are the potential consequences to MED and its patients, and we’re given a quick rundown by Sender A:
    • Since MED and the CCR Bureau share EX and IT, there is widespread concern that MED staffing and funding will be given short shrift in this new configuration.
    • What might happen is fewer FS medical providers whom MED is allowed to hire, leaving positions overseas unfilled.
    • Other critical “back office” functions in MED, if not supported by the new shared EX, might become understaffed.
    • If sections such as MED Foreign Programs (authorization and funding of Medevacs and hospitalizations, referrals to WDC medical providers) do not have sufficient staffing and funding, service to FSOs and EFMs abroad will certainly be noticed in terms of delayed or denied authorization and funding cables.
    • If the MED/GSO section does not receive sufficient funding/staffing, delivery of essential medications and vaccines will be delayed or nonexistent.
Our source said that a town hall was held last week concerning this new bureau.  Many medical providers reportedly submitted questions ahead of time, but “the vast majority of the one-hour time slot was taken up my monologues from Bill Todd and Will Walters.” 
Source added that “both were very good at smoothly blowing by the concerns raised by MED.”
We understand that Todd did not explain why a separate Bureau was being created, but almost everyone in MED apparently viewed this as “the ultimate bureaucratic power play.”
Bill Todd is the Deputy Under Secretary for Management (formerly Acting M, Acting DGHR going back to Tillerson’s fun times in Foggy Bottom).  He is awaiting committee and Senate vote to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan. Time’s running out. 
Dr. William Walters’ February 2020 bio posted in congress.gov says that he is a member of the Senior Executive Service (and former US Army medical officer). His bio says he is the Acting Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Operations and the Acting Executive Director for the Bureau of Medical Services. Further, it says that “As the Managing Director of Operational Medicine, Dr. Walters is responsible for the Office of Protective Medicine and the Office of Strategic Medical Preparedness and manages the care of the Secretary of State and traveling delegation while traveling abroad.”
The MED Bureau was last inspected by State/OIG in mid 2000 and the OIG issued a report in June 2006. So it is due for a new review. According to OIG, in 2006 (lordy, that’s 14 years ago!), MED had the following:

“192 health units in embassies and consulates abroad. MED’s direct-hire overseas staffing includes 45 regional medical officers (RMO), who are physicians, 16 regional psychiatrists, 72 health practitioners, 10 laboratory technicians, and three regional medical managers, supplemented by 250 locally employed staff. […] Overseas, MED serves patients from 51 U.S. government agencies. This patient population includes approximately 50,000 direct-hire employees and family members who are full beneficiaries of the program and about 70,000 locally employed staff, for whom MED provides treatment for on-the-job injury and illness. In 2004, there were 230,000 health unit visits and MED facilitated 635 medical evacuations to the United States and 350 medical evacuations to overseas centers.”

We understand that current staffing includes 250 Foreign Service Medical Specialists ( RMO, MP, RMLS, RMO/P) plus LNA nurses and Social Workers in some posts. MED’s workforce reportedly also includes around 1000 LES staff who work in health units abroad. This staffing number does not include the Civil Service employees working for MED in Washington, D.C.
Under current staffing, how many employees will be left at MED after 98 employees are pulled to staff the new CCR bureau?
What will be the direct consequences of gutting MED’s fund by $26million in order to fund the new CCR bureau?
What is the rational justification for creating a new bureau like CCR separate from MED? Why now? Is this a case of strike now why the iron is hot, there may not be another mass evacuation due to a pandemic soon?
What is the issue with keeping the Directorate of Operational Medicine as the arm for crisis and contingency response under MED? 
Why are they calling this the Crisis and Contingency Response (CCR) Bureau and not the Medical Crisis and Contingency Response (MCCR) Bureau, hmmmn? Will this new bureau be headed by an assistant secretary level appointee subject to Senate confirmation?
Hey, wait, wait a minute –is some hombre considering this new bureau as the crisis and contingency response lead in medical and non-medical crisis? The name is kind of a tell.  We’d like to hear the big picture, tell us more.
You know, we’ve heard of the Crisis Management and Strategy arm that’s operating out of Ops Center for decades. They do great work. We’ve never heard those folks start a new bureau.
Update 1:24 pm PDT: 
It looks like the State Department needs to send Congressional notification to create a new bureau. In May 2019, the State Department merged the Bureaus of Public Affairs (PA) and International Information Programs (IIP) to create the new Bureau of Global Affairs. That merger did not happen overnight:
“In the summer of 2018, a task force of PA and IIP colleagues collaborated with bureaus and offices Department-wide to design a proposal for the new merged bureau. Extensive consultation with Congress as well as key leaders and organizations both inside and outside of the Department continued throughout 2018 and early 2019. Following State Department approval and congressional notification, the new Bureau of Global Public Affairs became a reality in May 2019.”
So how fast do you think State can do all that and its congressional notification obligation for this new entity? 
It’s 13 days, 8 hours, 31 minutes to Election Day. Go VOTE!

American Oversight Calls on @US_OSC and @StateOIG to Investigate Pompeo’s Email Rush Before the Election #WSOS

 


 

 

 

@StateDept Changes Post Allowances – Which Posts Are Up, Down, or Now Zero

 

Via state.gov:

SPECIAL NOTICE FOR POST ALLOWANCE (COLA) CHANGES EFFECTIVE OCTOBER 11, 2020 WITH TL:SR 1005

“The majority of the Post Allowance (COLA) changes effective 10/11/2020 are the result of a revised COLA process that was an outcome of a GAO audit, Congressional inquiries, and a 2017 OIG recommendation that the Department develop an objective method of generating COLA rates.
The major change in the process from the prior method is with respect to collection of market data.  Rather than task posts with collecting the data, the Department’s contractor now obtains it for 210 locations, including Washington, D.C. suburbs, from Mercer, AirInc, and ECA International.  These three companies provide similar support to major U.S. multinational enterprises with worldwide presence.  The contractor then used a uniform methodology, adjusting for costs of housing and utilities since these are provided by USG agencies for their employees assigned to foreign posts, to calculate an index that assigned a base score of 100 to the Washington, D.C. suburbs and compared other locations to that base.  The rate for each post is based on how the post index compares to the base index.
The data for the foreign post’s expat basket of goods and services is compared to that of the Washington, D.C. suburbs.  The contractor will provide updated index information to the Department of State’s Office of Allowances every August.  New COLA rates based on that data will be implemented in the first full pay period of each Fiscal Year.  Post indexes will be reviewed on a biweekly basis for exchange rate fluctuations and post allowances will be adjusted when necessary.  Posts determined to have hyperinflation will be adjusted biannually.  More information about how COLA levels are determined is available in DSSR 228.”
*
The announcement says that the contractor now obtains data for 210 locations including Washington, D.C. suburbs. We should note that posts identified by the Office of Allowances include over 700 locations overseas.
According to the Office of Allowances, post allowance, commonly referred to as the “cost-of-living” allowance is an allowance based on a percentage of “spendable income,” i.e. money you can really put your hands on to spend on goods and services. The amount varies depending on salary level and family size. The post allowance is calculated by comparing costs for goods and services in 11 categories – including food (consumed at home or in restaurants), tobacco/alcohol, clothing, personal care items, furnishings, household goods, medical services, recreation, public transportation, vehicle-related expenses, and household help – to the cost of those same goods and services in Washington, D.C.
The Office of Allowances notes that if the overall cost of goods and services at a foreign post, taking into account expenditure patterns, is at least 3% above the cost of the same goods and services in the Washington, D.C. area, a post allowance is established. See DSSR section 220 for more information.
The State Department announcement does not identify the contractor but one of its sources is Mercer.  Hong Kong listed by Mercer as the most expensive city for expatriates in its 2020 Cost of Living ranking is up from 42% to 60% in the new State Department post allowance listing.
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan listed by Mercer as the second most expensive place for expatriates for 2020 went from a COLA of 30% to 50% as of October 11.
Tokyo and Zurich were ranked by Mercer at #3 and #4 . Tokyo’s allowance went from 50% to 70% while Zurich (other) went from 80% to 100%.
Singapore ranked by Mercer as 5th most expensive in its 2020 cost of living ranking is up from 20% to 42%.
We understand that the COLA changes are affecting a host of posts, with some losing allowances in double digits and others ending up with zero for their cost of living allowance.
Zimbabwe went from 70% to 50%. Angola went from 50% to 30%. Benin went from 20% to 5%. Port-au-Prince from 25% to 5%; Bulgaria from 15% to zero. Ethiopia from 15% to zero.  El Salvador went from 10% to zero.
Burkina Faso went from 20% COLA last month to zero post allowance effective October 11. Other posts which previously received similar post allowance of 20% but are now reduced to zero are: Havana, Cuba; Amman, Jordan, Lilongwe, Malawi; Casablanca, Morocco; Kigali, Rwanda; Paramaribo, Suriname; Chiang Mai, Thailand;  Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Bujumbura, Burundi; Lusaka, Zambia.
UK posts like London and Edinburgh went from 50% to 42%. Canadian posts like Toronto and Vancouver went from 42% to 25%. Some Australian posts went from 30% to 10% while others like Darwin and Adelaide went from 25% to 5%.
According to the Mercer survey, the world’s least expensive cities for expatriates are Tunis (#209), Windhoek (#208), and Tashkent and Bishkek, which tied for the #206 spot.
Tunis and Bishkek both have zero COLA in the old and new State Department allowances listing but Tashkent has now gone from 20% to zero and Windhoek from 15% to zero effective October 11.
Meanwhile, other posts saw double digit increases: Posts in China went from 5-25% to 15-42%.  Bangui in the Central African Republic is now up to 50% from 25%. Finland went from 35% to 50%. Libreville, Gabon is now 50%  from 30%. Posts in Israel went from 30% to 50%. Increases for posts in Japan range from 7% to 20%. South Sudan went from 42% to 70%.
Post allowances remained unchanged for some posts: Greenland (60%), Denmark (50%), Bahrain (20%), Barbados (35%), Bermuda (60%), Chad (42%), Qatar (25%), Djibouti (30%), Iceland (10%), Kuwait (15%).
Below are the most expensive Foreign Service assignments based on the new cost of living allowances effective October 11, 2020:

#1. SWITZERLAND (Geneva, Other) — 100%

#2. SWITZERLAND (Bern)  —————- 80%

#3. JAPAN (Tokyo, Fukuoka) ————— 70%

#4. SOUTH SUDAN (Juba, Other).——-  70%

#5. AUSTRIA (Vienna, Other).————-  60%

#6. BERMUDA (Bermuda).—————–  60%

#7. GREENLAND (Nuuk).——————- 60%

#8. HONG KONG —————————-  60%

#9. JAPAN (Kyota, Nagoya Sapporo
(Osaka-Kobe, Yokohama).——————  60%

#10. ZIMBABWE (Harare, Other).——- 50%

#11. CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
(Bangui).     ————————————- 50%

#12. DENMARK
(Copenhagen, Other).———————— 50%

#13. FINLAND (Helsinki).—————— 50%

#14. GABON (Libreville, Other).———- 50%

#15. ISRAEL
(Tel Aviv, Jerusalem).———————–  50%

#16. ITALY
(Florence, Milan, Turin).——————- 50%

#17. TURKMENISTAN
(Ashgabat, Other). ————————–  50%