State/OIG: Sustained Failure of Leadership at the National Passport Center

The National Passport Center is located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. NPC opened in 1992 and this past November, it processed its 100 millionth passport application. Below excerpted from State/OIG’s report,  Targeted Review of Leadership and Management at the National Passport Center:

Backgrounder: NPC, the largest of 29 passport-processing agencies and twice the size of the next largest, issued 7.4 million passports in FY 2017, or 38 percent of all passports issued by the U.S. Government from October 2016 to September 2017. Located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the center was created in 1992, and it grew from 60 employees at its founding to approximately 900 following a 2007 surge in passport demand.

At the time of the inspection, NPC’s staff consisted of a GS-15 Director, 6 GS-14 Assistant Directors, 16 GS-13 Adjudication Managers, and 57 GS-12 Supervisory Passport Specialists who supervised approximately 350 Passport Specialists. Additional staff included Customer Service and Fraud
Prevention employees, Passport Operations Officers, and over 400 contractors who were responsible for passport production and other support services. NPC operates two flexible shifts, which together cover 22 hours per day Monday through Friday. In addition, depending on workload, NPC scheduled overtime shifts on Saturday and Sunday.

Work Environment and CA/PPT Leadership: Senior leaders in CA’s Office of Passport Services (CA/PPT) were aware of concerns regarding NPC’s work environment since at least 2013, when several NPC employees made allegations against NPC leadership. The employees alleged harassment, “bullying,” a lack of trust in leadership, favoritism, abusive behavior to employees, improper hiring procedures, and an overall lack of transparency in the operations of the organization. In response to the allegations, CA/PPT instructed the Director of the Northeast Regional Office, who oversees NPC and other passport agencies, to conduct an internal review of NPC, which he did in January and February 2014. […] To address the internal review’s findings, CA/PPT ordered extensive executive coaching and training for NPC’s Director and senior leaders. The training lasted approximately 2 years and ended in 2016.

How not to solve the problem: OIG also determined that CA/PPT and NPC senior leaders were disengaged and, based on OIG interviews, generally aware of concerns regarding harassment, abuse, and misconduct. During OIG’s review, CA/PPT senior leaders told OIG that they blamed some of the issues at NPC on the fact that employees have known each other for a long time, dismissing the allegations as grudges held from high school and referring to employees as “crusty New Englanders.” CA/PPT’s senior leaders moreover acknowledged inappropriate behavior at NPC, but hoped that “being really busy would solve the problem.”

Being really busy is their hopeful solution? Good lord, who are these people? Are they available to work their magic wand as WH chiefs of staff?

It works! OIG Hotline Complaints: Between February and May 2018, OIG received a series of hotline complaints alleging misconduct, harassment, retaliation, and unfair hiring practices at NPC. […] Hundreds of NPC employees reported to OIG that retaliation, harassment, and “bullying” pervaded the work environment at NPC. OIG found that the reported behavior was widespread and was either condoned or perpetrated by nearly all levels of NPC leadership. Seventeen percent (91) of NPC employees who responded to OIG’s survey reported that they had experienced or observed discrimination and harassment. Of the 156 NPC employees OIG interviewed, 54 (35 percent) stated that they had experienced or observed retaliation, 80 (51 percent) stated that they had experienced or observed harassment, and 61 (39 percent) stated that they had experienced or observed discrimination.

Employees reported to OIG multiple instances of perceived or possible retaliation by Assistant Directors, Adjudication Managers, and other Supervisory Passport Specialists in denying awards, promotions, and special assignments.

Multiple employees reported incidents of sexual and gender-based harassment to OIG, which in some cases, had been ongoing, widely known, and accepted as part of the center’s culture.

Holy Guacamole Alert! NPC’s already problematic workplace environment was exacerbated by the fact that communication was ineffective at all levels within NPC. […] One example of poor communication was the lack of a formal and effective process for explaining and interpreting new guidance with Passport Specialists. When CA/PPT Office of Adjudication (CA/PPT/A) issued new or updated adjudication-specific guidance, its implementation instructions to passport agencies stated that Adjudication Managers must meet with Passport Specialists to discuss the guidance, answer questions, and ensure everyone understands how to implement the new guidance.10 However, NPC’s Adjudication Managers consistently and affirmatively refused to meet with Passport Specialists. 

You read that part above and you think that’s just bonkers. If they’re not meeting regularly to discuss new passport guidance, how would they know if the guidance they have is already outdated?

Security Procedures: In the course of examining the leadership and communication issues described previously, OIG also learned that NPC did not comply with all required Department security procedures. Specifically […] NPC did not follow facility access control measures that govern employee entry and exit, creating an opportunity for individuals without approved access to enter the building.

Admonishment from CA/PPT senior leader and NPC managers: OIG also notes that, after its site visit, a CA/PPT senior leader visited NPC. According to an information memo CA prepared for the Deputy Secretary following the visit, the CA/PPT senior leader communicated  to NPC employees that the Department does not tolerate retaliation. However, OIG subsequently received complaints that CA/PPT senior leaders and NPC managers admonished staff for complaining to and speaking with OIG.

We should note that the OIG report does not include the names of the senior leaders at CA/PPT or the managers at NPC but they’re on LinkedIn, is that right? Please don’t make them lead the Consular Leadership Day festivities next year, hookay?

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OBO’s Fire Protection Judgments and @StateDept’s Black Hole of Bureaucratic Shrugger-Swagger

 

We blogged previously about the State/OIG Management Assistance Report sounding the alarm over the fire alarm system at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul (see  U.S. Embassy Kabul: Fire Alarm System Needs Prompt Attention or #MustHaveNoFireBeforeMarch2019

We received a reaction about the OIG report basically saying “hey, I agree with all the violations listed by the OIG”. Our correspondent also thought the “funniest thing” included in the report is that OBO challenged the OIG qualifications. There appears to be serious concerns that sound fire protection engineering judgements are being overridden “on a regular basis.” There are also some questions/allegations about the qualifications of OBO folks making decisions concerning fire protection engineering — that if true, could potentially have serious consequences.

OPM says  that all Professional Engineering positions require a basic degree in engineering or a combination of education and experience — college-level education, training, and/or technical experience that furnished (1) a thorough knowledge of the physical and mathematical sciences underlying engineering, and (2) a good understanding, both theoretical and practical, of the engineering sciences and techniques and their applications to one of the branches of engineering. Also that the adequacy of such background must be demonstrated by one of the following: 1) Professional registration or licensure — Current registration as an Engineer Intern (EI), Engineer in Training (EIT)1, or licensure as a Professional Engineer (PE) by any State, the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico. 2) Written Test — Evidence of having successfully passed the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE)2 examination or any other written test required for professional registration by an engineering licensure board in the various States, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Read more here.

In any case, you know that State/PA refused to respond to us during Tillerson’s watch but with Pompeo’s new guards in, we thought we should try asking questions again from its media professionals, coz, why not, hey?

We did receive a PA response months ago that says “we’ll look into it but may not have anything over the weekend”.  Lordy, short weekends and long weekends have come and gone and we have not heard anything back via email, fax, sign language, or telephatic signal.  Our follow-up email appeared to have also ended up in a black hole of bureaucratic shrugger-swagger.

In any case, we’ve addressed the same questions to State/OIG, and those folks reliably read and respond to email inquiries, and we received the following:

Ensuring the safety and security of Department personnel is paramount for the OIG. We give careful consideration to allegations relating to safety and security issues, including the one involving the Office of Fire Protection. Additionally, if anyone becomes aware of something that jeopardizes the safety and security of Department employees, they should report it immediately to the OIG hotline at OIG.state.gov/HOTLINE or at 1-800-409-9926.

About that report, here are a couple of examples that we understand, requires some folks to wear brown paper bags over their heads when reading:

OBO’s Technical Comment 10 | OBO disagreed with OIG’s statement: “According to PAE, a secondary loop was installed. However, rather than being routed separately, the existing fiber optic cables run in a parallel path. Because the fiber optic cables run in the same direction (as opposed to opposite directions representing a redundant circuit), damage to one part of the network can render sections of the network inoperable.” OBO stated that “it is perfectly acceptable for cables to run in the same direction. They cannot run in the same conduit. Additionally, the secondary loop is, in fact, a redundant circuit since there are two paths of travel one from the original loop and one from the secondary loop.”

OIG’s Reply | OIG agrees that cables can run in the same direction but cannot run in the same conduit. OIG found, however, that a number of the runs currently installed at Embassy Kabul did, in fact, have fiber optic cables bundled together in the same conduit. The photo below shows the current configuration at Embassy Kabul in which fiber optic cables are bundled together in the same conduit. This is contrary to NFPA standards for a redundant path. OIG made no changes to the report on the basis of this comment.

TA-DAA! Somebody stop these wild cables from running in the same conduit!

 

OBO’s Technical Comment 13 | OBO disagreed with OIG’s conclusion that “the improper installation of key components of Embassy Kabul’s fire alarm system needs immediate attention because of the potential safety risk to personnel and property.” OBO stated that it disagreed with OIG’s underlying assumptions and that OIG’s scope contained flaws.

OIG’s Reply | As set forth in this report, OBO is not in compliance with NFPA 72 regarding the requirement for a redundant path. In addition, a number of the runs currently installed at Embassy Kabul have fiber optic cables bundled together in the same conduit, which similarly fails to comply with NFPA 72. The NFPA codes and standards are designed to minimize the risk and effects of fire by establishing criteria for building, processing, design, service, and installation around the world. Failure to adhere to these requirements thus presents potential risk to embassy personnel and property. Therefore, the improper installation of key components of Embassy Kabul’s fire alarm system requires immediate attention. OIG made no changes to the report on the basis of this comment.

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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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@StateDept’s Aviation Program Down to Just 206 Aircraft, Also Spends $72M on Unnecessary Services

Per 2 FAM 800: INL/A serves as the Departments aviation service provider (with the exception of aircraft charters managed by A/LM/OPS for logistics support of nonrecurring and unpredictable requirements like oddly-sized shipments, evacuations and other emergency assistance to Posts) and is coordinator of all aviation related to AGB [Aviation Governing Board] approved acquisitions.  INL/A is responsible for complying with the provisions of this chapter as well as OMB Circulars A-126, A-76, A-11, and A-94 and Federal Management Regulation 10233. Additionally, as part of the Departments Management Control Plan (see 2 FAM 020), INL/A must establish cost-effective management control systems to ensure that aviation programs are managed effectively, efficiently, economically, and with integrity.

Excerpt below via State/OIG:  Audit of the Department of State’s Administration of its Aviation Program (Sept 2018).

The Department is not consistently administering its aviation program in accordance with Federal requirements or Department guidelines. Specifically, OIG found instances in which significant aviation operations were undertaken without the knowledge or approval of the AGB, which is required by Department policy. In addition, the AGB is not fulfilling its responsibilities to evaluate the usage and cost effectiveness of aircraft services, as required by Office of Management and Budget Circulars and Department guidance. Furthermore, INL administer ed country-specific aviation programs differently depending on whether a post used the worldwide aviation support services contract. As a result of limited AGB oversight and the absence of evaluations to determine the appropriate usage and cost effectiveness of the Department’s aircraft operations worldwide, the Department is not optimally managing aviation resources and spent $72 million on unnecessary services from September 2013 to August 2017.

Snapshot: The Department’s aviation program was created in 1976 to support narcotics interdiction and drug crop eradication programs. The aviation program has since grown to a fleet of 206 aircraft and aviation operations that extend from South America to Asia and include transportation services for chief of mission personnel. In 2016, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the Department owned more aircraft than any other non-military agency and was one of three agencies with the most “non-operational” aircraft. At the time of GAO’s analysis, the Department had 248 aircraft; the Department has since decreased that number to 206. As shown in Figure 1, as of January 2018, the aircraft inventory included airplanes (fixed-wing), helicopters (rotary-wing), and unmanned aircraft.

As of January 2018, the Department had aviation operating bases overseas in five countries —Colombia, Peru, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq —and a support base at Patrick Air Force Base located in Melbourne, FL. The Department closed aviation programs in Cyprus and Pakistan during 2017. The Department plans to re-open an operating base in Guatemala. In addition, the Department has two dedicated chartered aircraft located in Cartersville,GA, and Nairobi, Kenya.

The Department’s Aviation Governing Board (AGB) is responsible for providing oversight of aviation activities, including approving policies, budgets, and strategic plans. The AGB was established in 2011. It is chaired by the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and has three other voting members—the Assistant Secretaries (or designees) from the Bureaus of Diplomatic Security, South and Central Asian Affairs, and Near Eastern Affairs.

INL/A consists of approximately 60 Civil Service personnel and 13 personal services contractors. To carry out the Department’s aircraft operations, maintenance, and logistics for the country-specific aviation programs, INL/A administers and oversees a worldwide aviation support services contract that provides a contract workforce of more than 1,500 personnel. According to an INL/A official, starting November 1, 2017, DynCorp International began its fifth extension of a $4.9 billion worldwide aviation services contract.

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Snapshot: Nonimmigrant Visa (NIV) Refusals/Issuances FY2012-2017

Via GAO:

The percentage of NIVs refused—known as the refusal rate—increased from fiscal years 2012 through 2016, and was about the same in fiscal year 2017 as the previous year. As shown in figure 8, the NIV refusal rate rose from about 14 percent in fiscal year 2012 to about 22 percent in fiscal year 2016, and remained about the same in fiscal year 2017; averaging about 18 percent over the time period. As a result, the total number of NIVs issued peaked in fiscal year 2015 at about 10.89 million, before falling in fiscal years 2016 and 2017 to 10.38 million and 9.68 million, respectively.

 

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US Embassy Senegal Inaugurates New Regional Tactical Training Center

On September 6, the State Department and the Government of Senegal inaugurated a new regional counterterrorism training facility in Thiès, Senegal.

U.S. and Senegalese officials formally dedicated the new Regional Tactical Training Center, which was funded, constructed, and equipped through the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program. The new center is ATA’s first regional training facility in West Africa.

Once fully operational, the training center, part of a pre-existing Senegalese training facility, will reportedly expand ATA’s capacity to train Senegalese and other West African partner nation law enforcement officers at this regional counterterrorism training hub. ATA will provide training in hard skills such as crisis response, explosive incident countermeasures, post-blast investigations, and rural border patrol operations.

Photo via US Embassy Dakar

Below via:

Senegal Regional Tactical Training Center

With the success and subsequent growth of its regional training program in Jordan, ATA determined there was an operational need and an opportunity in Senegal to develop a West African regional training center.

ATA conducted a site survey in March 2015 at the pre-existing Tactical Training Center in Zone 7 (CET-7) in Thiès, Senegal. In January 2018, officials from both nations laid the cornerstone to begin construction of the new facility.

The new construction combined with the tactical capabilities of the pre-existing facility provide a modern regional training hub capable of conducting up to four ATA training programs simultaneously and in a more cost-efficient manner.

The RTTC includes a 100-person-capacity conference room, two classrooms, and an adjacent 900-square-foot warehouse with a secured armory, storage and staging rooms, a workshop area, and office space. A modular shoot-house with movable and interchangeable walls, an observation catwalk, and roof is planned for completion by September 2019.

The location of the new training center at the CET-7 affords ATA the use of the pre-existing, on-site tactical training and life-support facilities, including a simulated urban village, pistol and rifle ranges, more than 25 kilometers of terrain for land navigation and tracking, and a demolition range.

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Secretary Pompeo Saves $2Billion Weapons Sales From Jeopardy

 

AND NOW THIS, the English version though the original one requires no translation:

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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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State/ECA Program Manager Gets 13 Months in Prison For KickBacks

Back in July in a catch-up post, we  blogged about  State/ECA employee Kelli R. Davis, 48, of Bowie, Maryland, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit theft of public funds and engage in honest services wire fraud before U.S. Senior District Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia.  On September 7, she was sentenced to 13 months in prison for accepting kickbacks and stealing federal funds intended for a foreign exchange program maintained by the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Below is the announcement from USDOJ:

State Department Official Sentenced to Prison for Engaging in Honest Services Wire Fraud and Theft of Federal Funds

Via USDOJ:

A program manager for the U.S. Department of State was sentenced to 13 months in prison today for accepting kickbacks and stealing federal funds intended for a foreign exchange program maintained by the U.S. Department of State.  Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia, Inspector General Steve A. Linick of the U.S. Department of State and Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division made the announcement.

Kelli R. Davis, 49, of Bowie, Maryland, was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, III of the Eastern District of Virginia.  On May 24, Davis pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging her with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and theft of public money.

According to admissions made in connection with her plea, Davis was a Program Specialist for the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  She also served as the Program Manager and Grants Officer Representative for the Sports Visitors Program, which sponsored foreign exchanges for emerging youth athletes and coaches from various countries.  The exchange program was managed by George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, through a federal grant and cooperative agreement with the State Department.

Davis admitted that between February 2011 and March 2016, she conspired with others to steal portions of the federal money allocated to the Sports Visitor Program by, among other things, falsifying vendor-related invoices and making fraudulent checks payable to a government contractor, Denon Hopkins, who supplied transportation services for the program.  In total, Davis and Hopkins stole approximately $17,335 from the State Department.  They have both admitted that Hopkins used portions of the funds to pay kickbacks to Davis to retain his transportation contract.  In addition, Davis stole an additional $17,777 from the program over a multi-year period.

The Department of State’s Office of Inspector General and the FBI’s Washington Field Office investigated the case.  Trial Attorney Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly R. Pedersen of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.

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Amb Nikki Haley’s Manhattan Curtains Make a News Splash But Wait …

 

So Nikki Haley’s New York curtains made the news.  According to the NYT, the State Department spent $52,701 for curtains in UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s Manhattan apartment.

According to the report, the USG leased the property located at Norman Foster’s 50 UN Plaza Penthouse after the State Department ditched the Waldorf Astoria as the USUN ambassador’s residence in 2016. This happened following the purchased of the Waldorf hotel by a Chinese insurance company with a murky ownership structure.There is reportedly an option to buy this property.  Ambassador Haley is the first ambassador to live in it.

Given the news about various questionable and outrageous expenses across agencies in D.C., and particularly with the funding issues with the State Department when the curtain purchase was expended in 2017, we could be tempted to lump this together with all the swampy behavior in the news.  To be sure, these curtains cost almost as much as the median household income in 2017, and the curtains don’t have to do anything but look clean and nice, and keep prying eyes away. However, we should note that the previous USUN ambassador’s residence at the Waldorf had been previously occupied by other ambassadors and would have been already furnished. This was not a case of she did not like the curtains, and asked that they be replaced. This chief of mission residence (CMR) is a new 5,893 ft² rental, and unless rented furnished, probably required new furnishing, and, of course, new curtains … in a city where the cost of living is 138.6% above U.S. average.

One source familiar with State Department real estate told us that this would be considered part of the “make ready” improvements when the Department takes possession of a property. In some places overseas, it could include not just curtains but also American size washers/dryers. In Africa, it could include generators. We’ve heard of a $40K drapes at some unidentified post. Can you imagine what it would cost to replace the drapes at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in London or Paris?  Of course, non-career folks always have the option to spend their own money whether on CMR curtains or in 4th of July parties but that’s another story.

One former fed told us that given the hiring freeze and the drastic cuts in State funding, that this shouldn’t have gone through. We understand that perspective but remember that Foggy Bottom was Crazytown Also in 2017 with almost all bureaus vacant at the top.  Which acting official should have cancelled this purchase, only to rewrite the purchase order for the necessary expense months later? The NYT report cites Patrick Kennedy, the former Under Secretary for Management at State who defended the purpose of this purchase for entertainment and security. Would Diplomatic Security have allowed occupancy without curtains? Which country or countries might have potential spies/prying eyes directed at this 40th floor penthouse?

Perhaps, it should also be noted that an ambassador’s residence is used not just as living quarters for the chief of mission and his/her family, it is also used as a venue for diplomatic representations, receptions and events.  In many ways, the official chief of mission residences are similar to US embassies abroad; they are representations of the United States. We’d suggest that this expenditure would have been made even if the appointee were a career diplomat.

But there’s some good news! These curtains will likely stay there throughout Haley’s tenure and the next ambassador’s tenure. Unless Scott Pruitt gets appointed to USUN, in which case, we should probably prepare ourselves for mechanized bulletproof curtains in the first 100 days!

Below is the  description of the property via Street Easy (see link for photos).

A rare opportunity is available to rent this full floor condominium on the 40th floor facing all four directions.If you are looking for the best, this is the highest and largest penthouse available for rent in this unique midtown United Nations location. A tad shy of 6,000 sq feet! With views of the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building, this coveted condominium across the street from the UN has floor to ceiling glass walls with bay windows throughout and a living/dining room overlooking the beautiful East River. Enjoy the boats and yachts passing by going downtown as well as magnificent skyline views at night. Conveniently located all on one level, this home features corner living and dining rooms as well and two corner master bedrooms. The 11’3″ ceiling height allows for beautiful sunsets and sunrises every day. There are five bedrooms, all with en suite baths with high quality natural stones, some with windows and separate showers stalls and bidets. The interior finishes throughout include custom hardware, and solid white oak floors. The large eat-in-kitchen is outfitted with Varenna white lacquer cabinetry and high end appliances. There are two maids bedrooms in addition and 6.5 baths in total. This masterpiece is designed by the world renowned Architect, Sr. Norman Foster. Cleverly combining Glass with steel to allow natural light into every home, this building boasts elegance from the motor-court lobby with 16′ soaring ceilings and water fall and fireplace, to the wellness center with a 75 foot swimming pool and state-of-the-art fitness facility. A beautiful building that has it all! In addition, this full service property with resident manager, concierge, and valet service also has a conference room, steam, sauna, treatment room, play room, cold storage and bike storage. This penthouse includes valet parking at no additional cost!

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