Posted: 2:50 pm PT
A lot has been written about former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s “Redesign” initiative at the State Department. What is less known is a parallel project, a purported employee-led organizational revolution study that until this week was not revealed. While the controversial and unpopular “Redesign” boasts over 300 interviews from the potential pool of 25,000 U.S. direct hire employees and over 30,000 survey respondents from a 75,000 global workforce, the “Hellz Yeah” employee-led organizational revolution drew responses from what is said to be 33,300 secret interviews within the organization. The results of those interviews have been under lock and key and, until recently, only a handful of individuals were given access to the consolidated report.
In the chaos following the presidential pink tweet that saw the firing of the 69th secretary of state and the departure of his top lieutenants, a few individuals discovered the secret study in an unlocked vault on the 7th Floor. The following are from our interviews with three employees who were among the first to read the contents of the secret interviews. For obvious reasons, our sources did not want to be identified publicly but they were willing to speak to us on background. They all described the discovery of the secret interviews as shocking. Our sources said “shocking” because they all said that they had never seen a previous study in which employees actively contributed to the retreat or destruction of their own institution under the guise of improving its operation. One source asked, “Who the hell does that?” Another source worry that incoming Secretary Pompey may use this as an excuse for a new top-town restructuring and cultural reorganization of the agency.
One of the more controversial proposals that previously leaked was the transfer of the visa function from State to DHS. One respondent reportedly asked, “How is it that Dennis Rodman gets to sit down with Kim Jong Un smoking cigars while I have to interview 120 visa applicants a day for 2-4 years?” Another one said, “I did not sign up to be a visa stamper; I was top of my class and expected to be doing multi-lateral negotiations in Europe after A-100. Instead they sent me to Nigeria. Nigeria!” Yet another respondent said, “What Jared can do, I can do better”, admitting that he did not particularly like consular work as visa applicants not only have spit on him three times through the glass window but have also breast-fed screaming babies multiple times at his interview window.
A majority of those advocating this change pointed out that most new diplomats did not sign up for consular work and questioned why they were not allowed to conduct arms control negotiations or advance our nuclear nonproliferation policy on their first tours. They think that the new era of “America First” in public and foreign policies should also bring a new era in diplomatic hierarchy. One respondent lamented, “The only person who has fun at this post is the ambassador.”
Dashboard Initiative: KSALs Leaderboard (Knowledge, Skills, Ability, and Loyalty)
We can report further on the reasons why so many offices have been left vacant at the upper echelons of the State Department. The secret study reportedly indicates that this, too, was an idea put forward by employees actively engaged in keeping their agency “nimble” and “agile.” The reasoning appears to be that by not appointing Senate-confirmed individuals to these high level positions, the entire agency operation can be controlled from the dashboard in the secretary of state’s office.
A majority of the respondents purportedly suggested that the “S” dashboard be color-coded for efficiency. Acting assistant secretaries and office directors who speak out of turn in meetings and public appearances are buzzed with a red button, while those with harmless opinions are buzzed with a yellow button, and those with favorable views to everything proposed by the Administration are buzzed with a green button. The buzzes are then tallied weekly. Those with too many red buzzes on their records will be replaced by individuals on the waitlist who are anxious to demonstrate their KSALs to get ahead, that is, knowledge, skills, ability, and loyalty. Those of particular distinction in service and loyalty (e.g. those willing to throw their colleagues and staff members under speeding buses) will be short-listed for creative new positions of great honor and responsibility.
Of particular note in this study is that a significant portion of the respondents proposed the use of Veritaserum, a colorless, odourless potion that is practically indistinguishable from water to ensure that all employees old and new are forced “to answer sincerely and truthfully any question they are presented with.”
One of our three sources told us that the “Dashboard Initiative” envisioned to promote an “agile” and “nimble” organization in Foggy Bottom was beta-tested for several months with notable success but there was unresolved debate on who will have access to the “S” dashboard. Also, questions were raised about how to deploy the initiative to the wider organization, with top aides additionally arguing for the creation of a “leaderboard” to enhance the initiative and with dual-function as a replacement for the now defunct “Secretary’s Sounding Board. “Agile and nimble won’t mean a lot if the effect is not immediate,” one argued.”It should be simple like baseball, three strikes and you’re out,” added another helpfully.
According to two sources, the secret study indicates that the organizers could not agree on the finer details of the “Dashboard Initiative”. The initial plan reportedly was to send it down to the employees to promote the perception of crowdsourced-decision making while top officials figure out what to do with it; no one has any idea what happens now.
MDSGA Initiative: Make Diplomatic Spouses Great Again
As with the Redesign, a select number of diplomatic spouses were also interviewed. Our second source, an FSO who has been married to the same spouse for twenty-four years expressed shock at the interview results from eligible family members. Fifty-one percent of these interviewees (214 in actual numbers) implored the agency’s leadership to strike down the 1972 Spouse Directive stating that diplomatic spouses are their own persons, and could not be forced to provide free labor for diplomatic missions overseas.
One respondent reportedly complained, “What’s the use of being a senior spouse if you can’t round up junior spouses to help you do the necessary work of supporting the mission overseas?” At least five respondents proposed that the Department bring back the rating system that includes diplomatic spouses in the performance evaluations of employees. “Some spouses are just way too independent, living their own lives away from the mission,” complained one senior spouse. “Junior spouses should be trained to be respectful of the senior spouses, and should be put in tiger teams to support the highest ranking spouses in the mission,” added another.
A majority of respondents apparently also suggested that the agency freeze all available jobs for spouses so women in particular would not have an excuse to work outside the home. The rationale appears to be that the longer the spouses are unable to work, the more they will appreciate not having to work. These respondents were confident that “this will result in more happiness and contentment in the mission.”
“The availability of work to some spouses but not to others leads to envy and discontent,” was one of the study’s conclusion. By removing the available jobs for spouses altogether, according to the summary of the interviews, “There will be less stress, less competition and better quality of life.”
One topic that the respondents proposed that did appear to result in policy change was how the Professional Associates program for spouses are filled. The secret study reportedly indicates that respondents suggested should it become necessary to lift the hiring freeze, Professional Associates jobs in particular should have the highest standards possible in terms of experience and educational experience.
The interviewers asked if this would not make it harder for diplomatic spouses to fill these professional jobs and 50.9% of respondents declared that while that might be the case, they think that this would make the organizational more “nimble” and “stronger.” “I may not actually qualify for these jobs under the proposed new standards” one respondent said without blinking an eye,“but I totally support the secretary’s and his aides efforts to professionalize the spouses’ jobs,” she added. When the interviewer pointed out that the job requirements are more stringent than the requirements for officers and specialists, one spouse dismissed the matter. “We want the very best of the best, even spouses, why is that so difficult to understand?”
Gamespot Initiative: Rewards and Promotions
All three sources told us that the most controversial idea to come out of the ‘Hellz Yeah’ secret study has the potential to “disrupt” the career services. The summary of the study indicates that majority of the employees think that the current rewards and promotion systems are faulty and are easily influenced or manipulated “by correct grammar” and “charming but exhausting narratives.”
Apparently, the secret study’s main suggestion was to transition the entire agency into a point system for rewards and promotions; reward points for management issues, and promotion points for policy issues. For instance, higher reward points would earn employees better housing, better schools for dependents, improved health benefits, retirement benefits for spouses and travel arrangements that exempt them from “Fly America” and allow for better travel connections, best air carriers, and exceptional hotel and pet accommodations.
Similarly, higher promotion points over policy matters would earn employees progressively senior positions, the best housing in the embassy pool, larger offices with windows, newer furniture, up to $5,000 in decoration expense, Internet download privileges, personalized stationery, pens, and water bottles, and most importantly for those assigned overseas, armed official chauffeurs who already passed the Armored Vehicle Driver Training.
A focus group of carefully selected employees produced some intense discussions about how employees can earn points, how many points are required to “level up”, and what time frame might be required to “boot out” deadwood employes who are not actively earning reward and promotion points. One respondent said, “If they’re not in the game, they should be out!”
A few respondents also wanted to know — if a senior bureau official says “I’ve succeeded in ousting five detailees from my office prior to the secretary’s arrival” — should reward points be higher if the ousted detailees were in the middle of their assignments, than if they were at the end of their detail? What if an employee is able to provide a list of the former administration’s “holdovers”? The respondents wanted to know what number would be enough to merit a level up for a corner office or a house with a gazebo and a jacuzzi? What if an employee is able to provide proof through secret social media posts that his colleagues “are not fully on board” with the Administration’s agenda? The respondents wanted confirmation that reward points are higher for Facebook posts than Twitter or Instagram posts.
Under this controversial employee-led proposal, diplomatic officials who get out of their comfort zone to publicly support pre-emptive strikes against XYZ countries or invade ABC countries for their oil will always get the highest promotion points. Officials who appear in government-run radio and television programs get extra promotion points. Employees with at least 2K social media followers and who actively amplify official messages from the Voice of American Truth in their private capacities also get extra promotion points.
We are interested in tracking down the organizers of this employee-led organizational revolution study, as well as identifying potential commonalities between the “Hellz Yeah” study and other recent blue ribbon studies and surveys previously conducted. We’ve formally requested the 5,000-page study and its associated raw data. As of today, April 1, we have not heard from any of our 7th Floor contacts. We understand that Easter Sunday and April Fools’ Day festivities may be keeping them occupied. We will do a follow-up post if/when we hear from their April 1 Task Force.