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

 

 

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Burn Bag: Nomination For Most Self-Serving Vanity Cable of the Year

 

Via Burn Bag:

“The year’s not even half over, but here’s a nomination for the hands-down worst, most self-serving vanity cable of the year:  please see 20 REYKJAVIK 0266 . Yikes.”

Via reactiongifs.com

 

D/SecState Biegun Alerts @StateDept Employees to Updated Guidance For Political Activities Restrictions

State Department employees on February 19 woke up to a love letter in their inbox from their new Deputy Secretary of State Steve Biegun. The Deputy Secretary says that he is looking forward to highlighting his priorities relating to people, policy and process but the new email was aimed at tackling “the first issue”, that is, how they can  “work together to ensure we do not improperly engage the Department of State in the political process.”
He writes  that “One of the great strengths of our country is its democratic process, which we proudly showcase in our global engagements.”
(Uhm…okay).
He talks about the political debate going on and the agency’s far-reaching restrictions “designed to ensure our representation overseas is not perceived as partisan.”

It is not lost on any of us that there is a national political debate going on around us that manifests itself daily in news feeds, questions and comments from our foreign contacts, and communications from friends via emails and social media. I have spent my career at the intersection of foreign policy and politics, so I recognize that it can be personally challenging to keep politics outside of daily engagements. This, however, is what our laws and policies require. State Department employees, like all federal employees, are subject to restrictions on engaging in partisan political activity while at work and outside of work. We often talk of Hatch Act requirements, but in truth the Department has more far-reaching restrictions designed to ensure our representation overseas is not perceived as partisan.

Apparently, Mr. Pompeo recently approved “updated guidance  for political activities restrictions that apply to all Department employees.” Further, Mr. Biegun notes that “Department legal requirements and policies, which have been in place for decades, are broad and bear careful review.”
He tells employees that “obligations differ based on your employment status” and reveals that “as a Senate confirmed Department official, I will be sitting on the sidelines of the political process this year and will not be attending any political events, to include the national conventions.”
His message does not say if all Senate-confirmed Department officials will also sit on the sidelines.
He writes that while he is not active on social media, he encourage employees “to think about your own practices and how the guidelines provided by the Office of the Legal Adviser might apply to your social media activity.” Further, he also shared that he intends “to be thoughtful in how I respond to emails from friends that have even the appearance of partisan political content.”
Apparently, there are three new Department memoranda which summarize political activity guidance for each of three categories of Department employees—
(1) All Presidential Appointees and All Political Appointees
(2) Career SES Employees
(3) All Department of State Employees (Other than Career SES, Presidential Appointees, and Political Appointees)
(—as well as special guidance for employees and their families abroad).
The Office of the Legal Adviser has issued three political activities memoranda but they are behind the firewall, so we do not, as yet, know what they say.  He is asking employees “to review the guidelines carefully so that together we can ensure that our Department work is above reproach.”
(Can somebody please FOIA these updated guidance?)
Mr. Biegun also cited 3 FAM 4123.3 (Employee Responsibilities Abroad/Political Activities): https://fam.state.gov/fam/03fam/03fam4120.html — see 3 FAM 4123.3  for Political Activities
He ends his message with:

“I am impressed by the discipline and unfailing professionalism that I see across our Department team on a daily basis, exemplifying the Secretary’s Ethos statement. I hope you will join me in carefully adhering to these restrictions designed to support our nonpartisan foreign policy.”

Oops! We read “Secretary’s Ethos statement” and we nearly fell off our chair like a drunken master.
Ay, caramba!
Bonus report below about the deputy secretary’s boss’ recent 17-minute speech at a city of 3,100 people in Florida and then you all can have a town hall meeting about how to ensure that the Department’s work is beyond reproach.
In any case, it sounds like employees who want to learn more  may attend a special training session by the Office of the Special Counsel scheduled for March 13 in Foggy Bottom. It doesn’t sound like senior State Department officials and advisers who are active and partisan on social media are required to attend the training session. State/D’s message only notes that he is attending the OSC’s session, and it is “a regularly scheduled session available to all employees.”

US Embassy Finland: Thinnest OIG Report Reveals Dysfunctional Relationship b/w Political Ambassador and DCM

 

The previous State/OIG Inspection Report of the US Embassy in Helsinki (PDF) is dated September 2011, 40 pages long, includes 22 recommendations and 38 informal recommendations. The newly released OIG Inspection Report of Embassy Helsinki at nine pages, including a list of four recommendations is probably the thinnest report we’ve ever read (PDF). The report notes that “The Ambassador and the DCM used their access to the senior levels of the Finnish Government to the benefit of the embassy’s foreign policy goals and objectives.” The report’s discussion on fopo goals and objectives occupied a third of a single page and we must admit, we’re not any wiser after reading it.
The Embassy Helsinki report dated December 2019 found four things:
    • Embassy leadership used their ready access to the senior-most levels of the Government of Finland to the benefit of U.S. foreign policy goals and objectives.
    • The Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission did not manage conflict between them in an appropriate manner, which resulted in a breakdown of trust and communication that complicated the chain of command and contributed to a stressful work environment for Embassy Helsinki staff.
    • Lack of teamwork and communication between Consular Section leadership and staff had a negative effect on productivity and morale.
    • The embassy lacked policies for some information management support services.
The chief of mission is Ambassador Robert Pence , a political ambassador who arrived in May 2018, the DCM is identified as senior FSO Donna Welton who arrived in August 2016. Post’s new DCM is listed as Deputy Chief of Mission Ian Campbell.
The “longest” part of the report is on Executive Direction.

The Chief of Mission was a first-time, non-career Ambassador who arrived in May 2018. The Ambassador was the founder and Chairman of the Board of a commercial real estate development company. The Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) was a career Senior Foreign Service officer who arrived in August 2016. A first-time DCM, she served as Chargé d’Affaires (Chargé) from January 2017 until the arrival of the current Ambassador in May 2018. She previously was detailed to the Department of Defense as the acting Director for Southeast Asia in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Policy). During the inspection, the DCM was in the process of transferring to her onward assignment and was scheduled to depart Helsinki on June 1, 2019.

OIG found that neither the Ambassador nor the DCM fully modeled the Department of State’s (Department) leadership and management principles outlined in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214. Embassy staff told OIG that, initially, the two leaders worked reasonably well together. However, about 9 months into the Ambassador’s tenure, their working relationship deteriorated. In separate discussions with the Ambassador and the DCM, OIG noted that there was profound disagreement between the two about what led to the breakdown. OIG received information about various issues that contributed to the poor relationship, but ultimately concluded that neither the Ambassador nor the DCM managed the conflict in an appropriate manner, as called for in 3 FAM 1214b(9). According to embassy staff interviewed by OIG, the conflict led to a breakdown of trust and communication between the Ambassador and DCM that complicated the chain of command and decision-making. The conflict also contributed to creating a stressful work environment for embassy staff. For example, because of the dysfunctional relationship between the Ambassador and DCM, staff stated that it was not always apparent to whom they should report and who was making decisions on particular issues. Senior staff members described themselves as “caught in the middle.”

OIG discussed with the DCM her role in the conflict and, related to one particular issue, advised her that, even though she had been serving as the Chargé and was in command at the embassy in the Ambassador’s absence, it would have been prudent for her to have consulted with the Ambassador before signing off on what she acknowledged to be an important and potentially controversial action. At the time of the inspection, she agreed. OIG concluded that the DCM’s approach on this issue contributed to the troubled working relationship.

In discussions with the Ambassador about the conflict, he told OIG that, with the DCM departing in a few weeks and a new DCM scheduled to arrive at the end of June 2019, he was confident that employee morale would improve. However, based on OIG’s interviews with U.S. direct hire employees and LE staff, OIG advised the Ambassador that elements of his leadership and management style also contributed to the stressful workplace environment. OIG encouraged the Ambassador to:

      • Meet regularly, substantively, and face-to-face with individual Department section and other agency heads to provide performance feedback and to determine how the Front Office could assist each section and agency to achieve the embassy’s goals.
      • Document his general instructions to all staff regarding the issues he expected to come to him for approval and how he wanted the information formatted and provided to him.
      • “Walk the halls” to observe and interact with the various sections so that he could better understand the embassy’s functions and operations. • Meet regularly with the leaders of the LE Staff Committee to understand and address the unique concerns of the LE staff.
      • Solicit formal feedback on embassy-wide performance and morale to obtain information to formulate specific actions to address employee concerns.

OIG also provided the Ambassador with Department tools to help chiefs of mission lead their embassies. These tools included the Department’s morale survey that is used to solicit feedback from staff and identify issues that are negatively affecting morale.4

 

Pompeo Gets Ratioed For Tweet of Er …Diverse Group of White Men on His Foreign Affairs Policy Board

So, typically, the more negative replies a tweet gets over likes or retweets, the worse it is. There’s even a word for it: #ratioed. Luke O’Neil  of Esquire explained The Ratio in an article titled “How to Know if You’ve Sent a Horrible Tweet.”
On December 16, the 70th secretary of state tweeted a photo of his Foreign Affairs Policy Board members, a collection of foreign policy advisors, all white men in a variety of smiles, ties, hairstyles, but no, not a diverse group as described on state.gov. The FAPB charter was most recently renewed in July 2019 according to the Federal register:

“The Foreign Affairs Policy Board provides the Secretary of State with advice, real-time feedback, and perspectives from outside leaders and innovators, in support of the Department formulation and execution of policy. It taps external expertise to provide advice and recommendations regarding critical challenges in the dynamic and competitive global environment in order to enhance the power and influence of American diplomacy.”

GSA’s Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) database includes a report for 2019 Current Fiscal Year Report: Foreign Affairs Policy Board with staff and per diem payments of $29,668.00 in current fiscal year, and expected payments of $47,000.00 for next fiscal year. The notation in the FACA database says:

“No formal reports have been produced for public distribution. Meetings are closed to the public due to the sensitive nature of discussions. Members of the Board have submitted materials for senior State Department officials eyes-only. In 2018, no official meetings of the Board took place. In FY2019, two meetings took place.”

Some informative points in this report via GSA which does not appear to be available on state.gov:

20a. How does the Committee accomplish its purpose?

The committee gathers to discuss major international issues and foreign policy challenges that the Secretary has chosen, based on the his belief that a diverse array of experienced outside voices can usefully support him as he works to address those specific challenges. Each meeting includes discussion on one or more topics that the Secretary has chosen, interaction with other senior Department officials, and an opportunity for the Board to provide perspectives and views developed and discussed during the meeting to the Secretary.

20b. How does the Committee balance its membership?

The members are distinguished figures from a range of backgrounds, including academia, NGOs, think tanks, business, and government–all of whom bring a unique perspective based on that background and long experience dealing with international issues from a range of perspectives. The selection of membership was in coordination with the Board’s Membership Balance Plan.

20c. How frequent and relevant are the Committee Meetings?

It is anticipated that the board will meet an estimated four times per year occurring approximately every 3-4 months.

20d. Why can’t the advice or information this committee provides be obtained elsewhere?

The committee is necessary to supplement the advice and support the Secretary gets from the Department with a broad range of diverse outside perspectives on major international issues.

20e. Why is it necessary to close and/or partially closed committee meetings?

The meetings must be closed because of the sensitive nature of discussed topics and materials, which are often classified.

Under most significant program outcomes associated with this committee? “Major policy changes” and “Others” were checked.
Under what other actions has the agency taken as a result of the committee’s advice or recommendation? Two radio buttons were checked: “Reorganized Priorities” and “Reallocated resources”.
Right.
Note that previous FAPB members from 2009-2017 were identified with official State Department bios; there were 5 female members out of 23 members.
Pompeo’s current FAPB members do not appear to be identified on the State Department website.  Their bios are also not available on state.gov. Nine appointees to the Board were identified in the 2019 FACA database; one female member and eight male appointees (also see below). All are classified as “Special Government Employee (SGE) Member.”
FAPB charter says that the Board is “comprised of no more than twenty-five members who have distinguished backgrounds in U.S. diplomacy, development and national security affairs.”
Members are appointed for 2 years or less, and with “the exception of travel and per diem for official travel, all Board members serve without compensation.”

 

From GSA Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) Database: 2019 Current Fiscal Year Report: Foreign Affairs Policy Board                                   (click on image to see full document)

 

Later, Mr. Pompeo tweeted about convening the Board. No photo this time, and it’s not/not intended to clean up the previous tweet, silly!

But he’s yearning for Kansas, so his personal account tweeted another photo with a diversity of smiles. Enjoy!

#

 

Afghanistan Papers: A secret history of the war #hardreading

 

 

Watchdogs’ Lawsuit Against Pompeo For Trump-Putin Notes Under Federal Records Act Moves Forward

 

Via American Oversight:

American Oversight and Democracy Forward, a pair of left-leaning watchdog groups, sued Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the State Department, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the archivist of the United States in June over the missing notes. The groups charge that Pompeo violated the Federal Records Act by allowing Trump to reportedly confiscate meeting notes prepared by State Department employees and for failing to preserve them.

In a ruling from the bench on Wednesday, Judge Trevor McFadden of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the government’s motion to dismiss the case.

The order by McFadden, a Trump appointee, means that the lawsuit will be allowed to move forward and gives the government until Jan. 10 to say whether Pompeo complied with federal records law or show why he was not obligated to do so. Pompeo will then have until the middle of March to produce the State Department’s record of evidence.

Read more below:

Highlighting Heroes: Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch Honors Her Oath

It is highly likely that the State Department will not include Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in its Highlighting Heroes initiative.  So we will do our own highlights here. No matter what is in the future for her, we and many others will remember her and honor her for her courage in speaking up first when it mattered most.
The secretary of state, proud … um defender of the rule of law only when convenient, told the committee Ambassador Yovanovitch may not attend the deposition without agency provided counsel (counsel that looks after the government not the employee’s interest), and the undersecretary for management, who oversees personnel at the State Department instructed her not to appear for a deposition. She was issued a congressional subpoena and appeared for her deposition and public testimony.
Her private counsel wrote to U/S Brian Bulatao: “Although the Ambassador has faithfully and consistently honored her professional duties as a State Department employee—including at all times following her abrupt termination as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine—she is unable to obey your most recent directive.”
Excerpt from The Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report

Despite President Trump’s explicit orders that no Executive Branch employees should cooperate with the House’s impeachment inquiry and efforts by federal agencies to limit the testimony of those who did, multiple key officials complied with duly authorized subpoenas and provided critical testimony at depositions and public hearings. These officials adhered to the rule of law and obeyed lawful subpoenas.

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Department of State
See PDF pp 245-247

On September 13, the Committees sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeking a transcribed interview with Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and other State Department officials.287

The Committees received no direct, substantive response to this letter. On September 27, the Committees sent a letter informing Secretary Pompeo that Ambassador Yovanovitch’s deposition was being scheduled on October 2, stating:

On September 13, the Committees wrote to request that you make State Department employees available for transcribed interviews. We asked you to provide, by September 20, dates by which the employees would be made available for transcribed interviews. You failed to comply with the Committees’ request.288

Also on September 27, the Committees sent a letter directly to Ambassador Yovanovitch seeking her appearance at a deposition on October 2.289

On October 1, Secretary Pompeo sent a letter to the Committees stating:

Therefore, the five officials subject to your letter may not attend any interview or deposition without counsel from the Executive Branch present to ensure that the Executive Branch’s constitutional authority to control the disclosure of confidential information, including deliberative matters and diplomatic communications, is not impaired.290

After further discussions with Ambassador Yovanovitch’s counsel, her deposition was rescheduled for October 11. On October 10, Brian Bulatao, the Under Secretary of State for Management, sent a letter to Ambassador Yovanovitch’s personal attorney directing Ambassador Yovanovitch not to appear for her deposition and enclosing Mr. Cipollone’s October 8 letter stating that President Trump and his Administration would not participate in the House’s impeachment inquiry. Mr. Bulatao’s letter stated:

Accordingly, in accordance with applicable law, I write on behalf of the Department of State, pursuant to the President’s instruction reflected in Mr. Cipollone’s letter, to instruct your client (as a current employee of the Department of State), consistent with Mr. Cipollone’s letter, not to appear before the Committees under the present circumstances.291

That same day, October 10, when asked whether he intended to block Ambassador Yovanovitch from testifying the next day, President Trump stated: “You know, I don’t think people should be allowed. You have to run a country, I don’t think you should be allowed to do that.”292

On the morning of Ambassador Yovanovitch’s deposition on October 11, the Committees sent a letter to her personal attorney transmitting a subpoena compelling her appearance, stating:

In light of recent attempts by the Administration to direct your client not to appear voluntarily for the deposition, the enclosed subpoena now compels your client’s mandatory appearance at today’s deposition on October 11, 2019.293

Later on October 11, Ambassador Yovanovitch’s personal attorney sent a letter to Mr. Bulatao, stating:

In my capacity as counsel for Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, I have received your letter of October 10, 2019, directing the Ambassador not to appear voluntarily for her scheduled deposition testimony on October 11, 2019 before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform in connection with the House of Representatives’s impeachment inquiry. Just this morning, the Ambassador received a subpoena issued by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, requiring her to appear for the deposition as scheduled. Although the Ambassador has faithfully and consistently honored her professional duties as a State Department employee—including at all times following her abrupt termination as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine—she is unable to obey your most recent directive. As the recipient of a duly issued congressional subpoena, Ambassador Yovanovitch is, in my judgment, legally obligated to attend the depositions as scheduled.294

Ambassador Yovanovitch participated in the deposition on October 11, in compliance with the Committees’ subpoena.295 During her deposition, Ambassador Yovanovitch’s personal attorney confirmed that “she received a direction by the Under Secretary to decline to appear voluntarily.”296

On November 15, the Committees transmitted a subpoena to Ambassador Yovanovitch compelling her to testify at a public hearing of the Intelligence Committee that same day.297 Ambassador Yovanovitch complied with the Committees’ subpoena and testified at the public hearing. During the hearing, Chairman Schiff acknowledged Ambassador Yovanovitch’s compliance, stating:

Ambassador, I want to thank you for your decades of service. I want to thank you, as Mr. Maloney said, for being the first one through the gap. What you did in coming forward and answering a lawful subpoena was to give courage to others that also witnessed wrongdoing, that they, too, could show the same courage that you have, that they could stand up, speak out, answer questions, they could endure whatever threats, insults may come their way. And so in your long and distinguished career you have done another great public service in answering the call of our subpoena and testifying before us today.298

@StateDept Releases First Ukraine-Related Documents Under FOIA

 

The State Department is about to get inundated once more with FOIA requests.  Anyone anticipating an “FOIA surge” this time around? You may download the documents here, the first set in a court-ordered document production via American Oversight.
The November 1 court order from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the State Department must search for and produce by November 22, 2019 records from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl containing any readouts or summaries of President Trump’s July call with the President of Ukraine.
We’ve looked through a hundred pages of these newly released documents, and while the most notable are the telephone calls between Mr. Giuliani and the secretary of state (two calls referred to in the Hale deposition), there does not appear to be any documents specific to readouts and summaries of the July 25 call.
So, how soon do you think before we’ll see those documents?

 

Impeachment Inquiry: Public Document Clearing House (Via JustSecurity)