Posted: 5:35 pm PT
Posted: 5:35 pm PT
Posted: 12:36 am ET
According to Government Executive more than one in four federal workers, or 28 percent, will definitely or possibly consider leaving their jobs after Jan. 20 when Trump is sworn into office and becomes leader of the executive branch, according to a new Government Business Council/GovExec.com poll. Sixty-five percent of feds say they will not consider ending their federal service.
Fear that the Trump Administration will trample on the Constitution and damage the political and moral fabric of our nation apparently prompted one Diplomatic Security agent to resign. There are approximately 2,000 Diplomatic Security agents. The State Department estimates that security officers will have the largest number of attrition for Foreign Service Specialist from FY2016-2020.
The letter below is by Supervisory DSS Agent TJ Lunardi, a career member of the Foreign Service who until last week was posted overseas. In a note to friends he shared his resignation letter with, Mr. Lunardi writes that he is sharing it in the hope that friends “might understand and respect” his choice, even if they “do not agree or support it”. Further, he writes, “the letter makes clear that, for me, this is not a question of politics or party, but one of personal adherence to the values I hold most dear”. We understand that this resignation letter was submitted to the State Department on January 19, 2017. A blog pal shared with us the letter which has been shared internally within the department. We’ve reached out to Mr. Lunardi who confirmed his authorship and expressed no objection with the publication of the letter in this blog. Mr. Lunardi’s resignation was effective on March 4, 2017.
The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, Northwest
Washington, District of Columbia 20520
Dear Mr. Secretary:
With deep regret, I must resign from my position as a Supervisory Special Agent of the Diplomatic Security Service. I cannot in good conscience serve in the Department of State under the incoming President, a man I believe to be a threat to our constitutional order.
For the last 17 years – the entirety of my professional life – I have been proud to work for the American people as a member of the Foreign Service. Without hesitation, I have done so under Presidents of both parties. Whether in Baghdad or Berlin, Washington or now in Kyiv, it has been an honor to carry the Diplomatic Security badge, a symbol of the special trust and confidence reposed in me by our fellow citizens to enforce our laws and defend our country’s values and interests. I love this Department, which has been my home, and the extraordinary men and women in it, so many of whom have become like family.
But I take nothing more seriously than my oath to support and defend the Constitution, to bear it true faith and allegiance, to well and faithfully discharge the duties of my office. Throughout my career, these obligations have guided my every action in service of our country. They are what compel me now to resign.
As an American, it is an article of my political faith that our Constitution binds the government and its leaders – and by extension all of us in public service – to guarantee certain unalienable rights: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, due process, and equal protection of the laws, among others. In his words and his deeds, Mr. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he little understands and less respects these tenets of our civic creed. He has threatened the independent media. He has called for the imposition of religious tests and the commission of war crimes. He has incited hatred and violence. He has mocked and bullied the most vulnerable among us. He has empowered racists and emboldened bigots. He has made open league with a despot who seeks to harm our national interests. He disregards and distorts the truth for no other apparent purpose than to maintain his followers in a frenzy of confusion and anger. These are not the acts of a liberal democratic leader. They point the way to authoritarianism, the slippery path to tyranny.
I have thus concluded that defending the Constitution and performing the duties of my office in an Executive Branch under Mr. Trump are incompatible. An honest adherence to my oath dictates that I withhold support from such a man and from the administration he will head. For me this is not a career choice, not something I would desire under normal circumstances. It is among the most difficult and painful decisions of my life. Nonetheless, it is a moral and ethical necessity in the face of someone I judge to be so clearly inimical to the values I have sworn to protect.
Some may counter that the threat posed by Mr. Trump calls for people of conscience to remain in the Department, to blunt his excesses, to resist his agenda. This may be a legitimate course for others, but I fear I lack the capacity for such a compromise. Tyranny encroaches when met with silence, and the graveyard of failed democracies is littered with the epitaphs of those who believed collaboration could moderate the evil of authoritarianism. Knowing these lessons, I cannot allow tacit accommodation of Mr. Trump’s administration to make me complicit in his assault on our Republic.
It is my fervent hope I will be proven wrong, that Mr. Trump will govern wisely, lawfully, and with respect for the Constitution – all of it, and not simply the parts convenient to his purposes. Unless and until he does, however, my place is with those who will oppose him, not those charged to carry out his policies. My oath, my honor, and my conscience demand nothing less of me, even if my heart wishes it could be otherwise.
Traveling the world with the Foreign Service, I have been blessed with the opportunity to reflect on how the fragile nation bequeathed by our Founders has grown to become a beacon of hope and progress, a bulwark against despotism. I am convinced it is the decency of our citizens, and their willingness to put our ideals ahead of their wants, that has made this country both great and fundamentally good. On the battlefields of Bunker Hill and Bastogne, in the jail cells of Occoquan, on Pettus Bridge and Christopher Street – ordinary citizens have written our extraordinary story through sacrifice and an unwavering faith in our constitutional principles.
The survival of our grand experiment in democracy once again depends on such acts of courage. And so I close with a citizen’s request to my friends and colleagues who remain in the Department: Remember and keep always before you the belief in our shared values which inspired you to serve the American people. Whenever you can, rise above the all-consuming daily bureaucratic scrum so that its rigors do not distract from an incremental acceptance of the morally unacceptable. Should the decisive moment come, hear and heed the call of conscience.
Through whatever trials lie ahead, I pray Providence will preserve the people and the Constitution of the United States.
Posted: 4:40 pm PT
In November 2013, Secretary Kerry flew to Maine to pick up his new yellow Labrador puppy, Ben from Frances Plessner of Puddleduck Boarding Kennel who spent two months training the dog. According to the Boston Globe, Ben is named in honor of Ben Franklin, also known as the “Father of the American Foreign Service.” (Also see Secretary Kerry Gets a New Dog, Now a State Dept. Dog is Tweeting, Who Needs the NSA?) Ben, whose Twitter handle says @Diplomutt has 3,131 followers but is not terribly social online. He has only tweeted
four six times, and followed only six accounts, all State Department-connected.
Now, he’s off to the beach to watch the sunset. And no goodbye tweets. Sad.
Posted: 3:33 pm PT
Posted: 5:47 pm PT
Secretary of State John Kerry together with former Secretaries of State Madeleine K. Albright, Colin L. Powell, and Hillary Rodham Clinton marked the completion of the U.S. Diplomacy Center Pavilion located at the State Department’s 21st Street Entrance on January 10 with a well-attended reception.
The U.S. Diplomacy Center (@DiplomacyCenter) will be a 40,000 square foot, state-of-the-art museum and education center dedicated to telling the story of American diplomacy. Visitors will explore the role of diplomacy through interactive exhibits, compelling artifacts, hands-on education programs, and diplomatic simulations. The Center’s goal is “to demonstrate the ways in which diplomacy matters now and has mattered throughout American history. Diplomacy and the work of our diplomats in over 250 embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic missions are vital to our nation’s power, image, and ability to advance its interests around the globe.”
The funds used for this project? The Department of State has a public-private partnership with the Diplomacy Center Foundation (DCF), founded by the late Senator Charles McC. Mathias, Ambassador Stephen Low and others. The costs for the construction of the museum and the fabrication of the exhibits are raised through a private sector capital campaign. The Department of State contributes space, staff and security for the Center. Taxpayers will not be paying for building the USDC; the center makes up less than .003% of the Department of State’s annual budget.
Here is a bit of history on the Center via the Foundation:
Foreign Service Ambassador Stephen Low (1927 — 2010) and Senator Charles “Mac” Mathias, R-MD (1922-2010) formed the Foreign Affairs Museum Council (FAMC), a nonprofit organization, to help build the first facility dedicated to American diplomacy in the United States and to raise funds from the private sector for the project. In 2013 the FAMC Board of Directors changed the name to Diplomacy Center Foundation. […] In 1999, Ambassador Low and Senator Mathias met with Secretary Madeleine K. Albright about their vision for a museum and education center of American diplomacy. Secretary Albright recognized the need and decreed that the museum should be located at the Department of State.
In 2010, Secretary Clinton appointed Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, Ambassador to Portugal, retired, to lead the fund-raising efforts on behalf of the Department. Simultaneously, the leadership of the Foreign Affairs Museum Council was assumed by William C. Harrop, a career Foreign Service Officer who had served as United States Ambassador to five countries. To date, $47.5 million of private sector funds have been raised from corporations, foundation and individuals toward the $55 million needed to build the Center. Under this new Pavilion will be the Founding Ambassadors Concourse where educational conferences, symposia and other USDC events will take place. The Founding Ambassadors initiative is led by Stuart A. Bernstein, Ambassador to Denmark, retired.
Posted: 1:32 pm ET
The 68th Secretary of State, John F. Kerry, today, apologized on behalf of the State Department for the discrimination of employees and applicants based on sexual orientation. Below is his statement:
Throughout my career, including as Secretary of State, I have stood strongly in support of the LGBTI community, recognizing that respect for human rights must include respect for all individuals. LGBTI employees serve as proud members of the State Department and valued colleagues dedicated to the service of our country. For the past several years, the Department has pressed for the families of LGBTI officers to have the same protections overseas as families of other officers. In 2015, to further promote LGBTI rights throughout the world, I appointed the first ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons.
In the past – as far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades – the Department of State was among many public and private employers that discriminated against employees and job applicants on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, forcing some employees to resign or refusing to hire certain applicants in the first place. These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today.
On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past and reaffirm the Department’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community.
For the historical discrimination that spanned decades, this has been a long time coming. We are pleased to see this public apology. ADST’s Oral History notes that in the 1950s and 60s, “security within the U.S. government, including the State Department, was on high alert for internal risks, particularly Communists and what were considered to be sexual deviants—homosexuals and promiscuous individuals. Investigating homosexuality became a core function of the Department’s Office of Security, which ferreted out more people for homosexuality than for being a Communist.”
In 1950, a subcommittee chaired by Maryland Senator Millard Tydings convened to investigate Joseph McCarthy’s notorious list of “205 known communists.” Tydings worked to discredit McCarthy’s claim, but, in the process, the subcommittee concluded that the State Department was overrun with “sexual perverts,” part of the so-called “Lavender Scare.”
During the hearings, Nebraska Senator Kenneth Wherry memorably claimed that as many as 3,000 homosexuals were employed at State. By the end of 1950, 600 people had been dismissed from positions at the State Department on morals charges. In 1973 a federal judge ruled that a person’s sexual orientation alone could not be the sole reason for termination from federal employment; two years later, the Civil Service Commission announced that it would consider applications by gays and lesbians on a case-by-case basis.
Posted: 1:13 am ET
Back in 2013, when Secretary Kerry was on his first trip overseas, D.B. Des Roches, an associate professor at the Near East South Asia Institute for Strategic Studies published a commentary about Secretary Kerry’s trip and the current ‘success’ metric.
Most recent secretaries have considered travel to be the measure of their terms. When Hillary Clinton returned to work from hospitalization, her staff gave her a football jersey with “112” on it – reflecting the number of countries she had visited. Republicans retorted that Condoleezza Rice still held the record for most miles logged.
This focus on secretary of state travel as a measure of dedication, efficiency and competence is dysfunctional. We should decide, as Mr. Kerry’s first trip (to Europe and the Middle East) gets underway, to abandon this harmful metric and evaluate diplomacy in a way that acknowledges its complexity.
The writer made some excellent points, of course, and everybody paid attention.
Secretary Kerry has now traveled to 91 countries, logging in 1,395,606 miles, 588 travel days and 2,995.94 hours of total flight time as of this writing. It’s only a matter of time before somebody will have a compare/contrast infographic of the secretaries of state’s travel records from Kissinger to Kerry.
Recently, Gerald M. Fierstein — who was President Obama’s Ambassador to Yemen from 2010 to 2013 and who worked under Secretary Kerry until his retirement in 2016 — penned a similar piece urging the next secretary of state to well, “stay home.” Ambassador Fierstein also points to a most consequential cost when the secretary of state is often on the road. Excerpt via Reuters:
As President Barack Obama’s tenure draws to a close, Washington is turning its attention to one of its silliest traditions: toting up the travel statistics of the outgoing secretary of state, as if miles traveled correlated to diplomatic achievement.
In his four years as secretary of state, John Kerry has thus far (he still has six weeks left) traveled over 1.3 million miles and spent 564 days – nearly one-third of his time as Secretary – on the road. Although this easily surpasses Hillary Clinton’s 956,733 miles and 401 days, Kerry will not be able to match Mrs. Clinton’s record of 112 countries visited. Alas, Mr. Kerry will only make it to 90 countries during his tenure.
If this were simply a matter of the secretary undertaking quixotic missions with little to show for them, it would probably not be an issue worthy of much attention. But there are costs to U.S. foreign policy interests that are imposed by the secretary’s frequent absences from Washington.
When the secretary is on the road, he is not at the table when the president makes decisions that directly affect foreign policy. Equally, since other senior diplomats are frequently on the road, the State Department often does not have an equal voice with the other Cabinet departments in the National Security Council meetings. The net result is an imbalance between diplomatic options and military or intelligence community preferences.
Read in full below:
Posted: 12:50 am ET
Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry has travelled the most number of miles at 1,395,606 than any other secretary of state. He has also spent the most number of days on the road as America’s top diplomat (588 days to Clinton’s 401) but apparently Henry Kissinger still holds the record at 200 for the most number of countries visited by a secretary of state; Kerry visited 91 countries while Clinton’s record is 112 countries.
Nonetheless, we doubt if Secretary Kissinger’s travels were as immortalized as Secretary Kerry’s many travel adventures. From getting lost in the Gobi Desert to escaping being cooked alive by the cannibals of the Isle of Embers, America’s Finest News Source covered the secretary of state’s travels with admirable dedication. Here are some favorites via The Onion:
BANGKOK, THAILAND—Spitting out a broken tooth as his opponent lay motionless on the bare cement floor, a battered Secretary of State John Kerry emerged victorious Wednesday evening from an underground kickboxing tournament at Bangkok’s notorious Bang Kwang Central Prison, sources reported.
PANGSAU, MYANMAR—Thinking quickly to thwart disaster as he ventured deep into the Myanmar rainforest to meet with State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi, Secretary of State John Kerry threw a vine over a pit of quicksand to save the life of his 12-year-old Moroccan companion, Drumstick, sources confirmed Monday.
BOGDARNYA, RUSSIA—Working frantically to gain access to the system’s override settings at the computer terminal controlling the impending implosion, Secretary of State John Kerry scrambled to stop the self-destruct sequence of an underground bunker located thousands of feet below the Russian countryside Tuesday while oligarch Dmitry Granovsky taunted him from the numerous banks of monitors positioned throughout the facility, sources confirmed.
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA—Telling the U.S. secretary of state this was his final chance to hand over the briefcase he had been pursuing for months, Malaysian ambassador Dato’ Seri Halim Wan Salleh reportedly promised John Kerry he would spare his life in return for the item Friday as he held the dangling American statesman over the side of the Petronas Towers Skybridge.
LOW EARTH ORBIT—Having stowed away aboard a Soyuz resupply rocket and silently slipped into the International Space Station as part of a high-level fact-finding mission, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly found himself forced to jettison two Russian henchmen from an airlock Monday after being set upon by the thugs in an ambush that resulted in a violent zero-gravity struggle to the death.
NOVOSINKOVO, RUSSIA—Staring directly into the drooping eyes of the woozy, flushed henchman sitting across from him in the back room of a dimly lit tavern, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly downed another vodka shot Sunday night as the last of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s security detail passed out beside him.
KINGDOM OF GOLDEN SANDS—Throwing herself in front of her beloved U.S. secretary of state as the royal executioner raised his scimitar, Princess Amirah of Arabia reportedly begged her father the sultan Friday to spare John Kerry’s life.
THE ISLE OF EMBERS—With the natives’ drumbeats suddenly falling silent as a mysterious midday darkness rolled across the island, sources confirmed that a solar eclipse occurred just in time Friday to stop imperiled U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry from being cooked alive by cannibals.
KIEV, UKRAINE—Following his overnight arrival in Ukraine amid the escalating regional tensions over the the Crimean peninsula, sources confirmed seeing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wearing a trench coat and cloaked in shadows at the back of a seedy, smoke-filled Kiev café Tuesday while reportedly awaiting a woman known to him only as Dasha.
SOUTHERN MONGOLIA—After failing to arrive at his destination in the Middle East this week for diplomatic talks with state leaders, sources confirmed that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had inadvertently traveled to Central Asia and is currently lost somewhere in the Gobi Desert.
Posted: 5:13 pm PT