@StateDept Updates FAM For Reporting Domestic Violence — See What’s Missing?

Posted: 12:19 am ET


We recently blogged about a diplomat from the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations in New York who is accused of punching his wife but is shielded from arrest by diplomatic immunity (see Manhattan DA Wants Diplomatic Immunity For UN German Diplomat Revoked). How do diplomatic missions handle cases of domestic abuse? According to the AP, the German Foreign Ministry spokesman declined to comment on the allegations and said he wasn’t aware of any request to lift the diplomat’s immunity.

In July 2016, the State Department updated its Foreign Affairs Manual for reporting domestic violence. First, let’s note that the words used in this update is not/not “must” which is mandatory but “should” which simply implies recommendation and advice. “Any person who suspects an employee is involved in domestic violence should report such information…”  Also, let’s note that if the initial report is substantiated, all eight possible actions cited in the updated regs uses the word “may,” which means they’re all recommended optional actions.  For instance, if a report is substantiated, Diplomatic Security “may” refer information to the Bureau of Human Resources (HR) for disciplinary action. Or it may not.

Second, according to 3 FAM 1810,  the Chief of Mission or Principal Officer overseas is responsible for designating a family advocacy officer (FAO) at post, normally the deputy chief of mission (DCM), or the second-in-command at posts where there is no DCM.  Here’s a question: What happens if the perpetrator of domestic violence is the Chief of Mission or the Principal Officer? The DCM, who reports to the ambassador, picks up the phone and convenes the family advocacy team at post which includes the Foreign Service Medical Officer (FSMO), and the Regional Security Officer (RSO). Then one of them calls up the State Department to report the abusive ambassador because the regs say they should?  (Apparently, although not listed, the Regional Medical Officer/Psychiatrist (RMO/P) could also be part of the advocacy team at post).

A DCM would not wash his/her hands on something disgraceful as this, would he/would she? The Medical Officer would not suddenly go on vacation somewhere, right? It would not take um … weeks for Foggy Bottom’s Family Advocacy Committee to provide guidance to post, right?

And, of course, the embassy’s family advocacy folks would protect the ambassador’s spouse because it’s the right thing to do, RIGHT?

Domestic violence affects all people regardless of age, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. Despite what you might think, the Foreign Service is not an exception.  Physical violence is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior as part of a much larger, systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence can result not only in physical injury but also psychological trauma, even death.

And yet, the Foreign Affairs Manual appears to be written by folks who could not seem to contemplate that a chief of mission (COM) can cause physical and mental injury to his/her spouse.  Embassies are not democracies; this FAM update offers no protection to the spouse of the most senior official at an embassy. Its language is all bark, and the bite for everyone else — like most things in the Foreign Service —  falls into the “it depends” bucket.

Below is an excerpt from the FAM:

3 FAM 1815.1  Reporting Domestic Violence
(CT:PER-824;   07-19-2016)
(Uniform State/USAID/Commerce/USDA/and Other Participating Agencies)
(Applies to All Civil Service Employees, Foreign Service Employees, and Locally Employed Staff)

a. Domestic violence can often involve criminal misconduct (e.g., assault, battery, rape) and the Department considers it notoriously disgraceful conduct (see 3 FAM 4139.14).  As such, it is grounds for taking disciplinary action against an employee.  Any supervisor or other management official who is aware of incidents or allegations, which may serve as grounds for disciplinary action against an employee, is responsible for taking action on or reporting such incidents or allegations (see 3 FAM 4322.1).

b. In cases where there is evidence or allegations of criminal misconduct, as noted in paragraph a of this section, the Office of Special Investigations(DS/DO/OSI) will coordinate with the Department of Justice and/or U.S. Attorney’s office to determine if the actions reported warrant criminal prosecution.

c.   At post, any person who suspects an employee is involved in domestic violence should report such information to the family advocacy officer (FAO) at post.  The FAO must take the actions required by this section.

d. At the Department locations in the United States, any person who suspects an employee is involved in domestic violence should report such information to DS/DO/OSI.

3 FAM 1815.2  Post Action and Department Guidance
(CT:PER-824;   07-19-2016)
(Uniform State/USAID/Commerce/USDA/and Other Participating Agencies)
(Applies to All Civil Service Employees, Foreign Service Employees, and Locally Employed Staff)

a. Upon receiving a report or obtaining information pertaining to a suspected case of domestic violence, the family advocacy officer (FAO) must immediately consult with the family advocacy team at post.  The family advocacy team must immediately assess and address any health and safety concerns for the victim and the victim’s children, if any.  Where necessary, promptly schedule with the Foreign Service medical officer (FSMO) medical and/or mental health examinations and/or consultations for persons covered under the Department’s medical program.  Prompt and accurate recording of medical information, interviews and, when possible, the collection of physical evidence and photographs documenting physical injuries is critical in all cases.

b. A member of the family advocacy team must immediately contact the Office of Special Investigations (DS/DO/OSI) telephonically and provide, normally within 24 hours, an initial written report containing available information.  The Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) is to share such information with the Family Advocacy Committee.

c.  The Family Advocacy Committee assesses the information and provides guidance to post.  Each case of suspected domestic violence must be handled on a case-by-case basis, depending upon the nature of the allegations.  If the initial report is unsubstantiated or if the allegations do not constitute domestic violence, no further action is required.  The matter is considered closed and the files are annotated accordingly.

d. If the initial report is substantiated, action may include one or more of the following:

(1)  Post may call upon local authorities or resources in certain cases;

(2)  DS may dispatch an investigative team to post, and a criminal investigation may be undertaken;

(3)  DS may coordinate with the cognizant legal authorities about prosecution of the case;

(4)  Post may be asked to conduct follow-up inquiries and interviews;

(5)  Post may be asked to call upon shelter and child protection resources or find alternative shelter within the post community for the victim and any children;

(6)  The FSMO may be asked to determine whether counseling or other medical services are needed and recommend a treatment plan.  If required treatment is not available at post, medical evacuation or curtailment of the employee may be considered or ordered;

(7)  The Family Advocacy Committee may coordinate referrals to crime victim assistance programs specializing in domestic violence and crime victim compensation programs; and

(8)  DS may refer information to the Bureau of Human Resources (HR) for disciplinary action.

Per 3 FAM 1810 domestic violence is any act or threat of imminent violence against a victim (other than a child) that results or threatens to result in physical or mental injury to the victim that is committed by a: (1)  Spouse or former spouse of the victim; (2)  Person with whom the victim shares a child in common; (3)  Person who is co-habitating with or has co-habitated with the victim; (4)  Person residing in the household; or (5)  Any person who has a relationship with the victim and has access to the victim’s household.

Below is Leslie Morgan Steiner talking about “crazy love” via TED — that is, madly in love with a man who routinely abused her and threatened her life. Steiner tells the story of her relationship, correcting misconceptions many people hold about victims of domestic violence, and explaining how we can all help break the silence.


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Dear @JohnKerry: One of Your Foggy Bottom Folks Is Asking — Is This Diversity?

Posted: 1:25 pm ET
Note: In an ideal, healthy organization, this letter would be signed by the author and you’d be reading this and discussing creative solutions on the Secretary’s Sounding Board.  What is clear to us is that the fears of reprisal/retaliation are real. This anonymous letter is one more proof of that.  Except for the four active hyperlinks we’ve added to help readers, the text and photo below are published below as received —


From an anonymous DS Employee: Is This Diversity?

A poignant piece in the President’s Memorandum on Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in the National Security Workforce was the conclusion that “In broad comparison with the wider Federal Government, the federal workforce dedicated to our national security and foreign policy is – on average – less diverse, including at the highest levels.”  Unfortunately, when it comes to the highest levels of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) diversity is not only less than the average – – it is nonexistent!


A review of the facts.

DS senior leadership is composed of an Assistant Secretary, a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, seven Deputy Assistant Secretaries, an Executive Director, and a Coordinator for Security Infrastructure.  Four years ago all of these positions with the exception of the AS were held by active Senior Foreign Service and Senior Executive Service officers.  Two positions were held by female officers and one by a African-American officer.  In the past three years, all three minority members either retired or moved into other positions outside of DS.  Eight of the ten senior leadership positions have become vacant during that time, some more than once, and the current PDAS – Bill Miller, who became subject to Time-in-Class (TIC) restrictions and left active service – was appointed into the PDAS role.

Of the ten opportunities that DS has had to select officers to fill vacancies at the Bureau’s senior-most positions it has consistently selected Caucasian male officers. DS went from a Bureau that from a diversity standpoint was about where the rest of the government is now – less diverse than the average – to one that is now all white, all male, all the time.

We have witnessed the cleansing of DS over the past three years.  It is troubling, and, it should be raising alarm bells throughout the Department.

But is it not.

Instead, the Department is preparing to reward DSS Director Miller with a third appointment year as PDAS of DS.  Furthermore, DS is now expanding the practice of appointing officers subject to TIC up or out restrictions into positions formerly held exclusively by active SFS officers with the appointment of the outgoing Overseas Security Advisory Council Office Director into his own position, as an appointee. This was accomplished quietly, with the Department’s concurrence, devoid of any semblance of transparency.

The lack diversity is not limited to the FE-MC/OC and SES level officers who make up DS’s Senior Leadership.  It also extends to the subordinate staffs.  Unlike the Assistant Secretary’s DS Front Office, which to Gregory Starr’s credit has consistent been composed of a highly qualified and richly diverse staff, the PDAS’ DSS FO has been anything but.  To this day, the DSS FO staff with the exception of the Office Manager consists of…all white males.  One DS Senior sets a model for the Bureau to emulate, the other projects a do as I say not as I do standard.

In May, PDAS Miller brought most of the DS leadership from around the globe to the Department for a two-day leadership forum.  On day two he showcased his all-white, all-male team of seniors on the dais for a full day of Q&As. The one area the PDAS and the rest in the dais were unprepared to discuss were the stream of questions on the topic of diversity that were raised throughout the day and which went largely unaddressed.

It is difficult to reconcile Director General Arnold Chacon’s statements about Department values and principles, and ensuring that the Department’s workforce reflect the nation’s richness and diversity, when matched against the reality of the past three years within DS.  Even more difficult considering that all senior-most assignments in DS require the approval of Department Seniors.

In response, the Department should:

  • first and foremost, acknowledge that there is an appalling lack of diversity in the senior-most ranks of DS that should jar the Department’s Leadership into action to identity immediate steps to rectify the issue;
  • either instill a sense of urgency in current DS Leadership on the topic or allow the next set of leaders to rise to the top positions, with a renewed sense of purpose and focus that truly embraces the ideals that the Department publishes;
  • if the current PDAS is to remain in place for another year, an officer from the Office of Civil Rights should be permanently assigned to his Front Office to help guide him on matters of inclusivity and diversity;
  • mandate that DS develop and publicly publish a comprehensive diversity strategy;
  • understand that it shares in the responsibility for the current state within DS;
  • also, understand the likelihood that this letter will evoke a backlash from those who have been criticized and take steps to guard against the potential for retribution.
A series of conscious decisions led to the current state of DS. This is written in part as a call for accountability. It is also written in the hope that it will trigger action and a sense among the increasingly disenfranchised segment of DS that it is ok to voice concern even when aimed at our most senior leadership.
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Why Did Diplomatic Security Compile a Short-List of DS Agents Leaving For the U.S. Marshals Service?

Posted: 3:30 am ET


On October 4, we wrote about DS agents fleeing Diplomatic Security in droves for the U.S. Marshals Service.  On October 14, we did a follow-up piece, Is Diplomatic Security, the State Department’s Law Enforcement Arm Trying to Break the Law? Today, we’ll talk about the list.

As we’ve previously reported, in addition to the alleged warning that DS agents who leave for the U.S. Marshals will not be allowed back into the agency (contrary to 5 USC § 2302(b) and 3 FAM 2130), a State Department official speaking on background shared with us a short-list of DS agents leaving the bureau for the U.S. Marshals Service. The list is allegedly compiled at the direction of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Front Office. We were given the names of the people allegedly involved in this mess but we do not have a paper trail of who said what to who, or who did what for whom so we are not publishing those names at this time. There should be record emails if/when Inspector General Linick decides to look into this matter.

The List:  Where did it come from?

A source with detailed knowledge of the USMS lateral hiring program told us that USMS HR sent out an email but did not blind carbon copy (BCC) the distribution.  It was therefore easy to recognize many names as well as identify agency affiliation as some folks did use their state.gov email addresses. Our source suggested that this same email could have made its way to the DS Front Office and may have been the origin of the list. Even granted that this might have been what actually happened, somebody still had to compile that list.

The 30 names on the list includes 19 Special Agents (SA) assigned domestically, 6 Assistant Regional Security Officers (ARSO) assigned overseas, 1 agent from an unidentified office and 4 agents with the Mobile Security Deployments (MSD).  We don’t know how many agents from this list have now successfully transferred to USMS but we’ve since learned that two of the first agents to leave were just given Superior Honor awards for a human trafficking case. So let’s dispel with the notion that these folks walking out the door are  low-performers.

The list is on a 6-column spreadsheet, and includes each DS agent’s name, current assignment, future rotational assignment and/or TED dates.  While there is great concern that the list has a retaliatory intent, we have to grant that there could be other reasons for the bureau to compile such a list. But what? That’s why we asked Diplomatic Security 1) why this list was compiled, 2) what is its purpose, and 3) why DS/IP is reportedly consulting this list during pre-assignment deliberations? But the bureau was mum on this and we received the same non-response to our questions:

“Thank you for your query. We will have no additional comments on this.” 

We’ve sharpied out the last names and all locations outside of DC from the list below because these folks could be easily identifiable in overseas posts and non-DC domestic locations.  If the list was born from a USMS HR email, the other details below particularly rotation information could have only come from State Department systems.



The List: What is it for?

It is alleged that the purpose of this list is retaliation. Whether real or perceived, we understand that there are agents with conditional offers who are now considering withdrawal from the USMS process for fear of being blacklisted or blackballed when it comes to promotions and assignments.  The State Department official who shared the list with us also mentioned assignments and promotions as real concerns and said that though this may sound petty, the bureau can retaliate against these agents through denial of domestic assignments to areas where their families live, denial of overseas assignments, denial of extensions to those assignments, as well as denial of tenure or promotions, etc. The official admits that there is “nothing concrete to support this assumption, just the overall experience of how the game goes.”  That comment in itself is concerning.  It indicates that retaliation is not an isolated action within the bureau, but something that employees view as part of the system and even come to expect as part of a “normal” institutional reaction.

We’ve learned that as concerns for this list mounted later this summer, one official associated with the compilation of this list was removed from his position and a DS Broadcast announced that “effective immediately” a new agent was filling his position. Whether the removal was just coincidence, it did not seem to abate the concerns and fears about the list.

One might argue — and we’re trying hard to find a good argument here — that perhaps the list is just a heads up to the top leadership about folks the bureau is losing to the U.S. Marshals Service.  Or maybe the list was just a harmless “hey look at these co-workers we have to send congratulation cards to.” Okay. Fine. But as far as we know, no one from the top leadership has explained the reason for the list even as it has roiled its rank and file. And there was that alleged warning at UNGA.

Also two things:

#1.  The compiled list is not/not of all DS agents leaving the bureau, but specifically, of all agents leaving the bureau for the U.S. Marshals Service. So they’re not looking at say, a projected attrition data but at a clearly defined group of employees.

#2. DS/IP, the office who has a final say on where agents end up overseas is allegedly consulting this list during pre-assignment consultations/deliberations. Whether true or not, that’s the story racing down the corridors.

So why did Diplomatic Security compile a short-list of DS agents leaving for the U.S. Marshals Service?  We have no good answer. And Diplomatic Security refuses to say. If  there’s a perfectly good reason for all this, the top leadership at Diplomatic Security has not done anything to address the real concerns that people have.

Blowing Up the Security Officers’ Attrition Rate

We were previously told by PA that the overall Special Agent attrition rate for 2015 was 3.66%.  We have since learned that this attrition rate is incorrect as this does not include the number of agents who leave DS for other federal agencies.

According to the State Department’s recently published data, the average annual attrition rate for security officers between 2011-2015 is 58 employees. This is the highest among Foreign Service specialists, by the way, followed by Office Management Specialists (OMS).  With a total force of approximately 2,000 special agents (including nearly 800 special agents posted in regional security offices at over 250 posts worldwide) that makes the average attrition rate in the last five years at 2.9%. The State Department projected that it will have an overall attrition of 296 (retirements and non–retirements) from FY2016 to FY2020; an annual average the next five years of 59 individuals or 2.9%. Note that since we’re using approximate and not the exact number of security officers, these numbers may be slightly off.

The departures for the U.S. Marshals Service would certainly spike that attrition number.  The USMS departures if/when concluded this year would already constitute 55% of the average annual attrition rate and could bump up this year’s attrition rate to 4.4%.  Except that if unconfirmed reports are true, these departures could go higher.  Apparently, there are also agents taking GS-9 and GS-10, entry-level positions with other law enforcement agencies.  We believed that the largest pool of security officers is in the  FS-03 rank which is equivalent in pay to GS-12/13. So if true that folks are taking a pay cut just so they could transfer to other agencies, there’s an even bigger problem at play here. Also how Diplomatic Security handle these departures could potentially have an impact on its projected attrition in the next five years.


via state.gov




Why no appropriate staffing for High Threat Posts? Here is one answer; you may not like it!

Posted: 3:14 pm PT

Updated: 9:25 pm EST
HTP/Africa #1:  One high threat post in Africa should have 3 Regional Security Officers (RSOs).  One rotated out of the position with no replacement. Then there were 2 RSOs. One went on medical evacuation. Then there was 1 RSO. “D.C. Has sent some TDY support when they can, but another permanent RSO is not coming for months.”

Updated: Oct 16, 2016 6:55 pm EST
HTP/Africa #2:  Serving at an HTP Africa post and our Regional Security Office is understaffed and has been for ages. For a while we had the ARSO as our only full time RSO with a lot of TDY coming through but we never had the mandated three RSOs in the office. It would seem the ARSO is good at their job but don’t we deserve an actual RSO at the helm if we are a High Threat Post?

Last week, we received a Burn Bag asking, “Why are our most threatened missions not getting appropriate security staffing?” We are reposting the Burn Bag item below:

“Someone  needs to ask DS leadership why the bureau with the greatest growth  since Nairobi and Benghazi is not fully staffing it’s positions at High Threat  Posts.  I mean DS created an entire new office to manage High Threat posts so  why are our most threatened missions not getting appropriate security staffing? At my post, which is designated as Hight Threat, the two ARSO positions have  been vacant for more than a year.   I understand from colleagues that numerous  other posts have similar significant security staffing gaps.  DS agents leaving for agencies (as reported by Diplopundit) is not going to help what appears to be a significant DS personnel shortage.  Does DS  or the Department have a plan to fix whatever the issues are?”

One reason why Diplomatic Security is not fully staffing its vacancies at High Threat Posts maybe that it is refusing to panel agents who came back through the reinstatement process. Even if those agents have apparently told DS that they are willing to fill these critical need vacancies.

We are now just learning that prior to this mass departures of DS agents for the U.S. Marshals Service (where there was a warning that departing agents will not be allowed back) Diplomatic Security has already refused to panel agents who came back to Diplomatic Security through the reinstatement process. We understand that the Bureau of Human Resources has processed these employees for reinstatement, but Diplomatic Security is refusing to panel the reappointed employees for High Threat priority staffing positions where there are unfilled positions. For those not in the FS, an Assignment Panel is established for the  purpose of reviewing the bids and qualifications of employees for assignment to domestic and overseas positions, and make recommendations on who should go where.

So there are HTP posts with vacancies, there are folks willing to go, but DS refuses to consider these folks for the HTP vacancies. Does that even make sense? We would loved to have Diplomatic Security elaborate their thinking on this. No, not because we are nosy but because even insider folks cannot make heads or tails of what’s going on. And because we have reporting from at least one HTP post saying hey, we are in an HTP post and our two vacancies for security officers have been unfilled for over a year!  Over a year! How many other HTP posts are in a similar pickle? We are collecting information on how many HTP posts  have not been fully staffed. Contact us here.


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POTUS Issues Memo Promoting Diversity and Inclusion, and @StateDept Sounds Like Baghdad Bob

Posted: 1:47 am ET


On October 5, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum on Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in the National Security Workforce. Below is an excerpt:

Currently, more than three million military and civilian personnel in the U.S. Government are engaged in protecting the country and advancing our interests abroad, through diplomacy, development, defense, intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security.  In broad comparison with the wider Federal Government, the federal workforce dedicated to our national security and foreign policy is – on average – less diverse, including at the highest levels.

While this data does not necessarily indicate the existence of barriers to equal employment opportunity, the Presidential Memorandum outlines a number of actions that will allow departments and agencies to better leverage the diversity and inclusion of the federal workforce, consistent with the existing merit system and applicable law, including:

#Collection, analysis, and dissemination of workforce data: Data is an essential tool to help departments and agencies identify workforce talent gaps, assess the efficiency and effectiveness of their diversity and inclusion efforts, and promote transparency and accountability. The memorandum provides guidance for departments and agencies to make key workforce data available to the general public, provide an annual report to their leadership and workforce on the status of diversity and inclusion efforts, expand the use of applicant flow data to assess the fairness and inclusiveness of their recruitment efforts, and identify any additional demographic categories they recommend for voluntary data collection.

#Provision of professional development opportunities and tools consistent with merit system principles: Providing access to professional development opportunities consistent with merit system principles is a key element to retaining and developing a diverse and inclusive workforce. The memorandum directs departments and agencies to engage their workforce through regular interviews to understand their views on workplace policies and why they choose to stay or leave, prioritize the expansion of professional development opportunities including programs specifically designed to develop the next generation of career senior executives, and implement a review process for decisions related to certain assignment or geographic restrictions.

# Strengthening of leadership engagement and accountability: The memorandum recognizes the critical role that senior leadership and supervisors play in fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce and cultivating talent consistent with merit system principles. It encourages departments and agencies to reward and recognize efforts by senior leaders and supervisors to participate in mentorship, sponsorship, and recruitment; to disseminate voluntary demographic data for external committee and boards that advise the leadership of an agency; and to expand the provision of training on implicit or unconscious bias, inclusion, and flexible work policies.

The full text of the memo is available here.

The State Department’s top HR person Arnold Chacon forwarded President Obama’s message to agency employees encouraging them to read the memo and learn of government-wide efforts:

Today the President issued a new Presidential Memorandum providing guidance on the implementation of policies to promote diversity and inclusion in the national security workforce. Under the leadership of Deputy Secretary Higginbottom the Department has been an integral part of this effort. It’s consistent with our values and the principles enshrined in the Foreign Service Act of 1980 and other legislation. As outlined in the QDDR under Secretary Kerry’s leadership, we’ll continue to work to promote a diverse, capable, agile workforce that can advance America’s interests and values in the 21st century.

I believe strongly that we have no greater resource than our people. As the face of America to the world, we have a responsibility to ensure the Department’s workforce reflects our nation’s richness and diversity. I encourage you to read the White House fact sheet below and the Presidential Memorandum to learn more about government-wide efforts to strengthen diversity and inclusion at all levels.

Waaaaa! When the State Department sounds like Baghdad Bob!

The statement says, this has been so “consistent with our values and the principles enshrined in the Foreign Service Act of 1980” that it was impossible to pry the gender and diversity data from the State Department (a 2013 stats was made available to AFSA). For years we’re been looking at the State Department to make available publicly its diversity statistics, most particularly the gender and race component of its promotion statistics (see related posts below). Somebody from Secretary Kerry’s office once told us he would look into it and then we never heard anything back despite periodic reminders.  Data is available annually, just not available publicly.

Last April 2016, the Senate passed a bill (introduced in June 2015) that would require the State Department to report on diversity recruitment, employment, retention, and promotion.  That same month, just days before the Senate passed S.1635, the State Department dumped online its promotion data for 2015 (see @StateDept Dumps Online the 2015 FS Promotion Statistics Including Diversity Data, Have a Look!). The way HR presented this data –particularly the one on diversity and cone — is enough to give you migraine.  But what happened to the previous years’ data? Is the State Department going to wait until Congress forces it to publish promotion data going back three fiscal years?

Patricia Kushlish of WhirledView wrote two posts Lies, Damned lies and non-comparable statistics: reporting diversity at the State Department and More than Undiplomatic Moments: State’s Diversity Record Remains Behind a Hard Line that are both worth a read.


Talking the Talk, But Where’s the Walk?

The DGHR cites “the leadership of Deputy Secretary Higginbottom” his boss’s boss and the State Department as “an integral part of this effort.” He further cites “the QDDR under Secretary Kerry’s leadership” as the State Department “continue to work to promote a diverse, capable, agile workforce that can advance America’s interests and values in the 21st century.”

Look, first — remember back in 2014 we posted about FSO Margot Carrington’s paper on Advancement for Women at State: Learning From Best Practices? That report was written during a sabbatical sponsored by the Una Chapman Cox (UCC) Foundation and the State Department (see Advancement for Women at the State Department: Learning From Best Practices). The paper includes multiple recommendations including the collection of detailed attrition data and exit interviews to better understand the factors leading to attrition/retention; training and other assistance to women to help them learn to network more effectively and solicit sponsors to help them in their career development and advancement; mitigating unconscious bias; mentoring requirement for all SFS officers and making them accountable for their performance as mentors, to cite a few. Wasn’t the State Department’s “integral” participation in this WH effort informed by the report done by Ms. Carrington? Yes? No? Never heard of it?

WhirledView once asked, “Why is it that Foreign Service recruitment is able to recruit entry level classes that are far more representative of the American population as a whole but the further an individual advances up the career ladder the fewer the women and minorities are found.”  That is a really good question and top officials at State should be able to answer that. And what would have been most useful in that DGHR statement?  Had DGHR included information on what the State Department has done or is planning to do in support of promoting diversity and inclusion. What programs and accommodations is it doing to improved D&I at the agency?  Since the State Department was an “integral” part of President Obama’s effort why not talk about what is the State Department doing in terms of collection, analysis, and dissemination of workforce data? What is it doing in support of strengthening leadership engagement and accountability?   What is it doing in support of  professional development to improve opportunities for women and promote a more diverse leadership?

Because after reading and admiring the government-wide D&I efforts–  then what?


Burn Bag: Why are our most threatened missions not getting appropriate security staffing?

Via Burn Bag:

“Someone  needs to ask DS leadership why the bureau with the greatest growth  since Nairobi and Benghazi is not fully staffing it’s positions at High Threat  Posts.  I mean DS created an entire new office to manage High Threat posts so  why are our most threatened missions not getting appropriate security staffing? At my post, which is designated as Hight Threat, the two ARSO positions have  been vacant for more than a year.   I understand from colleagues that numerous  other posts have similar significant security staffing gaps.  DS agents leaving for agencies (as reported by Diplopundit) is not going to help what appears to be a significant DS personnel shortage.  Does DS  or the Department have a plan to fix whatever the issues are?”

via zap2it.com

via zap2it.com

Note: Active link added above
DS – Bureau of Diplomatic Security
ARSO – Assistant Regional Security Officer


DS/Threat Investigations and Analysis Directorate Gets Downy April Fresh OIG Treatment

Posted: 1:22 am ET


The Bureau of Diplomatic Security created its Threat Investigations and Analysis Directorate  in March 2008 by combining the following offices under the TIA Directorate umbrella:

  • Office of Intelligence and Threat Analysis (ITA)
  • Diplomatic Security Command Center (DSCC)
  • Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
  • Office of Protective Intelligence Investigations (PII)

It has a staff of about 200 employees. Below is the current org chart but some of the names may already be outdated, via State/OIG:

Screen Shot

State/OIG inspected the TIA Directorate from February 5 to March 7, 2016. The report dated September 20, 2016 went online on September 30. The IG Inspection teams include Team Leader, Lisa Bobbie Schreiber Hughes; Deputy Team Leader, Paul Cantrell, and members, Ronald Deutch, Gary Herbst, Leo Hession, Vandana Patel, and Richard Sypher.

This is the first inspection of this DS directorate, the first ever in eighth years.  It is a fairly thin report with just 12 pages. Here is the quick summary and some details below:

  •   The Threat Investigations and Analysis Directorate was accomplishing its stated mission “to protect life safety.”
  •   The Directorate’s decision to shift to a proactive approach to threat management expanded its mission and workload without a commensurate increase in human resources.
  •   Coordination and communication were effective at senior levels of the Threat Investigations and Analysis Directorate, but senior managers did not communicate consistently with mid-level staff members, adversely affecting the Directorate’s ability to efficiently meet its defined objectives and goals.

Taskings Up Approx 300%

The IG report says that the directorate’s taskings were up approximately 300% since 2010 but that it remained effective in achieving its core objectives. But then immediately after that, the report says that in the absence of increased staffing, the office was in danger of not meeting its basic responsibility.

Folks, you can’t have this both ways.

Despite taking on new responsibilities without additional staff and facing a high turnover among existing personnel, the Directorate achieved its mission. It had, however, requested additional staff to alleviate the burden on its employees. ITA told OIG that since 2010, its taskings had increased by approximately 300 percent; PII stated its mission to provide more proactive security had increased the agent workload “exponentially;” DSCC stated that watch officer responsibilities had steadily increased, especially in the post-Benghazi period. Despite these challenges, the Directorate asserted—and OIG agreed, based on input from the Directorate’s customers and OIG’s review of its products—that it remained effective in achieving its core life safety objectives.

The Directorate requested additional staff in January 2016, when Directorate leadership told the Assistant Secretary that in the absence of increased staff, it was “in danger of not meeting our basic responsibility to analyze, assess, investigate and disseminate threat information and the myriad of other duties for which we are responsible.” This theme was repeated in memoranda prepared for OIG and in personal interviews OIG conducted throughout the Directorate.

Oops! Is it just us or does this look like there’s lots of word padding in this report? Can’t they put these citations of GAO standards, FAM, etc in the footnotes? A third to a half of these sample paragraphs below are just descriptions of what’s in the manual or guidance. C’mon, the folks drafting this report can do better than this, right? And by the way, this is not the only report that has these word paddings.  See below:

Management Challenges

OIG found that increased staffing alone would be insufficient to address the Directorate’s management challenges. For example, a lack of coordination and communication between its offices and officers was unrelated to staffing shortfalls. OIG learned that mid-level officers were unfamiliar with the work of other Directorate offices; they did not have a clear understanding of how their work related to that of the Directorate overall; and they did not understand how their functions complemented those of similarly situated staff in other Directorate offices. This lack of familiarity created a risk that staff members would miss opportunities to work more efficiently. Moreover, it was sometimes difficult for them to prioritize tasks and define their audiences in an organization where everything related to the broad mission of protecting life safety. Mid-level staff members also cited the need for greater top-down and lateral communication. Principle 14.02 of the Government Accountability Office Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government emphasizes that management should communicate quality information throughout an entity using established reporting lines and to communicate down, across, up, and around reporting lines to all levels of the entity.

Tone at the Top

The Directorate’s DAS retired on March 4, 2016, days before the end of this inspection. The DS front office chose the ITA office director to replace him. OIG did not evaluate how the new DAS set the tone at the top—leading by example and demonstrating the organization’s values, philosophy, and operating style—because he started the position at the close of the inspection. However, OIG expressed the concern that his direct and forceful communication style, as demonstrated during his tenure as ITA office director, risked inhibiting the free flow of communication in a directorate that was, as discussed above, already challenged by communications issues. OIG advised the new DAS of the importance of adhering to the Leadership and Management Principles for Department Employees outlined in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214 b(4). These address the need for leaders to express themselves clearly and effectively, offer and solicit constructive feedback from others, and anticipate varying points of view by soliciting input.

Top Managers Not Held Accountable for Internal Control Assurance Process

The Directorate’s DAS and office directors did not provide annual internal control assurance statements for the Department’s annual Management Control Assurance Process2. Although lower-level Directorate staff completed the survey questionnaires DS used to confirm compliance with internal control requirements, Directorate managers did not complete assurance statements—as required in 2 FAM 024 of all office directors and higher level officials—due to lack of understanding of the requirements. As a result, DS had no documentation showing that Directorate leaders confirmed adherence to internal control requirements. The Department’s FY 2015 annual Management Control Assurance Process memorandum advised that, “Just as the Secretary’s statement will rely on your assurance statement, your assurance statement must be supported by input from your managers reporting to you.”

If you read the report, you will note that the director of ITA, one of the components was promoted as the new head of the DS/TIA directorate. So we looked at the performance of that component. The report says that 1) ITA lack top-down communication, 2) the office cannot evaluate its products without customer feedback and 3) new program to assign Intelligence Analysts to embassies proves unworkable. Two striking things:

FSOs as Intel Analysts?

“An ITA initiative that sought to place Foreign Service officers trained by ITA as intelligence analysts at embassies in countries designated as high risk for terrorism. Directorate leaders told OIG that after considering lessons learned in this first year, they concluded that the program was unworkable for a variety of practical and logistical reasons. Among them were the difficulty the Directorate faced recruiting employees with the requisite intelligence experience and challenges in arranging for appropriate secure embassy workspaces.”

The notion that FSOs would work overseas as intel analysts for Diplomatic Security is head-shaking painful. If they’ve spent some serious planning on that, they would have known how unworkable that is.  Which career ladder are you going to be on as an intel analyst? Was DS thinking of intel analysis as a collateral duty for FSOs overseas? What career track would that be on? What posts are intel analysts going to be on? What kind of onward assignments can you expect? As for recruitment, why would people with requisite intel experience leave their agencies and join a small office that’s not even hooked up to the intel community? The report did not show how much this unworkable program costs, and what lessons were learned here. The inspectors did not seem interested in all that.

A keen observant told us:  “I don’t see much digging: poor planning associated with these pet projects: deployed analyst program and the new “everything but the kitchen sink” division within ITA.” 

Oh, we want to know more about this “everything but the kitchen sink” division. Then there’s this:

Nonmembership in US Intel Community?

“ITA analysts were unaware of leadership’s decision on membership in the U.S. Government Intelligence Community. Of the 23 ITA analysts interviewed, half cited advantages of membership, including the increased access to information and training that they believed it would bring. ITA leadership, however, told OIG that it had already concluded that it was more advantageous for ITA to not join the Intelligence Community but had not informed the staff of its decision.”

Did you hear the guffaws over there?

ITA is tasked with analyzing all-source intelligence on terrorist activities and threats directed against chief of mission personnel and U.S. diplomatic facilities overseas. The office also monitors threats against the Secretary of State, U.S. Government officials, foreign dignitaries visiting the United States, and U.S.- based foreign diplomats and missions.  ITA leadership told OIG that “it was more advantageous for ITA to not join the Intelligence Community.” More advantageous to be walled off from the IC? How? The report does not discuss what “membership” means and what it entails, nor the advantages/disadvantages from nonmembership. It just accepts the director’s assessment that “it was more advantageous.” Folks, that’s stenography!

Overheard: “DS seems to think that the Intelligence Community is a round wooden table in a sealed-off room – a skull and bones-type membership. They talk about it in the report like they are debating on whether to have a pizza party.” We think that’s a well-deserved criticism.

Another directorate component PII took on additional workload without increasing its staff. Further, the report offers no dicussion on the Rewards for Justice Program which is also under PII. State.gov says that the Rewards for Justice program continues to be one of the most valuable U.S. Government assets in the fight against international terrorism. Okay. But how effective is RJF? This OIG report doesn’t say.

PII also expanded its support of DS coverage of special events, such as the World Cup. OIG reviewed the number of hours agents (but not intelligence analysts) devoted to these duties during 2015 and found this additional travel took agents away from the office for approximately 3,380 person-days. This equated to roughly one- third of PII’s deployable agents, leaving the remaining agents to accomplish what a significantly larger staff had previously done.

Quick takes on the other three components of the TIA Directorate

Office of Protective Intelligence and Investigations (PII)
–Expanded Workload Strains Manpower
— Supervisors do Not Readily Know the Status of Investigative Cases
–Taskings are Not Coordinated

Diplomatic Security Command Center (DSCC)
–No Metrics for Gauging Customer Satisfaction
–Overuse of the Law Enforcement Sensitive Caveat Limits Dissemination of Information

Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
–Short-term Extensions for Third Party Contractor Employees Create Challenges


We’re Adding Our Thumbs Up for @OSAC!

On a positive side, we should add that we are end-users of OSAC’s products and have been happy to see some improvements in the service it provides with timely maps, responsiveness, and infographic of U.S. interests overseas like the one below. OSAC folks are quite responsive when asked for additional information; occasionally even relaying our requests for confirmation.  When events are breaking overseas, our first stop is @OSAC on Twitter.  Sometimes they have the security message up before posts could even post those messages on the embassy’s website.

One thing we think they can improve is having a handler on duty 24/7 managing its Twitter account. When news break overseas affecting U.S. citizens, posts are not always ready or able to provide updated information.  But OSAC can do that on posts’ behalf.  Now if you can actually remove the stovepipe between Diplomatic Security and Consular Affairs, and at least on social media have @OSAC and @TravelGov work together, that would not only make the most sense (together they can do 24/7 coverage) but could also generate the most timely, needed updates especially during these now frequent emergencies.

The report is originally posted here (PDF) or read it below (use arrow in lower right hand corner in box below to maximize reading space).


Oh Damn and Blast! @StateDept’s Administrative Leave Data Is One Hot Mess

Posted: 3:32 am ET


According to State/OIG, administrative leave is granted to employees as an authorized absence from duty without loss of pay or use of leave for various reasons unrelated to employee conduct, such as blood donations and weather-related closures. It may also be granted to employees who are under investigation for misconduct.  Senator Charles Grassley asked State/OIG for a description of the State Department’s administrative leave policies and the controls in place to prevent extensive use of administrative leave. On October 3, State/OIG posted online its report, Department of State Has Administrative Leave Policies but Lacks Complete and Accurate Data on the Use of Leave.

In response to the congressional request, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) evaluated the use of administrative leave at the Department of State (Department). The objectives of the evaluation were (1) to describe the Department’s administrative leave policies and (2) to determine the amount of administrative leave Department employees used from January 2011 to January 2015 and the circumstances surrounding the use of such leave.

State/OIG obtained data on administrative leave granted to Department employees from 2011 through 2015 from the Bureau of Human Resources (HR). For several of these employees, OIG also reviewed select records from the Time and Attendance Telecommunications Line (TATEL) system, the Department’s time and attendance tracking system.

Excerpt from OIG report:

  • At the Department of State, administrative leave can be authorized in 26 circumstances not related to conduct. Employees under investigation for misconduct may also be placed on administrative leave if their continued presence in the workplace may pose a threat to the employee or to others, may result in loss of or damage to government property, or may otherwise jeopardize legitimate government interests. Conduct- related administrative leave over 16 hours may only be granted by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Human Resources.
  • OIG intended to determine the amount of administrative leave used by Department employees from January 2011 to January 2015 and the circumstances surrounding the use of such leave. However, the Department did not provide OIG with sufficient data to make these determinations. Consequently, OIG is unable to make any assessments about the Department’s use of administrative leave. OIG identified two key deficiencies in the data the Department provided: (1) the Department lacks a centralized source of information regarding the justification for why administrative leave is granted and (2) HR data on the hours of administrative leave used conflicts with data from individual employing offices.

Administrative Leave Not Related to Conduct: 26 Circumstances

  • There are 26 circumstances not related to conduct where administrative leave can be authorized. These circumstances include Federal holidays, voting, hazardous weather conditions, packing.unpacking, blood/organ donation, funerals, time zone dislocation adjustment period to name a few and several miscellaneous reasons like group dismissals for a reasonable period due to extreme climatic conditions; civil disturbance; transportation failure; breakdown of heating/cooling systems; natural disaster, etc.; jury duty; and absence due to an injury incurred while serving abroad and resulting from war, insurgency, mob violence or hostile action.  The amount of time authorized by the FAM and the FAH for administrative leave in these circumstances varies from one hour to one year.
State/HR’s Unreliable Data
  • In response to OIG’s request for information on administrative leave granted to Department employees, HR provided a report created by CGFS using TATEL data transferred to the payroll system. According to this data, the Department recorded 8.36 million hours of administrative leave for 33,205 employees from January 2011 to January 2015; however, their data was unreliable. Specifically, OIG identified two key deficiencies in the data that the Department provided. […] Currently, the only way to determine the justification for an employee’s administrative leave is to review the timesheet, ask the employee, or ask the employing bureau. The Department is currently updating its payroll systems, including modernization of its time and attendance systems. Once this project is completed, there will be more information available on specific uses of administrative leave. However, there is no expected completion date for the project.
  • OIG selected the 100 employees with the most hours of recorded administrative leave based on HR’s data and requested the justification from the applicable employing bureaus.17 According to the data provided by HR, these 100 employees recorded over 320,000 hours of administrative leave during the period under evaluation. However, after reviewing the information the bureaus provided, OIG found that administrative leave hours reported by HR were incorrect for 84 of these 100 employees (84 percent). Four of the employees were on work-related travel as opposed to on administrative leave. The other 80 employees were at work on regular duty between January 2011 and January 2015—with the exception of holidays, scheduled sick and annual leave, and weather-related closures—and their time and attendance records maintained by their employing bureau did not support the large amounts of administrative leave indicated by the HR data. OIG interviews with several employees and supervisors corroborated this information.
  • Although HR officials told OIG that timekeeping error was the most likely source of the discrepancies between the HR data and the information provided by the employing bureaus,19 reports from TATEL reviewed by OIG demonstrated that timekeeper error does not explain the entirety of the large balances of the administrative leave indicated by the HR data.20

Administrative Leave Related to Conduct

  • OPM guidance states that administrative leave should be used only as “an immediate, temporary solution to the problem of an employee who should be kept away from the worksite.”13 OPM also recommends that administrative leave “should not be used for an extended or indefinite period or on a recurring basis” and agencies should “consider other options prior to use of administrative leave.”
  • Department policies follow this guidance and contain several controls to ensure that administrative leave is used only as a temporary solution for employees who should be kept out of the workplace. The FAM defines conduct-related administrative leave as leave authorized “when an investigation, inquiry, or disciplinary action regarding the employee’s conduct is pending, has been requested, or will be requested within 2 workdays, and the continued presence of the employee in the workplace may pose a threat to the employee or to others, or may result in loss of, or damage to, U.S. government property, or may otherwise jeopardize legitimate U.S. Government interests
  • The Deputy Assistant Secretary told OIG that he and his staff carefully scrutinize each request to ensure that there is sufficient documentation that an employee’s continued presence in the workplace poses an actual problem. They also encourage the bureau to explore other alternatives and have, in some cases, referred the issue to the Office of Civil Rights, the Office of the Ombudsman, or the Bureau of Medical Services. The Deputy Assistant Secretary has disapproved administrative leave requests when alternatives exist or when there is insufficient documentation of a problem.
  • Even when HR approves a request for administrative leave, leave is only authorized for a 30 day maximum. According to HR, this incremental approach ensures that it will reevaluate the employee’s status periodically to determine whether administrative leave continues to be necessary. HR identified three main justifications to place an employee on administrative leave for over 16 hours:
  1. loss of security clearance
  2. medical-related issues
  3. violence or threatening conduct

63,000 Hours in a 4-Year Period

  • Despite these deficiencies, OIG found that more complete information exists for employees on conduct-related administrative leave. For example, sixteen of the 100 employees OIG reviewed had accurately recorded administrative leave and 15 of these were conduct-related cases. For each of these cases, HR confirmed that it had followed Department policy in granting administrative leave to ensure that the employee’s continued presence in the workplace posed a serious problem. These employees represented approximately 63,000 hours of administrative leave in the four-year period
  • According to HR, one of the reasons for these large balances is the difficulty in finding alternative work assignments or locations for employees who are on administrative leave because their security clearances have been suspended. The nature of the Department’s work limits the number of positions for which a security clearance is not required. Department offices may have unclassified work that employees can perform, but those employees would have to be escorted and monitored because most offices are secure spaces. Furthermore, employees who have had their clearances suspended may pose a risk even in unclassified areas.

The original report is posted here (PDF), or read in full below (click on the arrow at the lower right hand side of the box below to maximize view).

Related posts:


Why Are DS Agents Fleeing Diplomatic Security In Droves For the U.S. Marshals Service?

Posted: 2:17 am ET
Updated: 12:21 pm PT


We’ve heard from multiple sources that some 30-40 DS agents are leaving the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (State/DS) to join the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) and that there may be other group departures for other agencies.

One DS source speaking on background told us that the USMS Director reportedly called his counterpart at Diplomatic Security to inform the latter that he would be extending job offers to over 40 agents.  Another bureau source told us that during the “huddle” involving the DS agents prior to the start of the recent UNGA event in New York, the bureau’s second highest ranking official reportedly told the assembled agents that the departing agents would not be allowed back.

Does this mean that in addition to the shortage of approximately 200 agents discussed at the worldwide RSO conference this past May, there are 40 or more agent positions that will soon go vacant?


Our DS source speaking on background said that “there’s an overall discontent amongst mid-level DS agents and the main reason seems to stem from the current DS leadership.”

The DS insider cited the following main complaints that have reportedly bounced around the corridors:

  • “DS promotes the “good ol’ boys” and not necessarily the smart, motivated agents who are capable of leading the bureau. This leaves us with a lot of incompetent top-level DS agents and a lot of disgruntled lower lever DS agents.”
  • “DS is incapable of managing their promotions and assignments and, as a result, agents are frustrated with the lack of transparency. Also, there’s no one to complain to as AFSA seems to disregard DS completely. Almost as if the bureau is too far gone to save.”
  • “DS agents spend most of their time domestically, but DS does not allow DS agents to homestead, or stay in one field office for longer than one tour. This creates a lot of unnecessary hardships for families.”
    (A separate source told us that those serving on domestic assignments want to stay more than one tour in cities other than the District of Columbia and estimate that this would not only serve the U.S. government money from relocation costs but also allow agents to build continuity with prosecutors and other agencies).
  • “Regardless of gender, DS leadership is not concerned with family and does not provide a healthy work/life balance for any of their agents.”

We should point out that one of the bureaucratic casualties in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack was Charlene Lamb, who was then the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs. In that capacity, she was responsible for managing and directing all international missions and personnel.

Back in August 2013, we wrote this:

The DS bureau has been described as in a “hell of hurt” these days.  Not only because it lost three of its top officials in one messy swoop, but also because one of those officials was an important cog in the assignment wheel of about 1,900 security officers.  If the assignments of DS agents overseas have been a great big mess for the last several months, you may account that to the fact that Ms. Lamb, the person responsible for managing and directing all Bureau of Diplomatic Security programs and policies including personnel, had been put inside a deep freezer.  While planning has never been a State Department strength, succession planning is altogether a foreign object.

Note and question of the day:  “Diplomatic Security is under intense pressure following Benghazi so now all resources are put towards “high threat” areas.  Nevertheless, experienced and well regarded DS officers at overseas posts are finding it impossible to stay out – even when they are the first choice for the receiving post.  

We should note that there are only 170 embassies, 78 consulates general and 11 consulates overseas.  There are not enough positions for all DS agents to fill overseas and majority of them do serve at domestic locations.

If it is true that the bureau has been “incapable of managing their promotions and assignments” in the last three years, then we can see why this could be frustrating enough to make agents decamp to other agencies.

Of course, the bureau can replace all those who are leaving, no matter the number. There is, after all, a large pool of applicants just waiting to be called to start new classes. (Note: There’s a rumor going on that DS reportedly had difficulty filling the last two DS agent classes because they were short of people on the list. We don’t know how this could be possible if DS has always had a full roster of qualified applicants on its list.  In 2015, it claimed to have 10,000 applicants but only assessed slightly over 500 applicants.)  

But that’s not really the point. Training takes time.  Time costs money. And above all, there is no instant solution to bridging the experience gap. If people are leaving, does the bureau know why?  If it doesn’t know why, is it interested in finding out the whys?  Is it interested in fixing the causes for these departures?

That low attrition rate

We were also previously told by a spokesperson that the overall Special Agent attrition rate for 2015 was 3.66%.  We have since been informed by a bureau source that this is an inaccurate attrition stats, as the figure released did not count agents who transition to other agencies, only those who leave U.S. Government service.

We’ve been trying to get a comment from Diplomatic Security since last week on agent departures. We’ve also requested clarification on the attrition rate released to us.  As of this writing, we have not received a response.



Stupefied: How the best and the brightest learn to switch off their brains at the office door

Posted: 11:57 am ET


André Spicer is professor of organisational behaviour at the Cass Business School at City, University of London, where he specialises in political dynamics, organisational culture and employee identity. His latest book, together with Mats Alvesson, is The Stupidity Paradox: The Power and Pitfalls of Functional Stupidity at Work (2016). The following is an excerpt from his piece Stupefied on how organisations enshrine collective stupidity and how employees are rewarded for checking their brains at the office door.  The article was originally published in Aeon [http://aeon.co].

Organisations hire smart people, but then positively encourage them not to use their intelligence. Asking difficult questions or thinking in greater depth is seen as a dangerous waste. Talented employees quickly learn to use their significant intellectual gifts only in the most narrow and myopic ways.

Those who learn how to switch off their brains are rewarded. By avoiding thinking too much, they are able to focus on getting things done. Escaping the kind of uncomfortable questions that thinking brings to light also allows employees to side-step conflict with co-workers. By toeing the corporate line, thoughtless employees get seen as ‘leadership material’ and promoted. Smart people quickly learn that getting ahead means switching off their brains as soon as they step into the office.

Sounds familiar?  For those interested in further reading, the author co-published a study on a A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organizations with Mats Alvesson in the Journal of Management Studies in 2012.  The abstract is here; the full article is available for a fee here.