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Tillerson Responds to North Korean Missile Launch With a 23-Word Statement ūüĎÄ

Posted: 12:49 am ET

 

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The Last Time @StateDept Had a 27% Budget Cut, Congress Killed ACDA and USIA

Posted: 4:39 am ET

 

Reporting for the Washington Post in 1996, Thomas Lippman wrote that “The total budget for civilian international programs, the so-called 150 account, started to decline in the mid-1980s. It leveled off during the Bush administration, then resumed a downward slide in President Clinton’s first year.” He noted that “the relentless budget pressure that began in the mid-1980s accelerated with the Clinton administration’s deficit-reduction plan, forcing the closing of consulates, aid missions, libraries, cultural centers and even a few entire embassies, from Italy to Indonesia, from Antigua to Thailand” (see U.S. Diplomacy’s Presence Shrinking).

Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States defeating incumbent George H. W. Bush in 1992.  Warren M. Christopher was nominated Secretary of State by then President-elect Clinton in December 1992.  Christopher was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 20, 1993, and sworn in the next day. Two months into the new administration, Secretary Christopher made his first official congressional appearance as Secretary of State before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary House Appropriations Committee to talk about redirecting American foreign policy, refocusing the aid budgets, and reforming institutions.

Secretary Christopher at that time said that “American foreign policy in the years ahead will be grounded in what President Clinton has called the three “pillars” of our national interest:¬† first, revitalizing our economy; second, updating our¬† security forces for a new era; and, third, protecting democracy as the¬† best means to protect our own national security while expanding the¬† reach of freedom, human rights, prosperity, and peace.” ¬†He talked about Saddam Hussein, “If the lawlessness of [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein has taught us any single lesson, it is that weapons of mass destruction, especially when combined¬† with missile technology, can transform a petty tyrant into a threat to world peace and stability.” Secretary Christopher talked about the State Department budget, “It will be a tough budget for tough times.¬† It will be a flexible budget that seeks austerity, not as a¬†hardship to be endured but as a challenge to innovate and do our job¬† better.¬† Above all, we hope that this budget will mark a transitional step to a truly focused budget that sets priorities and puts resources¬†behind them.”

Oh, brother where are ya?

In February 1993, Secretary Christopher also sent a ¬†message to State Department employees on the¬†Implementation Directive on Reorganization. ¬†Two months into the Trump Administration, and days after the OMB released Trump’s “skinny budget” we have yet to hear from Secretary Tillerson on where the State Department go from here. ¬†We know that he supports the budget cuts for his department, and he has made no public effort of defending the funding and programs for his agency but the top diplomat of the United States still has not articulated the foreign policy priorities of this administration. If Secretary Tillerson has sent a message to his troops in Foggy Bottom, we have yet to hear about it or its contents.

The proposed FY18 budget slashes the international affairs budget by 28% or 36% with Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) funding factored in.  If passed by Congress, what happens to That Three-Legged Stool of American Foreign Policy?  As diplomacy and development will be hobbled by cuts, are we going to see an exponential growth in private contractors in support of DOD, diplomacy and development? Or are we going to just see staffing gaps and reduced diplomatic footprints from Algeria to Zimbabwe?

In Tillerson’s recent interview with IJR, he said about the State Department budget that¬†‚ÄúOne can say it‚Äôs not going to happen in one year, and it‚Äôs not.”

He’s right. ¬†The cuts may happen this year, and next year, and every fiscal year thereafter. ¬†It sounds to us like an “American First” foreign policy does not see much use for diplomacy. ¬†So we expect that the State Department budget will continue to be targeted during the entire Trump term. But if history is any indication, the decisions made today will have repercussions for our country down the road. Back in 1993, Secretary Christopher said, “when the time eventually comes to restore diplomatic relations with Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Libya, the money and personnel for those posts probably will have to come out of existing resources, officials said, thus increasing the pressure to close marginal posts elsewhere.” In 1996, the then¬†Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) director¬†John D. Holum warned that the agency “no longer has a U.S. technical expert assigned to the U.N. weapons inspection team in Iraq.” ¬†

With the exception of Iran, we are back in Iraq, and Somalia, and we know what happened in Libya. ¬†We don’t grow diplomats overnight. Expertise and diplomatic muscle grow with time, with every assignment, with every challenge. What happens when the next crisis erupts in Asia? Can we just pluck diplomats and development experts from the OPM growth chamber? ¬†Or are we going to have a civilian surge once more with¬†diplomats lacking experience and language skills thrown into a pit and then expected to do an effective job?

Remember, do you remember?

We should note that the Democrats had control of the House and the Senate after the 1992 elections but the midterm elections in 1994 resulted in a net gain of 54 seats in the House of Representatives for the GOP, and a pickup of eight seats in the Senate. That was the Gingrich Revolution.  By the way, R.C. Hammond who previously served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich (a vocal Trump ally) is now a communications adviser for Secretary Tillerson.

WaPo reported that between 1993-1996 “the State Department has cut more than 2,000 employees and shuttered consulates in 26 foreign cities. The Agency for International Development (AID), which runs foreign aid programs, has been hit especially hard by the Republican-controlled Congress and has closed 23 missions overseas.”

In 1995, according to NYT: The U.S. ambassadors to Italy, France, Britain, Spain, the E.U., Germany, Russia and NATO reportedly got together and sent a secret cable to Secretary Christopher, signed by all of them, telling him that the “delivery system” of U.S. foreign policy was being destroyed by budget cuts. They pleaded with him to mobilize those constituencies in the U.S. that value the work of embassies, and volunteered to come to Washington to testify before Congress in their defense. The ambassadors got a polite note back from Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott, telling them he understood their concerns but that there was a new mood in Congress. There was no invitation to testify.

The State Department at that time reportedly¬†also promoted the concept of “diplomatic readiness,” similar to military readiness, “in hopes of persuading Congress to divert some money from the defense budget into diplomacy and foreign aid — activities that, in the diplomats’ view, save money over time by reducing the need for military actions.”

More than 100 businesses, trade associations, law firms and volunteer groups did¬†organize a “Campaign to Preserve U.S. Global Leadership” without much success.

And this despite the fact that a 1994 GAO study indicates that¬†only 38 percent of the U.S. government personnel in embassies work for the State Department, while 36 percent work for the Pentagon, 5 percent for Justice and 3 percent for Transportation. The other 18 percent includes representatives of the Treasury, Agriculture and Commerce departments. ¬†We don’t know what is the current breakdown of federal agencies operating overseas under the State Department umbrella but if the Trump Administration¬†starts turning off the lights in Africa, or Asia for instance, that could also prove problematic for the Pentagon.

What a 27% budget cut looked like for the international affairs budget?

By Fall 1995, the State Department released a Q&A on the¬†International Affairs Budget–A Sound Investment in Global Leadership. ¬†It includes the following:

Q. Since most Americans favor reducing government spending to balance the federal budget, have the State Department and other foreign affairs  agencies done anything to cut costs?

A. Yes, the Administration has done a great deal to cut costs. We have already:

— Cut the foreign assistance budget request by 20%;

–Trimmed more than 1,100 jobs at the State Department and 600 jobs at ¬†the U.S. Information Agency (USIA);

–Identified, for elimination by 1997, about 2,000 jobs at the U.S. ¬†Agency for International Development (USAID);

–Decreased administrative and overhead costs by $100 million; and

–Closed, or scheduled for closing, 36 diplomatic or consular posts, 10¬†USIA posts, and 28 USAID missions abroad.

OVERSEAS POSTS CLOSED, 1993-96 Consulates, consulates general and State Department branch offices: Algeria Austria Australia Brazil Colombia Egypt France Germany Indonesia Italy (2) Kenya Martinique Mexico Nigeria Philippines Poland Somalia Spain Switzerland (2) Turkey Thailand (2) Venezuela Zaire Embassies Antigua and Barbuda Comoros Equatorial Guinea Seychelles Solomon Islands. AID missions Afghanistan Argentina Belize Botswana Burkina Faso Cameroon Cape Verde Caribbean region Chad Chile Costa Rica Estonia Ivory Coast Lesotho Oman Pakistan South Pacific Switzerland Thailand Togo Tunisia Uruguay Zaire (via)

According to WaPo in 1996, USAID’s overall work force “has been reduced from 11,500 to 8,700 and is heading down to 8,000. The number of full “sustainable development missions” — on-site teams promoting long-term diversified economic development — declined from 70 at the start of the administration to 30.”

That’s what a 27% budget cut inflected on the international affairs budget did in the 90’s.

By 1999, with the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) and the United States Information Agency (USIA) were both abolished and folded into the State Department.

Who ya gonna call?

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell was recently quoted saying, “America being a force is a lot more than building up the Defense Department. Diplomacy is important, extremely important, and I don’t think these reductions at the State Department are appropriate.”

According to the Washington Examiner, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn ¬†apparently signaled that¬†President Trump’s initial proposed budget “won’t dictate how the State Department gets funded.”¬†“The president’s budget goes in the waste basket as soon as it gets here,”¬†he said.

We should note that in the 1990s, both houses of Congress (GOP) and a White House under a Democrat worked together to slashed the State Department budget. It was not a question of how much to cut, but where to cut. ¬†This time around, we have a Republican Congress and a Republican White House, but while the WH is gunning for these cuts, the Senate particularly, appears not to be quite on board with the slash and burn cuts. ¬†Still, we are reminded what¬†former Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament Stephen J. Ledogar (1990-1997) noted¬†in his oral history (PDF) — that “Not very many people will admit this, but the administration bowing to Congress on those consolidations was part of the price that was paid by the Clinton administration to Jesse Helms in exchange for him agreeing to let the Chemical Weapons Convention go through the Senate.”¬†

So … while there are differences in the circumstances during the budget cuts in the 1990’s and the proposed budget cuts in the current and FY18 fiscal years, we are mindful how things can change with the right carrots.

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Tillerson Visits Turkey, Gets Complaints Here, and There

Posted: 12:48 am ET

 

Below is the transcript¬†of¬†Secretary Tillerson’s¬†‘meet and greet’ remarks at US Mission Turkey, his first one since his appointment as secretary of state. No photos of the embassy ‘meet and greet’ available so far.

Thank you, thank you. And it is, indeed, a pleasure to be in Ankara and to have the opportunity to visit the embassy here and get a chance to speak to all of you. And what a great way to be greeted, with a great-looking bunch of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and I’m well familiar with both of those organizations and a lifelong scouter myself, and I want to express my appreciation to the adult leadership that it takes to make those opportunities available to these young people. And to the parents that support them as they move down that advancement pathway to earn their way to higher achievement, I’d like to thank all of you as well.

This ‚Äď and I don‚Äôt have to tell you how important this particular mission is to us in terms of its strategic value, its place in the region, but certainly the complexities of what we‚Äôre dealing with as a nation and as a world with what‚Äôs happening just on the borders here to the south of Turkey. I know it‚Äôs a high-stress posting, I know it‚Äôs been a difficult couple of years for everyone in terms of status changes in this mission, as well as the other three locations. And so we appreciate your dedication and your commitment throughout all of that, staying the course, keeping up and out in front of you what you know is important, and what‚Äôs very important to our nation back home. So I thank all of you for your commitment throughout that period of time.

I also want to talk about three values that I’ve been trying to talk everywhere I go within the State Department. I expressed these on day one when I made my first-day appearance at the Department, and that’s that I have three key values that I think will be useful to all of us as we go about our daily work in terms of how we interact with each other and in terms of how we interact externally as well.

And the first of those is accountability, that I think it‚Äôs really important with the work we do, because it is so vital and important that as we produce that work, we‚Äôre holding ourselves accountable to the results, and that‚Äôs the only way we can hold our partners accountable. We intend to hold other nations accountable in our alliances for commitments they‚Äôve made, but that starts with us holding ourselves accountable, first as individuals, then collectively as an organization. So we ask that everyone really devote themselves to that, recognize that we‚Äôre not going to be right all the time. We may make some mistakes and that‚Äôs okay. We hold ourselves accountable to those and we‚Äôll learn from those and we‚Äôll move forward, but that it‚Äôs important that we always own what we do ‚Äď that it‚Äôs ours and we‚Äôre proud to own it.

The second value I’m talking a lot about is honesty. That starts with being honest with each other, first in terms of our concerns, in terms of our differences, and we invite and want to hear about those. That’s how we come to a better decision in all that we do. And only if we do that can we then be honest with all of our partners and allies around the world as well. And still, I mean, we’re going to have our differences, but we’re going to be very honest and open about those, so at least we understand them.

And then lastly is just treating everyone with respect. I know each of us wants to be treated with respect. You earn that by treating others with respect. And again, regardless of someone’s stature in the organization or regardless of what their work assignment may be, or regardless of how they may want to express their view, at all times we’re going to treat each other with respect. And in doing that, you’ll earn the respect of others. So we ask that everyone devote themselves to accountability, honesty, and respect.

And starting with the scout promises and laws, that’s not a bad place either. If you haven’t looked at those, you ought to take a look at them. They’re a pretty good playbook for life, I can tell you that. They’ve been a great playbook in my life throughout all of my professional career prior to coming to this position, and they continue to guide me every day in terms of how I want to hold myself accountable is against those principles.

So again, I appreciate what all of you are doing on behalf of the State Department, in particular what you’re doing on behalf of our country, both those of you that are here on posting as well as those of you who are part of our national workforce as well. So I thank all of you for your dedication and commitment. I appreciate you coming out today. It is a rather nice, beautiful day, so I knew I’d come out too. (Laughter.) But again, thank you all for what you’re doing. It’s just a real delight to see you. Thank you. (Applause.)

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Dear SecState Tillerson: Congrats on 737 Cost Savings, But Don’t Ditch Your Press Corps on #Turkey Trip

Posted: 3:01 am ET

 

On March 23, the State Department reiterated during the Daily Press Briefing Secretary Tillerson’s excuse for ditching his traveling press:

[H]e was clear and he‚Äôs spoken about this in his interviews ‚Äď is that he is committed to a smaller footprint. That‚Äôs not to say ‚Äď let me be clear ‚Äď that we‚Äôre not going to look at taking any press in future trips. I‚Äôm not saying that at all. But he is committed to a smaller footprint. And with respect to the trip to Asia, the space constraints on the plane did not allow, frankly, for a press contingent. So we worked with — [snip]¬†So we work with our embassies. I think it is. And I can get into this. I don‚Äôt ‚Äď we don‚Äôt need to have this out here, but I‚Äôm happily ‚Äď happy to talk to you about this offline. But there‚Äôs a significant cost savings to taking the smaller plane, but that smaller plane requires ‚Äď or has minimal seating.

Secretary Tillerson cited “cost savings” in using¬†a¬†smaller aircraft ( a 737), which apparently also “flies faster”; presumably in comparison to the 757 previously used by his predecessors?

We don’t know much about airplanes, so you know¬†we’ve got to take a look, right?

Here is the current secstate’s 737 |¬†C-40 B/C¬†via af.mil:

The C-40 B/C is based upon the commercial Boeing 737-700 Business Jet. The body of the C-40 is identical to that of the Boeing 737-700, but has winglets. Both models have state of the art avionics equipment, integrated GPS and flight management system/electronic flight instrument system and a heads up display. Heading the safety equipment list is the traffic collision avoidance system and enhanced weather radar. The aircraft is a variant of the Boeing next generation 737-700, and combines the 737-700 fuselage with the wings and landing gear from the larger and heavier 737-800. The basic aircraft has auxiliary fuel tanks, a specialized interior with self-sustainment features and managed passenger communications. The cabin area is equipped with a crew rest area, distinguished visitor compartment with sleep accommodations, two galleys and business class seating with worktables.

The C-40B is designed to be an “office in the sky” for senior military and government leaders. Communications are paramount aboard the C-40B which provides broadband data/video transmit and receive capability as well as clear and secure voice and data communication. It gives combatant commanders the ability to conduct business anywhere around the world using on-board Internet and local area network connections, improved telephones, satellites, television monitors, and facsimile and copy machines. The C-40B also has a computer-based passenger data system. ¬†The C-40C is not equipped with the advanced communications capability of the C-40B. Unique to the C-40C is the capability to change its configuration to accommodate from 42 to 111 passengers.

The C-40 B/C is based upon the commercial Boeing 737-700 Business Jet. The C-40 B/C provides safe, comfortable and reliable transportation for U.S. leaders to locations around the world. The C-40B’s primary customers are the combatant commanders and C-40C customers include members of the Cabinet and Congress. ¬†(Courtesy photo)

Previously, the secretary of state’s airplane¬†was a¬†C-32,¬†a specially configured version of the Boeing 757-200 commercial intercontinental airliner. ¬†This is the aircraft used by Secretary¬†Kerry. ¬†757 |¬†C-32 ¬†via af.mil:

The C-32 provides safe, comfortable and reliable transportation for our nation’s leaders to locations around the world. The primary customers are the vice president, using the distinctive call sign “Air Force Two,” the first lady, and members of the Cabinet and Congress.¬†The C-32 body is identical to that of the Boeing 757-200, but has different interior furnishings and 21st century avionics. The passenger cabin is divided into four sections: A)¬†The forward area has a communications center, galley, lavatory and 10 business class seats; B)¬†The second section is a fully-enclosed stateroom for the use of the primary passenger. It¬†includes a changing area, private lavatory, separate entertainment system, two first-class¬†swivel seats and a convertible divan that seats three and folds out to a bed. C)¬†The third section contains the conference and staff facility with eight business class seats. D)¬†The rear section of the cabin contains general seating with 32 business-class seats, galley,¬†two lavatories and closets.

The USAF C-32 fact sheet also says that¬†this aircraft¬†is more fuel efficient and has improved capabilities over its C-137 predecessor. “It can travel twice the distance on the same amount of fuel, and operate on shorter runways down to 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) in length. Its 92,000-pound (41,731 kilogram) fuel capacity allows the aircraft to travel 5,500 nautical miles unrefueled.”

Here is the side-by-side comparison of the two planes, the 757 that former Secretary Kerry used and the 737 that Secretary Tillerson is currently using.

Cost savings? Yes, but …

There are fixed costs associated with operating an aircraft¬†that do not vary according to aircraft usage (crew,¬†maintenance, labor, parts, operations overhead, administrative overhead, etc) so we requested from the State Department¬†the cost savings identified with the Tillerson trip to Asia. Its official response was to direct us to the DOD comptroller for the travel per hour cost. According to the DOD Comptroller’s FY2017 hourly rates for fixed wing aircraft effective October 1, 2016 (used when the applicable aircraft are provided on a reimbursable basis), Secretary Tillerson’s 737/C-40C aircraft¬†costs about a third of¬†the previous secretary’s 757 cost per hour.

But, because there’s always a but …the¬†737/C-40C model used by¬†members of the Cabinet and Congress can¬†change its configuration to accommodate from 42 to 111 passengers. Let’s just say that Secretary Tillerson is using the 737/C-40B model¬†primary used by¬†combatant commanders; this model still has seats for 26-32 passengers.

Secretary Tillerson traveling party to Asia was small, so he basically flew with a half empty plane but the State Department officially cited “space constraints” as the reason for¬†not having a traveling press. ¬†In any case, if Secretary Tillerson is saving money by using a smaller but mostly empty plane, he surely can¬†save more money by using a smaller plane with paying passengers (press pay for their rides in USG planes) instead of empty seats, won’t he? ¬†He does not have to take the whole village, but he has to take more than one, and they ought¬†not be preselected for obvious reasons.

To Turkey, to Turkey

On Friday, the State Department announced that Secretary Tillerson will travel to Ankara, Turkey, on March 30, to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other senior Turkish government officials, then travel to Brussels, Belgium on March 31 to visit NATO.

The¬†Freedom House,¬†an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, rates Turkey’s press freedom status as “not free.” Its report on Turkey states:¬†“Media outlets are sometimes denied access to events and information for political reasons. Critical outlets are regularly denied access to the AKP‚Äôs party congress and meetings, and the government prevents certain journalists from attending press conferences or accompanying officials on foreign visits.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) notes that Turkey jails more journalists than any other country in 2016 and closes some 178 news outlets and publishing houses by decree in the space of five months.

This is one trip where the Secretary of State absolutely cannot afford to ditch his traveling press.

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Tillerson of #NotBigMediaAccess Planet: NK ‘Imminent’ Threat, Fatigue News, Chinese Praise

Posted: 2:31 am ET

 

Secretary¬†Tillerson traveled to¬†Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing from March 15-18 ‚ÄĒ ¬†without his full traveling press, but with one pre-selected journalist (see¬†Lonesome Rex to Make Inaugural Trip to Asia Without His Traveling¬†Press?). It sounds like this won’t be the last time he’s going to try to ditch his traveling press. Secretary Tillerson said that “we‚Äôre saving a lot of money by using this aircraft.” ¬†Since cost savings has now been repeatedly cited as an excuse, let’s see the cost saved from this trip, please.

The controversy about press access to the 69th secretary of state continues.  Secretary Tillerson gave an interview to his sole traveling press, and once more cited saving money as one of the reasons for not taking a full traveling press:

Primarily it‚Äôs driven ‚ÄĒ believe it or not, you won‚Äôt believe it ‚ÄĒ we‚Äôre trying to save money. I mean, quite frankly, we‚Äôre saving a lot of money by using this aircraft, which also flies faster, allows me to be more efficient, and we‚Äôre going to destinations that, by and large, the media outlets have significant presence already, so we‚Äôre not hiding from any coverage of what we‚Äôre doing. The fact that the press corps is not traveling on the plane with me, I understand that there are two aspects of that. One, there‚Äôs a convenience aspect. I get it. The other is, I guess, what I‚Äôm told is that there‚Äôs this long tradition that the Secretary spends time on the plane with the press. I don‚Äôt know that I‚Äôll do a lot of that. I‚Äôm just not ‚Ķ that‚Äôs not the way I tend to work. That‚Äôs not the way I tend to spend my time. I spend my time working on this airplane. The entire time we‚Äôre in the air, I‚Äôm working. Because there is a lot of work to do in the early stages. Maybe things will change and evolve in the future. But I hope people don‚Äôt misunderstand … there‚Äôs nothing else behind it than those simple objectives.

Apparently,¬†Secretary Tillerson is not a “big media access person” and personally doesn’t need it. Holymolyguacamole! Can somebody in Foggy Bottom, please explain to him that this is not about what he needs.

“I‚Äôm not a big media press access person. I personally don‚Äôt need it. I understand it‚Äôs important to get the message of what we‚Äôre doing out, but I also think there‚Äôs only a purpose in getting the message out when there‚Äôs something to be done. And so we have a lot of work to do, and when we‚Äôre ready to talk about what we‚Äôre trying to do, I will be available to talk to people. But doing daily availability, I don‚Äôt have this appetite or hunger to be that, have a lot of things, have a lot of quotes in the paper or be more visible with the media. I view that the relationship that I want to have with the media, is the media is very important to help me communicate not just to the American people, but to others in the world that are listening. And when I have something important and useful to say, I know where everybody is and I know how to go out there and say it. But if I don‚Äôt because we‚Äôre still formulating and we‚Äôre still deciding what we‚Äôre going to do, there is not going to be a lot to say. And I know that you‚Äôve asked me a lot of questions here that I didn‚Äôt answer, and I‚Äôm not answering them because we have some very, very complex strategic issues to make our way through with important countries around the world, and we‚Äôre not going to get through them by just messaging through the media. We get through them in face-to-face meetings behind closed doors. We can be very frank, open, and honest with one another and then we‚Äôll go out and we‚Äôll have something to share about that, but the truth of the matter is, all of the tactics and all of the things were going to do you will know them after they‚Äôve happened.”

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“The Secretary” Writes FY18 Budget Love Letter to Foggy Bottom, But What’s This About Post Closures?

Posted: 2:21 pm ET

 

Earlier, we posted about Trump’s “skinny budget” which guts the State Department and USAID funding by 28%. (see¬†WH/OMB Releases FY2018 Budget Blueprint ‚Äď @StateDept/@USAID Hit With 28% Funding¬†Cuts). ¬†We understand that the actual cut is closer to 36% once the¬†Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) is factored in. In early March, media reports indicate that the proposed cuts for the international affairs budget would be 37%¬†(see¬†In Disaster News, Trump Budget Seeks 37% Funding Cut For @StateDept and¬†@USAID). If there was push back from the Tillerson State Department in the weeks before OMB released the “America First” budget¬†blueprint, T-Rex’s diplomatic nudge appears to result in a 36% funding reduction¬†instead of the first¬†reported 37% funding cut.

Yesterday¬†morning, as folks were waking up to the OMB release, a letter sent from¬†Secretary Tillerson’s office¬†arrived in the inboxes of¬†State Department employees:

THE SECRETARY OF STATE
WASHINGTON

Today the Office of Management and Budget released a preview of the President’s budget request for 2018.¬† It is an unmistakable restatement of the needs the country faces and the priorities we must establish.¬† The State Department’s budget request addresses the challenges to American leadership abroad and the importance of defending American interests and the American people.¬† It acknowledges that U.S. engagement must be more efficient, that our aid be more effective, and that advocating the national interests of our country always be our primary mission. Additionally, the budget is an acknowledgment that development needs are a global challenge to be met not just by contributions from the United States, but through greater partnership with and contributions from our allies and others.

Over the coming weeks, we will work together to draw a new budget blueprint that will allow us to shape a Department ready to meet the challenges that we will face in the coming decades.  We will do this by reviewing and selecting our priorities, using the available resources, and putting our people in a position to succeed.

We have a genuine opportunity to set a new course.¬† Together, we are going to advance America’s national security and its economic security.¬† I am motivated to tackle this challenge and am eager to realize what we will achieve together.

We understand that this letter¬†did not get very good reviews in Foggy Bottom. We really do think that¬†Secretary Tillerson¬†needs to have a town hall meeting with his employees as soon as he gets back from his travel. Before perceptions become realities. ¬†We already know the why, now folks need to understand the where and how.¬† And it doesn’t¬†help to just tell one bureau it’s zeroed out in funds, and then come back another¬†day and say how about a 50% cut?¬†As if the 7th floor taskmasters got off the wrong side of bed one morning and on the right side the next day.

During his stop in Japan, Secretary Tillerson finally took a few questions during press availability with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. The State Department budget was one of the questions asked during the presser. Below is a transcript from state.gov:

QUESTION: Secretary Tillerson, today the White House is revealing its blueprint for the federal budget that will include deep cuts to your department. Do you support efforts to make such drastic cuts to diplomacy and development funding at this time? And are you confident that you will be able to continue to represent U.S. interests with such reduced room to maneuver?

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Secretary Tillerson, please.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I think in terms of the proposed budget that has been put forth by President Trump, it’s important from the State Department perspective, I think, a little context, to recognize that the State Department is coming off of an historically high level of budgetary resources in the 2017 budget, and this is reflective of a number of decisions that have been taken over the past few years, in part driven by the level of conflicts that the U.S. has been engaged in around the world as well as disaster assistance that’s been needed.

I think clearly, the level of spending that the State Department has been undertaking in the past ‚Äď and particularly in this past year ‚Äď is simply not sustainable. So on a go-forward basis, what the President is asking the State Department to do is, I think, reflective of a couple of expectations. One is that as time goes by, there will be fewer military conflicts that the U.S. will be directly engaged in; and second, that as we become more effective in our aid programs, that we will also be attracting resources from other countries, allies, and other sources as well to contribute in our development aid and our disaster assistance.

I think as I look at our ability to meet the mission of the State Department, I am quite confident. The men and women in the State Department are there for one reason. They’re not there for the glory. They’re not there for the money, obviously. They’re there because they’re extraordinarily dedicated to the mission and dedicated to ensuring America’s national security, economic security. We are going to be undertaking a very comprehensive examination of how programs are executed, a very comprehensive examination of how we are structured, and I’m confident that with the input of the men and women of the State Department, we are going to construct a way forward that allows us to be much more effective, much more efficient, and be able to do a lot with fewer dollars.

So it’s challenging. We understand the challenge. I take the challenge that the President has given us on willingly and with great expectation that with everyone in the State Department’s assistance, we’re going to deliver a much better result for the American people in the future.

Secretary Tillerson talking about “historically high level of budgetary resources in the 2017 budget” for the State Department made us look up the budget request for the last five fiscal years. The largest funding request¬†was five years ago for¬†FY2013 at¬†$51.6 billion.

FY2017:  $50.1 billion.  The State Department $50.1 billion request includes a base of $35.2 billion and $14.9 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) request. (SAO: For FY16 and ’17, we will be using OCO to support countries and programs that require assistance to prevent, address, or recover from human-caused crises and natural disasters, as well as to secure State and USAID’s operations from hostile acts and potential terrorism. OCO will be providing about 50 to 100 percent of the funding for some countries and programs, including a range of ongoing assistance operations and treaty commitments).

FY2016: ¬†$50.3 billion.¬†The State and USAID budget request totals $50.3 billion. ¬†The¬†base budget request is $43.2 billion plus¬†$7 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funds ¬†—¬†to respond to immediate and extraordinary national security requirements. OCO funds supports critical programs and operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, as well as exceptional costs related to efforts to fight ISIL, respond to the conflict in Syria, and support Ukraine.

FY2015:¬†$46.2 billion.¬†The overall State and USAID Budget Request is $46.2 billion, plus¬†$5.9 billion request for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) which funds key programs in — Iraq and Pakistan helps sustain hard-fought gains in Afghanistan through the 2014 transition.

FY2014: $47.8 billion.¬†The overall request is¬†$47.8 billion, includes¬†$44 billion as part of base budget or enduring budget, and $3.8 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, (OCO) ¬†which — largely covers the extraordinary costs of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

FY2013: $51.6 billion. The Department of State/USAID budget totals $51.6 billion which includes $43.4 billion for the core budget,  which funds the long-term national security mission of the Department and USAID and $8.2 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) to support the extraordinary and temporary costs of civilian-led programs and missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

The second thing we’d like to note is Secretary Tillerson’s assertion that “there will be fewer military conflicts that the U.S. will be directly engaged in.” If that’s really the expectation, why is Trump’s budget giving DOD $54billion more in funds as it guts the State Department and USAID? As we write this, we are mindful that the United States is¬†still in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen, and a host of other places that are not front page news.

By the way, what’s this we’re hearing about¬†the¬†transition folks looking to close some US embassies in Africa? ¬†Apparently there are now people¬†at State who think¬†we should close our embassy in country X for instance because¬†— hey, AFRICOM is already there¬†so¬†why do we need an embassy? ¬†Argh! ¬†These folks realize that 3/4 of AFRICOM actually works¬†at the command’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, right? ¬†AFRICOM’s HQ is¬†not the point, of course, but if there are transition¬†folks thinking about AFRICOM (just one of the six geographic combatant commands) as an excuse for post closures overseas, where else might they be thinking of playing their game of disengagement?

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Lonesome Rex to Make Inaugural Trip to Asia Without His Traveling Press?

Posted: 2:37 am ET

 

Secretary Tillerson knew when he took this job that he would be the face and the voice of America to the world. That includes talking to the press, and more importantly answering questions from the press corps. We get that he’s new at this but he better get it together fast; he’s now one of our most prominent public servants, and he cannot continue to evade the press and avoid answering questions without running afoul of¬†one of his three core principles.

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell¬†¬†has now been escorted twice out of¬†a State Department presser.¬†Reporters were also previously escorted out during the¬†Lavrov-Tillerson meeting in Germany. We betcha when¬†Secretary Tillerson starts talking to the press, reporters would¬†not have to shout their questions during every 30-second photo-op. And now, we’re hearing that Secretary Tillerson is making his inaugural trip to Asia next week. He will be traveling with the new Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the EAP Bureau¬†Susan Thornton who assumed post after¬†Danny Russel’s recent departure. ¬†According to the State Department, Secretary Tillerson will arrive in Tokyo on March 15, continue on to Seoul on March 17, and travel to Beijing on March 18 — ¬†apparently without his traveling press.

Here is the official word on this according to the acting @StateDept spox, Mark Toner:

[W]ith respect to the trip to Asia, we‚Äôre still working out the logistics, so I really can‚Äôt say specifically or speak definitively, I guess, as to whether we will be able to accommodate any press on the Secretary‚Äôs plane. I think we‚Äôre all aware that it is a smaller plane for this particular trip. There will, as you know, going to ‚Äď there will be some U.S. media who will be traveling to the destinations, each destination, and of course, we will do our utmost to support them at those destinations and provide whatever access we can. ¬†And I think going forward, the State Department is doing everything it can to ‚Äď and will do everything it can to accommodate a contingent of traveling media on board the Secretary‚Äôs plane.

Wait, Secretary Tillerson’s minders did not purposely select a smaller plane, did they? ¬†The smaller plane excuse would only really work¬†had¬†Secretary Tillerson traveled with the¬†full press during his trips to Mexico and Germany, then say, hey, can’t this time because we’re forced to use a¬†smaller plane. But in Mexico, Secretary¬†Tillerson reportedly only traveled with press pools,¬†took a small plane and had one writer and one photographer. So this is starting to look like this could be the new normal. ¬†If he can get away with not taking his traveling press this time, are we looking at¬†our top¬†diplomat ditching the press for good in the future? ¬†This is, of course,¬†worrisome coz how are we going to Make America Great Again if we can’t even provide¬†a good size plane for our chief diplomat¬†and his traveling press?

Folks, this doesn’t look good. You need to make this right. And¬†hey,¬†about the milkbox, does he have a favorite color?

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“America First” Budget Targets @StateDept Funding ( Just 1% of Total Federal Budget)

Posted: 3:13 am  ET

 

We recently posted about the Trump budget for FY2018 that will reportedly proposed funding cuts of up to 30% for the State Department (see¬†¬†With @StateDept Facing a 30% Funding Cut, 121 Generals Urge Congress to Fully Fund Diplomacy and Foreign¬†Aid;¬†@StateDept Budget Could Be Cut By As Much as 30% in Trump‚Äôs First Budget¬†Proposal?;¬†@StateDeptbudge Special Envoy Positions Could Be in Trump‚Äôs Chopping Block ‚ÄĒ Which¬†Ones?).¬†We understand that this number could actually be closer to 40%, which is simply bananas, by the way. ¬†It would be ‘must-see’ teevee¬†if Secretary Tillerson appears before the House and Senate committees to justify the deep cuts in programs, foreign aid, diplomatic/consular posts, embassy security, staffing, training, or why we’re keeping just half the kitchen sink. Just a backgrounder, below is the budget request composition for FY2016:

fy2016-sfops-budget-request

*

Previous posts on FS funding:

*

On February 27, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney showed up at the WH Press Briefing to talk about President Trump’s budget. ¬†Before you are all up in arms, he said that what we’re talking about right now is “not a full-blown budget” which apparently will not come until May. ¬†So this “blueprint” does not include mandatory spending, entitlement reforms, tax policies, revenue projections, or the infrastructure plan and he called this a “topline number only.” Agencies are given¬†48 hours to respond to OMB (holy camarba!). Excerpt below from his talk¬†at the¬†James S. Brady Briefing Room:

As for what it is, these are the President’s policies, as reflected in topline discretionary spending. ¬†To that end, it is a true America-first budget. ¬†It will show the President is keeping his promises and doing exactly what he said he was going to do when he ran for office. ¬†It prioritizes rebuilding the military, including restoring our nuclear capabilities; protecting the nation and securing the border; enforcing the laws currently on the books; taking care of vets; and increasing school choice. ¬†And it does all of that without adding to the currently projected FY 2018 deficit.

The top line defense discretionary number is $603 billion. ¬†That’s a $54-billion increase — it’s one of the largest increases in history. ¬†It’s also the number that allows the President to keep his promise to undo the military sequester. ¬†The topline nondefense number will be $462 billion. ¬†That’s a $54-billion savings. ¬†It’s the largest-proposed reduction since the early years of the Reagan administration.

The reductions in nondefense spending follow the same model — it’s the President keeping his promises and doing exactly what he said he was going to do. ¬†It reduces money that we give to other nations, it reduces duplicative programs, and it eliminates programs that simply don’t work.

The bottom line is this: ¬†The President is going to protect the country and do so in exactly the same way that every American family has had to do over the last couple years, and that’s prioritize spending.

The schedule from here — these numbers will go out to the agencies today in a process that we describe as passback. ¬†Review from agencies are due back to OMB over the course of the next couple days, and we’ll spend the next week or so working on a final budget blueprint. ¬†We expect to have that number to Congress by March 16th. ¬†That puts us on schedule for a full budget — including all the things I mentioned, this one does not include — with all the larger policy issues in the first part of May.

[…]

Q ¬† ¬†But we’re not talking about 2 or 3 percent — we’re talking about double-digit reductions, and that’s a lot.

DIRECTOR MULVANEY: ¬†There’s going to be a lot of programs that — again, you can expect to see exactly what the President said he was going to do. ¬†Foreign aid, for example — the President said we’re going to spend less money overseas and spend more of it here. ¬†That’s going to be reflected in the number we send to the State Department.

Q ¬† ¬†Thank you very much. ¬†One quick follow on foreign aid. ¬†That accounts for less than 1 percent of overall spending. ¬†And I just spoke with an analyst who said even if you zero that out, it wouldn’t pay for one year of the budget increases that are being proposed right now. ¬†So how do you square that amount? ¬†So why not tackle entitlements, which are the biggest driver, especially when a lot of Republicans over the years have said that they need to be taxed?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY: ¬†Sure. ¬†On your foreign aid, it’s the same answer I just gave, which is, yes, it’s a fairly part of the discretionary budget, but it’s still consistent with what the President said. ¬†When you see these reductions, you’ll be able to tie it back to a speech the President gave or something the President has said previously. ¬†He’s simply going to — we are taking his words and turning them into policies and dollars. ¬†So we will be spending less overseas and spending more back home.

 

See three separate threads on Twitter with some discussion of the proposed cuts.

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Is Foggy Bottom’s T-Rex as Stealthy and Cunning as His Theropod Namesake?

Posted: 1:42 pm  ET
Updated 5:18 pm ET

 

On February 16, we reported that State Department Counselor Kristie Kenney was let go by the new Trump Administration¬†(see¬†Secretary Tillerson Travels to Germany For G-20, Also @StateDept Counselor Steps¬†Down). ¬†On February 17, CBS News reported that “Much of seventh-floor staff, who work for the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and the Counselor offices, were told today that their services were no longer needed.”

Since 2009, the State Department has been¬†authorized¬†a Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (D/MR), the third highest ranking position at the agency. ¬†¬†Jack L. Lew¬†stayed from January 28, 2009¬†‚Äď November 18, 2010, before moving on to better jobs.¬†Thomas R. Nides¬†was in from January 3, 2011¬†‚Äď February, 2013, then¬†rejoined¬†Morgan Stanley as vice chairman. After a stint at OMB,¬†Heather Anne Higginbottom¬†served the State Department from 2013-2017. ¬†This is an eight year old position, and while it may be worrisome for some if this position is not filled, the State Department managed for a long time without this position, and it can do so again. We are more concerned on who will be appointed¬†as Under Secretary for Management and that he/she has a depth in experience ¬†not only in management but in the many challenges of overseas assignments.

Regarding the position of Counselor, according to history.state.gov, the Secretary of State created the position for the Department of State in 1909 as part of a general Department reorganization. In 1912, the position became a Presidential appointment (37 Stat. 372). Between 1913 and 1919, the Counselor served as the Department’s second-ranking officer, assuming the role previously exercised by the Assistant Secretary of State. In 1919, the newly-created position of Under Secretary of State subsumed the duties of the Counselor. An Act of Congress, May 18, 1937, re-established the position of Counselor of the Department of State (50 Stat. 169). Between 1961 and 1965, the Counselor also served as the Chairman of the Policy Planning Council. The Counselor, who currently under law holds rank equivalent to an Under Secretary of State (P.L. 98-164; 97 Stat. 1017), serves as an adviser to the Secretary of State. The Counselor’s specific responsibilities have varied over time.  The Counselor position is one of the top nine senior positions at the State Department, and the only one that does not require Senate confirmation.

Reports of “layoffs” and particularly “bloodbath” in the 7th Floor are a tad hyperbolic. If the Trump administration has decided not to fill the D/MR and C offices, we imagine that the top positions would remain vacant and the supporting jobs could be eliminated. ¬†All political appointees were gone by¬†January 20, so the¬†remaining staffers who were reportedly laid off¬†are career employees. We expect that Civil Service employees have to find other positions within the organization, while Foreign Service employees have to “bid” for other available positions domestically or overseas.

We’ll have to watch and see how many offices will now remain unfilled, and how many positions will be eliminated. The results may give us a rough look on what the State Department and the Foreign Service will look like in the years to come. With less positions available to fill, we may be looking at a possibility of hiring at less than attrition, with no new positions; something that old timers are familiar with. ¬†We’ll have to revisit this topic at some future time, but¬†for now, just filling in vacant positions within the State Department appears to be a¬†clear challenge with no immediate end in sight.

Back in December, we wondered¬†in this blog if¬†Secretary Tillerson will be able to pick his own¬†deputies (see¬†Will Rex #Tillerson Gets to Pick His Deputies For the State¬†Department?¬†Now we know. On February 10, NYT reported that¬†President Trump overruled Secretary¬†Tillerson and rejected Elliott Abrams for deputy secretary of state. ¬†Apparently, Abrams could not get past White House’s vetting not over his record of withholding information from Congress in the Iran-Contra Scandal but ¬†over Abram’s past criticisms of then candidate Trump. On February 15, we also wrote about the dust-up between Secretary Tillerson and WH chief of staff Rience Priebus on ambassadorships (see¬†Tillerson/Priebus Standoff on Ambassadorships, Plus Rumored Names/Posts¬†(Updated).¬†On February 16, Politico reported that the White House interviewed Fox’s Heather Nauert to be Secretary¬†Tillerson’s spokesperson while he was out of the country.

A¬†recent CNN report notes that¬†after Tillerson took the helm at the State Department, “there has been little in the way of communication about Foggy Bottom’s priorities, schedules or policies.” A former State Department official¬†told¬†CNN,¬†“It’s possible Tillerson is keeping his powder dry so he doesn’t make enemies prematurely.”¬†Also below:

The official said Cabinet members can try to sway an undecided president by speaking publicly — a path Defense Secretary James Mattis has taken in stating his support for NATO and opposition to torture — or they can keep quiet to see which way the wind blows. They can also try to get the President’s ear and confidence by taking a lower profile.
But the official warned, “If you’re not clearly drawing your line on an issue, no one is going to respect it.”

If Secretary Tillerson does not even get a say on who will be his deputies, his spokesperson, or who will be appointed ambassadors (who by the way, report to the State Department and not¬†the White House), folks will soon start wondering what kind of influence does he actually¬†have? Should foreign governments bother with America’s diplomatic service or should they just tweet at the White House or at America’s tweeter-in-chief?¬†¬†Of course, Secretary Tillerson has¬†only been on the job less than a month. We’ll have to wait and see if Foggy Bottom’s T-Rex is as stealthy and cunning as¬†his¬†theropod namesake given that Trump’s¬†chaotic White House¬†is¬†as fine tuned machine as CEO¬†John Hammond’s Jurassic Park.

Note that Secretary Tillerson recently picked Margaret Peterlin as his chief of staff. ¬†Peterlin had Hill and federal government experience. ¬†She was previously¬†National Security Advisor for the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, J. Dennis Hastert, and served as Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the Commerce Department’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) under Bush43.

The following is not an exhaustive list of all offices at the State Department. We did not come up with this list which appears on state.gov here under Alphabetical List of Bureaus and Offices, and includes positions that require/do not require Senate confirmation. With the exception of IRM, CIO, CoS, and  S/ES (do not require senate confirmations), all offices/names in blue, bold font have been confirmed by the U.S. Senate (regular blue font indicates appointment without Senate confirmation). R, PM and CT (red, bold font) have been designated acting officials prior to the change of administration. Regular red font are offices/names of officials serving in their acting capacity or delegated authority as one January 20.  The bottom part of the list is based on Alphabetical List of Bureaus and Offices from state.gov where we have only the organization directory to refer to, and are not sure if the office holders are current.

 

Secretary of State (S) Rex Tillerson
Chief of Staff (CoS)  Margaret J Peterlin
Deputy Secretary (D) Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. (Acting Deputy)
Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (DMR)  may not be filled (see)
Counselor of the Department (C)  may not be filled (see)

UNDER SECRETARY FOR:

Arms Control and International Security (T)
Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J)
Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment (E)
Management (M) John W. Hutchison (Acting 120 days)
Political Affairs (P) Thomas A. Shannon, Jr.
Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R) Bruce Wharton (Acting U/S)

 

GEOGRAPHIC BUREAUS:

African Affairs (AF)  Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield
European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) John A. Heffern (Acting Asst Secretary)
East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP) Assistant Secretary Daniel R. Russel
International Organization Affairs (IO) Tracey Ann Jacobson (Acting Asst Secretary)
Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) Stuart E. Jones (Acting Asst Secretary)
South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) William E. Todd (Acting Asst Secretary)
Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) Francisco Palmieri (Acting Asst Secretary)

FUNCTIONAL BUREAUS AND OFFICES:

Administration (A) Harry Mahar (Acting Asst Secretary)
Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (AVC) Anita E. Friedt (Acting Asst Secretary)
Chief Information Officer (CIO) Frontis B. Wiggins, III
Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) Tom Hushek (Acting Asst Secretary)
Consular Affairs (CA) David T. Donahue (Acting Asst Secretary)
Counterterrorism (CT) Justin Siberell (Acting Coordinator)
Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) Virginia L. Bennett (Acting Asst Secretary)
Department Spokesperson Mark Toner (Acting)
Diplomatic Security (DS) Bill A. Miller (Acting Asst Secretary)
Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (DGHR) Arnold Chacon
Economic and Business Affairs (EB) Patricia Haslach (Acting Asst Secretary)
Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) Mark Taplin (Acting Asst Secretary)
Energy Resources (ENR) Mary B Warlick (Acting Coordinator)
Executive Secretariat (S/ES)  Ambassador Joseph E. Macmanus

Foreign Missions (OFM) Cliff Seagroves (Acting Director)
Human Resources (DGHR) Arnold Chacon
Information Resource Management (IRM) CIO Frontis B. Wiggins, III
Inspector General (OIG) Steve Linick
International Information Programs (IIP)  Jonathan Henick
International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) Eliot Kang (Acting Asst Secretary)
Legal Adviser (L) Richard Visek (Acting)
Legislative Affairs (H) Ambassador Joseph E. Macmanus (Acting Asst Secretary)
Mission to the United Nations (USUN) Ambassador Nikki Haley
Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs(OES) Judith G. Garber (Acting Asst Secretary)
Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) William H. Moser (Acting Director)

Political-Military Affairs (PM) Tina S. Kaidanow (Acting Asst Secretary)
Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) Simon Henshaw (Acting Asst Secretary)
Public Affairs (PA) Susan Stevenson (Acting Asst Secretary)
White House Liaison (M/WHL) Robert Wasinger

The following remaining offices are from the full state.gov list here and individuals encumbering these positions are listed in the current official phone directory. Note that this is not 100% reliable.  The directory dated 2/17/2017 still lists David McKean as S/P director. McKean was appointed US Ambassador to Luxembourg  in March 2016, he departed from that position on January 20, 2017 so this specific entry for S/P is twice outdated.

Allowances (A/OPR/ALS) Cheryl N. Johnson
Budget and Planning (BP) Douglas A. Pitkin
Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) Michael D Lumpkin
Chief Economist,¬†of the Department –??
Civil Rights, Office of РJohn M. Robinson
Comptroller and Global Financial Services (CGFS) Christopher H. Flaggs
Diplomatic Reception Rooms (M/FA) Marcee F. Craighill
Foreign Assistance (F)
Foreign Service Institute (FSI) Director Nancy McEldowney
Global AIDS Coordinator (S/GAC)
Global Criminal Justice (GCJ)
Global Food Security (S/GFS)
Global Women’s Issues¬†(S/GWI)
Global Youth Issues (GYI)
Intelligence and Research (INR) Assistant Secretary Daniel B. Smith
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) Assistant Secretary William R. Brownfield
Management Policy, Rightsizing and Innovation (PRI) Director Paul A Wedderien
Medical Services (MED) Medical Director Charles H. Rosenfarb, M.D.
Office of Terrorism Finance and Economic Sanctions Policy¬†–¬†¬†Sandra Oudkirk?
Ombudsman, Office of – Shireen Dodson
Policy, Planning, and Resources for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (PPR) Roxanne J Cabral
Policy Planning Staff (S/P) David McKean ???
Protocol (S/CPR)  Rosemarie Pauli (Acting Chief)
Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) Kathryn Schalow
Science & Technology Adviser (STAS)
Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Ambassador Susan Coppedge

 

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With Zero Information From @StateDept, Foreign Service Candidates Remain in Limbo

Posted: 2:42 am  ET
Updated: 12:08 pm PT
Updated: Feb 14, 2:18 pm PT: Notification reportedly went out o/a 9 pm on Feb 13 that the FSO/FSS March classes are on.

 

On January 23, we blogged about the State Department sending out job offers for an incoming class of foreign service officers and specialists (see¬†@StateDept Sends Out Job Offers to Prospective FSOs For March 6 Class But ‚ÄĒ Will There Be¬†Jobs?. On February 1, OPM and OMB issued a joint guidance on the Trump EO on the hiring freeze (see¬†OMB/OPM Issues ¬†Additional Guidance for Federal Civilian Hiring Freeze, Jan 31.2017¬†(Read).

As of February 9, 2017, the same information provided to applicants on February 2 remains the same:

greencheck

The “greencheck” at the state.gov forum also told the prospective employees:

We have not received updated guidance on how the hiring freeze will impact both the Generalist or Specialist March classes at this time. HR is exploring all options regarding the hiring registers and the March classes. Once a decision is finalized, all candidates affected by the freeze will be notified immediately.

We understand that “State still has provided the hundreds of effected candidates and their families with zero information on whether or not the class will take place or when. At this point, a number of candidates have lost their previous jobs and have had to move out of their homes.” Our correspondent, clearly frustrated, has some very strong words:

“The Department needs to start meeting the expectation of accountability that SECSTATE set on his first day on the job, and SECSTATE and senior leadership need to start enforcing those standards.¬†This story of State’s inability/unwillingness to make decision, adjust to fluid circumstances, and communicate to what it purports to be its most valuable resource–it’s people–needs to be told …The careers forum on the state.gov site have plenty of anaecdotal examples of state’s lack of communication and the human impact this is having on people.”

So, we went and look at the forum once more.

One asked, “I haven’t seen anything definitive yet. It’s sure getting late here.¬†Should I let the movers come box up my stuff?”

Another wrote, “I was scheduled for the March FSS class that is pending. I have already given my notice to my command to leave active duty effective Feb 17th. If this hiring freeze affects new DSS SA candidates then I am out of a job.”

Still another, “If I were sitting on the register right now, life would be great … I could extend my orders for another year and defer, but I already have orders to detach from active duty in 2 weeks thinking I was going to finally get my dream job.”

One wrote, “To think that State would just ignore us is completely negligible on their part, especially spending thousands of dollars on clearances….that would be a complete waste of tax payers dollars! ¬†I¬†am military so I know the routine of hurry up and wait, however it easy when one is getting paid to wait while a descion is made vs no income because you quit your job based on an offer from State …¬†those of us who are “in limbo” any news is better than no news.”

Somebody “annoyed” wrote, “Take your time guys. Seriously don’t rush this decision. It’s not like you’ve had weeks let alone months to sort this out. And it’s not like the class is supposed to start in about three weeks.¬†So really, take your time. All the uncertainty and waiting has been really great. Not stressful at all. A few of us are going to be unemployed, and several without housing in a few days, but hey, it’s cool, we can deal with it. It’ll be like camping. In fact, why don’t you make the decision on March 5, so we can really draw this out and enjoy this experience for as long as possible.¬†“

Forum user¬†using “Current FSO” as handle posted: “Whoever is in charge of making this decision owed the March class an answer weeks ago. That person is derelict in his/her duty to provide correct information. People have to uproot entire lives to go to A-100. Disgraceful.”

Here is a post that should be required reading for the State Department leadership:

If State needs more time to ‘explore options’ at least make the decision to delay the classes and let those who received appointment letters know. The Generalist class should have travel authorizations by now. Hundreds of candidates and their family members made the decision to accept appointment offers based on State’s identification of a 6 March start date. It is time for State to show similar decisiveness and commitment.¬†

Presidential transition, turnover in Management, etc doesn’t absolve State leadership of this responsibility. If the organization takes this long to make a decision on routine hiring, I shudder to think how it handles something like a medical evacuation or ordered departure.¬†

Of note, this response is not intended to lambast the ‘green check’ who is pasting State’s pro forma response to these queries. I understand they are only passing the limited information they’ve been told to release. This broader forum is oriented to those interested in seeking employment with the Department of State. A quick review of the threads the last two months paints an unimpressive picture of State’s handling of hiring actions, its ability to make decisions in fluid environments, and its interest in communicating substantive information with those effected by State’s indecision.

This could have been avoided had the State Department thought to include a contingency language in the job offer letters it sent out, it did not.

We learned that the State Department in FY2015 hired¬†290¬†foreign service officers,¬†and 259 foreign service specialists. The number ¬†of hires reportedly were¬†“at or near” attrition. There is no publicly released¬†number available for FY2016 (email us) but folks are talking about “hundreds” who received invitations to start training next month.

Update: Regarding the “hundreds” above, we understand that the¬†largest Generalist (FSO) classes have never exceeded 100¬†as the room¬†only fits about 85. The Specialist (FSS) classes are reportedly almost always much smaller. March classes are also¬†typically the smallest of the year. ¬†A State/HR document we’ve seen projected 615¬†positions for FY16 which includes 97 new positions and 518 projected total attrition (employees lost to retirement, resignation, death). Total hiring for FY17 is projected at 599 with 98 new positions and 501 projected total attrition.¬†

According to Federal News Radio,¬†the¬†Defense Department already¬†announced “a sweeping set of exceptions to the governmentwide¬†civilian hiring freeze¬†President Donald Trump imposed on Jan. 23, allowing hiring to resume across broad categories of the workforce ranging from cybersecurity specialists to depot maintenance and shipyard personnel.” ¬† The OMB/OPM guidance appears to carve out an exception for positions¬†necessary to “meet national security (including foreign relations) responsibilities” but so far, the State Department has not made any announcement.

In 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO)¬†reported on the challenges that the State Department faced in filling its increasing overseas staffing needs with sufficiently experienced personnel. It also noted that “persistent Foreign Service staffing and experience gaps put diplomatic readiness at risk.”

In the 1990’s, the Foreign Service suffered through a period of hiring below attrition levels. According to Government Executive, from¬†1994 to 1997, the State Department hired “only enough people to replace half the number it lost to retirement, resignation or death.”¬†That contributed to the staffing and experience gaps in our diplomatic service. ¬†It typically takes about 4 to 5 years for an officer to move through the entry-level grades to a midlevel grade. ¬†To address these gaps, the State Department implemented the ‚ÄúDiplomatic Readiness Initiative,‚ÄĚ during Colin Powell’s tenure which resulted in hiring over 1,000 new employees above attrition from 2002 to 2004. However, most of this increase was absorbed by the demand for personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2009, the State Department started Diplomacy 3.0, ¬†under Hillary Clinton’s tenure, another hiring effort to increase its Foreign Service workforce by 25 percent by 2013. Due to emerging budgetary constraints, State anticipated this goal would not be met until 2023 (see¬†Foreign Service Staffing Gaps, and Oh, Diplomacy 3.0 Hiring Initiative to Conclude in¬†FY2023).

How soon before the State Department will be back in the same pickle?

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Related item:

Presidential Memorandum entitled ‚ÄúHiring Freeze‚ÄĚ January 23, 2017

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