When you hear that we barely avoided a new war …

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Miles With Mike: Child Soldiers, CENTCOM Visit, Silliness, Plus Some Word Salad With That Chardonnay

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Billy Goat  with Washington piece of silliness

Some word salad to go with that Chardonnay:

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Pompeo: “I wanted, too, to reaffirm the value of diplomatic expertise” … #batsignal

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“I wanted, too, to reaffirm the value of diplomatic expertise. So at my recommendation, President Trump and the Senate recognized four individuals Career Ambassadors: David Hale, Phil Goldberg, Michele Sison, and Dan Smith, who is now running FSI. The rest of our team now knows these are senior leaders that they can truly look up to.” – Secretary Mike Pompeo

Remarks at the Department of State Foreign Affairs Day

The class of Career Ambassador was first established by an Act of Congress on Aug 5, 1955, as an amendment to the Foreign Service act of 1946 (P.L. 84-250; 69 Stat. 537). Under the 1980 Foreign Service Act (P.L. 96-465; 94 Stat. 2084), which repealed the 1946 Act as amended, the President is empowered with the advice and consent of the Senate to confer the personal rank of Career Ambassador upon a career member of the Senior Foreign Service in recognition of especially distinguished service over a sustained period. It is the equivalent of Four-star rank (O-10) in the military.

Ambassador David Hale , former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Lebanon and Jordan is Under Secretary for Political Affairs. He is the highest ranking career appointee in the State Department.  He reports directly to the Deputy Secretary of State and the Secretary of State.

[Holy guacamole, why is the State Department’s biographies of senior officials alphabetized by first names?]

Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg previously U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Bolivia, and Chief of Mission in Kosovo, and most recently, Cuba, was also a former Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR). He is now Resident Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University.  Until these four nominations, there was Ambassador Steve Mull, the one remaining career ambassador in active service in mid 2018 prior to being brought back briefly as Acting P before his retirement. By coincidence, Ambassador Goldberg is now a Resident Senior Fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Ambassador Mull’s assignment shortly before his brief appointment as Acting P and retirement.

Ambassador Michele Sison was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Haiti on February 12, 2018. She previously served as U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations (2014-2018), U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives (2012-2014), U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon (2008-2010), and U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (2004-2008).

Ambassador Daniel B. Smith, previously Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR) and former U.S. Ambassador to Greece is now the Director of the Foreign Service Institute.  They gave him a nice title of “Chief Learning Officer for the Department of State and the federal foreign affairs community.” According to the FAM, the Director of FSI is equivalent in rank to an Assistant Secretary and serves as the Department’s Chief Training Officer.  This is not a Senate confirmed position. FSI is one of 14 bureaus and offices under the Under Secretary for Management umbrella. Ambassador Smith does not report directly to the Secretary of State.  One could argue that training is crucial and that this assignment is similar to United States Army Training and Doctrine Command which is headed by one of the Army’s twelve four-star generals. Okay. Fine. Except that TRADOC is one of the four Army Commands, and  oversees 32 Army schools organized under eight Centers of Excellence, each focused on a separate area of expertise within the Army (such as Maneuver and Signal). These centers train over 500,000 soldiers and service members each year. The Foreign Service on the other hand has 13,770 officers and specialists. Even if FSI trains all Foreign Service, Civil Service (10,023), EFMs (2,302) and local staff (51,148) every year (it doesn’t), the number of trainees would only amount to 77,243 (PDF). 

Of the four career ambassadors, one is in Foggy Bottom, one handles training (away from Foggy Bottom), one is a resident fellow at a university (away from Foggy Bottom), and one is overseas (away from Foggy Bottom). Perhaps, that’s where they all want to be?

We’re also curious — how many career diplomats have been appointed to lead the geographic bureaus or the functional bureaus of the State Department?

According to AFSA, among senior official appointments in the State Department, only 5 or 9.1% appointees are career folks. Political appointees make up 90.9% or 50 appointments in real numbers.

Of the 151 ambassador appointments, 80 or 53.0% are career appointees, and 71 or 47.0% are political appointees.

Holy swagger guacamole! Is this what reaffirmation of diplomatic expertise looks like?

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So @StateDept’s guidance is do whatever you want. EXCEPT fly the Pride Flag on the pole #PrideMonth

Help Fund the Blog Diplopundit 2019 — 60-Day Campaign from June 5, 2019 – August 5, 2019

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On May 17, 2018, Secretary Pompeo just three weeks into his tenure as secretary of state issued a statement on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.  This year, the State Department statement marking IDAHOT was noticeably missing.

We understand from a source on background that there was guidance circulated within the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) this past May saying that there will be no IDAHOT/Pride cable this year. The directive reportedly came from the 7th floor although it apparently also said, there is no change in policy, including on display of the Pride flag. “The best we can do is rely on last year’s cable and the statement that policy has not changed.”

The directive last year would have been sent by an Acting Under Secretary for Management as there was no confirmed “M” at the State Department since U/S Kennedy departed his position in January 2017.

On June 7, NBC News reported that the U.S. embassies in Israel, Germany, Brazil and Latvia have requested permission from the State Department to fly the rainbow pride flag on their flagpoles and have been denied, citing three unnamed U.S. diplomats.

On June 10, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told NBCNews that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “respects the dignity of every individual” but did not believe other flags should fly alongside the American flag at U.S. embassies.

In an interview with NBC News, VPOTUS said that the Trump administration had “put no restrictions” on the pride flag or other flags flying elsewhere at U.S. embassies. When pressed, he also said, “We both feel that way very passionately, but when it comes to the American flagpole, and American embassies, and capitals around the world, one American flag flies.”

Another official who is LGBT speaking on background told this blog that flying the Pride flag on the flag pole with the U.S. flag has always been controversial.  This same official told us that while he/she personally does not believe that they should fly the Pride flag on the flag pole, there are others who have cited the Flag Act to justify flying the pride flag:

4 U.S. Code § 7 – Position and manner of display
(f) When flags of States, cities, or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States, the latter should always be at the peak. When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last. No such flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the United States or to the United States flag’s right.

This same source indicated to us that his/her understanding was that the Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao has not approved flying the Pride Flag on the same staff as the U.S. flag at State Department federal buildings within the United States and overseas (Mr. Bulatao was officially sworn into office in late May). We were told that this process is usually done via a decision memo and that this year, there was no cable in or out;  which confirmed the circulated guidance reportedly from DRL in May. This official also told us that his/her understanding is that posts are free to display the pride flag everywhere and anywhere, or to light up embassies in the pride colors, or do anything else they want to mark Pride month.  EXCEPT fly the Pride Flag on the pole.

We should note that in previous years, some posts, not all, have marked Pride Month with a rainbow flag on the flagpole or hanging the rainbow flag on the side of the embassy building. Others participated in local pride parades, or lighting up the embassy in rainbow colors. Social media indicates that our overseas posts are marking Pride month in a similar manner (poles excepted) this year, but they have not/not been prevented from marking or celebrating the event (if post is preventing you from marking Pride Month, holler, please).

Also typically, on June 1st or within the first week of June, the Secretary of State also releases a statement marking LGBTI Pride Month. Pompeo did that last year on June 1st.  The year before that, his predecessor Rex Tillerson released a similar statement on June 7, 2018. This year, we’re still waiting for a similar statement from Secretary Pompeo; 18 days to go before the days of June runs out. Write faster, folks!

Here is the official spox addressing the “except on the pole” issue:

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AFSA Foreign Service Furlough Stories: 10 Days to Get to a Plane for a Medical Evacuation!

Help Fund the Blog Diplopundit 2019 — 60-Day Campaign from June 5, 2019 – August 5, 2019

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Excerpt via AFSA/StateVP Kenneth Kero-Mentz:

For many of us, the shutdown caused real financial trouble, and even with careful planning, paying bills became a stretch. Some members had already tapped into their “rainy day fund” after being forced to leave Mission Russia last year. Others had to juggle funds to pay tuition expenses or mortgages due in January. Unemployment benefits were not available to many members serving overseas. Single parents and tandem couples were hit particularly hard with the delay of first one paycheck, and then two.

We heard stories of how the shutdown affected our members’ work. For instance, at the National Defense University and other war colleges, Department of State students were locked out of lectures and prohibited from participating in seminars during the shutdown. USAID war college students were designated “excepted,” so they could continue attending class. Students from State should have been “excepted” as well. There’s no reason why the U.S. government’s investment in a yearlong master’s degree program for its future senior leadership cadre should be torn apart midstream.

A mid-level officer at a small post in Africa reported that she was busier than ever, covering for her furloughed colleagues, planning events only to cancel later as the shutdown dragged on. As days turned into weeks, and then surpassed a month, morale plummeted. After all, as she said, who wants to work for an organization that consistently understaffs and overworks its team? She wonders if her enthusiasm for what is increasingly becoming a thankless job will ever rebound.
[…]
At one large mission in Asia, all State Department employees were required to report to work regardless of pay status. These people could not do any public-facing work and could not contact their counterparts at other posts or the department (since they were all furloughed), but were required to report to work in a non-pay status. It did not make sense. As many members noted, furlough decisions should be made in a central and transparent manner. Though none of us expected the shutdown to last so long, better contingency planning could have helped.
[…]
The hardships went well beyond juggling work requirements and paying bills. One second-tour specialist was hospitalized and needed to medevac to the United States immediately. The shutdown delayed the processing of the medevac funding request; due to the shutdown and short staffing, it took 10 days to get the person on a plane.

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@StateDept to Establish a “Commission on Unalienable Rights”

 

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The Havana Syndrome in the News, and Some Questions For Foggy Bottom’s New “M”

 

The Havana Syndrome remains a mystery and a subject of interest. But the latest report via Buzzfeed suggests that “much of the early research into the mystery may have been botched or biased.”

The initial investigation was confined to two competing sets of researchers, both eager to publish studies on their own work, and whose findings have been at odds with each other. In one case, researchers were also seeking to promote their own newly approved medical device as a diagnostic tool. And until now, the effort has lacked broader oversight by an institution capable of cross-disciplinary research.

“The fundamental problem is you can’t trust anybody here,” said medical ethicist Sergio Litewka of the University of Miami, who has written about the political cloud of secrecy and distrust surrounding the diplomats’ injuries. “Not the US State Department and not the Cuban government.” (BuzzFeed has filed a lawsuit with the State Department requesting its communications related to the medical research into the injuries, after the agency denied a request for them on medical privacy and ongoing investigation grounds.)

Can somebody please ask the new “M” Brian Bulatao what’s his plan about this matter going forward?  Can an “America First” policy over everything afford to have this medical mystery just go unsolved? What happened to the Accountability Review Board reportedly convened by the former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The ARB process doesn’t stop when the secretary of state is fired via tweet, does it?  What happens to those affected? What happens to those affected who were not employed by the U.S. government (spouses and children)? What happens if those affected leave their jobs voluntarily or involuntarily?  What arrangements are made in terms of medical care? What’s the plan if a similar incident were to happen at another part of the globe?

We missed this 4-part report from Canada:

The Havana Syndrome, Part 3: Insiders say ordeal has ‘struck a nerve’ in Canada’s diplomatic community

The Havana Syndrome, Part 4: What it could be and how experts will try to crack the case

Secretary Pompeo Swears-In Brian Bulatao as Foggy Bottom’s New “M”

 

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo swears in Brian Bulatao as the new Under Secretary of State for Management with T. Ulrich Brechbühl, State Department Counselor in attendance at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on May 17, 2019. [State Department photo by Michael Gross/ Public Domain]

Now that the new under secretary for management has been confirmed, it’s a good time to revisit Mr. Bulatao’s testimony before the U.S. Senate (see excerpt below).

The culture of empowerment created greater organizational agility and a workforce that was unleashed to take on problem sets in new ways. I certainly didn’t come up with every idea, instead I empowered our team to consider how we could do it better, fail faster, and take smarter risks. Across the board, we embraced a spirit of innovation in order to boost the speed and precision of a large organization operating in a dangerous and competitive environment.

If confirmed as the Under Secretary for Management, this is the same approach I intend to bring to the U.S. Department of State. The Department’s hard-working, patriotic, and dedicated teams deserve to have an organization that optimally utilizes their talents. And the American people must have confidence that the State Department makes the best use of their resources and provides the best practical support for our diplomatic initiatives that rely on the strength of our alliances, partnerships, and engagement.

If confirmed, I appreciate the broad management responsibility I will have for the Department’s more than 76,000 personnel – Civil Service, Foreign Service, and Locally Employed Staff – and my direct supervision over 12 bureaus and offices. These women and men serve our country in some of the most challenging places around the world, and risk their lives daily, whether serving in war zones, amidst criminal violence and disease outbreaks, and with the threat of terrorist attack. They work long hours, often separated from their families, to advance our nation’s foreign policy and support the work of diplomacy.

There is no question that the safety and security of our personnel and their families must be the highest priority. I know Secretary Pompeo cares deeply about and works hard to protect his people.

I will ensure that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security has the resources, tools, and technology and is fully integrated into Department decision-making, to most effectively perform this critical task.

I will work hard to ensure our people have secure new buildings where required, that are completed on time, on budget, and incorporate cutting-edge IT infrastructure to support the critical missions they execute globally.

If confirmed, I will seek more creative ways to staff the Department to meet today’s mission and be well positioned to meet the challenges of the future. This will include hiring the full range of expertise, from our diplomats and subject-matter experts, to our specialists in the field like medical services and facilities management, to our security personnel. Hiring the best of the best with diverse backgrounds and experiences is critical to our global mission and will be a top priority for me.

I am committed to advocating for a budget that fully funds the Department’s requirements and putting in place the appropriate oversight and metrics to ensure the Department meets its obligation to use taxpayer dollars wisely and effectively. I will support Secretary Pompeo in requesting funding that serves the national interest and will implement the appropriations law as passed by Congress.

Finally, if confirmed, I will help bring Department operations into the 21st century by modernizing its systems and programs. With so many challenges facing the United States around the world, our diplomacy demands every logistical, technological, and informational advantage we can muster. We must be aggressive in protecting our security, generating prosperity, and advancing our values. Having a State Department team that is empowered and equipped with the right tools to achieve the mission is an integral part of making that happen.

The full testimony is available to read in PDF here.

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