Secretary Mike Pompeo Swears-In New DGHR Carol Perez

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo officiates the swearing-in ceremony for Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources Carol Perez at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on March 15, 2019. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

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Pompeo Announces Departure of All Remaining U.S. Embassy Caracas Diplomats From Venezuela

 

On March 14, Secretary Pompeo announced the “temporary” departure of all remaining US Embassy Caracas diplomats from Venezuela. He also said that “We look forward to resuming our presence once the transition to democracy begins. ”

Two days ago, the State Department reissued its Level 4 Do Not Travel Advisory after the March 11, 2019 announcement of temporary suspension of operations of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas and withdrawal of diplomatic personnel in Venezuela. The advisory cautions American travelers to  “not travel to Venezuela due to crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, and arbitrary arrest and detention.”

Keep the local staffers in your thoughts, personnel withdrawal does not include the local employees. See CDA James Story video here with a message to the people of Venezuela.

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Pompeo on @StateDept: What They Needed Wasn’t More Money, What They Needed Was a Leader Who … Who’s That?

The Trump budget proposal for the FY2020 State Department funding is now out. HFAC already called the proposal which includes a 23% cut ‘dead on arrival” on Capitol Hill. Even if this request doesn’t pass, it clearly reflects the administration’s views on diplomacy and development. If a Foggy Bottom joker starts calling prior State Department funding levels unsustainable, we may fall off our chair and scream out loud. The Administration’s budget request for DOD was $686.1 billion in FY2019 and $750 billion in FY2020. And $750 billion is sustainable? Anyway, brief run-down of the budget requests in the last few years:

FY2017:  The FY2017 budget request under the Obama Administration amounted in $52.78 billion in new budget authority for the State Department, Foreign Operations, and Related Appropriations (SFOPS). When Congress passed the appropriations bill, the  total enacted SFOPS funding for FY2017 was $57.53 billion, an 8.8% increase over the FY2016 SFOPS funding level. According to the CRS, the increase is entirely due to a 40% total increase in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding.

FY2018: President Trump submitted his FY2018 budget request to Congress on May 23, 2017. The request sought $40.25 billion (-30% compared with FY2017 enacted) for SFOPS, including Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds. The 115th Congress enacted the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, which provided FY2018 funding for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS). Division K of the act―State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS)― provided a total of $54.18 billion, including Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds and rescissions. This represented a decrease of 6.1% from the FY2017 actual funding level according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

FY2019: The Trump Administration submitted to Congress its FY2019 budget request on February 12, 2018. The State Department budget proposal under Rex Tillerson included $41.86 billion for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS). CRS notes: Comparing the request with the FY2018-enacted funding levels, the FY2019 request represents a 22.7% decrease in SFOPS funding. The proposed State and related agency funding would be 18.2% below FY2018 enacted and the foreign operations funding would be reduced by 24.7%. Both the House and Senate appropriations committees have approved FY2019 SFOPS bills that include funding at higher levels than the Administration requested and equal to or greater than FY2018 enacted funding. Congress eventually appropriated $56.1 billion, ensuring that the agency has the resources it needs.

FY2020: Trump’s FY2020 budget request for the State Department, the first under Pompeo, proposes $40 billion for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). State’s Bureau of Budget and Planning guy Doug Pitkin said, “the last two budgets, for example, included reductions to State and AID personnel. This budget does not propose that.” He also argued that despite the almost 25% cut, this  budget request apparently “does support diplomacy and development”.

All that to highlight what Secretary Pompeo said in an interview recently. Secretary Pompeo  (who we imagine is known …er fondly in Foggy Bottom as Swagger Mike) gave an interview to McClatchy’s Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle on March 11. We must admit that since this was an interview, we certainly could not blame his speechwriters for the gems here. Neither the video nor the transcript of this interview appears on state.gov, as of this writing but the reporters have a short video clip which we embedded below, and you can read the report with the quotes here.

“I’ll testify on Capitol Hill in a week or two on our budget and I’m very confident that the State Department will have the resources it needs,” Pompeo said. “It always has. President Trump has ensured that it has. And we’ll get to where we’ll need to be.”

 

 

“The people at the State department understand what’s going on,” Pompeo said.

 

“What they needed wasn’t more money,” he said. “What they needed was a leader who was prepared to empower them, was prepared to let them go out and do their job.”

“When I talked about swagger it was about going out in the world and having the confidence that as an American diplomat you represent the greatest nation in the history of civilization,” he said.

“That’s what the people of the State Department want and need. We’re giving it to them in spades. They’re responding to it wonderfully. We’re doing wonderful work all around the world.”

At the @StateDept’s International Women of Courage Awards, a Regrettable Lack of Courage

Published 12:15 am EDT

 

Secretary Pompeo (Mar. 7  – Excerpt):

Women of courage exist everywhere. Most will never be honored. They face different challenges, but challenges that still matters. I’ve personally, of course, had this experience as well. I’ve witnessed women service in my time in the military and have been inspired by them in my personal life. My mother, too, was a woman of courage. She was born in rural Kansas. She helped make ends meet while raising three kids. She never managed to get to college, but made sure that each of us had enormous opportunity. You all know women like this. They’re strong. She was dedicated to providing opportunity for me and my siblings, and we didn’t appreciate the sacrifices that she had endured. And she also raised me to be really smart; I met another courageous woman, Susan, my wife, who’s here with me today. (Laughter and applause.)

We all know – I know – from a lifetime of experience that women of courage exist everywhere and they’re needed everywhere. That’s one reason I’ve appointed women to dozens of senior leadership roles here at the place I am privileged to work. From under secretaries to assistant secretaries to non-career ambassadorships, we know here we can’t succeed without empowering women worldwide, and that means we need to make sure that we have women empowered at our department worldwide.

And now it’s my honor to welcome our distinguished guest speaker today, a woman of incredible power and courage, a woman who has been a powerful advocate in her own right. Since becoming First Lady, she’s been increasingly outspoken against the enslavement of human trafficking and sexual abuse of women and girls all around the globe. I know she will continue to be an influential leader, an influential voice who inspires future women leaders like herself all around the world. Please join me in welcoming the First Lady of the United States of America, Melania Trump. (Applause.)  Full Text»

Wow, okay, can somebody please tell the secretary of state that he needs better speechwriters, pronto?!

Also you’ve probably seen the news already about the rescinded award for Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro.  FP reported:

“…the State Department spokesperson said in an email that Aro was “incorrectly notified” that she had been chosen for the award and that it was a mistake that resulted from “a lack of coordination in communications with candidates and our embassies.” “We regret this error. We admire Ms. Aro’s achievements as a journalist, which were the basis of U.S. Embassy Helsinki’s nomination,” the spokesperson said.
[…]
To U.S. officials who spoke to FP, the incident underscores how skittish some officials—career and political alike—have become over government dealings with vocal critics of a notoriously thin-skinned president.
[…]
In the minds of some diplomats, this has created an atmosphere where lower-level officials self-censor dealings with critics of the administration abroad, even without senior officials weighing in.

Our understanding is that posts who submit  nominations for this award are typically required to affirm that they had thoroughly vetted their candidates,  including social media.  The nominations do not happen in secret. Posts actually have to tell their candidates that they’re being nominated otherwise they may not be available when the award is handed out. Posts also have to tell their candidates when they are not selected.

It is likely that we won’t now exactly what happened here until we get to the oral history part many years down the road.

For now, we’re just watching out on who will throw those unnamed lower level officials under the bus, then run them over some more until you see the tire tracks on their souls?

@StateDept’s Chief Diplomatic Recruiter Seeks Diversity, Heads to a State With 91.1 Percent White Population

Posted: 4:01 am EDT

 

We’ve been ill, so we’re just catching up on this news.  One of the purported reasons for the secretary of state’s recent trip to Iowa is to recruit flesh blood to add to his “75,000 great warriors out around the world” doing, as best we could tell, diplomatic and consular work. We don’t know how the secretary and his smart people on the 7th Floor missed the fact that Iowa is actually overwhelmingly white. Like 91.1 percent white. Also, in January 2019, WalletHub notes that Iowa is not doing really great in bridging racial disparities –the state ranks 48th in racial integration, and number 50 on its racial progress ranking (Maine took the 51st spot, by the way).  WalletHub said it measured the gaps between blacks and whites across 22 key indicators of equality and integration in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  See link below.

We’d like to helpfully note that as of September 2018, at least 81 percent of the State Department’s career foreign service officers are white, at least 75 percent of the career foreign service specialists are white, and 60 percent of career civil service employees are white (see Snapshot: @StateDept Permanent Workforce by Ethnicity, Race, Gender, and Disability).  The agency has  0.10 percent Native Hawaiian representation, and 0.40 percent American Indian representation. Those numbers disappear at the senior ranks. Don’t mind us, but that trip to Iowa would have made more sense if it were a trip to Puerto Rico, Hawaii, or the areas with the largest American Indian and Alaska Native population.

During his trip, Secretary Pompeo told the Iowa Farm Bureau he wants to ensure “people from the heartland” serve within the Foreign Service. Okay, but if it’s important enough to warrant a trip, why have they not created a hashtag to go with it, hey?

So geographic diversity is more important than diversity of thoughts? Yes? No?

Or it it that this time, for this specific trip, geographic diversity is kinda important?

A recent Miles With Mike blog/newsletter/scrapbook rolled into one alerted everyone that “In the next few weeks” he will be  “traveling around our country to meet and speak with Americans in numerous cities, to hear how we can best advance their interests.”

Very confusing. First, it was visit the farmers and the heartland, then also recruit for the State Department, and now it looks like he will be on a listening tour in numerous cities to um, hear how he can “best advance their interests.”

Anyway, this should be interesting. How is he going to ensure geographic diversity remains to be seen. Candidates still have to take the exam. Is the Foreign Service Board of Examiners going to start awarding points to Foreign Service candidates based on their states of birth, or states of residence? Or voter registration? We suspect that Congress would be interested on any potential changes specific to Foreign Service recruitment. Also, with our society being prone to litigation, if this geographic diversity selection ever becomes policy, how soon before the non-heartland people sign up for class action?

Source: WalletHub

 

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Pompeo Heads to Iowa, Texas, Kansas – And Where Else? That’s a Ridiculous Question!

Posted: 2:21 am EST

 

It looks like the State Department is dropping the #swagger hashtag for the moment.  There’s now a new hashtag #StateDeptStateside for trips to Iowa, Texas, Kansas, and who knows where else.  They’re also selling this as a recruitment trip, but doesn’t the secretary of state know that he already has Diplomats in Residence (DIRs), career Foreign Service Officers located throughout the United States who are responsible for providing guidance and advice to students, professionals and the community about Department careers? The DIR Midwest located in Illinois covers Iowa, and there is actually one located in Texas! Yay! But hey, nothing else is going on in the world, so yes, it absolutely makes perfect sense for the secretary of state to be doing stateside trips to recruit personnel for the State Department.

Listen, just ditch the plane, folks. Make this a whistle-stop tour; say it saves money. On the way to Texas he’ll get to stop at plenty states without even trying. He can chat with folks at every stop. Easy peasy lemon squeezy pitch.  Say come work at a national security agency that makes the world a better place; it’s such an important agency that they make half the people work with no pay while the other half are just sent home with no pay during a government shutdown. Also no one found the national security agency get out of shutdown free card until the 27th day of the shutdown, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is they found the card on the 27th day of the shutdown, and the money, so it’s all good now. No, it’s all great now! Sign up sheet to join over 75,000 warriors over there!

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Sources: Major Personnel Cuts Coming For U.S. Mission Iraq

Posted: 4:28 am EST
Updated: 5:01 am EST

 

It looks like US Mission Iraq is in for another big round of staff reduction.  Sources indicate that staff cuts could be as much as a third. People reportedly are being told to return home. Like when?  Now? Like there’s no glide path here …  just pack up and go home now?

Update: We just learned that assigned personnel were notified last week to find other jobs.

If folks time this really well, Secretary Pompeo can then go talk to Congress about cost savings by the time he is up there in May for the State Department Budget Request for FY2020.

So we want to take a look at staffing numbers. We have two publicly available staffing numbers to work with, both a bit outdated so  our numbers are speculation at this time. One is from 2013 when Embassy Iraq told State/OIG that it planned to reduce staffing from 11,500 in January 2013 to 5,500 in January 2014. That’s over five years ago, and we don’t know if US Mission Iraq was successful with this reduction plan. Let’s say post was successful, and staffing was down to 5,500 in early 2014. A reduction by a third means moving out about 1,800 people out of Iraq, which presumably includes not just direct-hire employees but also contractors.

Our second staffing number is from a January 2016 solicitation posted on FedBiz for Medical Service Support Iraq II which indicates the following:  “The BDSC Large Diplomatic Support Hospital not only provides primary care to personnel at BDSC, but also may serve as the secondary and trauma care center for the patient population within U.S. Mission Iraq (4300 – 5800 personnel).”

If we take the lower end of that bracket at 4300, a reduction by a third means moving out approximately 1400 people out of Iraq and and back to domestic assignments/regular postings for direct-hire employees. Staff reduction could also means less protective security requirements, reduction in number of contractors providing various support functions, as wells as a reduction in the number of hospitals, air flights, food operations and logistics, laundry services, warehouse operation, vehicle maintenance services, and a long host of other support services.

Another way we’re looking at this is to go back to a 2010 State/OIG report that estimated a minimum of 15 and possibly up to 60 security and life support staff to support one substantive direct-hire position. For instance, if there are some 350 direct-hire employees and you slash a third of that staff, the corresponding security and life support staff could also be reduced by a third, which means a reduction of about 1700 security and life support staff (using the minimum 1:15 support ratio). 

We do not know at this time how many direct-hire personnel will actually be affected by these cuts, or how many assignments — onward assignments, linked assignments, or how many contractors — will be impacted. We will update if/when we know more. There’s also a nagging question in our noggin — after Iraq, where else?

Maybe time to do a trip down the blog’s memory lane. Back in 2010, we posted US Embassy Baghdad: The “civilianization” of the U.S. presence in Iraq and its peskiest details.  At that time, State/OIG notes:

The number of security and life support personnel required to maintain this limited substantive staff is huge: 82 management, 2,008 security, 157 aviation, and 1,085 life support personnel. In other words, depending on the definition of support staff, it takes a minimum of 15 and possibly up to 60 security and life support staff to support one substantive direct-hire position. To put this into perspective, a quick calculation of similar support ratios at three major embassies (Beijing, Cairo, and New Delhi) shows an average of four substantive officers to every three support staff (4:3) in contrast to 1:15 to 1:60 in Iraq.

The following year, the US Embassy in Baghdad made news on its planned staffing expansion from 8,000 to 17,000 (see US Embassy Iraq: From a staff of 8,000 to 17,000?).

In 2011, we did US Mission Iraq: Not DOD’s Giganotosaurus Footprint, But a Super Embassaurus For Real.  We  had a deep sense of humor then. That same year, we saw the opening of a new post in Iraq (see Newest US Consulate General Opens in Basrah, Iraq)

In 2012, US Mission Iraq made news again as news on a reduction in staffing by as much as as half was splashed on the headlines (see US Embassy Iraq Staffing: To Slash or Not to Slash, That is the Question).  There was also BLISS (US Mission Iraq: Get ready for BLISS… no, not perfect happiness — just Baghdad Life Support Services.

In 2013, we did a Twelve Things You Might Not Know About the Largest Embassy in the World.  That same year, there were various embassy closures (see Intel Signs of Al Qaeda Plot in the Making: U.S. Embassy Closures — Sunday, August 4.

In 2013, the State Department told the State/OIG: “The Embassy is taking steps to reduce the mission’s headcount from over 11,500 in January 2013 to 5,500 by January 2014.

The year 2014 saw the partial temporary relocation of embassy staff to Basra, Erbil, and Amman, Jordan (U.S. Relocates More Baghdad/Erbil Staff to Basrah and Amman (Jordan), Updates Aug. 8 Travel Warning  (2014); US Mission Iraq: Now on Partial “Temporary Relocation” To Basra, Erbil & Amman (Jordan)

In spring 2015, a bomb exploded outside the US Consulate in Erbil, an attack claimed by ISIS (see Bomb Explodes Outside US Consulate Erbil in Northern Iraq, ISIS Claims Attack (Updated).

In the fall of 2015, the State Department updated its regulations for danger pay. All posts in Iraq were designated danger pay post at the 35%, the highest bracket (see New Danger Pay Differential Posts: See Gainers, Plus Losers Include One Post on Evacuation Status)

A January 2016 FedBiz solicitation estimated U.S. Mission Iraq personnel as between 4300– 5800 people.

In 2016, we blogged about the new folks leading the various posts under US Mission Iraq (see @StateDept Summer Rotation Brings New Faces to the U.S. Mission in Iraq.  That same year, the US Embassy in Baghdad issued a warning on possible collapse of Iraq’s Mosul Dam. See also Failure of Iraq’s #Mosul Dam Would Likely Cause “A Catastrophe of Biblical Proportions”.  Whatever happened to that? See this.

In June 2017, we learned that the State Department under new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson planned to close down the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah (see U.S. Consulate General #Basrah, Iraq: Six-Year Old Diplomatic Outpost Faces Closure).

Also in June 2017, the State Department awarded a $422,470,379.00 contract for the construction of the New Consulate Compound in Erbil, Iraq (NCC Erbil). @StateDept Awards $422M Contract For New Consulate Compound in Erbil, Iraq.

In September 2018, fifteen months after we blogged about the planned closure of Consulate Basrah under Tillerson (at that time we were told the planned closure had no timeline), the State Department, under the new leadership of Mike Pompeo ordered the mandatory evacuation for US Consulate General Basrah in Southern Iraq. Secretary Pompeo blamed Iran, and cited “increasing and specific threats and incitements to attack our personnel and facilities in Iraq.”

On October 18, 2018, the Department of State ordered the temporary suspension of operations at the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah.

In November 2018, President Trump nominated career diplomat Matthew Tueller to be  the next U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.   The nomination has been resubmitted to the SFRC on January 16, 2019 where it remains pending as of this writing. It looks like the SRFC is not in any great hurry to hold a confirmation hearing.

That’s where we are. Still remains to be seen what kind of budget allocation we’re going to see in the FY2020 budget proposal  for US Mission Iraq, or what cost savings they’re looking at when this reduction is officially unveiled.  It would also be interesting to see if this is the start of the end of the Iraq tax on diplomatic personnel and facilities worldwide.

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SoS: Look, he did not say what he said. I know precisely what he said and you don’t — even if you saw his tweet

Posted: 4:24 am EST

 

Here is the 70th Secretary of State acting as the President of the United States’ universal translator. Transcript is available here. People say that a few more performances like this and they might have to start giving him a new nickname.

Coz, you know what that Orwell fella wrote: “In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense.”

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Miles With Mike and Susan on ExtraTV: Hello, Hello, America!

Posted: 2:46 pm PST

 

This clip comes with an ‘Extra’ Exclusive! A Glimpse of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Personal Life.  ExtraTV says it “offers a half-hour edition every weekday and an original hour-long weekend installment.” It is reportedly seen in more than 98% of the country and  airs on major market affiliates, including the key NBC Television owned-and-operated stations. “Extra” is produced by Telepictures Productions and distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.  Weekday editions of the program are also broadcast in Canada and Australia!

The Pompeos TV chat is done with former White House Press Secretary and now ExtraTv correspondent Sean Spicer Period.  Enjoy!

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Secretary Pompeo Issues a Statement on SOTU #ButWhosFirst?

Big mystery.

On February 5, 2019 10:32 pm, the State Department’s Press Office released  an official statement from the 70th Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “On President Trump’s State of the Union Address”:

In his first two years, President Trump has strengthened America at home and abroad by putting the interests of the American people first and reasserting American leadership around the world. History will remember this period not only for what America has achieved on its own, but for the partnerships we have built with strong, sovereign, and independent nations and the contributions we have inspired from our partners. From making historic progress with North Korea, to confronting the regime in Iran, to supporting the Venezuelan people against tyranny, and more, President Trump’s diplomatic agenda has made America safer, more respected, and more prosperous.

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“History will remember this period …for the partnerships…” kind of does not really work when … what’s that? Recent bureau departures are attributed  to fears  that Trump will pull us out of NATO? Pardon me? Top ranking folks really did not want to be associated with that? But … but.. he said history …. okay, never mind.

Anyway, we had a hard time recalling any secretary of state releasing an official statement on the SOTU. Except it turned out, T-Rex also did a statement when Trump delivered his first SOTU on February 28, 2017.  On March 1, Tillerson released a 100-word statement.

Trump delivered his second SOTU on January 30, 2018. Then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not appear to release any statement prior to the SOTU but delivered a Remarks at the High-Level Opening Session of the Inaugural U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue on the same day.

By the way, former Secretary of State John Kerry did not issue statements on President Obama’s SOTUs. We’ve looked.

So we should note that while Pompeo maybe one of the firsts to be out with the statement, he got some company (see DHS Secretary Nielsen’s statement, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s statement , Labor Secretary Acosta’s statement, Agriculture Secretary Perdue’s statement, and who knows who else?  Cabinet secretaries and public affairs people burning their late night oil to come up with these statements on the night of February 5.

But you know, folks really need to get these statement night-stamped, otherwise, how will Trump know which statement went out first or last?

It’s probably worth mentioning that Energy Secretary Perry released his state of the union statement on February 6!  February 6. He was the “designated survivor” and he is a day late with his statement?! That’s unforgivable. Yeah, so no cookies for him or his his PA people.