VPOTUS Swears-In Ken Juster as New U.S. Ambassador to India

Posted: 12:46 am ET
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@StateDept Now Has an Official Bio For New Counselor of the State Department Maliz E. Beams

Posted: 12:26 am ET
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On August 23, 2017, we blogged about the appointment of the new Counselor of the State Department (see Former Voya Financial CEO Maliz Beams Reportedly Appointed @StateDept Counselor).

We don’t  recall ever seeing a public announcement of this appointment. The new bio page of Ms Beams indicates that she was appointed to this position on August 17, 2017. We recall searching but not finding her official bio on state.gov. We found it this week. This position reports directly to the Secretary of State, and does not require Senate confirmation.

Via state.gov

The Counselor of the Department, Maliz E. Beams, is a principal officer who serves the Secretary as a special advisor and consultant on major problems of foreign policy and who provides guidance to the appropriate bureaus with respect to such matters. The Counselor conducts special international negotiations and consultations, and also undertakes special assignments from time to time, as directed by the Secretary.

Below is the official bio published by the State Department:

Maliz E. Beams was appointed as Counselor to the Department of State on August 17, 2017. Ms. Beams was the CEO of VOYA Financial Retirement Services, the largest publicly-traded retirement company, for several years. She previously served as President & CEO of TIAA Institutional and Individual Client Services, LLC and as President of Global Business Development for Zurich Scudder Investments. She also held senior management positions at Fleet Bank (now Bank of America), American Express, and Citibank.

Ms. Beams led highly successful organizational transformations in a variety of financial services industry sectors. She was named one of the nation’s Most Powerful Women in Finance – including six years in the top 10 – by American Banker. She was also honored by Legal Momentum for her work on shaping laws and policies that affect gender equality; and she has been listed in the Who’s Who of American Women.

Ms. Beams currently serves on several nonprofit and public company boards including: Columbia Business School’s Executive Board of Financial Studies; New England Aquarium’s Board of Directors; Mount Auburn Hospital-Harvard Medical Teaching Hospital; Vestigo Ventures’ Advisory Board; and Cetera Financial Services Board of Directors. In the past, she has also served on the boards of the Junior Achievement Worldwide Global Board of Governors and The Employee Benefits Retirement Institute.

A native of Boston, Ms. Beams earned her Bachelor Degree from Boston College and completed her post graduate Special Studies in Strategic Planning at Harvard University. She holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Columbia University.

 

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@StateDept Redesign Briefing Presents Five “Guiding Beliefs” and Five “Key Outcomes” #OMG

Posted: 2:24 am ET
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The State Department is still in the midst of its redesign exercise. We understand that a couple of weeks ago, a State Department top official did a redesign presentation to ranking officials of the agency. This must be part of Phase 3 of the redesign efforts to communicate the plan to the employees and external stakeholders. This phase also includes the implementation of “functional projects” that reportedly supports the “Comprehensive Redesign” (we don’t yet know what are those projects, but we’ve been hearing about purported “quick wins”). Further, this phase reportedly includes the “development of an atmosphere of culture change.” We’re still waiting to learn how they’re gonna do cultural change in Foggy Bottom.

(See Why Tillerson Not Sullivan Needs the Town Hall: Morale Is Bad, “S” is Accountable)

The presentation notes first that “Diplomacy and development will become even more important as global power dynamics continue to change.” (Wait — a newbie at the State Department told diplomats and development professionals with decades of experience that diplomacy and development will become even more important even as the agency is planning to slash its funding and staff?).

Did anyone laugh out loud during the presentation?

The presentation then explains the State Department and USAID’s “Guiding Beliefs” for the Tillerson redesign.  There are reportedly five of these beliefs:

➨ 1. We will each need to communicate directly and continually engage with our domestic and global stakeholders regarding our purposes, missions, ambitions, and achievements.

➨ 2. We will each need the agility to adopt state-of-the-art information technologies and to adapt to rapidly changing technological advancements that are driving broader changes in the world.

➨ 3. We will each need to modernize our workforce systems (including recruitment, training, and performance management to maintain passionate, top-quality, and more agile workforces).

➨ 4. Our respective decision-making will need to take advantage of advancements in knowledge management and in data collection, analytics, and visualization.

➨ 5. We will need to focus on our respective comparative advantages as we address threats and leverage opportunities posed by the growing power and influence of emerging states, non-state actors, civil society, the private sector, and individuals.

All nice words. And 1) they can start communicating with their employees starting with S, the chief sponsor of this change; 2) money, money, money ; 3) uh-oh; 4) darnit, darnit, science! and 5) boo!

The second presentation point notes that “global competition for economic, financial, natural, human, and technological resources, and changes in society and social structures (brought on by migration, climate change, large scale unemployment, social isolation, wealth disparities, and similar shifts) will create opportunities for inter- and intra-state conflict and/or cooperation.”

No. Kidding. Is this Foggy Bottom’s kindergarten class?

And third, that “growing reliance on data and technology will increase vulnerabilities at the micro and macro levels, requiring new approaches to risk mitigation at all levels of government and among all elements of society both in the United States and abroad.”

Who. Knew?

The presentation also talks about the five key outcomes namely:

  • effective and strategic global leadership
  • maximizing the impact of foreign assistance
  • mission-driven, high performing, agile workforce
  • nimble and data informed decision making
  • mission enabling, world-class infrastructure support

Given that the State Department has now communicated the U.S. intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, our most favorite part in this list of outcomes gotta be “data informed decision making.”

The presentation also talks about “tranche goals” and “five outcome goals” — oops! Don’t look now! We’ve gone mighty dizzy.

But holy moly guacamole! Which intern should be sent to the Republic of Nambia for this BS?

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SFRC Hearings: Goldstein, Gonzales, Johnson, Evans, Lawler #OBE

Posted: 12:18 am ET
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We missed the Nov 1 confirmation hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so this is an OBE post. We are posting them below to easily retrieve the nominees’ prepared testimonies and provide a link to the video.  We have also added links to the Certificates of Competency for Chiefs of Mission. Per Section 304 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, Certificates of Competency must be presented to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for presidential nominees to be Chief of Mission that demonstrate the competence of [a] nominee to perform the duties of the position in which he or she is to serve. Unfortunately, there is no such requirements for top ranking nominees in the State Department.

Date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Time: 10:00 AM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Portman

Click here for the video of the confirmation hearing.

Mr. Irwin Steven Goldstein
Of New York, To Be Under Secretary Of State For Public Diplomacy
Download Testimony

Ms. Rebecca Eliza Gonzales
Gonzales, Rebecca Eliza – Kingdom of Lesotho – September 2017
Of Texas, A Career Member Of The Senior Foreign Service, Class Of Minister-Counselor, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Kingdom Of Lesotho |
Download Testimony

Ms. Lisa A. Johnson
Johnson Lisa A. – Republic of Namibia – October 2017
Of Washington, A Career Member Of The Senior Foreign Service, Class Of Counselor, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Republic Of Namibia
Download Testimony

Mr. James Randolph Evans
(certificate not available at state.gov as of 11/2/2017)
Of Georgia, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To Luxembourg
Download Testimony

Mr. Sean P. Lawler
o
f Maryland, To Be Chief Of Protocol, And To Have The Rank Of Ambassador During His Tenure Of Service
Download Testimony

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@StateDept Needs a Better Defense Than This Nominee’s Management of a “Large State Govt Agency”

Posted: 4:25 am ET
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Foreign Policy recently did a piece on the Stephen Akard appointment as DGHR, calling him a “Pence pal”:

A State Department spokesman pushed back on the criticisms, saying his nomination is “an indication of how committed the Trump administration is to improving how the federal government operates and delivers on its mission.” […] Akard “has a unique background in both foreign affairs as well as a successful track record managing a large state government agency,” the State Department spokesman told FP. “If confirmed, we believe his experience will benefit the men and women of the State Department,” the spokesman added. Akard left the foreign service in 2005 to work for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

The State Department spox told FP that Akard’s “unique background” and “successful track record managing a large state government agency” will “benefit” the State Department.

So hey, that got us curious about just how big is the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) where Mr. Akard previously worked as ” chief of staff, vice president and general counsel, and director of international development” from 2005 -2017. We asked IEDC how may employees support the state corporation but we have not received a response as of this writing.

However, based on the State of Indiana Employee Directory (PDF here, pages not numbered, so use the “find” function), there are some 15 offices within IEDC.  These offices include Account Management with seven employees; Communications with  three staffers; Policy with five employees, and the largest office in IEDC, Business Development has 16 staffers. About 80 state employees are listed as working in the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). How many of these employees did Mr. Akard actually managed? And even if he did manage the entire IEDC and its over 80 employees — c’mon spoxes –the DGHR manages over 75,000 Foreign Service, Civil Service and locally employed staff. Good grief!

The spox needs a better argument on why they think this nominee is the best individual to lead DGHR; the defense they currently have — citing the management of “a large state government agency” with less than a hundred employees is  just plain pen-pineapple-apple-pen-silly.

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Founding Member of Mar-a-Lago Club Robin Bernstein to be U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic

Posted: 4:23 am ET
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On October 31, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Robin Bernstein, a founding member of The Mar-a-Lago Club  to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic. The WH released the following brief bio:

Robin Bernstein to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Dominican Republic.  Ms. Bernstein has served as President and Director of Richard S. Bernstein and Associates, Inc. since 2004, and Vice President and Director of Rizbur, Inc. since 2002, both of West Palm Beach, Florida.  For four decades, she has provided leadership and management to the business, government, and the non-profit communities of Florida.  Currently, she is co-founder of Palm Beach Country Cares, a Florida relief effort for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Ms. Bernstein earned a B.A. from American University School of International Service and an M.B.A. from George Washington University.  She speaks French and basic Spanish.

This nomination has the potential to be the more contentious of the Trump ambassador nominations due to her association with Mar-a-Lago, but also because she was one of Trump’s 2016 Presidential Electors.

But hey, it’s the U.S. Senate where its “advice and consent” role often constitutes a light touch — just a few public questions, and whether or not the nominee has previously visited the country. In some of these public hearings, they have four-five nominees for an hour or so, most of that taken up by the prepared testimonies of the nominees, the senators listening to themselves talk, and then a few questions for the nominees. If a nominee is in a panel with a controversial individual, the nominee might get just a question or two. If the nominee is the controversial one, or in the crosshairs of one or two of the senators, then the nominee might get most of the questions. Sometimes though, when a nominee comes unprepared, it blows up the house, and a normally inattentive public reacts in unexpected ways. But that does not happen often.

We must admit, however, that we suffer from low expectations when it comes to these confirmations. Since singing in a church choir, and being spouse of an ex-politician are deemed relevant qualifications for an ambassador, the bar for the Senate is low. Other than making a real spectacle of yourself in front of the cameras, like trampling through the salad bowl with no dressing, most political nominees get handed the keys to embassies after their quick confirmation hearings. Not unique to this administration, we should add, but USA Today, notes that “never in modern history has a president awarded government posts to people who pay money to his own companies.” So we’ll have to watch what happens with Corker and Flake who sits in the SFRC, and if McCain shows up for the hearing.

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Tillerson Swears-In Wess Mitchell as Asst Secretary For European and Eurasian Affairs (State/EUR)

Posted: 3:06 pm ET
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After almost ten months, the State Department formally gets its first assistant secretary for one of its six geographic bureaus. On November 2, Secretary Tilerson sworn-in A. Wess Mitchell as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.  The Department of State first established a Division of Western European Affairs in 1909, which handled European nations primarily bordering on the Atlantic Ocean and their colonies. The name changed to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs on August 8, 2001. A/S Mitchell’s predecessors include Victoria Nuland (2013–2017), Philip H. GordonRichard Charles Albert Holbrooke (1994–1996); Lawrence Sidney Eagleburger (1981–1982), and Walter John Stoessel Jr. (1972–1974) to name a few.

Related:

Assistant Secretaries of State for Geographic Areas (Historical List)

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NSC’s Christopher Ford to be Asst Secretary For International Security and Non-Proliferation

Posted: 4:16 am ET
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On October 31, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Christopher A. Ford, currently with the National Security Council to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation (ISN). The WH released the following brief bio:

Christopher Ashley Ford of Maryland to be an Assistant Secretary of State, International Security and Non-Proliferation.  Dr. Ford currently serves as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Counterproliferation at the National Security Council.  Dr. Ford served on several different committees in the U.S. Senate, served as a State Department official, and worked as a senior fellow at Hudson Institute.  Dr. Ford is the author of three books – China Looks at the West: Identity, Global Ambitions, and the Future of Sino-American Relations (2015), The Mind of Empire: China’s History and Modern Foreign Relations (2010), and The Admirals’ Advantage: U.S. Navy Operational Intelligence in World War II and the Cold War (2005) – and scores of articles and monographs.  He also served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, receiving an Honorable Discharge at the rank of Lieutenant Commander.  Dr. Ford earned an A.B., summa cum laude, at Harvard University, a D.Phil. at Oxford University in the United Kingdom (as a Rhodes Scholar), and a J.D. at Yale Law School.  A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, he lives with his family in Bethesda, Maryland.

Back in January, in a piece about the NSC, WaPo notes the following:

Longtime senate staffer Christopher Ford has joined the NSC staff to work on non-proliferation and nuclear issues. Ford has served as chief council for the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senate Banking Committee and most recently the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. During the George W. Bush administration, Ford was a deputy assistant secretary of state in the bureau of arms control and international security, then led by John Bolton.

His Wikipedia page is here.

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American Academy of Diplomacy Opposes Nomination of Stephen Akard as @StateDept Personnel Chief

Posted: 2:10 am ET
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In a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Bob Corker and Ranking Member Ben Cardin, released publicly on October 30, the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD) requests that the senators oppose the nomination of Stephen Akard to be Director General of the Foreign Service:

The American Academy of Diplomacy requests that you oppose the nomination of Stephen Akard to serve as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the State Department. We have concluded that voicing our concerns with Mr. Akard’s nomination is required if the Academy is to meet its most important mission: to promote and protect America’s interests in a dangerous world by supporting an effective American diplomacy based on a strong Foreign Service and a strong Civil Service.

It looks like the AAD requested to meet with the nominee but had not been successful. The letter authored by former senior diplomats Ambassadors Tom Pickering and Ronald Neumann on behalf of the group says about Mr. Akard, “We hold no personal animus toward him.”  But added that ” … we have concluded that Mr. Akard lacks the necessary professional background to be the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the State Department. His confirmation would be contrary to Congress’s long standing intent and desire to create a professional American diplomatic service based on merit.

The letter further adds: “While Mr. Akard is technically eligible for the position, to confirm someone who had less than a decade in the Foreign Service would be like making a former Army Captain the Chief of Staff of the Army, the equivalent of a four-star general.”

The full letter is available to read here (pdf).

We’ve previously blogged about the Akard appointment on October 17 (see Trump’s Pick For @StateDept Personnel Chief Gets the Ultimate “Stretch” Assignment).

With the exception of noting this nomination on Twitter, and separately urging FS members “to embrace their roles as stewards of the institution”, we have not seen any public position on this nomination by the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the professional association and labor union of the Foreign Service since 1924.

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New U.S. Ambassadors Say Hello in Fresh Intro Video Playlist

Posted: 1:59 am ET
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U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone Maria Brewer

U.S. Ambassador to Algeria John Desrocher

U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Michael Raynor

U.S. Ambassador to Senegal Tulinabo Mushingi

U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Luis Arreaga

U.S. Ambassador to Italy Lewis Eisenberg

U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica Sharon Day

U.S. Ambassador to Portugal, George E. Glass

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty

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