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In Disaster News, Trump Budget Seeks 37% Funding Cut For @StateDept and @USAID

Posted: 2:25 am  ET

 

 

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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’s First Budget Proposal?@StateDeptbudge Special Envoy Positions Could Be in Trump’s Chopping Block — 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

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Previous posts on FS funding:

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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 – November 18, 2010, before moving on to better jobs. Thomas R. Nides was in from January 3, 2011 – 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 – John 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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Trump EO Also Suspends Visa Interview Waivers – Expect Long Visa Wait Times, Again

Posted: 10:28 am  PT

 

In 2012, then President Obama issued an Executive Order on Establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals and the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness, which among other things, “ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of application, recognizing that resource and security considerations and the need to ensure provision of consular services to U.S. citizens may dictate specific exceptions”.  The Obama EO directed a plan that “should also identify other appropriate measures that will enhance and expedite travel to and arrival in the United States by foreign nationals, consistent with national security requirements.” In 2012, an Interview Waiver Pilot Program (IWPP) was introduced for for low-risk visa applicants. It became was made permanent in 2014, and became the Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP).

According to congressional testimonies, there are 222 visa-issuing embassies and consulates where “highly-trained corps of consular officers and support staff process millions of visa applications each year, facilitating legitimate travel while protecting our borders.”  In FY2015, overseas posts issued over 10.8 million nonimmigrant visas. That number is only a partial picture of the workload as it does not include visa refusals, a number that is significantly higher than visa issuances.

Section 8 of President Trump’s Executive Order: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States refers to the immediate suspension of visa interview waivers specifically, the VIWP, and imposes a requirement that all nonimmigrant visa applicants, with exceptions, undergo in-person interviews.

Sec . 8 . Visa Interview Security

(a) The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions.

(b)  To the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, the Secretary of State shall immediately expand the Consular Fellows Program, including by substantially increasing the number of Fellows, lengthening or making permanent the period of service, and making language training at the Foreign Service Institute available to Fellows for assignment to posts outside of their area of core linguistic ability, to ensure that non-immigrant visa-interview wait times are not unduly affected.

We understand that the current Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP) was “carefully crafted”, and rolled out in consultation with the Congress. It was designed not/not to go back to pre-911 situation but to facilitate travel in cases of no discernable risk.

Here is what the Consular Affairs bureau told Congress:

Since 9/11, a risk-based approach grounded on greater and more effective domestic and international information sharing has become a key principle of visa processing policy.  This approach enables the United States to channel more resources toward the prevention of high-risk travel while simultaneously increasing the number of legitimate visitors arriving by land, air, and sea.  The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prescreening process for Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers, international information sharing arrangements, Global Entry, which expedites the movement of low-risk, frequent travelers who proceed directly to automated kiosks upon arrival in the United States, and interagency counterterrorism and eligibility checks are examples of how U.S. agencies can use information collected from visitors and/or governments in advance of travel to accomplish complimentary and mutually re-enforcing goals of preventing terrorists and serious criminals from traveling to the United States while facilitating the entry of legitimate visitors.

We asked the State Department about the suspension of the VIWP and its impact on visa operations. We were interested in the number of applicants who used the Visa Interview Visa Program for the last fiscal year.  In trying to get a sense of the impact of the new EO on visa operations, we also were interested on number of consular officers in visa sections worldwide.

Our question is in general staffing terms not specific to any posts, nonetheless, a State Department official on background declined to discuss staffing levels or the number of officers working at any embassy or consulate.  However, the SDO  did provided the following information:

The Executive Order suspends previously authorized portions of the Interview Waiver Program. The Interview Waiver Program will continue for certain diplomatic and official visa applicants from foreign governments and international organizations (categories: A-1, A-2, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through -6, C-2 and C-3) applicants under the age of 14, or over the age of 79; and applicants who previously held a visa in the same category that expired less than 12 months prior to the new application. As always, a consular officer must require that any applicant appear for an in-person interview in any situation where information provided on the application or during the screening process indicates any reason for further questioning. All visa applications, including those cases above, for which the visa interview is waived, are subject to the same rigorous security screening.

Previously, applicants renewing their visas in the same category within 48 months of expiration were eligible for their interview to be waived, as were first-time Brazilian and Argentine applicants ages 14-15 and 66-79.

We don’t know what is the current number but in 2013, Brazilian visitors contributed $10.5 billion to the U.S. economy, a 13 percent increase from the prior year.

Background of the Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP)

In January 2012, the Department and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated the two-year Interview Waiver Pilot Program (IWPP) to streamline processing for low-risk visa applicants.  The worldwide pilot program allows consular officers to waive in-person interviews for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants who were previously interviewed and thoroughly screened in conjunction with a prior visa application, and who are renewing a previous visa within four years of its expiration.  The pilot program also allows consular officers to waive interviews for qualified Brazilian applicants falling into specific age ranges, even when applying for visas for the first time.

All IWPP applications are thoroughly reviewed by a commissioned consular officer, with the applicant’s fingerprints, photograph, and biodata undergoing extensive database checks.  Consular officers have been directed to require an interview for any applicant who might otherwise qualify for the IWPP, if the application is not immediately approvable upon paper review, including if database checks reveal potential grounds of inadmissibility or other possible concerns.  State concluded an August 2013 validation study of the IWPP, which showed that B1/B2 visa issuances under the IWPP present no greater risk of overstay than interview-based B1/B2 visa issuances.

In 2013, State/CA’s congressional testimony indicates that “more than 90 percent of applicants worldwide were interviewed within three weeks of submitting their applications.”  This includes key markets such as China where consular officers were able to keep interview wait times to an average of five days while managing an average annual workload increase of 23 percent over the past three years.  In Brazil, consular officers were able to bring down wait times by 98 percent, from a high of 140 days in São Paulo, to just two days in September 2013, while also managing an eleven percent jump in annual workload between 2011 and 2013. These results were partially attributed to the VIWP:

The Department’s success is partially attributable to the introduction of secure, streamlined processes such as the Interview Waiver Pilot Program (IWPP), which allows consular officers to waive in-person interviews for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants who are renewing their visas, and whose biometric data we have on file.  IWPP is operational at more than 90 visa processing posts in more than 50 countries, and consular officers have already waived interviews for more than 500,000 of these low-risk visa applicants.  The pilot has been particularly successful in China, where it constitutes 30 percent of Mission China’s visa renewal workload.  Of course, these applicants are subject to all of the security checks conducted for any interviewed applicant.  State also concluded an August 2013 validation study of the IWPP, which showed that B1/B2 visa issuances under the IWPP present no greater risk of overstay than interview-based B1/B2 visa issuances.

One of the most effective ways we have to improve the efficiency of visa operations is to eliminate in-person interviews for low-risk travelers, while retaining all of the security checks that apply to every visa applicant.  Although the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires our consular officers to interview in-person all visa applicants aged 14 through 79, it also provides limited authority to waive interviews, including authority to waive for diplomatic and official applicants from foreign governments and for some repeat applicants.  We are utilizing technology and advanced fraud detection techniques to help us expand the pool of applicants for whom interviews can be waived under the Interview Waiver Program.  This allows us to focus resources on higher-risk visa applicants while facilitating travel for low-risk applicants.

We are working with our colleagues across the government to expand this successful program, which became permanent in January 2014.  In fiscal year 2013, we waived over 380,000 interviews, and a recent study showed that tourist and business visitor visa holders whose interviews were waived, all of whom were subject to the full scope of security checks, posed no greater risk for an overstay than those who were interviewed.  We are interested in explicit legislative authority to supplement the existing Interview Waiver Program by adding additional low-risk applicant groups such as citizens of Visa Waiver Program members applying for other types of visas such as student or work visas; continuing students moving to a higher level of education; non-U.S. citizen Global Entry and NEXUS trusted traveler program members; and holders of visas in other categories, such as students and workers, who wish to travel for tourism or business.  The Department is interested in working with Congress on legislation specifically authorizing the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to enhance our interview waiver programs.

Since the VIWP is available in China and India, and many other countries with high visa demand, and includes visitor/business (B1-B2) visas, student (F) visas, and temporary worker’s (H1-B) visas, the workload impact on consular sections will be significant.  As more applicants require interviews, more interview windows will be needed, more consular officers will be needed, and larger facilities would become necessary.

By shutting down the IVWP, the Trump EO immediately expands the number of applicants that require in-person interviews. Section 8 (b) of the Trump EO also “immediately expand” the Consular Fellows Program, while a separate EO imposed a federal hiring freeze. Even if hiring is allowed under the Consular Fellows program, training new limited noncareer employees cannot occur overnight.

According to CA official’s congressional testimony, in 2014, 75 million international visitors traveled to the United States, a seven percent increase over 2013; they spent over $220 billion.  “Tourism is America’s largest services export and one that can’t be outsourced.” See current key numbers on US tourism in infographic below.

In FY 2014, Consular Affairs also generated $3.6 billion in revenue, which supports all consular operations in the Department and provides border security-related funding to some interagency partners. The CA bureau is probably the only fully fee-funded operation in the State Department.  It collects and retains fees for certain visa and passport services pursuant to specific statutory authority.  According to congressional testimony, the current fee statutes allow the bureau to retain approximately 80 percent of the fees it collects, with the balance going to the Treasury, which then help fund 12 other arms of the USG supporting border protection/national security.

 

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Trump’s New Liaison to Hill Conservatives: ‘Go after the State Department folks, too … Let’s go after the Foreign Service”

Posted: 3:35 am ET

 

“Go after the State Department folks too. Everybody talks about the civil service domestically, but no one talks about the Foreign Service. Let’s go after the Foreign Service.”

–Paul Teller
Trump Liaison to Congressional Conservatives
William F. Buckley Jr. Council – November 2016

 

Full talk via vox.com, at 27 min mark: https://soundcloud.com/cnp-786867471/william-f-buckley-jr-council-november-2016

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Burn Bag: “Clearly, they have no clue what we do …”

Via Burn Bag:

“So many people thought that “drain the swamp” meant the corrupt and unethical, politicians, lobbyists, etc. No, it was clear early on that WE are the swamp monsters. They think they can function without us. They think “management” is unimportant. Clearly, they have no clue what we do, how difficult it is, and how many years it takes to learn to do it well.”

youhavenoidea

via GIPHY

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Senate Bill to Slash Embassy Security Funds in Half Until US Embassy Jerusalem Officially Opens

Posted: 2:22 am ET
Updated: Jan 12, 4:55 PM PT

 

Apparently, a viral image created by the group called the Other 98 with three Republican senators who once blasted lax embassy security in Benghazi, Libya made the social media rounds recently and readers asked @PolitiFact to check it out. “The image includes pictures of three Republican senators — Ted Cruz of Texas, Dean Heller of Nevada and Marco Rubio of Florida — along with the caption, “The same 3 senators who have spent the last 3 years s——- themselves over ‘Benghazi!’ just introduced a bill to reduce embassy security by 50 percent.” PolitiFact judged the meme “mostly false” but this blogpost was accused of being a “fake news’. We’ve re-read our reporting on this issue and there’s nothing that we feel needs a correction. For those who are new in this blog, you can read our post below, and you can also read the similar points made by PolitiFact here.    

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On January 3,  Senator Dean Heller (R-NV)  announced that he, along with Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), have introduced the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act, “legislation that would fulfill America’s commitment to Israel to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.‎”

Excerpt from Heller’s announcement:

“My support for Israel is unwavering.  From my very first days as a United States Senator, I have prioritized the strengthening of the important relationship shared between Israel and the United States. That’s why I’m proud to reintroduce the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act. For years, I’ve advocated for America’s need to reaffirm its support for one of our nation’s strongest allies by recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.  It honors an important promise America made more than two decades ago but has yet to fulfill. While Administrations come and go, the lasting strength of our partnership with one of our strongest allies in the Middle East continues to endure. My legislation is a testament to that.

The announcement quotes Senator Marco Rubio: “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel, and that’s where America’s embassy belongs. It’s time for Congress and the President-Elect to eliminate the loophole that has allowed presidents in both parties to ignore U.S. law and delay our embassy’s rightful relocation to Jerusalem for over two decades.”

It also says that Heller’s bill “withholds certain State Department funds until that relocation is complete.”

That is some understatement.  The bill does not withhold just any State Department funds but embassy security funds.

This is a similar bill Senator Heller had introduced in the 112th, 113th, and 114th Congress. The version of the bill introduced but died in the 114th Congress includes the provision to restrict State Department funding in FY2015, FY2016, and FY2017 and the following language:

Restriction on Funding Subject to Opening Determination.–Not  more than 50 percent of the funds appropriated to the Department of  State for fiscal year 2015 for ``Acquisition and Maintenance of  Buildings Abroad” may be obligated until the Secretary of State  determines and reports to Congress that the United States Embassy in Jerusalem has officially opened.

The current bill, S.11, which had been read twice and referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee includes the elimination of the waiver and similar language on funding restriction but targets a specific State Department funding — not funds for the “Acquisition and Maintenance of  Buildings Abroad” but for “Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance.” The bill further includes restrictions for all security, construction, and maintenance funding worldwide for FY2018 and FY2019 except for the embassy in Tel Aviv until its relocation.

Restriction on Funding Subject to Opening Determination.–Not  more than 50 percent of the funds appropriated to the Department of  State for fiscal year 2017 under the heading  “Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance” may be obligated until the  Secretary of State  determines and reports to Congress that the United States Embassy in Jerusalem has officially opened.

Just so we’re clear, three American senators including those who were screaming #BENGHAZI for the last several years have put forward a bill that would freeze half the State Department funding on embassy security until the new secretary of state reports to Congress that the US Embassy in Jerusalem has “officially opened.”

Writing for FP, Hussein Ibish, Senior Resident Scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington writes:

Jerusalem is the most sensitive issue between Israelis and Palestinians, as the outbreak of the Second Intifada and other repeated instances in which it has served as a uniquely potent flash point have illustrated. Jerusalem brings together religious, nationalistic, symbolic, and ethnic sensibilities in a singularly powerful and dangerous mix. […] Along with other members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the leading Gulf Arab states would almost certainly feel it necessary to practically demonstrate their objections to the relocation of the U.S. Embassy by finding some means of reasserting Palestinian, and even broader Christian and Muslim, claims on Jerusalem — and the most likely fallout would be a curtailment of security cooperation with Israel on matters concerning Iran’s nefarious activities in the Middle East. Adding such an additional layer of tension between Israel and the Arab states would be an enormous gift to Tehran and its regional alliance.

Since officially opening the US Embassy in Jerusalem could not happen overnight, this bill with its restrictions on embassy security funding would put all American diplomats and family members overseas at greater risks. At a time when embassy security could be most crucial, only 50 percent of appropriated State Department  embassy security, construction, and maintenance funds may be obligated.

Get that?

So with only half the embassy security funds obligated, what happens to our 275 posts overseas? Half gets the funds and the other half doesn’t? Reduced funding across the board? Do these good senators realized that the unfunded parts could get Americans killed? They don’t know? How could they not know? That leaves us with two troubling guesses — that they know but don’t care, or that they know this bill won’t go anywhere but its worth squeezing the juice, anyway.

Oops, is that our jaded slip showing?

We should point out that similar bills were introduced previously by Senator Heller, and they all died in committee. This bill, however, now has the support of  Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). The two need no special introductions.

 

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Is the Tillerson/Bolton Combo For Foggy Bottom Really Happening?

Posted: 3:43 am ET

 

Greg Thielmann, a 25-year veteran of the Foreign Service who served two tours in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, worked as a senior staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a senior fellow of the Arms Control Association writes about the potential appointment of John Bolton as Deputy Secretary of State:

I was a firsthand witness to the negative consequences of Bolton’s style and substantive approach while serving as director of the office in the State Department’s intelligence bureau (INR/SPM) responsible for monitoring Iraqi WMD issues. As my office delivered to him the heavy volume of sensitive information provided by the intelligence community, he demonstrated a penchant for quickly dismissing inconvenient facts and rejecting any analysis that did not serve his policy preferences.[…]As undersecretary in Colin Powell’s State Department, Bolton ran into a stone wall in trying to intimidate INR and squelch its independence. But if Trump succeeds in promoting Bolton to deputy secretary under a chain of command totally lacking in government experience, a purge of career professionals in the secondary and tertiary levels of the department seems likely.

Read Thielman’s Bolton: A Prime Mover of the Iraq WMD Fiasco via lobelog.

We are sure that Mr. Thielman and Senator Paul are not the only ones having strong feelings about this potential appointment. A couple of thoughts: 1) The Bolton appointment has yet to be formally announced. Is Bolton, Trump’s Plan B if the Senate rejects the Tillerson nomination?  This is an uncommon season, so stuff can happen, but we remain convinced that the Senate will not reject two nominations in a row for the same cabinet post. If the Senate rejects the Tillerson nomination, the alternate nominee will conceivably sail through a quicker confirmation process. That nominee could be Bolton. 2) We don’t know how much Trump wanted Tillerson for this job, and if Tillerson wanted this job as much as the other rumored nominees.  This is important because it could indicate how much leeway Tillerson will have in putting together his potential team in Foggy Bottom. Would he have a say on who will be his deputies? Would he pick Bolton?  Or would T-Rex cast a wider net?

More John Bolton clips:

Below is a clip with President-elect Trump and John Bolton talking about the United Nations.

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Trump’s Team Checking on How to Move US Embassy to Jerusalem. And Havoc That Follows?

Posted: 12:45 pm PT

 

In November, we blogged about the potential move of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (see Will the US Embassy Move From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?). There were two related ongoing construction work at USG properties in Israel — a $50M renovation at US Embassy Tel Aviv, and ongoing work of undetermined cost at a consular annex for US Consulate General Jerusalem. Last month, we learned that both projects were put on hold the day after the election.

On December 12, Dana Weiss from Israel’s Channel2News tweeted, “Trump’s team already checking where and how to move embassy to Jerusalem. Among options Diplomat hotel . This week Israeli Foreign | Started to check availability as the hotel houses elderly. Was told not possible until 2020. Security sources are anxious the move | Would backlash and question the Arab response.”

In June 2014, YNet reported that the U.S. Government holds the option of purchasing land in the Arnona neighborhood, where the consulate is located. This land reportedly includes the Diplomat hotel that currently serves the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.

A US administration official said that “Under the terms of its commercial lease agreement, the USG has the option to purchase the property we currently occupy in Arnona and acquire our landlord’s remaining leasehold interests in the adjacent property, which is the site of the Diplomat Hotel.

“The USG has exercised that option and intends to continue using the site as the Consular Annex of the US Consulate General, where we have provided American citizen services and visa services since 2010. Under the terms of the USG’s lease, once the option is exercised, the landlord is required to provide the USG vacant possession of the adjacent property, likely, in 2016.”

The actual move should it happen, requires the involvement of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) which directs the worldwide overseas building program for the Department of State and the U.S. Government community serving abroad under the authority of the chiefs of mission, and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security tasks with securing personnel and overseas facilities.

On the potential backlash for this move, Uri Savir, former diplomat and Israeli Chief Negotiator of the Oslo Accords wrote in AlMonitor that Cairo greeted Donald Trump’s election positively and that the Egyptian ambassador to Washington was in contact with president-elect Donald Trump. Egypt is reportedly looking at improved relations with Washington under a President Trump but one topic that was discreetly raised by the Egyptians is the potential move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: “Cairo cannot commit to an improved relationship if the US Embassy to Israel is moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Given the sentiments in Egyptian public opinion toward the Palestinians and the city, which is holy to Islam, Cairo considers this issue as a red line.”

A senior PLO official talking to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity explained that “for the Palestinians, moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem is a “casus belli” (a provocation of war), thus they are planning a series of measures in case this will indeed take place. Ramallah is coordinating these measures with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the Arab League. The official cited five measures: abolishing of the Oslo Accord (and all elements of security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians); severing diplomatic relations between Egypt and Israel and also between Jordan and Israel; canceling the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as a relevant document; calling upon the international community to sever diplomatic ties with Israel; and planning an armed Al-Quds intifada.”

Mr. Savir concludes“it is clear that such a move would create havoc in the Arab world.”

Read more:

 

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Potential “D” Bolton, John Bolton Talks Russian Hacks, False Flag and Obama Admin #dazzleandwow

Posted: 3:20 am ET

 

John Bolton is reportedly the front-runner to be deputy secretary of state if Rex Tillerman is selected as secretary of state. According to Brian Urquhart’s 2008 piece, One Angry Man, this is not the first time that Bolton has aspired to be deputy secretary of state.

“At the outset of the second Bush term, the new secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, asked Bolton what job might interest him in the new term. Bolton’s mention of his interest in being deputy secretary of state was received with no enthusiasm, and two months later, in March 2005, Rice announced his nomination as ambassador to the UN, thus appointing to this unique post the US official most publicly contemptuous of the world organization. Bolton’s long and abrasive confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were, in his own words, not so much about the UN or his opinions, but about “whether I was a nice person, thereby inviting every person in government whom I had ever defeated in a policy battle, of whom there were many, to turn the issue into one of personal disparagement….” Even though Republicans held a majority at the time, his confirmation failed by four votes in the Senate. The President finally announced his recess appointment on August 1, 2005.”

 

Prior to his assignment in the UN, Bolton was Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security from May 2001 to May 2005. So with the exception of the top position, there are only two other jobs that he could potentially be interested in — the Deputy Secretary (D) position, or the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (DMR).

On Saturday, Rex Tillerson made news when NBC News reported that Trump was expected to name the Exxon CEO as secretary of state (see Trump Expected to Name Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State; ‘Stop Rex’ Petition Already Up).  During a Sunday morning show, Reince Priebus did say that the secretary of state pick was not a “done deal.”

In an interview with Fox News’ Eric Shawn on Sunday, John Bolton also made news when he talked about the Russian hack, false flag, and the Obama administration. Text below via TPM:

BOLTON: It’s not at all clear to me just viewing this from the outside that this hacking into the DNC and the RNC computers was not a false flag operation. Let’s remember what FBI director James Comey said dealing with Hillary’s home brew server. He said we found no direct evidence of foreign intelligence service penetration, but given the nature of this, we didn’t expect to. Meaning, a really sophisticated foreign intelligence service would not leave any cyber fingerprints. And yet people say they did leave cyber fingerprints in the hacks regarding our election. So the question that has to be asked is why did the Russians run their smart intelligence service against Hillary’s server but their dumb intelligence services against the election —

SHAWN: When you say false flag, that’s a very serious charge. False flag by whom? Here is “The Washington post.” The Post reported the CIA has concluded individuals with close ties to the Russian government hacked the e-mails. Intelligence officials have determined that Russia’s goal was to help trump win rather than simply undermine confidence in the election. Are you actually accusing someone here in this administration of trying — in the intelligence community of trying to throw something?

BOLTON: We just don’t know, but I believe that intelligence has been politicized in the Obama administration to a very significant degree.

Here’s a clip:

A couple of old clips down the John Bolton memory lane:

One writer called “his obsession with the United Nations is as serious as Ted Haggard’s with sin.” After he announced his resignation as U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in December 2006, the Heritage Foundation released In Their Own Words: Ambassador Bolton’s Record of Effectiveness at the U.N., a collection of quotes from media clips, senators, foreign officials and a few fans. Here he is with one of his greatest hits talking about the United Nations.

And then here’s Senator Rand Paul who sits in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and says John Bolton “should get nowhere close” to the State Department.

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