On the Prospect of Mass Resignations: A Veteran FSO Cautions Against Rash Decisions

Posted: 12:49 pm ET

 

We asked yesterday if the prospect of mass resignations is a real thing (see Inauguration Day Countdown: Is the prospect of mass resignations a real thing?  A veteran FSO who we admire a great deal shared with us his thoughts on the issue of morale and the prospect of an exodus from the Foreign Service of officers unwilling or unable to reconcile with the thought of working in the DJT administration. We are sharing the following with his permission:

On the specific question of the prospect of mass resignations: I think a lot of it depends on where an officer is at in their career. Standing on principle costs more at some times of your life than at others. I can see the light at the end of my career; I have ever-hungrier mouths to feed; my career prospects outside of the FS are a relative mystery to me. I work in a career track that doesn’t often put me in a position of delivering demarches on policy approaches I find objectionable.

But I think it is possible we’ll see resignations among two groups: first, amongst officers who joined in the last five years. Many are already unhappy with the fact that promotions will be slow for some time, given the massive intake of officers in recent years. Working for a decade as a FS-03 in a John Bolton-run State Department (for example) isn’t going to improve their mood. They are young, bright, idealistic, and are unlikely to — in their view — sell out just for the pleasure of public service. The second group I suspect might see resignations are those eligible for retirement. If you are an FS-01 or SFS who has been tossing around the idea of moving on, it seems entirely plausible that the election results might push you over the edge, all other things being equal.

But I want to make something very clear: I’ve been around long enough to have served under several presidential administrations, and the talk of mass resignations percolates anytime we’ve got a nail-biter election result or a controversial new war. But I have to say what I am seeing in the aftermath of Election 2016 is qualitatively different.

Many FSOs disagreed vociferously with the Iraq War; at various times with our approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issue; with our massive HR commitment to PSP missions, just to name a few. A few people resigned from time to time. But never have I witnessed the visceral emotional response from as many FSOs to an event or policy as I have in the last two weeks. We’re a diverse workforce, and given the rhetoric of this campaign, many took the victory of a candidate who spouted misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, isolationist bombast at every turn very, very personally. It is no exaggeration to say this triggered an existential crisis for a fair number of officers without significant time invested in the FS and soul-searching about whether this really is the career for them. As a veteran, I viewed it as my responsibility to help contextualize current events, to urge my charges not to make rash decisions in the heat of the moment, to reconsider the oaths they had taken and their commitment to the nation and the American people, regardless of who sits in the White House.

January 20 is a long way off. I hope once colleagues have had the time to absorb and process November 8, they will return fully engaged and recommitted, because Lord knows we’re going to need their energy and expertise in the coming years.

#

Some clips to read:

#

Inauguration Day Countdown: Is the prospect of mass resignations a real thing?

Posted: 12:06 pm ET

Via Politico:

Foreign policy veterans may be in especially high demand at the State Department, where career foreign service officers have talked for months about whether they could serve under a President Donald Trump—a debate many considered academic but which now presents them with a grueling choice between their values and their country.

The prospect of mass resignations “is a real thing,” according to one career diplomat who has had several such conversations with State Department colleagues.

Eliot Cohen, an influential Republican who served as counsellor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and who vehemently opposed Trump, urged longtime diplomatic and national security professionals not to quit in disgust.

“Career people, I think, have an obligation to serve faithfully, and not least to ensure that the principles and letter of our Constitutional system of government are respected,” Cohen said.

Via DPB:

QUESTION:  — I mean, do you expect an exodus from this building over the next few weeks?  I mean, there’s a lot of people that feel that Trump’s – that what he said he was going to do going forward doesn’t gel with how they believe.  So is there any evidence of it yet?  Have you got notices or do you expect —

MR TONER:  Sure.  Well, it’s a valid question.  I wouldn’t attempt to speak for my colleagues in the State Department.  I’m a career diplomat.  I’m a public servant.  And with that, frankly, comes an awareness that you’re there to serve the U.S. Government regardless of whether they – that’s a Republican or a Democratic administration.  Obviously, there are political appointees in the State Department, but I can tell you that what I’ve seen firsthand this morning is very serious professionalism and commitment, as I said, to making sure that this incoming administration, whether these people agree with their policies or not, are given every opportunity for a smooth transition and are as informed as possible before that transition takes place.
[…]
QUESTION:  — as has been mentioned here today, the president-elect differs so greatly on so many issues: Iran, trade, climate, Cuba, Syria, NATO alliances, nuclear proliferation – just basic tenets of the things that – and assumptions that this Administration has been working under.  What about – if you haven’t seen people saying, “I’m leaving today,” career diplomats, which is what I gather you’re saying, are you and is the Secretary worried about morale in these last days?  He – the first thing in his statement basically tells people, his staff, to continue focus moving ahead.  So given the disparity between the president-elect and this Administration, what do you see the morale here being in the coming days and weeks?

MR TONER:  Look, I think – again, it’s a fair question.  I think when you choose a path of public service, you do so with the recognition that – and again, I’m not speaking to the incoming administration or the present Administration – you have to compartmentalize your own political beliefs from your professional duties.  That is something that is incumbent on any public servant, whether it’s at the State Department or any other federal agency, or the military for that matter.  That’s what, frankly, provides continuity and institutional knowledge for our government.  So I wouldn’t predict any mass exodus, far from it.

I think that under Secretary Kerry and under President Obama and under Secretary Clinton as well, this State Department has achieved great things.  I think they’re focused on continuing to work on the priorities.  Some of the urgent ones, like getting a ceasefire or a cessation of hostilities in Syria that is attainable in two months, or next week, if we can get there through our multilateral efforts.  I don’t think any – there’s any kind of attitude that – of resignation or of – or any other attitude other than that, focused on the priorities of this Administration and ensuring that the new administration, incoming administration, has a smooth transition.

Video below, transcript of the DPB here: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2016/11/264198.htm.

We are aware that some  folks are considering whether to stay or to leave, below are some clips that might be helpful:

#

Trump Transition Help Wanted: 4,000 Presidential Appointees (Updated)

Posted: 8:28 pm ET
Updated: Nov 12 2:11 pm PT correcting the original source

Via GreatAgain.Gov  from presidentialtransition.org of the Partnership for Public Service:

More than 4,000 political appointees, many of whom hold important leadership and policymaking positions, will be heading out the door next year with the change in administrations. Finding qualified people to fill these jobs is an enormous undertaking, but it is critically important to making the federal government work effectively for the American public.

There are four basic types of appointments:

  • Presidential Appointments with Senate Confirmation (PAS): There are 1,212 senior leaders, including the Cabinet secretaries and their deputies, the heads of most independent agencies and ambassadors, who must be confirmed by the Senate. These positions first require a Senate hearing in addition to background checks and other vetting.
  • Presidential Appointments without Senate Confirmation (PA): There are 353 PA positions which make up much of the White House staff, although they are also scattered throughout many of the smaller federal agencies.
  • Non-career Senior Executive Service (NA): Members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) work in key positions just below the top presidential appointees, bridging the gap between the political leaders and the civil service throughout the federal government. Most SES members are career officials, but up to 10 percent of the SES can be political appointees. (For more information see the Office of Personnel Management’s website.) There are 680 non-career members of the SES.
  • Schedule C Appointments (SC): There are 1,403 Schedule C appointees who serve in a confidential or policy role. They range from schedulers and confidential assistants to policy experts.

Source: Plum Book, Government Printing Office, December.

#

No wonder we could not find the “chart below” in the greatagain.gov website. The chart below is available to see in the original post of the PPS here: http://presidentialtransition.org/blog/posts/160316_help-wanted-4000-appointees.php

The  Trump Transition website accepts job applications from those interested in serving the incoming administration at https://www.greatagain.gov/serve-america.html (Thanks, E!). It has also rolled out a new Twitter handle @transition2017.

 

#

GOP National Security Heavyweights Warn Potential POTUS Would Be “Most Reckless”

Posted:2:22 am ET

 

The signatories to the open letter published in the New York Times include John Negroponte, the former Director of National Intelligence; former Deputy Secretary of State; former Deputy National Security Advisor and James Jeffrey, former Deputy National Security Advisor, The White House. It also includes Michael Hayden, the former Director, Central Intelligence Agency; former Director, National Security Agency.  The two former Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff have also signed the letter along with a good number of familiar names who previously served in the State Department, Defense

This is in addition to the 121 GOP natsec folks who did a letter in March 2016. And the former Acting CIA Director, Michael Morell, who Donald Trump called a “lightweight” and  “a total Clinton flunky!”

“President must be willing to listen to his advisers and department heads; must encourage consideration of conflicting views; and must acknowledge errors and learn from them. A President must be disciplined, control emotions, and act only after reflection and careful deliberation. A President must maintain cordial relationships with leaders of countries of different backgrounds and must have their respect and trust.

In our judgment, Mr. Trump has none of these critical qualities. He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander- in-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.”
[…]
Missing from the signatories are any of the living Republican former secretaries of state: Mr. Kissinger, George P. Shultz, James A. Baker III, Colin L. Powell and Condoleezza Rice.

Read the letter here:

 

#

Familiar Names For Foggy Bottom in a Potential Clinton White House

Posted: 3:01 am ET

The names on who might be coming or coming back to Foggy Bottom in a Clinton Administration are not unexpected. Ambassador Wendy R. Sherman, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and Ambassador Nicholas Burns, also a former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs have been with her through the primary season. The two were part of a group of former top government officials who issued a joint statement raising questions about Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposals for countering ISIS and dealing with Iran. Probably the only surprising name in this round is James Stavridis, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) who is the current dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Via Politico:

Secretary of State

For obvious reasons, this is seen as the job Clinton will think about most — potentially empowering the pick, or potentially leading to an extra level of oversight at Foggy Bottom from the West Wing. Clinton’s seen as being intrigued by having a person in the role who has experience in elected office, but there’s no obvious contender from the House and Senate (except for current Secretary of State John Kerry, whom people expect would leap at the chance to stay on, though probably would suffer from Clinton wanting to have her own pick in this job most of all). People at the State Department and elsewhere are pulling for Wendy Sherman, the former undersecretary of state for political affairs and a key player in the Iran nuclear deal, and Bill Burns, a career diplomat who was deputy secretary of state. Nick Burns is seen as being in the mix as well, a career foreign officer who rose to undersecretary of state for political affairs in Bush’s second term and has been a strong defender of Clinton in the campaign. Kurt Campbell, Clinton’s assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, has expressed interest to several people. Strobe Talbott, the friend of the Clintons and a deputy secretary of state during Bill Clinton’s first term and now the president of the Brookings Institute, is also seen as a possibility. Or Clinton might go for a surprise like James Stavridis, the admiral who was the only nonpolitician to be vetted for her running mate.

Would be interesting to see who might be coming to Foggy Bottom in a potential Trump administration. GOP national security folks, all 121 of them, recently published an open letter  saying “… we are united in our opposition to a Donald Trump presidency.”

The letter was coordinated by Dr. Eliot A. Cohen, former Counselor of the Department of State (2007–8) under Secretary Rice, and Bryan McGrath, Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group, a defense consultancy. Lots of familiar names. All saying, “as committed and loyal Republicans, we are unable to support a Party ticket with Mr. Trump at its head. We commit ourselves to working energetically to prevent the election of someone so utterly unfitted to the office.”  These folks have effectively ruled themselves out from working in a Trump Administration.  Which begs the question, who are still left in the tent?

#

Photo of the Day: The Room Numbers on His Arm

Posted: 3:25 am ET

Via State/DS:

A Diplomatic Security Assistant Regional Security Officer who responded to the attack checks his weapon. Scrawled in ink on his arm are the room numbers of Americans trapped inside the hotel. The DSS-led team entered the building a second time to rescue them. (U.S. Department of State photo)

A Diplomatic Security Assistant Regional Security Officer who responded to Bamako’s Radisson Blu Hotel attack in Mali checks his weapon. Scrawled in ink on his arm are the room numbers of Americans trapped inside the hotel. The DSS-led team entered the building a second time to rescue them. (U.S. Department of State photo)

 

Ron Capps: Seriously Not All Right, Five Wars in Ten Years (Excerpt)

Posted: 5:23 pm PT

 

Ron Capps is a U.S. Army veteran and a former Foreign Service officer. He served in the military from 1986 until the early 1990’s. In 1994, he moved to the Army Reserved and joined the Foreign Service. His FS assignments took him to Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Kosovo, and Rwanda. Between 1996-2002, he also deployed as an intelligence officer in Uganda and Zaire for the U.S. Army.  According to his online bio, after the September 11 attacks, he served with XVIII Airborne Corps and the Defense intelligence Agency in Afghanistan as a soldier. Later, he was also deployed to Darfur and Chad as a soldier, and Iraq and Darfur (again) as a Foreign Service officer. “Throughout his career of service, Capps was often working in close proximity to murder, rape, and genocide. He suffered from regular and intense nightmares; he was diagnosed by an Army psychiatrist with PTSD and depression, and prescribed Prozac. In 2006, he nearly committed suicide. He was medically evacuated from service by the Regional Medical Officer of the State Department.”

He retired from government work and pursued a Master of Arts in Writing from Johns Hopkins University in 2009. In 2012, he founded the Veterans Writing Project, a non-profit organization that hosts free writing workshops and seminars for veterans and service members, as well as their adult family members.  VWP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. You can support the group with a tax-deductible donation or through the Amazon Smile program.

Ron Capps is the author of the book, Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years, which details his own experiences with PTSD.  To mark June as PTSD Awareness Month, we’re sharing an excerpt from Mr. Capps’ book with you (courtesy of Amazon Kindle).

Via Amazon/Kindle

Click on image to read an excerpt or buy the book  Book cover via Amazon Kindle

 

Related posts:

@StateDept Spox John Kirby Pens a Message to Colleagues in the Bureau of Public Affairs

Posted: 1:49 am ET

On June 2, State Department spokesperson, John Kirby sent a message to the staffers of the Bureau of Public Affairs concerning the deliberate tampering of a DPB video, an official State Department record. The message was sent on June 2 but is effective on June 1st upon its announcement at a morning meeting:

Colleagues,

As you know, we learned that on at least one occasion this bureau edited a portion of the video of a daily press briefing before posting it to our YouTube channel and the Department’s website.

Upon learning of this, I immediately directed the video to be restored in its entirety with the full and complete copy that exists — and had existed since the day of the briefing — on the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System website.  I also verified that the full transcript of the briefing, which we also posted on the Department website, was intact and had been so since the date of the briefing.

To my surprise, PA did not have in place any rules governing this type of action. Now we do.

All video and transcripts from daily press briefings will be immediately and permanently uploaded in their entirety on publicly accessible platforms.  In the unlikely event that narrow, compelling circumstances require edits to be made, such as the inadvertent release of privacy-protected or classified national security information, they will only be made with the express permission of the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and with an appropriate level of annotation and disclosure.

This new policy took effect yesterday. And I have tasked Susan Stevenson to lead an effort to create new language for the Foreign Affairs Manual to institutionalize this approach.

I know you share my commitment to transparency, disclosure and accountability.  While the actions taken in relation to the editing of this video broke no protocol — since none existed — they clearly were not the appropriate steps to take.

I ask for your help going forward in ensuring that the content of any video or transcript from daily press briefings is not edited or altered in any way without my specific permission.

Thanks for all your hard work and dedication.  We’re a great team with a great mission.

There’s nothing in this message that has not been reported in the press earlier but it iss worth noting what he says in this message. “I know you share my commitment to transparency, disclosure and accountability.”

But how can he know that?

Pardon for raining on a perfectly good message but since Mr. Kirby’s internal investigation is at a “dead end” and had not been able to determine who was responsible for this deliberate act — how can he know that everyone he’s writing to shares his “commitment to transparency, disclosure and accountability?” An official at the PA bureau directed the tampering of the video, we don’t know who or why but that individual has not come forward and is obviously not big on accountability.  So, how can he says “I know ….?”

That’s quite a whodunit, hey?

#

 

Interagency People to SIGAR: Hit the road John and don’t you come back no more, no more, no more …

Posted: 2:26 am PT

 

Last year, the NYT covered SIGAR’s John Sopko.

This past Labor Day, there was this big splash, quite an effort here from a dozen or so folks from three agencies:

Detractors describe Sopko as “egomaniacal,” “petty,” “a bully” and “the Donald Trump of inspectors general.” But Sopko has publicly brushed off — even relished — the criticism, arguing that it’s his job to shine a light on mistakes made by “bureaucrats” who would prefer that his reports “be slipped in a sealed envelope in the dead of night under the door — never to see the light of day.”

“My job is to call balls and strikes,” Sopko once told NBC News. “Nobody likes the ump.”

Here’s SIGAR Sopko previously discussing his media strategy:

Then here’s one view from Afghanistan:

John F. Sopko was appointed Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction on July 2, 2012 by President Obama. In his last congressional post, Mr. Sopko was Chief Counsel for Oversight and Investigations for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, chaired by Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), during the 110th Congress.

In the fall of 2010, a bi-partisan group of senators and POGO called for the removal of Mr. Sopko’s predecessor. At that time, POGO reported that “the SIGAR office has largely been considered a disappointment, and numerous deficiencies in its operations and audit reports have been identified.” The POGO investigator also said at that time that the “office has produced milk-toast audits that have not inspired congressional confidence.”  In January 2011, the previous inspector, Arnold Fields, a retired Marine major general, resigned, per WaPo “after a review by the Council of Inspectors General found that many of his office’s audits barely met minimum quality standards and that Fields had not laid out a clear strategic vision.”

In accordance with Government Auditing Standards, SIGAR is required to undergo a periodic external quality control review (peer review). SIGAR’s latest peer review, which was conducted by the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) was publicly released on March 30, 2016:

The NASA Office of Inspector General reviewed the system of quality control for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) Auditing Division in effect for fiscal year 2015. As indicated in our February 25, 2016, report, we assigned SIGAR a “pass” rating. During our review, we found three issues that were not of sufficient significance to affect our opinion on this rating but that require your attention. We believe these issues could be addressed through simple revisions to the policy manual.

So SIGAR was reviewed by IG peers and got a pass rating!  Imagine that.

Mr. Sopko’s deputy famously said once,“Some people are unhappy with the fact we get press coverage, even though our two-person press shop pales in comparison to the squadrons of PR people at Embassy Kabul, ISAF, or DOD. Some people think we’re doing this to attract attention and gratify our egos. They are mistaken. Neither John nor I are angling for another government job, movie role, book advance, or trying to become the next YouTube sensation.”

We should note that when we request information from SIGAR, we always get a response. When we request information from US Embassy Kabul, our emails just get swallowed by black holes of indifference.

 

Related item:

Letter of Comment on the System of Quality Control for the Audit Organization of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (PDF) March 2016

 

#

Kerry Stands By Linick as Clinton Campaign Goes the Full Monty on @StateDept Inspector General

Posted: 1:38 pm EDT

 

Well, thank heavens not the Full Monty like the men of Sheffield but certainly with HRC presidential campaign chairman John Podesta, and with HFAC Dems attacking the watchdog and alleging bias, the Office of Inspector General is getting the works … the whole enchilada… the whole shebang … you get it. And we get to use the full monty in our blog post, teh-heh!!

But this is perplexing, if one wants a “more prestigious appointed position” we know where the kiss-assing is happening. Unless DIG DiSanto is running for national office, this charge doesn’t even make sense.

This started last year, and will only continue to get louder.

.

The State Department was asked about this on March 2 and here is the official response:

QUESTION: Does the inspector general’s office have the confidence of the current leadership in the State Department, including the Secretary? And do you think it’s appropriate for the campaign to be complaining?

MR TONER: Well, as you know, the inspector general’s office operates independently from the State Department – rightfully so, given their mandate to look into these kinds of issues. They need to have that kind of freedom. But I believe the Secretary has every confidence in the inspector general’s ability to carry out his mission. I’m just – I haven’t seen those specific allegations, but I doubt we’d really comment on them given that the IG’s role is really to operate independently, look into the – whatever matters they’re looking into.

QUESTION: Well, I guess the question is: Does the building share the – given that it is an independent operation and you do not speak for them, does the Secretary, does the building —

MR TONER: But I did say – I said the Secretary has confidence in the inspector.

QUESTION: Yeah. So you do not share the same concerns as Mr. Podesta?

MR TONER: Again, we have confidence in his abilities to conduct independent investigations.

 

Related posts:

 

#