Via the Foggy Bottom Nightingale:
That time when post got flooded and you realized you have not seen your Emergency Action Plan (EAP) ‘cuz you skipped out of both Crisis Management Exercises (CMEs) in the last few months.
Posted: 2:50 pm EDT
This is a follow-up post to Whoa! The Next Consul General in Istanbul Will Be a Political Appointee? When we wrote about this last week, it was not clear to us if the rumored candidate for the CG Istanbul position is a Civil Service employe or a political appointee of the bundler kind. We’ve since learned that the candidate is neither.
Three sources informed us that the new CG slated for Istanbul is a newly minted FS-01. For some readers not familiar with Foreign Service ranking, that’s the topmost rank in the Foreign Service below the Senior Foreign Service. An FS-01 is equivalent in rank to a colonel in the U.S. military. Counselor, the lowest rank in the Senior Foreign Service is equivalent in rank to a one star general in the U.S. military. One source put it this way:
While it’s a bit unusual that CDA would grant a senior cede to allow [snip](an FS-01) to take such a high profile SFS job, [snip] was Executive Assistant to the Secretary. I imagine that helped with HR. Some would argue that’s a bit of a scandal (not me though…) but I think we can all agree, even if that is a scandal, it’s a lot less of a scandal, than a political appointee taking that job.
So the good news is that the WH/State Department is not sending an Obama bundler to assume the Consul General’s position in Istanbul. Yo! We can hear your collective sigh of relief all the way here! But we can also hear all the drama going on.
CDA is the Office of Career Development and Assignments at the State Department’s Bureau of Human Resources. Since this is a stretch assignment across the senior threshold (think colonel assigned to a general’s position), this would require what’s called a “senior cede” which HR/CDA/SL usually grants only after determining that no senior employee is seeking the senior position.
Seriously, no senior diplomat of the C, MC or CM kind asked to go to Istanbul? Who believes that? Or perhaps the more interesting question is who drove the John Deere high speed dozer to clear the obstacle path from the 7th Floor to Istanbul?
Here’s the Hiawatha by the way, at a ready in Istanbul for whoever ends up going there.
A separate source informed us that the next Consul General to Istanbul was not only a previous member of Secretary Kerry’s staff, the staffer also worked for an Executive Secretary of the State Department. That Executive Secretary is now the U.S. ambassador to Turkey.
We understand that there was “a ton of drama” associated with this assignment. “Crammed down EUR’s throat,” that is, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs’ throat, we heard. There are apparently, “heartaches” in Foggy Bottom related to this appointment. Another alleged that the assignment was done through “irregular means” and that the “job wasn’t announced in FSBid” among other things.
And just like on teevee, there’s more.
CG Istanbul is a language designated position. That means you either need to already know Turkish or must get the Turkish language level required for the job. Allegations have also surfaced that the State Department has now reportedly waived the language requirement for this position. Language waivers are not unheard of, of course, but … given what’s going on in Turkey ….
Say, is this the best the State Department can do for its diplomatic post and staff in Istanbul?
Our man in Istanbul, Chuck Hunter has been an FSO since 1990, so he has some 25 years of experience in the Foreign Service. He was Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq (2011-12) and served in Damascus as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy to Syria (2009-11). He previously worked in Cairo, Tunis, Muscat and Jerusalem. In addition to various D.C. tours, he also served as the Babil Provincial Reconstruction Team Leader, based in Al-Hillah, Iraq. He speaks Turkish, Arabic and French.
The principal officer in Adana, the smallest constituent post in Turkey (with four direct hire employees) is Linda Stuart Specht who assumed her duties last August. She has been an FSO since 1989. She has spent about 26 years in some difficult and dangerous places around the world. She previously served in positions in U.S. missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, and Suriname. Her most recent previous assignments were as Deputy Director of Pakistan Affairs (2012-2014), Director of the Office of Economic Sanctions and Counter Terrorism Finance (2011-2012), and Deputy Director for Arabian Peninsula Affairs (2009-2011). She speaks Turkish, Dutch, French, and Vietnamese.
We should note that the Consulate General in Istanbul is actually larger than many embassies around the world. So, it looks like next year, an FS-01 will oversee U.S. Government relations in a city that is the commercial, financial, cultural, educational, and media capital of Turkey. The same official will also supervise other FS-01s in Istanbul. The last time we’ve seen a midlevel official successfully appointed to a similar high profile posting was in 2005 when an FS-02 became an Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.
In any case, back in the fall of 2014, there was also a rumor that a staffer from the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, (the Department’s fourth-ranking official), allegedly wanted the Iran Watcher position in London. (see Is This Iran Watcher London Position Not Bidlisted About to Go to a “P” Staffer?). After a fuss was raised, the job apparently went to an FSO. Another Iran Watcher job was reportedly then created in Amsterdam. But there was an Iran Watcher already in language training whose assignment to Erbil, Iraq was cancelled; that individual eventually ended up with the Amsterdam assignment.
Assignments on the 7th floor must be quite hazardous and perilous. One staffer almost end up in London, then Amsterdam, and now one is reportedly going to Istanbul. Who’s next? Secretary Kerry’s pilot as the next Consul General to Bora Bora? Yes, we know there is no CG Bora Bora … well, not yet, anyway.
It’s a good thing that the State Department as an institution has “embraced” what is apparently “an overarching set of Leadership Principles” contained in 3 FAM 1214. This part of the FAM talks about supervisors and managers having “a unique opportunity and responsibility to lead by example.”
Hey, look! Things are growing crazy as heck over in Turkey.
Posted: 4:37 am EDT
Updated: 1:06 pm EDT
Maine poet Richard Blanco who was born to a Cuban exile family and read at President Obama’s second inauguration will read a poem commemorating the reopening of the US Embassy in Havana on August 14. Its title is “Matters Of The Sea” or “Cosas Del Mar,” and its first line goes, “The sea doesn’t matter. What matters is this – that we all belong to the sea between us.” Looking forward to reading it in Spanish!
VIDEO: US Marines raise the US flag over the newly opened American Embassy in Havana, Cuba: http://t.co/Fbu7jZkqem
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 14, 2015
— PressHerald (@PressHerald) August 12, 2015
— Embajada EE.UU. Cuba (@USEmbCuba) August 14, 2015
— Diplopundit (@Diplopundit) August 14, 2015
— Bloomberg Politics (@bpolitics) August 14, 2015
— AJE News (@AJENews) August 14, 2015
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) August 13, 2015
— Patrick Oppmann CNN (@CNN_Oppmann) August 13, 2015
Posted: 4:18 am EDT
Berkeley Earth released a study showing that air pollution kills an average of 4,000 people every day in China, 17% of all China’s deaths. For 38% of the population, the average air they breathe is “unhealthy” by U.S. standards. According to the study, the most harmful pollution is PM2.5, particulate matter 2.5 microns and smaller. This penetrates deeply into lungs and triggers heart attacks, stroke, lung cancer and asthma.
“Beijing is only a moderate source PM 2.5 ; it receives much of its pollution from distant industrial areas, particularly Shijiazhuang, 200 miles to the southwest,” says Robert Rohde, coauthor of the paper.
“Air pollution is the greatest environmental disaster in the world today,” says Richard Muller, Scientific Director of Berkeley Earth, coauthor of the paper. “When I was last in Beijing, pollution was at the hazardous level; every hour of exposure reduced my life expectancy by 20 minutes. It’s as if every man, women, and child smoked 1.5 cigarettes each hour,” he said.
— Peter Hoskins (@PeterHoskinsTV) August 14, 2015
— Adrienne Mong (@adriennemong) August 14, 2015
— Todd Simmons (@tmsimmons) August 14, 2015
— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 13, 2015
— Tseten S Chhoekyapa (@chhoekyapa) August 14, 2015
Perhaps it’s time to revisit this Burn Bag submission?
“Why are we still downplaying the enormous health impact to officers and their families serving in China? Why are State MED officers saying ‘off the record’ that it is irresponsible to send anyone with children to China and yet no one will speak up via official channels?”
Embassy Beijing and the five consulates general in China house one of the largest U.S. diplomatic presences in the world (no presence in Kunming and Nanjing). Service in China includes a hardship differential (when conditions of the environment differ substantially from environmental conditions in the continental United States) for poor air quality among other things, ranging between 10-25% of basic compensation.
According to the 2010 OIG report, more than 30 U.S. Government agencies maintain offices and personnel in China; the total staff exceeds 2,000 employees. Consulates General Guangzhou and Shanghai are as large as many mid-sized embassies, each with more than 250 employees. Consulates General Chengdu and Shenyang are smaller but serve the important western and northern parts of the country respectively. Consulate General Wuhan, opened in 2008, is staffed by one American. Mission China is a fully accompanied post; we have no numbers on how many family members, including children are present at these posts.
- Burn Bag: What’s ‘off the record’ about Assignment China?
- US Embassy Beijing Air Monitoring, Pollution Hype? Oh Yeah, the Smog Fogs the Brain, and Closes Beijing’s Airport …
- Drowning in Smoggy Delhi: There’s No Blue Sky, So Where’s Blueair? (Updated)
- U.S. Consulate General Shanghai Launches Air Quality Monitor
- US Embassy Beijing: Air quality goes ‘crazy bad’
- U.S Embassy Beijing’s Air Monitor Tracks the Particulates in Your Lungs
Posted: 11:20 pm EDT
Ahead of the official flag raising at the US Embassy in Havana with Secretary Kerry this Friday, the State Department released the following 8:36 minute video featuring three former U.S. Marines assigned to Embassy Havana in 1961. The video is narrated by Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, our Charge d’Affaires to Cuba.
On January 4, 1961, U.S. Marines Jim Tracy, F.W. “Mike” East, and Cpl. Larry C. Morris assigned to U.S. Embassy Havana lowered the American flag outside the embassy for the last time. For 54 years, the soldiers’ warm affection for the Cuban people never wavered. And neither did their belief that, one day, they would reunite to raise the flag again. On August 14, 2015, these three U.S. Marines reunite and join Secretary of State John Kerry to re-open the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba.
Posted: 12:30 am EDT
As announced on July 1st, the U.S. and Cuba will officially re-establish diplomatic relations today, July 20. This is the day when both interest sections will become embassies. A State Department official who gave a special briefing on the re-opening of embassies last week told reporters that there is not a legal requirement to fly a flag, so that will not happen until Secretary Kerry travels to Havana later this summer:
Secretary will be there to officiate for these very important events of raising the flag and unveiling the signage for the U.S. Embassy in Havana. He does – his presence there is ceremonial. It’s important, it’s historic, but legally the embassy will be functioning on Monday, July 20th. There is not a legal requirement to fly a flag, and we wanted the Secretary to be there to oversee these important events.
There will also be a flag installation in Foggy Bottom but this is apparently a “routine installation with no public or media component.” All American employees of the interest section in Havana will be re-accredited as employees of the embassy but there will be no new additional employees at this time.
Our DCM in Havana, Conrad Tribble tweeted just minutes ago:
Just made first phone call to State Dept. Ops Center from United States Embassy Havana ever. It didn’t exist in Jan 1961.
— Conrad Tribble (@conradtribble) July 20, 2015
July 20 also marks the day when the agreement with Switzerland as the “protecting power” of the United States in Cuba is terminated. That will require a technical exchange of notes because the Government of Switzerland has been the United States’ protecting power for many years, and that agreement between the U.S. and Switzerland, and another agreement between Cuba and Switzerland, will be terminated as a result of the upgrade from interest sections to embassies in Havana and Washington, D.C.
— Sección de Intereses (@USAenCUBA) July 13, 2015
The Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. will hold its ceremonial re-opening in the morning of July 20 with very limited attendance by a U.S. Government delegation to be lead by Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson.
— CubaInterestsSection (@SeccionCubaUS) July 19, 2015
In the early afternoon Secretary Kerry will meet his counterpart, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, at the State Department for an historic meeting. Afterward at 1:40, they will have a joint press conference, “sort of the first historic joint press conference between the Secretary of State and the Cuban Foreign Minister,” according to the State Department.
Excerpt below from the special briefing:
QUESTION: Thank you. So starting Monday, what changes, what is different at the now-U.S. Embassy in Havana? Can anyone go? Is it like other embassies in the world where you have to have a previous appointment? What is going to happen with U.S. diplomats? Do – starting Monday, are they free to roam the country as they haven’t been before? Can you be more specific on the logistics please?
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Right. Yes, on Monday they will – all of the employees of the – the American employees of the interest section will be re-accredited as employees of the embassy. So it is an upgrade in status for the – for all the U.S. employees there. The chief of mission will be upgraded to charge d’affaires, and they will be then entered as a member of the diplomatic corps in Havana, and that will mean that they are invited to diplomatic functions just like any other country. That has not been the case previously. And yes, there are conditions that we have talked about previously, about – when we made the agreement to open the embassies. And there will be some – those conditions will all be active and effective on July 20th and will begin to function under those new conditions. Those new conditions do include greater freedom for U.S. diplomats to travel throughout Cuba.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Quickly, will the charge d’affaires, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, be in Havana, and will he do anything in Havana on Monday? Did you get the new employees that you asked for and will they be there start this – starting next week? And you said they get an upgrade of employees that are at the Interests Section. Do they also get a pay upgrade?
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The – actually, Jeff DeLaurentis will be – and I should have mentioned that earlier – he will be in the delegation that is here in Washington, and that’s a fairly standard practice and especially for a historic meeting that our representative in the embassy would come back for that meeting. So he will be here in Washington. And so our deputy chief of mission in Havana will actually on that day be in charge of the post. And again, there is no other activity other than we’re going to have a statement put out by the embassy announcing that they have indeed elevated status to an embassy that morning.
There also will be a technical exchange of notes because the Government of Switzerland has been providing us protecting power for many years, and that will now be – that agreement between the U.S. and Switzerland, and another agreement between Cuba and Switzerland, will be terminated as a result of the upgrade.
As for the employees, there may be some confusion in that the discussion of personnel and staffing that we had with the Cubans referred specifically to American employees, and that’s a personnel issue that we’ll work out in the months to come. So on that day, we would not get new employees. In fact, the employees at the Cuban Interests Section will be the same employees and they – as I understand it, they’re excited about becoming (inaudible) of the U.S. embassy.
Read more here.
- Washington and Havana Formally Restores Diplomatic Relations After 54 Years
- U.S. Interests Section Cuba (USINT) — 12 Plus Things We Learned About Assignment Havana
- U.S. Interests Section Havana Needs a New Embassy Seal ASAP, Senators Fume About Security
- U.S.Embassies Face Host Country Harassment: From Petty Actions to Poisoning of Family Pets
- Alleged Cuban Spies Fall for a Cigar
- Snapshot: Cuba Democracy Funding to State and USAID – FY1996-2011
- Photo of the Day: Countdown to US Embassy Havana
Posted: 2:32 am EDT
Updated: 3:05 PM EDT
Update via US Embassy Bujumbura on the students who entered the embassy compound:
After the Burundian National Police broke down the student camp at the construction site yesterday, the university student who sought refuge at the U.S.Embassy were allowed to stay for the afternoon and provided with water. The students remained in the Embassy parking lot until approximately 7:30 pm when they departed of their own free will after speaking with Ambassador Dawn Liberi. There was no effort to forcibly remove them.
The students relocated to a refuge run by a religious entity. The U.S. Embassy continues to work with the Government of Burundi to fully resolve this issue and has also been in contact with humanitarian organizations on behalf of the students.
Last month, the US Embassy in Bujumbura, Burundi went on ordered departure (see New #Burundi Travel Warning, Non-Emergency US Embassy Staff & Family Members Now on Ordered Departure).
On June 25, this happened:
— Thierry Uwamahoro (@ThierryU) June 25, 2015
— Shreeya Sinha (@ShreeyaSinha) June 25, 2015
— Jessica Hatcher (@jessiehatcher) June 25, 2015
— Live From Mogadishu (@Daudoo) June 25, 2015
— Robbie Corey-Boulet (@rcoreyb) June 25, 2015
— zenaida machado (@zenaidamz) June 25, 2015
The US Embassy released the following statement on June 25:
At approximately 1:15 pm Burundian National Police entered a construction site adjacent to the U.S. Embassy where university students set up camp seeking refuge when violence broke out in Bujumbura at the end of April and the national university was closed. The students dispersed from the site in an orderly manner and some entered the Embassy parking lot. Approximately 100 students peacefully remain in the visitor parking lot of the U.S. Embassy.
The police and students had no physical confrontation. The police officers did not resort to violence; no shots were fired and tear gas was not used. Four people suffered minor injuries during the movement. All embassy staff members are safe and accounted for.
The U.S. Embassy has contacted the Government of Burundi and urged them to find a peaceful resolution to the situation.
We understand that the students went into a lot that is outside the real embassy perimeter (as per standard embassy design). We’re also told that the gap below the gate is probably due to ground settling over the years since construction.
We should note that the embassy occupied the new embassy compound in October 2012. According to the OIG report, the embassy occupies a modern compound with an electrical generating capacity equal to that of the entire national grid. The capital cost of the new embassy compound, $137 million, is 25 percent of the national government’s annual budget.
Posted: 9:46 pm PDT
We posted this earlier today: US Embassy Burundi: Amidst Coup Attempt, No Movement of Personnel Until Further Notice. Sometime in the last 24 hours, the State Department must have decided to place the US Embassy in Bujumbura on “ordered departure.” A new Travel Warning was released today. Non-emegency personnel and family members are also ordered to depart the country. Ordered Departure is initiated in extraordinary circumstances when the embassy is no longer confident of the security of its personnel and families. Once the Under Secretary of State for Management (“M”) approves the evacuation status for post—either authorized or ordered—the 180-day clock “begins ticking” (by law, an evacuation cannot last longer than 180 days).
The State Department also recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burundi depart “as soon as it is feasible to do so.” Meanwhile, the game of #WhereisNkurunziza continues, and there are still conflicting reports on social media regarding the operating status of the Bujumbura airport.
Below is an excerpt from the new Travel Warning dated May 14:
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Burundi and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burundi depart as soon as it is feasible to do so. As a result of the deteriorating security situation, the Department of State ordered the departure of dependents of U.S. government personnel and non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Burundi on May 14. The U.S. Embassy is able to offer only very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in Burundi. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on May 11, 2015.
The security situation remains fluid and volatile because of military and security forces activity in Bujumbura. There have been increased political tensions and civil disturbances related to these actions. Airport and land borders are reportedly closed. U.S. citizens should shelter in place until it is safe to move about, ensure that your travel documents are up-to-date, and confirm that air and land borders are open before attempting to depart the country.
The terrorist organization al-Shabaab, based in Somalia, has threatened to conduct terror attacks in Burundi. It may also target U.S. interests in Burundi. Political violence persists throughout Burundi, a carryover of the Burundian civil war. Armed groups operate in Burundi. Weapons are easy to obtain and some ex-combatants have turned to crime or political violence. Crime, often committed by groups of armed bandits or street children, poses the highest risk for foreign visitors. Exchanges of gunfire and grenade attacks have increased but are usually not directed at foreigners. If you encounter such a situation, stay indoors in a ground floor interior room away from doors and windows. Common crimes include muggings, burglaries, and robberies. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from walking on the streets after dark and from using local public transportation at any time. Local authorities in any part of Burundi are often unable to provide timely assistance during an emergency.
Demonstrations, gatherings, and even sporting events that are intended to be peaceful can turn violent without advance warning. For this reason, U.S. citizens should routinely monitor local media sources and the Internet for reports of demonstrations and unrest, and avoid political rallies, demonstrations, and crowds of any kind.
Travel outside the capital, Bujumbura, presents significant risks, especially after nightfall. Note the U.S. embassy limits and monitors the travel of its personnel in Burundi. All movement by embassy employees outside the city from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. is prohibited. Likewise, U.S. citizens should not travel on national highways from dusk to dawn. Armed criminals ambush vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura. Keep vehicle doors locked and windows up when stopped in heavy traffic.
Corruption is endemic in Burundi and contributes to an environment where the rule of law is not respected. Government officials may ask for bribes for providing routine services. Travelers are frequently stopped, questioned, and asked for bribes by security forces at numerous official and unofficial roadblocks throughout the country. Likewise, criminals who have paid off local officials may operate with impunity.