US Embassy Kabul on COVID Lockdown, AFSA Calls For Vaccination Requirement For All Staffers

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The US Embassy in Kabul issued a Management Notice for an Immediate COVID-19 Lockdown due to surging cases at post. The notice notes that “95% of our cases are individuals who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.” The notice also says “Failure to abide by the Mission’s COVID policies will result in consequences up to and including removal from Post on the next available flight.”
AFSA has issued a statement calling for the Biden Administration to “take swift action to allow the Department of State to require all personnel, including local employees and third-country nationals, serving at our embassies and consulates abroad under Chief of Mission authority, direct-hire and contract alike, to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 as a condition of their physical presence in the workplace.” AFSA’s vaccination requirement push includes “for those individuals who cannot get vaccinated due to medical reasons or disability or religious belief or practice.”
Below is the AFSA statement:

Our Embassy in Afghanistan has announced that one employee has died and 114 have been infected with Covid-19. Several employees have had to be evacuated from Afghanistan, and others are being treated in an emergency Covid-19 ward at the Embassy that was created because U.S. military hospital facilities are full. The entire Embassy staff has been put on lockdown and nearly all staff members are confined to their quarters around the clock.

At a time when the U.S. military withdrawal is accelerating, attacks on Afghan and Coalition forces are intensifying and the U.S. is seeking to establish a stable and positive presence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal, the damage to our national security and national interests is potentially grave.

AFSA urges the Biden Administration to take swift action to allow the Department of State to require all personnel, including local employees and third-country nationals, serving at our embassies and consulates abroad under Chief of Mission authority, direct-hire and contract alike, to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 as a condition of their physical presence in the workplace. The only exceptions would be for those individuals who cannot get vaccinated due to medical reasons or disability or religious belief or practice.    

This has always been a matter of life and death, but now it literally has become exactly that for our members and colleagues serving their country abroad. Recent Federal court rulings have upheld requiring vaccination as a condition of employment in specific situations, such as health care. Service at our embassies and consulates should be treated similarly.

 

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US Embassy Ottawa Announces Arrival of Chargé d’Affaires Arnold Chacon, in Self-Isolation Until 6/29

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On May 28, the State Department announced the designation of Ambassador Arnold Chacon as Chargé d’Affaires at US Mission Canada (see Amb Arnie Chacon Heads to U.S. Mission Canada as Chargé d’Affaires (a.i); What’s going on at U.S. Mission Canada?).
On June 15, the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa announce the arrival of Chargé d’Affaires Arnold Chacon.

“I’m delighted that Secretary of State Blinken selected me to serve as Chargé d’Affaires in Canada and am honored to take on this important role working with the United States’ closest friend, partner, and ally.  We are active across Canada, not only at the Embassy in Ottawa, but also through our seven consulates that stretch from Vancouver to Halifax.  The U.S.-Canada relationship is a priority for the Biden-Harris Administration as we revitalize and strengthen our historic alliance and steadfast friendship. I am committed to continuing the exceptional work already being done by my colleagues and Canadian government officials under the Roadmap for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership.  We will continue to make progress together in the key areas of trade, climate change, COVID-19 response and recovery, diversity, inclusion, and equity, and global and regional security issues,” said Chargé d’Affaires Chacon.

Chargé d’Affaires Chacon succeeds Katherine Brucker who has been acting in the role since September of 2020.  Ms. Brucker will continue to serve at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa as Deputy Chief of Mission.

In keeping with public health requirements, Chargé d’Affaires Chacon will self-isolate for the next 14 days.

We’re wondering if folks are ready to do the Bhangra dance.

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Belarus Kicks Out US Diplomats With New Limits in US Embassy Minsk Staffing

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According to the June 3 statement from the Belarus Foreign Ministry, the government summoned the Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Minsk and informed him of retaliatory measures against the United States. The measures include the reduction of the diplomatic and administrative-technical personnel of the American diplomatic mission, the tightening of visa procedures, the limitation of the work of American specialists in Belarus on a temporary basis. The government also revoked the work permit for the US Agency for International Development.
In 2008, the Belarusian Government imposed restrictions on the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in Minsk, and the State Department was forced to reduce its embassy staff from 35 to five diplomats as well as withdraw the U.S. Ambassador. The number of U.S. diplomats was later increased to six in July 2014. We are not sure how many were at post prior to this latest development. The current CDA Ruben Harutunian assumed his duties as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk on May 24, 2021.
In April 2020, with improved relations with the dictator in Belarus, the Trump Administration announced the nomination of  career diplomat Julie Fisher as the first U.S. Ambassador to Minsk since 2008. She was confirmed in December 2020. In April this year, the new ambassador was reportedly to reside in Lithuania temporarily as she was not granted a visa for Belarus.

Related posts:

FSJ/Speaking Out: The president can nominate anyone. True, but …

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Via FSJ/Speaking Out: The Case Against Political Ambassadors by Edward L. Peck, former U.S. Ambassador to Mauritania and Iraq:
“The president can nominate anyone. True, but the Founding Fathers, in a far less complicated world, required the Senate to consent after considering nominees’ qualifications. In theory, the only criterion would be national interests; but political nominations reflect the importance of money, friendship and patronage, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has long since abandoned its constitutional responsibility. The committee has also abandoned the requirements and restrictions included in the 1980 Foreign Service Act written by Congress, rubber-stamping all but the most egregious candidates, knowing that their party will have its turn.”
Read in full here.

 

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National Security Professionals Call for Action on Hate Crimes and Racism Against Asian-Americans

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Via Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in National Security:

[….] We are foreign policy and national security professionals, including active and retired military members, diplomats, civilian government employees, government contractors, intelligence officers, investors, scientists, and academics. We are Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, or AAPI, who come from diverse backgrounds, from third-generation Chinese-Americans whose ancestors sought more opportunities and labored to build the vital infrastructure of America’s westward expansion, to first-generation immigrants whose parents wanted to achieve the American Dream. We are allies and community members united by our commitment to America, and we are bound by a collective mission to make our country a better and more secure place.

As a community, it has been heart-wrenching to hear—and personally experience—the latest surge of hate crimes targeting Asian-Americans across our beloved country, the same country for which thousands of Asian-Americans have fought and died. The perpetuation of this prejudice has only intensified under the COVID-19 pandemic and the geopolitical and economic strains and racial polarization it has surfaced. Simultaneously, the xenophobia that is spreading as U.S. policy concentrates on great power competition has exacerbated suspicions, microaggressions, discrimination, and blatant accusations of disloyalty simply because of the way we look. Many of us have been targeted because we are either ethnically Chinese or simply look Asian. This is not to dismiss credible counterintelligence concerns as evidenced through indictments of U.S. citizens—some of whom are White—spying for China. Treating all Asian-Americans working in national security with a broad stroke of suspicion, rather than seeing us as valuable contributors, is counterproductive to the greater mission of securing the homeland. As members and allies of the AAPI community, we acknowledge that Asian-Americans are intrinsic to the fabric of American society.

Read in full below:

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FSGB: Informal Meetings Between Grievant and Rater “Did Not Constitute Counseling”

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Via FSGB Case No. 2020-025
Held – The Board held that grievant has established by a preponderance of the evidence that informal meetings between grievant and her rater did not constitute counseling and that the only formal counseling, which occurred six weeks prior to the end of the appraisal year, in the circumstances of this case, was not timely.
Case Summary:

Grievant, an FS-06 Office Management Specialist, was assigned to a challenging, newly upgraded position with not only the responsibility to support the Consul General (CG), as her predecessor had done, but also to support the Deputy Principal Officer (DPO). The position was upgraded to an FS-05 two months after her July arrival at post.

Grievant appealed the denial of her grievance of her April 2017 EER. She maintained that 1) she had not received timely counseling and 2) certain comments in the EER by her Rater and Reviewer, as well as language in the Developmental Area, were inaccurate and/or falsely prejudicial. She contended that her routine meetings with her rater had been supportive, as the rater admitted, and that the Rater had not advised her that the CG and she were dissatisfied with her progress until six weeks before the end of the appraisal period. At that point, grievant recommended being temporarily relieved of supporting the DPO position to allow her time to establish systems to support both positions. She accomplished that goal shortly after the start of the next appraisal period, but her 2017 EER reflected that she was not fully supporting both positions at the end of that rating period.

The Department contended that her ongoing meetings with her Rater to manage her workload and her acknowledgement of her difficulties in doing so meant that grievant was aware of her deficiencies from the informal counseling. Moreover, the Department contended that six weeks was adequate notice of her need to improve.

The Board held that, in the circumstances of this case, where the job had been greatly expanded, grievant was new at post, and her meetings with her rater were generally to discuss routine aspects of the position, her rater had failed to put her on notice that her progress was deficient. As to the timeliness of the formal counseling, grievant established that she was able to devise a plan to meet the requirements successfully, but she was unable to accomplish it before the end of the rating period. Consequently, six weeks was too short to be timely notice of her deficiency.

Because the Department failed in its obligation to provide counseling mandated under 3 FAH-1 H-2253.2, it was unnecessary for the Board to reach the issue of whether the statements were inaccurate and/or falsely prejudicial. As a remedy, and as requested by the grievant, the Board ordered expungement of the 2017 EER and reconstituted Selection Boards.

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Note: FSGB cases are not available to read online; each record needs to be downloaded to be accessible. Please use the search button here to locate specific FSGB records.

 

EEOC: Challenge to @StateDept’s Mandatory Retirement as Violation of the ADEA Fails

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Via EEOC Appeal No. 2020000116 (PDF)
DECISION:

Complainant filed a timely appeal with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC or Commission) from the Agency’s decision dated July 31, 2019, dismissing his complaint of unlawful employment discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.

BACKGROUND:

At the time of events giving rise to this complaint, Complainant worked as an Information Systems Security Officer, FS-03, at the Agency’s facility in Brussels, Belgium.

On July 1, 2019, Complainant filed a formal complaint alleging that the Agency subjected him to age discrimination when he was not allowed to bid for assignments in the summer 2020 job cycle, when he will reach the Agency’s mandatory retirement age. Complainant also stated, in his formal complaint, that he was being involuntarily retired in January 2020, solely on account of his age.

The Agency dismissed the complaint, pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 1614.107(a)(1), for failure to state a claim, stating that the ADEA does not preclude mandatory retirement provisions, including the one set forth in the Foreign Service Act which covered Complainant’s position. The instant appeal followed.
[…]
We concur that the instant complaint, which in essence challenges the Agency’s mandatory retirement at age 65 as a violation of the ADEA, fails to state a claim. Since Complainant is challenging the validity of the mandatory retirement age, which was authorized by Congress as a statutory exception to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Commission finds that his complaint has been appropriately dismissed for failure to state a claim. See Brumbaugh v. Department of the Army, EEOC Appeal No. 01A05531 (Mar. 29, 2001) (the mandatory retirement provisions of the Foreign Service Act must be given “full force and effect” and the ADEA cannot be read to prohibit their implementation, citing to Strawberry v. Department of State, No. 96-5221 (D.C. Cir. 1997. In commenting on Strawberry, the Commission observed that the court looked at both statutes and concluded that Congress knew what it was doing in keeping the mandatory retirement provisions in place even when it otherwise outlawed mandatory retirement for most employers under the ADEA).

Accordingly, the Agency’s final decision dismissing Complainant’s complaint is AFFIRMED.

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Amb Arnie Chacon Heads to U.S. Mission Canada as Chargé d’Affaires (a.i)

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So late Friday, the State Department announced the designation of Ambassador Arnie Chacon to be Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at U.S. Embassy Ottawa:

Today, Secretary Blinken designated Ambassador Arnold Chacon to serve as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at U.S. Embassy Ottawa. A career diplomat with the rank of Career Minister, Ambassador Chacon is currently detailed from the Department of State to the National Defense University as Senior Vice President. Ambassador Chacon previously served as the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources and U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala.

Ambassador Chacon’s appointment underscores the United States’ strong commitment to Canada and the Canadian people. He will lead the U.S. government’s diplomatic engagement in Canada by advancing the Roadmap for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership, including trade, climate change, COVID-19 response and recovery, and global and regional security issues.

The United States highly values its close partnership with Canada, and Ambassador Chacon is dedicated to advancing the bilateral relationship.

We’ve previously asked What’s going on at U.S. Mission Canada?
The State Department is just now sending out to Ottawa a former Ambassador (Guatemala) but also the former Director General of the Foreign Service to be CDA. He will be responsible for the embassy and its seven constituent posts as well.
👀
A top executive at the cable company Comcast has been rumored to be in the running to be Biden’s top diplomat for Canada. The announcement for the first slew of political ambassadorships is reportedly expected shortly.

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