Kerry Swears-in Higginbottom as Deputy Secretary for Management, Good News for State/OIG — Wait, What?

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On January 30, 2014, Secretary Kerry sworn-in Heather Higginbottom as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources. Ms. Higginbottom is the third appointee to this position. She was preceded by Jack Lew , now Treasury Secretary and Tom Nides  who is now back at Morgan Stanley.

Secretary Kerry Swears in Heather Higginbottom as Deputy Secretary of State U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry swears in Heather Higginbottom as the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 30, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry Swears in Heather Higginbottom as Deputy Secretary of State
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry swears in Heather Higginbottom as the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 30, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Ssecretary Kerry made some remarks at her swearing-in ceremony (excerpt below):

Heather now is the first woman to hold the title of Deputy Secretary of State.  (Applause.)  That’s a statement in and of itself, as you have all just recognized, and it’s important.  But I want you to know that no one ever said to me about this job, “I’m so glad you found a woman.”  They have said to me, “I’m really glad you gave this job to Heather,” or “Heather is the right person for this job.”  And we are here because – I know many of you have worked with Heather either in her role on Capitol Hill or over at OMB.  Some of you worked on the campaign trail with her in 2004 and 2008, where she served in 2008 as President Obama’s Policy Director.  Many of you worked with her in the White House where she was serving as the Deputy Director for the Domestic Policy Council and then Deputy Director of OMB.

Ms. Higginbottom gave her own remarks (excerpt):

For me, balancing our presence in Asia, to making peace in Syria, to rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, to embracing our friends in this hemisphere, to the many crises we cannot begin to predict, the people at the State Department and USAID will confront tremendous challenges and opportunities in 2014 and beyond.  In this role, I’ll share in the global responsibility for U.S. foreign policy, but I’ll also seek to drive institutional reforms.
A top priority for my team will be working to ensure our posts and people are safe and secure.  We need our diplomats fully engaged wherever our vital national interests are at stake, and that means we must constantly improve the way we protect our people and our posts.  I’ll also work to ensure that we use taxpayer resources wisely and efficiently.  As you all know, America’s investment in diplomacy and development is critical to our global leadership, to our national security, and to our nation’s prosperity.  It’s one of the very best investments we can make for our country and it’s the right thing to do.

But we must do everything we can to increase the return on that investment.  That’s why I’ll focus on management reform and innovation.

Excellent!  There’s a small matter that folks might want to bring up to the new D/MR’s attention in terms of reform — a recent change on the Foreign Affairs Manual concerning State/OIG, updated just weeks after the nominee for OIG was announced:

1 FAM 053.2-2 Under Secretary for Management (M)
(CT:ORG-312; 07-17-2013)
The Under Secretary for Management (M) is the Secretary’s designated top management official responsible for audit and inspection follow-up and the Secretary’s designee for impasse resolution when Department officials do not agree with OIG recommendations for corrective action. See 1 FAM 056. 1, Impasse paragraph.

Look at this nice org chart for the DOD IG:



It’s not like the State Department does not have a Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, right?  And because we can’t keep this straight in our head, we have to wonder out loud, how is this delegated authority going to work if the IG had to review “M” and half the building that reports to “M”?  We asked, and we got an official response from State/OIG:

“Per the IG Act of 1978, as amended, and the FAM (1 FAM 052.1  Inspector General – (CT:ORG-312;   07-17-2013), the IG reports directly to the Secretary and Congress.  IG Steve Linick has access to the Secretary and meets regularly with the Deputy Secretaries and other high officials, as needed.”

Okay, but the State Department is the only federal Cabinet-level agency with two co-equal Deputy Secretaries. And yet, “M”, the office with the most number of boxes in the org chart among the under secretaries is the Secretary of State’s designated top management official responsible for OIG audit and inspection?

Let’s see how this works.

In late January, State/OIG posted its  Compliance Follow-up Audit of the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs’ Administration and Oversight of Funds Dedicated to Address Global Climate Change (AUD-ACF-14-16):

In 2012, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) performed an audit of OES’ administration and oversight of funds dedicated to address global climate change to be responsive to global developments and the priorities of the Department.

In March 2013, OIG closed eight of these recommendations (Nos. 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, and 15) after verifying evidence that OES had provided showing that final corrective actions had been completed. At that time, OIG considered the remaining 10 recommendations resolved, pending final action.

Following initial discussions with OES and A/OPE officials on the status of the open recommendations from AUD/CG-12-40, OIG expanded its original scope to include an assessment of the Department’s actions on all open recommendations from the report.

Consequently, OIG incorporated the intent of AUD/CG-12-40 Recommendation 18 into a new recommendation (No. 9) to the Under Secretary for Management (M) to assign authority and responsibility for the oversight, review, and approval of nonacquisition interagency agreements that will ensure compliance with applicable Federal regulations and Department policies governing them.

As of December 31, 2013, neither A/OPE nor M had responded to the IG’s draft report.

Well, okay there you go, and what happens then?

*  *  *

According to, in 1957 the Department of State elevated the position of Chief of the Foreign Service Inspection Corps to that of Inspector General of the Foreign Service. Between 1957 and 1980, the Secretary of State designated incumbents, who held rank equivalent to an Assistant Secretary of State. The Foreign Service Act of 1980 (Oct 17, 1980; P.L. 96-465; 94 Stat. 2080) made the Inspector General a Presidential appointee, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, and changed the title to “Inspector General of the Department of State and the Foreign Service.”The two most recent OIG for State are  Clark Kent Ervin (2001-2003) and Howard J. Krongard (2005-2008). State did not have a Senate-confirmed OIG from 2009 to much of 2013.

We understand that during the Powell tenure at State, OIG reported to Secretary Powell through Deputy Secretary Armitage. We could not confirm this but it makes sense to us that the inspector general reports above the under secretary level. It demonstrates the importance the Secretary of State place on accountability — the IG reports directly to him through his Management and  Resources deputy; the only D/MR in the whole wide world.  What’s not to like about that?

* * *

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Quickie: Progress on Post-Benghazi Reforms

Via WaPo:

Seven months after the deadly terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, the State Department says it has reorganized itself so that security concerns rise more quickly to the top and risks are more thoroughly assessed.

But some of the most substantive changes promised in the wake of the attack — including more Marines to protect U.S. embassies, a bigger diplomatic security staff, and more reliable local guards and translators for high-risk posts — will not take effect for months or even years.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry, whose budget testimony Wednesday will mark his first appearance before Congress since taking office, plans to tell lawmakers that the department has taken action on all 24 recommendations made by an independent board that reviewed the Benghazi incident, a senior administration official said.

But the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity before Kerry’s public statement, drew a distinction between those matters that have been resolved and those on which implementation has barely begun.

“Some take some time to accomplish,” the official said.

Continue reading,  Kerry to cite progress on post-Benghazi reforms, but some measures may take years.


Sure take some time … see  2005 Jeddah ARB Recommended “Remote Safe Areas” for Embassies – Upgrades Coming … Or Maybe Not.


Since you’re reading this, you may want to read Bloomberg editorial board’s piece, Breaking Congress’s Benghazi Fever:

Republicans on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, for instance, were seized with the “lies” told by administration officials during the presidential race about the nature of the attack and its perpetrators’ possible links to al- Qaeda. Only one committee member (a Democrat) focused on an actual step to improve security, asking if Kerry supported a bill to allow the department to hire local security guards on the basis of the best-value, rather than lowest, bid.

This is a shame, because history suggests that the State Department isn’t going to fix the security challenges it faces without strong support and scrutiny. More fundamentally, as threats grow and budgets decline, Congress needs to vigorously debate the best way for the U.S. to conduct diplomacy in dangerous places.
Ferreting out a supposed White House election-year coverup might have immediate partisan appeal, but it won’t advance the safety of U.S. diplomats in the future.

Thanks Bloomberg View for linking to our piece on the Jeddah ARB and the missing remote safe areas.

— DS



Related articles

Next Secretary of State John Kerry’s Full Plate of Management Issues, and That’s Just For Starters

A few weeks ago, Gordon Adams, professor of international relations at the School of International Service at American University and Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center argued why senators shouldn’t head the Pentagon or Foggy Bottom. (see FP, Running Hills, December 20). His piece was published in December before Senator Kerry’s nomination was officially announced (Kerry was officially nominated December 21) and as Chuck Hagel went through the ignomious process of being made a piñata before actually being officially nominated for the SecDef position (his official nomation is expected to be announced on January 7).

Excerpt below:

The departing secretaries have done many good things, but neither has truly tackled the requirements of waning resources. DOD hates and fears a drawdown — it means choices have to be made and priorities set. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has started that process, somewhat reluctantly, in his relatively short tenure, but has not acknowledged the reality that real cuts are coming and that the budget will not hold at the growth with inflation level he currently projects. As for Hillary Clinton over in Foggy Bottom, she peered over the edge of State’s (and USAID’s) internal problems in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) but made few fundamental changes. There is little State or USAID planning for the decline in resources that is coming.

We are at an inflection point in both agencies, and the budgetary piper is calling the policy and management tune. The question is whether either Hagel or Kerry have internalized that reality and are prepared for the tough internal leadership both institutions will need over the next four years. There are hard decisions to be made about personnel, acquisitions, and future strategy — decisions that will require taking on baronies and fiefdoms while minding the management store.
The problem at State goes deeper. Management has never been Foggy Bottom’s strong suit, and its shrinking reputation for effectiveness bears witness to that reality. The only secretaries who truly focused on how the department worked were Larry Eagleburger and Colin Powell; the rest have hunkered down on the seventh floor and let the building grind on with minimal attention. Clinton has been there long enough to try to make a dent in the reform of State Department management. QDDR notwithstanding, it was not much of a dent; most of the challenges remain for the next incumbent.
State’s management issues are even more serious, because the building has given short shrift to management for decades.

First, the budget and planning system at State has only barely begun to be created. Foggy Bottom still cannot do long-term planning, meaning it still struggles with accurately forecasting the costs of its programs and projects. A budget office was created in 2005 and has struggled for seven years to gain control over a sprawling bureaucracy, devoid of budget and resource planners. Moreover, that budget office only has responsibility for programs, like Economic Support Funds, Foreign Military Financing, and counternarcotics operations, not for State’s management or for personnel budgets; those belong to the undersecretary for management. In other words, the undersecretary (and the director general of the Foreign Service) oversee things like building security, training, and promotions, while the planning for programs is handled over at the budget office. The two are not connected in any official way, so putting programs and people needs together is almost impossible. The new secretary badly needs to back up and strengthen this budget and planning capability. Senators like Kerry, who have not been appropriators or passed full budget bills will be challenged, but the budget and planning system will not get better without secretary-level support.

Second, U.S. foreign-policy institutions are a diaspora of organizations. State only owns a bit; its relationship with USAID is strained, even though USAID reports its budget through State (and Clinton’s QDDR strengthened USAID’s semi-autonomous capability — needed, but it poses a continuing coordination challenge). Treasury owns the international development banks programs; the Millennium Challenge Corporation splits the foreign aid portfolio; Peace Corps, EXIM Bank, OPIC, TDA — this alphabet soup of independent agencies further fragments the portfolio and weakens America’s civilian statecraft. Will a senator have the skills to work the kinks out of this system?

Third, in the 21st century, America’s civilian statecraft needs a makeover. This is a human resources issue. For centuries, the task of a diplomat has been to represent, report, negotiate, and advise. Today, all those things are needed — and U.S. diplomats are the best at this — but also much, much more. They have to run programs (foreign assistance, counternarcotics, anti-terrorism), support stronger governance through the embassies (nation-building), help prevent and resolve conflicts, carry out public diplomacy, manage budgets, and persuade Congress to keep the taps open. The Foreign Service is only at the edge of this revolution in competence; the department lacks a comprehensive training program, especially as a career progresses, and officers who serve in non-traditional billets (political-military affairs, development, public diplomacy, management) find they are still sidelined for promotion. This is nitty-gritty personnel stuff, but critical to the long-term sustainability of America’s diplomacy. It is not the normal grist for the senatorial mill.

These are only a few of the management challenges the next two secretaries will face. But as resources shrink in both departments, there will be a crying need for tough, smart, experienced leadership at the top. We can get a drawdown right, but we will need leaders who understand these needs, even more than we do leaders who understand policy issues. The task of running huge, complex bureaucracies like the State Department and the Pentagon is about much more than just showing up and making policy — now more than ever. If they want these positions, Kerry and Hagel are going to have to prove that they are ready manage, roll up their sleeves, put on their green eyeshades, and get to work inside their respective buildings.

Read in full here.

Click here to read on revamping the Foreign Service from 27-year FS veteran, Dr. Jon P. Dorschner.
Click here to read Political Officer Tyler Sparks’ piece on Overhauling the EER Process, FSJ Sept 2012, p.17
Click here to read 
Ambassador John Price on why The State Department Culture Needs to Change via Diplomatic Courier

Given the smoke signals coming from the Hill, it is almost certain that Senator Kerry will sail through his nomination painlessly.

So the challenge then becomes not only how to manage The Building, but also bringing in the right senior people into the Kerry bus to deal — with the secretary’s full support — the management challenges within the State Department.

For all the reasons that Mr. Adams described above and more, the new secretary of State will need an effective Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (D/MR).  We presume that Senator Kerry will have some leeway on his picks for his deputies.  This position currently incumbered by Thomas Nides, and previously occupied by Jack Lew (rumored to be the next Treasury secretary) is the Chief Operating Officer of the Department. Somebody told me recently, “Jack Lew did a great job, but got sideswiped by Afghanistan.” With the drawdown in Afghanistan looming large, the next D/MR could get sideswiped again by the same culprit.

The COO is not only the principal adviser to the Secretary on overall supervision and direction of resource allocation and management activities he/she also has  responsibility for the overall direction, coordination and supervision of operational programs of the State Department, including foreign aid and civilian response programs.

As an aside — whatever happened to the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources (F) which supposedly ensures the strategic and effective allocation, management, and use of foreign assistance resources?  Who knows?! It lost its teeth and for the last four years has been on D/MR’s orbit.  Meanwhile, USAID hangs on trying hard not to get swallowed by State.  How many agencies and offices are doing foreign aid again?

Another crucial office is the Under Secretary for Management (M).  The Under Secretary for Management leads the bureaus of Administration, Consular Affairs, Diplomatic Security, Director General of the Foreign Service/Human Resources, Information Resource Management, and Overseas Buildings Operations, the Foreign Service Institute, the Office of Medical Services, the Office of Management Policy, the Office of Rightsizing the U.S. Government’s Overseas Presence, and the White House Liaison.

The cogs in the the domestic and global wheels of the Foreign Service tightens or comes apart under this bureau. The incumbent Patrick Kennedy has been on this job since 2007. Remains to be seen if he will be asked to stay on or if he’ll ship out to an overseas assignment.  Retired FSO, Peter Van Buren, who is not/not a fan of Mr. Kennedy notes in his blog that the later’s last overseas posting with the exception of a Chief of Staff stint with the CPA in Baghdad 2003-2004, was in 1991 in Egypt.

For those who might argue that State does not have a management problem, all you need to do is look at its performance evaluation process. By one FSO’s account, an extremely conservative estimate on the number of hours spent on one Employee Evaluation Report (EER) is 15 hours. Multiply that with 12,000 members of the Foreign Service who are rated each year, and you get 180,000 hours; an equivalent of 22,500 workdays, 61 calendar years or 90 working years.

The FSO writes that “The entire process derails so much of our work, and results in such a poor product, that it would surely shame our institution if its excesses were truly known by the general public.”

If your staff spends the equivalent of ninety years of work just to complete their own performance reviews, then Houston, you got a real problem.

And that brings us to the one other office that we fell feel definitely needs to be filled asap in Obama 2.0, that of the Office of the Inspector General. This is, of course, not a Kerry call but President Obama’s call.  The State Department has not had an Inspector General since January 16, 2008. The last time we looked, the Project on Government Oversight’s Watchdog Tracker still ranks the State Department  #1 in number of days the position has been vacant — 1,817 days and counting.

domani spero sig



Newtster News: Gingrich to move embassy to Jerusalem on 1st day in office; to restructure State Dept — details in 392 words!

His political campaign may have imploded post-Greek isle cruise, donors may have deserted him and Callista, but Newt Gingrich promises to “endure the challenges” and slog on with his presidential campaign.

Over the weekend, he gave an address to a Jewish group, promising no less that he’d  move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on his first day in office, resurrecting USIA to fight the battle of ideas once more, and oh yeah, restructuring the U.S. Department of State, too.

Newt’s Address to the Republican Jewish Coalition | Selected quips below:

#1. As a demonstration of this new resolve, the United States should move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Israel has every right as a sovereign free nation to choose its own capitol and we should respect that choice. As President, on my first day in office, I would issue an executive order directing the U.S. embassy in Israel to be moved to Jerusalem as provided for in the legislation I introduced in Congress in 1995.
#5. We must also re-establish the United States Information Agency as a robustly funded worldwide anti-terrorism and pro-freedom communications and advocacy system. The USIA fought for our side in the war of ideas during the Cold War and helped us win.
In 1999, this agency was dismantled because we thought the war of ideas was over. We discovered on 9/11 that it was not.
The USIA helped America win the Cold War and it can help us win the war against evil terrorist organizations and dictatorships. But to do this we must ensure that the USIA once again has independent board of governors reporting to the President and coordinating with the State Department but not controlled by the diplomats.

8. All of this will require a restructured State Department, a new level of training and management for Ambassadors, a new promotion system, and a profound shift in the culture of the Foreign Service.  The quickest way to change the culture at the State Department is to inject new blood into the system. We must engage in fundamental reform of the overly slow and bureaucratic security clearance system to raise the level of applicants to the Foreign Service.

Change on this scale will be bitterly fought by the old guard at State and their media allies. It will require a strong, experienced, and knowledgeable Secretary of State and a deeply committed team around him.

My campaign website contains a detailed document outlining the other changes that will be necessary to transform the State Department’s historic aversion to moral clarity about the difference between terrorism and civilization, which have weakened both the United States and Israel.

I am, of course, a sucker for detailed documents that seek to transform the State Department. So I followed the link and here is what I found:

The Newtster’s “detailed document” is a 392- word piece entitled: Newt: A Real Peace Process Requires Fundamental Reform of the State Department.

Not kidding, take a look.

Besides that weighty 392- word piece in what must be a Twitter version of restructuring a government agency, Mr. Gingrich’s piece links to two additional info:

How to Block the Palestine Statehood Ploy: Congress can take a cue from Jim Baker in 1989 and threaten to cut U.S. money for the U.N.html]

That’s an article by former UN Ambassador John Bolton in the WSJ  dated June 3, 2011. Oh, maaaan!

The second link in the Newtster’s website is to the “Hart-Rudman Commission recommendations on State Department reform.” The link takes you to a 10 years old document of the Commission titled  – “Volume V – Department of State”a 229 page long addendum on “structure and process analysis” which contains outdated org charts, stats and backgrounders dating back to the late 1990s. A quick scan does not indicate that this volume even contains the suggested reforms from 10 years ago, only “observations” of selected bureaus. Which by the way, does not have a separate section for “M” as in management.

Oh dear! Did anyone from the campaign actually read Volume V before they linked to it?

The report is titled, United States Commission on National Security/21st Century April 15, 2001 National Security Study Group assisted by Booz·Allen & Hamilton. Click on this for a Wikipedia description.

This strikes me as rather odd for someone of Gingrich’s stature: The Newster calls for reforms in the State Department but has not bothered to look under the rocks?

Seriously. A 392-word “detailed document” which includes this:

The quickest way to change this culture is to inject new blood into the system.  The overly slow and bureaucratic security clearance system must be fixed to raise the level of applicants to the Foreign Service.  The promotion system of the State Department, which like in many bureaucracies, is known to favor mediocrity and discourage creative thinking, also requires fundamental reform.

Change on this scale will be bitterly fought by the old guard at State and their media allies. It will require a knowledgeable and strong Secretary of State and a deeply committed team around him.

The Newtster says, “security clearance system must be fixed to raise the level of applicants to the Foreign Service.”

Holy mother of goat — what the heck is he talking about?

Wait, wait, that preceding paragraph sounds a lot like his speech at the Jewish Coalition, too.

If that’s not cut and paste, he must just really, really like that section. Or perhaps his speech writer quit, too?

Anyway, a strong Secretary of State?  Sounds like SoS John Bolton under a Gingrich Administration, you betcha!

Unless, of course, Mr. Bolton also runs for president. And he might yet do that, and then Mr. Gingrich would have to find another strong SoS. Or they could agree ahead of time that whoever loses the presidential run gets to restructure the State Department. Sounds only fair.

I have no objection to restructuring this agency or that, even the State Department, if it makes the organization works more effectively. But I’d like to know that the Newtster actually knows what he is talking about and not just engaging in political panhandling.




#Libya violence and economic relations, Europe under hot pressure to act….


As I was putting this up, I see that the EU ministers have condemned the bloody crackdown on protesters. Via ABC news:

We condemn the repression against peaceful demonstrators and deplore the violence and the death of civilians,” said a statement issued after a meeting of European foreign ministers.

“The EU urges the authorities to exercise restraint and calm and to immediately refrain from further use of violence against peaceful demonstrators,” the ministers said, adding that “the legitimate aspirations and demands of the people for reform” must be addressed through dialogue.

Note that these words of condemnation (not even actions) did not sit well with the Libyan regime who has warned the EU against lending vocal support to the protesters.  AlertNet Reuters reports that “The Hungarian ambassador was called in in Libya on Thursday and was given the message that Libya is going to suspend cooperation with the EU on immigration issues if the EU keeps making statements in support of Libyan pro-democracy protests,” a spokesman for Hungary, which holds the EU’s rotating six-month presidency, said.

Apparently, Libya has frequently threatened to cancel cooperation with the EU on illegal migration in the past. In December, a minister said Libya would scale back efforts to stem the flow of migrants unless the EU paid 5 billion euros ($6.8 billion) a year.

Via Reuters:

The International Organization for Migration estimates that migrants from across Africa account for about 10 percent of Libya’s six million population, although only a minority of those attempt to travel on to Europe to find work.Tens of thousands of illegal migrants try to make the journey from the northern coasts of Tunisia and Libya to islands off Italy every year, with hundreds having to be rescued by Italy’s coastguard and housed in migration centres.The European Commission said in October it would spend 50 million euros to help Libya tackle illegal migration and protect migrants’ rights.

Just after midnight in WDC on Sunday, Reuters is reporting that the US has issued its strongest condemnation yet of Libya’s violent crackdown on protesters, citing what it called credible reports of hundreds of deaths and injuries and threatening to take “all appropriate actions” in response.

Libya will surely have a come back for that. I suspect that the ordered departure for US personnel in Tripoli can happen quickly.

Related post:
Deadly crackdown of protesters in #Libya … paging EU’s Catherine Ashton, where are you? | February 19, 2011

#Bahrain’s National Dialogue Starts with the Bloody Kind

Viewer discretion is advised.

This is horrifying to watch, a government that turned against the peaceful assembly of its people. Yesterday, Bahrain’s government was reported as saying it used proportional force against the demonstrators. I hate to imagine what its disproportional force looks like.

Today, the BDF was ordered to leave the Pearl Roundabout and the crowd has surged back.  Here is an update via NYT:

The government had ceded the square before, on Wednesday, only to return with a deadly assault on Thursday. On Friday, the army opened fire on a group of about 1,000 peaceful demonstrators trying to walk into the square.

The varying responses appeared to reflect an inner turmoil within the government to grapple with a response to the uprising. The confrontation on Friday, with the Bahrain Defense Forces firing on Bahraini citizens in plain light, seemed to be the shock that forced a change in the government’s approach.

On Saturday, it was Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the son of the king and deputy commander of the military, who ordered troops to leave the square.

NYT’s Nick Kristof who is in Bahrain writes:

We don’t know what exactly President Obama said to the king in his call last night, but we do know that the White House was talking about suspending military licensing to Bahrain. This may have been a case where American pressure helped avert a tragedy and aligned us with people power in a way that in the long run will be good for Bahrain and America alike.

Americans will worry about what comes next, if people power does prevail, partly because Gulf rulers have been whispering warnings about Iranian-influence and Islamists taking over. Look, democracy is messy. But there’s no hint of anti-Americanism out there, and people treated American journalists as heroes because we reflect values of a free press that they aspire to achieve for their country. And at the end of the day, we need to stand with democracy rather than autocracy if we want to be on the right side of history.

To follow the protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, check out our list in Twitter:

That’s preposterous … yeah, but will anyone has the cojones to change it?

Nicholas Kristof‘s December 25 column talks about The Big (Military) Taboo. Excerpt:  

I’m a believer in a robust military, which is essential for backing up diplomacy. But the implication is that we need a balanced tool chest of diplomatic and military tools alike. Instead, we have a billionaire military and a pauper diplomacy. The U.S. military now has more people in its marching bands than the State Department has in its foreign service — and that’s preposterous.

What’s more, if you’re carrying an armload of hammers, every problem looks like a nail. The truth is that military power often isn’t very effective at solving modern problems, like a nuclear North Korea or an Iran that is on the nuclear path. Indeed, in an age of nationalism, our military force is often counterproductive.
Paradoxically, it’s often people with experience in the military who lead the way in warning against overinvestment in arms. It was President Dwight Eisenhower who gave the strongest warning: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” And in the Obama administration, it is Defense Secretary Robert Gates who has argued that military spending on things large and small can and should expect closer, harsher scrutiny; it is Secretary Gates who has argued most eloquently for more investment in diplomacy and development aid.
There are a few signs of hope in the air. The Simpson-Bowles deficit commission proposes cutting money for armaments, along with other spending. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled a signature project, the quadrennial diplomacy and development review, which calls for more emphasis on aid and diplomacy in foreign policy.

“Leading through civilian power saves lives and money,” Mrs. Clinton noted, and she’s exactly right. The review is a great document, but we’ll see if it can be implemented — especially because House Republicans are proposing cuts in the State Department budget.

Active links added above.  Read the whole thing here.

Our guess — no. Even if somebody grows a pair, and change all that needs changing, it is political harakiri. You will die a very painful death where you will be called a bunch of nasty names all the way to your graveyard, and even as they shovel dirt over you. And then you die.  And life as we know it, will go on as the world turns.

We’ve become a great cynic in my odd years of old.  We think that diplomacy will remain a pauper and the billionaire military complex is here to stay. And we will fight these forever wars, until, well — until they take away all our checks and all our credit cards. And when nobody is willing to accept our IOUs anymore. That would make us very poor and very sad.

Not our  fault we’re feeling so totally purple blue these days.  It’s this awful cold weather and this Kristof talking on and on about this old taboo.  The new year is just around the corner and we can’t even feel festive about the military pork set aside for our home states? Ay caramba!   

Meanwhile, former UN Ambassador John Bolton, who is reportedly one of those eying the wide Republican field for 2012 has something important to say about the defense budget and the ballooning deficit: Via

“I think you’ve got to be just as much on the outlook for waste and fraud on defense spending as anywhere else, but the fact is we’re entering a very uncertain period in the world. We’ve got a lot of threats out there that we’re not prepared for. Not just nuclear proliferation, but chemical and biological weapons…. This is not the time to cut back. I understand there’s a lot of pressure to get deficits down. I’m all in favor of it. But national security comes first, pure and simple, as far as I’m concerned.”

Now that absolutely just cheer us up. Cut everything — schools, health care, medicare, etc. etc. etc.  Everything.  EXCEPT the untouchable pot of gold — in the name of defense.

Pray tell, who’s going to defend us from ourselves?           

The Marvelous QDDR quietly forgets about the State Dept’s EFM talent pool

Chapter 5 of the newly rolled out QDDR is titled Working Smarter: Reforming Our Personnel, Procurement, and Planning Capabilities to Meet the Challenges of the 21st Century

This section highlights six areas of reform needed to achieve that vision:

  • 1. Marshalling expertise to address 21st-century challenges
  • 2. Rewarding and better utilizing the civil service
  • 3. Closing the experience gap through mid-level hiring
  • 4. Recruiting and retaining highly skilled locally employed staff
  • 5. Training our people for 21st-century missions
  • 6. Aligning incentives and rewarding performance

The QDDR provides more discussion on its plans for direct hire FS employees, civil servants and foreign service nationals, starting on page 174. Not one mention on expanded employment opportunities for EFMs and partners. Or how to put the language skills of foreign born spouses and those trained at FSI to effective use.  Or how to put to best used their double MAs, Ph.Ds, JDs, etc. as they trail after their employee spouses from one end of the globe to another.  Just one more proof that EFM issues particularly when it comes to employment in nowhere near anyone’s radar screen at the State Department. FLO as an employment advocate has false teeth when it comes to spouse employment . Why?  Because without the employment equalization fund, it cannot provide carrot to posts to hire XYZ above the FSN rates.    

Spouse employment is considered by many decision makers as nothing more than gravy (you already have free housing, why do you need to work? Gooo — find a hobby to keep yourself occupied).  Remember that, the next time you weep over your next Social Security statement. But why should they think of expanding employment opportunities for the spouses and partners? Close to 30,000 folks applied for the FS exam last year.  If State is authorized to hire 745 new employees this year, that’s about 40 applicants for each vacancy.      

Meanwhile, the State Department’s Family Liaison Office has hired 17 Global Employment Advisors in the last couple of years. They are tasked with providing in-country and regional support to 2/3 of some 10,000 EFMS and partners looking for jobs overseas. 

The Global Emloyment Initiative (GEI) is “designed to help family members with career development and identification of employment opportunities. GEI establishes global partnerships with multinational corporations, organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide family members of U.S. direct-hire employees serving abroad with the contacts necessary to develop and sustain their career ambitions.”

Unfortunately, we can no longer locate its flyer that says how wonderful is this State Department talent pool; basically, multinationals should grab each one as soon as they can and come back for more.

Frankly, if we were working as the hiring manager of a multinational corporation overseas, we’d like to know why — if this talent pool is so great — how come the US Government has no real interest in tapping it?

We’ll write about the diplomatic spouse career track one of these days. For now, it is enough to say that it is harder than it looks —  and some days like today — we think it is totally depressing as the news about Norman, Oklahoma, which has the highest level of chromium 6 among 35 cities in the country. At least 74 million Americans in 42 states drink chromium-polluted tap water, much of it likely in the form of cancer-causing hexavalent chromium. The last remaining super power in the world, and we can’t drink the tap water!  We are officially depressed now. 




Town Hall Meeting on the First Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development (QDDR) Review

Remarks at Town Hall Meeting on the Release of the First Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, “Leading Through Civilian Power”

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
Anne-Marie Slaughter, Director
Patrick F. Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management
Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator

Dean Acheson Auditorium, Washington, DC, December 15, 2010

Video length: 1:01:59

Transcript of the town hall meeting is here.

QDDR Fact Sheet

QDDR Executive Summary

QDDR Full Report High Res (242 pages)

QDDR Full Report Low Res (242 pages)

Excerpts of interest from the townhall:

On mid-level gaps:

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’ll start, and then Raj wants to add.

Look, we want to take advantage of the experience that is available. And our first preference is, of course, to take advantage of Foreign Service experience. And we will look at ways of reaching out and attempting to do so. But we will not stop there if we cannot find the experience. And I just think you need to recognize that we are very respectful and – (applause) – and deeply grateful for the level of experience, expertise, and dedication that we have in our Foreign Service family, but we also have a job to do. And so we will give every effort to try to find people, whether they’re willing to come out of retirement or what else we can entice them to do. But at the end of the day, I’m responsible for making decisions that are in the best interests of the United States of America, and that’s what I will do. (Applause.)

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: I’ll just add that that question, obviously, was specific to the State Department Foreign Service, but the same issue, of course, is something we’ve tried to be very thoughtful about, at the Secretary’s guidance, with respect to USAID. And we’ve had a chance to both quantify the needs at mid-level and explore how what we’ve learned from the Development Leadership Initiative, which has now brought in 625 new Foreign Service officers at USAID over the last several years. And we have proposed this – a limited but focused and skill-based targeted increase with the mid-level career hiring. And – but we want to do it in a way that’s respectful of all the points you raised, that allows for training, that protects the career growth opportunities for especially new entrants into the Foreign Service, and that enhances our capacity to deliver the types of results the Secretary spoke about. So thank you.

On inclusive and collaborative leadership

So in all of these areas, part of it is organizational, part of it is operational, part of it is funding, but a lot of it is attitude and mindset. And it doesn’t take anything away from State or AID or DOD or HHS or anybody else if we recognize the value added that everybody brings. And so that’s my goal. Because frankly, we – if you look at sort of the problems we face and the challenges we will have in funding our responses, we’ve got to work together and we also have to create this partnership, as Steve was saying, with DOD to kind of enhance what each of us can do more effectively.

the concept of inclusive leadership. So to give you a very specific example, we just completed – we’re in the process of doing the senior management group assignments for USAID. We restructured how we do that process so that each senior manager gets evaluated on their interagency performance and skill. That’s basically how we interpret inclusive leadership. And the resulting set of recommendations I got for the top priority mission leadership posts were substantively different. Different people were chosen because we changed the criteria, and the group that came together to debate who’s going to perform well against these new criteria came up with different answers.

We’re going to take that even further by building that criteria into actual performance reviews for the Foreign Service and the SES Civil Service. And we’ve actually had a lot of great conversation at different levels of the agency and amongst the new Development Leadership Initiative members of the Foreign Service about what that means and how that – how we need to have a shift in our mindset as it relates to that point. So I would just add that it’s a very clear aspiration in the document. No document gets you the outcome. We have to manage to that in very specific and concrete ways.

A changed world …. “everyone a potential leaker”  (teh-heh!)

Otherwise, as we now know, it’s not the world of 10 years ago, let alone 50 or 100 years ago. Everybody is a potential source. Everyone is a potential blogger. Everyone is a potential leaker. (Laughter.) And therefore it would be, I think, beneficial for American foreign policy if we demonstrated as strong a presence as possible in a country after having worked through all the various and sundry jurisdictional turf problems that we know exist. This is a work in progress. It’s not going to happen overnight. But we have had enough examples in the past whereas if we don’t have that unified U.S. Government position, we are working at cross-purposes to our own ends, and that is just not going to cut it in the 21st century.

No reward for good infighters:

MR. STEINBERG: Just to be very specific, we’ve been – Anne-Marie and I have been talking with all of our ambassadors around the world and all of our mission directors together, and we’ve done it specifically together to communicate the same message. And one of the things that we’ve been communicating to all of our AID mission directors is you will no longer be rewarded for being a good infighter. It’s not about fighting for turf. It’s not about AID-centric activities. It’s about the results that you produce; and recognize that in order to produce those results, you need to be working as an inclusive leader with the interagency process. And one of the clear messages that the QDDR communicates is that the AID mission director is the development advisor within the missions overseas. But it also says, with that designation, comes the responsibility for changed behavior. (Applause.)

AFSA opposes mid-level lateral entry program to address mid-level experience gaps (updated)

The Harry S. Truman Building located at 2201 C...Image via WikipediaThe leaked QDDR contained a couple of sections on staffing issues at both USAID and the US Foreign Service. See below:

Building USAID as the World’s Premier Development Agency


  • USAID experienced a 38% decline in its workforce between 1990 and 2007 resulting in diminished capacity to manage programming and resources
  • Reduced capacity has increased reliance on contracting to fulfill USAID’s mission
  • Other U.S. agencies and offices have assumed roles that affect USAID’s programming

QDDR Response 

  • Advance the following QDDR reforms, introduced as part of USAID Forward:
  • Triple mid-level hiring at USAID by increasing the cap on mid-level Development Leadership Initiative hires from 30 to 95 per year
  • Bolster USAID’s policy leadership by creating the Policy, Planning and Learning Bureau and the Office of Science and Technology
  • Build budget capacity through the Office of Budget and Resource Management, to prepare a comprehensive USAID budget proposal by FY13, to be reviewed and approved by the Secretary and Deputy Secretary and incorporated into the overall assistance budget
    Create a Working Capital Fund by charging a fee for acquisition and assistance awards to help align and fund USAID programs
    Introduce more outcome-level indicators to track program progress and launch a new evaluation policy starting in January 2011

Recruiting, Training and Retaining a 21stCentury Workforce


  • U.S. diplomats and development experts are the backbone of America’s civilian power. State and USAID must recruit, train and retain a 21st century workforce
  • Over the past five years, State and USAID have been called upon to significantly expand their presence and operations in frontline states such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq
  • Global civilian operations require a workforce that is ever more innovative, entrepreneurial, collaborative, agile and capable of taking and managing risk

QDDR Response

  • Close the experience gap by tripling mid-level hires in the Development Leadership Initiative at USAID and expanding limited-term appointments at State
  • Recruit and retain highly skilled Foreign Service Nationals by creating expert level positions at USAID
  • Seek more flexible hiring authorities to attract expertise; enlarge the pool of candidates with specialized skills
  • Expand Foreign Service Officer conversion opportunities for State Department Civil Service and Foreign Service personnel
  • Tie promotion to training and expand the range of training opportunities

AFSA apparently has not been invited into the QDDR discussion.  Susan Johnson, the President of AFSA has sent a Message on QDDR Draft Recommendations on “Recruiting & Training” (h/t to Digger of Life After Jerusalem). Excerpt below:

In its briefing to AFSA, the department has asserted that it does not intend to establish a mid-level lateral entry program at the State Department. We will work to ensure that this does not happen. What has so far been revealed about the QDDR draft recommendations relating to recruiting and training suggests that it seeks to address the (unspecified) mid-level experience gap in broad terms. AFSA’s position remains clear: We believe that mid-level hiring programs are not and have not been the best way to address mid-level experience gaps for the Foreign Service at all agencies. Like our military, the Foreign Service consists of commissioned officers, who serve on an up-or-out basis and are subject to the discipline of worldwide availability. Lateral entry is disruptive to the system and undermines morale in the same way it would if introduced into our military services.

At State, the “hiring surge” of the last few years has brought in thousands of new entry-level officers, many with strong academic credentials and extensive work experience. We believe that a better, more flexible, quicker and less costly way to address any mid-level gap is to identify and give opportunities for rapid advancement and training in supervision and management to the best of the entry level officers and to draw on Foreign Service retirees – in effect, our “Foreign Service reserve” – who have the needed experience, need no training, know how embassies and missions work, can mentor and coach, and are, by definition, short term. More flexible hiring authority to use retirees to fill mid-level experience gaps, with appropriate sunset provisions, is a tool the Secretary of State should have and should use.

In contrast to the State Department, the QDDR recommends hiring 95 mid-level technical experts at USAID. While AFSA recognizes the occasional need to bring in mid-level technical experts not currently available in the agency, we are not convinced that the numbers proposed are critical to carry out USAID’s work. The need at the FS-2 and FS-3 levels can be largely met in a cost-effective manner by appointing personnel with the same skills at the FS-5 and FS-4 levels. In any case, AFSA needs to be included in any work-force analysis in order to assure that only justifiable hiring takes place.

The QDDR recommends expanding opportunities for State Department Civil Service personnel to convert to the Foreign Service, seeking more flexible hiring authorities to attract expertise, and tying promotion to training. The current conversion procedures were negotiated with AFSA, and we continue to welcome qualified career Civil Service colleagues who utilize these existing procedures.

We have asked for a detailed briefing about the scope and nature of the mid-level deficit of positions at State and USAID, and expect to receive it shortly.
We remain ready to contribute constructive proposals to ensure that the QDDR process enhances the operation of the Foreign Service. We look forward to working with management to ensure that: (1) any mid-level needs are carefully and transparently identified and documented; (2) established procedures to fill such gaps are followed; and (3) any remedial measures proposed strengthen our professional diplomatic and development services rather than weakening or politicizing them.

Read the whole thing here.

Not too long ago, we talked to an FSO who was holding down the fort at his/her post, juggling three other jobs beside his/her own. He/She could not take any long vacation because the work does not get done while he/she is away — it just balloons up for him/her to tackle on the next work day.  That officer was a breath away from total burnout.

The experience gap is a particularly important issue to address in an agency not known for growing its leaders effectively.  State needs good leaders and managers to teach the entry level officers the ropes of the trade so to speak.  But if you have a shortage of midlevel officers, who will do the teaching and mentoring? And if you have midlevel officers already handling one or two other jobs, how will they find time to mentor their junior officers?

Given the budget situation being what it is, it is hard to imagine that the staffing spurts for the State Department in the last couple of years could be sustained in the coming years.  As well, the expected departures of boomers in the next several years (sooner if the economy picks up) gave us pause.  We are speculating that the experience gaps at the midlevels will actually get worse in the foreseeable future. 

This problem has been persistent in the last several years. We have not seen or heard any creative ideas to resolve this problem for the long term.  How much longer will the “when we’re fully staffed” be part of the FS wish list for Santa?  How many of the expanded limited appointments would be spouses and partners? How much expansion in the CS to FS conversion? Most limited appointments going to the warzones, how many are going to temporarily fill in the gaps in the hardship posts that are not in the warzones?     

We also note that a GAO report released in 2009 concluded that “State faced a 28 percent greater deficit at the FS-02 level than it did in 2006, with mid-level positions in the public diplomacy and consular cones continuing to experience the largest shortages of staff overall.”

We asked some FS folks about their thoughts on AFSA’s message and the midlevel staffing issues particularly in reference to the GAO conclusion above. Below is what we got, all in blind quotes for understandable reasons:

From a midlevel FSO currently posted in a warzone:

“I don’t have particularly strong opinions on this topic. (To confess my ignorance: I don’t even know what QDDR stands for). I can see how AFSA would be opposed to such a program; simultaneously, USAID has a mid-level entry program that seems to work fine. It seems like upping the number of mid-level officers might make bidding (a process I currently find nauseatingly Byzantine, right at the cross roads of high school popularity contest and begging for coins on the side of the road) more difficult, but if it’s good for the service, it hardly seems fair to complain.”

From an upper midlevel FSO currently assigned in WDC:

I heard several times in meetings here that in Summer 2011, there will actually be 40% fewer FS-02 officers than FS-02 jobs.  Then, of course, you have the recent huge hiring surge and no places to put those people, because the shortage is at mid-level, not entry level.  So bureaus are in the position of ceding massive numbers of mid-level jobs to entry-level just to get them filled.

[M]id-level entry is problematic for a variety of reasons, many of which involve fairness to those who came in the traditional way, not the least of which is negatively impacting career mobility.  The solution to all of this, of course, is to consistently fund DOS, instead of going through these boom or bust cycles that cause these bubbles to begin with.

From a senior FSO who retired from the FS:

I agree with AFSA on this issue. It is not 02 bodies that the service needs; it needs experienced, competent 02s. I can’t speak for PD, but I know that CA management has – and could easily acquire more of – a great deal of knowledge about its individual officers. I also know that CA still frequently fills positions because they need to be filled and there is an officer willing to go there, not because the officer is a good fit for the position, or is even competent. There are at least two SFS officers I personally know of who should never be allowed to run a house-cleaning service, let alone a large, sensitive consular section. Yet they continue to get assignments, and perform them badly.

Equally, CA has sometimes not removed officers from obviously bad fits because they were unwilling or unable to easily locate and recruit competent replacements. These two faults are not inexcusable, but they could be remedied.

I would say that CA needs to exercise more flexibility in assigning and moving officers, including – for example – asking selected 03 officers to fill open 02 positions; in re-training others; in conducting come-to-Jesus meetings with those who aren’t doing as well as they could; in letting known, irredeemably bad ones walk the halls; in asking consular-coned officers who serve most of their careers outside consular, to come back home for selected assignments; in guaranteeing that new officers receive both the training and the nurturing that they need to assure their competence, their confidence, and their pleasure in their new chosen profession, and to make them happy to do consular work. Etc.

A good private company would not run so haphazardly. I have enormous confidence in the basic competence of CA management, and its sense of responsibility. What I don’t have is confidence that CA takes its responsibilities seriously enough to change its overall philosophy.

From an FSO who has been in the service for 3-5 years, currently overseas:

I’m torn.  On the one hand, don’t we already do something like this – let people who have no clue about FS culture and practice run missions or offices, as long as they pay enough money to the right candidate?  On the other hand, I do believe that it’s a rare person who can come into an organization that’s as insular, interdependent, and self-reverential as we are and truly fit in well, or effect change in a constructive manner.

I’ve purposely written that to sound a bit whiny, because I think the position is a bit whiny.  Nonetheless, it’s one I hold.  What organism or organization doesn’t have self-interest in perpetuating its inertia?  I know we tried mid-level hiring once, and by accounts it was a disaster.  So maybe there’s another way to do it – isn’t that why we’re hired, to think creatively and flexibly? 

I was hired at the end of the post-DRI period, when hardly anyone was coming into the system.  People hired in the four years or so before me are shooting up the system rather quickly, but because of the huge bubble right behind me, I actually get into the bidding process and it’s going to be a nightmare.  So yes, it personally sucks for me…  but that doesn’t mean I oppose the ramp-up in hiring.  Maybe midlevel hiring is the way to fix that gap?  Or maybe just continuing the expanded hiring of JOs, knowing that it will eventually sort itself out.

An FS-02 Consular Officer writes (added on 12/14/2010):

I’ve always thought that bringing in some people at the mid-level would help shake up the “group think” that is indoctrinated in to most (but not all) FS generalists.  But one thing really irks me about the QDDR proposal — where are the hard cold (detailed) stats to support that the notion that there is this horrible mid-level gap.  I am an -02 consular officer (and generally not half bad at my job) but yet I look at the recent promotion stats and see that the recently released 2010 promotion stats show that consular officers were promoted at the 2nd to last rate of all generalists at the -02 (to -01) level.  [Combining the classwide and functional board stats, only 30 of 209 promotion-eligible consular officers were promoted last summer.  And let me tell you that bidding as an -02 or -01 consular officer definitely illustrates that there are far more consular officers than consular jobs at this level.  I can’t imagine where the stat comes from that there are 40% fewer consular officers at the -02 level than consular jobs at that level.  I would need to see lists of both to really believe it.  From previous assignments serving inside HR, I know they are well versed at spinning numbers to support whatever they are after.  So I’m putting aside my dreams of independent thinkers (mid-level entrants) and waiting for the Department to prove what it is talking about re mid-level gap.

Related item:

Leading through Civilian Power 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy & Development Review