Advertisements

Three Reasons For Sullivan’s Town Hall, Plus Feedback, and Some Re-Design Concerns

Posted: 4:30 am ET

 

We recently blogged Why Tillerson Not Sullivan Needs the Town Hall: Morale Is Bad, “S” is Accountable.  We also posted our comments on Deputy Secretary Sullivan’s on-the-record briefing with the State Department Press Corps (see Deputy Secretary Sullivan’s Town Hall With @StateDept Employees Now in Gifs).

We now understand that Deputy Secretary Sullivan had three reasons for holding a town hall with State Department employees.  It appears like he missed some marks.

State/USAID full merger no longer in the planning?

The first reason for the town hall was reportedly to make clear to employees that for planning purposes there will not be a full merger between the State Department and USAID. All Working Groups (now known as “Workstreams”) involved in the redesign were previously instructed to assume that State and USAID will “remain separate” but be “mutually dependent” entities. That is, USAID will not be fully subsumed but it will also not be further separated from State. Our understanding it that the Working Groups would consider consolidation at the management and program levels if it is best or moving things from USAID or State depending on who has the expertise. The important point that folks expected Mr. Sullivan to clarify was to make clear that the full merger is no longer in the planning. Apparently, this he did not do.

Based on the on-the-record briefing with D/Secretary Sullivan, he only mentioned USAID once when he said, “Nothing’s off the table, everything is going to be evaluated by them, the Secretary has not given – other than a mandate to make a better State Department and USAID more efficient and effective for the 21st century, he’s not directed that any outcome result from this redesign.” During the town hall, he reportedly told attendees that “The redesign is not the dismantling of State and USAID.”  Expectant folks were  disappointed, and were perplexed why Mr. Sullivan did not mention that the full merger is no longer in the planning.

Preparation, Organization, Skepticism

The other two reasons were more challenging. One, he was supposed to impressed upon employees that the re-design process is “truly employee-led” and two, he was supposed to provide some motivation to the staff.

On the re-design, we understand that there are two issues. First, the issue with trust is reportedly a huge concern.  In addition, employees also believe that the contracted firm has more access to Secretary Tillerson than all of the current leadership.  The State Department leadership reportedly doesn’t understand why no one believes that the process isn’t rigged.  So, they do all these things to try and convince folks that is not the case but without much success. Latest examples are the town hall with inadequate answers, and a stakeholder meeting last week with NGOs who do business with State/USAID. Both did not go very well.  In the latter, the State Department representatives apparently tried to take a poll on foreign aid priorities. Sources told a reporter that the poll questions were dumb and the answer choices were often irrelevant. NGO representatives told the reporter that they felt like they were being talked down to and offered BS responses.

The second concern has to do with preparation and organization. Apparently USAID is seen as seeming more prepared and organized in these meetings and in the Workstreams. State reportedly appears seemingly scattered and State folks more likely to disagree with other State people.  At this time, we only know that career employees are in these working groups. We don’t know if there are political appointees working with them and what roles are played by the consulting firms.

Below are the short and the long bits on D’s town hall.

via tenor.com

 

Town Hall Feedback

One blog feedback we received: I was there and DS Sullivan might as well have not showed up. 80 percent of the questions seemed out of his league. Huge disappointment!”

One State Department employee told us he/she gave Deputy Secretary Sullivan a “B” for effort and style, and a “D” for substance, as there were too many questions that he could not answer. If the questions were collected from the Secretary’s Sounding Board, he should have been prepped better.

LGBT

We were informed that Mr. Sullivan did give a pretty good answer on diversity when he was asked if the Department was doing anything to help LGBT employees with the family member accreditation issue (now that State/HR has changed the Fair Share rule to 20% posts or greater, we’ve also learned that only 33% of posts are places where LGBT FSOs can serve accompanied by their families).

The Q&A from the town hall and a few comments in [brackets] below are provided anonymously through one of our contacts:

Re-design

Q: When will the redesign be complete? “There are a couple of steps in that process…when will we get to the point where the redesign is implemented that requires steps from Congress and OMB…as soon as we get clearance from OMB we will start…”

“The redesign is not the dismantling of State and USAID” [he really felt he had to say that out loud]. “Despite what you might read in the newspaper”[….fake news!!]

Future hiring

Q: AFSA: …We found the same thing Insigniam did – we love our jobs but are driven to distraction by onerous process…but as to the hiring freeze and the FS…because it’s an up or out system, we have a built-in RIF…so we are RIFing right now unless we are hiring…what can you tell us about hiring ELOs next year so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past? “The issues you raise are important” [oh boy…] “that’s why we have ambassadors and career FSOs working on this in the working groups…it’s an important issue we’re working on.”

CA to DHS

Q: One recommendation from the listening tour report was to move CA to DHS? “Nothing is off the table – because this is a bottom up employee-led process, but I have told S how important CA is, it’s not his intent nor mine to move CA. But nothing is off the table.”

Lateral transfers

Q: Why are you preventing lateral moves for civil servants? He’s explaining the hiring freeze... “it’s not a sign of disrespect”. [OMG he just said] “I’ll give you two examples of great civil servants I know.”

Delegations of Authority

Q: On delegations to P – ability to act for S and D in their place – how do we do legal necessary things if you aren’t available? “This process is ongoing…we will ensure decision making is launched at the right level…” [whaaaaaaT?! In the meantime we are f*****g drowning!]
(DS NOTE: Oops! On July 31, Secretary Tillerson issued DA-245-2 from S to the Deputy Secretary (Sullivan); we have yet to see the DA from the Secretary to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (Shannon). 
“S” Clearance for International Travel
Q: We have just been notified we need S’ clearance on all international travel…as you just said the survey mentioned so many of us mentioned the clearance process as onerous. “The means by which we authorize employees to travel is one of these issues that has been raised to me many times…I’m not completely familiar with the issue you raise…but what I can address is, delegations of authority, and the NYT said my authorities were removed because of something I did, but that’s not factually true…we found there are hundreds of delegations of authority and there’s no central way to keep track…but as to travel, I’ll have to get back to you…”
(DS NOTE: Guidance was issued Monday evening, August 7, that ALL overseas travel “to participate in events” must now be approved via action memo to the Secretary himself. It also requested a detailed budget breakdown of the trip and information on other participants. The same guidance was rescinded by Tuesday evening. On delegations of authority, the notion that there’s no way to track delegations of authority – that’s just incorrect. A/GIS/DIR maintains an electronic listing and database of all current and rescinded Department delegations on the A/GIS/DIR website). 
EFMs and hiring freeze

Q: Hiring freeze especially hard for EFMs. Will the freeze be reconsidered? “We will endeavor to lift the freeze as quickly as possible. In the interim there are waivers” [yeah but S insists on reading each waiver personally!!]

Vacancies

Q: You began your speech with how important Tom Shannon is, but there are a number of other people who could be helping you and poor Tom – the empty AS and under secretaries – why aren’t these being filled? (Applause) “There is no delay or freeze on nominating political appointees though many think there should be...[silence]...that’s a joke!” [Ugh.] “The process is underway, hasn’t gone as quickly as we’ve hoped but it’s underway…I think it’s gaining steam…”

 

#

 

Advertisements

Making Sense of Tillerson’s Rescinded Delegations of Authority @StateDept

Posted: 5:07 am ET
Updated: Aug 11, 2:24 pm PT

 

We recently blogged about the rescinded delegations of authority at the State Department (see Tillerson Rescinds Delegated Authorities Department-Wide, Further Gums Up Foggy Bottom).  A State Department official (SDO) told Politico that Tillerson only rescinded three delegations of authority. Just three.  SDO frequently is the attribution used when the folks at the State Department press shop do not want to speak on the record.  The same official who commented to Politico also said Tillerson has requested the Under Secretaries to undertake an immediate review of the remaining authorities. The SDO forgot to remind himself that the State Department currently do not have Under Secretaries but only one Under Secretary (P).

The sources who informed us of the rescinded authorities are SDOs but are not part of the agency’s press office.  They are folks who are not known for running around with their hair on fire.  One of them told us “all”, another confirmed that it was “department-wide,” and that’s the story we ran.  One of our sources subsequently told us that decisions will be made quickly on which authorities will be redelegated. It was pointed out to us that some will be quick and obvious to make like authorities concerning consular services.

We understand that there is also a memo floating around outlining the delegations of authority that have been rescinded.

 

DA-14: Delegation of Authority to Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P) and the Under Secretary for Management (M), January 18, 2017
(no text publicly available)

One the three authorities the State Department said it rescinded was DA-14 dated January 18, 2017 granted by then Secretary Kerry to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P) and the Under Secretary for Management (M) that the State Department says “allowed for almost unlimited re-delegation of those authorities.”  DA-14 has not/not been published in the Federal Register nor the GPO so we don’t know all the details that it covered.

A former State Department official (SDO) familiar with this issue, however, told us that the January 18 delegation was essentially envisioned as “a temporary, unlimited delegation of authorities to P and M because it was anticipated that there would be no “D” and perhaps no “S” for some period of time” and that its revocation “would not have a dramatic effect” on operations.  According to the former SDO, the revocation of this specific DA is not surprising since the Secretary and the  Deputy Secretary are now both in place.  The former official further told us that rescission of ALL of the delegations of authority would be much more significant but said, “I can’t imagine that all of the delegations were rescinded.”

The former SDO added that “If the Secretary did revoke all of the delegations one would hope that this would be very temporary.” The former official explained that “Without delegations in place, any decisions that by law lie with the Secretary literally would need to be made by the Secretary. This could result in significant delays, including on decisions that are by and large technical.”

A piece published by the New York Times over the weekend notes that “all decisions, no matter how trivial, must be sent to Mr. Tillerson or his top aides: Margaret Peterlin, his chief of staff, and Brian Hook, the director of policy planning.” 

So what does it mean if ALL decisions must now go up to the Secretary of State?

Please don’t tell us that the next wrinkle we’re going to hear would be folks unable to PCS (Permanent Change of Station) because Tillerson is traveling and is unable to approve travel orders.


DA 284-1: Delegation of Authority to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Feb 13, 2009

Text: Delegation of Authority No. 284–1

By virtue of the authority vested in me as Secretary of State by the laws of the United States, including 22 U.S.C. 2651a, I hereby delegate to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, to the extent authorized by law, all authorities and functions vested in the Secretary of State or the head of agency by any act, order, determination, delegation of authority, regulation, or executive order, now or hereafter issued. This delegation includes all authorities and functions that have been or may be delegated or redelegated to other Department officials but does not repeal delegations to such officials.

This delegation shall apply only when the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, and the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources are absent or otherwise unavailable or when the Secretary or either Deputy Secretary requests that the Under Secretary exercise such authorities and functions.

Notwithstanding this delegation of authority, the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of State and the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources may exercise any function or authority delegated by this delegation.

This is one of the three DAs cited  by the State Department official to the press.  The language is clear that this authority apply only when the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary are “absent or otherwise unavailable” or “when the Secretary or either Deputy Secretary requests that the Under Secretary exercise such authorities and functions.”

Excuse us, but this is perplexing to us, ok? If Secretary Tillerson and Deputy Secretary Sullivan are traveling who has authority over the State Department in their absence if it’s not going to be the third highest ranking person in the agency?

A separate source  familiar with inner workings at State but has no direct knowledge of these developments suggested that the Delegation of Authority exercise exposes more than anything else “the profound lack of knowledge and grasp” on the 7th floor especially with the political appointees.  This source says that there are practical and long standing reasons for delegations to D and P of certain things, such as making it possible for Tillerson to seamlessly have things done without having to go through the “Acting” designation every time he’s not around or unavailable. It appears that no one understood that.

And no one thought about asking the Office of the Legal Adviser?

 

DA 280-1: Delegation by the Secretary of State to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs of Authorities Regarding Congressional Reporting Functions, Feb 13, 2009:
Text: Delegation of Authority No. 28o–1 

By virtue of the authority vested in me as Secretary of State by the laws of the United States, including 22 U.S.C. 2651a, I hereby assign to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, to the extent authorized by law, the function of approving submission of reports to the Congress.

This delegation covers the decision to submit to the Congress both one-time reports and recurring reports, including but not limited to those recurring reports identified in Section 1 of Executive Order 13313 (Delegation of Certain Congressional Reporting Functions) of July 31, 2003. However, this delegation shall not be construed to authorize the Under Secretary to make waivers, certifications, determinations, findings, or other such statutorily required substantive actions that may be called for in connection with the submission of a report. The Under Secretary shall be responsible for referring to the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, or the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources any matter on which action would appropriately be taken by such official.

Any authority covered by this delegation may also be exercised by the Deputy Secretary and the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, to the extent authorized by law, or by the Secretary of State.

This is the last of the three DAs cited by the State Department as having been rescinded by Tillerson. According to Reuters, the authorities regarding congressional reporting functions will now go to the Office of Policy Planning (S/P), The current S/P head is a member of Tillerson’s inner circle, Brian Hook. The position does not require Senate confirmation.  Three former officials told Reuters that giving the policy planning staff final sign-off on the reports could inject political considerations into their preparation.  (For what it’s worth, a Foggy Bottom denizen who knew Mr. Hook during his prior stint at State during the Bush administration told us that he is “very smart and thoughtful — a good pick for the head of the policy shop — and also really a nice man.”)

S/P was created in 1947 by George Kennan at the request of Secretary of State George C. Marshall. The office serves as a source of independent policy analysis and advice for the Secretary of State. According to state.gov, the Policy Planning Staff”s mission is to take “a longer term, strategic view” of global trends and frame recommendations for the Secretary of State to advance U.S. interests and American values.

Note that there are at least 300 congressionally mandated reports required by Congress. So S/P will now have sign off on all those reports? The rumors of an expanding S/P empire is in all likelihood, true, because how are you going to clear all these reports?  And if this is the case, who’s going to be doing “longer term, strategic view” for the State Department if S/P is signing off on all reports and every policy memo? What’s the career diplomat at “P” going to be doing?

One other thing pointed out to us, particularly on the delegation to P for signing off on reports to Congress is that these reports must have a “policy sign-off.”  We understand that the Bureau of Legislative Affairs (H) never had this function which is primarily coordination of legislative activity/strategy and principally as liaison to Congress.  Apparently, the 7th floor is not even aware of this and was under the assumption that the bureau’s responsibility to “transmit” reports is the same as responsibility to “sign-off” for policy purposes.

Did somebody send the Office of the Legal Adviser (L) a smoke signal for help?

NOTE: Delegation of Authority: 245-2 Delegation from the Secretary to the Deputy Secretary, July 31, 2017 to be published in the Federal Register on August 14, 2017. This DA supersedes Delegation of Authority 245-1, dated February 13, 2009. PDF

AND NOW THIS —

#

More Than Words: Tillerson/Peterlin Lunch With @StateDept Employees

Posted: 2:58 am ET

 

So our blogpost last April Fools’ Day which made Secretary Tillerson’s inner circle throw a hissy fit (see Inside @StateDept: Leaked Cable Provides Guidance For ‘America First’ Cost Savings Initiatives) includes “lunchies” with the Secretary of State in Foggy Bottom’s cafeteria.

The Secretary is determined to get to know the men and women of this agency, and to that end he plans to eat lunch in the cafeteria once a week when he is not traveling.  S/ES is currently working on a lottery that would allow a random employee to be included in the Secretary’s table during the weekly lunches. Lottery guidance will be posted at a later date at https://www.fbu.state.gov/s/es/slottery/.

So now here is real life: Secretary Tillerson, with Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin having lunch with 4-5 State Department employees presumably to help shore up rock bottom morale in Foggy Bottom. It’s going to take more than a few lunches to do that. But anyway, we understand that the lunches are apparently monthly, and darnit, the lunch companions are not selected via lottery. Well, at least not yet. We estimate that if S is having monthly lunches with 5 employees, that’ll be 60 employees/year. If the CoS gives up her chair, that will be be 84 employees.

“Do you need some Wicked Wasabi with that  sushi?” we imagined somebody asked during lunch.

“Be careful, that chili is nasty,” says a familiar warning that would have been issued to every Secretary of State.

Had they added John Sullivan (D), and Tom Shannon (P), it would have been a lunch meeting with the entire State Department leadership.

But seriously, if we can suspend belief for now that this is all theater, this is not a bad start, though a bit late. But given the size of the building and the time demands on Tillerson, they probably can find other activities with a better return for his investment in time and energy  — offsite meetings with senior managers (except he has yet to appoint most of them), townhalls where employees can ask questions, or hey, why not an ‘Ask Me Anything’ on Reddit for a couple hours?

But more than words, actions speak louder than words. Like the exemption to the hiring freeze of a number of priority EFM positions issued last Friday (see Unemployment Status of @StateDept Family Members Overseas (4/2017) #ThanksTillerson). Whether the State Department is successfully reorganized or not, there will remain a need for community liaison coordinators, security escorts, consular associates, mailroom clerks, security coordinators, etc. at our overseas posts (also see Are #EFM positions literally about to become…extinct under #Tillerson’s watch?). So the freeze on these jobs did not make a whole lot of sense in the first place. But it did make life at overseas posts more difficult for employees who have to cover for these unfilled positions, and make for distressed diplomatic spouses who already suffer from extended under employment when they go overseas.

He can certainly do a lot more, but will he?

Meanwhile Derek Chollet has a new piece on FP about how future Secretaries of State will study Tillerson’s first 6 mos for lessons of what not to do: Why Has Rex Tillerson Belly-Flopped as Secretary of State? Ouch!

#

Growing Body of Work on Rex Tillerson’s Stewardship of the State Department

Posted: 1:10 am ET

 

During his welcome remarks at the State Department on February 2, Secretary Tillerson talked about three core principles Foggy Bottom should adopt: accountability, honesty, and respect.  Secretary Tillerson said, “What I ask of you and what I demand of myself – I will embrace accountability, honesty, and respect no less than anyone.”

Six months into his tenure, with bad press coming almost daily, he is in for some rough reality check.  Morale is rock bottom. √ Most of his top lieutenants are making things worse not better. √ And folks with tons of expertise are leaving in droves. √ Sure he can replace all of them if he wants to, but he cannot replace their expertise overnight. People typically do not leave in droves even when they disagree with official policies. People do not leave over a reorganization even if it’s touted as get this, “employee-led.” But people leave when they’re treated poorly. Who knew?

In any case, below are some collected clips on Mr. Tillerson’s stewardship of the 228-year old agency. Unfortunately, we don’t have the Oral History collection yet. Oh, and please pardon the clip from Baghdad Bob.

Continue reading

Why ‘Rexit” Is Not Happening Anytime Soon, in Rex Tillerson’s Own Words

Posted: 2:45 am ET

 

‘Rexit’ was in the news for a few days. Reports that Secretary Tillerson had gone to Texas, putting in 20-hour workdays while also on some time off did not help quell the rumors. Last week during an appearance at the State Department with the Foreign Minister of Qatar, Secretary Tillerson told the press that he is not going anywhere, and that he is staying as long as President Trump would let him. And that helped taper off the Rexit talks.

There are quite a few reasons why Secretary Tillerson will not be in a hurry to exit, despite issues with the White House, or his inability to pick his own staff, or being publicly undermined by his boss. Here he is in his own words.

“We’re going to carve our piece into that history.”

In Secretary Tillerson’s remarks to State Department employees in May, he talked about history.

“One of the great honors for me serving in this department, the Department of State, and all of you know, the Department of State, first cabinet created and chartered under the Constitution. Secretary of State, first cabinet position chartered and created under the Constitution. So we are part of a living history and we’re going to get to carve our little piece of it, our increment, in that clock of time. We’re going to carve our piece into that history.”

Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky on CNN writes that “Tillerson does not have a small ego. He doesn’t want to be the answer to the question in a game of Trivial Pursuit of which Secretary of State holds the record for the shortest tenure in the modern era.”  We should add that Tillerson was the CEO of the 6th largest company in the world in terms of revenue. His compensation was in the millions and he apparently has a right to deferred stock worth approximately $180 million over the next 10 years. He does not need another job for the rest of his life after he steps down as secretary of state. But his reputation, which is all that’s left in the end, could suffer.

Questions are already being asked, “Is he the worst Secretary of State in living memory?”  

What he does here, now, history will remember, and history is judgy.

So he will be mindful of history and his place in that history. We don’t think he will leave his post without being able to cite a major accomplishment during his tenure. A potential accomplishment could be the reorganization of the State Department, but that is not happening overnight.

“How do we effect the change and begin to get that into place?”

In a June 13, 2017 appearance at the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee, Secretary Tillerson talked about the timeframe of his reorganization plan (see Notable Details From Tillerson’s Congressional Appearances on FY18 Budget Request).

“We hope to have the way forward, the next step framed here in the kind of August timeframe, so that we can then begin the redesign process itself September. I’m hoping we can have all of that concluded by the end of the calendar year, and then ’18 will be a year of how do we implement this now? How do we effect the change and begin to get that into place?”

We don’t think he will leave before the reorganization is completed at the State Department, and implementation for that is not even happening until sometime in 2018.  If he leaves his position before his agency’s reorganization is completed, what will his Wikipedia page say? That he started reorganizing the Department of State and then he quit to spend more time with his family? Oftentimes reorganizations cause unpalatable changes — and if the real reasons for this reorganization are cost efficiencies and effectiveness (as opposed to WH vindictiveness for that leaked dissent cable) — how do you make it stick if the chief sponsor of the reorganization leaves?

Remember Condi Rice’s “transformation” initiative and job repositioning efforts at the State Department? She did not step down for two more years following that splashy announcement. And even that was not enough to make the changes stick.  The heart of change is changing hearts, and a secretary of state perceived to be disconnected from the building and his people will find the job of changing a bureaucracy almost as old as this country even harder, and tougher.

“We don’t intend to leave anybody out.”

During his remarks to employees in May, Tillerson talked about the State Department as a ship, and his tenure as taking a voyage with his employees, to get “there” wherever that is. And he talked about not leaving anybody out.

“But we’re on all this ship, on this voyage together. And so we’re going to get on the ship and we’re going to take this voyage, and when we get there, we’re all going to get off the ship at wherever we arrive. But we’re all going to get on and we’re going to get off together. We don’t intend to leave anybody out.”

While it may not be his intention, he actually is already leaving the entire building out. We don’t know how he feels about that. We do know that Mr. Tillerson would have a better relationship with Foggy Bottom, and a better chance at successfully fulfilling his job if not for the small circle of individuals controlling the air space over the secretary of state.

Secretary Tillerson is in a bubble with his interaction in the building scrupulously laundered through an inner circle of advisers who are dismissive of people who are not considered worthy and who see dark shadows in every corner.  We understand that Secretary Tillerson does not meet with career staffers without the presence of at least a member or two from his inner circle (this circle should have a name, hey?).  As if somehow, his folks are afraid that Tillerson might get poked and wake up to the reality he is in. Tillerson’s front office managers have done an atrocious job of representing him inside the building. Changing that should be Tillerson’s top priority, then he won’t leave the entire building out.

“I want to shake the hand of every State Department employee…”

In a remarks to employees earlier this month, Tillerson said that he wanted to shake the hand of every State Department employee. The State Department has over 75,000 employees in Foggy Bottom and at over 270 posts worldwide.

“I want to shake the hand of every State Department employee at some point during this tenure of mine, anyway. You’re all extremely important to us — individual, but you’re extremely important to us, collectively, in what you do.”

So he’s not going to get that hand-shaking done before the end of the year.  To-date, Secretary Tillerson has travelled nine times overseas to twenty-two foreign destinations. He’s got ways to go here and there.

And there is a bonus reason why Secretary Tillerson will not be be resigning soon or in the foreseeable future. According to the secretary of state’s strategic adviser, “As long as there are rogue regimes pursuing nuclear weapons or terrorists seeking safe haven the secretary will remain on the job.”

Well, that’s it then. Waiting for the collapse of rogue regimes and terrorists before you quit makes for quite a long wait. Unless his boss think otherwise, and tweets after this blogpost is posted online.

Continue reading

@StateDept Loses One More Under Secretary as Bruce Wharton (Public Diplomacy/Public Affairs) Steps Down

Posted: 4:31 am ET
Updated: July 29, 1:50 pm PT

 

One of the State Department’s top three senior officials is retiring this week. Ambassador D. Bruce Wharton was designated as Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R) on December 8, 2016.  He was one of the top two senior officials who remained at the State Department after the January 20 transition (the other official was  Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. who is Under Secretary for Political Affairs). Ambassador Wharton’s main task is public diplomacy and public affairs engagement and to oversee the following bureaus: Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA)Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP)Bureau of Public Affairs (PA)Global Engagement Center (GEC); and the Office of Policy, Planning and Resources (R/PPR).

U/S Wharton’s second in command is listed as Mark Taplin, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). We understand that Mr. Taplin is also stepping down, so he will not be Acting “R”.

Apparently, there are no senior officials in the bureau who were previously confirmed by the U.S. Senate.  It is not clear to anyone on who might assume Ambassador Wharton’s duties and responsibilities when he steps down this week. The Special Envoy and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center is currently vacant and the deputy assistant secretaries (DASes) in the Public Affairs bureau are all on “acting” status.

We understand that Ambassador Wharton will transition to retirement via FSI’s retirement seminar but will retain and exercise the authorities needed to keep everything moving forward until another person is appointed to assume those authorities. But the retirement seminar is not very long, so at some point, absent a new nominee, Secretary Tillerson will need to appoint a senior official in an acting capacity to oversee “R.” 

Per authority delegated under section 308(a) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, as amended, the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (who is now also in an acting capacity) may recall any retired career member of the Service for active duty whenever he or she determines that the needs of the Service so require. This authority was used previously to fill temporary vacancies but apparently as of last Monday, recalled retired FSOs have had their recalls cancelled.

Ambassador Wharton served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs from 2015-2016. Prior to that he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe from September 2012 to November 2015. He has also served as the Bureau of African Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy, African Affairs Director of the Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and Deputy Coordinator of the Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs. From 2003 to 2006 he was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala.

Bruce Wharton entered the Foreign Service in 1985 and has served at U.S. embassies in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. In Africa, he has also had temporary duty in Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana. From 1992 to 1995 he worked in Washington, D.C. on Andean Affairs and Western Hemisphere policy issues. He has received Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards from the Department of State and the U.S. Information Agency, and was the 2011 recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy.  He is a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin and speaks Spanish and German.

#

Tillerson Signals No Career Nominees For Regional Bureaus? #FoggyBottomBlues

Posted: 2:55 pm PT

 

Via BuzzFeed’s John Hudson:

After an intense battle with the White House over his first choice to become the top US diplomat to Asia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is considering a new candidate with a deep resumé in business and economics but little diplomatic experience…
[…]
Olin Wethington, a former Treasury Department official and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, is now a contender for the nomination of assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, four individuals familiar with the matter said.
[…]
Tillerson originally wanted the job to go to Susan Thornton, a veteran diplomat who speaks Mandarin Chinese, two US officials told BuzzFeed News. But White House officials opposed her due to concerns that her views were out of step with the president’s agenda — a claim State Department officials deny.
[…]
Ultimately, in shifting to Wethington, Tillerson appears to be acquiescing to the White House, which has shown a preference for appointments with a strong business background over career diplomatic experience.

Read in full the John Hudson scoop below.

For more of the rumored nominee, see this and this.

Secretary Tillerson once took a few minutes to “communicate” his  “high regard for the men and women of the State Department.

He promised that as secretary of state he would “deploy the talent and resources of the State Department in the most efficient ways possible, and that he would “depend on the expertise of this institution.”

“Your wisdom, your work ethic and patriotism, is as important as ever. And as your Secretary, I will be proud to draw upon all these qualities in my decision-making,” he told his employees not too long ago.

When asked once what inspires him when he comes to work at the State Department every day, Secretary Tillerson said that “the men and women of the State Department inspire me, my colleagues – their professionalism, their commitment, their patriotism.”

As recently as last month, during a hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee defending the gutted budget of his agency, he repeated that “My colleagues at the State Department and USAID are a deep source of inspiration, and their patriotism, professionalism, and willingness to make sacrifices for our country are our greatest resource.”

Despite his “high regard” for the men and women of the State Department, and his promise to “depend on the expertise of the institution” he is now leading, and despite the fact that he declared them a “deep source of inspiration” to him, he apparently does not have any control over his staffing, or for that matter, how his building is run.

And seriously, if Tillerson “loves” the AA/S for EAP Susan Thornton, a career diplomat with deep expertise in the former Soviet Union and East Asia, but could not hire her because she has not sworn a blood oath to the kool aid special, what hope is there for other career professionals in Foggy Bottom?

So the next time, Secretary Tillerson talks about his high regard for his people at the State Department, or how he is inspired by his people’s patriotism, professionalism and their sacrifices, remember that Foggy Bottom is now the “Real Post of the Month” and will remain to be so in the foreseeable future.  Also don’t forget to check your playbook to see what’s next in dramatic plays over in Foggy Bottom. We understand that the plays, Another Load of Old Crap With the Word Inspiration in the Title;  Margaret, Don’t Eat the Government Cheese; and Gone to Texas are all on repeat on BNET.

Please, clap.

#

SFRC Grills D/S Sullivan About @StateDept FY18 Reauthorization Bill and Reorganizational Plans

Posted: 4:22 am ET

 

Deputy Secretary John Sullivan appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 18 for a hearing intended to Review the State Department Reauthorization Bill for FY 2018 and the State Department Reorganization Plans. As we expected, the deputy secretary cited the “listening tour” as the “cornerstone” of the agency’s redesign efforts:

In the 21st century, the United States faces many evolving threats to our national security. As the Committee knows well, the State Department – with a workforce of more than 75,000 – must respond to these challenges with the necessary speed and the appropriate resources. In other words, the nature of our work at the State Department demands flexibility and adaptability to an ever-changing world. We ask that the Committee keep this in mind as you continue to evaluate proposals for the Authorization Bill.

We also appreciate the great interest and support the Committee has shown to the Department’s efforts to make our programs and organizations more efficient and effective. The cornerstone of this redesign effort has been the input and feedback received from State Department employees.

Our main take away from watching the hearing is that D/Secretary Sullivan is a more personable and reassuring presence when talking about the State Department and USAID. He comes across as a champion of his agency without contradicting his superiors. He sounded reasonable and accommodating to the requests of the senators. At one point during the hearing, Senator Udall (D-NM) complained that he sent the Department a letter asking for specific information but has not received a response in four months. D/Secretary Sullivan quickly apologized, saying this is the first he’s heard of it, and he will make sure it is acted soonest.

There were lots of concern about the reported merger of State and USAID.  D/S Sullivan assured the senators that there is no predetermination in absorbing USAID to State. He also told Senator Menendez that there is no intention to fold USAID into State. He explained that the merger is a proposal made by people outside of the State Department but that there has not been an intention to absorb USAID to State.

He was also asked about the idea floated by the WH of moving CA and PRM functions to DHS. He told the panel that it is not the intent of the Department to move these functions.  He told the senators that it is something that if it were raised, they would  consider it but that it would be from a position that the two are vital to the mission of the State Department. Senator Shaheen (D-NH) informed him that if this  happens, she would be one of those leading the charge against it.

Senator Udall said the panel need significant oversight language in the bill to ensure that Congress has a say on the reorganization at State. Senator Cardin said that he expect State to implement what Congress has authorized and wanted some some assurance that when Congress passes the appropriation and authorization that it would be carried out. D/S Sullivan assured him that his agency will comply with the law, execute the law, and follow the instructions of Congress.

Special envoys is a big topic for the panel. Apparently there are about 68 special envoys; of that 7 are permissive positions (Congress uses may instead of shall) and 11 are mandated positions.  The senators worry that they all come with large staff. One senator wanted to know — if Congress is the authorizing body, do they have to put these positions in a statute? And should the Senate provide advice and consent for all of them. Senator Corker notes that despite the complaints about the multiple special envoys, Secretary Tillerson had recently appointed a Special Envoy for Ukraine. He notes that if we have somebody working on policy that the individual should go through confirmation.

In addition to the budget request and the reorganization, other topics discussed include diversity, employee welfare (Mission Juba got a mention from Senator Coons), Global Engagement Center (a mention from Senator Portman), morale problems and isolated leadership (Senator Udall’s concerns), hiring freeze, and the Russian diplomatic properties.

Senator Corker closed the meeting with a compliment for D/S Sullivan about the latter bringing a lot to the Department at the time when it is most needed.

#

SFRC Clears Mark Green’s Nomination to USAID as Talks About State/USAID Merger Get Louder

Once a year, we ask for your support to keep this blog going. We’re running our fundraising campaign until Saturday, July 15.  Help Us Get to Year 10!

Posted: 4:51 pm PT

 

On July 12, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee finally cleared Mark Green’s nomination to be USAID Administrator. Also see Trump to Nominate Former Ambassador Mark Green as USAID Administrator (May 11, 2017);  Expected USAID Pick Ex-GOP Rep Mark Green Lost in the Trump Jungle.

Ambassador Green appeared before the Senate panel on June 15. Click here for the hearing video and his prepared testimony.

Screen Shot

AND NOW THIS —

#

New Report on Tillerson-Miller Battle Over Visa and Refugee Functions

Posted: 12:40 pm ET

 

The Bureau of Consular Affairs via history.state.gov:

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (Jun 27, 1952; P.L. 82-414; 66 Stat. 174) established within the Department of State a Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs, headed by an Administrator with rank equal to that of an Assistant Secretary. From Mar 1 to Dec 30, 1954, the Bureau was renamed “Inspection, Security, and Consular Affairs.” From 1953 to 1962, the Secretary of State designated incumbents to this position. The Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (Jun 28, 1962; P.L. 87-510; 76 Stat. 123) made the Administrator a Presidential appointee subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. In 1962, the Department transferred the security function to the Deputy Under Secretary for Administration, but the title remained unchanged until 1977, when the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1978 (Aug 17, 1977; P.L. 95-105; 91 Stat. 847) changed the Administrator’s title to “Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.” This title has been given in full in all subsequent commissions to this office.

WaPo’s John Rogin reported on Sunday about the internal administration debate over which part of the government should be charged of deciding who gets into the United States.  WH policy adviser Stephen Miller has reportedly been pushing Secretary Tillerson to get “tougher” on immigration, vetting and refugee policy at the State Department.   Rogin writes that a White House official told him that if Tillerson doesn’t go along with the changes that Miller and others (???) in the White House are pushing the State Department to implement internally, the plan to strip Foggy Bottom of its role supervising these functions could gain traction.  Rogin’s report quotes State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert saying that Tillerson believes that two bureaus should remain where they are and the Secretary of State reportedly views consular and refugees work “as essential to the Department’s mission to secure our borders and protect the American people.” We linked to Rogin’s report below.

Stephen Miller is widely regarded as the principal author of Trump’s travel ban.  We have a feeling that the only “tougher” vetting that Miller and company will find acceptable is shutting down the U.S. border.

We know that some folks are already distressed with the news about the the potential transfer of consular function to DHS. It doesn’t help that Secretary Tilleron’s “listening tour” recommended it (see @StateDept Survey Report Recommends Moving Issuance of Visas, Passports, Travel Docs to DHS).  Neither is it helpful to discover that the nominee to be the next Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs is on the record supporting this move (see Ex-FSO Who Once Advocated Moving Visas to DHS May be the Next Asst Secretary For Consular Affairs. And we haven’t forgotten that the nominee to be the next “M” is a seasoned GOP budget aide (see Trump to Nominate Top GOP Budget Aide Eric Ueland to be Under Secretary for Management #StateDept).

But take a deep breath.

Last March, OPM released a publication titled, Workforce Reshaping Operations Handbook (pdf). Under Transfer of Function, OPM writes:

An interagency transfer of a function and/or personnel requires specific statutory authorization. Without a specific statutory basis, there is no authority for an agency to permanently transfer a function and/or personnel to another agency on the basis of a memorandum of understanding, a directive from the Executive Office of the President, a reimbursable agreement, or other administrative procedure.

So Congress would have a say whether or not consular function should be stripped from State and moved to DHS. We anticipate that Congressional representatives — especially those with oversight responsibilities are already aware of the many improvements over the visa and refugee vetting process — would need a compelling justification for moving both functions to another agency.  Like how would DHS make it better, with Agatha and a pre-crime division?

Per historical record, on April 18, 1997 then President Clinton announced the reorganization of foreign affairs agencies. In December 1998, he submitted a report to Congress on the reorganization as required by the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, the Act that provided authority to reorganize the foreign affairs agencies. On March 28, 1999, the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) was integrated into the State Department. The United States Information Agency (USIA) was integrated into State on October 1, 1999.  The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), part of USIA, became a separate federal entity. The Act also provided that USAID remained a separate agency but on April 1, 1999, the USAID Administrator reported to and came under the direct authority and foreign policy guidance of the Secretary of State.  Shrinking State’s budget started in 1993 during the first Clinton term under Warren Christopher. The reorganization did not get completed until halfway through Clinton’s second term.

We cannot say whether or not this is going to happen. After all, during the Clinton years, GOP Senator Jesse Helms was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. So we need to pay attention where this is going, but would not do any good to panic over something that appears to be a floated idea at this time. It would, of course, be helpful if we can hear directly from Secretary Tillerson.