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Is Foggy Bottom’s T-Rex as Stealthy and Cunning as His Theropod Namesake?

Posted: 1:42 pm  ET
Updated 5:18 pm ET

 

On February 16, we reported that State Department Counselor Kristie Kenney was let go by the new Trump Administration (see Secretary Tillerson Travels to Germany For G-20, Also @StateDept Counselor Steps Down).  On February 17, CBS News reported that “Much of seventh-floor staff, who work for the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and the Counselor offices, were told today that their services were no longer needed.”

Since 2009, the State Department has been authorized a Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (D/MR), the third highest ranking position at the agency.   Jack L. Lew stayed from January 28, 2009 – November 18, 2010, before moving on to better jobs. Thomas R. Nides was in from January 3, 2011 – February, 2013, then rejoined Morgan Stanley as vice chairman. After a stint at OMB, Heather Anne Higginbottom served the State Department from 2013-2017.  This is an eight year old position, and while it may be worrisome for some if this position is not filled, the State Department managed for a long time without this position, and it can do so again. We are more concerned on who will be appointed as Under Secretary for Management and that he/she has a depth in experience  not only in management but in the many challenges of overseas assignments.

Regarding the position of Counselor, according to history.state.gov, the Secretary of State created the position for the Department of State in 1909 as part of a general Department reorganization. In 1912, the position became a Presidential appointment (37 Stat. 372). Between 1913 and 1919, the Counselor served as the Department’s second-ranking officer, assuming the role previously exercised by the Assistant Secretary of State. In 1919, the newly-created position of Under Secretary of State subsumed the duties of the Counselor. An Act of Congress, May 18, 1937, re-established the position of Counselor of the Department of State (50 Stat. 169). Between 1961 and 1965, the Counselor also served as the Chairman of the Policy Planning Council. The Counselor, who currently under law holds rank equivalent to an Under Secretary of State (P.L. 98-164; 97 Stat. 1017), serves as an adviser to the Secretary of State. The Counselor’s specific responsibilities have varied over time.  The Counselor position is one of the top nine senior positions at the State Department, and the only one that does not require Senate confirmation.

Reports of “layoffs” and particularly “bloodbath” in the 7th Floor are a tad hyperbolic. If the Trump administration has decided not to fill the D/MR and C offices, we imagine that the top positions would remain vacant and the supporting jobs could be eliminated.  All political appointees were gone by January 20, so the remaining staffers who were reportedly laid off are career employees. We expect that Civil Service employees have to find other positions within the organization, while Foreign Service employees have to “bid” for other available positions domestically or overseas.

We’ll have to watch and see how many offices will now remain unfilled, and how many positions will be eliminated. The results may give us a rough look on what the State Department and the Foreign Service will look like in the years to come. With less positions available to fill, we may be looking at a possibility of hiring at less than attrition, with no new positions; something that old timers are familiar with.  We’ll have to revisit this topic at some future time, but for now, just filling in vacant positions within the State Department appears to be a clear challenge with no immediate end in sight.

Back in December, we wondered in this blog if Secretary Tillerson will be able to pick his own deputies (see Will Rex #Tillerson Gets to Pick His Deputies For the State Department? Now we know. On February 10, NYT reported that President Trump overruled Secretary Tillerson and rejected Elliott Abrams for deputy secretary of state.  Apparently, Abrams could not get past White House’s vetting not over his record of withholding information from Congress in the Iran-Contra Scandal but  over Abram’s past criticisms of then candidate Trump. On February 15, we also wrote about the dust-up between Secretary Tillerson and WH chief of staff Rience Priebus on ambassadorships (see Tillerson/Priebus Standoff on Ambassadorships, Plus Rumored Names/Posts (Updated). On February 16, Politico reported that the White House interviewed Fox’s Heather Nauert to be Secretary Tillerson’s spokesperson while he was out of the country.

A recent CNN report notes that after Tillerson took the helm at the State Department, “there has been little in the way of communication about Foggy Bottom’s priorities, schedules or policies.” A former State Department official told CNN, “It’s possible Tillerson is keeping his powder dry so he doesn’t make enemies prematurely.” Also below:

The official said Cabinet members can try to sway an undecided president by speaking publicly — a path Defense Secretary James Mattis has taken in stating his support for NATO and opposition to torture — or they can keep quiet to see which way the wind blows. They can also try to get the President’s ear and confidence by taking a lower profile.
But the official warned, “If you’re not clearly drawing your line on an issue, no one is going to respect it.”

If Secretary Tillerson does not even get a say on who will be his deputies, his spokesperson, or who will be appointed ambassadors (who by the way, report to the State Department and not the White House), folks will soon start wondering what kind of influence does he actually have? Should foreign governments bother with America’s diplomatic service or should they just tweet at the White House or at America’s tweeter-in-chief?  Of course, Secretary Tillerson has only been on the job less than a month. We’ll have to wait and see if Foggy Bottom’s T-Rex is as stealthy and cunning as his theropod namesake given that Trump’s chaotic White House is as fine tuned machine as CEO John Hammond’s Jurassic Park.

Note that Secretary Tillerson recently picked Margaret Peterlin as his chief of staff.  Peterlin had Hill and federal government experience.  She was previously National Security Advisor for the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, J. Dennis Hastert, and served as Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the Commerce Department’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) under Bush43.

The following is not an exhaustive list of all offices at the State Department. We did not come up with this list which appears on state.gov here under Alphabetical List of Bureaus and Offices, and includes positions that require/do not require Senate confirmation. With the exception of IRM, CIO, CoS, and  S/ES (do not require senate confirmations), all offices/names in blue, bold font have been confirmed by the U.S. Senate (regular blue font indicates appointment without Senate confirmation). R, PM and CT (red, bold font) have been designated acting officials prior to the change of administration. Regular red font are offices/names of officials serving in their acting capacity or delegated authority as one January 20.  The bottom part of the list is based on Alphabetical List of Bureaus and Offices from state.gov where we have only the organization directory to refer to, and are not sure if the office holders are current.

 

Secretary of State (S) Rex Tillerson
Chief of Staff (CoS)  Margaret J Peterlin
Deputy Secretary (D) Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. (Acting Deputy)
Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (DMR)  may not be filled (see)
Counselor of the Department (C)  may not be filled (see)

UNDER SECRETARY FOR:

Arms Control and International Security (T)
Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J)
Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment (E)
Management (M) John W. Hutchison (Acting 120 days)
Political Affairs (P) Thomas A. Shannon, Jr.
Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R) Bruce Wharton (Acting U/S)

 

GEOGRAPHIC BUREAUS:

African Affairs (AF)  Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield
European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) John A. Heffern (Acting Asst Secretary)
East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP) Assistant Secretary Daniel R. Russel
International Organization Affairs (IO) Tracey Ann Jacobson (Acting Asst Secretary)
Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) Stuart E. Jones (Acting Asst Secretary)
South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) William E. Todd (Acting Asst Secretary)
Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) Francisco Palmieri (Acting Asst Secretary)

FUNCTIONAL BUREAUS AND OFFICES:

Administration (A) Harry Mahar (Acting Asst Secretary)
Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (AVC) Anita E. Friedt (Acting Asst Secretary)
Chief Information Officer (CIO) Frontis B. Wiggins, III
Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) Tom Hushek (Acting Asst Secretary)
Consular Affairs (CA) David T. Donahue (Acting Asst Secretary)
Counterterrorism (CT) Justin Siberell (Acting Coordinator)
Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) Virginia L. Bennett (Acting Asst Secretary)
Department Spokesperson Mark Toner (Acting)
Diplomatic Security (DS) Bill A. Miller (Acting Asst Secretary)
Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (DGHR) Arnold Chacon
Economic and Business Affairs (EB) Patricia Haslach (Acting Asst Secretary)
Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) Mark Taplin (Acting Asst Secretary)
Energy Resources (ENR) Mary B Warlick (Acting Coordinator)
Executive Secretariat (S/ES)  Ambassador Joseph E. Macmanus

Foreign Missions (OFM) Cliff Seagroves (Acting Director)
Human Resources (DGHR) Arnold Chacon
Information Resource Management (IRM) CIO Frontis B. Wiggins, III
Inspector General (OIG) Steve Linick
International Information Programs (IIP)  Jonathan Henick
International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) Eliot Kang (Acting Asst Secretary)
Legal Adviser (L) Richard Visek (Acting)
Legislative Affairs (H) Ambassador Joseph E. Macmanus (Acting Asst Secretary)
Mission to the United Nations (USUN) Ambassador Nikki Haley
Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs(OES) Judith G. Garber (Acting Asst Secretary)
Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) William H. Moser (Acting Director)

Political-Military Affairs (PM) Tina S. Kaidanow (Acting Asst Secretary)
Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) Simon Henshaw (Acting Asst Secretary)
Public Affairs (PA) Susan Stevenson (Acting Asst Secretary)
White House Liaison (M/WHL) Robert Wasinger

The following remaining offices are from the full state.gov list here and individuals encumbering these positions are listed in the current official phone directory. Note that this is not 100% reliable.  The directory dated 2/17/2017 still lists David McKean as S/P director. McKean was appointed US Ambassador to Luxembourg  in March 2016, he departed from that position on January 20, 2017 so this specific entry for S/P is twice outdated.

Allowances (A/OPR/ALS) Cheryl N. Johnson
Budget and Planning (BP) Douglas A. Pitkin
Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) Michael D Lumpkin
Chief Economist, of the Department –??
Civil Rights, Office of – John M. Robinson
Comptroller and Global Financial Services (CGFS) Christopher H. Flaggs
Diplomatic Reception Rooms (M/FA) Marcee F. Craighill
Foreign Assistance (F)
Foreign Service Institute (FSI) Director Nancy McEldowney
Global AIDS Coordinator (S/GAC)
Global Criminal Justice (GCJ)
Global Food Security (S/GFS)
Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI)
Global Youth Issues (GYI)
Intelligence and Research (INR) Assistant Secretary Daniel B. Smith
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) Assistant Secretary William R. Brownfield
Management Policy, Rightsizing and Innovation (PRI) Director Paul A Wedderien
Medical Services (MED) Medical Director Charles H. Rosenfarb, M.D.
Office of Terrorism Finance and Economic Sanctions Policy –  Sandra Oudkirk?
Ombudsman, Office of – Shireen Dodson
Policy, Planning, and Resources for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (PPR) Roxanne J Cabral
Policy Planning Staff (S/P) David McKean ???
Protocol (S/CPR)  Rosemarie Pauli (Acting Chief)
Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) Kathryn Schalow
Science & Technology Adviser (STAS)
Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Ambassador Susan Coppedge

 

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Secretary Tillerson Travels to Germany For G-20, Also @StateDept Counselor Steps Down

Posted: 12:50 am  ET

 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first official trip as SecState is to Bonn, Germany from February 15-17 to participate in the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

According to a SAO, Secretary Tillerson will have “a couple of key themes from his meetings will be to reassure everyone of our continued commitment to transatlantic relations and to our commitments – transatlantic commitments in NATO and otherwise, and to urge solidarity with Europeans on Ukraine and on Russia, on the Minsk, and to push Russia to honor its commitments, both in Ukraine and elsewhere.”

He will also have a bilateral meeting with the Saudi foreign minister and a second meeting with a gathering of six of the key players (U.S., UK, the Emiratis, the Saudis, the UN, and the Omanis) to discuss Yemen.

More here.

In related news, career ambassador Kristie Kenney, one of the three remaining top senior officials at the State Department was reportedly let go this week.  Ambassador Kenney was appointed Counselor to the Secretary of State in February 2016 (see Secretary Kerry Appoints Kristie Kenney as State Department Counselor).  We do not as yet know if this is a resignation, or a retirement from the Foreign Service.  With her departure, only one Senate-confirmed official remains at the top ranks of the State Department (Tom Shannon (P)). Career diplomat Bruce Wharton who previously served as Ambassador to Zimbabwe also remains as Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R).

Seven of the nine senior State Department positions are now vacant. It looks like all under secretary positions, with the exception of “P” and “R” are vacant with no officials designated in an acting capacity. For the Under Secretary for Management, we understand that one John W. Hutchison, a member of the Trump Transition is “Acting M” for 120 days.

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@StateDept Gets Exemption From Trump Federal Hiring Freeze, March Classes Are On

Posted: 2:07 am  ET
Updated: 2:27 pm PT

 

The AP’s Matt Lee reports that the State Department was granted an exemption from the Trump administration’s hiring freeze on most federal employees. It will bring on 175 new diplomats: 70 entry-level diplomats, 80 mid-level specialists and 25 consular fellows, non-foreign service officers who assist visa processing at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

The report says that the State Department has been granted an exemption from the Trump hiring freeze. The number only includes a fraction of the projected hires this year for the Foreign Service.  The State Department has projected 615 positions for FY16 which includes 97 new positions and 518 projected total attrition (employees lost to retirement, resignation, death). Total hiring for FY17 is projected at 599 with 98 new positions and 501 projected total attrition.

It looks like this exemption affects only the March classes scheduled to start on March 6 for FS officers,  and March 20 for FS specialists (see @StateDept Sends Out Job Offers to Prospective FSOs For March 6 Class But — Will There Be Jobs?).  Beyond these positions, it appears that the hiring freeze is on, including a halt in the hiring of eligible family members. 

There are classes scheduled for July and September but it appears no invitations have gone out for those classes.  The State Department’s careers.gov says, “We do not yet have information regarding hiring authority for future classes. This is not unusual.”  We anticipate that the OPM plan required after 90 days under the federal hiring freeze executive order will be available by then.

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Related posts:

 

Tillerson/Priebus Standoff on Ambassadorships, Plus Rumored Names/Posts (Updated)

Posted: 2:03 am  ET
Updated: 2:31 pm PT

 

The following report may explain the slow announcement of ambassador picks under the Trump administration. To-date, only two ambassador’s postings have been announced, China and Israel. The nominee for Israel, David Friedman has a scheduled confirmation hearing this week.   Terry Branstad’s nomination as Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China was sent to the Senate on January 20 but so far, no schedule has been announced by the SFRC. Note that Nikki Haley was previously announced as Trump’s pick for the UN and was confirmed by the Senate on January 24. Her official title is United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, an ambassador-rank position; it is also a cabinet level position. 

For a list of ambassadorships that may be the cause of the reported standoff between Secretary Tillerson and WH Chief of Staff Priebus, see America’s Cushiest Ambassadorships Will Go Vacant By Inauguration Day.

Via the WSJ:

Senior White House advisers have suggested to cabinet secretaries or nominees that they need to be consulted on all personnel and policy decisions, creating friction between the agencies and the White House officials who have been permanently stationed inside their buildings.

Many of the U.S. ambassadorships remain unfilled, a result of a standoff between Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Priebus, the chief of staff, said people familiar with the process.

Below is a round-up of names floated around as possible picks for ambassadorships to Canada, Austria, Dominican Republic, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Czech Republic, and the UK.

Ex-Senator Scott Brown to New Zealand

Sarah Palin to Canada, to Canada. Or not.

Patrick Park, Sound of Music Fan to Austria?

From Palm Beach — Robin Bernstein to the Dominican Republic? Brian Burns to Ireland?

Major Campaign Donors Lewis Eisenberg to Italy, William Hagerty to Japan?

Woody Johnson to the United Kingdom, but role not official?

Ivana to the Czech Republic, and she’ll get agrément?

Ted Malloch, potential European Union pick attacks the EU?

Miami Marlins owner Jeff Loria to head to France?

GOP activist Georgette Mosbacher to Luxembourg?

Hedge funder Duke Buchan to Spain?

Edwin Feulner, Heritage Foundation founder to South Korea?

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With Zero Information From @StateDept, Foreign Service Candidates Remain in Limbo

Posted: 2:42 am  ET
Updated: 12:08 pm PT
Updated: Feb 14, 2:18 pm PT: Notification reportedly went out o/a 9 pm on Feb 13 that the FSO/FSS March classes are on.

 

On January 23, we blogged about the State Department sending out job offers for an incoming class of foreign service officers and specialists (see @StateDept Sends Out Job Offers to Prospective FSOs For March 6 Class But — Will There Be Jobs?. On February 1, OPM and OMB issued a joint guidance on the Trump EO on the hiring freeze (see OMB/OPM Issues  Additional Guidance for Federal Civilian Hiring Freeze, Jan 31.2017 (Read).

As of February 9, 2017, the same information provided to applicants on February 2 remains the same:

greencheck

The “greencheck” at the state.gov forum also told the prospective employees:

We have not received updated guidance on how the hiring freeze will impact both the Generalist or Specialist March classes at this time. HR is exploring all options regarding the hiring registers and the March classes. Once a decision is finalized, all candidates affected by the freeze will be notified immediately.

We understand that “State still has provided the hundreds of effected candidates and their families with zero information on whether or not the class will take place or when. At this point, a number of candidates have lost their previous jobs and have had to move out of their homes.” Our correspondent, clearly frustrated, has some very strong words:

“The Department needs to start meeting the expectation of accountability that SECSTATE set on his first day on the job, and SECSTATE and senior leadership need to start enforcing those standards. This story of State’s inability/unwillingness to make decision, adjust to fluid circumstances, and communicate to what it purports to be its most valuable resource–it’s people–needs to be told …The careers forum on the state.gov site have plenty of anaecdotal examples of state’s lack of communication and the human impact this is having on people.”

So, we went and look at the forum once more.

One asked, “I haven’t seen anything definitive yet. It’s sure getting late here. Should I let the movers come box up my stuff?”

Another wrote, “I was scheduled for the March FSS class that is pending. I have already given my notice to my command to leave active duty effective Feb 17th. If this hiring freeze affects new DSS SA candidates then I am out of a job.”

Still another, “If I were sitting on the register right now, life would be great … I could extend my orders for another year and defer, but I already have orders to detach from active duty in 2 weeks thinking I was going to finally get my dream job.”

One wrote, “To think that State would just ignore us is completely negligible on their part, especially spending thousands of dollars on clearances….that would be a complete waste of tax payers dollars!  I am military so I know the routine of hurry up and wait, however it easy when one is getting paid to wait while a descion is made vs no income because you quit your job based on an offer from State … those of us who are “in limbo” any news is better than no news.”

Somebody “annoyed” wrote, “Take your time guys. Seriously don’t rush this decision. It’s not like you’ve had weeks let alone months to sort this out. And it’s not like the class is supposed to start in about three weeks. So really, take your time. All the uncertainty and waiting has been really great. Not stressful at all. A few of us are going to be unemployed, and several without housing in a few days, but hey, it’s cool, we can deal with it. It’ll be like camping. In fact, why don’t you make the decision on March 5, so we can really draw this out and enjoy this experience for as long as possible. “

Forum user using “Current FSO” as handle posted: “Whoever is in charge of making this decision owed the March class an answer weeks ago. That person is derelict in his/her duty to provide correct information. People have to uproot entire lives to go to A-100. Disgraceful.”

Here is a post that should be required reading for the State Department leadership:

If State needs more time to ‘explore options’ at least make the decision to delay the classes and let those who received appointment letters know. The Generalist class should have travel authorizations by now. Hundreds of candidates and their family members made the decision to accept appointment offers based on State’s identification of a 6 March start date. It is time for State to show similar decisiveness and commitment. 

Presidential transition, turnover in Management, etc doesn’t absolve State leadership of this responsibility. If the organization takes this long to make a decision on routine hiring, I shudder to think how it handles something like a medical evacuation or ordered departure. 

Of note, this response is not intended to lambast the ‘green check’ who is pasting State’s pro forma response to these queries. I understand they are only passing the limited information they’ve been told to release. This broader forum is oriented to those interested in seeking employment with the Department of State. A quick review of the threads the last two months paints an unimpressive picture of State’s handling of hiring actions, its ability to make decisions in fluid environments, and its interest in communicating substantive information with those effected by State’s indecision.

This could have been avoided had the State Department thought to include a contingency language in the job offer letters it sent out, it did not.

We learned that the State Department in FY2015 hired 290 foreign service officers, and 259 foreign service specialists. The number  of hires reportedly were “at or near” attrition. There is no publicly released number available for FY2016 (email us) but folks are talking about “hundreds” who received invitations to start training next month.

Update: Regarding the “hundreds” above, we understand that the largest Generalist (FSO) classes have never exceeded 100 as the room only fits about 85. The Specialist (FSS) classes are reportedly almost always much smaller. March classes are also typically the smallest of the year.  A State/HR document we’ve seen projected 615 positions for FY16 which includes 97 new positions and 518 projected total attrition (employees lost to retirement, resignation, death). Total hiring for FY17 is projected at 599 with 98 new positions and 501 projected total attrition. 

According to Federal News Radio, the Defense Department already announced “a sweeping set of exceptions to the governmentwide civilian hiring freeze President Donald Trump imposed on Jan. 23, allowing hiring to resume across broad categories of the workforce ranging from cybersecurity specialists to depot maintenance and shipyard personnel.”   The OMB/OPM guidance appears to carve out an exception for positions necessary to “meet national security (including foreign relations) responsibilities” but so far, the State Department has not made any announcement.

In 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported on the challenges that the State Department faced in filling its increasing overseas staffing needs with sufficiently experienced personnel. It also noted that “persistent Foreign Service staffing and experience gaps put diplomatic readiness at risk.”

In the 1990’s, the Foreign Service suffered through a period of hiring below attrition levels. According to Government Executive, from 1994 to 1997, the State Department hired “only enough people to replace half the number it lost to retirement, resignation or death.” That contributed to the staffing and experience gaps in our diplomatic service.  It typically takes about 4 to 5 years for an officer to move through the entry-level grades to a midlevel grade.  To address these gaps, the State Department implemented the “Diplomatic Readiness Initiative,” during Colin Powell’s tenure which resulted in hiring over 1,000 new employees above attrition from 2002 to 2004. However, most of this increase was absorbed by the demand for personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2009, the State Department started Diplomacy 3.0,  under Hillary Clinton’s tenure, another hiring effort to increase its Foreign Service workforce by 25 percent by 2013. Due to emerging budgetary constraints, State anticipated this goal would not be met until 2023 (see Foreign Service Staffing Gaps, and Oh, Diplomacy 3.0 Hiring Initiative to Conclude in FY2023).

How soon before the State Department will be back in the same pickle?

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Related item:

Presidential Memorandum entitled “Hiring Freeze” January 23, 2017

Related posts:

Secretary Rex Tillerson to Foggy Bottom: Core Principles to Adopt – Accountability, Honesty, Respect

Posted: 6:30 pm PT

 

A day after he was sworn in as the 69th Secretary of State, Secretary Tillerson walked into Foggy Bottom with his wife, Renda, and gave his welcome remarks to an anxious group of employees in DC and worldwide. He started his talk with a spark of humor saying, “We apologize for being late. It seemed that this year’s prayer breakfast, people felt the need to pray a little longer.” Except for one exception, Secretary Tillerson did not make any direct reference to the widely reported dissent  from our diplomats but did say, “Each of us is entitled to the expression of our political beliefs, but we cannot let our personal convictions overwhelm our ability to work as one team.”  He declared that “Change for the sake of change can be counterproductive, and that will never be my approach.” He went on to cite a few core principles that he asked to adopt in  Foggy Bottom: 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.”

In possible reference to the leaked Dissent Channel memo, he said, “Let us extend respect to each other, especially when we may disagree.” The full transcript of his remarks is here.

The reception appears warm and Secretary Tillerson’s speech was both reassuring and encouraging.

One Foggy Bottom nightingale gave the welcome remarks an A+.

An unnamed foreign service officer attending the event described Tillerson’s remarks to VOA as sincerely communicating “a genuine concern for the well-being of all members of the State Department team.”

People appreciate his stop at the Memorial Wall where 248 individuals are memorialized for heroic service and for perishing in the line of duty.

Secretary Tillerson has no prior government service but some folks we know liked what they’ve seen and heard so far.  We’re guessing that all are hopeful that the new secretary of state remain interested and engaged in the building and its people — contrary to some of his predecessors — oops … did we say that out loud?!

Good luck Foggy Bottom with your new captain, keep the four leaf clover in your pocket.

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Senate Confirms Rex Tillerson as the 69th Secretary of State

Posted: 12:23 am ET
Updated: 9:51 am ET
Updated: 12:31 pm ET

 

On Wednesday, February 1, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Rex Tillerson as the 69th Secretary of State. Senate Republicans and four Democrats voted 56-43. Later in the afternoon, Secretary Tillerson was sworn in by Vice President Pence. The oath of office ceremony was held at the White House and attended by the President.

The State Department announced that Secretary Tillerson will address State Department employees upon arrival at the State Department on February 2 at 9:30 a.m. in the C Street Lobby.

It looks like the State Department also rolled out the Update 1: A new secretary of state’s Twitter account @RexTillerson_ was rolled out the same day as Secretary Tillerson’s confirmation.  The account says “Joined February 2017” and “Responsive 24/7.”  The account is not verified and has not been confirmed at this time.  The account follows 508 Twitter accounts as of this writing including several embassies, it even responded to tweets from some posts.  The odd thing about the account … it is following the state governors, and state secretaries of state instead of world leaders, and foreign ministers as one would expect. We followed the account last night and this morning, we received a DM that says “Thank you for your message. The United States Secretary of State’s office will be in touch.”  What is even weirder is we haven’t sent it a message. This is probably an automated message for every follower. We’ve asked who is running this account. Will update if we get a response.

Update 2: The account is still up but is now showing no tweets and lost all but 60 followers. The DM sent me no longer shows a Tillerson profile but some unverified breaking news account.

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Recipe For Disaster Transition @StateDept: Situation AltNormal, All Fucked Up

Posted: 12:12 pm PT
Updated: 1:15 pm PT

 

We just posted about the reported mass resignations of senior management officials at the State Department (see Patrick Kennedy, Other Officials Step Down – Yo! That’s Not the “Entire” Senior Management).

The State Department spox released the following statement:

“As is standard with every transition, the outgoing administration, in coordination with the incoming one, requested all politically appointed officers submit letters of resignation. The Department encourages and advocates for senior officers to compete for high level offices in the Department. These positions are political appointments, and require the President to nominate and the Senate to confirm them in these roles. They are not career appointments but of limited term. Of the officers whose resignations were accepted, some will continue in the Foreign Service in other positions, and others will retire by choice or because they have exceeded the time limits of their grade in service. No officer accepts a political appointment with the expectation that it is unlimited. And all officers understand that the President may choose to replace them at any time. These officers have served admirably and well. Their departure offers a moment to consider their accomplishments and thank them for their service.”

The senior management officials reported to be stepping down today are not exactly quitting because U/S Kennedy resigned.  Our understanding is that they are leaving because they, too, got letters telling them to go.

What we know right now is that a good number of senior career official received letters yesterday morning essentially saying, “Thank you for your service.  You’re done as of Friday.”  The letters went to U/S Pat Kennedy, A/S Michelle Bond (CA), Joyce Barr (A), and Gentry Smith (DS M/OFM).  We noted previously that there are 13 offices under the “M” group which includes among other things, housing, medical, logistics, personnel, training, security.  We understand that the only person left in the “M” family in a Senate-confirmed position is DGHR Arnold Chacon.

We can confirm that one career under secretary serving in an acting capacity did not receive a letter or notification to leave.  But letters reportedly also went to others, including an assistant secretary in a geographic  bureau overseeing a most challenging region saying “you’re done, once we nominate your successor.”

Here’s the problem, with the exception of the announced nominations for ambassadors to China and Israel, there are no announced nominees for the State Department in the under secretary or assistant secretary level.  How soon will the replacements come onboard? As soon as the nominees are announced, vetted, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Just to be clear, this is not the case of career employees refusing to continue working with a new administration or quitting public service, or quitting in protest — they were told to leave.

People who got these letters are “resigning.”  A good number of them are also retiring as of the 31st because they can no longer be in the Foreign Service due to mandatory retirement (they’re over 65) or they are subject to time-in-class/time-in-service restrictions.  For those who are not retirement-eligible or subject to TIC/TIS, they’re still in the Senior Foreign Service and could theoretically move into different jobs.

With the exception of the DGHR position, we understand that all Senate-confirmed positions in the “M” family are “unemcumbered” or will soon go vacant. The Trump Transition may not know this, but these positions are the most critical to keeping the Department going.  We understand that these firings cause all sorts of problems because “there are certain authorities that can only be vested in someone who is in a confirmable position.”  For example, whenever “M” is on travel, the role of “Acting M” always defaulted to the Senate confirmed senior official at Diplomatic Security, Administration, or Consular Affairs.

For real life consequences, “M” approves authorized and ordered evacuation requests and authorizes the use of K funds. So better not have an evacuation or embassy shutdown right now because without an “M” successor, even one in an acting capacity, no one has any frakking idea who is responsible.  We are presuming that the Legal Affairs bureau is trying to figure this out right now. That is, if the Legal Advisor is still in place and had not been asked to leave, too.

This need not have to happen this way. The Landing Team get to an agency, and it goes about the job of filling in positions with their selected appointees in an orderly manner. This is not the first transition that the agency has gone through.  We understand from the AP’s Matt Lee that there was only one under secretary position left at State during the Clinton to Bush transition.  But giving career employees, some with 30-40 years of dedicated service to our country a two-day notice to pack-up is not just disgraceful, it is also a recipe for disaster.

Unless somebody with authority steps in now, by Monday, the only person possibly left standing in the 7ht Floor is Ambassador Tom Shannon who is the Acting Secretary of State pending Rex Tillerson’s confirmation.  And when Rex Tillerson, who has never worked for the federal government shows up for his first day at work next week, with very few exception, he may be surrounded with people, who like him will be lost in Foggy Bottom.

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Patrick Kennedy, Other Officials Step Down – Yo! That’s Not the “Entire” Senior Management

Posted: 10:09 am PT
Updated: 10:29 am PT

 

Yesterday, Mark Toner, the State Department’s Acting Spokesperson said that “Patrick Kennedy will resign as Under Secretary for Management on January 27, and retire from the Department of State on January 31. A career Foreign Service Officer, Under Secretary Kennedy joined the Department in 1973.”  To read more about him, see The State Department’s Mr. Fix-It of Last Resort Gets the Spotlight.

Today, WaPo reports that the “entire senior management team just resigned.” In addition to U/S Kennedy stepping down, others named includes A/Barr, CA/Bond, DS/Gentry Smith, all career diplomats, and presumably are retiring from the Foreign Service. Previous departures include OBO’s non-career appointee, Lydia Muniz o/a January 20, and Diplomatic Security’s Greg Starr who retired a week before inauguration.

As we have noted before in this blog, U/S Kennedy has been the Under Secretary for Management since 2007. He is the longest serving “M in the history of the State Department, and only the second career diplomat to encumber this position. U/S Kennedy’s departure is a major change, however, it is not unexpected.

The “M” family of offices is the train that runs the State Department, it also affects every part of employees lives in the agency. But there are 13 offices under the “M” group.  Four departures this week including Kennedy, plus two previous ones do not make the “entire” senior management.  If there are other retirements we are not hearing, let us know.  But as one former senior State Department official told us  too much hyperventilation at the moment “is distracting from things that really are problematic.”  

The challenge now for Mr. Tillerson who we expect will be confirmed as the 69th Secretary of State next week, is to find the right successor to lead the “M” group.  We hope he picks one who knows the levers and switches in Foggy Bottom and not one who will get lost in the corridors.

Update: Via CCN “Any implication that that these four people quit is wrong,” one senior State Department official said. “These people are loyal to the secretary, the President and to the State Department. There is just not any attempt here to dis the President. People are not quitting and running away in disgust. This is the White House cleaning house.”

Update: Statement from Mark Toner, Acting Spokesperson:

“As is standard with every transition, the outgoing administration, in coordination with the incoming one, requested all politically appointed officers submit letters of resignation. The Department encourages and advocates for senior officers to compete for high level offices in the Department. These positions are political appointments, and require the President to nominate and the Senate to confirm them in these roles. They are not career appointments but of limited term. Of the officers whose resignations were accepted, some will continue in the Foreign Service in other positions, and others will retire by choice or because they have exceeded the time limits of their grade in service. No officer accepts a political appointment with the expectation that it is unlimited. And all officers understand that the President may choose to replace them at any time. These officers have served admirably and well. Their departure offers a moment to consider their accomplishments and thank them for their service.”

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Senate Panel Clears Rex Tillerson For Secretary of State, Full Vote Likely Next Week

Posted: 3:17 am ET
Updated: 3:38 pm PT

 

On January 23, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) cleared the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be President Trump’s Secretary of State with members voting along party lines, 11-10.  If the Senate does not hold a full vote on Tuesday, Mr. Tillerson will not get it until next week. According to Roll Call, House and Senate Republicans will hold a joint retreat from January 25 to 27 in Philadelphia to discuss priorities for the 115th Congress.  Citing leadership aides from both parties, CNN reported that the final confirmation vote by the full Senate is expected next week.  Cloture vote for Mr. Tillerson is now scheduled for Monday, January 30. 

Related items:

OGE: Ethics Agreement

OGE: Nominee 278 (01/03/2017)

 

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