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Current Visa Sanctions: Cambodia, Guinea, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Plus The Gambia #INA243(d)

Posted: 1:38 am ET

 

We previously blogged about visa sanctions in January 2017 for countries who refused to accept their deported nationals (see On Invocation of Visa Sanctions For Countries Unwilling to Accept Their Deported Nationals. Also read @StateDept Notifies Foreign Countries of New Information Sharing Standards Required For U.S. Travel.

Note that the Trump Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States include section 12 on countries who refused to accepted their nationals who are subject to removal by the United States:

Sec. 12.  Recalcitrant Countries.  The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State shall cooperate to effectively implement the sanctions provided by section 243(d) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1253(d)), as appropriate.  The Secretary of State shall, to the maximum extent permitted by law, ensure that diplomatic efforts and negotiations with foreign states include as a condition precedent the acceptance by those foreign states of their nationals who are subject to removal from the United States.

Read more: U.S. to Invoke Visa Sanctions For Four Countries Unwilling to Accept Deported Nationals

On September 12, the State Department released an update of its FAM guidance 9 FAM 601.12 on the “Discontinuation of Visa Issuance Under INA 243 (D).   Per 9 FAM 601.12-2(C), the following countries are currently subject to discontinuation of visa issuance under INA 243(d): Cambodia, The Gambia, Guinea, Eritrea, and Sierra Leone.

Kevin Brosnahan, the spokesperson for the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs released the following statement:

The Secretary of State has ordered consular officers in Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia to implement visa restrictions effective September 13, 2017. The Secretary determined the categories of visa applicants subject to these restrictions on a country-by-country basis. Consular operations at the U.S. embassy will continue. These visa restrictions do not affect other consular services provided, including adjudication of applications from individuals not covered by the suspension.

The Department of State received notification under Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act from the Department of Homeland Security for Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia. According to that section of the law, when a country denies or unreasonably delays accepting one of its nationals, the Secretary of Homeland Security may notify the Secretary of State. The Secretary must then order consular officers in that country to discontinue issuance of any or all visas.   The Secretary determines the categories of applicants subject to the visa restrictions.

via travel.state.gov

Below are the four countries, in addition to The Gambia that are currently under visa sanctions/restrictions. With the exception of  Eritrea where the sanctions affect “Eritrean citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents,” the restrictions for the other countries are currently directed at government officials and their families.

CAMBODIA (see full notice here)

As of September 13, the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia has discontinued issuing B1, B2, and B1/B2 visas for Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs employees, with the rank of Director General and above, and their families, with limited exceptions.

Under Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, when so requested by the Secretary of Homeland Security due to a particular country’s refusal to accept or unreasonably delay the return of its nationals, the Secretary of State must order consular officers to suspend issuing visas until informed by the Secretary of Homeland Security that the country in question has accepted the individuals.

GUINEA (see full notice here)

As of September 13, the U.S. Embassy in Conakry, Guinea has discontinued issuing B, F, J, and M visas to Guinean government officials and their immediate family members, with limited exceptions.

ERITREA (see full notice here)

As of September 13, 2017, the United States Embassy in Asmara, Eritrea, under instructions from the Secretary of State, has discontinued the issuance of non immigrant visas for business or pleasure (B1/B2) to Eritrean citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents. The Department of State may make exceptions for travel that is in the U.S. national interest, for emergency or humanitarian travel, and other limited exceptions.

SIERRA LEONE (see full notice here)

On Wednesday, September 13, the United States Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone will discontinue the issuance of B visas (temporary visitors for business or pleasure) to Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and immigration officials.

Consular operations at the U.S. embassy or consulate will continue.  These visa restrictions do not affect other consular services provided, including adjudication of applications from individuals not covered by the suspension.

THE GAMBIA (see announcement here)

The sanctions placed on The Gambia occurred last year. As of October 1, 2016, the United States Embassy in Banjul, The Gambia discontinued issuing visas to Gambian government officials, others associated with the government, and their families.  The announcement says that the Department may make exceptions for travel based on U.S. international obligations and to advance humanitarian and other U.S. government interests.

Per  FAM 601.12-3(C) (a) Public Notice of Discontinuation of Visa Issuance:  During the period of discontinuation, posts should continue receiving and adjudicating cases; however, posts should explain the discontinuation of visas to all applicants covered by the order.  The explanation should note that visas cannot generally be issued for certain visa classifications or categories of applicants as determined by the Secretary’s order, and explain that visa fees will not be refunded, but that the cases will be reviewed again once visa issuance resumes.  The notification may be provided by flyers posted in the consular section and/or on the post’s website.

All the above notices are posted under the “News/Events” section of the embassies’ websites, which is understandable, but that is also not the section that visa applicants would first look when searching for visa information. One post did not include the information on non-refundable fees.

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Former Senior Diplomats Urge Tillerson to Make Public @StateDept’s Reorganization Plan

Posted: 2:14 pm PT

 

On September 18, the American Academy of Diplomacy released a letter from Ambassadors Thomas Pickering and Ronald Neumann asking that Secretary Tillerson make to the State Department’s reorganization plan public.  Below is the text of the letter, the full letter is posted at www.academyofdiplomacy.org.

We understand that the State Department reorganization plan forwarded to OMB has been deemed “pre-decisional” and will therefore not be made public.

On behalf of the Board of the American Academy of Diplomacy, a non-partisan and non-governmental organization comprising senior former career and non-career diplomatic practitioners, we ask that you reconsider this decision and make your recommendations available for public comment.  The Academy, whose only interest is in strengthening American diplomacy, is already on record supporting many needed changes in the State Department’s structure and staffing.  Indeed, we would hope to make the Academy’s extensive experience available and relevant to any conversations about the future of the Department so that we might be able to support the outcome of this process, just as we supported your decision on reducing special envoys.  We cannot do so if your vision and plans remain publicly unavailable.

As the recent report prepared by your consultants very properly highlighted, the Civil Service and Foreign Service employees who work for you are patriotic, dedicated, public servants.  Many have gone in harm’s way and more will do so.  For nearly eight months these employees, and many of their families, have lived in a state of suspended animation, not knowing how reorganization will affect their lives and careers.  In light of their sacrifices for our Country, it strikes us as unfair to ask them to remain in this limbo for additional months while the Administration considers in private your recommendations for change.

Keeping your decisions from public view will only fuel the suspicion and low morale which now affects so many in the Department.  We ask that you be transparent with those most affected by your efforts to build efficiency and expertise.  Not doing so prejudices their future support.  Your leadership and America’s diplomacy would be better served by allowing public comment.  It is on that basis that we respectfully ask that you reconsider this decision.

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Related to this, Politico reported last week that “as part of his plan to restructure the State Department, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is pledging not to concentrate more power in his own hands — for now.” See Tillerson vows State Dept. redesign won’t concentrate power in his hands. Click here or image below to see the State Department-USAID Redesign Overview Capitol Hill Brief via Politico’s Nahal Toosi. Note the slide titled “What Redesign is Not.” There is no intention at this time to dismantle State or USAID at this time. Whewww! That’s a relief, hey?

Click on image to view the document.

Click on image to view the document: Redesign Overview Capitol Hill Brief, September 2017 via Politico

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Tillerson Gives Another Pep Talk at Another Embassy – Tells Joke, But Takes No Questions Again?

Posted: 4:20 am ET

 

In addition to his Welcome Remarks to Employees (02/02/17)  and his Remarks to U.S. Department of State Employee last May (05/03/17), Tillerson has made exactly four remarks to State Department staffers during his trips overseas.  These pep talks were made at the U.S. Embassies in Kuala Lumpur, Wellington, Ankara and now London.  
Excerpt from his remarks to the staff and family members at US Embassy London, September 14, 2017:

So safety and security, accountability, and respect for one another. I really want you to think about that every day and try to practice that. If you do those things, you’ll have a performing organization. That’s what I know. I know that to be true.

And as you know, we’re going through a redesign at the State Department. Part of this was in response to an executive order from the President, but it was also something that I wanted to do from day one. The most important thing I want to do during the time I have – I hope we get peace in North Korea; I hope we can settle the conflicts in Syria; I hope we can settle the conflict in Libya; I hope we can develop a better relationship with Russia. But those won’t be the most important things that I’ll do. The most important thing I can do is to enable this organization to be more effective, more efficient, and for all of you to take greater satisfaction in what you do day in and day out. Because if I accomplish that, that will go on forever and you will create the State Department of the future.

That’s why we started this with a listening tour. We got 35,000 of you responded. If you responded, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And we interviewed over 300 people face to face, and since we started the redesign, which is led by you and your colleagues, we’ve had over 200 people working in redesign teams while they’ve been doing their day jobs at the same time. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with them from time to time and see the work as it’s progressing, and I just can’t tell you how excited I am. You know – you know what needs to be fixed. I don’t, but you do. You know where you’re having problems, where you’re struggling, where things get in the way of you being effective. That’s what we want to get at. And that’s why we call it a process redesign. A reorganization is taking boxes on a chart and cramming them together and moving them around, but nothing really changes. We want to get down to how do you get your work done and how can we help you get your work done more efficiently, more effectively.

So I tell people I’m in the blocking and tackling business. You tell me what you need to run downfield, and let me go do some blocking for you to do it. If we need Congress to change a – make a statutory change, we’ll go after it. If they need to make a change in things that require appropriations, we’ll go after it. And I’m already in conversations with them about that. So with your involvement in this through the portal, a lot of ideas – we’re getting great ideas through the portal. Please, keep those coming. And those things that we can fix on our own right away, I have entire teams to get after it and let’s start fixing some of these things.
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So again, thank all of you for what you do for us. Thank you, Ambassador, for being here. Now, we have an Ambassador Johnson and we have a Foreign Secretary Johnson. What I’ve concluded is, on any given day, a Johnson is going to be to blame. (Laughter.) We’ll let them figure out who. (Laughter.)

Tillerson Updates @StateDept Employees on Reorganization, He’s Got One Glaring Problem

Posted: 2:07 am ET

 

On Wednesday, Secretary Tillerson sent out a message to State Department employees with an update on the progress of his redesign effort. The message talks about modernizing an outdated IT system, flexible work programs, and increasing “the level of EFMs.”

“This week we are submitting to the Office of Management and Budget an Agency Reform Plan with specific recommendations for improving our respective organizations. For example, we know a priority for us is to modernize an outdated IT system, so we’re taking major steps toward putting our systems on the cloud. We know you have families, so we’re also exploring options for flexible work programs. In addition, Eligible Family Members are an important part of supporting efficient delivery on our mission, so we’re making provisions in some cases to increase the level of EFMs. Our working groups have also identified areas where we can improve our human resource functions, empower leadership at all levels, and improve management support services to reduce redundancies while ensuring you have the tools you need to do your job.”

Wait, does Tillerson  really mean “increase the level of EFMs” … because this should be interesting for single folks?  Or does he mean the level of EFM “jobs” but avoids actually mentioning the magic word?

It’s vague enough, it makes one both perplexed and excited!

His message also talks about “ambitious proposals” with “a minimum deliverable of 10 percent ($5B) in efficiencies relative to current (FY2017) spending over the next five years.” And get this — “an aspirational general interest target of up to 20 percent ($10B).” Wow! What does that look like? We’re definitely interested.

“Our redesign plan seeks to align State and USAID foreign assistance and policy strategies, capabilities, and resources to execute foreign policy priorities more effectively. It includes seven ambitious proposals with investments that will generate a minimum deliverable of 10 percent ($5B) in efficiencies relative to current (FY2017) spending over the next five years, with an aspirational general interest target of up to 20 percent ($10B). These efficiencies enabled by modernized systems and work processes will adjust the current historically high spending level by reducing duplications and unnecessary overhead for State, USAID, and other agencies. Adopting these recommendations that you expressed your hope for in the listening sessions will allow us to better focus on our core policy priorities and programs. It will also lay the groundwork for additional efficiencies and improvements in later years.”

This past week, we’ve seen the Senate Appropriations bill that includes mandatory notifications and consultations with the subcommittee on the proposed changes at the State Department. That same bill also requires the Government Accountability Office and Department of State and USAID Inspectors General (IG) to review the redesign plans (see Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves FY2018 State & Foreign Ops Appropriations Bill). On September 12, the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote to OMB specifically asking OMB Director Mick Mulvaney for a briefing on the role he intend to play in the redesign at the State Department.  We have these in mind when Secretary Tillerson says this in his message to employees:

“In the weeks ahead, we will continue to develop and advance other recommendations. Some will require Congressional approval or a change in law, some will require OMB support, but there are a number of actions we can begin to undertake internally. Some examples that we’ve already started on include integrating certain Special Envoy offices into the bureau structures and efforts to increase diversity in our workforce. You should expect to see results unveiled on a rolling basis. Once a solution is ready to go, we are going to put it to work as soon as we can. We will continue to ask for input and consult with you and other stakeholders – including Congress – as we move forward.”

Also this:

“Your participation is essential to a successful redesign. As the process continues there will be more opportunities to give your input and be a part of the various execution teams as we move toward implementation. We will be asking for volunteers through the portal, and I encourage you to sign up to add your skills and talents to our effort.”

Tillerson has a problem, and it goes to the heart of his redesign efforts.  Since employee participation is “essential” to a successful redesign, it is particularly troubling that he has not directly engaged with his employees during the redesign effort in the most transparent way. He gave a couple of speeches but took no questions.  The Sounding Board, the Secretary’s Employee Forum was shut down in August 31. Employees can still submit ideas reportedly through the “redesign portal” but the secretary of state who is the chief sponsor of this reorganization has not given employees the opportunity to ask him questions.

Folks are talking – in the cafeteria, in water coolers, in rest rooms, in online forums, etc. etc. but they have not had the opportunity for an honest, two-way conversation about this reorganization with Secretary Tillerson . His paid consultants forgot to advise him that “if honest conversation stays private, the public conversation will be unreal, and ultimately discouraging.”

That’s from management consultant, Peter Block which seems appropriate as the State Department prepares for the implementation phase of its redesign. Here’s one more:

“There will be no forward movement until the staff in turn has the opportunity to challenge management. Providing public space for this to happen is the first step in shifting a culture, in implementing a change.”

 

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Tillerson’s @StateDept Conducts First Large Scale Evacuation of U.S. Citizens #StMaarten

Posted: 6:21 am ET

 

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti was initially placed on  authorized voluntary departure for non-emergency staff and family members due to Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, September 5. By the time the Travel Warning went up, the language changed to authorized departure for U.S. government employees and their family members (see U.S. Embassy Haiti Now on ‘Authorized Departure’ For Employees/Family Members #HurricaneIrma (Updated) Embassy Dominican Republic Now on ‘Authorized Departure’ For Employees/Family Members #Irma.  U.S. Embassy Cuba Now on ‘Authorized Departure’ For Employees/Family Members #IrmaU.S. Embassy Bahamas Now on ‘Ordered Departure’ For “Non-Essential” Staff/Family Members #Irma).  We were aware of two chartered flights announced – one from Santo Domingo which departed on 9/6, and one from Nassau which departed on 9/7.

As far as we are aware, neither Secretary Tilleron nor his inner circle has done evacuations previously. The office that typically would oversee evacuations, funding, logistics, etc. is the under secretary for management, a position that has remained vacant (the announced nominee will have his confirmation hearing tomorrow, 9/12).

On September 8, CBS News reported on criticisms over the evacuation efforts of the State Department, the first evacuation involving private Americans. As of Saturday evening, 1,200 Americans had reportedly been rescued from St. Maarten but media reports say nearly 5,000 Americans still remain at St. Maarten after Irma.

Four diplomatic posts are currently being evacuated, although progress to help Americans on the ground has been slow. Veterans of the department say that a task force could have helped manage the disaster. A task force was only set up Friday morning, days after Irma hit portions of the Caribbean. While the State Department says that is consistent with previous practice, criticism has still come to the fore.
[…]
As of Saturday afternoon, the State Department had coordinated with the Department of Defense to assist over 500 American citizens with air evacuations from St. Martin, beginning with those needing urgent medical care. As of Saturday evening, 1,200 Americans had been rescued from St. Martin/St. Maarten, according to the U.S. State Department.

The latest from U.S. Consulate General Curacao (Sitrep #6) as follows (note that there is no consular post in St. Maarten, which is under the consular district of Curacao, but located in a separate island, see map here):

The Department of State is working with the Department of Defense to continue evacuation flights on September 11. U.S. citizens desiring to leave should proceed to the airport to arrive by noon on Monday carrying their U.S. passport or other proof of U.S. citizenship and identity. Passengers may be allowed carry on one small bag. Medications and any other essential items should be carried on your person. Note, passengers arriving at St Maarten Airport should expect long wait times. There is no running water at the airport and very limited shelter.

The Department of State has received information that Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship near the port of Sint Maarten has departed. Contact the cruise line directly with any questions at stormhelp@rccl.com.

U.S. citizens in need of evacuation on Sint Maarten should shelter in place until Monday, listen to 101.1 FM radio for updates.

U.S. citizens in Dutch St. Maarten, Anguilla, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, or St. Eustatius are asked to visit Task Force Alert: https://tfa.state.gov/ and select “2017 Hurricane Irma.”

U.S. Citizens in French St. Martin are asked to contact U.S. Embassy Bridgetown in Barbados: https://bb.usembassy.gov/news-events/  or direct link here: https://bb.usembassy.gov/emergency-message-u-s-citizens-british-virgin-islands-assistance-aftermath-hurricane-irma/.

AND NOW THIS —

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves FY2018 State & Foreign Ops Appropriations Bill

Posted: 1:59 pm PT

 

On September 6, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs announced that it approved “a $51.35 billion appropriations bill to strengthen federal programs and operations that support national security and American values abroad.”  The minority announcement notes that the allocation is $10.7 billion above the President’s request as scored by CBO, but it is $1.9 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level when factoring in fiscal year 2017 funding for famine relief but not the Security Assistance Appropriations Act, 2017. The State Department’s reorganization/redesign is huge news; this bill provides for notifications and consultations with the subcommittee on proposed changes. Most notably, it requires the Government Accountability Office and Department of State and USAID Inspectors General (IG) to review the redesign plans.

Senator Patrick Leahy notes that ““The President sent us a budget that was irresponsible and indefensible.  We were provided no credible justification for the cuts that were proposed, which would have severely eroded U.S. global leadership.  This bill repudiates the President’s reckless budget request, and I commend Chairman Graham for reaffirming the primacy of the Congress in appropriating funds.” Also this:

The bill does not endorse the reorganization or redesign of any part of the Department of State, USAID, or any other entity funded in the bill absent consultation with, and the notification and detailed justification of any proposed modifications to, the Committees on Appropriations.  In addition to such consultation and notification requirements, section 7083 of the bill requires any such proposal to first be submitted to GAO for review. The bill further restricts changes to, and provides specific amounts of funding for, certain bureaus, offices, and positions, and removes authority for the administration to deviate from certain operating and assistance funding levels.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee said: “Through the bill and report, the Subcommittee has articulated its vision of an active American role in the world today.  ‘Soft power,’ as it’s commonly called, is an essential ingredient to national security.  This bill recognizes and builds upon the significance of ‘soft power.’”  

Below excerpted from the the Appropriations Subcommittee statement:

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs today approved a $51.35 billion appropriations bill to strengthen federal programs and operations that support national security and American values abroad.

The FY2018 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill provides $51.2 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs.  Of this amount, $30.4 billion is for enduring costs and $20.8 billion is for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

Full committee consideration of the bill is scheduled for Thursday (http://bit.ly/2gGCwhL).

Bill Highlights:

Supports Key Allies, Counters Extremism, and Promotes Democracy and Human Rights
•    $3.1 billion for military aid for Israel, $7.5 million for refugees resettling in Israel; and continues restrictions on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
•    $1.5 billion for economic and military assistance for Jordan.
•    $120 million for the Countering Russian Influence Fund.
•    $31 million for the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai.
•    $165.4 million for assistance for Tunisia, and requires an assessment of the feasibility of establishing a multi-year Memorandum of Understanding with Tunisia.
•    $500 million for the Relief and Recovery Fund to hold, repopulate, and establish governance in areas liberated from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other extremist groups.
•    $19 million for a program to assist women and girls at risk from extremism in predominantly Muslim and other countries.
•    $2.3 billion for democracy programs, and an additional $170 million for the National Endowment for Democracy.
•    $15 million to promote democracy and rule of law in Venezuela.
•    $8 million for programs to promote human rights in North Korea.

Promotes and Protects International Religious Freedom – $25 million for programs to promote international religious freedom, and $5 million for atrocities prevention programs.  In addition, the bill provides $6 million for the Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom, and $2 million for the Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom in the Near East and Central Asia.

Strengthens Embassy Security – $5.8 billion to ensure the safety of American diplomats, development professionals and facilities abroad.

Provides Assistance for Refugees – $3.11 billion for Migration and Refugee Assistance, maintaining the long-held United States commitment to protecting and addressing the needs of refugees impacted by conflict and other natural and manmade disasters.

International Disaster Assistance – $3.13 billion for International Disaster Assistance, which is $311.5 million above the FY2017 level, excluding emergency assistance for famine relief.  Funds provided in excess of the FY2017 level are made available for famine prevention, relief, and mitigation.

Does Not Include Funds for the Green Climate Fund – The bill does not include funds for grants, assistance, or contributions to the Green Climate Fund, as none were requested by the President.

Protects Life – The bill expands the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits U.S. assistance for foreign nongovernmental organizations that promote or perform abortions, and caps family planning and reproductive health programs at $461 million.  The bill continues provisions relating to abortion, including the Tiahrt, Helms, and Kemp-Kasten Amendments.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE OPERATIONS AND OTHER FUNDING

Administration of Foreign Affairs – $11.51 billion for the administration of foreign affairs, including funding to maintain staffing and operations levels at the Department of State consistent with prior fiscal years.  Funding is also provided to implement the recommendations of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board report.

Reorganization or Redesign – Maintains funding for Department of State and USAID personnel levels consistent with prior fiscal years; prohibits funds from this and prior acts from being used to close, move, or otherwise incorporate USAID into the Department of State; requires submission of notifications and reports on any proposed reorganization or redesign plans; and requires the Government Accountability Office and Department of State and USAID Inspectors General (IG) to review plans.

USAID Operations – $1.35 billion for USAID operating expenses, including to maintain staffing and operational levels consistent with prior fiscal years.

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Secretary Tillerson Swears-In Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Carl Risch

Posted: 12:22 am ET

 

Via state.gov

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson swears-in Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Carl Risch, at the Washington Passport Agency, in Washington, D.C. on August 31, 2017. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

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U.S. Orders Russia to Close Its Consulate General in San Francisco, Two Annexes By Sept. 2

Posted: 11:17 am ET

 

On August 31, the State Department announced that it is requiring the Russian Government to close its Consulate General in San Francisco and two annexes in Washington, D.C. and New York City. Closures need to be done by Saturday, September 2.

The United States has fully implemented the decision by the Government of the Russian Federation to reduce the size of our mission in Russia. We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries.

In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians, we are requiring the Russian Government to close its Consulate General in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington, D.C., and a consular annex in New York City. These closures will need to be accomplished by September 2.

With this action both countries will remain with three consulates each. While there will continue to be a disparity in the number of diplomatic and consular annexes, we have chosen to allow the Russian Government to maintain some of its annexes in an effort to arrest the downward spiral in our relationship.

The United States hopes that, having moved toward the Russian Federation’s desire for parity, we can avoid further retaliatory actions by both sides and move forward to achieve the stated goal of both of our presidents: improved relations between our two countries and increased cooperation on areas of mutual concern. The United States is prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted.

A senior official confirmed to BuzzFeed that that the U.S. presence  is down to 455 in Russia, but apparently would not give a breakdown of who was let go.

A couple weeks ago, the New York Daily News citing Kommersant reported that Russia may be forced to close one of four consulates in the U.S. as part of an ongoing diplomatic tit-for-tat.  Russia has consulates general in New York, Houston, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Three days ago, Russia MFA rep Maria Maria Zakharova reportedly said on television that the reduction of personnel at U.S. Mission Russia was not “absolutely not a Russian demand”, that it was an offer, a suggestion.

The July 27 statement released by the Russian Foreign Ministry said that it “reserves the right to resort to other measures affecting US’ interests on a basis of reciprocity.” In that same statement, it uses the word “suggest” but also “must.” There is no way to interpret that official statement as merely a suggestion for the U.S. Government

– Therefore, we suggest that our American counterparts bring the number of diplomatic and technical staff at the US Embassy in Moscow, the consulates general in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, into strict correspondence with the number of Russian diplomats and technical staff currently working in the United States, until September 1, 2017. This means that the total number of American diplomatic and consular office employees in the Russian Federation must be reduced to 455 people. In the event of further unilateral action on behalf of US officials to reduce the Russian diplomatic staff in the US, we will respond accordingly.

– Starting August 1, the use of all the storage facilities on Dorozhnaya Street in Moscow and the country house in Serebryany Bor will be suspended from use by the US Embassy.

The full statement is here.

Similarly, the Russian readout of the July 28 conversation between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary Tillerson said that “Sergey Lavrov emphasised that the decision to even out the number of employees in US and Russian diplomatic missions and to suspend the use of two properties by the US Embassy is the result of a series of hostile steps by Washington.”

 

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Tillerson to Shrink Special Envoys/Reps Ranks — Honk If You Approve! Honk! Honk!

Posted: 3:03 am  ET

 

We’ve previously blogged about the special envoys/reps at the State Department going back to 2014.  In 2015, Senator Bob Corker [R-TN] introduced Senate bill S. 1635: Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, Fiscal Year 2016. We agreed with Senator Corker then that every secretary of state should be asked to account for these 7th Floor denizens/positions, most especially on their necessity to the effective conduct of the foreign affairs of the United States.  The American Academy of Diplomacy in its American Diplomacy at Risk report also recommended that “special envoys, representatives, coordinators, etc. should be appointed only for the highest priority issues and should be integrated into relevant bureaus unless special circumstances dictate otherwise.”

The Corker bill was enacted after it was signed by President Obama on December 16, 2016.  Sec. 418 of the bill requires the Secretary of State to report to appropriate congressional committees a tabulation of the current names, ranks, positions, and responsibilities of all special envoy, representative, advisor, and coordinator positions at the Department, with a separate accounting of all such positions at the level of Assistant Secretary (or equivalent), their appointment authorities, reporting requirements, staffing, and other details.  The draft bill may have originally required a Senate confirmation for these positions but the inacted bill, Public Law 114–323, does not include that requirement.

Secretary Tillerson’s letter to Senator Corker notes that he is providing notification per section 7015(a) and 7034(l) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2017 (Div. J, P.L. 115-31) on certain organizational changes related to special envoys and related positions, as well as changes to special envoys and related positions that do not require notification to the Committees. He writes:

I believe that the Department will be able to better execute its mission by integrating certain envoys and special representative offices within the regional and functional bureaus, and eliminating those that have accomplished or outlived their original purpose. In some cases, the State Department would leave in place several positions and offices, while in other cases, positions and offices would be either consolidated or integrated with the most appropriate bureau. If an issue no longer requires a special envoy or representative, then an appropriate bureau will manage any legacy responsibilities.

This integration will address concerns that under the current structure, a special envoy or representative can circumvent the regional and functional bureaus that make up the core of the State Department. In each case, the allocated budget, staff members, and responsibilities would be reallocated to the appropriate bureau. Issues that require high-level interaction with senior foreign officials will be assigned to a senior official to whom authority is delegated to conduct such diplomacy.

Let’s give Secretary Tillerson a thumbs up, okay? This needed doing for some time, and we are pleased to see that some of these responsibilities are reverting to the functional and regional bureaus; that subject matter experts in the bureaus will be put to good use again, and will not be kept in the dark. It’s good to see Tillerson tamping down the proliferation of um … mushrooms. Let’s see if he can keep at it.

In response to Secretary Tillerson’s letter, Senator Corker released a statement here  expressing appreciation for “the work Secretary Tillerson has done to responsibly review the organizational structure of special envoys and look forward to going through these changes in detail.”

The Secretary’s letter includes nine (9) special envoy, special representative, special advisor, coordinator, and related positions that will be removed or retired:

The Special Envoy for the Six-Party Talks position will be removed, as the talks ceased in 2008. One position and $224,000 in support costs will be realigned within the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs (EAP).

The Transparency Coordinator position will be removed. Legacy or future responsibilities will be addressed by the Under Secretary for Management (M). Three positions and $165,000 in support costs within the D&CP will be reprogrammed from the Office of the Secretary to the Under Secretary for Management (M).

The Special Advisor for Global Youth Issues position will be removed. The portfolio of helping the U.S. Government engage young people internationally falls within the scope of the Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R). There is no support cost for this position.

The Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process position will be removed and the functions assumed by the Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau (WHA). There is no position established for this special envoy, and $5,000 in support costs within D&CP will be reprogrammed from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA).

The Personal Representative for Northern Ireland Issues position will be retired. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement has been implemented with a devolved national assembly in Belfast now in place. Legacy and future responsibilities will be assigned to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR). This will involve realigning $50,000 in support costs within the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR).

The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review Special Representative position will be removed. The State Department is undergoing an updated review process under the Presidential Executive Order on reorganizing the executive branch. This will involve realigning 8 positions and $1,247,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Under Secretary for Management (M).

The U.S. Special Envoy for the Closure of Guantanamo Detention Facility position will be removed. Any legacy and future responsibilities will be assigned to the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA). This will involve realigning 9 positions and $637,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA).

The Special Adviser for Secretary Initiatives position will be removed. There is no staff currently authorized for this position. This will involve reprogramming $43,000 in support costs.

The Senior Advisor to the Secretary position will be removed. This will involve reprogramming 4 positions and $350,000 in support costs from the Office of the Secretary to Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff (S/P).

Here are some of the titles that will be removed and the functions performed by the appropriate bureaus:

Special Coordinator for Haiti| The Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) will retain the functions and staff of the Special Coordinator for Haiti. The title will be removed and 9 positions and $656,000 in support costs will remain in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA).

U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change. Functions include engaging partners and allies around the world on climate change issues. This will involve realigning 7 positions and $761,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of Oceans and International and Scientific Affairs (OES).

U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic Region. Functions include advancing U.S. interests in the Arctic. This will involve realigning 5 positions and $438,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of Oceans and International and Scientific Affairs (OES).

Special Coordinator for Libya and Senior Advisor for MEK Resettlement (SCL) | The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) will assign the functions of the Special Coordinator for Libya and Senior Advisor for MEK Resettlement (SCL) to a deputy assistant secretary. The title will be removed and 2 positions and $379,000 in support costs will remain in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA).

U.S. Special Envoy for Syria | The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) will retain the functions of the U.S. Special Envoy for Syria. The title will be removed and the functions continue to be performed by a deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA). The title will be removed and 2 positions and $379,000 in support costs will remain in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA).

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan | The Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) will assume the functions and staff of the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and coordinate across the government to meet U.S. strategic goals in the region. This will involve removing the title and sustaining the realignment of 9 positions and $1,985,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA). Given the Administration’s recent South Asia policy announcement, the Secretary will consider options regarding diplomatic responsibilities in the region as needed.

Lead Coordinator for Iran Nuclear Implementation | The Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) will assume functions and staff of the Lead Coordinator for Iran Nuclear Implementation, including ensuring that the nuclear steps to which Iran committed in the JCPOA are fully implemented and verified. This will involve removing the title and realigning 5 positions and $1,208,000 in support costs from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN).

Coordinator for Cyber Issues (CCI). Functions encompass advancing the full range of U.S. interests in cyberspace including security, economic issues, freedom of expression, and free flow of information on the internet. This will involve realigning 23 positions and $5,497,000 in support costs from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of Economic & Business Affairs (EB).

Read the full list here: Tillerson-Corker-Letter via Politico.

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American values? Tillerson: “The president speaks for himself.” Uh-oh!

Posted: 4:51 am  ET

 

Axios writes: “We’ve been hearing for weeks, from sources who’ve spoken to the president, that Trump is getting more and more fed up with Tillerson, who has still yet to staff his agency.” The report enumerates multiple criticisms directed at Tillerson:
1) why he still doesn’t have political appointees in the top roles at the State Department;
2) Tillerson hasn’t put in the time to build goodwill with Washington’s foreign policy community or with the media;
3) reports that Tillerson has destroyed morale at State, empowering only the tiniest inner circle;
4) Qatar;
5) Venezuela and Tom Shannon;
6) Iran;
7) Tillerson’s Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin

AND NOW THIS —

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