@StateDept Appoints Career Sr. Diplomat Ricardo Zúñiga as Special Envoy for the Northern Triangle

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Earlier this week, the State Department announced the appointment of career senior diplomat Ricardo Zúñiga to be the Special Envoy for the Northern Triangle. 

The Department of State is pleased to announce that Ricardo Zúñiga, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, will serve as its Special Envoy for the Northern Triangle. The Special Envoy will lead U.S. diplomatic efforts, advise the Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and coordinate closely with the National Security Council staff on the administration’s comprehensive efforts to stem irregular migration to the United States and implement President Biden’s multi-year, $4 billion to address root causes of migration in Central America.

The Special Envoy will engage with regional governments, including but not limited to Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, on a range of issues in order to seek to improve conditions in Central America. He also will hold our partners accountable for their commitments to address root causes of migration and the increase in arrivals of unaccompanied children at the U.S. southern border. Additionally, the Special Envoy will engage stakeholders in civil society and the private sector as we work toward building better futures in these countries.

As such, he will accompany White House senior officials to Mexico and Guatemala March 22-25.

The Special Envoy will also keep Congress apprised of our efforts.

The Department congratulates U.S. Special Envoy Zúñiga as he takes on his new role and thanks him for his continued service to his country.

In May 2015, Mr. Zuniga completed a three-year detail with the National Security Council Staff, where he served as a Special Assistant to then President Obama and was Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs.  In July that year, he assumed charged as Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Also see Secretary Kerry With U.S. Delegation Set For Ceremonial Reopening of U.S. Embassy Cuba. According to his Wilson Center bio, until March 15, 2021, he was the Interim Director of the Brazil Institute and a Senior Diplomatic Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center Latin America Program, on detail from the U.S. Department of State.


 

 

@EFF Awards “The Thin Crust, Wood-Fired Redactions Award” to @StateDept #SunshineWeek

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development. It runs an annual Foilies meant to “name-and-shame” government agencies for being obstacles to public access to information.
The last time the State Department received this award was in 2016 with The Self-Server Award. For the 2021 Foilies, the State Department received “The Thin Crust, Wood-Fired Redactions” Award for the redactions of Pompeo’s list of pizza toppings apparently deemed by FOIA folks to be “far too saucy for public consumption?”
Holymoly macaroni, what could those toppings be? Peanut butter-banana jalopeno papusa-pizza?

 

Citation: The Thin Crust, Wood-Fired Redactions Award – U.S. State Department

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted plenty of controversial meals during his three-year tenure. There was the indoor holiday party last December and those bizarre, lavish “Madison Dinners” that cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars, including more than $10k for embossed pens alone. And while we know the full menu of Pompeo’s high-class North Korea summit in 2018 in Manhattan—filet mignon with corn purée was the centerpiece—the public may never find out two searing culinary questions about Mikey: What are his pizza toppings of choice, and what’s his go-to sandwich?
On the pizza angle, the State Department let slip that Pompeo likes it thin and wood-fired, in emails released to NBC correspondent Josh Lederman. But the list of toppings was far too saucy for public consumption, apparently, and redacted on privacy grounds. Same for Pompeo’s sandwich-of-choice, which the State Department redacted from emails released to American Oversight. But we still know “plenty of dry snacks and diet coke” were on offer.
Originally posted here: The Thin Crust, Wood-Fired Redactions Award – U.S. State Department

 

 

@StateDept Officially Gets a Deputy Secretary For Management and Resources Again

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On March 19, Brian McKeon was sworn-in as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (D/MR) at the State Department. He would only be the fourth person to encumber that position since its creation in 2009. This position, the third highest ranking office in Foggy Bottom was not filled during the previous Administration. The Department’s website does not list Mr. McKeon’s office or has his official bio as of this writing, but his public schedule includes meetings and briefings in Foggy Bottom on March 22. We’re sure the website will catch up soon.

 


 

 

Snapshot: Qualifying Injury Under 3 FAM 3660 – Compensation For Certain Injuries

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A section in the Foreign Affairs Manual was added on May 28, 2020 (see 3 FAM 3660 Compensation for Certain Injuries). It is based on Public Law 116-94, Division J, Title IX, section 901, where:
“Congress allows the Secretary of State to pay benefits to certain Department of State personnel under chief of mission authority who incurred a qualifying injury and are receiving benefits under section 8105 or 8106 of Title 5, United States Code.  It further authorizes the Secretary of State to pay for the costs of diagnosing and treating a qualifying injury of a covered employee, as defined in 3 FAM 3662, that are not otherwise covered by chapter 81 of Title 5, United States Code (the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA)) or other provision of Federal law; and to pay the costs of diagnosing and treating a qualifying injury of a covered individual or covered dependent, as defined in 3 FAM 3662, that are not otherwise covered by Federal law.”
3 FAM 3660 also includes definitions on who are covered employees, or covered individuals, what’s a “qualifying injury”, and the description of recognized and eligible qualifying injuries as of June 26, 2018.

3 FAM 3662  DEFINITIONS
(CT:PER-994;   05-28-2020)
(Uniform State/USAID/USAGM/Commerce/Foreign Service Corps-USDA)
(Applies to Foreign Service and Civil Service Employees)

Qualifying injury:  The term “qualifying injury” means the following:

(1)  With respect to a covered dependent, an injury listed in (3) below incurred

(a)  during a period in which a covered dependent is accompanying an employee to an assigned duty station in the Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, or another foreign country designated by the Secretary of State under 3 FAM 3666;

(b)  in connection with war, insurgency, hostile act, terrorist activity, or other incident designated by the Secretary of State; and

(c)  that was not the result of the willful misconduct of the covered dependent.

(2)  With respect to a covered employee or a covered individual, an injury listed in (3) below incurred

(a)  during a period of assignment to a duty station in the Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, or another foreign country designated by the Secretary of State under 3 FAM 3666;

(b)  in connection with war, insurgency, hostile act, terrorist activity, or other incident designated by the Secretary of State; and

(c)  that was not the result of the willful misconduct of the covered employee or covered individual.

(3)  Recognized and eligible qualifying injuries, as of 26 June 2018, based on the University of Pennsylvania-identified criteria, include the following:

        • sharp localized ear pain;
        • dull unilateral headache;
        • tinnitus in one ear;
        • vertigo,
        • visual focusing issues;
        • disorientation;
        • nausea;
        • extreme fatigue;
        • cognitive problems, including difficulty with concentration, working memory, and attention;
        • recurrent headache;
        • high-frequency unilateral hearing loss;
        • sleep disturbance;
        • and imbalance walking.

3 FAM 3666  SECRETARY OF STATE COUNTRY DESIGNATION
(CT:PER-994;   05-28-2020)
(Uniform State/USAID/USAGM/Commerce/Foreign Service Corps-USDA)
(Applies to Foreign Service and Civil Service Employees)

a. Under Public Law 116-94, Division J, Title IX, section 901, the Secretary of State may designate another foreign country for the purposes of this section, provided that the Secretary reports such designation to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, and includes in such report a rationale for each such designation.

b. The Secretary of State may not designate an added foreign country or duty station for the purposes of providing additional monetary benefit pursuant to 3 FAM 3663 or 3 FAM 3664 for a qualifying injury to covered employees, covered dependents, or covered individuals under this section unless the Secretary of State

(1)  provides to the Committees on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives 30 days’ notice of the designation of a particular additional country or duty station and the rationale for such an addition; and

(2)  provides no such additional monetary benefit pursuant to 3 FAM 3663 or 3 FAM 3664  to covered employees, covered dependents, or covered individuals for a qualifying injury until the 30-day notice period expires, unless there is written agreement by both the Chair and Ranking Members of both the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives that there is no objection to proceeding with provision of such monetary benefit compensation in less than 30 days.


 

 

@StateDept Designates Amb. Pamela Spratlen as Senior Advisor to the Havana Syndrome Task Force

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On March 12, 2021, the State Department announced the appointment of retired Ambassador Pamela Spratlen as Senior Advisor to the task force handling the agency’s response to the Havana Syndrome.
The Department has designated Ambassador Pamela Spratlen to serve as the Senior Advisor to the Health Incident Response Task Force (HIRTF), reporting directly to the Department’s senior leadership. Since its creation in 2018, the HIRTF has served as the coordinating body for the Department and interagency’s response to unexplained health incidents for personnel and dependents under Chief of Mission security responsibility, including identification and treatment of affected personnel and family members; investigation and risk mitigation; messaging; and diplomatic outreach.
A career member of the Foreign Service for nearly 30 years, Ambassador Spratlen was formerly Senior Advisor of the Office of Inspector General in the U.S. State Department, Inspections Division. She was the U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2015-2018 and Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyzstan) from 2011-2014. She has also served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan (2009-2011).
In addition to numerous Washington assignments and a tour as Diplomat in Residence at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Ambassador Spratlen also served in Russia (Moscow and Vladivostok), France (U.S. Mission to the OECD) and Latin America (Guatemala and the U.S. Mission to the Organization of American States).
As Secretary Blinken said, “The selection of Ambassador Spratlen will help us make strides to address this issue wherever it affects Department personnel and their families. She will streamline our coordination efforts with the interagency community, and reaffirm our commitment to make certain that those affected receive the care and treatment they need.”
Members of the media who are interested in interviews with Ambassador Pamela Spratlen should contact Public Affairs Specialist Brenda Greenberg at GreenbergBL2@state.gov or 202-647-1679.GreenbergBL2@state.gov
During the DPB of March 12, a reporter pointed out that the announcement did not say anything about Cuba or any particular country where these issues may arise and asked, “Is that for a reason? Is it broader than that?” Below is the response of State Department spokesperson Ned Price:
“… To your first question, as we mentioned, we do have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. personnel, their families, and other U.S. citizens. Of course, these health incidents have been a priority for Secretary Blinken even before he was officially Secretary Blinken. He requested a comprehensive briefing on these incidents during the transition when he was secretary-designate. On his first day, full day here at the department, he received an update. He has since received comprehensive briefings.
He also wanted to ensure that the task force that has been established and working on these incidents since May of 2018 had connectivity directly to him, and directly to his senior leadership team. And so that is why we have decided, and he has decided to name Ambassador Spratlen as the senior advisor to the task force.
We didn’t specifically mention countries in that announcement because as you know, Matt, there have been now several countries where these incidents have been reported. We are seeking a full accounting of all of those who may have been affected by these incidents. That will be a large part of Ambassador Spratlen’s role, is to ensure that we know the full extent of these incidents.
There is also an individual on the task force who is responsible solely for engaging with those who may have been victims of these incidents. So we will continue to pay close attention to this. Secretary Blinken will continue to pay close attention to this, because he has no higher priority than the health and the safety and security than the department and dependents of department personnel.”
We’d like to know who is the unnamed “individual on the task force responsible solely for engaging with those who may have been victims of these incidents.”  Has this person been there since 2018 or is this a new appointment?
We’ve also requested an opportunity to ask Ambassador Spratlen some questions about the Department’s response to the Havana Syndrome but we have yet to hear a response. We hope to have a separate update on this, that is,  if our email survive  Foggy Bottom’s email chewing doggo and get to Public Affairs Specialist Brenda Greenberg. 
Or if you know something and want to say something, reach out here.


 

 

 

AAFSW Announces Winners For the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA)

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The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) recently announced the awardees for the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA). The official awarding ceremony typically occurs sometime in fall. We will keep an eye out for that later this year. The 2020 SOSA Winners and Honorable Mention Awardees are as follows:

AFRICAN AFFAIRS: Michelle Collett (Libreville, Gabon): 

Michelle advanced the goals of environmental protection and awareness both inside and outside the Mission. To protect sea turtles and their habitats, she organized a group of volunteers to regularly patrol the local beach every day during the nesting season of September to March. Michelle arranged training from the Wildlife Conservation Society for her volunteers and set up communication between guards and residents of local homes and businesses to inform them of the volunteer conservation efforts and to gather their firsthand information of beach wildlife nighttime activities. She also acted as a liaison with the federal government environmental agency, a trash company, a recycling company, and schools to organize beach trash cleanups. In addition, Michelle coordinated a speaker program at a local military English school, providing native English speakers to make presentations and grade the students’ final presentations. During her three years in Gabon, through church, school, and community events, Michelle volunteered as a soccer coach, music instructor, choir director, and drama teacher. Additionally, Michelle won the J. Kirby Simon grant to install a well, build bathrooms, and construct water storage for an orphanage and children’s shelter whose residents were using the same stream for bathing, drinking, and waste disposal. Finally, Michelle played a pivotal role in helping family members in the Mission community stay informed about local, national and State Department updates during the early days of COVID-19.

EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS: Jane Thompson (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Drawing on her experience in early childhood education, Jane created and presented numerous programs at the international school and local Malaysian schools aimed at children with special needs. Topics included sleep, brain development, parenting skills and setting positive boundaries. She helped organize an Embassy program on autism and rare medical conditions to raise awareness and highlight the work of Malaysian NGOs. Jane wrote and implemented grant proposals through the Simon Kirby Trust to provide resources for refugees. With a team of fellow volunteers, Jane created play-based learning kits and first aid kits to distribute to refugee mothers and provided first aid training to young refugee families. She further volunteers with UNHCR to improve training programs for refugee women on education, hygiene and domestic violence. During the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, Jane coordinated numerous activities to maintain community morale, including online yoga classes, virtual Embassy trivia nights, and virtual story time for children. She also set up a virtual children’s town hall to answer young children’s questions about the lockdown.

EUROPE AND EURASIAN AFFAIRS: Mikell Reed Carroll (Zagreb, Croatia)

Mikell volunteered with the agency Refugee Aid Serbia, through one of its facilities, The Workshop, a place that provides hope to refugees through education and recreation.  Volunteers there teach English, Serbian, German, French and math. They also offer special outings and workshops on music, art, science and other subjects, open to all ages. Mikell led donation drives in 2017 and 2019; for items desperately needed by refugees at the camps and for educational materials for The Workshop. She collected and personally delivered more than $10,000 USD in donations of clothing, educational materials, toys, books and winter items.  A number of the winter items were hand knit by a group of senior citizens in Mikell’s hometown, at a senior center where she has volunteered for nearly a decade. She told them about the project and asked them to knit children’s winter hats, mittens, scarves and blankets, and they produced hundreds of handmade items that helped to keep refugee children in the Western Balkans warm.

NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS: Kimberly Arsenault (Amman, Jordan)

Kimberly volunteered for 20 hours each week with the Hope Workshop, a Collateral Repair Project, which is a craft collective providing refugee women (Iraqis, Syrian, Yemeni and in-need Jordanian women) the space to collaborate, create and socialize while earning additional income for their households. In 2019, she raised approximately $20,000 for Hope, helping with sales and inventory control at local craft bazaars. Kimberly is also highly active within the Embassy community. She organized a soccer program for 50 embassy children ages 5-14, and arranged games with a local soccer league, as well as an adult tournament that brought together 70 Embassy players. Kimberly assists her post’s Community Liaison Office with initiatives such as art events and game nights. Kimberly also founded a parents’ chat group to keep Embassy parents informed and providing a place to ask questions.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIAN AFFAIRS: Brendan Melchiorri (Islamabad, Pakistan)

As a volunteer, Brendan took responsibility for a four-month-long initiative to raise morale and increase team spirit at post. He created the Consular Cup, a series of innovative competitions inspired by the Hogwarts Houses in the Harry Potter book series. With participants sorted into one of four teams based on a personality quiz designed by Brendan, over 120 Foreign Service personnel and local staff from nearly all sections of the Embassy joined together to win points in dozens of events, including volleyball matches, trivia nights, dodgeball tournaments, art contests, crossword puzzles, and kickball games. Participants also earned points for hosting their own competitions, inspiring members of the community to showcase their own unique talents. The Consular Cup significantly improved overall morale at a critical-threat post with over 1000 employees and generated camaraderie between the many different offices of the Embassy. Participants are now continuing the initiative by leading their own events, amplifying Brendan’s morale building efforts and underscoring the sustainable nature of the project.

Megan Johnson (Islamabad, Pakistan)

During her two years at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Megan worked tirelessly to create and expand opportunities for Embassy employees to stay fit and healthy. An avid triathlete, Megan was the co-race director of two triathlons, including a 5K, 10K and children’s race. These events drew hundreds of diplomatic participants, volunteers, and spectators, boosting the spirit of collaboration among diplomatic missions. Megan also encouraged Pakistani participation, including young girls who have fewer opportunities to swim, bike and run than boys the same age. She coordinated with Embassy security and like-minded missions to create more options for cyclists to bike beyond the small Diplomatic Enclave while carefully managing the need for safety and security. This led to a regular cycling group of 15+ cyclists for weekly rides. She established relationships with local bike shops to provide resources for bike repair and purchasing. Megan also co-chaired the Federal Women’s Program, organizing regular professional development sessions and events that included members from other diplomatic missions to foster women’s empowerment at post and within the diplomatic community.

WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS: Moises Mendoza (Matamoros, Mexico)

Moises carried out an intensive research project to illuminate the nearly 200-year history of U.S. Consulate Matamoros. Partnering with a local university, he identified and organized primary- source resources to allow other researchers to launch their own investigations into the Consulate’s role in the region. To assist and protect his fellow Consulate community members, he designed a smartphone add-on that overlaid color-coded green and red zones over Google Maps to instantly alert personnel and family members when they strayed out of the designated “green zone” and provide directions on how to return.  This tool was adopted widely in the Consulate community. Moises also noticed a void in medical care at the Consulate, due to local limitations and the lack of a post medical office. In response, he took evening classes to become an emergency medical technician and CPR instructor.


The AAFSW selection committees also decided to add an Honorable Mention category to further recognize nominees. The 2020 Honorable Mention Awardees include:

AF Melody McCambridge (Gaborone, Botswana)

Melody worked with the Government of Botswana, the private sector and the local community to build a community library, which serves as a gathering place for the community and a learning center for children. Melody took responsibility for fundraising and managing the funds to strategically purchase relevant resources for the library. As a volunteer, she taught others to use available resources to deliver the government-managed curriculum in an engaging and effective manner. Melody used texts from the new library to establish an English-language learning program with exercises in letter knowledge, phonemic awareness and fluency. In addition, she helped bridge socioeconomic divides by organizing weekly events in which private school students read together at the library with the underserved students of Bosele.

EAP Quinzy Johnson (Seoul, Korea)

Upon his arrival in Seoul, Quinzy immediately undertook efforts to find a way to help the city’s most vulnerable people. He regularly volunteered to distribute food to over 2100 homeless people at a shelter, as part of a monthly program organized by the Embassy. Forming a corps of more than 10 volunteers to provide continued support, he trained new recruits and expanded and improved the services at the shelter. As a board member for the Embassy Employees’ Association, he led several initiatives, such as partnering with vendors near the former US Army base on joint ventures that would bring income to them while benefiting the Embassy community. For the Embassy Fleischmeister Association, which hosts biannual events open to the local community, he raised funds, managed events, cooked and served food, and planned the ceremony. He helped raise more than $2000, which was donated to the Korean Breast Cancer Foundation.

 EUR Angela Spellman (Yerevan, Armenia)

Angela’s commitment to the Mission community spans the range from the Community Liaison Office (CLO) and the Marine Security Guard detachment, to the adults in the Mission, as well as all of the Eligible Family Member kids. If the CLO has an event or needs an extra person, dish of food, or a sponsor, Angela is the one person who always steps in before she is even asked. Every week, Angela volunteers at the Sister of Charity orphanage to assist with over 15 children with severe physical and mental disabilities. On other days, Angela can be found at the QSI International School, volunteering, chaperoning school trips, or substituting for a teacher. She has never missed a Parent Support Group meeting, to inform QSI of the post community’s needs and help ensure that they are met.

WHA Georgina Allen (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic)

Georgina was an early member of the Santo Domingo Volunteer Club, which focuses on literacy, education, and crafts projects with children in the local community. She expanded the volunteer recruitment program, created a club website which allowed people to sign up online, and launched other creative initiatives for people to learn more about the new club and ways to help. She drafted a proposal for the J. Kirby Simon Foreign Service Trust, securing a grant of $1,500. This money was used for art supplies, learning resources, and even expansion of the club’s space, providing more room in which to play and learn while also enhancing physical security. She raised a further $400 while helping to publicize the club’s activities and recruit new volunteers. She also volunteered with an organization focused on empowering some of the poorest Haitians, using her expertise in business operations to analyze various business models, including required startup funds needed from donors, levels of complexity, sustainability, and various risk factors. She wrote detailed proposals for the founder, which shaped the direction of this innovative and important organization serving Haitian women.

The original announcement is available here via AAFSW.

 

 

 

@StateDept Expands Interview Waiver Eligibility For Visas

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On March 11, the State Department announced in a brief statement the expansion of visa interview waiver eligibility:
Secretary Blinken, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has temporarily expanded the ability of consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying for a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification.  Previously, only those applicants whose nonimmigrant visa expired within 24 months were eligible for an interview waiver.  The Secretary has temporarily extended the expiration period to 48 months.  This policy is in effect until December 31, 2021.  This change will allow consular officers to continue processing certain nonimmigrant visa applications while limiting the number of applicants who must appear at a consular section, thereby reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission to other applicants and consular staff.  Travelers are encouraged to review the website of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for detailed information on what services are currently available as well as eligibility information and instructions on applying for a visa without an interview. 
The original announcement is available here.

via travel.state.gov

 


 

@SecBlinken’s Memo on COVID-19 Vaccinations and His Commitment to @StateDept Employees

Last week, Secretary Blinken sent a memo to State Department employees titled, “COVID-19 and My Commitment to You.”
The memo notes that “Our first priority must be to take care of our people—the more than 76,000 women and men who carry out the work of the Department in good times and tough times.”
He addressed the vaccination question:
“I know that many of you are asking, “When will I be vaccinated?” “When will my family be vaccinated?” My team and I want to get you and your families vaccinated as soon as possible—and we want to make this process as transparent as possible, so you have a better sense of how long it will take. We won’t stop until the entire workforce has the opportunity to be vaccinated. I wish this process were faster, but rest assured that we are pushing hard, and we will get there.”
The memo further notes that the State Department has “deployed nearly 80 percent of our received vaccine allotment to our overseas workforce” to-date. “Everyone at a given post is offered the vaccine at the same time. As the national supply increases, we will keep making the case for the State Department to receive our full allotment—as the lead foreign affairs agency and an integral member of the national security community with employees deployed in every corner of the globe, often in harm’s way,” Secretary Blinken wrote.
In his memo, Secretary Blinken also said, “we commit to keeping you informed with regular updates in the weeks ahead.”
He also encouraged all employees “to use leave to rest and recoup—and to seek help when necessary” and urged the need “to care of ourselves—and each other.”
Finally, Secretary Blinken said that he reminded the leadership team that we have no greater responsibility than the health, safety, and wellbeing of the people we’ve been entrusted to lead. Collectively, we are doing everything we can to support our entire workforce. We will get through this. And until then, let’s be sure to show one another the consideration, respect, and kindness everyone deserves. That’s how we will emerge from this crisis a strong—maybe even stronger—team, just as we’ve done in the face of other challenges throughout our long history.”
Also see @StateDept’s Vaccination Efforts For Overseas Posts Under Fire, a Test for @SecBlinken.


 

 

 

@StateDept’s Vaccination Efforts For Overseas Posts Under Fire, a Test for @SecBlinken

 

Hey, did you see that  DOD is shipping Moderna COVID-19 vaccines overseas for military families?
This is the pandemic of our lifetime. Half a million Americans are dead and many more will die before this is over. DOD has a larger global footprint than the State Department. It has an expansive regional presence around the world.  Why isn’t State working with DOD and HHS to get all overseas USG personnel and family members vaccinated?

Dear Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin, HHS Acting Secretary Cochran, can you please get this done?

Can we please have Secretary Blinken talked to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and HHS Acting Secretary Norris Cochran so we can get this done? If there’s a will, there’s a way. Simple as that. We sent these employees and their family members overseas to do work for the U.S. Government. The least we can do is to ensure that they get vaccinated as they continue to do their work on our country’s behalf. Why is that hard?
Do we really want our diplomats to deliver their démarches to their host countries in the morning and then have them beg for vaccines for themselves and their families in the afternoon?
C’mon!
We understand that the State Department’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts at overseas posts have come under fire. Yes, we’ve heard about the SBU Kosovo cable, and no, we have not seen it. One FSO told us it was a “blistering critique”, another FSO who read it told us it was “whiny”.  It looks like the cable got leaked fairly quickly to NBC News and New York Times. Politico’s Nahal Toosi previously had a thread on Twitter about it. Have you read the cable? What do you think?
News of the Kosovo cable is in addition to the recent reporting from WaPo’s John Hudson – Vaccine shortage prompts U.S. diplomats to request doses from foreign governments, including Russia. That’s the piece that includes an item about “State Department personnel appealed to Moscow for doses of its Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine after Washington could not promise the delivery of U.S.-made vaccine doses in the near future.” Oy! Who did that? A vaccine with no FDA approval? That report also says that in China some U.S. personnel have complained about being subjected to anal swab tests for the coronavirus by Chinese authorities. Double oy! More from WaPo:
The invasive technique has been heralded by Chinese doctors as more effective than a nasal swab despite the unpleasant nature of the procedure. In response to questions about the anal swab testing of U.S. officials, a State Department spokesman said the department was “evaluating all reasonable options” to address the issue with the aim of preserving the “dignity” of U.S. officials “consistent with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”
In a report about anal swabs,  Omai Garner, PhD, an associate clinical professor, clinical microbiology section chief, and point of care testing director in the Department of Pathology and Lab Medicine at UCLA Health said that “it became very apparent, like most other respiratory viruses, the most accurate place to find it is in the upper respiratory tract, so this is why I was a little bit surprised and confused by the reports coming out on large scale anal swab testing.”
What now?
Back in January, two diplomats tested positive of COVID-19 upon arrival in Guangzhou, China. The other passengers from the same flight, some 86 State Department folks apparently were all considered close contacts and placed in “centralized quarantine” for 21 days. The Chinese Government also informed Consulate General Guangzhou that it would “strictly enforce the separation policy” which means one adult/one room.  There was one mention of NAT nasal swab/throat swab but none about anal swabs. Yes, we did ask the State Department and USCG Guangzhou about this at that time but our email got chewed madly bad in an email grinder, never to be seen again. Either that or …
…. holy mother of god and all her wacky nephews please do not/do not make the dog eat our emails!
In any case, we sent a few question to the State Department’s Public Affairs shop asking if they could address the State Department’s vaccine delivery issues at overseas posts. We did say please, too, you guys! But to no avail.
It is our understanding that  State ordered enough vaccine, but HHS is refusing to turn over the entire allotment. Purportedly, the current administration also made a choice not to prioritize government workers (no matter where they serve, etc.) over average Americans in the vaccination. We asked if this is an actual policy on vaccine distribution but got no response.
We also wanted to know if Secretary Blinken is pushing the Biden Administration and HHS to release the remaining supply for DOS so State employees overseas get vaccinated and do not have to beg for those vaccines from their host countries.
We pointed out that given the State Department’s botched response to the Havana Syndrome, some overseas folks were understandably concerned that the health and safety of our people overseas does not matter back in DC.
Perhaps part of these concerns and anxieties also stem from the anecdotal evidence that some minor political appointees reportedly got their second shots just days before they left their jobs on January 20. And weren’t the same folks in charge of vaccinations at State before January 20 the same people in charge of vaccination decisions now?
Anyway, we waited. And we waited. And we waited for a response. We are sorry to report that we have not received a response to-date.
Source A did tell us that communication is spotty, and that there is frustration with Secretary Blinken for not saying anything about the vaccine shortage at State.  “At the moment, the feeling is that it’s not a priority of his.” Apparently, vaccines were originally promised sometime in December, then it became January, then February. This has now been replaced according to this same  source to what amounts to a message of  “we don’t know when you will get it.. maybe this summer.. you should get it locally if you can.”
So folks really just want to hear from their boss saying this is a priority, and that he’ll do something about it.
A second source, Source B,  told us that the leadership at State is communicating much more effectively to explain what the plans and rules are compared to Pompeo’s tenure  and pointed to a recent Zoom call attended by over 1,000 participants.
Source B who is familiar with the developments confirmed to us that State never got all the vaccines that HHS promised and that former Secretary of State Pompeo did call Secretary Azar but got nowhere. We do not know at this time if Secretary Blinken has pushed back or if he is working with HHS to obtain the full allocation for State. It is worth mentioning that the State Department currently does not have a nominee for the position of Under Secretary for Management. The position is currently filled in an acting capacity by the Senate-confirmed DGHR Carol Perez. We should note further that the calamitous response to the Havana Syndrome also occurred during a span of time when the State Department fired its Senate confirmed Under Secretary for Management, and no nominee was confirmed over a lengthy period, leaving only an Acting M. Another lesson not learned, eh?
Our understanding is that “a very small portion of domestic employees” has been vaccinated. One explanation was that for folks working in the buildings in DC, State is able to get almost all of them covered at the same time, whereas at overseas missions, there needs to be enough vaccines for all under Chief of Mission Authority. That is, all American and local employees from all agencies plus all American family members (folks reporting to combatant commands are not considered under COM authority).  A separate issue has to do with getting the vaccines to overseas posts via the cold chain.
If you’re on Twitter, go ahead and tag @SecBlinken, @SecDef, and @HHSGov.
Now we wait and see if anything gets done or if y’all need to start eating nine gin-soaked raisins for your health.

 


 

 

A Lonely Memorial For Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz at HST

George Shultz was named as Secretary of State by President Ronald Reagan on June 25, 1982. He assumed the office of Secretary on July 16, and he remained in that position until January 20, 1989. Under Shultz’s leadership, U.S. diplomacy helped to pave the way for the ending of the Cold War. Read more here.
See the AP’s obituary:Longtime Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz dies at 100. NYT : George P. Shultz, Top Cabinet Official Under Nixon and Reagan, Dies at 100.
Schultz once had an instruction to an ambassador about a foreign minister, “Keep him out of my thinning hair.”
Phyllis Oakley, Deputy Spokesperson at State Department 1986-89 said about Schultz, “When people talk about management of the Department, particularly in the recent awful years, they refer to Shultz as the last great manager.”
Henry Allen Holmes, Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, 1985-89 said, “he cared about his people, not just those who worked directly for him, but he was one of the few Secretaries of State — in fact, probably, in my lifetime, the only Secretary of State that I can remember — who cared deeply about the institution, about the Foreign Service, about the Civil Service in the institution, about the Foreign Service Institute. I mean his sense of leadership of the institution was broad, very broad.”
Read more here from ADST.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken pays his respects to former Secretary of State George P. Shultz at a memorial in the late Secretary’s honor in the lobby of the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 10, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett/ Public Domain]

Statement from Secretary Blinken:

George Shultz was a legend.

As Secretary of State, he helped achieve the greatest geopolitical feat of the age: a peaceful end to the Cold War. He negotiated landmark arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and, after leaving office, continued to fight for a world free of nuclear weapons. He also urged serious action on the climate crisis at a time when too few leaders took that position. He was a visionary.

An ardent champion of diplomacy, Secretary Shultz strengthened America’s relationships and advanced our interests with strategic brilliance and great patience. The men and women of the foreign and civil services were devoted to him because he uplifted their work and relied on their judgment. When it came time to name the campus of the Foreign Service Institute, where America’s foreign service officers are trained, they named it for him.

Every Secretary of State who came after George Shultz has studied him – his work, his judgment, his intellect. I know I have. Few people came to the role with as much experience as he. He had also served as Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Labor, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and he was a Marine in World War II. It’s as distinguished a record of public service as any in American history.

Perhaps most of all, George Shultz was a patriot. He took pains to remind his fellow diplomats that their first duty was always to the American people. Before he sent new U.S. ambassadors to their overseas posts, he would invite them to his office and direct them to a huge globe in the corner. “Point to your country,” he would say. The ambassador would spin the globe and point to the country where he or she was heading. Then the Secretary would gently place their finger on the United States. “That’s your country.” He never forgot it.

George Shultz was a towering figure in the history of the State Department. The work we do now is shaped by his legacy. Our thoughts today are with Secretary Shultz’s family and all those who loved him. He will be deeply missed.

We heard from an overseas reader about a cable ordering flags at half-staff for Representative Ronald Wright, but apparently not for  Secretary Schulz. So we asked the State Department about it as some overseas folks were looking for the half-staff order to mark the passing of the 60th Secretary of State.  After the briefest of honeymoon under new management, it looks like our emails are once more consigned into the black hole for emails; not  to be answered or acknowledged once again. So did we miss the order or there wasn’t one?