When you’re watching the slow walk to war …

slow walk to war again

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@StateDept Recalls Amb. Marie Yovanovitch From Ukraine After Persistent Campaign For Removal

 

The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich has reportedly been recalled and now expected to depart post on or about May 20. This development followed a persistent campaign for her removal among conservative media outlets in the United States as well as allegations by Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Lutsenko concerning a do not prosecute list.

The State Department reportedly told RFE/RL  on May 6,  that Ambassador Yovanovitch “is concluding her 3-year diplomatic assignment in Kyiv in 2019 as planned.” And that “her confirmed departure date in May aligns with the presidential transition in Ukraine,” which elected a new president in April.

While that may well be true – she was confirmed in 2016, a 3-year tour is a typical assignment; the new Ukraine president takes office on June 3rd — it is hard to ignore the louder voices calling for the ambassador’s removal from post for political reasons. It doesn’t help that there is no Senate confirmed EUR Assistant Secretary or that the Secretary of State did not see it fit to come forward to defend his top representative in a priority country in Europe.

Ambassador Yovanovich is a career diplomat and a Senate-confirmed Ambassador representing the United States in Ukraine. She previously served as Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia (2008-2011) under President Obama and to the Kyrgyz Republic (2005-2008) under President George W. Bush. We’ve seen people calling career diplomats “holdovers”. If they were political appointees, they would be called “holdovers” or “burrowers,” but they are career public servants; that term does not apply to them. If some folks insists on calling them “holdovers,” then the least that these folks can do is to accurately enumerate all the public servants’ prior presidential appointments, some going back 30 years at the start of their careers in the diplomatic service.

Perhaps it is helpful to point out that as career appointees, ambassadors like Ambassador Yovanovich do not go freelancing nor do they go rogue; they do not make their own policy concerning their host country.  They typically get their marching orders from their home bureau, in this case, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) at the State Department, under the oversight of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, who report to the Secretary of State.  And they follow those orders.  Even if they disagree with those orders or the administration’s policies. Career diplomats who do not follow their instructions do not have lengthy careers in the diplomatic service.

After all that, if the United States is taking the word of a foreign official over our own ambassador, it’s open season for our career diplomats. Will the “you want a U.S. ambassador kicked out from a specific country go on teevee ” removal campaign going to become a thing now? Will the Secretary of Swagger steps up?

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Pompeo Unveils “New Professional Ethos” For @StateDept One Glorious Day, Touts “Enormous” Success

 

After serving one full year as the 70th Secretary of State, Secretary Pompeo unveiled the “new professional ethos” for the State Department last Friday. The celebration was done on a glorious spring day when the tulips were in full bloom and the cherry blossoms were nodding their heads in the wind. The event reportedly featured “Happy!” by Pharrell Williams, and all the happy people they could find.  It sounds like for Mr. Pompeo and his top level buddies, this is the best of times, even touting a year, in their view, of “enormous success.” This in the face of another fiscal year with a new round of proposed deep budget cuts for Pompeo’s agency, cuts that this secretary of state supported and defended.  

The good news is (coz we have to find one) although the “new professional ethos” went though some 30 versions, and involved some sort of “listening tour”, we have not yet heard that this cost thousands of dollars in public money for management consultants’ fees. (If you know otherwise, let us know). The banner and printed paper featuring the new professional ethos killed some trees, so we all definitely need to plant new trees next Arbor Day.  Also, the rumored language alluding to leaks, and to NDAs apparently got killed somewhere along the way (not that you need a new NDA when you already have OF312).   Soon there will be an “Ethos Award”, and when that is done, how long before we see the “Best in Swagger” Award?

If the “ethos” initiative  is intended to help shore up morale in Foggy Bottom, they’ll have a long way to go. As of this month, halfway through this administration’s term, the career appointments to ambassadorial posts is 51%. In actual numbers that means, 74 career professionals were nominated and confirmed as chief of mission, while 70 political appointees were nominated and confirmed as ambassadors.

When it comes to senior officials in Foggy Bottom, the situation is much worse; in two under secretary offices (M, R) overseeing multiple bureaus, the appointees in acting capacity are not even Senate-confirmed officials. And you can definitely count career appointees with one hand.  With the exception of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs and the Director General of the Foreign Service (who are both active senior Foreign Service officers), and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs who is a retired FSO, all the regional and functional bureaus are headed by political appointees.  According to the AFSA tracker, the assistant secretary career appointments during the last several presidential terms are as follows: GWBush – 32%, Clinton-53%, GHWBush-50%, Reagan-39%, Carter-48.5%, Ford-78%).

Budget and staffing. Money and people.  Secretary Pompeo may say and write the right things to employees, and may be more accessible than his immediate predecessor, and he may be well-intentioned with his “new ethos” and swagger “initiatives” but in the grand scheme of things …  as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Your actions speak so loudly, I can not hear what you are saying.”  

 

Pompeo swaggers into the bright light: “We lied, we cheated, we stole.” (Laughter.)

 

Via: state.gov: https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2019/04/291144.htm

QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Secretary. My name is Ben Allen (ph), and I’m a civil engineering student. My question for you is: How do you balance condemnations with concessions in diplomacy with a controversial government such as Saudi Arabia? Thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I always begin with a deep understanding that no secretary of state gets through their first day without recognizing it’s a tough world out there. We don’t appreciate how glorious it is to be here in the United States of America on a consistent enough basis and with enough fervor. Maybe you do here at Texas A&M, but I think too many Americans don’t understand how blessed we are. These are – are many, many tough places out there.

28:35 mark: Having said that, not all tough places are the same. They each present a different set of challenges. I – it reminds me, you would know this as – it’s a bit of an aside. But in terms of how you think about problem sets, I – when I was a cadet, what’s the first – what’s the cadet motto at West Point? You will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do. I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. (Laughter.) It’s – it was like – we had entire training courses. (Applause.) It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.

And so when you deal with these countries, you have to just recognize they’re not all the same. Some of these difficult, nasty places want to partner with the United States and just haven’t gotten to the right place yet, just haven’t been able to move their own institutions. And some of them may only be trying half as much as they ought to be trying, but they’re trying to move in the right direction. That presents a very different way of thinking about how the United States ought to address them. In those cases, we ought to assist them.

We should never shy away from calling them out. We have to be consistent. The State Department puts out every year a Human Rights Report. It’s just a compendium of bad acts around the world during the last 12 months. It’s way too long a book. But you should look at it. We call out friends, we call out adversaries, we call out everyone in between. But we have to find places where some of these countries that aren’t living up to our human rights standards – we address it, we work to fix it, we hold them accountable as best we can, and then we work to make sure those things don’t happen again.

There are another set of bad actors who’d just as soon see you all perish from this planet. That calls out for a different American response. And so sorting those through, figuring out exactly the right mix of American tools – diplomatic tools, economic tools, political tools, military tools, figuring out precisely what the right mix is the task that we engage in at the State Department, but we do it with all of our partners in the national security apparatus as well. So the leadership in the White House, the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, the Department of Treasury – we were talking about sanctions – all of those have an important piece of figuring out what exactly the right mix is.

And so just two things. One, we need to constantly evaluate if we have that right with respect to every one of those actors. Have we got the right balance? Are they still in the same place? Are they still making progress? Are they still serious about addressing the shortcomings that we identify? And then second, we have to be relentless, whether they are friends or adversaries, in making sure when a nation falls short that America will never shy away from calling them out for that behavior that didn’t rise to the level that we hope every nation can achieve.

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North Korea Wants Pompeo in Out Group: No More Smiling Lunches

 

KCNA on Pompeo via KCNAWatch: https://kcnawatch.org/newstream/1555606947-602022423/u-s-secretary-of-state-slammed/

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea attend a working lunch in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on October 7, 2018. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Meanwhile in DC:

Foggy Bottom is closing in …

Via: “Every organization has to have an ethos, a central mission set that is clearly understood so that every single officer of the State Department understands the commander’s intent.” – Pompeo

ODNI: SF312: Frequently Asked Questions, Classified Information Non-Disclosure Agreement

DHS: Non-Disclosure Agreement for SBU Information

GAO Calls For Pompeo’s “Personal Attention” to Address Priority Open Recommendations

 

The Government Accountability Office’s Gene L. Dodaro, the Comptroller General of the United States has written to Secretary Pompeo calling for his “personal attention” to the GAO’s multiple “open recommendations that should be given high priority.”

In November 2018, we reported on a government-wide basis that 77 percent of our recommendations made in fiscal year 2014 had been closed as implemented.2 State’s recommendation implementation rate for the same time frame was 91 percent. As of March 2019, State had 101 open recommendations.

Among the recommendations are apparently 20 open priority recommendations. The State has implemented 10 of the 20 recommendations since GAO wrote Foggy Bottom a letter in February 2018. And now GAO has urged the secretary’s “personal attention” for the remaining recommendations. In addition, the GAO has added eight new recommendations as priorities in 2019; these are related to data quality, the administration of hardship pay, and embassy construction and now brings the total number of open priority recommendations to 18.

Here are some:

Security of Overseas Personnel and Facilities: Of the 18 open priority recommendations, eight are related to the security and safety of personnel serving overseas. State concurred with these eight recommendations and reported some steps taken to address them.

Fully implementing our two priority recommendations on personnel security could help ensure State personnel are prepared to operate in dangerous situations. In March 2014, we recommended that State take steps to ensure that U.S. civilian personnel are in compliance with the Foreign Affairs Counter Threat (FACT) training requirements. State has taken action to clarify agency responsibilities and plans to verify FACT compliance. To fully implement these recommendations, State needs to complete and carry out its plans to monitor and verify compliance with the FACT training requirement for permanent and temporary personnel.

Fully implementing our three priority recommendations on physical security at overseas posts could improve the safety and security of personnel serving overseas, particularly in high-threat locations. For example, in July 2015, we recommended that State take steps to clarify existing standards and security-related guidance for diplomatic residences. Although State has conducted a review of existing security standards for diplomatic residences, State needs to complete its efforts to update these standards and take several additional actions to improve its ability to identify and mitigate risks and enhance security policies.

Fully implementing our three recommendations related to transportation security, such as those related to armored vehicles, could improve State’s efforts to manage transportation-related security risks overseas. In October 2016, we recommended that State take steps to enhance its efforts to manage such security risks, including by improving its related guidance and developing monitoring procedures. Although State implemented a shared site for reporting and monitoring each post’s armored vehicle fleet, State needs to create consolidated guidance that specifies transportation security requirements to ensure that posts comply with State’s armored vehicle policy

Security Assistance: Every year the United States provides billions of dollars in assistance to other nations in the form of security equipment and technical assistance. In April 2016, we recommended that State develop time frames for establishing policies and procedures to help the U.S. government provide a more reasonable level of assurance that equipment is not transferred to foreign security forces when there is credible information that a unit has committed a gross violation of human rights. State concurred with this recommendation and reported that it drafted standard operating procedures for conducting equipment vetting globally. To fully implement this recommendation, State needs to finalize its revised guidance for overseas posts that are responsible for vetting foreign security forces prior to transferring equipment to them. Information

Technology: One open priority recommendation, if fully implemented, could improve information technology at State. In May 2016, we found that State spent approximately 80 percent of its information technology budget on operating and maintaining older systems. For example, three of State’s visa systems were more than 20 years old. The software for one of these systems was no longer supported by the vendor, creating challenges related to information security. We recommended that State identify and plan to modernize or replace legacy systems. State concurred with the recommendation. According to State, it is developing a plan for modernizing and migrating each eligible system to the cloud by the end of fiscal year 2019.

Data Quality: By fully implementing three priority recommendations we are adding this year, State could improve the quality of foreign assistance data, including data on democracy assistance, and ensure consistency in published information.

Administration of Hardship Pay: When fully implemented, two priority recommendations could improve State’s administration of hardship pay and its ability to identify and recover improper payments related to hardship pay. In September 2017, we recommended that State assess the cost-effectiveness of its policies and procedures for stopping and starting hardship pay and analyze available data to identify posts at risk of improper payments for hardship pay, among other things. State concurred with the recommendations and reported that it is working to identify changes in policy that would result in greater efficiencies and is planning to utilize the Overseas Personnel System to centrally collect and analyze arrival and departure data. To fully address these recommendations, State needs to provide documentation that the efforts are complete and that the actions have enabled the department to more easily identify and prevent improper payments.

Embassy Construction: By fully implementing three priority recommendations, State could improve budgetary decision-making as well as better align Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) staffing levels and capacity with workforce needs for its Capital Security Construction Program (CSCP). In September 2018, we recommended that State determine the estimated effects of cost inflation on planned CSCP embassy construction capacity and time frames and update this information for stakeholders on a regular basis, such as through the annual budgeting process. We also recommended State provide an analysis for stakeholders identifying those embassies that still need to be replaced to meet State’s security standards and estimating total CSCP costs and projected time frames needed to complete those projects. In addition, we recommended State conduct an OBO-wide workforce analysis to assess staffing levels and workload capacity needed to carry out the full range of OBO’s mission goals, to include the CSCP. State concurred with the recommendations and described several actions planned or under way to address these issues. To fully implement these recommendations, State needs to provide documentation that it has completed these efforts.

Click PDF for the full list of the the GAO’s 18 priority open recommendations for the Department of State as of April 2019.

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Secretary of State Pompeo: It’s “possible” Trump sent by God to save Jewish people from Iran

 

Transcript: 03/21/19 Interview With Chris Mitchell and David Brody of Christian Broadcasting Network;  Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo; David Citadel Hotel; Jerusalem

QUESTION:  Okay.  Look where you are today.  But your faith has informed your views, clearly.  And not only that, but you’re not shy to talk about it.  And I’m wondering about how that – how that really manifests in your life.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So of course my mission as a Secretary of State, the thing I rose my – raised my right hand to do, I swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  And I’ve done that now a handful of times – first as a soldier, then as a member of Congress, then as the director of the CIA, now as Secretary of State.  But in each of those missions, the task that I have is informed by my understanding of my faith, my belief in Jesus Christ as the savior.  It doesn’t drive answers and outcomes every day; we all as Christians are searching.  But it does inform how I try to treat every human being with dignity and respect in ways that Christians ought to.  I don’t always live up to that standard, but it does inform the way I think about the world.  I think that makes a real difference, and so I want people to know.  It’s why I talk about it from to time.  I want folks to know the perspective that I am bringing to the challenges in the job that I face, and it also requires me to try to hold myself to the standards that Christians hold themselves out for.

QUESTION:  And you also mentioned a Bible story last night when you had your statements with the prime minister.  Today’s being Purim, a celebration.  Jews worldwide and here in Jerusalem are talking about the fact that Esther 2,500 years ago saved the Jewish people with God’s help from Haman.  And now 2,500 years later there’s a new Haman here in the Middle East that wants to eradicate the Jewish people like just like Haman did: the state of Iran.  Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  As a Christian I certainly believe that’s possible.  It was remarkable – so we were down in the tunnels where we could see 3,000 years ago, and 2,000 years ago – if I have the history just right – to see the remarkable history of the faith in this place and the work that our administration’s done to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state remains.  I am confident that the Lord is at work here.