Rex Tillerson Talks to Congress About the Not So Shadow Secretary of State, and Stuff

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Miles With Mike: Child Soldiers, CENTCOM Visit, Silliness, Plus Some Word Salad With That Chardonnay

Help Fund the Blog | Diplopundit 2019 — 60-Day Campaign from June 5, 2019 – August 5, 2019

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Billy Goat  with Washington piece of silliness

Some word salad to go with that Chardonnay:

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Pompeo: “I wanted, too, to reaffirm the value of diplomatic expertise” … #batsignal

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“I wanted, too, to reaffirm the value of diplomatic expertise. So at my recommendation, President Trump and the Senate recognized four individuals Career Ambassadors: David Hale, Phil Goldberg, Michele Sison, and Dan Smith, who is now running FSI. The rest of our team now knows these are senior leaders that they can truly look up to.” – Secretary Mike Pompeo

Remarks at the Department of State Foreign Affairs Day

The class of Career Ambassador was first established by an Act of Congress on Aug 5, 1955, as an amendment to the Foreign Service act of 1946 (P.L. 84-250; 69 Stat. 537). Under the 1980 Foreign Service Act (P.L. 96-465; 94 Stat. 2084), which repealed the 1946 Act as amended, the President is empowered with the advice and consent of the Senate to confer the personal rank of Career Ambassador upon a career member of the Senior Foreign Service in recognition of especially distinguished service over a sustained period. It is the equivalent of Four-star rank (O-10) in the military.

Ambassador David Hale , former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Lebanon and Jordan is Under Secretary for Political Affairs. He is the highest ranking career appointee in the State Department.  He reports directly to the Deputy Secretary of State and the Secretary of State.

[Holy guacamole, why is the State Department’s biographies of senior officials alphabetized by first names?]

Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg previously U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Bolivia, and Chief of Mission in Kosovo, and most recently, Cuba, was also a former Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR). He is now Resident Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University.  Until these four nominations, there was Ambassador Steve Mull, the one remaining career ambassador in active service in mid 2018 prior to being brought back briefly as Acting P before his retirement. By coincidence, Ambassador Goldberg is now a Resident Senior Fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Ambassador Mull’s assignment shortly before his brief appointment as Acting P and retirement.

Ambassador Michele Sison was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Haiti on February 12, 2018. She previously served as U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations (2014-2018), U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives (2012-2014), U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon (2008-2010), and U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (2004-2008).

Ambassador Daniel B. Smith, previously Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR) and former U.S. Ambassador to Greece is now the Director of the Foreign Service Institute.  They gave him a nice title of “Chief Learning Officer for the Department of State and the federal foreign affairs community.” According to the FAM, the Director of FSI is equivalent in rank to an Assistant Secretary and serves as the Department’s Chief Training Officer.  This is not a Senate confirmed position. FSI is one of 14 bureaus and offices under the Under Secretary for Management umbrella. Ambassador Smith does not report directly to the Secretary of State.  One could argue that training is crucial and that this assignment is similar to United States Army Training and Doctrine Command which is headed by one of the Army’s twelve four-star generals. Okay. Fine. Except that TRADOC is one of the four Army Commands, and  oversees 32 Army schools organized under eight Centers of Excellence, each focused on a separate area of expertise within the Army (such as Maneuver and Signal). These centers train over 500,000 soldiers and service members each year. The Foreign Service on the other hand has 13,770 officers and specialists. Even if FSI trains all Foreign Service, Civil Service (10,023), EFMs (2,302) and local staff (51,148) every year (it doesn’t), the number of trainees would only amount to 77,243 (PDF). 

Of the four career ambassadors, one is in Foggy Bottom, one handles training (away from Foggy Bottom), one is a resident fellow at a university (away from Foggy Bottom), and one is overseas (away from Foggy Bottom). Perhaps, that’s where they all want to be?

We’re also curious — how many career diplomats have been appointed to lead the geographic bureaus or the functional bureaus of the State Department?

According to AFSA, among senior official appointments in the State Department, only 5 or 9.1% appointees are career folks. Political appointees make up 90.9% or 50 appointments in real numbers.

Of the 151 ambassador appointments, 80 or 53.0% are career appointees, and 71 or 47.0% are political appointees.

Holy swagger guacamole! Is this what reaffirmation of diplomatic expertise looks like?

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So @StateDept’s guidance is do whatever you want. EXCEPT fly the Pride Flag on the pole #PrideMonth

Help Fund the Blog Diplopundit 2019 — 60-Day Campaign from June 5, 2019 – August 5, 2019

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On May 17, 2018, Secretary Pompeo just three weeks into his tenure as secretary of state issued a statement on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.  This year, the State Department statement marking IDAHOT was noticeably missing.

We understand from a source on background that there was guidance circulated within the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) this past May saying that there will be no IDAHOT/Pride cable this year. The directive reportedly came from the 7th floor although it apparently also said, there is no change in policy, including on display of the Pride flag. “The best we can do is rely on last year’s cable and the statement that policy has not changed.”

The directive last year would have been sent by an Acting Under Secretary for Management as there was no confirmed “M” at the State Department since U/S Kennedy departed his position in January 2017.

On June 7, NBC News reported that the U.S. embassies in Israel, Germany, Brazil and Latvia have requested permission from the State Department to fly the rainbow pride flag on their flagpoles and have been denied, citing three unnamed U.S. diplomats.

On June 10, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told NBCNews that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “respects the dignity of every individual” but did not believe other flags should fly alongside the American flag at U.S. embassies.

In an interview with NBC News, VPOTUS said that the Trump administration had “put no restrictions” on the pride flag or other flags flying elsewhere at U.S. embassies. When pressed, he also said, “We both feel that way very passionately, but when it comes to the American flagpole, and American embassies, and capitals around the world, one American flag flies.”

Another official who is LGBT speaking on background told this blog that flying the Pride flag on the flag pole with the U.S. flag has always been controversial.  This same official told us that while he/she personally does not believe that they should fly the Pride flag on the flag pole, there are others who have cited the Flag Act to justify flying the pride flag:

4 U.S. Code § 7 – Position and manner of display
(f) When flags of States, cities, or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States, the latter should always be at the peak. When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last. No such flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the United States or to the United States flag’s right.

This same source indicated to us that his/her understanding was that the Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao has not approved flying the Pride Flag on the same staff as the U.S. flag at State Department federal buildings within the United States and overseas (Mr. Bulatao was officially sworn into office in late May). We were told that this process is usually done via a decision memo and that this year, there was no cable in or out;  which confirmed the circulated guidance reportedly from DRL in May. This official also told us that his/her understanding is that posts are free to display the pride flag everywhere and anywhere, or to light up embassies in the pride colors, or do anything else they want to mark Pride month.  EXCEPT fly the Pride Flag on the pole.

We should note that in previous years, some posts, not all, have marked Pride Month with a rainbow flag on the flagpole or hanging the rainbow flag on the side of the embassy building. Others participated in local pride parades, or lighting up the embassy in rainbow colors. Social media indicates that our overseas posts are marking Pride month in a similar manner (poles excepted) this year, but they have not/not been prevented from marking or celebrating the event (if post is preventing you from marking Pride Month, holler, please).

Also typically, on June 1st or within the first week of June, the Secretary of State also releases a statement marking LGBTI Pride Month. Pompeo did that last year on June 1st.  The year before that, his predecessor Rex Tillerson released a similar statement on June 7, 2018. This year, we’re still waiting for a similar statement from Secretary Pompeo; 18 days to go before the days of June runs out. Write faster, folks!

Here is the official spox addressing the “except on the pole” issue:

Related posts:

 

@StateDept to Establish a “Commission on Unalienable Rights”

 

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The Havana Syndrome in the News, and Some Questions For Foggy Bottom’s New “M”

 

The Havana Syndrome remains a mystery and a subject of interest. But the latest report via Buzzfeed suggests that “much of the early research into the mystery may have been botched or biased.”

The initial investigation was confined to two competing sets of researchers, both eager to publish studies on their own work, and whose findings have been at odds with each other. In one case, researchers were also seeking to promote their own newly approved medical device as a diagnostic tool. And until now, the effort has lacked broader oversight by an institution capable of cross-disciplinary research.

“The fundamental problem is you can’t trust anybody here,” said medical ethicist Sergio Litewka of the University of Miami, who has written about the political cloud of secrecy and distrust surrounding the diplomats’ injuries. “Not the US State Department and not the Cuban government.” (BuzzFeed has filed a lawsuit with the State Department requesting its communications related to the medical research into the injuries, after the agency denied a request for them on medical privacy and ongoing investigation grounds.)

Can somebody please ask the new “M” Brian Bulatao what’s his plan about this matter going forward?  Can an “America First” policy over everything afford to have this medical mystery just go unsolved? What happened to the Accountability Review Board reportedly convened by the former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The ARB process doesn’t stop when the secretary of state is fired via tweet, does it?  What happens to those affected? What happens to those affected who were not employed by the U.S. government (spouses and children)? What happens if those affected leave their jobs voluntarily or involuntarily?  What arrangements are made in terms of medical care? What’s the plan if a similar incident were to happen at another part of the globe?

We missed this 4-part report from Canada:

The Havana Syndrome, Part 3: Insiders say ordeal has ‘struck a nerve’ in Canada’s diplomatic community

The Havana Syndrome, Part 4: What it could be and how experts will try to crack the case

Secretary Pompeo Swears-In Brian Bulatao as Foggy Bottom’s New “M”

 

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo swears in Brian Bulatao as the new Under Secretary of State for Management with T. Ulrich Brechbühl, State Department Counselor in attendance at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on May 17, 2019. [State Department photo by Michael Gross/ Public Domain]

Now that the new under secretary for management has been confirmed, it’s a good time to revisit Mr. Bulatao’s testimony before the U.S. Senate (see excerpt below).

The culture of empowerment created greater organizational agility and a workforce that was unleashed to take on problem sets in new ways. I certainly didn’t come up with every idea, instead I empowered our team to consider how we could do it better, fail faster, and take smarter risks. Across the board, we embraced a spirit of innovation in order to boost the speed and precision of a large organization operating in a dangerous and competitive environment.

If confirmed as the Under Secretary for Management, this is the same approach I intend to bring to the U.S. Department of State. The Department’s hard-working, patriotic, and dedicated teams deserve to have an organization that optimally utilizes their talents. And the American people must have confidence that the State Department makes the best use of their resources and provides the best practical support for our diplomatic initiatives that rely on the strength of our alliances, partnerships, and engagement.

If confirmed, I appreciate the broad management responsibility I will have for the Department’s more than 76,000 personnel – Civil Service, Foreign Service, and Locally Employed Staff – and my direct supervision over 12 bureaus and offices. These women and men serve our country in some of the most challenging places around the world, and risk their lives daily, whether serving in war zones, amidst criminal violence and disease outbreaks, and with the threat of terrorist attack. They work long hours, often separated from their families, to advance our nation’s foreign policy and support the work of diplomacy.

There is no question that the safety and security of our personnel and their families must be the highest priority. I know Secretary Pompeo cares deeply about and works hard to protect his people.

I will ensure that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security has the resources, tools, and technology and is fully integrated into Department decision-making, to most effectively perform this critical task.

I will work hard to ensure our people have secure new buildings where required, that are completed on time, on budget, and incorporate cutting-edge IT infrastructure to support the critical missions they execute globally.

If confirmed, I will seek more creative ways to staff the Department to meet today’s mission and be well positioned to meet the challenges of the future. This will include hiring the full range of expertise, from our diplomats and subject-matter experts, to our specialists in the field like medical services and facilities management, to our security personnel. Hiring the best of the best with diverse backgrounds and experiences is critical to our global mission and will be a top priority for me.

I am committed to advocating for a budget that fully funds the Department’s requirements and putting in place the appropriate oversight and metrics to ensure the Department meets its obligation to use taxpayer dollars wisely and effectively. I will support Secretary Pompeo in requesting funding that serves the national interest and will implement the appropriations law as passed by Congress.

Finally, if confirmed, I will help bring Department operations into the 21st century by modernizing its systems and programs. With so many challenges facing the United States around the world, our diplomacy demands every logistical, technological, and informational advantage we can muster. We must be aggressive in protecting our security, generating prosperity, and advancing our values. Having a State Department team that is empowered and equipped with the right tools to achieve the mission is an integral part of making that happen.

The full testimony is available to read in PDF here.

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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.”