Trump Renominates Nominee Who Believes The Bahamas Is … Um, a U.S. Protectorate

Posted: 3:49 am ET

 

Trump’s nominee to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas Papa Doug Manchester has been renominated on January 8.  During his confirmation hearing last year, he was asked about the comments he made to the SFRC staffers. Apparently, he thinks that the Bahamas is a U.S. protectorate.  How did we miss this howler last year? When asked about this by Senator Menendez during the Senate hearing, he responded, “We’ll certainly for all intents and purposes we believe that it is a protectorate …”

Local media The Tribune reported last year that the comments “received immediate push back from former Foreign Affairs Minister and current Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate Fred Mitchell, who slammed them as “patently offensive”.  But apparently, the current Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield said he was still “enthused” by the opportunity to work with the nominee, and n an interview with The Tribune, Mr. Henfield reportedly called for “understanding and reasoning” in the wake of Mr Manchester’s controversial comments when he called The Bahamas a “protectorate.”

Then there’s this Q&A on his LGBT record:

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Senate Requires the Renomination of @StateDept Nominees Stalled in 2017

Posted: 11:12 am PT
Updated: Dec 4, 2017 | 12:57 pm PT
Updated: Jan 8, 2018 | 7:50 PT -we missed the Poblete nomination in our original post.

 

Last month, we blogged about the nominations that were listed on the Executive Calendar but received no action from the Senate when the Senators left town for the holidays (see Confirmations: McClenny, Braithwaite, Ford, Newstead, Waters, Brock). It now looks like the Senate requires the renomination of almost two about a hundred nominees including the State Department nominees who were not confirmed last year (military nominees remain in status quo and need not have to be renominated).  We should know very soon which of these nominations will get a new life, and which ones are dead.

CNN has additional reporting on this, with a quote below from the White House on the renomination. As of Jan 4, the WH has yet to make any public statement on the renominations:

Nominees who are not confirmed by the end of the Senate session must receive unanimous approval from the chamber to be carried over for consideration in the next session. Any one senator can object to carrying them forward. Nominations not approved are returned to the White House and those nominees must then be re-nominated if they are to proceed.  Murray’s nomination was not held over to the next session, according to a full list of nominees sent back to the White House released by the Senate on Tuesday. Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesperson, declined to say specifically if Murray would be re-nominated.  “This is a standard paperwork practice due to long-established Senate rules, and we will proceed as necessary with re-nominations in January,” Gidley wrote in an email.

Per Senate Executive Calendar dated January 2, 2018:

Suspension of Rule XXXI

Ordered, That all nominations received by the Senate during the 115th Congress, first session, remain in status quo notwithstanding the provisions of Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 (pdf), of the Standing Rules of the Senate, with the exception of the following nominations:

AMBASSADORS

Doug Manchester, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas;

Kathleen Troia McFarland, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Singapore;

Samuel Dale Brownback, of Kansas, to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom;

Richard Grenell, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Germany;

James Randolph Evans, of Georgia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Luxembourg;

STATE DEPARTMENT

Eric M. Ueland, of Oregon, to be an Under Secretary of State (Management);

Stephen Akard, of Indiana, to be Director General of the Foreign Service;

Yleem D. S. Poblete, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance);

Susan A. Thornton, of Maine, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister- Counselor, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (East Asian and Pacific Affairs). (Dec. 21, 2017.)

Yleem D. S. Poblete, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance). 

FOREIGN SERVICE

Kenneth W. MacLean, Foreign Service;

Tanya S. Urquieta, Foreign Service;

David A. Ashford, Foreign Service;

David Charles Miller, Foreign Service;

Five nominations, beginning with Michael Ashkouri, and ending with Omar Robles, Foreign Service;

UNITED NATIONS

Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations;

Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, during his tenure of service as Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations;

 

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Confirmations: McClenny, Braithwaite, Ford, Newstead, Waters, Brock

Posted: 12:12 am ET

 

The U.S. Senate is now adjourned for the year and will next meet for legislative business at 12:00 p.m on Wednesday, January 3, 2018. For a list of nominees pending on the Executive Calendar but received no action from the Senate, see “Pending Nominations” below.

The following executive nominations were approved before the Senators raced out of town on December 21:

AMBASSADORS:

Executive Calendar #526M. Lee McClenny, of Washington, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of Paraguay.

Executive Calendar #525Kenneth J. Braithwaite, of Pennsylvania, to be Ambassador of the Untied States of America to the Kingdom of Norway.

STATE DEPARTMENT

Executive Calendar #530Christopher Ashley Ford, of Maryland, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (International Security and Non-Proliferation).

12/19: Confirmation of Executive Calendar #430, Jennifer Gillian Newstead, to be Legal Adviser of the Department of State; confirmed: 88-11.

12/12: Confirmed Executive Calendar #356, Mary Kirtley Waters, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Legislative Affairs)

USAID

Executive Calendar #528Brock D. Bierman, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

PENDING NOMINATIONS

The following nominations are listed on the Executive Calendar but received no action from the Senate when the Senators left town on for the holidays. We don’t know at this time if these nominations will be considered in January, if these nominees have to be renominated by the White House with the process starting from scratch, or if some of these nominations are dead.

Dec 05, 2017 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Yleem D. S. Poblete, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance), vice Frank A. Rose.

Eric M. Ueland, of Oregon, to be an Under Secretary of State (Management), vice Patrick Francis Kennedy.

James Randolph Evans, of Georgia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Luxembourg.

Oct 26, 2017 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Richard Grenell, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Germany.

Samuel Dale Brownback, of Kansas, to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, vice David Nathan Saperstein, resigned.

Sep 19, 2017 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Doug Manchester, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

Kathleen Troia McFarland, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Singapore.

Aug 03, 2017 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.

Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, during his tenure of service as Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations.

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SFRC Clears Ueland, Ford, Poblete, Evans, Braithwaite, McClenny, Bierman, and More

Posted: 3:28 am ET

 

Several State Department nominees were cleared by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, December 5.

STATE DEPARTMENT

Mr. Eric M. Ueland, of Oregon, to be Under Secretary of State (Management)

Mr. Christopher Ashley Ford, of Maryland, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (International Security and Non-Proliferation)

Ms. Yleem D.S. Poblete, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance)

AMBASSADORS

Mr. James Randolph Evans, of Georgia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Luxembourg

Rear Admiral Kenneth J. Braithwaite USN(ret), of Pennsylvania, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Norway

Mr. M. Lee McClenny, of Washington, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Paraguay

USAID

Mr. Brock D. Bierman, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development

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Old SFRC reports | The following were nominations that previously cleared the SFRC but have yet to get a full Senate vote. The published Senate calendar indicates that it will be in session until Sunday, December 17, and then it will be on a scheduled non-legislative period from December 18-31, 2017.

Oct 26, 2017 | Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Richard Grenell, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Germany.

Samuel Dale Brownback, of Kansas, to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, vice David Nathan Saperstein, resigned.

Jennifer Gillian Newstead, of New York, to be Legal Adviser of the Department of State, vice Brian James Egan, resigned.

Sep 28, 2017 | Placed on the Calendar pursuant to S.Res. 116, 112th Congress.

Mary Kirtley Waters, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Legislative Affairs), vice Julia Frifield.

Sep 19, 2017 | Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Doug Manchester, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

Kathleen Troia McFarland, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Singapore.

Aug 03, 2017 | Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.

Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, during his tenure of service as Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations.

A note on the McFarland nomination as U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. As best we could tell, there is no official hold on this nomination in the latest Senate digest but CNN has reported that the Democrats have placed a hold on this nomination until she answers their questions. Whether or not she will be called back to the SFRC before the Senate breaks for the holidays depends on Senator Corker.

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GOP Tax Plan Includes Major Headaches For Homeowners #CallCongress

Posted: 3:28 am ET
Updated: 2:01 pm PT

 

Update: Tax Reform and the Foreign Service via afsa.org:

Several AFSA members have expressed concern that the House of Representatives version of the pending tax reform bill would impose a capital gains tax that could exceed $35,000 on anyone who sells their primary residence without having physically lived there for five out of the previous eight years. 

The good news is that, after Congress adopted the current two-in-five-year rule in the early 2000s, AFSA joined with groups representing members of the U.S. military in securing passage of a law in 2003 that extended the qualifying period by up to 10 years for a taxpayer who is away from their primary residence on a Foreign Service, military, or intelligence community assignment. The current House bill does not change that special provision. 

If the House provision becomes law, the 10-year extension for Foreign Service members would remain. Thus, the new five-out-of-eight-year rule would be a five-out-of-eighteen-year rule for Foreign Service members serving away from their primary residence.

If you may need to take advantage of this special treatment, please learn more about it in AFSA’s annual Tax Guide which is updated and printed every January in The Foreign Service Journal and on the AFSA website. Additional information is in IRS Publication 523 (page 5 in the current 2016 edition). The actual law is in Section 121 of the IRS code (26 USC 121).

AFSA would like to highlight the role of our then-Director of Congressional Relations Ken Nakamura, who was instrumental in securing the 2003 law affording special treatment for the Foreign Service. Since then, hundreds of AFSA members have each saved tens of thousands of dollars in taxes when they sold their primary residence after an extended period of overseas service. Your AFSA dues make possible victories such as this one.

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Tax lawyer/lobbyist and friend of a friend who is highly engaged on the Hill on both tax bills asked that we pass on this alert for homeowners:

A provision in the House tax bill (H.R. 1) could cost us $100,000 in capital gains taxes when we sell our houses.  Under current law, a homeowner filing jointly is allowed to exclude the first $500,000 of gain on the sale of a principal residence.  The House bill deletes the current law’s $500,000 exclusion of gain from the sale of a principal residence.  The Senate bill only lengthens the holding period from 5 years to 8 years, but retains the $500,000 exclusion.

The two bills will be reconciled in the next two weeks or so. I urge you to contact House and Senate tax writers asking them to adopt the Senate bill’s approach.  The most important person to contact is your home state Senator and your own Representative in the House.  

U.S. Senators – Get contact information for your Senators in the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Representatives – Find the website and contact information for your Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives

In addition, you can call the office and leaving a message or, in some circumstances, sending emails to the following key decision makers:

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady:  Phone: (202) 225-4901

House Speaker Paul Ryan:  https://paulryan.house.gov/contact/email.htm email him or call his office to leave a message of concern at his Washington office (202) 225-3031.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:  https://www.mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contactform and fill out the form or call his Washington office at (202) 224-2541

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch:  (202) 224-5251 or please call (202-224-4515), fax a letter to (202-228-0554).

Here is a Sample Message:  I oppose the repeal of the $500,000 exclusion for gain from the sale of a principal residence in the House Tax bill (H.R.1).  The $100,000 tax imposed by that repeal is important for my retirement, my family, and my ability to move to a new job in another location.  There is no tax reduction in the bill that will offset that tax cost.  The Senate version is better, and should be substituted for the House repeal.

It takes time and effort, but we understand that calls and emails coming from outside Washington, D.C. play an important role in this process.

You may review the text of H.R. 1 here; use the browser’s find function to see details under SEC. 1302. MORTGAGE INTEREST.

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USAID’s Job Cancellations Raise Questions About Its Staffing Future and Operations

Posted: 2:58 am ET

 

In early November, we blogged about USAID’s cancellation of all pre-employment offers for all USAID Foreign Service officer positions (see USAID Marks 56th Birthday With Job Cancellations For 97 “Valued Applicants”).

That cancellation email was sent on Tuesday, October 24, to all candidates that had received pre-employment offers.  We understand that FSO positions are advertised by technical “backstops.” This process is lengthy (1-2 years from application to start date) and expensive for the agency. So USAID has now revoked the pre-employment offers for all FSO candidates of multiple backstops.

Why is this expensive?  For those in the pre-employment stage, USAID had already paid for their recruitment, interviews, medical clearances, and security clearances. USAID pre-employment offers are conditional on medical and security clearances. In the past, candidates that complete both clearances join the next incoming C3 class, USAID’s equivalent to the State Department’s A-100 class for officers. We understand that the last C3 class was prior to the new Administration assuming office in January 2017.

So here are a few questions we received in this blog:

  • Is this part of the redesign strategy to merge State and USAID?
  • Given the lengthy and expensive application process, is USAID not planning to hire ANY new FSOs for another year, or two, or more?
  • This USAID decision seem to go against the spirit of the Senate’s September 7 proposed Foreign Operations Appropriations (PDF). Is this raising alarm bells for those interested in maintaining the staffing and operations of USAID?

Perhaps not alarm bells at the moment, but it has attracted congressional interests.  On November 9, the Senate Foreign Relations Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD) sent this letter to USAID Administrator Mark Green requesting that he “immediately reverse this misguided decision”, and provide responses to several questions by Thursday, November 22. The letter notes:

Nearly ten years ago Congress challenged USAID to boost the capacity and expertise of its Foreign Service by authorizing the Development Leadership Initiative (DLI) from 2008 –2012. By authorizing the DLI, Congress made clear that having a capable and strong Foreign Service at USAID is essential for a successful foreign policy and national security approach. USAID’s decision to turn away seasoned development experts from the Foreign Service severely undermines U.S. foreign policy and national security goals. It is my understanding that USAlD’s internal guidance on the hiring freeze exempted any position “necessary to meet national security (including foreign relations) responsibilities.” It is difficult to believe that many of these Foreign Service positions do not meet the exemption threshold.

Senator Cardin also wanted the following questions answered:

  • Why is a hiring freeze still in place. and when does USAID expect to lift it?
  • Has USAID qualified any of these positions as national security related, and if so, why did USAID not grant exemptions to the freeze for these positions?
  • How many positions within USAID are exclusively for Foreign Service candidates? How many Foreign Service applicants has USAID accepted in 2017?
  • What does USAID mean that the positions were “cancelled”?
  • Do applicants for these USAID Foreign Service positions have the option to accept a non-Foreign Service post until the hiring freeze is lifted, and will it count towards any Foreign Service requirement or credit they may be pursuing as part of their Foreign Service career?
  • How many exemptions to the hiring freeze has the Agency made to date, both for Foreign Service and non-Foreign Service posts within the Agency?
  • How many open Foreign Service Limited positions are considered exempt from the hiring freeze. and can some ofthose positions be filled by some of the Foreign Service applicants who received the November 1, 2017 notice?
  • Will applicants who received the November 1. 2017 notice be permitted to apply for future foreign service assignments without restarting, from the beginning, the lengthy foreign service application process?
  • How many positions were ultimately created by the Development Leadership Initiative, and how many of those were subsequently “cancelled”?
Previously, on November 1, Ranking Member Nita Lowey of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs asked USAID Administrator Mark Green during a Subcommittee hearing to explain the job cancellationc.  It does not sound from Mr. Green’s response as if he understood the question or aware that jobs for candidates with pre-employment offers had been cancelled. “We’ve not eliminated positions, we’re still on a hiring freeze,” he said, but the federal hiring freeze has long been lifted; the one remaining is Tillerson’s hiring freeze. USAID is a separate agency, or maybe in practice, despite the absence of a “merge”, it’s not separate from State anymore. Administrator Green also said, “We’ve asked for an exception for this class and it was denied”, a response that appears to conflate the job cancellations in late October with an early 2017 USAID request to start a new class.
Click on image below to link to the video of the hearing starting at 1:24:10
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America’s “Newspaper of Record” Calls Rex Tillerson Ill-Suited As Secretary of State, Ouchy!

Posted: 2:14 am ET

 

NYT’s editorial of November 18, not only called Mr. Tillerson ill-suited as secretary of state, it also cited the 69th secretary of state’s “limited ambitions.”

One GOP senator John Cornyn still thinks Mr. Tillerson is “doing a great job”.  Early this year, the senior senator from Texas introduced Rex Tillerson before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as “uniquely qualified to serve in this important office.”

AND NOW THIS —

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Senators Issue Bipartisan Concern Over Tillerson’s Management of @StateDept

Posted: 12:37 am ET

 

On November 14, we heard  SFRC Senators Corker and Cardin expressed clear dissatisfaction with the information they received from the State Department concerning the ongoing reorganization.

On November 15, Senators Shaheen and McCain wrote to Mr. Tillerson expressing concern over the continued hiring freeze and the depletion of the career corps.  The Shaheen-McCain letter include three requests:

1)  Consult with Congress prior to implementing any additional measures that could   potentially have long-term impacts on the recruitment, staffing and retention of State Department personnel.

2)  Remove the arbitrary hiring freeze on both lateral transfers and the intake of new Foreign Service and Civil Service officers to maintain a smooth, predictable flow of new talent.

3)  Resume promotions for the best and the brightest to avoid losing our top officers.

The State Department’s non-partisan Foreign Service and Civil Service career professionals represent a unique national asset that belongs to all Americans. They are America’s front line, promoting our safety, security and prosperity, often in difficult and dangerous places. Their expertise, carefully cultivated over decades, is an integral part of our government’s national security architecture. While we support reasonable steps to improve the efficiency of the State Department, such efforts must be fully transparent, with the objective of enhancing, not diminishing, American diplomacy.

Full letter after the fold.

Continue reading

SFRC Clears Gonzales (Lesotho), Johnson (Namibia), Goldstein (R) and Lawler (Protocol)

Posted: 12:10 am ET

 

On Tuesday, November 14, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) held a business meeting to consider several items on their agenda including over half a dozen State Department nominations.  The panel held over the nomination of  Eric M. Ueland, of Oregon, to be Under Secretary of State  for Management. Senator Corker on video said that the nomination will be taken up the next business meeting, but there is no announced date at this time. This announcement was made at the 24.00 mark of this video after Senator Corker said that they had a very unsatisfactory meeting with the State Department regarding the reorganization, and that they need to do more to hold the agency accountable.

The SFRC cleared the following nominees:

Ms. Rebecca Eliza Gonzales, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Lesotho

Ms. Lisa A. Johnson, of Washington, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Namibia

Mr. Irwin Steven Goldstein, of New York, to be Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy

Mr. Sean P. Lawler, of Maryland, to be Chief of Protocol, and to have the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service

The panel also cleared the following list:

FSO LIST

Lisa-Felicia Afi Akorli, et al., dated November 1, 2017 (PN 1199)

John R. Bass, II, et al., dated November 1, 2017 (PN 1200)

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American Academy of Diplomacy Opposes Nomination of Stephen Akard as @StateDept Personnel Chief

Posted: 2:10 am ET
Follow @Diplopundit

 

In a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Bob Corker and Ranking Member Ben Cardin, released publicly on October 30, the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD) requests that the senators oppose the nomination of Stephen Akard to be Director General of the Foreign Service:

The American Academy of Diplomacy requests that you oppose the nomination of Stephen Akard to serve as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the State Department. We have concluded that voicing our concerns with Mr. Akard’s nomination is required if the Academy is to meet its most important mission: to promote and protect America’s interests in a dangerous world by supporting an effective American diplomacy based on a strong Foreign Service and a strong Civil Service.

It looks like the AAD requested to meet with the nominee but had not been successful. The letter authored by former senior diplomats Ambassadors Tom Pickering and Ronald Neumann on behalf of the group says about Mr. Akard, “We hold no personal animus toward him.”  But added that ” … we have concluded that Mr. Akard lacks the necessary professional background to be the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the State Department. His confirmation would be contrary to Congress’s long standing intent and desire to create a professional American diplomatic service based on merit.

The letter further adds: “While Mr. Akard is technically eligible for the position, to confirm someone who had less than a decade in the Foreign Service would be like making a former Army Captain the Chief of Staff of the Army, the equivalent of a four-star general.”

The full letter is available to read here (pdf).

We’ve previously blogged about the Akard appointment on October 17 (see Trump’s Pick For @StateDept Personnel Chief Gets the Ultimate “Stretch” Assignment).

With the exception of noting this nomination on Twitter, and separately urging FS members “to embrace their roles as stewards of the institution”, we have not seen any public position on this nomination by the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the professional association and labor union of the Foreign Service since 1924.

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