@StateDept’s Blackhole of Pain Inside the Bureau of Medical Services (MED)

Posted: 12:46 am  PT

 

We previously blogged about the ongoing problems encountered by Foreign Service families with special needs children when dealing with the State Department’s Bureau of Medical Services (MED) (see @StateDept’s Mental Health Services Drive Employees with Special Needs #FSKids Nuts).  Note that as employees prepare for the summer job rotation, MED will be reviewing the medical clearances of employees and family members in preparation for their transfer.  Whatever is the number that is now stuck in MED’s labyrinth, expect that number to go up with the upcoming rotations as kids with special needs are snared in the system that is supposed to help but instead has caused so much disruption and pain.

We understand that medical clearance decisions can be appealed to a panel of three doctors. But we’ve been informed that one of the three in this review panel is the reviewing officer of the the other two. We’d like to know how many cases that come before this review panel are decided in complete agreement by all panel members, and how many cases are decided by the two panel members against the decision of the third panel member/rating official? Perhaps something for the congressional oversight panels to look into? Or something to FOIA if this is going the class action route.

Congress should also look into State’s Medical Services perspective on risk. Would it surprise us all if State/MED doesn’t want to take any? State/MED’s mission is “to safeguard and promote the health and well-being of America’s diplomatic community.”  Does that mean keep everyone with the slightest issue inside the United States instead of sending them on overseas assignments? Bad things can happen just the same in the United States – but of course, MED won’t be responsible when employees are on domestic assignments. It is responsible once employees/family members are overseas. So again, what is State/MED’s perspective on risk, and how much does this inform its decision on the medical clearances issued to FS employees, spouses and their kids?

FP’s Robbie Gramer recently had a lengthy piece on FS families in State’s medical labyrinth. It is quite a read, and don’t miss the quotes.

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SFRC Clears Eric M. Ueland (M), and Peter H. Vrooman (Rwanda)

Posted: 3:37 am ET

 

On February 7, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the nomination of the next “M” and the career nominee as the next U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda:

  • Eric M. Ueland, of Oregon, to be an Under Secretary of State (Management), vice Patrick Francis Kennedy
  • Peter Hendrick Vrooman, of New York, 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 Rwanda.

Below is a clip from Mr. Ueland’s hearing from last fall:

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Tillerson’s #Redesign Gets Rebranded as “The Impact Initiative” or TII But Why Not TELII?

Posted: 4:01 am ET

 

Via Politico’s Nahal Toosi:

“State Department officials say that talk of closing down entire wings of the department has been replaced with narrower plans to upgrade technology and improve training. Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress have declared dead on arrival a Tillerson-supported White House plan to cut State’s budget by 30 percent.
[…]
State Department staffers expect to receive an update as early as this week on a new phase in Tillerson’s organizational plans, according to senior department official. Out is the term “redesign” — which spawned confusion, dissent and leaks. The new stage is being called “The Impact Initiative,” which will implement changes that Tillerson has deemed achievable priorities in the face of bureaucratic and congressional hurdles. (Tillerson aides insist he’s not rebranding the overall effort, just moving from the poorly named “redesign” phase, which gathered ideas, to a new one that implements them.)
[…]
The senior State Department official said Tillerson also is planning to select someone to oversee the Impact Initiative but declined to say whom. (The Impact Initiative is shorthand for a longer moniker that Tillerson, an engineer by training, signed off on: “Leadership + Modernization = Greater Mission Impact.”)

Oh, dear, that longer moniker was worth the brainstorming.

Let’s see if they’re going to insist on hiring another outside overseer who will stick around for three exciting months.

Tillerson’s aides may not call TII or “The Impact Initiative” a rebranding effort but who are they actually kidding, pray tell?  TII can also be called ‘Tillerson Impact Initiative’ and they can even keep the same acronym, hey?!  It is what it is, a rebranding effort because very few are buying what they’re selling.

Actually, we’re curious why no one came up with calling this TELII or ‘The Employee-Led Impact Initiative.” Or ‘The Agile Employee Impact Initiative’ (TAEII). Or why settle with “greater” and not just call this ‘The Greatest Mission Impact Initiative’ (TGMII)?

Take it, it’s free. You’re welcome!

Tillerson will reportedly testify about the status of this new TII before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the end of February. Help us contain our excitement, please.

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Senators Seek Review/Analysis of @StateDept and @USAID Sexual Harassment and Assault Data

Posted: 2:29 am ET

 

U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Ranking Member of the SFRC Subcommittee on State Department and USAID Management, led the Committee’s Democrats in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and USAID Administrator Mark Green on January 17, requesting a review and analysis of data to better understand the scope of sexual harassment and assault issues at the Department and Agency, in order to consider appropriate policy changes to address the problems.

ABOUT TIME.

Note that back in September 2016,  this blog wanted to know the statistics on sexual assault in the Foreign Service, specifically in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2003. We were also interested in overall statistics on sexual assault in the Foreign Service worldwide, during the last 10 years. We did not ask for names, only numbers. We simply asked for an accounting of sexual assault reports since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to the present, and the worldwide number of reports spanning over 280 overseas posts in the last 10 years. We were sure the data must be available somewhere. How could it not?

This was the State Department’s official response at that time:

“The Office of Special Investigations receives and catalogues allegations and complaints. Allegations are neither categorized by location nor by alleged offense.”

That remains a shocking response.

Without looking at their data by location and offense, or for that matter by individuals accused, how is the State Department to know when there are serial offenders in its ranks? (See The State Dept’s Sexual Assault Reporting Procedure Appears to Be a Black Hole of Grief).

In its 4th Quarter 2017 report for period ending September 30, 2017, the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) does have some information on Equal Employment Opportunity Data required by the No Fear Act.  The public report indicates that reprisal is the number one complaint by basis in FY2017.  Non-sexual harassment went from 72 complaints in 2016 to 103 at the end of FY2017. The comparative report notes 3 complaints of sexual harassment in 2016 and 6 complaints at end of FY2017.

The average number of days in investigation? 207.17 days.

Total Findings of Discrimination after a hearing for sexual harassment? Zero. In 2012.

Also zero in 2013, in 2014, in 2015, in 2016, and through the end of FY2017. Zero.

Apparently, S/OCR does not also count cases reversed by the EEOC like that 2016 case where S/OCR did not find sexual harassment but where the EEOC decided that the complainant was indeed subjected to sexual harassment and ordered the State Department to take remedial actions (see @StateDept to Hold “Harassment in the Workplace” Session But First, Read This FSI Sexual Harassment Case).

S/OCR was recently a presenter in a State Department Q&A session “Should I Report That? How (and when) to Report Workplace Conflict, Harassment & Bias in the Department”.

To read more about our previous posts on sexual assault, click here; for sexual harassment, click here.

Below is the text of the letter to Secretary Tillerson and USAID Administrator Mark Green:

We write to draw to your attention the November 28, 2017 letter signed by over 200 national security professionals who have served, often with distinction, in the State Department, the intelligence community, USAID, and the Pentagon about their experiences of (or serving as witnesses to) incidents of sexual harassment or sexual assault inside our national security bureaucracies.

This letter speaks to what we believe remains a critical issue that too many of our national security institutions have been too slow to address: sexual assault and harassment and its effects on the professionalism and effective functioning of those institutions. These incidents and the pervasive culture that all too frequently excuses these behaviors and actions have had serious and detrimental consequences for the careers and lives of those affected – and by depriving the United States of the service of some of our best and brightest, a deep and negative effect on our national security.

To better address this issue, we would urge you to provide the Foreign Relations Committee a review of your current methods for data collection, oversight, reporting structure, victim protections, analysis and anti-sexual harassment training, including employee feedback on these mechanisms and how they are being implemented. In our oversight capacity, we hope to work with you, to review and analyze the data to better understand the scope of the problem we confront as we consider appropriate policy changes to address it.

The November 28 letter contends that training is all too often “erratic” and “irregular,” and that policies often go unnoticed among staff. In our experiences serving on the oversight committee with responsibilities for the Department of State and USAID we concur with this contention. We would urge that you pay special attention to whether anti-harassment training is adequate, how it is implemented, and how it is enforced, in your respective reviews. We also urge you to examine your procedures for disciplinary actions to ensure that those who demonstrate improper behavior are held accountable for their actions.

The letter also calls for a number of reforms including a clear indication that national security leadership will not tolerate certain behavior, ensuring the full accessibility and functioning of “multiple, clear, private” channels to report abuse without fear of retribution, and ensuring sufficiently regular, mandatory, and instructive training for employees and contractors. We would be interested in your thoughts and comments on these potential areas for reform.

We also urge that you each take the opportunity to work with us to determine what additional resources are necessary to ensure that each report and allegation receives proper attention, that your offices are collecting all the relevant data, that cases are addressed in a timely and confidential fashion, and that training is fully implemented across the State and USAID workforce.

At a moment in our country when we are being reminded anew of the scope and challenge of sexual harassment in the workplace, we are rededicating ourselves here in the Senate to addressing this issue in our own ranks. The Legislative branch faces similar challenges and that while we work to address them, we expect the same from executive branch agencies. For our part, in addition to exploring appropriate oversight and legislative action to ensure that you have the resources and focus that you need to address these issues, we also intend to place additional emphasis on these issues in the confirmation process. We intend to ensure that nominees live up to the highest standards of behavior, and will seek commitments regarding how they intend to address sexual harassment and assault if they are confirmed.

Lastly, we note that the abuses, harassment and assaults noted in the November 28 letter are enabled by an environment in which the diversity of our nation – one of our “secret weapons” and competitive advantages as a nation – is not reflected in the national security workforce. This is especially true at the senior levels. At the State Department, for example, women and men enter the Foreign Service in roughly comparable numbers, but only about one-third of our senior Foreign Service Officers are women. Although women comprise a majority of the Civil Service, the Senior Executive Service remains 61% male and 89% white. Similarly disturbing trends come to light when analyzing the salaries, bonuses and expectations of workplace behavior amongst men and women working in national security roles. We still have a long way to go on gender equality in the national security workforce, and encourage you to share with us as well your vision for how you plan to address deficiencies in recruitment, retention and promotion to assure that your national security workforce is equitably balanced.

The members of our national security workforce should not be forced to spend their time and energy combatting harassment and a culture of tolerance for disrespectful behavior. Rather, they should be free to focus on what they do best – working to keep our nation safe. And we know from numerous studies that a more diverse workforce leads to better outcomes. A 2015 McKinsey study found that a more diverse workforce is more successful through improved decision-making, leadership, and financial progress. We know that to be true in the private sector and we know that to be true for government as well.

Mindful that there are myriad challenges and opportunities to better address sexual harassment in the workplace we do not seek nor do we expect you to develop a cookie-cutter approach to these issues. Rather, we call on you to respect the dignity of each member of our national security workforce by ensuring an environment in which each individual is capable of fully contributing his or her talents to our national security, without obstruction.

The original text of letter is posted here.

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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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White House Sends @StateDept Renominations to the Senate

Posted: 3:15 am ET
 

 

On January 2, we blogged about the Senate requiring the renominations of State Department nominees stalled in 2017 (see Senate Requires the Renomination of @StateDept Nominees Stalled in 2017). On January 8, the White House sent the following State Department nominations back to the Senate:

AMBASSADORS

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

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

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.  

STATE DEPARTMENT

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

Stephen Akard, of Indiana, to be Director General of the Foreign Service, vice Arnold A. Chacon, resigned.

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

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), vice Daniel R. Russel.

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

It looks like everyone caught in limbo in the Senate in 2017 have been renominated except for one.  We have not been able to locate the renomination of Jay Patrick Murray who was nominated Alternate Representative for UNGA. Unless that renomination shows up at a later time …  that nomination is probably dead.

2018-01-03 PN410 Department of State | 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. Returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate.

2018-01-03 PN409 Department of State | 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. Returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate.

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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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11/30 SFRC Hearings: Braithwaite, Trujillo, Bierman, and McClenny

Posted: 2:45 am ET

 

Prepared statements and the confirmation hearing video will be posted here when available.

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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.

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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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