@StateDept’s Aviation Program Down to Just 206 Aircraft, Also Spends $72M on Unnecessary Services

Per 2 FAM 800: INL/A serves as the Departments aviation service provider (with the exception of aircraft charters managed by A/LM/OPS for logistics support of nonrecurring and unpredictable requirements like oddly-sized shipments, evacuations and other emergency assistance to Posts) and is coordinator of all aviation related to AGB [Aviation Governing Board] approved acquisitions.  INL/A is responsible for complying with the provisions of this chapter as well as OMB Circulars A-126, A-76, A-11, and A-94 and Federal Management Regulation 10233. Additionally, as part of the Departments Management Control Plan (see 2 FAM 020), INL/A must establish cost-effective management control systems to ensure that aviation programs are managed effectively, efficiently, economically, and with integrity.

Excerpt below via State/OIG:  Audit of the Department of State’s Administration of its Aviation Program (Sept 2018).

The Department is not consistently administering its aviation program in accordance with Federal requirements or Department guidelines. Specifically, OIG found instances in which significant aviation operations were undertaken without the knowledge or approval of the AGB, which is required by Department policy. In addition, the AGB is not fulfilling its responsibilities to evaluate the usage and cost effectiveness of aircraft services, as required by Office of Management and Budget Circulars and Department guidance. Furthermore, INL administer ed country-specific aviation programs differently depending on whether a post used the worldwide aviation support services contract. As a result of limited AGB oversight and the absence of evaluations to determine the appropriate usage and cost effectiveness of the Department’s aircraft operations worldwide, the Department is not optimally managing aviation resources and spent $72 million on unnecessary services from September 2013 to August 2017.

Snapshot: The Department’s aviation program was created in 1976 to support narcotics interdiction and drug crop eradication programs. The aviation program has since grown to a fleet of 206 aircraft and aviation operations that extend from South America to Asia and include transportation services for chief of mission personnel. In 2016, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the Department owned more aircraft than any other non-military agency and was one of three agencies with the most “non-operational” aircraft. At the time of GAO’s analysis, the Department had 248 aircraft; the Department has since decreased that number to 206. As shown in Figure 1, as of January 2018, the aircraft inventory included airplanes (fixed-wing), helicopters (rotary-wing), and unmanned aircraft.

As of January 2018, the Department had aviation operating bases overseas in five countries —Colombia, Peru, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq —and a support base at Patrick Air Force Base located in Melbourne, FL. The Department closed aviation programs in Cyprus and Pakistan during 2017. The Department plans to re-open an operating base in Guatemala. In addition, the Department has two dedicated chartered aircraft located in Cartersville,GA, and Nairobi, Kenya.

The Department’s Aviation Governing Board (AGB) is responsible for providing oversight of aviation activities, including approving policies, budgets, and strategic plans. The AGB was established in 2011. It is chaired by the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and has three other voting members—the Assistant Secretaries (or designees) from the Bureaus of Diplomatic Security, South and Central Asian Affairs, and Near Eastern Affairs.

INL/A consists of approximately 60 Civil Service personnel and 13 personal services contractors. To carry out the Department’s aircraft operations, maintenance, and logistics for the country-specific aviation programs, INL/A administers and oversees a worldwide aviation support services contract that provides a contract workforce of more than 1,500 personnel. According to an INL/A official, starting November 1, 2017, DynCorp International began its fifth extension of a $4.9 billion worldwide aviation services contract.

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Snapshot: NIV Adjudications For Student and Exchange Visitor Visas, FY2012-2017

Via GAO:

NIV adjudications for student and exchange visitor visas decreased by about 2 percent from fiscal years 2012 through 2017 (1.01 million to 993,000) overall, but experienced a peak in fiscal year 2015 of 1.2 million.

State officials partly attributed the overall changes in student and exchange visitor visa adjudications to the extension of the validity period of such visas for Chinese nationals, which represented the largest single country of nationality for student and exchange visitor visas in fiscal year 2017 (19 percent). In November 2014, the United States extended the validity period of the F visa for academic students from 1 year to 5 years. State officials noted that similar to tourist and business visitor visas, there was an initial surge in Chinese F-visa applicants due to the new 5-year F-visa validity period that began in fiscal year 2015, but the number dropped subsequently because Chinese students with such 5-year visas no longer needed to apply as frequently for F visas. State data for this time period indicate that the number of visa adjudications for F visas for Chinese nationals increased from about 267,000 in fiscal year 2014 to 301,000 in fiscal year 2015, followed by a decline of 172,000 in fiscal year 2016 and 134,000 in fiscal year 2017.

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Oh, don’t forget to give this a read. WH considered ban for Chinese students? They make up 19% of all student visas issued in FY2017.

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Snapshot: Nonimmigrant Visa (NIV) Refusals/Issuances FY2012-2017

Via GAO:

The percentage of NIVs refused—known as the refusal rate—increased from fiscal years 2012 through 2016, and was about the same in fiscal year 2017 as the previous year. As shown in figure 8, the NIV refusal rate rose from about 14 percent in fiscal year 2012 to about 22 percent in fiscal year 2016, and remained about the same in fiscal year 2017; averaging about 18 percent over the time period. As a result, the total number of NIVs issued peaked in fiscal year 2015 at about 10.89 million, before falling in fiscal years 2016 and 2017 to 10.38 million and 9.68 million, respectively.

 

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Snapshot: Top 15 Recipients of U.S. Foreign Assistance, FY2019 Request

Via CRS: Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs: FY2019 Budget and Appropriations | April 18, 2018 – August 9, 2018:

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@StateDept Requests $246.2M For Tillerson’s “Redesign” Project Implementation #FY2019

Via CRS: Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs: FY2019 Budget and Appropriations | April 18, 2018 – August 9, 2018:

The State Department is requesting $246.2 million for FY2019 to implement the Leadership and Modernization Impact Initiative (hereinafter, the Impact Initiative). The Impact Initiative constitutes the implementation phase of the State Department’s “Redesign” project. Former Secretary Tillerson initiated the redesign in 2017 to implement Executive Order 13781 and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Memorandum M-17-22, which aim to “improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the executive branch.”53

The Impact Initiative constitutes 16 keystone modernization projects in three focus areas: Modernizing Information Technology and Human Resources Operations; Modernizing Global Presence, and Creating and Implementing Policy; and Improving Operational Efficiencies (see Table 5). According to the State Department, these focus areas and modernization projects are derived from the results of the listening tour that former Secretary Tillerson launched in May 2017, which included interviews conducted with approximately 300 individuals that the department said comprised a representative cross-section of its broader workforce, and a survey completed by 35,000 department personnel that asked them to discuss the means they use to help complete the department’s mission and obstacles they encounter in the process.

Of the $246.2 million requested, $150.0 million is requested from the IT Central Fund (which is funded through funds appropriated by Congress to the Capital Investment Fund account and, separately, expedited passport fees) and $96.2 million from the D&CP account to implement modernization projects. Proceeds from the IT Central Fund are intended to implement projects focused on IT, including modernizing existing IT infrastructure, systems, and applications based on a roadmap to be created in FY2018 and centralizing management of all WiFi networks. Funds from the D&CP account are intended to implement modernization projects focusing on Human Resources issues, including leadership development, management services consolidation, data analytics, and workforce readiness initiatives. Given the multiyear timeframe of some of the Impact Initiative modernization projects, the Administration is likely to request additional funds for implementation in forthcoming fiscal years.

Neither the House nor the Senate committee bills or reports specifically mention the Impact Initiative by name. However, both the House and Senate committee bills include provisions that, if enacted, would prohibit the Department of State from using appropriated funds to implement a reorganization without prior consultation, notification, and reporting to Congress.54 The Senate committee bill explicitly provides that no funds appropriated for SFOPs may be used to “downsize, downgrade, consolidate, close, move, or relocate” the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.55

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Snapshot: Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Org Structure (As of Nov 2017)

Posted: 3:38 am ET

 

Via State/OIG:

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Snapshot: Foreign Service and Civil Service Workforce Diversity Statistics FY2011-FY2014

Posted: 3:49 am ET

 

Via state.gov (archive):

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@StateDept FS Promotion Statistics 2014-2017: Counselors (FE-OC) to Minister Counselors (FE-MC)

Posted: 2:20 am ET

 

Below is the comparative look of the State Department Foreign Service promotion statistics from 2014-2017 for Counselors (FE-OC equivalent to One-star rank (O-7)) to Minister Counselors (FE-MC equivalent to Two-star rank (O-8)). The average length of service of FSOs promoted from OC to MC in 2014-2017 is 25 years.

The number of FSOs who competed for promotion annually from 2014-2017 ranges from 215 in 2014 to 246 in 2017.  The number of FSOs promoted to from OC to MC was highest in 2016 at 61 FSOs or 24.3%, and lowest in 2017 at 29 FSOs or 11.8%.

That’s less than half the previous year, and that’s notable.

The FE-OC Counselor rank is the first rung in the Senior Foreign Service. The maximum time-in-class (TIC) limits for career generalist and specialist Senior Foreign Service members in this rank is seven (7) years. If FE-OCs are not getting promoted to FE-MCs because the promotion numbers have been shrunk, and they hit their time-in-class, they become subject to mandatory retirement upon expiration of their TIC and their time-in-service (TIS) limits.

Limiting the promotion numbers has been called a “stealth RIF” by old timers who remember the decimation of the career services in the 1990’s.

Via state.gov 11/24/17  FS Promotion Statistics

Again, please note that these numbers only include State Department Foreign Service numbers, and do not include USAID, Commerce, and Agriculture. For  those not familiar with the FS system, conal competition recognizes potential and competency in the primary career field. Members recommended for functional promotions demonstrate full proficiency across the six core competencies in a breadth of positions in their primary functional field (cone).

Per 3 FAH-1 H 2320 with the 2005 Selection Boards, classwide competition replaced multifunctionality.

The Department’s goal in instituting classwide competition is to assist the Department in expanding the pool of officers with broad vision and deep experience who are prepared to assume leadership positions in the future. Diplomacy in the 21st Century engages issues that are increasingly global in nature and/or scope, rapid changes in technology which are changing the way we do business, crises requiring effective and rapid response, the continuing need to promote actively democracy and respect for human rights, and threats to our safety and security that continue to surface. It needs broad-based and flexible officers, with leadership skills and the demonstrated ability to plan, organize, administer, and evaluate programs in both the members primary career field and across functional lines, who can transform resources and policy into results, while managing people effectively. While conal competition recognizes potential and competency in the primary career field, classwide competition builds on conal expertise by recognizing potential and competency across functional lines. The Board is asked to rate each employee in the classwide competition based on the relative strength of that members Performance Folder and demonstrated ability to perform effectively at the next higher level.

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Foreign Service Promotion Statistics 2014-2017: Minister Counselors (FE-MC) to Career Ministers (FE-CM)

Posted: 3:05 am ET
Updated: 12:37 pm PT

 

Below is the comparative look of the State Department Foreign Service promotion stats from 2014-2017 for Minister Counselors (FE-MC equivalent to Two-star rank (O-8)) to Career Ministers (FE-CM equivalent to Three-star rank (O-9)). FE-CM is the highest regular senior rank in the Foreign Service.  On November 16, 2017, the U.S. Senate confirmed four nominees to the rank of Career Minister (see PN 2100). Promotion stats below (also published annually in State Magazine) only covers the State Department; we don’t have data for USAID, Commerce (Foreign Commercial Service), or Agriculture (Foreign Agricultural Service).

Four FSOs were promoted to this rank in 2017, the same number promoted in 2015. The number of promotions to this rank ranges from 4-6 FSOs in 2014-2017, so there’s nothing that appears particularly striking in these numbers. If you’re seeing something we’re not seeing, email us. We’ll try and do the other ranks; there are notable numbers there.

Via state.gov 11/24/17  FS Promotion Statistics

Note that an extremely limited number of career diplomats attain Career Ambassador rank (FE-CA equivalent to Four-star rank (O-10)). Per 3 FAM 2320, the Secretary may recommend to the President the conferral of the personal rank of Career Ambassador on a limited number of career members of the SFS of the class of Career Minister whose careers have been characterized by especially distinguished service over a sustained period and who meet the requirements of 3 FAM 2324.2.  Conferral of the personal rank of Career Ambassador is made by the President, and with the advice and consent of the Senate.

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Snapshot: Total Non-Resident Arrivals From Canada, Mexico, Europe, Total Overseas (August 2017)

Posted: 1:35 am ET

 

Via DOC’s National Travel & Tourism Office (NTTO):

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Note that the NTTO’s main source of I-94 arrivals data is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) who releases the I-94 arrivals data to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s NTTO for a its count of all travelers entering the United States. The data reports also integrate the volume of inbound International visitors to the United States from residents of other countries using three U.S. and International government sources: the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Customs and Border Protection I-94 arrivals program data, Statistics Canada’s International Travel Survey and Banco de Mexico travel data.

The preliminary data indicates a -3.6 percent decrease in overall total of arrivals in year-to-date reported at the end of the 3rd quarter in August 2017. Also a higher year-to-date dip at -6.0 percent in total overseas arrival (excluding Canada and Mexico), a -7.6 percent dip in year-to-date arrival from Mexico, and a -2.1 percent dip in year-to-date arrivals from Europe. Year-to-date arrivals from Canada is up at 4.5 percent, slightly higher than the 3.8 percent at the end of the 3rd quarter but a tad lower than the 4.6 percent in the 2nd quarter.

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