US Mission Russia: Mass Termination of Local Staff, Severe Reduction in Consular Services Effective May 12

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On April 30, the US Embassy in Moscow issued a Message to U.S. Citizens: U.S. Mission Russia – Reduction of Consular Services (30 April, 2021)

Reduction of Consular Services – Effective May 12, U.S. Embassy Moscow will reduce consular services offered to include only emergency U.S. citizen services and a very limited number of age-out and life or death emergency immigrant visas. These service reductions are necessary due to the Russian government’s April 23 notification of its intention to prohibit U.S. Mission Russia from employing foreign nationals in any capacity. Non-immigrant visa processing for non-diplomatic travel will cease.

Embassy Moscow will not offer routine notarial services, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, or renewal passport services for the foreseeable future. If you are resident in Russia and require a new U.S. passport to remain legally present, or if you require an emergency U.S. passport for a demonstrable, life or death emergency (booking travel with an expired U.S. passport does not qualify) please send an email to moscowacs@state.gov and we will work to accommodate your request. Provision of emergency services to U.S. citizens in Russia may also be delayed or limited due to staff’s constrained ability to travel outside of Moscow.

If you are a U.S. citizen present in Russia and your visa has expired, we strongly urge you to depart Russia before the June 15 deadline set by the Russian government. If you plan to remain in Russia past this deadline, please visit your local Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) office to start the necessary paperwork as recently suggested by MVD.  Embassy Moscow is unable to answer any specific questions about Russian residency or Russian visas, as this process is managed entirely by the Russian government.

We regret that the actions of the Russian government have forced us to reduce our consular work force by 75%, and will endeavor to offer to U.S. citizens as many services as possible.

We understand that the Russian Foreign Ministry has already labeled locally employed staff working for the US Mission in Russia as “spies.” Given the LE staff currently imprisoned in Turkey, and the State Department’s inability to secure their release, this is worrisome. We hope to write a follow-up.
The last OIG inspection of US Mission Russia was conducted in 2013, a year after Putin’s return to office. At that time, State/OIG reported that across Mission Russia, employees “face intensified pressure by the Russian security services at a level not seen since the days of the Cold War.” The report also indicates at that time that the mission employed 1,279 staff, including 301 U.S. direct-hire positions and 934 locally employed (LE) staff positions from 35 U.S. Government agencies. These numbers are from 2013, so the count on U.S. direct-hire positions may have changed significantly given the diplomatic skirmishes the last several years. We’re not sure about the LE numbers either but we’re looking.
Note that the Embassy’s consular sections and general services typically have the most number of locally hired employees. With the mass termination of locally employed staff,  US Mission Russia will be on its own with no local staff support for visa services, American services, emergency services to American citizens, maintenance and repairs, procurement of goods/services, motorpool, housing, health unit, cashier, and on and on.

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State/OIG Releases Report on Pompeos Personal Use of USG Resources During Foggy Bottom Tenure

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It’s a wonder they did not create an Office of the First Lady of the State Department in Foggy Bottom.

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Putting Out Our First Public Request to @StateDept’s First Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

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On April 12, Secretary Blinken announced the appointment of former Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as the State Department’s chief diversity and inclusion officer. This is a first in the department’s history.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office found that racial or ethnic minorities in the department’s Civil Service were up to 29 percent less likely to be promoted than their white peers with similar qualifications.

The report also found that the higher up you went in the department, the lower the proportion was of women and racial or ethnic minorities.

In other words: up in rank, down in diversity.

There’s been a lot of attention focused on what’s happened with diversity and inclusion in the last few years, including the alarming lack of diversity at the highest levels of the State Department.

But the truth is this problem is as old as the department itself.

It’s systemic.  It goes much deeper than any one institution or any one administration – and it’s perpetuated by policies, practices, and people to this day.

That’s why we’ve got to grapple with the problem of unequal representation – and its root causes out in the open.

We can’t sweep it under a rug and pretend it doesn’t exist.  This work is hard, it can be painful, but it’s going to make us better diplomats, and it will help us do right by the people on our team who have for too long waged this battle alone.

It’ll also show other countries that we’re practicing what we preach when it comes to working to advance equality and respect here at home.

Today, we’re taking an important step in that direction by naming Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as our chief diversity and inclusion officer – the first in the department’s history.
[…]
We’re asking hard questions.

What’s the full spectrum of diversity we aim to reflect?

How do we incentivize and reward progress?  How do we hold ourselves accountable when we fall short?

And recruitment and advancement are just one part of a much broader challenge.

How do we ensure that the voices of people who have often been marginalized and underrepresented are afforded equal weight and respect – by their colleagues, and by our policymaking process?

To change the numbers, we have to change the culture – our norms, our behaviors, our biases.

We can’t build lasting diversity without first building an environment where all people are valued.

That’s the foundation.  Laying it is going to be hard work, but I consider it one of my greatest responsibilities as Secretary of State.

We are pleased to see that the new appointee reports directly to Secretary Blinken.
We’d like to make our first public request to the new CDIO.
In 2020, the State Department lost in a discrimination lawsuit filed by an FSO of Hispanic heritage. In that litigation, a document production request was made for data showing what percentage of FSOs who are selected out are minorities. The Department was also asked for the gender/racial breakdown of those who are low ranked by promotion boards. The State Department  never produced these statistics.
The State Department could add 1200 diverse new FS employees every year but if they are losing them at the midlevels quietly, the tops ranks will remain the same. We need to see the data of those selected out for non-promotion and data for the gender and racial composition of those low ranked by promotion boards. Right now, that’s a black box. Without it, the diversity and inclusion efforts could become just another  hamster on a wheel project.  No one wants to see that, obviously.
So we’re calling on the first State Department CDIO Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley to make it a priority to publicly release the following DGHR data:
–A. 2016-2020 data showing what percentage of FSOs who are selected out are minorities plus breakdown by ethnicity/race;
–B.  2016-2020 data that shows the ethnic/racial/gender breakdown of those who are low ranked by promotion boards.
The 2016-2020 data should span the tenures of Clinton, Kerry, Tillerson and Pompeo.  Who knows what we’ll find there but we think it’s a good place to start.
If the State Department’s new CDIO does not take public requests, perhaps our friends on the Hill invested in advancing equality at our oldest executive agency can help pry this data from Foggy Bottom’s cold lock box over at DGHR. Best if it happens this year, please, we may not be around far, far into the future.

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Post in Search of a Mission: “Now, I found, that the world is round and of course, it rains everyday ….”

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1) If there are fewer than two dozen staff members. 
2) If they live in austere conditions even without COVID, but particularly during COVID they are limited to their homes and the embassy. Nothing else. 
3) If there are no flights servicing pouch needs coming to post. This means the staff cannot procure needed items with regularity, including food and medicine. 
4) If there are no relationships with the host government. This means the embassy remains open simply to support itself. 
5) If staff is top heavy with multiple FS-01 positions and few FS-02 and below officers. 
6) If staff lives together due to health concerns. 
7)  If there are no option to telework even amidst COVID. Security requirements preclude remote access. 
8) If a staff member gets COVID, they will likely put the entire embassy at risk. Flight clearance to get an OPMED evacuation flight is difficult to obtain from host nation and would likely necessitate evacuating all who had been exposed (thus shuttering the embassy) because of the OPMED cost, and the delayed timeline of clearance to land and cost of repeated flights. 
9) If local staff continue to be paid even though most never come to work, and have been forced to stay home since COVID. 
10) If COVID vaccination efforts will be hamstrung by the aforementioned issues with host nation further putting staff at risk. 

 

Now, I found that the world is round
And of course it rains everyday

Living tomorrow, where in the world will I be tomorrow?
How far am I able to see?
Or am I needed here?

Now, I found that the world is round
And of course it rains everyday

If I remember all of the things I have done
I’d remember all of the times I’ve gone wrong
Why do they keep me here?

Courtesy: Bee Gees – World (From the 1968 Album, Horizontal)


 

 

@StateDept Updated Assignment Restrictions Regs in 2020, Also Where’s the Preclusion Data?

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Last week, Politico published a piece about hundreds of people of color at the State Department handed “assignment restrictions” due to concerns over split loyalties or being susceptible to foreign influence. See Foreigners in their own country: Asian Americans at State Department confront discrimination. In 2017, The Foreign Service Journal published In Pursuit of Transparency in Assignment Restriction Policies by FSOs Christina T. Le and Thomas T. Wong who at that time were the current and past presidents of the Asian American Foreign Affairs Association (AAFAA). Excerpt below:

Employees’ concerns regarding the assignment restrictions process were plentiful: it was unfair, lacked transparency and was based on ethnic origin or family heritage. Our advocacy to the State Department on the issue began in 2009 and continued in earnest through 2016.

The case was framed by input from countless numbers of employees who came to us expressing real frustration, disillusionment and anger over the lack of transparency and accountability in the process. In some cases, the department had prioritized hiring these officers because of their language skills, only to turn around and preclude them from using those valued language skills overseas.

While assignment restrictions affect many State department employees of different backgrounds, we accumulated substantial anecdotal evidence that it has disproportionately affected employees of AAPI descent. Our data suggested assignment restrictions were levied with race as a factor, with disregard for mitigating circumstances and even based on incorrect facts.

According to the authors, the efforts to confront these issues went back many years: “Mariju Bofill first raised the issue with the Secretary of State in 2009, after consultations with the department’s legal advisor, and continued to raise it during the following three years. Cecilia Choi took the baton in 2012, working with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security to try to come to a fair solution. In 2013, The Washington Post featured an article on the subject, “At the State Department, Diversity Can Count Against You,” highlighting the perspectives of several Foreign Service officers.”
In May 2017, AFSA issued guidance on new provisions governing assignment limitations as negotiated with the State Department; these were reportedly implemented on October 21, 2017 and can be found in 12 FAM 233.5.  The latest update were done on June  24, 2020:

Per FAM, assignment restrictions are conditions placed on a security clearance.  They are used to prevent potential targeting and harassment by foreign intelligence services as well as to lessen foreign influence and/or foreign preference security concerns; for example, if an employee and/or his or her close family members maintain citizenship or dual citizenship with that country or have substantial financial interests or foreign contacts there.  Foreign influence and preference are two of the U.S. Government’s Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information.

Assignment restrictions may be determined when the initial clearance determination is made, during periodic reinvestigation, or when an individual’s personal situation changes; i.e., marriage, cohabitation, etc. (see 12 FAM 270).  An individual may be restricted from permanent assignment to a particular country or countries, or in some cases, a desk and/or program where that country or countries are the primary focus.  Desks or other positions may present vulnerabilities for targeting when there is frequent official contact with foreign individuals.  Individuals with an assignment restriction to a country may not serve temporary duty (TDY) in that country for more than a total of 60 days during any 365 day period.

The 2020 FAM update allows for a review within 30 days of receiving the assignment restrictions at an employee’s request, on exceptional circumstances the employee/applicant may also request an additional 15 days review, and there us a review on the assignment restrictions by DS/SI/PSS each time an individual’s continued eligibility for access to classified information is re-adjudicated, typically every five years.
The thing that’s clear in the regs is that the initial assignment restriction is conducted by Diplomatic Security. The  reviewer is also Diplomatic Security. After that review, the decision by DS/DSS becomes final. There is no appeal authority above Diplomatic Security. The State Department’s personnel chief, yes, the DGHR said in a congressional hearing that she “does not know enough about the process to answer the question” (see video below).
The updated regs also do not indicate who tracks, and keep the data about these assignment restrictions. The report on Politico points out that the State Department is required by law to provide to Congress “the number and nature of assignment restrictions and preclusions for the previous three years”. This was part of the Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017 dated December 16, 2016 (see 22 USC 2734c: Employee assignment restrictions).  Which means Tillerson in 2017 or Pompeo in 2018 would have been required to submit preclusion data to Congress dating back at least three years.  And yet, the Politico report said that a State Department spokesperson was unable to say how many diplomats across the department are currently subject to restrictions.
Well, now.  So either the State Department ignored a congressional reporting requirement or the information is available but in a lock box?  Who wants to share?
Congressional representatives like Andy Kim of NJ who previously worked for the State Department has publicly voiced a demand that “we fix this problem.”

Below is the top official in charged of personnel including assignments at the State Department told by the congressman from California to “Maybe you might want to find more about this process since you’re Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Global Talent and this is affecting your State Department employees … “

 


 

 

FSN Recognition Day: Gratefulness and Celebration, So Now They’ll Finally Get an Ombudsman?

 

EEOC: National Origin & Age Discrimination Found When Agency Terminated Complainant’s Candidacy for a Position

 

Via EEOC: Leon B. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal No. 0120182144 (Nov. 5, 2019).
National Origin & Age Discrimination Found When Agency Terminated Complainant’s Candidacy for a Position.
The Commission found that the Agency discriminated against Complainant when it terminated his candidacy for a Diplomatic Security Foreign Service Special Agent position because his score on an oral and written assessment was below the cut-off level. Agency officials averred that they asked all candidates the same questions and rated them according to pre-determined factors.  No one identified what the factors were, however, and Agency officials refused to provide information about the assessment questions and materials.  The EEO Investigator asked the Agency officials to provide the names of and pertinent information about the applicants who were found suitable to continue their candidacy for the position and information regarding the applicants whose candidacy was terminated, or not terminated, for the same reasons as Complainant’s candidacy.  The Agency stated only that it had assessed 726 candidates, that 272 passed the assessment, and that the candidates who passed as well as those who did not pass the assessment “ranged from all ages, races, and gender[s].”
Based on the Agency’s statement regarding the candidate pool, the Commission found that Complainant established prima facie cases of discrimination based on race/national origin and age.  The Commission further found that the Agency officials’ vague, conclusory statements about the assessment process did not explain why the Agency terminated Complainant’s candidacy.  The Agency provided no information about the pre-determined factors, the questions posed to the candidates, Complainant’s answers to the questions, how the reviewers scored Complainant’s answers, or the bases for the scores given to Complainant and the other candidates.  The Commission ordered the Agency to change Complainant’s assessment results to a passing score and to process his candidacy in the same manner that it processed the candidacies of other applicants who received passing scores.
Leon B. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal No. 0120182144 (Nov. 5, 2019).

US Embassy Dhaka: Persistent Staffing Gaps, Workload Stress, a Triple Stretch

 

In July 2016, the US Embassy in Bangladesh went on voluntary evacuation (U.S. Embassy Dhaka: Now on “Authorized Departure” For Family Members of USG Personnel). State/OIG conducted the inspection of U.S. Embassy Dhaka in Bangladesh from September 3, 2019, to January 28, 2020. The report released in June 2020 notes that “In 2016, following a terrorist attack in Dhaka, the Department decided to allow only adult dependents to accompany employees. Many American staff members told OIG this change made the embassy unattractive to Foreign Service employees with children.”
What OIG Found

The Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission led Embassy Dhaka in a collaborative and professional manner. Staff described both leaders as energetic and approachable.

• The embassy had difficulty filling mid-level positions after the withdrawal of minor dependents following a 2016 terrorist attack. Many managerial positions had long staffing gaps that exacerbated workload pressures on the remaining staff.

• The Ambassador’s active outreach efforts advanced efforts to build political capital and goodwill. However, particularly given the staffing shortages throughout the embassy, the Ambassador contributed to the workload stress of embassy staff by not prioritizing demands he placed on employees to support these efforts.

• The Ambassador engaged extensively with Bangladeshi Government officials and led efforts by the international community to assist 900,000 Rohingya refugees who had fled Burma.

• Consular Section staff routinely worked long hours in an effort to manage a growing backlog of immigrant visa work.

• The embassy’s social media program did not comply with Department of State standards.

• The network cabling infrastructure in Embassy Dhaka’s unclassified server and telephone frame rooms was antiquated and did not comply with Department standards.

• Spotlights on Success: The Information Management Office created a tracking system for employee checks of the emergency and evacuation radio network that increased participation rates dramatically. In addition, the office created a travel request application that saved time for travelers and travel managers

[…]

At the time of the inspection, Embassy Dhaka had 139 authorized U.S direct-hire employees, of whom 66 worked for the Department of State (Department) and 73 worked for other agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Departments of Defense, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture. The embassy also had 511 locally employed (LE) staff and 5 eligible family members. The embassy occupies two compounds, with the chancery having been built in 1988. The Department is planning to construct a new chancery and annexes during the next several years.

[…]

The embassy had difficulty in recent years filling mid-level positions. In the year prior to the inspection, several mid-level positions in different sections either had no assigned employee or had long gaps. For example, the embassy experienced a 30-month gap between Facility Managers, a 10-month gap between Public Affairs Officers, a 15-month gap between Information Management Specialists, a 34-month gap between the Management Section’s Office Management Specialists, and 24-month gaps in two of five Regional Security Office positions.

Excerpt from Embassy Dhaka’s response specific to the staffing gaps:

The Embassy appreciates mention of the staffing gaps identified on page three of the OIG Draft Report. However, the paragraph understates Post’s chronic and severe understaffing and its impact. In addition to the page three gaps, during the Ambassador’s tenure:

• The Front Office was short one OMS for seven months and had a four-month gap in the DCM position, filled only part of that time by an REA TDYer also serving as Acting Management Officer;

• Pol/Econ was without a Chief or Deputy for three months and the Acting Chief was also P/E Deputy, Econ Chief, and Labor Officer for three months. The incoming Refugee Coordinator broke his handshake causing gaps in that position;

• The Visa Chief position was vacant for 14 months; a ConOff position was vacant for five months; and the incoming Deputy Consular Chief who will replace her predecessor who departed during the October inspection has not yet arrived.

Additionally, Post was unable to fill numerous EFM positions in the Section due to the paucity of family members who chose to come to our then unaccompanied Post;

• The previous Management Officer curtailed in August 2019; the DCM recruited an REA officer to temporarily fill the position who was formally recalled to service in January 2020. The A/GSO EPAP departed in September 2019; her replacement is scheduled to arrive in summer 2020. The S/GSO left in May 2019; his replacement arrived four months later. The FMO arrived after a three-month gap. The ISO position has been empty since June 2019 and there is no replacement in the pipeline. Post has had no CLO since February 2019; the position was also vacant for 10 months until April 2018;

• The Deputy CAO – a second-tour Officer — filled the PAO position for 10 months; this was a triple stretch. The remaining two American positions were filled by Civil Servants in hard-to-fill positions; neither had served in a PD position or overseas.

With such substantial staffing gaps, during the tense and violent run up to national elections and the tumultuous aftermath, in times of heightened terrorist threat, and to support multiple VIP visits to Cox’s Bazar and the world’s largest refugee camp, some employees did occasionally work seven days a week. Post appreciated the strain on particular offices and officers and worked hard to burden share with our limited personnel resources. As is typical when new Chiefs of Mission arrive, the Ambassador accepted more invitations his first few months in order to promote crucial U.S. foreign policy objectives including the new Indo-Pacific Strategy, conduct high-profile advocacy over concerns for Bangladesh’s shrinking democratic space, press the Government of Bangladesh to address trafficking-in-persons issues, and protect human rights and voices of dissent in the aftermath of the hugely flawed national election. While the Front Office may not have been explicit in tying all outreach and travel to the ICS, the Ambassador was careful to accept engagement opportunities that furthered ICS objectives which are, as the OIG noted, displayed prominently throughout the Embassy. Further, the Embassy had and continues to have a strategic travel working group which develops quarterly travel schedules and plans.

OIG report says that in February the State Department agreed with Embassy Dhaka’s recommendation to return to fully accompanied status “which should help alleviate continuing staffing and related concerns by 2021, including by filling long-vacant EFM positions.”

A Response to the Commentary on Warrior Culture, Militarization, and Diplomatic Security

 

In late July, we posted an unsolicited commentary from a retired FS member and former COM, “Warrior Culture, Militarization, and Diplomatic Security”.  Below is a response we received which should add to the discussions happening outside this blog.
Sender B is part of the State Department community with many friends and family in both the FS and the Civil Service. Over the past 15 years, they worked extensively with the Department of Defense and the military services as well and built a good familiarity with the DS Bureau. He/She has also gone overseas, and interacted with all of the above organizations “in the years after our post 9/11 forever wars,” adding that “what I am about to say is, of course, colored by all of these factors.”
A Response to Warrior Culture, Militarization, and Diplomatic Security
I read Sender A’s note with interest, and like many of these ‘letters’ my reaction is a mixed bag – some scads of truth mixed with big dollops of generalization, stereotype, and the whooshing sound of one Missing the Larger Point. I don’t know who Sender A is, but yet I sort of do. I have met more than a few of these retired FSOs over the years. Most are political officers, most have at least 25 years under their belt, and most are at least a little wistful for the good old days before American Embassies were fortresses with 100 feet of setback around them and located a bit further away from the downtown business districts of world capitals.
I think it’s useful to start with some basic unspoken truths in the discussion of security culture and State – DS and the people who work there have always been looked at askance by the folks at HST and in the upper echelons of the generalist ranks. In particular the Mandarins of the POL cone who run the Department. DS agents, so the line of thought goes, are “knuckle draggers” and an impediment to the Really Important Valuable “substantive” Work of Diplomacy like attending interagency meetings, ribbon cuttings, and sending cables back to Washington.
Okay. I kid, but only a little.
Everything he says (and odds are, as long as he’s been out, it is a ‘he’ – but I could be wrong) in the first few paragraphs is completely true – post 9/11, security theater got ramped up a lot, not just at State but across the federal government. Look at the DHS and TSA as the biggest and most theatrical examples of that phenomenon. This was in part a reaction after 9/11 to the national mood – since the United States of America, love her as we all do, never does anything it can’t over do.
It was also a product of the new operating environment. Iraq and Afghanistan were different places once the shooting started, requiring different skill sets and new ways of doing business for the military services but also State and the interagency. The threat was, frankly, very high and very real in those places for Americans. I saw it firsthand from 2007 to 2011 during several visits to Iraq and Afghanistan. There were decisions made and policies implemented in the years after 9/11 that may or may not have successfully dealt with those threats, but to bemoan DS’s 20-story headquarters and the CT funds that built it is to somewhat miss the point. Nearly every security organization in the U.S. National Security Complex experienced some form of this same phenomenon, which is why today nearly every federal agency has specialized security arms/teams/offices and funding profiles very much unlike what they had just a few decades ago. US Customs and Border Patrol alone, for example, has an air arm that is as large as the Brazilian Air Force. If you visit the Pentagon, the police force that protects the Pentagon reservation has been thoroughly transformed into a kitted-up security force for a building that was already a fairly secure location. The USG was completely subsumed by the post 9/11 security swell, in retrospect, so to bemoan State’s slice of that trend is fine – but it was a much larger issue, and one that would inevitably affect the diplomatic arm of the American government.
There is also the swipe at DS performing duplicative roles. Yes, well … perhaps. Perhaps not. That’s a matter of perspective. Question: why is the Bureau of International Narcotic and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) not under DS? DS is the law enforcement arm of the State Department, the point organization for investigating visa fraud, and a host of other crimes related to international law enforcement and definitely narcotics. Why is it not aligned? What exactly does INL do at HST that is can’t do at DS HQ? Further complicating things, DS manages State’s law enforcement counterterrorism training assistance but main State retains INL? From an outsider’s perspective, that makes little sense. But I get it. Government fiefdoms are what they are and come to be for complex reasons. Little has changed because the people who run the Department don’t want it to, regardless of how much sense it makes.
The comment about the new training center also belies a bit more nuance. Yes, it is the product of some Congressional deal probably served up via a hand shake between the Georgia and Virginia Delegation. Why those two, you ask? It should be noted that prior to the new center’s opening, DS security training was already atomized and spread out to various locales far from Washington. Glynco, Georgia was where DS special agents, alongside other federal law enforcement agents, received their Basic Special Agents Course (BSAC) training. The ability to duplicate that kind of training facility anywhere near FSI inside the beltway is cost prohibitive, to say the least. The facilities alone would bankrupt the Department, as you would need a lot of real estate for activities such as driving courses, mock embassy compounds, firing ranges, and other aspects of admittedly security-oriented curriculums. In other words, not just classrooms.
The more substantive piece of the commentary, however, deserves a bit more attention. ‘Warrior culture’ as it is described is a long-remarked issue across the USG, not just at State. Why? A part of this is certainly a result of the US Government elevating what is known as “veteran’s status” in the application process for federal positions even higher than it was previously to 2001. This resulted in veterans receiving preferential treatment for hiring in positions across the government, but especially within the security apparatus and law enforcement agencies. Over the last ten years, I can’t tell you how many longtime managers and officials in government who have sought to hire candidates for their respective offices (at State and other agencies) have told me they can’t get the right candidates to an interview. In their telling, the culprit is primarily the reflexive application of veterans status points and their effect on the HR process. This results in the saturation of the application pool with candidates armed with a DD 214 (military discharge papers). Some of those positions require skill sets undoubtedly found in certain military career fields, to be sure. The criticism though, is that this policy has been applied with little nuance over time by HR officials.
What is the result? The skill sets/experiences of personnel who have excelled in environments where hard skills and Special Operations Forces mindsets migrate into the civilian bureaucracy over time, in law enforcement surely but also in tangentially related fields as well. We can debate the merits of that trend, but it is a result of a policy choice, approved of by both the Bush and Obama Administrations, and we are dealing with the result of it today in small and large ways. The Department and DS in particular are, of course, caught up in this. A massive demand for security following the advent of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, coupled with the need to bring former military members into the Department both by policy dictate and by the reality of the environment has resulted in this shift playing out. It would be inevitable to say the least there would be friction in these two cultures coming together. There is no easy solution for the imbalance, and you will continue to hear officials at all levels say something needs to be fixed. I’m not sure how exactly that is done, outside of some dedicated member of Congress deciding to champion the issue.
Overall, Sender A’s perspective read like a sort of historical snapshot. A return to the old days, when SY officials had time to do tours out of cone, and the G Men wore fedoras and carried six shooters. I kid, but not by much. This perspective is fun, but it is also a bit naïve, as if the 1980s, much less Nairobi/Tanzania and 9/11 didn’t happen.
We are all products of our experiences, and that goes for people as well as organizations. DS would not be the organization it is today if the Beirut bombings of the 1980s had not occurred, and the Inman Report that followed it had not happened. The 1990s accelerated the rise of a more robust security apparatus at State in this environment, because the threat of terrorism against U.S. interests had changed and was rapidly evolving. By the time 9/11 rolled around, this transformation was unstoppable in many ways.
There is much to lament about the end of the pre-9/11 era. The world was (in some ways) more open, more accessible, and diplomats more able to conduct the traditional business of diplomacy, in most contexts. But to pretend the changes of the last several decades have occurred in a vacuum is disingenuous. The Department may be risk averse today, and overly so in many areas. That deserves some scrutiny. But it is a fact that Americans have died because of choices made by Department officials who downplayed these threats. Policy choices over the decades have results. Once one peels the onion on how counterterrorism policy came to be, we might not like what we find.