@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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Diplomatic Security Agent Charged With Five Counts of Sexual Assault Over Four Years in Wisconsin

Posted: 3:11 am  ET

 

Diplomatic Security agent David S. Scharlat was charged on March 31 with five counts of felony sexual assault, ranging from first to third degree, in Waukesha County Circuit Court in Wisconsin. According to the Journal Sentinel, Scharlat’s attorney, Paul Bucher, said the allegations “were old, including some that had been dismissed at an earlier civil court hearing, and his client believes the alleged actions were consensual.”

Scharlat is an agent with the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Services. On Friday, a spokesperson for the State Department could not comment on his employment status or the investigation.

In a 2012 federal court filing, Scharlat said he was assigned to the Chicago Field Office and had been with the agency for about 11 years.

Wisconsin Circuit Court records indicate case 2017CV001949 was filed against Scharlat on November 6, 2017:  Waukesha County Case Number Party Sealed by Judge Bugenhagen vs. David Scot Scharlat “The court did not issue an injunction against the respondent in this case. The reasons were stated on the record and may be explained in the final order. No adverse inference should be drawn against the respondent when an injunction is denied or a case dismissed. The fact that a petition was originally filed means nothing.”

Case 2017CV001998 was filed on November 13, 2017 for “Domestic Abuse-Temp Rest Order.” Court record for the November 20, 2017 injunction hearing says:

Petitioner in court. Petitioner in court with Attorney Rebecca M Coffee. Respondent David S Scharlat in court. Attorney Paul E Bucher in court for Respondent David S Scharlat. Atty. Coffee requests to proceed on both case 17CV1998 and 17CV1949. Atty. Bucher objects to proceeding on both filings. Court stated they will proceed on both case but the definition of domestic abuse and harassment to defer. Atty. Bucher moves to dismiss both cases. Court denies the Motion to Dismiss. H.W., sworn in and testified. Atty. Bucher requests all witnesses be sequestered. Court orders all witnesses be seated in the hallway. Court continues case for criminal case to proceed. Injunction hearing scheduled for April 30, 2018 at 10:00 am.

Case 2018CF000482 was filed on March 30, 2018 charging Scharlat with Count 1 3rd Degree Sexual Assault; Count 2 1st Degree Sexual Assault/Great Bodily Harm; Count 3-5 2nd Degree Sexual Assault/Use of Force. Initial appearance is scheduled for April 11, 2018 at 1:15 pm. The Court record notes that “This case has not been concluded. Unless a judgment of conviction is entered, the defendant is presumed innocent of all charges.”

The criminal complaint includes three victims, identified as HLW, MRH and CKT with charges filed “upon a review of the investigative reports of Detective Paula Hoffa, Village of Hartland Police Department, Detective Sergeant Gwen Bruckner of the Town of Brookfield Police Department, and Lieutenant Detective Kristen Wraalstad and Officer of the Town of Oconomowoc Police Department.”

According to the complaint, “Officers made contact with Scharlat about the incident on October 20, 2017 at HLW’s residence and he advised officers that although he had been with HLW at her residence on that evening, he had not had intercourse with her at her residence.” The complaint also says that “The fitted sheet from HLW’s bed from the night of October 20, 2017 was submitted to the State Crime Lab for testing. The results from the DNA testing of the sheet showed that Scharlat’s semen was present, consistent with HLW’s statement.”

Under Count 2,  complaint says that “When questioned about HLW’s level of intoxication and her incapacity/inability to give consent, he stated when they got home from the bar, HLW was not incapacitated but did have trouble walking.”

Under Count 3 and 4, complaint says “On Monday, February 26, 2018 officers had contact with MRH 08/01/1967 who, in a statement deemed to be reliable inasmuch as she is a common, ordinary citizen witness indicates that she had been sexually assaulted by David Scharlat on two occasions.”

Under Count 5, complaint says “Officers had contact with CKT, DOB 03/12/1970 to whom they explained they were investigating an incident that they believed may have some connection to an incident involving her. In a statement deemed to truthful and reliable inasmuch as she is a common, ordinary citizen witness in this case, CKT advised that her rapist and stalker was Scharlat.”

We’ve requested comments from DS/Public Affairs about this case but so far have heard only crickets.

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@StateDept’s Secret ‘Hellz Yeah’ Employee-Led Organizational Revolution Study

Posted: 2:50 pm PT
 

 

A lot has been written about former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s “Redesign” initiative at the State Department. What is less known is a parallel project, a purported employee-led organizational revolution study that until this week was not revealed. While the controversial and unpopular “Redesign” boasts over 300 interviews from the potential pool of 25,000 U.S. direct hire employees and over 30,000 survey respondents from a 75,000 global workforce, the “Hellz Yeah” employee-led organizational revolution drew responses from what is said to be 33,300 secret interviews within the organization. The results of those interviews have been under lock and key and, until recently, only a handful of individuals were given access to the consolidated report.

In the chaos following the presidential pink tweet that saw the firing of the 69th secretary of state and the departure of his top lieutenants, a few individuals discovered the secret study in an unlocked vault on the 7th Floor. The following are from our interviews with three employees who were among the first to read the contents of the secret interviews. For obvious reasons, our sources did not want to be identified publicly but they were willing to speak to us on background. They all described the discovery of the secret interviews as shocking. Our sources said “shocking” because they all said that they had never seen a previous study in which employees actively contributed to the retreat or destruction of their own institution under the guise of improving its operation. One source asked, “Who the hell does that?” Another source worry that incoming Secretary Pompey may use this as an excuse for a new top-town restructuring and cultural reorganization of the agency.

 

 

Controversial Proposals

One of the more controversial proposals that previously leaked was the transfer of the visa function from State to DHS.  One respondent reportedly asked, “How is it that Dennis Rodman gets to sit down with Kim Jong Un smoking cigars while I have to interview 120 visa applicants a day for 2-4 years?” Another one said, “I did not sign up to be a visa stamper; I was top of my class and expected to be doing multi-lateral negotiations in Europe after A-100. Instead they sent me to Nigeria. Nigeria!” Yet another respondent said, “What Jared can do, I can do better”, admitting that he did not particularly like consular work as visa applicants not only have spit on him three times through the glass window but have also breast-fed screaming babies multiple times at his interview window.

A majority of those advocating this change pointed out that most new diplomats did not sign up for consular work and questioned why they were not allowed to conduct arms control negotiations or advance our nuclear nonproliferation policy on their first tours. They think that the new era of “America First” in public and foreign policies should also bring a new era in diplomatic hierarchy. One respondent lamented, “The only person who has fun at this post is the ambassador.”  

Dashboard Initiative: KSALs Leaderboard (Knowledge, Skills, Ability, and Loyalty) 

We can report further on the reasons why so many offices have been  left vacant at the upper echelons of the State Department. The secret study reportedly indicates that this, too, was an idea put forward by employees actively engaged in keeping their agency “nimble” and “agile.” The reasoning appears to be that by not appointing Senate-confirmed individuals to these high level positions, the entire agency operation can be controlled from the dashboard in the secretary of state’s office.

A majority of the respondents purportedly suggested that the “S” dashboard be color-coded for efficiency.  Acting assistant secretaries and office directors who speak out of turn in meetings and public appearances are buzzed with a red button, while those with harmless opinions are buzzed with a yellow button, and those with favorable views to everything proposed by the Administration are buzzed with a green button. The buzzes are then tallied weekly. Those with too many red buzzes on their records will be replaced by individuals on the waitlist who are anxious to demonstrate their KSALs to get ahead, that is, knowledge, skills, ability, and loyalty. Those of particular distinction in service and loyalty (e.g. those willing to throw their colleagues and staff members under speeding buses) will be short-listed for creative new positions of great honor and responsibility.

Of particular note in this study is that a significant portion of the respondents proposed the use of Veritaserum, a colorless, odourless potion that is practically indistinguishable from water to ensure that all employees old and new are forced “to answer sincerely and truthfully any question they are presented with.”

One of our three sources told us that the “Dashboard Initiative” envisioned to promote an “agile” and “nimble” organization in Foggy Bottom was beta-tested for several months with notable success but there was unresolved debate on who will have access to the “S” dashboard. Also, questions were raised about how to deploy the initiative to the wider organization, with top aides additionally arguing for the creation of a “leaderboard” to enhance the initiative and with dual-function as a replacement for the now defunct “Secretary’s Sounding Board. “Agile and nimble won’t mean a lot if the effect is not immediate,” one argued.”It should be simple like baseball, three strikes and you’re out,” added  another helpfully.

According to two sources, the secret study indicates that the organizers could not agree on the finer details of the “Dashboard Initiative”. The initial plan reportedly was to send it down to the employees to promote the perception of crowdsourced-decision making while top officials figure out what to do with it; no one has any idea what happens now.

MDSGA Initiative: Make Diplomatic Spouses Great Again

As with the Redesign, a select number of diplomatic spouses were also interviewed. Our second source, an FSO who has been married to the same spouse for twenty-four years expressed shock at the interview results from eligible family members. Fifty-one percent of these interviewees (214 in actual numbers) implored the agency’s leadership to strike down the 1972 Spouse Directive stating that diplomatic spouses are their own persons, and could not be forced to provide free labor for diplomatic missions overseas.

One respondent reportedly complained, “What’s the use of being a senior spouse if you can’t round up junior spouses to help you do the necessary work of supporting the mission overseas?” At least five respondents proposed that the Department bring back the rating system that includes diplomatic spouses in the performance evaluations of employees. “Some spouses are just way too independent, living their own lives away from the mission,” complained one senior spouse. “Junior spouses should be trained to be respectful of the senior spouses, and should be put in tiger teams to support the highest ranking spouses in the mission,” added another.

A majority of respondents apparently also suggested that the agency freeze all available jobs for spouses so women in particular would not have an excuse to work outside the home. The rationale appears to be that the longer the spouses are unable to work, the more they will appreciate not having to work. These respondents were confident that “this will result in more happiness and contentment in the mission.”

“The availability of work to some spouses but not to others leads to envy and discontent,” was one of the study’s conclusion. By removing the available jobs for spouses altogether, according to the summary of the interviews, “There will be less stress, less competition and better quality of life.”

One topic that the respondents proposed that did appear to result in policy change was how the Professional Associates program for spouses are filled. The secret study reportedly indicates that respondents suggested should it become necessary to lift the hiring freeze, Professional Associates jobs in particular should have the highest standards possible in terms of experience and educational experience.

The interviewers asked if this would not make it harder for diplomatic spouses to fill these professional jobs and 50.9% of respondents declared that while that might be the case, they think that this would make the organizational more “nimble” and “stronger.” “I may not actually qualify for these jobs under the proposed new standards” one respondent said without blinking an eye,“but I totally support the secretary’s and his aides efforts to professionalize the spouses’ jobs,” she added. When the interviewer pointed out that the job requirements are more stringent than the requirements for officers and specialists, one spouse dismissed the matter. “We want the very best of the best, even spouses, why is that so difficult to understand?”

Gamespot Initiative: Rewards and Promotions

All three sources told us that the most controversial idea to come out of the ‘Hellz Yeah’ secret study has the potential to “disrupt” the career services. The summary of the study indicates that majority of the employees think that the current rewards and promotion systems are faulty and are easily influenced or manipulated “by correct grammar” and “charming but exhausting narratives.” 

Apparently, the secret study’s main suggestion was to transition the entire agency into a point system for rewards and promotions; reward points for management issues, and promotion points for policy issues. For instance, higher reward points would earn employees better housing, better schools for dependents, improved health benefits, retirement benefits for spouses and travel arrangements that exempt them from “Fly America” and allow for better travel connections, best air carriers, and exceptional hotel and pet accommodations.

Similarly, higher promotion points over policy matters would earn employees progressively senior positions, the best housing in the embassy pool, larger offices with windows, newer furniture, up to $5,000 in decoration expense, Internet download privileges, personalized stationery, pens, and water bottles, and most importantly for those assigned overseas, armed official chauffeurs who already passed the Armored Vehicle Driver Training.

A focus group of carefully selected employees produced some intense discussions about how employees  can earn points, how many points are required to “level up”, and what time frame might be required to “boot out” deadwood employes who are not actively earning reward and promotion points. One respondent said, “If they’re not in the game, they should be out!”

A few respondents also wanted to know — if a senior bureau official says “I’ve succeeded in ousting five detailees from my office prior to the secretary’s arrival” — should reward points be higher if the ousted detailees were in the middle of their assignments, than if they were at the end of their detail? What if an employee is able to provide a list of the former administration’s “holdovers”?  The respondents wanted to know what number would be enough to merit a level up for a corner office or a house with a gazebo and a jacuzzi? What if an employee is able to provide proof through secret social media posts that his colleagues “are not fully on board” with the Administration’s agenda? The respondents wanted confirmation that reward points are higher for Facebook posts than Twitter or Instagram posts.

Under this controversial employee-led proposal, diplomatic officials who get out of their comfort zone to publicly support pre-emptive strikes against XYZ countries or invade ABC countries for their oil will always get the highest promotion points. Officials who appear in government-run radio and television programs get extra promotion points. Employees with at least 2K social media followers and who actively amplify official messages from the Voice of American Truth in their private capacities also get extra promotion points.

We are interested in tracking down the organizers of this employee-led organizational revolution study, as well as identifying potential commonalities between the “Hellz Yeah” study and other recent blue ribbon studies and surveys previously conducted. We’ve formally requested the 5,000-page study and its associated raw data. As of today, April 1, we have not heard from any of our 7th Floor contacts. We understand that Easter Sunday and April Fools’ Day festivities may be keeping them occupied. We will do a follow-up post if/when we hear from their April 1 Task Force.

 

Russia Expels U.S. Diplomats, Closes Consulate General @USinStPete

Posted: 12:53 pm PT

 

On March 26, the United States expelled 60 Russian diplomats and closed a Russian Consulate in Seattle over the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain (see U.S. and 20+ Countries Expel Russian Diplomats Over UK Nerve Agent Attack).

On March 29, in an expected tit for tat move, Russia announced the expulsion of 60 American diplomats and the closure of the U.S. Consulate General in St. Petersburg. AP citing the Russian Foreign Ministry reports that “the U.S. diplomats, including 58 from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and two from the U.S. consulate in Yekaterinburg, must leave Russia by April 5. It added that the U.S. must leave the consulate in St. Petersburg no later than Saturday.”

If Russia is not expelling U.S. diplomats from St. Petersburg, but closing the consulate there, this could mean that diplomats assigned to St. Pete potentially could move to Moscow, but 60 diplomats (and family members) will still be sent home.  We figured this was coming, some realities of diplomatic life: pack up with as little as 48 hours notice, for those with kids, pull children out of school, find new schools, arrange for shipment of pets, leave your household effects, move into transitional housing for an undetermined duration, etc.

Keep them in your thoughts. It will be a rough time for a while. For Foggy Bottom readers,  please check with AAFSW or the FLO, they may need volunteers to assist with the arrivals.

Here is a brief post history of @USinStPete:

St. Petersburg was the site of the original U.S. Mission to Russia, established in 1780, with Frances Dana as the Minister-designate. Dana spent three years in St. Petersburg, but his credentials were never accepted by the Russian Court. Thus the first Minister Plenipotentiary (Ambassador) of the United States in Russia, was John Quincy Adams, who presented his credentials to Tsar Alexander I on the 5th of November, 1809.

Adams served almost five years in St. Petersburg during the Napoleonic Wars. He finally left St. Petersburg because, as he wrote to President James Madison, he could not afford the expenses related to being Ambassador at Court. John Quincy Adams later became the Sixth President of the United States.

Another future President of the United States, James Buchanan, served in St. Petersburg as “Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary” from 1832-1833.

During the turbulence of the revolution and civil war, Ambassador David R. Francis departed Russia on November 7, 1918, leaving Felix Cole to serve as Charge d’Affaires ad interim until the U.S. Embassy in Russia closed on September 14, 1919. By then, the ruling Bolsheviks had moved the country’s capital from Petrograd (the city’s name since the outbreak of the First World War) to Moscow, and the U.S. diplomatic presence in Peter’s City disappeared for over half a century.

The U.S. Mission was not restored until 1933, when the U.S. Embassy was opened in Moscow, the capital of the USSR.

The U.S. diplomatic presence was reestablished in Leningrad (as St. Petersburg was then called) in 1972, with the opening of a U.S. Consulate General.

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Related posts:

 


All Promotions Into/Within the Senior Foreign Service Must be Vetted by White House?

Posted: 1:23 am  ET

 

State/HR recently sent a Frequently Asked Questions to newly promoted OCs concerning the differences between being an FS-01, the highest rank in the regular Foreign Service, and as OC, the starter rank in the Senior Foreign Service. The FAQ talks about pay, bidding, EERs, benefits, and of course, promotions. And then there’s this question, and apparent answer:

Q: When are promotions from FS-01 to OC effective?
Answer: Promotion boards issue a list in the fall of officers “recommended” for promotion from FS-01 to OC, OC to MC and MC to CM. However, all promotions into and within the Senior Foreign Service must be vetted by the White House, confirmed by the Senate and attested by the President. This process can take several months. Promotions into and within the SFS are effective the first pay period following Presidential attestation. However, you may start bidding as an OC as soon as the promotion list is released by the board.

Yo! You know this is nuts, right? The White House can barely vet its own staffers, and it will now vet all promotions of FSOs into and within the Senior Foreign Service? With one exception that we are aware of (and we’ll write about that case separately), this WH vetting requirement is new, and yes, we remember the “improved” vetting required by the SFRC back in 2015 (SFRC Bullies Diplomats Up For Promotion to Self-Certify They Have Not Been Convicted of Any Crime).  Is the WH also vetting all senior promotions out of the Pentagon? Who’s going to be doing this and what does this vetting includes? Also whose great idea was this, pray tell?  Will State/HR and A/DGHR soon say that this vetting has always been done by the White House since the beginning of whatevs?

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New U.S. Embassy The Hague Officially Opens With Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

Posted: 12:10 am  ET

 

On March 26, the U.S. Embassy in The Hague officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony and lots of scissors.  The officials listed below helped cut the ribbon according to the embassy website.

  • Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Wouter Koolmees
  • Mayor Frank Koen of the city of Wassenaar
  • Mayor Pauline Krikke of the city of The Hague
  • Ambassador Peter Hoekstra
  • Ambassador Kenneth D. Ward, United States Permanent Representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
  • Ambassador William Moser, the Principal Deputy Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations
  • Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Chairman, U.S. House Committee on Appropriations
  • Representative Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Co-Chair, Congressional Caucus on the Netherlands
  • Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Ranking Member, U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats
  • Representative John Carter (R-TX), Chairman, U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security
  • Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Ranking Member, U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax Policy
  • Executive Director of the EUR-IO/EX Director Robert S. Needham

One person missing is Nicole Nason, the Assistant Secretary for Administration (A), and as of last week, the person apparently also now in charge of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO). See her one-line official bio here as “A” overseeing twelve offices and OBO (currently unlisted).

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U.S. and 20+ Countries Expel Russian Diplomats Over UK Nerve Agent Attack

Posted: 4:08 am  ET

 

 

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Confirmations: Trujillo, Pence, Prado, Traina, Moley, Royce, and More

Posted: 12:04 am  ET

 

Late on March 22, the U.S. Senate confirmed the following executive nominations for the State Department, the Peace Corps, and a few other reps for international banks:

Exec. Cal. #616 Carlos Trujillo, of Florida, to be Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States
Exec. Cal. #752 – Robert Frank Pence, of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Finland
Exec. Cal. #753 – Edward Charles Prado, of Texas, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Argentine Republic
Exec. Cal. #754 – Trevor D. Traina, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Austria
Exec. Cal. #759 – Kevin Edward Moley, of Arizona, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (International Organization Affairs)

Exec. Cal. #761 – Marie Royce, of California, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Educational and Cultural Affairs)

Also confirmed:

PEACE CORPS
Exec. Cal. #760 – Josephine Olsen, of Maryland, to be Director of the Peace Corps

EUROPEAN BANK FOR RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT

Exec. Cal. #330 Steven T. Mnuchin – to be United States Governor of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, United States Governor of the African Development Fund, and United States Governor of the Asian Development Bank.

Exec. Cal. #756 – Judy Lynn Shelton, of Virginia, to be United States Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND

Exec. Cal. #331 Steven T. Mnuchin – to be United States Governor of the International Monetary Fund, United States Governor of the African Development Bank, United States Governor of the Inter-American Development Bank, and United States Governor of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for a term of five years.

INTERNATIONAL BANK FOR RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT

Exec. Cal. #755 – Erik Bethel, of Florida, to be United States Alternate Executive Director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for a term of two years

The nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Germany is still stuck in confirmation purgatory:

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Foggy Bottom Bids Goodbye to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Posted: 1:58 pm  ET

 

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Trump Formally Nominates Pompeo to be 70th Secretary of State as Tillerson Exits

Posted: 3:14 am  ET

 

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