Special Rep For Korea Stephen E. Biegun to be Deputy Secretary of State

 

On October 31, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate Stephen E. Biegun of Michigan, to be Deputy Secretary of State. The WH released the following brief bio:

Stephen E. Biegun is the United States Special Representative for North Korea at the Department of State, where he directs all United States policy on North Korea.  Prior to returning to government service in 2018, Mr. Biegun served as Vice President of International Governmental Relations for Ford Motor Company, where he was a third-generation Ford employee.  At Ford, he led an 80-person team located across 20 countries and was responsible for global trade strategy and international risk assessment.  Mr. Biegun has more than two decades of service in the Executive and Legislative Branches of government.  In Congress, he served as national security advisor to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, as Chief of Staff of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and as a senior staff member of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.  At the White House, he served as the National Security Council Executive Secretary, a senior staff position under National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.  A graduate of the University of Michigan, Mr. Biegun is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has served on the boards of the National Bureau of Asian Research, the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, the U.S.-Russia Foundation for Economic Development and the Rule of Law, and Freedom House.

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Former USAID Employees Sign Statement of Support For U.S. Diplomats

 

Via American Diplomacy:

This Statement of Support for U.S. diplomats, first issued October 22, 2019, has been signed by several hundred former USAID employees.

As former Foreign Service Officers, civil servants and political appointees with the US Agency for International Development, we have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, in Washington DC and throughout the developing world. We are writing in support of colleagues now under siege for their work as diplomats with the Department of State. Together, we spent our careers working to represent the policies and values of the United States. We are angered at the treatment of dedicated, experienced, and wise public servants like Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch; and we are distraught at the dangers inherent in the President’s cavalier (and quite possibly corrupt) approach to making foreign policy on impulse and personal interest rather than in response to national security concerns.

As USAID veterans, we spent our careers helping countries develop the capacity to govern and care for their people. Like our State and military colleagues, we pledge to serve wherever we are sent, in war zones, fragile states, or at the center of natural and man-made disasters. We have been under fire, evacuated from countries in crisis, and helicoptered in to help with floods, earthquakes and famines. Friends and colleagues have sacrificed their lives. We have worked closely with State colleagues to help countries recover from conflict, build new democracies, create jobs, deal with health issues like Ebola and HIV/AIDs, and feed the hungry. It was our job and we were glad to do it.

We are appalled that taxpayer funds for foreign aid may have been used to leverage foreign support for partisan political objectives. The way the President is conducting foreign policy raises questions about the reliability of the U.S. as a partner, its commitment to diplomatic norms, and its capacity for leadership. His administration’s treatment of State Department officers raises concerns about whether we will have the human and institutional capacity to answer those questions.

In a recent essay in Foreign Affairs, former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns calls the President’s “scorched-earth tactics, casual relationship with truth and contempt for career public service” a “New McCarthyism.” The President’s contempt for professionals is having a marked impact on the capacity of the State Department to do its job. According to a Government Accountability Office report, a 13-month hiring freeze left the State Department dangerously overstretched with “limited capacity to engage host country officials, to identify security risks or protect sensitive information.” An August 2019 Inspector General Report admonished political appointees in the Department for “inappropriate practices…including disrespect and hostile treatment of career employees,” based on “perceived political views.” Experienced Foreign Service Officers have been looking for the exits. They are not being replaced. Applications to the Foreign Service have dropped to levels rarely seen in 40 years.

A professional Foreign Service is key to the ability of the United States to develop and conduct a coherent foreign policy that protects our national interests. All of us, as Ambassador Yovanovitch stated in her deposition, took an oath when we joined to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” As she said, we feel privileged to serve and are committed to do so on a nonpartisan basis “to strengthen our national security and promote our national interests.”

Our country needs a strong and vibrant Foreign Service, untainted by partisan political interference, to strengthen our relationships with countries around the world. If there is one small consolation all of us can take from recent events in Ukraine, it is that the country has been introduced to public servants like Ambassadors Marie Yovanovitch, Michael McKinley, William Taylor and DAS George Kent. They represent the high integrity, capability and professionalism of career State Department officers, and we are proud to stand with them.

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Click here for the original post and the list of signatories.

Read: Opening Statements By FSOs Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson in #ImpeachmentInquiry

 

Foreign Service Officers Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson appeared on the Hill today for their closed door depositions. The links to their Opening Statements are provided below.

Catherine M. Croft is a Foreign Service Officer with nine years in service. According to her Opening Statement, she started work on Ukraine in 2013, when she was posted to the U.S. Mission to NATO. After Russia invaded Crimea, she was assigned to NATO headquarters in Brussels. From August 2015 to July 2017, she served as one of several Ukraine Desk Officers in Foggy Bottom. In July 2017 she joined the National Security Council Staff at the White House as Director covering Ukraine. She left  the NSC in July 2018 and started studying Arabic at the ForeignService Institute in preparation for a tour in Baghdad. But in May 2019, she was asked to take over as Ambassador Volker’s Advisor. She spent the month of June at the US Embassy Kyiv “to prepare and then spent the week of July 8 overlapping with” her predecessor, Christopher Anderson.

Christopher J. Anderson is a Foreign Service Officer with fourteen years of service. According to his Opening Statement, he has been in the Foreign Service since 2005. His work in Ukraine began with a three-week temporary duty to Kyiv in March 2014 “just after Russia invaded and occupied Crimea.” He returned to Kyiv in September 2014 to serve as the External Unit Chief in the Political Section of Embassy Kyiv. He served in Kyiv from 2014–2017 and “worked closely with Ambassador Yovanovitch from 2015–2017.” In August 2017 Ambassador Volker reportedly asked him to serve as Special Advisor for Ukraine Negotiations. He served in that position from late August 2017 until July 12, 2019. He was succeed on his job by Catherine Croft.

 

D/Secretary John Sullivan on the Effort to Smear Former US Amb to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch

On October 30, 2019, Deputy Secretary John Sullivan appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation. His 2-page Opening Statement is available to read here. Given his prior confirmation, and what appears to be bipartisan support in the Senate (plus GOP got the votes), it is likely that he will sail through this confirmation process and may be in Moscow by Thanksgiving Day.

House Passes Resolution Recognizing 1915 Armenian Genocide

From our 2015 clips: When Henry Morgenthau, Sr. resigned in 1916 as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, his reasons included his “failure to stop the destruction of the Armenians.”  Ambassador Morgenthau’s story is available to read online here.   It was not until the Second World War when we had a term for the intentional destruction of an entire people.
In 1943 Raphael Lemkin coined the word “genocide” to characterize the intentional mass murder of a whole people, basing the concept on the Nazi extermination of Jews and the Ottoman massacres of Armenians. He worked tirelessly to achieve the United Nations Convention against Genocide and was among the representatives of four states who ratified the Genocide Convention.  Raphael Lemkin is cited by the Oxford English Dictionary for coining the term “genocide” by combining Greek genos(γένος), “race, people” and Latin cīdere “to kill” in his work Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (1944) (via).
On October 29, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 405-11 agreeing to H.Res. 296 “Affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide”. October 29 is also Turkey’s Republic Day, the 96th anniversary commemorating the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
H.Res. 296 includes the following:

Whereas the Honorable Henry Morgenthau, United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913 to 1916, organized and led protests by officials of many countries against what he described as the empire’s “campaign of race extermination”, and was instructed on July 16, 1915, by United States Secretary of State Robert Lansing that the “Department approves your procedure … to stop Armenian persecution”;

Also see 1915 Armenian Genocide — The “G” Word as a Huge Landmine, and Diplomatic Equities April 24, 2015
John M. Evans: The diplomat who called the “Events of 1915” a genocide, and was canned for it April 24, 2015

 

 

SFRC Ranking Member Menendez Calls For OSC Hatch Act Review Into Pompeo’s Kansas Travel

 

 

On October 29, the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), requesting a review to determine whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has violated the Hatch Act, a federal law passed in 1939, which limits certain political activities of federal employees. According to OSC, the law’s purposes are “to ensure that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure that federal employees are advanced based on merit and not based on political affiliation.”​​​​ ​​

I write to request an immediate review and assessment of the Secretary of State’s compliance with the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326.
[..]
Since March 2019, the Secretary has taken three official trips to Kansas, apparently at the expense of the Department of State. During the latest trip, from October 24 to 25, 2019, the Secretary visited the Wichita State University Tech National Center for Aviation Training, participated in a workforce development roundtable, visited Textron Aviation Longitude and Latitude Production, and met with students from Wichita State University.  

In an interview, he refused to discuss matters related to Ukraine, insisting he was “here today to talk about workforce development. I came here today to talk about the great things that are going on here in Kansas.” The events in Kansas were aimed largely at promoting the President’s “Pledge to American Workers,” which has no discernible relation to the Department of State. According to The Wall Street Journal, he also “discussed the U.S. Senate race in Kansas” with Charles Koch, the head of Koch Industries, and former top contributor to his political campaigns, as well as backer of Pompeo’s prior business.  Textron Inc., the parent company of Textron Aviation, was also a major contributor to then-Congressman Pompeo’s political campaigns. 

For months, public reports have persisted that the Secretary was considering running for U.S. Senate in Kansas.  Many in Kansas perceive his appearances in the state to be a de facto campaign effort.  Indeed, an October 25, 2019 Kansas City Star editorial titled “Mike Pompeo, either quit and run for U.S. Senate in Kansas or focus on your day job,” seems to indicate his actions are already being construed as evidence of a possible candidacy by members of the press and the public in Kansas.  And following his trip, the Department of State’s official twitter handle posted a workforce and Kansas-centric video montage of the Secretary’s visit, which appears to have no nexus to the Department’s official work.    

Secretary Pompeo is not any federal employee. Rather, he is one of the most prominent members of the President’s cabinet. He appears frequently on TV and for interviews, and, as is true for many Secretaries of State, is known and recognized by the American public. Thus, it is even more crucial that he and the Department maintain a clear line between his actions as a federal employee and steward of the U.S. government, and any efforts that could be perceived as political in nature or laying the groundwork for potential campaign activity. I therefore ask that you review his travel and his interactions in Kansas closely, and determine whether any violations have occurred or additional guidance to the Department or the Secretary may be warranted.

The full letter is available to read here.

U.S. Embassy Maseru: A Small Post That Works Better Than Foggy Bottom’s 7th Floor

 

State/OIG recently released its review of the US Embassy in Maseru, Lesotho. Post is headed by Ambassador Rebecca Gonzales with Daniel Katz as deputy chief of mission. The full report is available here (PDF). Excerpt below.

Post Overview

The Kingdom of Lesotho is a small, mountainous country slightly smaller than the state of Maryland and completely surrounded by the country of South Africa. In 2019, an estimated 51 percent of Lesotho’s population of almost 2 million were under the age of 25. More than half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line, and its HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is the second highest in the world. Human trafficking is also a significant issue, as Lesotho serves as a source and a destination for trafficking in both adults and children. Approximately three-fourths of Lesotho’s citizens live in rural areas and engage in animal herding and subsistence agriculture.

Staffing

The FY 2019 authorized staffing levels for Embassy Maseru included 32 U.S. direct-hire positions, 3 eligible family members, and 91 locally employed (LE) staff members. Additionally, the Peace Corps had 93 volunteers serving in Lesotho. Other U.S. Government agencies represented in the embassy were the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Defense, and MCC.

Front Office and Leadership/Management Principles

The Ambassador, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, arrived in Lesotho in January 2018. She previously served as the Chief of Staff for the Assistant Secretary for Administration and, prior to that, as the Deputy Executive Director of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. The Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), also a career member of the Foreign Service, arrived in Maseru in October 2017. His prior assignment was the Mission Deputy at Embassy Koror, Palau. OIG found that, overall, the Ambassador and the DCM led the embassy in a collegial manner and worked together effectively. The Ambassador, a management officer, provided the DCM with guidance on management operations, while the DCM, a political officer, advised the Ambassador on political issues. For example, the Ambassador worked with the DCM to resolve an LE staff tax withholding issue, described in more detail below, and the DCM helped the Ambassador strategize on how best to engage the Government of Lesotho on political matters. The Ambassador and the DCM had an open-door policy, which the American staff confirmed. The Ambassador held monthly meetings with all agency and section heads, in addition to a weekly Country Team meeting. The DCM attended these meetings and also met weekly with section heads to discuss and resolve outstanding problems.

OIG found the Ambassador demonstrated the Department of State’s (Department) leadership and management principles outlined in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214. OIG questionnaires and interviews indicated embassy staff found the Ambassador to be open, honest, caring, and passionate about her work in Lesotho. OIG interviews and surveys showed that she encouraged staff at all levels to bring their ideas, concerns, and questions to her, which led to productively identifying and resolving problems. She actively solicited feedback on issues affecting morale and sought to resolve them. For example, when embassy employees had difficulties crossing the border into South Africa, the Ambassador raised the issue with the Government of Lesotho, and the situation improved.

Embassy employees told OIG the DCM modeled 3 FAM 1214 leadership and management principles that relate to valuing and developing people, as he was skilled in mentoring and committed to subordinates’ professional development. Employees also described the DCM as approachable and collaborative, and they appreciated that he organized embassy community events that included both LE and American staff.

The Front Office Led an Effort to Resolve a Tax Issue for Local Staff

OIG found that the Ambassador and DCM strengthened relationships with both LE staff and the host country by resolving a tax issue involving the LE staff. Based on Department policy, the embassy had not withheld local taxes for the LE staff. Instead, employees were expected to pay their taxes directly to the Lesotho tax authority. However, local employees had not always complied with this requirement, and the Lesotho tax authority eventually began seizing funds from LE staff members’ bank accounts for back taxes. After the LE staff asked the Front Office to help resolve the issue, the Ambassador worked with the Department to allow the embassy to withhold taxes from LE staff pay. She also met with the LE Staff Committee on several occasions to hear their concerns. Furthermore, beginning in June 2018, the DCM, along with the Management Officer, met with the LE Staff Committee at least once every 3 weeks to work through the details of resolving the tax issue. The Front Office also used Country Team meetings and town halls to keep the embassy community apprised of developments. In April 2019, the embassy began withholding local taxes and sending the funds to the host country’s tax authority on behalf of the LE staff.

Spotlight on Success: Crisis Preparedness Fair (Report notes that RSO is Dennis Jones)

In December 2017, the Regional Security Officer organized a Crisis Preparedness Fair as part of a broader crisis management exercise. The Crisis Preparedness Fair was an effort to involve the entire embassy community—especially LE staff and American family members— in emergency planning. Most embassy sections hosted their own emergency preparednessthemed activities. For example, the Public Affairs Section held a question and answer game show, the Information Management Office displayed emergency communication equipment, the Regional Security Office and Health Unit had trauma and medical treatment demonstrations (including CPR), and the Facilities Management Section offered fire extinguisher training. The fair included information for participants to take home. In addition to providing training and exposure to emergency resources and personnel, it gave key external contacts an informal environment in which to meet the embassy staff with whom they would interact in an emergency. The fair was well received within the community, and the Regional Security Officer planned to make it an annual event.

Spotlight on Success: Management Section Instituted a Continuous Process Improvement System to Improve Management Controls (Report notes that MGT is Jacob Rocca)

In 2018, while working on the annual Chief of Mission Management Control Statement of Assurance, the Management Officer instituted a continuous process improvement system that significantly improved the embassy’s ability to track and resolve its internal control deficiencies. The embassy also created a quality coordinator position, currently filled by an eligible family member, to run the tracking system. The system includes all deficiencies identified through the statement of assurance process as well as in OIG questionnaires and recommendations in past OIG reports of other embassies. The quality coordinator tracks the deficiencies, meets regularly with the employees responsible for addressing these concerns and enters into the system updates on the embassy’s progress in resolving the problems. A deficiency is not considered “corrected” until preventative measures are in place to ensure that it does not re-occur. As of April 2019, the embassy had successfully resolved 62 items identified since the process began in December 2018.

 

 

Senior Career Diplomat Matthias Mitman to be the National Security Council’s Executive Secretary

 

On October 23, the White House announced Trump’s intention to appoint senior career diplomat Matthias Mitman of Virginia, to be the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council. The WH released the following brief bio:

Mr. Mitman, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, most recently served as Chief of Staff to the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs.  He previously served as Principal Officer in U.S. Consulates General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Erbil, Iraq; and Basrah, Iraq.  Mr. Mitman was also the Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa, Honduras and Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at U.S. Embassy Moscow, Russia.  This will be his third detail to the National Security Council, having earlier served as Senior Duty Officer in the White House Situation Room and as Director for Iraq.  Before joining the Foreign Service, Mr. Mitman taught as an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ball State University.  He is a Distinguished Graduate of the National War College and earned an A.B. from Wabash College.

The most recent Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien was named this Administration’s fourth National Security Advisor in September following the departure of John Bolton (see Trump Names Hostage Envoy Robert O’Brien His Fourth National Security Advisor).

 

The Sad Swagger of Mike Pompeo (Button Format)

 

A selection of online comments about the “artifact” of international embarrassment that may soon join other actual diplomatic artifacts at the U.S. Diplomacy Center.
“This is so sad.”
“At least they’re not spending money on graphic design”
“That is a crappy use for a public affairs budget.”
“stupid buttons.”
“I will take substance over swagger any day.”
“It was once a noble calling.”
“The background text… I just can’t. “coolness” “cool vibe””
“Sweet mercy this is embarrassing”
“Cheesy. Trying to play the kids for suckers.”
“I love how my taxpayer dollars are spent”
“cool vibe. Swagger. CRINGE!!! This is so bad. Incredibly out of touch with reality.”
“And just makes it more pathetic. If you have swagger, do you need a button telling everyone?”

 

State/EUR’s Philip Reeker on the Hill Despite Bulatao’s Letter Not to Testify

 

It is Saturday, but Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker is on the Hill for a deposition in the impeachment inquiry. On Friday, the Undersecretary for Management Brian Bulatao reportedly sent a letter to Ambassador Reeker’s lawyer ordering him not/not to testify.

Below is his official bio via state.gov:

Ambassador Philip T. Reeker is the Acting Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs since March 18.

Prior to his appointment, Ambassador Reeker assumed his duties as the USEUCOM Civilian Deputy and POLAD November 2017 and will continue to serve in this position until May 31, 2019. Prior to that he served as the United States Consul General in Milan, covering northern Italy beginning in September 2014. From July 2011 through 2013, Ambassador Reeker served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs focused on the Balkans, Central Europe, and Holocaust Issues.

He was U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia from 2008 to 2011, and Deputy State Department Spokesman/Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, under Secretaries of State Albright and Powell (2000-2004). Previous assignments also include: Minister Counselor for Public Affairs under Ambassador Ryan Crocker at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq (2007-2008); Deputy Chief of Mission in Budapest (2004-2007); and Director of Press Relations at the State Department (1999-2000). He was Spokesman for the Special Envoy for Kosovo, Ambassador Christopher Hill. Ambassador Reeker joined the Foreign Service in 1992, and served earlier tours in Budapest, Hungary and Skopje, Macedonia.

Ambassador Reeker is the 2013 Recipient of the Robert C. Frasure Memorial Award for “his commitment to peace and the alleviation of human suffering caused by war or civil injustice” in the Balkans; the National Albanian American Council presented Ambassador Reeker with its “Hands of Hope Award” the same year. He received the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy in 2003, and several State Department Superior Honor Awards.

Ambassador Reeker is a graduate of Yale University (1986), and received an MBA from the Thunderbird School of International Management in Arizona (1991). Born in Pennsylvania, Ambassador Reeker grew up in several U.S. cities and spent his high school years in Brisbane, Australia. His foreign languages are: Hungarian, Macedonian, Italian, and German.