Reactions From President-Elect @JoeBiden’s Nominees

 

It’s Official: @Transition46 Announces Blinken, Mayorkas, Thomas-Greenfield, Haines, Sullivan, and @JohnKerry

The Biden-Harris Transition announced today President-Elect Joe Biden’s intent to nominate the following for his foreign policy and national security teams. All will require Senate confirmation except NSA Jake Sullivan and former Secretary of State John Kerry who will be the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.
  • Antony Blinken, a former Deputy Secretary of State, will be nominated to serve as  Secretary of State having previously held top foreign affairs posts on Capitol Hill, in the White House, and in the State Department.
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, a former Deputy Secretary of DHS, who has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate three times throughout his career, will be the first Latino and immigrant nominated to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service who has served on four continents, will be nominated to serve as United Nations Ambassador and elevated the role to his Cabinet.
  • Former Secretary of State John Kerry will fight climate change full-time as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and will sit on the National Security Council. This marks the first time that the NSC will include an official dedicated to climate change, reflecting the president-elect’s commitment to addressing climate change as an urgent national security issue.
  • Avril Haines, a former Deputy Director of the CIA and Deputy National Security Advisor, will be nominated to serve as Director of National Intelligence and will be the first woman to lead the intelligence community.
  • Jake Sullivan has been appointed National Security Advisor and will be one of the youngest people to serve in that role in decades.
Read more here.

 


 

Just Security: How to Restore Ethics to @StateDept

 

Amb. P. Michael McKinley on the Politicization of the State Department

Via The Atlantic: The Politicization of the State Department Is Almost Complete by P. Michael McKinley, a former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a former U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, Afghanistan, Peru, and Colombia.
I worked at the State Department for nearly four decades, in the later years as a four-time ambassador overseas and as a senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. I have watched as Pompeo and his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, have weaponized the institution for the Trump administration’s domestic political objectives. On October 9, just weeks away from the presidential election, Pompeo announced that he would authorize, apparently at President Donald Trump’s urging, the release of more of Hillary Clinton’s emails. In doing so, Pompeo will have all but completed the politicization of the State Department, arguably bringing it to its lowest point since the 1950s. The damage may be generational.
[…]
This transformation started with Tillerson, who came in with the goal of “redesigning” the State Department and with what appears to have been a political agenda to weed out anyone who had served in leadership positions during prior presidential administrations.
[…]
As a result, more than 100 out of some 900 senior Foreign Service officers—including the most visible high-ranking Hispanic, African American, South Asian, and female career officers—were fired, pushed out, or chose to leave the State Department during the first year of the Trump administration.
[…]
The track record since my departure shows that suspicious mindset. No career official has been nominated to fill an assistant-secretary position. Political ambassadorial nominations are at an all-time high; more than 40 percent have gone to political appointees, as compared with a historical average of 30 percent. The political attendees at Pompeo’s “Madison Dinners,” and the audiences he meets with in his domestic travel, demonstrate the blurring of professional and political lines. In May, Trump fired Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general, who was looking into Pompeo’s activities, underscoring how the legal adviser and IG offices are being drawn into political partisanship.
[…]
The transformation is not irreversible. Career civil servants have raised the alarm about the deep damage that the Trump administration has inflicted on U.S. institutions, including the State Department. The American people will soon make a decision about whether they want to continue down this path. Come Election Day, voters will not be able to say that they did not know.
Read in full here:

State/M Brian Bulatao Suspends All @StateDept Diversity and Inclusion Training Programs

 

On October 23, the State Department released an ALDAC cable on the “Department Implementation of Executive Order on Race and Sex Stereotyping.” The cable came with a message from the Under Secretary for Management and Pompeo BFF Brian Bulatao. 
The guidance says that  starting Friday, October 23, 2020, the Department is temporarily pausing all training programs related to diversity and inclusion in accordance with Executive Order (E.O.) 13950 of September 22, 2020 on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping. 
The president, who is undoubtably, the top promoter of divisiveness in this country has issued another dumpster fire here: Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping, September 22, 2020.
The State Department cable says that the “pause” will allow time for the Department and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to review program content.  “The Department is in regular communication with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and OPM to discuss the effective implementation of E.O. 13950 and to minimize the time period needed for review to ensure approved programs can resume in a timely fashion.” 
Apparently, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) will “collect relevant training materials” for submission to OPM’s review “in a complete, all-inclusive submission. ” 
What the heck is that? They think FSI is hiding some of their um, training?
The cable also says that the “Department continues to welcome input from employees on how to improve diversity and inclusion efforts, including from leadership, existing and emerging bureau and post Diversity and Inclusion Councils, and Employee Affinity Groups.”
Wait … emerging bureau at State? Hmmn … somebody has a pet new bureau over there, huh?
Bulatao’s message says that the Department “leadership” will be requesting in a separate cable “all bureaus and overseas missions to review and confirm that any materials related to diversity and inclusion courses or programs are consistent with the Executive Order.”
The OMB Memorandum says in part “Agency employees and contractors are not to engage in divisive training of Federal workers. Noncompliance by continuing with prohibited training will result in consequences, which may include adverse action for Federal employees who violate the Order.”
Agencies must:
“Review these trainings to determine whether they teach, advocate, or promote the divisive concepts specified in the Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping ( e.g., that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist or that an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive). Reviews of specific training curriculum materials can be supplemented by a broader keyword search of agency financial data and procurements for terms including, but not limited to:
      • “critical race theory,”
      • “white privilege,”
      • “intersectionality,”
      • “systemic racism,”
      • positionality,”
      • “racial humility,”
      • “unconscious bias”
When used in the context of diversity training, these terms may help to identify the type of training prohibited by the E.O. Searching for these key words without additional review does not satisfy the review requirements of the E.O.”
And contractors?
“Contractors who are found to have provided a training for agency employees that teaches, advocates, or promotes the divisive concepts specified in the E.O. in violation of the applicable contract will be considered for suspension and debarment procedures consistent with the E.O. and in accordance with the procedures set forth in Part 9 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation.”
See OPM – M-20-37 Ending Employee Trainings that Use Divisive Propaganda to Undermine the Principle of Fair and Equal Treatment for All (September 28, 2020) (4 Pages, 4,370 KB).
Holymoly macaroni!
If  the Federal government is about to revert to just calling ’em pranks, why should training be needed, luv?
Remember that time when FBI Agents Hung A Noose Over an African American DS Agent’s Workspace Twice, and the FBI Called It “Pranks”?

Spotlight on @StateDept Top Lawyer Marik String’s Experience and Conflict of Interest

The State Department’s official bio says that Marik String was appointed as Acting Legal Adviser of the Department of State on June 1, 2019. Previous to this appointment, the bio says he “served in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, where he performed the duties of the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs; Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary; and Deputy Assistant Secretary.  He managed more than 400 officers and the U.S. government’s $200 billion annual arms transfer portfolio, including the compliance and enforcement functions under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).”  Prior to his stint at PolMil, he served as Senior Advisor to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, now Ambassador to the Russian Federation.
String’s financial disclosure report says that he joined the State Department as Senior Advisor on July 13, 2017.
A June 13, 2019 reporting on Just Security notes that a “congressman raised his concern that String had been appointed Acting Legal Adviser to the State Department on May 24, “the very day that this emergency declaration was sent to the Hill, according to public records, this is when he got the promotion to be the top lawyer.” String worked for Cooper until May 23.”
That would be Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper who assumed office on May 2, 2019.
We don’t know when this bio went up and if it had been updated.
The Senate-confirmed Legal Adviser Jennifer Newstead’s departure was announced on April 22, 2019. If String wasn’t designated Acting Legal Adviser until June 1, 2019 as his official bio says, then pray tell who blessed Pompeo’s emergency declaration?
Via Just Security:
The newly published IG report does not probe String’s actions once he transitioned from working in the department that oversees FMS [foreign military sales] to working as the State Department’s top lawyer. Nor does it address String’s possible actions regarding the redactions of the report, which were applied, according to the State Department, to “protect executive branch confidentiality interests, including executive privilege.”
But at least two senior State Department officials have testified to String’s conduct: both his work on the emergency waiver and his later interactions with the IG’s office. Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charles Faulkner testified on July 24 that String “identified an ‘authority’ in the law ‘that allow[ed] for an emergency declaration of arms transfers,’” as Democratic members of Congress noted in their subpoena to interview String and others involved in the sale. They further noted:

“On the day of the emergency declaration, May 24, 2019, Mr. String was promoted to Acting State Department Legal Adviser, a position he still holds. When asked about those two events happening on the same day, Mr. Faulkner testified: ‘I think I see the significance of those statements.’”

During Linick’s recent testimony on the matter, he recalled a meeting between himself, String, and the current State Department Under Secretary for Management Brain Bulatao. In this meeting, Bulatao reportedly indicated to the IG that he “shouldn’t be doing the [Iranian Arms Sale investigation] because it was a policy matter not within the IG’s jurisdiction.” During the meeting, String agreed, according to the former IG’s testimony:

HFAC Dem Counsel: So Mr. String said that he didn’t think you should be looking into this, and Undersecretary Bulatao said he didn’t think you should be looking into this. Is that correct?

Linick: That’s correct, yes. Yes.

     Bulatao at times “tried to bully me,” Linick told the HFAC.

Read in full below:

@StateDept Skirts Thresholds in Arms Transfers to Saudi Arabia and UAE, Avoids Congressional Notifications

 

On August 10, a Senior State Department official held an on-background briefing on State/OIG’s  still unreleased report of the May 2019 Emergency Certification for Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Jordan.
The State Department also released a statement Inspector General Confirms No Wrongdoing in Emergency Arms Sales to Counter Iran, The Secretary’s “Emergency Certification Was Properly Executed” and “Complied with the Requirements” of Law.
The cover memo to Pol-Mil that accompanied the IG report dated August 10 says that “OIG will distribute a copy of this report to Congress and post a redacted version of this report on OIG’s public website within 2 business days.” Then the agency basically Bill Barred the IG report, putting a fine spin on the IG report, most likely expecting a couple of days of most favorable headlines.
State/OIG posted the report online on Tuesday, August 11. But nice try by Foggy Bottom’s spin-doctors. Now folks got to read the actual report though a redacted one. The IG report says that “In a memorandum dated July 27, 2020, the Department asserted that its requested redactions were necessary to protect executive branch confidentiality interests and, further, stated its position that the Secretary “has the authority to direct the OIG not to disclose privileged information, and the Department may do so without any final assertion of executive privilege.”
Well, not only redactions from the public report, but a more extensive redactions from the classified report that they also want to withhold from the Congress:

“On August 5, 2020, the Department provided its redactions to OIG’s report. Although the Department withheld relatively little information in the unclassified portion of the report,4 it withheld significant information in the classified annex necessary to understand OIG’s finding and recommendation.”
[…]
“Department asserted that the redactions made to the classified annex should be withheld from Congress because the underlying information implicates “executive branch confidentiality interests, including executive privilege.”

But see, if the State Department could assert any redaction for State/OIG’s work products, including in the classified annex to be withheld from Congress, what’s to keep Pompeo from asserting the same thing over IG investigations related to him, his wife, or any other senior officials?
It’s high time for the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) to go in and take a look at the State Department given the circumstances of the Linick firing, the abrupt resignations of the acting State OIG, as well as the dismissal of other IGs in multiple agencies. Starting with the State Department, CIGIE can then “address the integrity, economy, and effectiveness issues that transcend individual Government agencies.”
Summary of Review of Arms Transfers

“In response to congressional requests, OIG reviewed the Department of State’s (Department) role in arms transfers to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates following the Secretary’s May 2019 certification that an emergency existed under Section 36 of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA). 2 The Secretary’s emergency certification3 waived congressional review requirements for 22 arms transfer cases to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,4 with a total value of approximately $8.1 billion. Congress had previously placed holds5 on 15 of the 22 arms transfer cases included in the May 2019 emergency certification. At the time the Secretary certified the emergency, 6 of the 15 cases had been held by Congress for more than a year. The held cases included at least $3.8 billion in precision-guided munitions (PGMs) 6 and related transfers. In explaining the decision to place the holds, members of Congress cited concerns about the actions of the Saudi-led Coalition (Coalition)7 in Yemen since 2015, including high rates of civilian casualties caused by Coalition airstrikes employing U.S.- supplied PGMs.

For this review, OIG examined the process and timeline associated with the Secretary’s May 2019 use of emergency authorities contained in the AECA. OIG also evaluated the Department’s implementation of measures designed to reduce the risk of civilian harm caused by Saudi-led Coalition military operations in Yemen and analyzed Department processes for reviewing arms transfers that do not require notification to Congress. 8 The AECA affords the President or Secretary considerable discretion in determining what constitutes an emergency. Moreover, the AECA does not define the term “emergency.” Accordingly, OIG did not evaluate whether the Iranian malign threats cited in the Secretary’s May 2019 certification and associated memorandum of justification constituted an emergency, nor did OIG make any assessment of the policy decisions underlying the arms transfers and the associated emergency.

OIG determined that the Secretary’s emergency certification was executed in accordance with the requirements of the AECA. However, OIG also found that the Department did not fully assess risks and implement mitigation measures to reduce civilian casualties and legal concerns associated with the transfer of PGMs included in the May 2019 emergency certification.9 In addition, OIG found the Department regularly approved arms transfers to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that fell below AECA thresholds that trigger notification to Congress. These approvals included items such as PGM components on which Congress had placed holds in cases where the transfers reached the thresholds requiring congressional notification. However, the AECA does not require the Department to notify Congress if it approves transactions below those thresholds specified in the law. OIG issued one recommendation to the Department in a classified annex10 that accompanies this report.”

Wait, the “emergency certification was executed in accordance with the requirements of the AECA” but the OIG made no evaluation whether it was an emergency?  So, that’s something. Was this the same position taken by the former IG Steve Linick?
Per footnote:

Sections 36(b)(1), 36(c)(1), and 36(d)(1) of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. § 2776) specify the types of arms transfers that must be notified to Congress. For example, transfers to countries other than NATO members, Japan, Australia, the Republic of Korea, Israel, or New Zealand of major defense equipment in excess of $14 million and non-major defense equipment in excess of $50 million must be notified to Congress.

4,221 Below-Threshold Arms Transfers Estimated at $11.2 Billion

OIG reviewed Department records on approved arms transfer cases involving Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that fell below the AECA thresholds that trigger notification to Congress.41 The records show the Department approved a total of 4,221 below-threshold arms transfers involving Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with an estimated total value of $11.2 billion since January 2017. Components of PGMs were among the below-threshold transfers to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates approved during this period. Although the Department approved below-threshold transfers of PGM components as early as January 2017, the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security notified the Secretary in 2018 and 2019 that the Department intended to proceed with additional below-threshold approvals notwithstanding congressional holds on larger, above-threshold transfers of similar items.

So basically, the State Department did separate below threshold arms transfers to Saudi Arabia and UAE and avoided the required congressional notifications. Apparently, it will continue to do so despite congressional holds on similar items.
Looks like the State Department is daring Congress to do something about this. Here’s Pompeo also touting full “vindication.”

Also on August 11, Politico’s tireless reporter Nahal Toosi covering the State Department published a copy of the same OIG report, unredacted.
The unredacted document is posted here labeled in red “FOR INTERNAL U.S. GOVERNMENT/COMMITTEE USE ONLY – NOT FOR PUBLIC RELEASE MAY NOT BE FURTHER DISCLOSED WITHOUT CONSENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE.  Wow! Now you can see which part of the public report, the State Department asserted the public should not see (it has to do with the timeline of the emergency declaration and the bureau involved. And oh, money, money, money).

Pompeo’s @StateDept Office – Oh, My! Warning Red in All Categories #BestPlacestoWorkNot

 

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) recently published a report looking into the firing of former State OIG Steve Linick (see Watchdog Firing Came Amid Probe of Trump’s Friend, the U.S. Ambassador in London). Excerpt below:

In Senate testimony on July 30, Pompeo gave a new reason for the firing, claiming there was dismal employee morale in the inspector general’s office under Linick’s watch. Of “38 assistant secretary level bureaus,” Pompeo said, “the IG’s office was the worst survey results of any of those 38.”

But an examination of the data shows a strikingly different picture.

The department’s Office of Inspector General in fact had the third-highest engagement score of any State subcomponent in 2019, according to the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service’s analysis of Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey data from 2019, the most recent publicly available.

Instead, it was Pompeo’s office—the Office of Secretary of State—that had the lowest employee engagement score of any State Department subcomponent in the “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” list. Indeed, it ranked near the bottom government-wide, 404th out of 420 federal subcomponents.

So we went and took a look. Within State Department sub-components, the top three highest engagement scores per Partnership for Public Service:

Within State Department sub-components, the three bottom ranked offices with the lowest engagements scores per Partnership for Public Service:
The data includes a total of 24 State Department subcomponents out of 420. Click on the screen caps below to see a larger view. Don’t skip the categories. Click here to see the original data from the Partnership for Public Service.
How soon before the State Department releases its own survey to show that the Office of the Secretary has the best survey results?

Belarus’ Lukashenko in Power Since 1994 Claims Landslide Election Victory, Spawns Widespread Protests

 

Maximum Pressure Season 3 Gets a Dual-Hatted Special Rep Elliot Abrams For Venezuela AND Iran

Pompeo’s remarks on the departure of Brian Hooks says that “he has achieved historic results countering the Iranian regime.” Historic results  does not mean successful, does it? Why else would they need Elliot Abrams to be the new Special Representative for Iran?  Or the former Iran Rep has done such a historic job his replacement only needs to do the job at half time, as Abrams spend the other half exerting maximum pressure on Venezuela?
What the bananas is even happening?
State Department bench these days must be really thin, why else would these senior diplomats be doing two-three jobs at any given time? But perhaps it’s not State that has a thin bench but Pompeo’s in group that has a thin bench. And with folks bailing out these days (Akard, Hook, who else?), how soon before Foggy Bottom’s upper echelon starts looking like a ghost town?
Pardon me? Not soon enough? Well, okay, let’s keep our ears to the ground.
It’s that time of year when burrowing feds come into fashion. In 2016, Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee were excited to ferret out political appointees who slip into career positions in the federal government. They must be just as excited now.
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