It looks like the President of the United States is ending 2018 by ranting that “heads of countries” are calling and asking why Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer “is not approving their otherwise approved Ambassadors.” Well, first, to be clear, if they are really calling the WH asking about this, they would not be calling about “their otherwise approved ambassadors” because that would mean, these countries are calling about “their” ambassadors representing them in Washington. As far as we know, the U.S. Senate is not the entity that grants agrément for foreign diplomats to be appointed to the United States.
The president appears to be talking about U.S. Ambassadors nominated to foreign countries, which means, these are “our” ambassadors, and not these countries’ ambassadors even if they are assigned to these mysterious countries (whose “heads of countries” are um apparently “calling” and asking about stuff). If this is kinda confusing, try and imagine Saudi Arabia’s MBS or Turkey’s Erdogan calling the WH and asking what Schumer did to “their otherwise approved Ambassador” – that is, the Saudi Arabian and Turkish Ambassadors to the United States. They would not call the U.S. Ambassadors destined to their respective countries “their” ambassadors. We doubt if MBS would even call and ask what Schumer did to John Abizaid, Trump’s nominee to be the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Why would he? He got you know who. Would Erdogan call and ask what Schumer did to Trump’s nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Turkey? He wouldn’t, cmon. There isn’t one.
Second, we should note that there are indeed multiple nominees pending on the Senate Calendar and waiting for their full Senate votes. Except for two nominations who are subjects to two Democratic Senate holds, the rest of the nominees have been waiting for GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to put them up for a vote. Over the past year, the GOP appeared to prioritized the confirmation of judicial nominees. In the last 12 months, approximately 70 Judiciary nominees were confirmed while only about 47 State Department nominees were confirmed for the same duration (excluding USAID, UN, and Foreign Service lists).
We have a separate post on the nominations that are currently pending at the SFRC. We are anticipating that most of these nominees will be renominated at the beginning of the next Congress, and that most of them will probably get confirmation from the Senate given the GOP’s expanded majority in the 116th Congress. We don’t know how many more judicial nominees the GOP is planning to shovel through the confirmation process, however, but if there is a large enough number, those again could have an impact on the speed of confirmation for State Department nominees.
Below are the nominations pending in the Executive Calendar. May be there is a potential for the U.S. Senate to have mass confirmation of these nominations on January 2? You all can hope, right? We’ll have to wait and see.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Carol Z. Perez, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of MinisterCounselor, to be Director General of the Foreign Service, vice Arnold A. Chacon, resigned.
Ellen E. McCarthy, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Intelligence and Research), vice Daniel Bennett Smith.
Stephen Akard, of Indiana, to be Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, with the rank of Ambassador, vice Gentry O. Smith, resigned.
Lynne M. Tracy, of Ohio, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of MinisterCounselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Armenia.
Christopher Paul Henzel, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Yemen.
Sarah-Ann Lynch, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Co-operative Republic of Guyana
Earle D. Litzenberger, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Matthew John Matthews, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Brunei Darussalam.
Michael S. Klecheski, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mongolia.
We understand that the OPM sample letters to creditors during the furlough are actually driving some of our readers “insane.” This blogpost is for you. The first Wayback Machine capture of opm.gov was January 23, 2013. You will note that the website does not include sample letters to creditors. But there was a shutdown on Tuesday, October 1, 2013, which lasted for 16 days. A December 31, 2013 capture of opm.gov includes a longer Furlough Guidance including Sample Letters for Creditors, Mortgage Companies and Landlords (Word file) [49.87 KB]. The four-page document includes a cover page titled, “Sample Letters”, and three
temple template letters to creditor, mortgage company, and landlord.
In December 2016, OPM similarly had undated
issued a Sample Letters for Creditors, Mortgage Companies and Landlords (Word file) [85.5 KB] online. This document includes basically identical sample letters from 2013. The sample letters issued by OPM on December 27, right to that note about consulting “your personal attorney” is identical to the 2013 and 2016 versions. There were other government shutdowns prior to 2013, but the Wayback Machine does not include any opm.gov archive before 2013. It is possible that these letters existed prior to 2013 and they were just not archived online or they may have been created first in 2013 during the October 2013 shutdown to assist federal employees who encountered problems with creditors, mortgage companies, and landlords during a two-week shutdown. If you were at OPM or OMB and was nerdy enough to follow this in 2013, let us know.
OPM’s current version of the sample letters, although not marked as an update in the OPM website, removed the reference to a “personal attorney” and now just says “Following are sample letters that you may use as a guide when working with your creditors. OPM is not able to provide legal advice to individual employees.” This version is still four pages long but, it appears that OPM had also removed the last letter, the “Sample Letter to Landlord” and page 4 is now just an empty page. The Landlord sample letter includes the item about “the possibility of trading my services to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments” which garnered a lot of attention on social media.
In October 2018, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) notes the following about the “northern triangle”:
“Instability in Central America is one of the most pressing
challenges for U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere.
Several nations—particularly El Salvador, Guatemala, and
Honduras in the “northern triangle” of Central America—
are struggling with widespread insecurity, fragile political
and judicial systems, and high levels of poverty and
On October 22, 2018, President Trump said he intends to
cut off, or substantially reduce, aid to the northern triangle
countries. He has significant discretion to do so with funds
appropriated in FY2018, since Congress designated “up to”
$615 million for the Central America strategy, effectively
placing a ceiling on aid but no floor. The Consolidated
Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141), also empowers
the Secretary of State to suspend and reprogram some aid if
he determines the northern triangle governments have made
“insufficient progress” in addressing various legislative
Congress has placed strict conditions on assistance to the
northern triangle in an attempt to bolster political will in the
region and ensure foreign aid is used as effectively as
possible. According to the Consolidated Appropriations
Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141),
25% of assistance for the central governments of El
Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras must be withheld
until the Secretary of State certifies that the
governments are informing their citizens of the dangers
of irregular migration, combating human smuggling and
trafficking, improving border security, and cooperating
with the United States to receive and reintegrate
repatriated citizens who do not qualify for asylum.
Another 50% must be withheld until the Secretary of
State certifies that the governments are addressing 12
other concerns, including combating corruption;
countering gangs and organized crime; increasing
government revenues; supporting programs to reduce
poverty and promote equitable growth; and protecting
the rights of journalists, political opposition parties, and
human rights defenders to operate without interference.
The State Department certified that all three countries met
both sets of conditions in FY2016 and FY2017. For
FY2018, it has issued certifications for all three countries
regarding the first set of conditions but not the second set.
It looks like Washington, D.C. is one real hotspot with ever brimming chaos these days. Folks who write those Real Post Reports should do one for the United States of America.
In the 1990’s, denuclearization, a key aim of U.S. diplomacy, was at the heart of a series of crises on the Korean Peninsula throughout the Clinton Administration. Via history.state.gov:
There were signs of hope in early steps toward denuclearization. In January 1992, North Korea publicly committed to signing the nuclear safeguards agreement with the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to permitting inspections of its primary nuclear facility at Yongbyon. In April of the same year, the North and South signed the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which barred the parties from developing or acquiring nuclear weapons and limited them to using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only. […]
The parties returned to negotiations, but these, too, faltered as North Korea resisted IAEA inspections. By March 1994, North Korean diplomats threatened war if the United States and South Korea went to the U.N. In May North Korea withdrew from the IAEA. A last-minute private trip to North Korea by President Jimmy Carter in June 1994 averted war and led to U.S.-North Korean bilateral negotiations and the October 1994 Agreed Framework for the denuclearization of North Korea.
The Agreed Framework was a staged, multilateral agreement involving the two Koreas, the United States, and Japan. It required Pyongyang to halt its nuclear activities at Yongbyon, allow IAEA monitors in, and eventually dismantle the facility. In exchange, the United States, Japan, and South Korea would provide light water reactors, and the United States would provide interim energy supplies in the form of fuel-oil. Each stage was to build confidence that the parties were willing to continue.
In carrying out the agreement, however, numerous setbacks eroded trust among the parties. While the United States followed through on its promises to ship fuel-oil, the U.S. Congress delayed the deliveries. The 1997 IMF Crisis limited the ability of South Korea to contribute to the construction of the light water reactors, leading to delays. Meanwhile, North Korea engaged in provocative acts against South Korea and Japan, testing ballistic missiles and pursuing other weapons activities. In 1998, suspected nuclear weapons activities at Kumchang-ri brought the Agreed Framework to the brink of collapse. Once inspectors were finally allowed in, they found no evidence of nuclear activity, but mistrust remained high. The Clinton administration worked to get the Agreed Framework back on track, leading to the visit of a North Korean envoy to the United States, a joint statement of no hostile intent, and a reciprocal visit by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Pyongyang in October 2000.
However, despite these efforts, the nuclear issue was still unresolved. It was not long before the next crisis would arise, requiring the international community to take another approach to addressing the denuclearization issue. North Korea broke out of the 1994 agreement in the winter of 2002, resulting in the opening of the Six-Party Talks the following year, hosted by China.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
3000 DEFENSE PENTAGON
WASHINGTON, DC 20301 41060
December 20, 2018
Dear Mr. President:
I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.
I am proud of the progress that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance. Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong U.S. global influence.
One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.
Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions – to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.
My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.
Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability Within the Department.
I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732,079 civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people.
I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.
The President of the United States minus the “Mission Accomplished” banner, announcing the “historic victories against ISIS” and withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria:
The happy, thumbs-up people: