@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.

Advertisements

Diplomatic Spouse Martin Cooke Rescues Drowning Tourist in Western Australia

Posted: 2:27 am  ET

 

Western Australia’s Esperance Express reported in early March that “brave actions saved the life of a drowning tourist” after he was caught in a rip current at Twilight Cove in Western Australia.

Around 4:30pm on Sunday March 4, 2018, American tourist Martin Cooke was swimming when he spotted a man waving in distress.

“I saw a guy waving and at first I thought he was just having fun, waving at somebody else, but then I noticed that a guy a little distance from him was signalling all kinds of trouble,” Mr Cooke said.
“So I swam out to that guy as quick as I could, and by the time I got out to him he was under, so I just grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him above the water.

 

Martin Cooke is the spouse of American Consul General Rachel Cooke who was on official visit in the area. Esperance located on the south east coast of Western Australia is under U.S. Consulate General Perth‘s consular district.  According to its website, the first U.S. consular official in Western Australia was posted to Fremantle in 1886, with the first Consul General appointed to the State’s capital of Perth in 1937.  Western Australia is the country’s biggest state and occupies the entire western third of the country, with a population of approximately 2.6 million. The consular district of Western Australia has around 15,000 U.S. citizens at any one time.

About that day of the incident, Martin said: “[T]hat’s what we were doing in Esperance. She went to work there and in the nearby town of Albany the week of March 5th, and we went down early to enjoy the weekend since we’d never been there before. We were out at a beach near town when I pulled Francis from the water — he and his friends were having a tough time in the strong current, and I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. He also lives in Perth and we’re in touch via email now — we plan to meet up with him and his family soon to catch up.”

Martin whose background is IT has been a diplomatic spouse for 16 years. He told us, “I’ve been lucky to be able to continue in that line of work for most of my time as an EFM — that included [tours] in Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Kabul, Tajikistan, and then in Herat in western Afghanistan.” He was “the very first EFM in a field location in a war zone ever.” While his FSO did back-to-back assignments in DC, Martin was also able to work with the content management team at the Washington Post.

He is currently into drone photography and videography. Check out his gorgeous photos from  Esperance and please give Consulate  Perth’s Facebook page some love.

#

 

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.

#

#

Related posts:

 


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).

#


New U.S. Embassy London Gets a #HouseWarming Party #33NineElmsLane

Posted: 12:06 am  ET

 

#


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

Posted: 4:08 am  ET

 

 

#

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:

#


@StateDept INL Bureau Seeks Contractor as Foreign Service Assignments Officer

Posted: 2:42 am  ET
Update: 12:03 pm PT

 

According to a recent fedbiz announcement, the Office of Resource Management at the Bureau of International Narcotics, and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL/RM) is seeking a Personal Services Contractor who will be the bureau’s “Foreign Service Assignments Officer.” The contract is for one year with four option years.

So State is going to use contractors for assignments officers now?

We can’t recall Foreign Service Assignments Officer as contractors before. Is it far fetched to think of this as a glimpse of the future in Foggy Bottom?  CRS report from 2014 notes that OMB Circular A-76 distinguishes between the exercise of discretion per se, which it says does not make a function inherently governmental, and the exercise of “substantial discretion,” which it says makes a function inherently governmental.

And if the Foreign Service Assignments Officer position is deemed a commercial activity, that is, an activity not so intimately related to the public interest as to mandate performance by government personnel” (see CRS link to inherently government function below) how long before all bureau assignments officer are converted to PSC positions with one year contracts and four year options?

Update: We just got a note telling us that the INL Foreign Service Assignments officer has been a PSC since at least 2010. And that this position “serves in an advisory capacity, ensuring that INL’s program offices and front office understand HR rules and processes,and assists with how the offices conduct the FS assignments process within INL.” This position reportedly “makes no decisions, sets no policy, very non-governmental.”  Also that most bureaus do not have the PSC hiring authority, “so it’s quite unlikely that the function in other bureaus will be moving to contractors any time soon.” 

About INL: The Bureau has overall responsibility for the development, supervision, and implementation of international narcotics control assistance activities and for international criminal justice issues for the Department of State. The Foreign Service Assignments Officer (FSAO) will perform duties related to both domestic and foreign assignments, and will supplement existing staff during times of heavy workload, when staff shortages occur, or when expertise is required for specific projects.

About FSAO: The FSAO receives administrative direction from the Administrative Officer, but acts with a high degree of independence in planning, scheduling, and completing work, within the framework of delegated authority. Many assignments are self-initiated based on the FSAO’s assessment of post requirements and the means to meet them. As the primary liaison with post personnel, regional bureau staff, and office of Career Development and Assignments (HR/CDA) in the Bureau of Human Resources (HR), the FSAO has broad latitude in coordinating work efforts, and plays a key role in ensuring that posts operate effectively and in compliance with relevant regulations.

The FSAO uses a high degree of expertise and independent judgment in developing, consulting, coordinating, and executing programs to achieve compliance with legal and regulatory requirements and organizational goals and objectives, and resolves all but the most complex and sensitive issues. Recommendations and decisions are assumed to be technically accurate, and work is reviewed in terms of the overall effectiveness of the efforts by management within INL/RM as well as by program office staff, post officials, and others who rely on the FSAO’s advice and support.

The announcement says that the purposes of the work “are to collaborate with management in the Department in providing prompt and effective administrative support of the assignment of FS personnel domestically and at INL positions at posts; support INL missions at posts in engaging their administrative and personnel resources as effectively as possible; liaise with relevant Bureaus and USG agencies to ensure that INL’s best interests are protected; and ensure that administrative and substantive policies are mutually compatible.”

  1. SOLICITATION NUMBER: PSC-18-016-INL
  2. ISSUANCE DATE: 03/13/2018
  3. CLOSING DATE: 03/27/2018
  4. TIME SPECIFIED FOR RECEIPT OF APPLICATIONS: 3:00 PM, EST
  5. POSITION TITLE: INL Foreign Service Assignments Officer
  6. MARKET VALUE: $114,590 – $148,967 (GS-14 Equivalent)
  7. PERIOD OF PERFORMANCE: One year from date of award, with four optional years
  8. PLACE OF PERFORMANCE: Washington, DC

Duties and Responsibilities:

  •   Manages the Foreign Service Assignments process, providing expert advice and guidance to senior Bureau managers on all aspects of Foreign Service position management, recruitment, assignment, and evaluation.
  •   Counsels Foreign Service staff on all assignment related questions and provides support and guidance to those individuals who have been offered positions within the Bureau.
  •   Coordinates all FS issues with the appropriate offices within the Bureau of Human Resources, e.g., HR/CDA and HR/PE, resolving issues pertaining to FS assignments and performance, and recommends ways to improve or streamline the process.
  •   Oversees suggestion and award, quality, and or productivity programs related to these activities. Analyzes and evaluates, on a quantitative or qualitative basis, the effectiveness of programs or operations in meeting established goals and objectives.
  •   Liaises with colleagues and professional contacts in other bureaus whose work and role are relevant to supporting INL, including but not limited to Diplomatic Security, the Office of Medical Services, HR/CDA, the Family Liaison Office, the Office of Foreign Missions, Office of Allowances, and others as required.
  •   Analyzes administrative processes and/or agency programs for the Executive Director, with particular emphasis on management and implementation of an effective program in meeting Foreign Service human resources goals and objectives for the Bureau and its worldwide operations.
  •   Identifies problem areas and opportunities for improvement and provides fully staffed recommendations to management, including the Assistant Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretaries. This encompasses issues such as streamlining processes, assessing the feasibility of automated systems for meeting the Bureau’s HR responsibilities, standardizing operations, or collaborating with other organizations on mutual responsibilities, improved management practices or the impact of new or proposed legislation or regulations on HR programs.
  •  Communicates with colleagues, agency management, and other contacts outside the agency to gather and analyze information about these agency processes and programs.

 

Related item:

Definitions of “Inherently Governmental Function” in Federal Procurement Law and Guidance PDF | 2014

#


Former Ambassador John Feeley’s Parting Shot: Why I could no longer serve this president

Posted: 4:25 am ET

 

Via WaPo:

I never meant for my decision to resign to be a public political statement. Sadly, it became one.

The details of how that happened are less important than the demoralizing take-away: When career public servants take an oath to communicate dissent only in protected channels, Trump administration officials do not protect that promise of privacy.

Leaking is not new in Washington. But leaking a sitting ambassador’s personal resignation letter to the president, as mine was, is something else. This was a painful indication that the current administration has little respect for those who have served the nation apolitically for decades. […] A part of my resignation letter that has not been quoted publicly reads: “I now return home, with no rank or title other than citizen, to continue my American journey.” What this means for me is still evolving.

As the grandson of migrant stock from New York City, an Eagle Scout, a Marine Corps veteran and someone who has spent his diplomatic career in Latin America, I am convinced that the president’s policies regarding migration are not only foolish and delusional but also anti-American.

Read in full below:

Here are a couple of goodbye videos from Panama:

 

Related posts:

#

Under Budget Cut Clouds, Tillerson Visits Memorial For @USEmbassyKenya Bombing Victims

Posted: 2:21 am ET

 

On March 11, Secretary Tillerson delivered the following remarks at the Wreath-Laying Ceremony at the August 7th Memorial Park;  in Nairobi, Kenya.

As all of you well know, 1998 terrorists thought they could demoralize and destroy the Kenyan and American people by attacking the U.S. embassy here in Nairobi. Of course, they were wrong. Nearly 20 years later, we meet here to honor those who we lost and those who were injured. Hundreds of lives were taken and hundreds if not a thousand more were changed forever. Some of our current embassy colleagues who survived this tragedy, including Ambassador Godec and his wife Lori and our current locally employed staff at the embassy that day of the bombing, are with us as well. And it’s an honor to meet all of you, and I appreciate you being here.

To the survivors present, please know that the American people remember your service and your sacrifice as well as those who are not with us today and have been forever lost. Our hearts are with the many who lost family, friends, and colleagues on that tragic day.

Today we remember them and their bravery, the compassion, and the sacrifice, as well as many who without hesitation that day and at risk to themselves rushed into action to save lives and help others. We honor those heroes and the courage they displayed as well. They are all examples to us.

As our work continues to end terrorism, those who sought to divide us here have failed. Our commitment to work together as Americans and Kenyans is steadfast, it is enduring, and we will build on the shared values and our shared future, which remains very strong. We will never forget the names on this wall. Thank you.

The FBI says that the investigation continues, with the following fugitives still wanted for their alleged roles in the attacks:

January 1999: Report of the Accountability Review Boards on the Embassy Bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam on August 7, 1998.

As the NYT notes, the Africa Embassy bombings “may have done more to transform the State Department than any other event of the past 50 years.”

It also points a fact that’s not lost on anyone — “Mr. Tillerson has twice proposed slashing the department’s budget to about $35 billion from about $50 billion, saying that doing so would return spending levels to those before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”

And just watch, he won’t stop at his second try.

#