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DGHR Arnold Chacón Steps Down, One More @StateDept Office Goes Vacant

Posted: 2:41 am ET

 

We’ve learned from our sources late Friday that Ambassador Arnold Chacón, the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the State Department has tendered his resignation. Ambassador Chacón, a member of the Career Senior Foreign Service, was sworn in on December 22, 2014. He heads the bureau with 800 Civil and Foreign Service employees “who carry out the full range of human resources activities essential to recruiting, retaining and sustaining” the State Department’s 75,000+ workforce.  Prior to his appointment as DGHR, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala from 2011-2014. He previously served as Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Madrid from 2008-2011, and has served as the Department of State’s Deputy Executive Secretary.

One source later told us that Ambassador Chacón’s email recalled that he had tendered his resignation January 20, and that it had been accepted as of June 1 (also see Patrick Kennedy, Other Officials Step Down – Yo! That’s Not the “Entire” Senior ManagementRecipe For Disaster Transition @StateDept: Situation AltNormal, All Fucked Up).

Ambassador Chacón reportedly talked about “looking forward to a next assignment.” Since he is a career diplomat, it is likely that he will rotate to a new assignment after he steps down as DGHR. Whether he gets another ambassadorial apost or another State Department assignment remains to be seen.

Since there is no public announcement on who will succeed Ambassador Chacón, we are presuming at this time that the next highest ranking official at his office will be in an acting capacity until a new nominee is announced and confirmed by the Senate. That appears right now to be Ambassador Jo Ellen Powell who is the Principal Deputy Secretary of State (PDAS) at the DGHR’s office. Prior to her appointment at DGHR, she was the U.S. Ambassador to Mauritania from 2010-2013. Her other prior assignments include serving as Director of the Office of Employee Relations and assignments in the Executive Secretariat and the European Bureau Executive Office.

Perhaps, the notable thing here is that Ambassador Chacón steps down from his post (as did other career officials who were let go last February), with no successor officially identified or nominated (also see Patrick Kennedy, Other Officials Step Down – Yo! That’s Not the “Entire” Senior ManagementRecipe For Disaster Transition @StateDept: Situation AltNormal, All Fucked Up).  Given that a long list of top posts at the State Department has been vacant since February, a Senate-confirmed DGHR position could remain empty for months.

So now the State Department not only has no DGHR who manages personnel and assignments, its Under Secretary for Management slot also remains vacant.  Folks, we gotta ask — who’s going to be Assistant Secretary for personnel and everything — the new Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, or Secretary Tillerson’s chief of staff Margaret Peterlin? This is a chief of staff so enigmatic, the State Department has kept her biographic page in Morse code (one looong dash, one dot). See Bloomberg’s profile of Tillerson’s “enigmatic” chief of staff.

With the State Department reorganization gearing up between June and September, and with workforce reduction looming large in Foggy Bottom and at overseas posts (with a real potential for a reduction-in-force), it is nuts to remove the top HR official and one of the last Senate-confirmed officials still at post — with no successor in the pipeline. We gotta wonder, what were they thinking?

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SFRC Clears Scott P. Brown’s Nomination to be Ambassador to New Zealand

Posted: 12:51 am ET

On May 17, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) held a confirmation hearing for Scott Brown’s nomination to be  U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as U.S. Ambassador to The Independent State Of Samoa.  The prepared testimony as well as the video of the hearing is available to download here.

On May 25, the SFRC cleared the former senator’s nomination which will now go to the full Senate for a vote.

Below is the Certificate of Demonstrated Competence prepared for the SFRC and made available by the State Department:

SUBJECT: Ambassadorial Nomination: Certificate of Demonstrated Competence — Foreign Service

Act, Section 304(a)(4)

POST: New Zealand and Independent State of Samoa

CANDIDATE: Scott Philip Brown

Scott P. Brown is a prominent politician, political analyst, and attorney. He has more than 30 years in public service, most recently serving as a United States Senator for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He was a member of the Armed Services, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and the Veterans’ Affairs Committees. He served as both an enlisted man and as an officer in the Massachusetts and Maryland National Guard. He retired as a Colonel after 35 years of service, the last four of which were at the Pentagon. Currently, while maintaining his law practice he is also a contracted contributor and analyst for Fox National News. He travels extensively speaking before colleges, businesses, trade associations, and financial and government advocacy groups globally. Senator Brown’s extensive experience in municipal, state, and federal government, his military leadership positions, business activities, and his employment for more than 30 years as an attorney, coupled with his many philanthropic endeavors, make him very well-qualified to serve as Ambassador to New Zealand and the Independent State of Samoa.

Senator Brown worked as an attorney for Nixon Peabody, LLP, Boston, MA (2013-14). He served on the Board of Directors and as an Advisor to Kadant, Inc., Westford, MA (2013- 2015) and as an advisor to 1st Alliance Lending, LLP, East Hartford, CT (2014-2015) . He also is an Advisor to SkyBridge Capital, New York, NY (since 2014) and to Ron Terwilliger Housing Foundation, Vienna, VA (since 2015). His businesses include managing S&G Realty, S&G Realty Ventures and S&G Media (since 2013). He was an Assessor (1987-1990) and Selectman (1994-1998) for the Town of Wrentham, MA. He served as Massachusetts State Representative for the 9th Norfolk District (1998-2005) and as State Senator for the Norfolk, Bristol, and Middlesex District (2005-2010).

He earned a B.A. from Tufts University, Medford, MA (1981) and a J.D. from Boston College Law School, Newton Centre, MA (1985). He has Honorary Doctorates from Lasell College (Humanitarian Letters) and Nichols College (Public Administration).

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U.S. Senate Confirms Seven Foreign Service Lists (347 Nominees From State/USAID/Agriculture)

Posted: 2:14 am ET

 

On May 18, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nominations in seven Foreign Service lists with 347 nominees from the State Department, USAID and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Click on the hyperlinks to view the names in congress.gov:

2017-05-18 PN116 Foreign Service | Nomination for Alexander Dickie IV, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on March 21, 2017.

2017-05-18 PN353 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Joel Justin Agalsoff, and ending Iva Ziza, which 201 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 25, 2017.

2017-05-18 PN354-1 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Edward Francis Acevedo, and ending Benjamin D. Zinner, which 96 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 25, 2017.

2017-05-18 PN355-1 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jim Nelson Barnhart, Jr., and ending Anne N. Williams, which 19 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 25, 2017.

 

2017-05-18 PN356 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jeanne F. Bailey, and ending Robert Henry Hanson, which 9 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 25, 2017.

2017-05-18 PN357-1 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jeffery S. Austin, and ending Jeffrey G. Willnow, which 20 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 25, 2017.

2017-05-18 PN358-1 Foreign Service | Nomination for Scott S. Sindelar, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 25, 2017.

 

 

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SFRC Hearings: Mushingi (Senegal/Guinea-Bissau), Haskell (Republic Of The Congo)

Posted: 12:46 am ET

 

We missed this one last week, but the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) finally held confirmation hearings for career diplomats Ambassador Tulinabo Mushingi, nominated for Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, and Todd Haskell who was nominated for the Republic Of The Congo. The links to the video of the hearings and to their prepared testimonies are provided below.

Date: Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Time: 01:30 PM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Flake

Video available to watch here: https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/nominations-042617

The Honorable Tulinabo Salama Mushingi

Of Virginia, A Career Member Of The Senior Foreign Service, Class Of Counselor, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Republic Of Senegal, And To Serve Concurrently And Without Additional Compensation As Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Republic Of Guinea-Bissau

 

Mr. Todd Philip Haskell

Of Florida, A Career Member Of The Senior Foreign Service, Class Of Counselor, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Republic Of The Congo
Download Testimony

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Trump Seeks Further Funding Cuts From @StateDept/@USAID, This Time From 2017 Budget

Posted: 2:51 am ET

 

Last December, Public Law No: 114-254 (12/10/2016) was signed into law to provide continuing appropriations for most federal agencies through April 28, 2017. This continuing resolution (CR) was passed and it prevented a shutdown of the federal government that would have occurred when the previous CR expired on December 9, 2016 (at that time, eleven of the twelve FY2017 regular appropriations bills that fund the federal government had not been enacted).  The bill funded most projects and activities at the rate established for FY2017 spending by the Budget Control Act of 2011 including additional emergency, disaster relief, and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding.

It looks like the House will be in session for eight calendar days in April, while the Senate will have ten days. With six months left in the current fiscal year and while Congress is expected to wrestle once more with that CR next month, the Trump Administration is also seeking cuts from the FY2017 budget.  The “savings” from the proposed cuts in the current fiscal year will reportedly also go to DOD for additional military spending, and to help build that wall.

Via usnews.com:

memo sent by the administration on Friday to the House and Senate appropriations committees provides the first detailed look at the proposed cuts, and is expected to meet resistance as the budget blueprint did from lawmakers who have fewer than a dozen legislative days to craft and pass the trillion-dollar spending legislation to keep the lights on.
[…]
All told, the programs overseen by the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education subcommittee would see the greatest reductions, totalling $7.26 billion, followed by $2.88 billion from the subcommittee for State and Foreign Operations, including $1.16 billion to USAID foreign aid programs going to combating climate change, family planning and other global health initiatives.

The list of proposed reductions below is via Politico (see pages 11-12 above for the proposed cuts for the State Department).

Some programs will be slashed while others are zeroed out under the proposed cuts from the State/USAID budget for FY2017. In the case of PEPFAR (Aids) the proposal calls for “slowing the rate of new patients on treatment in FY17.” It slashed funds for peacekeeping operations, family planning/reproductive health, and refugee programs “because of lower projections in FY 2017 of refugee admissions.” Here are some of the most notable programs targeted for cuts this year under Trump’s proposal:

Development Assistance (DA) (-$562M): Proposed savings in the DA account include reducing support for bilateral climate change programs that are part of the previous Administration’s Global Climate Change Initiative. Further savings from the FY 2017 CR level can be achieved by reducing economic assistance in other sectors to programmatically sufficient levels, such as through reductions of up to 20 percent in basic and higher education (which has a large pipelines of unspent funds); biodiversity; democracy, human rights, and governance; agriculture and food security (while still addressing key objectives and priorities in the Global Food Security Act); and other sectors.

Economic Support Fund (ESF) (base) (-$290M): This decrease accepts the topline reduction in the House bill (-$274 million vs. CR), which included zeroing out the GCF. It then also reduces several sectors, including bilateral climate change, basic/higher education, democracy/governance, and economic growth.

President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)/Global Health Programs (-$242M): This reduction would achieve savings by requiring PEPFAR to begin slowing the rate of new patients on treatment in FY 17, by reducing support to low-performing countries, by reducing lower-priority prevention programs, or by identifying new efficiencies or other savings.

International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (-$200M): This account can absorb a $200 million reduction from the annualized base CR rate with insignificant impact to the account, given carryover, the slow rate of FY 2016 obligations, and resources recaptured through de-obligations, recoveries, and proceeds of sale.

Foreign Military Financing (-$200M): This account can absorb a $200 million reduction from the annualized base CR rate by cutting funding for high income countries and consistent with funding restrictions for certain countries in the FY 2017 House and Senate bills.

International Organizations and Programs (-$169M): This account provides for non-assessed contributions to international organizations. This reduction would eliminate such contributions to most organizations funded through the account including the UN Population Fund and some contributions to climate change programs but preserve flexibility to make contributions to some organizations such as UNICEF as well as those supporting global security functions.

Educational and Cultural Exchanges (-$140M): Reduction or elimination of programs based on the ability to fund outside of ECE, ability to merge with other programs, and legacy programs in high income countries. Scale back of programs to prior year levels and/or 5-10% reductions given budgetary constraints.

Global Health Security (-$72M): This proposal zeroes out global health security programs at USAID in FY 2017 to realize up to $72.5 million in savings. These programs are currently supported with 2-year funds and it is unlikely the agency will obligate a significant portion of these funds under the current CR. This proposal instead seeks legislative authority to repurpose $72.5 million in remaining Ebola emergency funds to support these programs in FY 2017.

Specified Other Global Health Programs at USAID (-$90M):To achieve additional savings, reduced levels for:
• Tuberculosis (-$44.6 million below FY 17 CR)
• Polio eradication (-$7.9 million)
• Nutrition (-$16.3 million)
• Vulnerable children (-$7.5 million)
• Neglected tropical diseases (-$13.3 million)

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Senate Confirms David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel in 52-46 Vote

Posted: 3:11 am ET

 

On March 23, the U.S. Senate confirmed David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel in a narrow 52-46 vote with two Democrats (Manchin (D-WV), and Menendez (D-NJ), joining the Republicans to approved the nomination (2 GOP listed as not voting – Isakson (R-GA) and Paul (R-KY)). The highly controversial pick will succeed Ambassador Daniel B. Shapiro who was appointed to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv by President Obama, and served as chief of mission in Israel from 2011 to 2017.

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Related posts:

 

In Disaster News, Trump Budget Seeks 37% Funding Cut For @StateDept and @USAID

Posted: 2:25 am  ET

 

 

“America First” Budget Targets @StateDept Funding ( Just 1% of Total Federal Budget)

Posted: 3:13 am  ET

 

We recently posted about the Trump budget for FY2018 that will reportedly proposed funding cuts of up to 30% for the State Department (see  With @StateDept Facing a 30% Funding Cut, 121 Generals Urge Congress to Fully Fund Diplomacy and Foreign Aid@StateDept Budget Could Be Cut By As Much as 30% in Trump’s First Budget Proposal?@StateDeptbudge Special Envoy Positions Could Be in Trump’s Chopping Block — Which Ones?). We understand that this number could actually be closer to 40%, which is simply bananas, by the way.  It would be ‘must-see’ teevee if Secretary Tillerson appears before the House and Senate committees to justify the deep cuts in programs, foreign aid, diplomatic/consular posts, embassy security, staffing, training, or why we’re keeping just half the kitchen sink. Just a backgrounder, below is the budget request composition for FY2016:

fy2016-sfops-budget-request

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Previous posts on FS funding:

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On February 27, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney showed up at the WH Press Briefing to talk about President Trump’s budget.  Before you are all up in arms, he said that what we’re talking about right now is “not a full-blown budget” which apparently will not come until May.  So this “blueprint” does not include mandatory spending, entitlement reforms, tax policies, revenue projections, or the infrastructure plan and he called this a “topline number only.” Agencies are given 48 hours to respond to OMB (holy camarba!). Excerpt below from his talk at the James S. Brady Briefing Room:

As for what it is, these are the President’s policies, as reflected in topline discretionary spending.  To that end, it is a true America-first budget.  It will show the President is keeping his promises and doing exactly what he said he was going to do when he ran for office.  It prioritizes rebuilding the military, including restoring our nuclear capabilities; protecting the nation and securing the border; enforcing the laws currently on the books; taking care of vets; and increasing school choice.  And it does all of that without adding to the currently projected FY 2018 deficit.

The top line defense discretionary number is $603 billion.  That’s a $54-billion increase — it’s one of the largest increases in history.  It’s also the number that allows the President to keep his promise to undo the military sequester.  The topline nondefense number will be $462 billion.  That’s a $54-billion savings.  It’s the largest-proposed reduction since the early years of the Reagan administration.

The reductions in nondefense spending follow the same model — it’s the President keeping his promises and doing exactly what he said he was going to do.  It reduces money that we give to other nations, it reduces duplicative programs, and it eliminates programs that simply don’t work.

The bottom line is this:  The President is going to protect the country and do so in exactly the same way that every American family has had to do over the last couple years, and that’s prioritize spending.

The schedule from here — these numbers will go out to the agencies today in a process that we describe as passback.  Review from agencies are due back to OMB over the course of the next couple days, and we’ll spend the next week or so working on a final budget blueprint.  We expect to have that number to Congress by March 16th.  That puts us on schedule for a full budget — including all the things I mentioned, this one does not include — with all the larger policy issues in the first part of May.

[…]

Q    But we’re not talking about 2 or 3 percent — we’re talking about double-digit reductions, and that’s a lot.

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  There’s going to be a lot of programs that — again, you can expect to see exactly what the President said he was going to do.  Foreign aid, for example — the President said we’re going to spend less money overseas and spend more of it here.  That’s going to be reflected in the number we send to the State Department.

Q    Thank you very much.  One quick follow on foreign aid.  That accounts for less than 1 percent of overall spending.  And I just spoke with an analyst who said even if you zero that out, it wouldn’t pay for one year of the budget increases that are being proposed right now.  So how do you square that amount?  So why not tackle entitlements, which are the biggest driver, especially when a lot of Republicans over the years have said that they need to be taxed?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Sure.  On your foreign aid, it’s the same answer I just gave, which is, yes, it’s a fairly part of the discretionary budget, but it’s still consistent with what the President said.  When you see these reductions, you’ll be able to tie it back to a speech the President gave or something the President has said previously.  He’s simply going to — we are taking his words and turning them into policies and dollars.  So we will be spending less overseas and spending more back home.

 

See three separate threads on Twitter with some discussion of the proposed cuts.

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Senate Confirms Rex Tillerson as the 69th Secretary of State

Posted: 12:23 am ET
Updated: 9:51 am ET
Updated: 12:31 pm ET

 

On Wednesday, February 1, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Rex Tillerson as the 69th Secretary of State. Senate Republicans and four Democrats voted 56-43. Later in the afternoon, Secretary Tillerson was sworn in by Vice President Pence. The oath of office ceremony was held at the White House and attended by the President.

The State Department announced that Secretary Tillerson will address State Department employees upon arrival at the State Department on February 2 at 9:30 a.m. in the C Street Lobby.

It looks like the State Department also rolled out the Update 1: A new secretary of state’s Twitter account @RexTillerson_ was rolled out the same day as Secretary Tillerson’s confirmation.  The account says “Joined February 2017” and “Responsive 24/7.”  The account is not verified and has not been confirmed at this time.  The account follows 508 Twitter accounts as of this writing including several embassies, it even responded to tweets from some posts.  The odd thing about the account … it is following the state governors, and state secretaries of state instead of world leaders, and foreign ministers as one would expect. We followed the account last night and this morning, we received a DM that says “Thank you for your message. The United States Secretary of State’s office will be in touch.”  What is even weirder is we haven’t sent it a message. This is probably an automated message for every follower. We’ve asked who is running this account. Will update if we get a response.

Update 2: The account is still up but is now showing no tweets and lost all but 60 followers. The DM sent me no longer shows a Tillerson profile but some unverified breaking news account.

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Senate Panel Clears Rex Tillerson For Secretary of State, Full Vote Likely Next Week

Posted: 3:17 am ET
Updated: 3:38 pm PT

 

On January 23, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) cleared the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be President Trump’s Secretary of State with members voting along party lines, 11-10.  If the Senate does not hold a full vote on Tuesday, Mr. Tillerson will not get it until next week. According to Roll Call, House and Senate Republicans will hold a joint retreat from January 25 to 27 in Philadelphia to discuss priorities for the 115th Congress.  Citing leadership aides from both parties, CNN reported that the final confirmation vote by the full Senate is expected next week.  Cloture vote for Mr. Tillerson is now scheduled for Monday, January 30. 

Related items:

OGE: Ethics Agreement

OGE: Nominee 278 (01/03/2017)

 

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