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.
Click here for the original post and the list of signatories.
Meet Bill Vannoy, Battalion Chief of @ffxfirerescue @VATF1 & Task Force Leader of USA-1 on @USAID's #HurricaneDorian DART. Hear 1st-hand why the search & rescue teams (incl members of @LACOFD) were activated & what they will be doing to assist once on the ground in The #Bahamas pic.twitter.com/ojXs6nyRsv
— USAID/OFDA (@theOFDA) September 4, 2019
— VA-TF1 / USA-1 – Urban Search and Rescue (@VATF1) September 5, 2019
.@ffxfirerescue @VATF1 K9's 🐶 Angus, Peter Pan, Etta, and Phayu are ready to go to help support the @USAID #HurricaneDorian DART's search and rescue efforts in The #Bahamas! pic.twitter.com/E5SrzI7NR9
— USAID/OFDA (@theOFDA) September 4, 2019
If you are in a life threatening situation – CALL 911. For info on people in the #Bahamas for Hurricane #Dorian, call Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency 242-325-9983, Bahamian Emergency Operations Center, 242-362-3895 & 242-362-3896. #uscgdorian pic.twitter.com/jdbbMBQAoc
— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) September 3, 2019
WHEELS DOWN 🛬 Chargé d'Affaires Stephanie Bowers was at @OdysseyBahamas tonight to personally receive 57 members of the @VATF1 Urban Search & Rescue team joining @theOFDA and Bahamian partners helping those affected by #HurricaneDorian. More support coming; stay tuned… pic.twitter.com/ZipK1SWtYY
— U.S. Embassy Nassau (@USEmbassyNassau) September 5, 2019
This is a follow-up to our post on August 31, US Embassy Bahamas on ‘Ordered Departure’ For Non-Emergency Staff/Family Members #HurricaneDorian. The NOAA Hurricane Update of 1100 PM EDT Mon Sep 02 2019 notes that devastating hurricane conditions continue on Grand Bahama Island and that a life-threatening storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 12 to 18 feet above normal tide levels in areas of onshore winds on Grand Bahama Island.
USAID/OFDA announced on Twitter that a team of Caribbean-based
@USAID disaster experts is in the Bahamas to work w/ national authorities & humanitarian partners to help assess impacts & humanitarian needs.
The US Coast Guard Southeast said that its Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews, forward deployed to Andros Island, medevaced 19 people from the Marsh Harbour Clinic to Nassau International Airport on Monday, September 2.
.@USEmbassyNassau and @statedept are coordinating with the Bahamian government to provide any support required in the aftermath of Hurricane #Dorian. @theOFDA will soon be on the ground to assess the situation and @USCG is deploying search and rescue operations.
— WHA Bureau (@WHAAsstSecty) September 2, 2019
@USEmbassyNassau has begun helping victims of Hurricane #Dorian in #TheBahamas. @USCGSoutheast sent helicopters to evacuate injured from Abaco, flying back to Nassau for urgent care. Please stay informed from reliable sources, and keep safe. pic.twitter.com/GOK0pqiY7x
— U.S. Embassy Nassau (@USEmbassyNassau) September 3, 2019
UPDATE: A @USAID disaster team has deployed to the #Bahamas, where #HurricaneDorian 🌀 began making landfall as a #Category5 storm over the northwestern islands on Sunday. Follow us here for regular updates. #HurricaneSeason
— USAID/OFDA (@theOFDA) September 2, 2019
#Breaking – 4 #USCG #Jayhawk helicopter crews medevaced 19 people from the #MarshHarbour Clinic to Nassau International Airport to EMS. Read more details here: https://t.co/Jg3bOXbdYy #USCGDorian #Dorian #HurricaneDorian pic.twitter.com/psuOsokeeC
— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) September 3, 2019
High storm surge with floating vehicles speaks volumes to the conditions on Grand Bahama island. Hurricane Dorian is stationary and is a strong 140mph killer storm.#dorian #Grandbahama #Hurricane pic.twitter.com/qgz2yJuT38
— Bahamas Press (@Bahamaspress) September 3, 2019
Hurricane Dorian has already severely damaged or destroyed as many as 13,000 homes in the Bahamas. Here are some of the local and international organizations seeking help. https://t.co/lVMhaKCn47
— Refinery29 (@Refinery29) September 2, 2019
Secretary Pompeo recently informed State Department employees that they just swore in a new Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources, Jim Richardson. “Most recently, Jim served as the Assistant to the Administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning and the Coordinator of USAID’s Transformation Task Team. In his new role, he’ll guide the F Bureau in helping both the State Department and USAID connect the resources to our foreign policy objectives.”
Mr. Richardson succeeds Eric M. Ueland who was appointed as F Director in October 1, 2018 but has since been appointed to the WH as head of legislative affairs. Mr. Ueland is however, still listed as F Director on state.gov.
While Pompeo did not mention that Richardson was his former chief of staff when he served in the Congress, the state.gov bio did mention the work he did for the former congressman:
James “Jim” Richardson is the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources at the U.S. Department of State, where he coordinates the allocation of more than $35 billion in foreign assistance resources.
Previously, Jim served as Assistant to the Administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) and Coordinator of USAID’s Transformation Task Team, where he led the Agency’s historic reorganization to reshape the Agency around the principle of ‘Ending the Need for Foreign Assistance’.
Jim has nearly 20 years of government experience. Prior to joining the Trump Administration, he was Chief of Staff for then-Congressman Mike Pompeo (KS-04)—overseeing Pompeo’s offices in Washington, DC and in Wichita, Kansas, as well as the campaign organization.
Throughout his years in Washington, Jim spearheaded numerous complex operations and developed an extensive background in public policy and the legislative process. Prior to leading Congressman Pompeo’s staff, Jim worked with the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee for Congressman Todd Tiahrt (KS-04), the House Armed Services Committee for Congressman Jim Ryun (KS-02), and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for Senator John Ashcroft (R-MO). He started his government career with Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-MO).
Jim holds a Bachelors of Science in Government from Evangel University and a Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies from Missouri State University. He is also a graduate of the United States Air Force Air Command and Staff College (ACSC).
Pompeo's former chief of staff, Jim Richardson, has been leading Tillerson's redesign effort at @USAID. Will be interesting dynamic to watch.
— Michael Igoe (@AlterIgoe) March 13, 2018
Scoop: President Trump selects Eric Ueland to lead legislative affairs https://t.co/Y96MEs4A0U
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) June 13, 2019
…”[I]t’s an imperative that senior leaders set the culture right on that. That we make sure that every team member, whether they’re a Foreign Service Office, or a Civil Servant, or part of our locally-employed teams in the field, understands that you will treat every human being with the dignity and respect they deserve by the nature of their humanness. And so I’ve said that from the moment I walked in the building on C Street the first day, and I say it in every gathering that I have. We have to do that. The team has to do that. The leadership must lead on that issue, but everyone who comes through here must understand it is one team, one mission.
And the second thing we’ve tried to do is set a professional standard of excellence that isn’t unique to any one group. It’s not unique to Western Hem. It’s not unique to our cyber folks. It’s not unique to Foreign Service Officers. We did this with something that we’ve called the Ethos that we’ve put forward, which says these are the characteristics of people who will be part of America’s diplomatic corps, the team that is out delivering on behalf of the United States of America. So if you work with USAID, or you work in another part of our organization, this is the standard to which you should aspire. It has both the personal character standard and an organizational set of understandings, and we hope that that will become something that’s foundational and part of the DNA of everyone who works here at the State Department.”
Secretary Mike Pompeo
State Magazine, July 2019
Note: We should note here that USAID (created with the passage of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (pdf) by Congress) is not/not part of the Department of State. Despite a recent effort to merge USAID into the State Department, it remains an independent agency with its own Senate-confirmed administrator, Mark Green.
— State OIG (@StateOIG) August 15, 2019
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released its report on Tillerson’s redesign projects (although those projects were no longer called that). GAO looked into the status of the reform efforts that the State Department reported to Congress in February 2018 and also looked at the extent to which State addressed key practices critical to the successful implementation of agency reform efforts.
GAO has determined that “State leadership has not provided the focus necessary to support the officials responsible for implementing all these reform projects.”
Uh-oh! Some excerpts below.
Remember the Listening Tour?
In response to the March 2017 Executive Order 13781 and the ensuing OMB memo, State launched a “listening tour” intended to gather ideas and feedback from State and USAID employees. As a key component of this outreach effort, State hired a contractor to design and administer a confidential online survey, which was sent to all State and USAID employees in May 2017. According to the contractor’s report, the survey had a 43 percent response rate, with 27,837 State employees and 6,142 USAID employees responding to the survey. The contractor also conducted in-person interviews with a randomly selected cross section of personnel, which included 175 employees from State and 94 from USAID.
17 Reform Projects Plus
The planning teams developed specific reform projects, listed below in table 2 (17 reform projects, see page7-8 of report), which State described in the fiscal year 2019 budget justification it submitted to Congress in February 2018.9 According to implementing officials, all these projects predated the Executive Order and OMB memo issued in the spring of 2017. They also noted, however, that the administration’s reform-related directives helped advance State’s preexisting efforts by focusing management attention and agency resources on these projects. (9 In addition to these reform projects, State’s Congressional Budget Justification also reported seven changes related to its reform efforts that are complete or underway. State reported that it is (1) expanding employment opportunities for eligible family members; (2) implementing cloud-based email and collaboration; (3) increasing flexibilities for employees on medical evacuations; (4) streamlining the security clearance process; (5) simplifying the permanent change-of-station travel process; (6) improving temporary duty travel options and experience; and (7) integrating USAID and State global address lists.
Status: Completed-1, Continuing-13, Stalled-2, Discontinued-1
As of April 2019, according to State officials and status reports, State had completed one of its 17 reform projects; 13 projects were continuing; two projects were stalled pending future decisions or actions; and one project was discontinued.
According to State officials, as of April 2019, although 13 of the reform projects described in the fiscal year 2019 Congressional Budget Justification were considered by State to be continuing, some had been scaled back, slowed down, or both as a result of senior leadership’s shifting priorities and attention.
Leadership Focus and Attention
In February 2018, State reported to Congress in its fiscal year 2019 budget justification that it was pursuing the reform projects we described above. In March 2018, the first transition affecting the implementation of those projects occurred when the President removed the then Secretary of State and nominated the then CIA director to replace him; in April 2018, the Senate confirmed the current Secretary. According to senior State officials, when the new Secretary took office, his top priority was ending the hiring freeze and restarting a concerted recruitment effort because vacancies in key positions and a general staffing shortfall would otherwise have led to what one senior official described as a “cataclysmic failure” at State. These senior officials noted that the new Secretary decided some of the existing reform projects were not well designed and that he wanted greater emphasis on cybersecurity and data analytics. They said he also wanted to pursue other initiatives, including a new proposal to create a Global Public Affairs Bureau by merging two existing bureaus. The senior officials told us that the Secretary authorized responsible bureaus and offices to determine whether to continue, revise, or terminate existing reform efforts or launch new initiatives. However, State did not formally communicate other changes in its reform priorities to Congress, such as its plan to no longer combine State and USAID’s real property offices.
State initiated another transition in leadership of the reform efforts in April 2018 when it disbanded the dedicated planning teams overseeing the reform efforts and delegated responsibility for implementing the reform projects to relevant bureaus and offices. As the planning teams finished working on their particular reform efforts and prepared to transfer these projects to the bureaus, some planning teams provided memos and reports on the status of their efforts and offered recommendations for the bureaus to consider when determining next steps in implementing the projects. Some implementing officials, however, reported that they received little or no direction regarding their projects or any other indication of continued interest in their project from department or bureau leadership aside from the initial notification that the project had been assigned to them.
Various State officials noted that the prolonged absence of Senate confirmed leadership in key positions posed additional challenges. We have previously testified that it is more difficult to obtain buy-in on longterm plans and efforts that are underway when an agency has leaders in acting positions because federal employees are historically skeptical of whether the latest efforts to make improvements are going to be sustained over a period of time
Leadership Transition Effects:
Taken together, the leadership transitions at State had two significant effects on State’s reform efforts. First, the transition of departmental leadership and lack of direction and communication about subsequent changes in leadership’s priorities contributed to uncertainty among implementing officials about the future of individual reform projects. Second, according to implementing officials, the transition of project responsibility from dedicated teams to bureau-level implementing officials resulted in fewer resources and a lack of senior leadership involvement and attention for some projects. Absent leadership decisions, implementing officials will continue to struggle with understanding leadership priorities with regard to State’s reform efforts. Similarly, for any projects that are determined to be leadership priorities, day-to-day implementation activities will continue to be hampered by the lack of a dedicated team to guide and manage the agency’s overall reform effort.
Don’t Forget USAID: Continuing Projects? Where? What?
GAO has not made any recommendations to USAID and yet, the agency has submitted a written response to highlight the State Department’s unwillingness to coordinate with them. What’s this about? (see Appendix III-Comments from the U.S. Agency for International Development – PDF/page25-26):
State and USAID submitted a joint reform plan to OMB in September 2017. According to USAID documents, USAID suspended its coordination with State in January 2018 because State could not articulate the objectives for the joint reform effort. GAO has ongoing work reviewing the status of USAID’s reform efforts.
The 2019-2021 American Foreign Service Association Governing Board took office on July 15. It will serve a two-year term (Also see 2019-2021 AFSA Governing Board Election Results). Below via AFSA:
Incoming President Ambassador Eric Rubin comes to AFSA from his posting as Ambassador to Bulgaria, where he served from three years. He was previously deputy chief of mission in Moscow, deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, consul general in Chiang Mai, executive assistant to the under secretary of State for political affairs and Rusk Fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.
Foreign Service Officer Thomas Yazdgerdi, AFSA’s new Vice President of the Department of State constituency, is a 28-year veteran of the State Department. Yazdgerdi is finishing his tenure as Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, but has also served in Kabul, Kirkuk, Baghdad, Pristina, Panama, Bratislava, Tirana and Athens, as well as Director of the Office of South Central European Affairs.
John K. Naland returns as Vice President for the retiree constituency. He has held numerous positions on AFSA’s board, including State Vice President and AFSA President.
Foreign Service Officers Jason Singer, Jay Carreiro and Michael Riedel will serve as Vice Presidents of the USAID, Foreign Commercial Service and Foreign Agricultural Service constituencies, respectively.
Completing AFSA’s leadership team, retired senior FSO Virginia L. Bennett will serve as Treasurer and Kenneth Kero-Mentz will serve as the organization’s Secretary.
Complete bios for AFSA’s elected leadership, including all officers and constituency representatives, can be found on the AFSA website.