Former Senior Diplomats Urge Tillerson to Make Public @StateDept’s Reorganization Plan

Posted: 2:14 pm PT
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On September 18, the American Academy of Diplomacy released a letter from Ambassadors Thomas Pickering and Ronald Neumann asking that Secretary Tillerson make to the State Department’s reorganization plan public.  Below is the text of the letter, the full letter is posted at www.academyofdiplomacy.org.

We understand that the State Department reorganization plan forwarded to OMB has been deemed “pre-decisional” and will therefore not be made public.

On behalf of the Board of the American Academy of Diplomacy, a non-partisan and non-governmental organization comprising senior former career and non-career diplomatic practitioners, we ask that you reconsider this decision and make your recommendations available for public comment.  The Academy, whose only interest is in strengthening American diplomacy, is already on record supporting many needed changes in the State Department’s structure and staffing.  Indeed, we would hope to make the Academy’s extensive experience available and relevant to any conversations about the future of the Department so that we might be able to support the outcome of this process, just as we supported your decision on reducing special envoys.  We cannot do so if your vision and plans remain publicly unavailable.

As the recent report prepared by your consultants very properly highlighted, the Civil Service and Foreign Service employees who work for you are patriotic, dedicated, public servants.  Many have gone in harm’s way and more will do so.  For nearly eight months these employees, and many of their families, have lived in a state of suspended animation, not knowing how reorganization will affect their lives and careers.  In light of their sacrifices for our Country, it strikes us as unfair to ask them to remain in this limbo for additional months while the Administration considers in private your recommendations for change.

Keeping your decisions from public view will only fuel the suspicion and low morale which now affects so many in the Department.  We ask that you be transparent with those most affected by your efforts to build efficiency and expertise.  Not doing so prejudices their future support.  Your leadership and America’s diplomacy would be better served by allowing public comment.  It is on that basis that we respectfully ask that you reconsider this decision.

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Related to this, Politico reported last week that “as part of his plan to restructure the State Department, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is pledging not to concentrate more power in his own hands — for now.” See Tillerson vows State Dept. redesign won’t concentrate power in his hands. Click here or image below to see the State Department-USAID Redesign Overview Capitol Hill Brief via Politico’s Nahal Toosi. Note the slide titled “What Redesign is Not.” There is no intention at this time to dismantle State or USAID at this time. Whewww! That’s a relief, hey?

Click on image to view the document.

Click on image to view the document: Redesign Overview Capitol Hill Brief, September 2017 via Politico

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Tillerson Updates @StateDept Employees on Reorganization, He’s Got One Glaring Problem

Posted: 2:07 am ET
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On Wednesday, Secretary Tillerson sent out a message to State Department employees with an update on the progress of his redesign effort. The message talks about modernizing an outdated IT system, flexible work programs, and increasing “the level of EFMs.”

“This week we are submitting to the Office of Management and Budget an Agency Reform Plan with specific recommendations for improving our respective organizations. For example, we know a priority for us is to modernize an outdated IT system, so we’re taking major steps toward putting our systems on the cloud. We know you have families, so we’re also exploring options for flexible work programs. In addition, Eligible Family Members are an important part of supporting efficient delivery on our mission, so we’re making provisions in some cases to increase the level of EFMs. Our working groups have also identified areas where we can improve our human resource functions, empower leadership at all levels, and improve management support services to reduce redundancies while ensuring you have the tools you need to do your job.”

Wait, does Tillerson  really mean “increase the level of EFMs” … because this should be interesting for single folks?  Or does he mean the level of EFM “jobs” but avoids actually mentioning the magic word?

It’s vague enough, it makes one both perplexed and excited!

His message also talks about “ambitious proposals” with “a minimum deliverable of 10 percent ($5B) in efficiencies relative to current (FY2017) spending over the next five years.” And get this — “an aspirational general interest target of up to 20 percent ($10B).” Wow! What does that look like? We’re definitely interested.

“Our redesign plan seeks to align State and USAID foreign assistance and policy strategies, capabilities, and resources to execute foreign policy priorities more effectively. It includes seven ambitious proposals with investments that will generate a minimum deliverable of 10 percent ($5B) in efficiencies relative to current (FY2017) spending over the next five years, with an aspirational general interest target of up to 20 percent ($10B). These efficiencies enabled by modernized systems and work processes will adjust the current historically high spending level by reducing duplications and unnecessary overhead for State, USAID, and other agencies. Adopting these recommendations that you expressed your hope for in the listening sessions will allow us to better focus on our core policy priorities and programs. It will also lay the groundwork for additional efficiencies and improvements in later years.”

This past week, we’ve seen the Senate Appropriations bill that includes mandatory notifications and consultations with the subcommittee on the proposed changes at the State Department. That same bill also requires the Government Accountability Office and Department of State and USAID Inspectors General (IG) to review the redesign plans (see Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves FY2018 State & Foreign Ops Appropriations Bill). On September 12, the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote to OMB specifically asking OMB Director Mick Mulvaney for a briefing on the role he intend to play in the redesign at the State Department.  We have these in mind when Secretary Tillerson says this in his message to employees:

“In the weeks ahead, we will continue to develop and advance other recommendations. Some will require Congressional approval or a change in law, some will require OMB support, but there are a number of actions we can begin to undertake internally. Some examples that we’ve already started on include integrating certain Special Envoy offices into the bureau structures and efforts to increase diversity in our workforce. You should expect to see results unveiled on a rolling basis. Once a solution is ready to go, we are going to put it to work as soon as we can. We will continue to ask for input and consult with you and other stakeholders – including Congress – as we move forward.”

Also this:

“Your participation is essential to a successful redesign. As the process continues there will be more opportunities to give your input and be a part of the various execution teams as we move toward implementation. We will be asking for volunteers through the portal, and I encourage you to sign up to add your skills and talents to our effort.”

Tillerson has a problem, and it goes to the heart of his redesign efforts.  Since employee participation is “essential” to a successful redesign, it is particularly troubling that he has not directly engaged with his employees during the redesign effort in the most transparent way. He gave a couple of speeches but took no questions.  The Sounding Board, the Secretary’s Employee Forum was shut down in August 31. Employees can still submit ideas reportedly through the “redesign portal” but the secretary of state who is the chief sponsor of this reorganization has not given employees the opportunity to ask him questions.

Folks are talking – in the cafeteria, in water coolers, in rest rooms, in online forums, etc. etc. but they have not had the opportunity for an honest, two-way conversation about this reorganization with Secretary Tillerson . His paid consultants forgot to advise him that “if honest conversation stays private, the public conversation will be unreal, and ultimately discouraging.”

That’s from management consultant, Peter Block which seems appropriate as the State Department prepares for the implementation phase of its redesign. Here’s one more:

“There will be no forward movement until the staff in turn has the opportunity to challenge management. Providing public space for this to happen is the first step in shifting a culture, in implementing a change.”

 

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Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves FY2018 State & Foreign Ops Appropriations Bill

Posted: 1:59 pm PT
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On September 6, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs announced that it approved “a $51.35 billion appropriations bill to strengthen federal programs and operations that support national security and American values abroad.”  The minority announcement notes that the allocation is $10.7 billion above the President’s request as scored by CBO, but it is $1.9 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level when factoring in fiscal year 2017 funding for famine relief but not the Security Assistance Appropriations Act, 2017. The State Department’s reorganization/redesign is huge news; this bill provides for notifications and consultations with the subcommittee on proposed changes. Most notably, it requires the Government Accountability Office and Department of State and USAID Inspectors General (IG) to review the redesign plans.

Senator Patrick Leahy notes that ““The President sent us a budget that was irresponsible and indefensible.  We were provided no credible justification for the cuts that were proposed, which would have severely eroded U.S. global leadership.  This bill repudiates the President’s reckless budget request, and I commend Chairman Graham for reaffirming the primacy of the Congress in appropriating funds.” Also this:

The bill does not endorse the reorganization or redesign of any part of the Department of State, USAID, or any other entity funded in the bill absent consultation with, and the notification and detailed justification of any proposed modifications to, the Committees on Appropriations.  In addition to such consultation and notification requirements, section 7083 of the bill requires any such proposal to first be submitted to GAO for review. The bill further restricts changes to, and provides specific amounts of funding for, certain bureaus, offices, and positions, and removes authority for the administration to deviate from certain operating and assistance funding levels.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee said: “Through the bill and report, the Subcommittee has articulated its vision of an active American role in the world today.  ‘Soft power,’ as it’s commonly called, is an essential ingredient to national security.  This bill recognizes and builds upon the significance of ‘soft power.’”  

Below excerpted from the the Appropriations Subcommittee statement:

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs today approved a $51.35 billion appropriations bill to strengthen federal programs and operations that support national security and American values abroad.

The FY2018 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill provides $51.2 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs.  Of this amount, $30.4 billion is for enduring costs and $20.8 billion is for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

Full committee consideration of the bill is scheduled for Thursday (http://bit.ly/2gGCwhL).

Bill Highlights:

Supports Key Allies, Counters Extremism, and Promotes Democracy and Human Rights
•    $3.1 billion for military aid for Israel, $7.5 million for refugees resettling in Israel; and continues restrictions on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
•    $1.5 billion for economic and military assistance for Jordan.
•    $120 million for the Countering Russian Influence Fund.
•    $31 million for the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai.
•    $165.4 million for assistance for Tunisia, and requires an assessment of the feasibility of establishing a multi-year Memorandum of Understanding with Tunisia.
•    $500 million for the Relief and Recovery Fund to hold, repopulate, and establish governance in areas liberated from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other extremist groups.
•    $19 million for a program to assist women and girls at risk from extremism in predominantly Muslim and other countries.
•    $2.3 billion for democracy programs, and an additional $170 million for the National Endowment for Democracy.
•    $15 million to promote democracy and rule of law in Venezuela.
•    $8 million for programs to promote human rights in North Korea.

Promotes and Protects International Religious Freedom – $25 million for programs to promote international religious freedom, and $5 million for atrocities prevention programs.  In addition, the bill provides $6 million for the Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom, and $2 million for the Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom in the Near East and Central Asia.

Strengthens Embassy Security – $5.8 billion to ensure the safety of American diplomats, development professionals and facilities abroad.

Provides Assistance for Refugees – $3.11 billion for Migration and Refugee Assistance, maintaining the long-held United States commitment to protecting and addressing the needs of refugees impacted by conflict and other natural and manmade disasters.

International Disaster Assistance – $3.13 billion for International Disaster Assistance, which is $311.5 million above the FY2017 level, excluding emergency assistance for famine relief.  Funds provided in excess of the FY2017 level are made available for famine prevention, relief, and mitigation.

Does Not Include Funds for the Green Climate Fund – The bill does not include funds for grants, assistance, or contributions to the Green Climate Fund, as none were requested by the President.

Protects Life – The bill expands the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits U.S. assistance for foreign nongovernmental organizations that promote or perform abortions, and caps family planning and reproductive health programs at $461 million.  The bill continues provisions relating to abortion, including the Tiahrt, Helms, and Kemp-Kasten Amendments.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE OPERATIONS AND OTHER FUNDING

Administration of Foreign Affairs – $11.51 billion for the administration of foreign affairs, including funding to maintain staffing and operations levels at the Department of State consistent with prior fiscal years.  Funding is also provided to implement the recommendations of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board report.

Reorganization or Redesign – Maintains funding for Department of State and USAID personnel levels consistent with prior fiscal years; prohibits funds from this and prior acts from being used to close, move, or otherwise incorporate USAID into the Department of State; requires submission of notifications and reports on any proposed reorganization or redesign plans; and requires the Government Accountability Office and Department of State and USAID Inspectors General (IG) to review plans.

USAID Operations – $1.35 billion for USAID operating expenses, including to maintain staffing and operational levels consistent with prior fiscal years.

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Heritage Reportedly to Recommend Full Merge of State/USAID, New Cone, Elimination of “J”, and More

Posted: 2:08 pm  PT
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James M. Roberts is a research fellow for Economic Freedom and Growth in the Center for Free Markets and Regulatory Reform at The Heritage Foundation. His bio says that he previously served as a foreign service officer at the State Department for 25 years and worked closely with USAID. As a Foreign Service Officer, he completed tours of duty at U.S. embassies in Mexico, Portugal, France, Panama and Haiti.  In an op-ed published on TheHill today, he writes that The Heritage Foundation will soon publish “a detailed background report with extensive analysis of the current dysfunctional state of U.S. government foreign assistance programs and detailed recommendations on how to fix them.” The op-ed includes highlights from that forthcoming report.

Excerpt via TheHill:

13 recommendations to reform U.S. foreign aid:

1. Eliminate duplicative foreign aid programs, improve coordination of remaining programs, end congressional “earmarks,” and terminate programs that do not work.

2. Replace USAID with a new “United States Health and Humanitarian Assistance Agency” (USHHAA) to manage all health and humanitarian assistance programs.

3. Fully integrate USHHAA into the State Department, with the USHHAA administrator reporting to the secretary of state as the under secretary of state for foreign assistance.

4. Merge State and USAID administrative functions in Washington and in the field. Put USAID’s Foreign Service Officers into a new “Assistance Cone” at State and consider more far-reaching reforms of the Foreign Service to give the U.S. government more flexibility to respond to future challenges.

5. Move all development assistance to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an independent agency that stresses the primary importance of the rule of law, effective governance, and recipient country accountability.

6. Transfer USAID’s Development Assistance account to the MCC and add the under secretary of state for foreign assistance to the MCC Board of Directors to better coordinate all U.S. foreign assistance.

7. Eliminate the under secretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights, and eliminate or move its offices, bureaus, and responsibilities to other parts of the State Department or to USHHAA.

8. Eliminate the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and transfer policy responsibilities to the regional bureaus and the refugee assistance responsibilities to USHHAA.

9. Ensure that all other U.S. foreign aid programs at agencies as diverse as Justice, Interior, or Agriculture are coordinate and consult with the under secretary of state for foreign assistance. Technical or specialized assistance, such as responding to pandemics, should be led by the experts but coordination is critical to ensuring effective broader application of U.S. government resources.

10. End the role of the Department of Agriculture in food assistance by terminating the P.L. 480 program, with its inefficient shipping and purchase requirements. Give USHHAA full authority over all U.S. food assistance.

11. Eliminate outdated agencies such as the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the United States Trade and Development Agency, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. These agencies were established in a world where private investment in developing countries was scarce. This is no longer the case. The focus should be to encourage developing countries to access these resources based on their policies, not send the message that government subsidies are necessary for development.

12. Re-designate the State Department’s Economic Support Fund account as the “Policy Goal Implementation Fund” with the express purpose of generating goodwill and support for U.S. foreign policy and security objectives, including promoting resilient, democratic, prosperous and secure societies around the world.

13. Better coordinate military and security assistance under the joint authority of the Departments of Defense and State.

Read the full piece here.

Other commentaries by Roberts include Why Trump’s Budget Proposal for the State Department Makes SenseTrump Wants to Shut Down OPIC. Will His Nominee Do It?Congress Should Support the Trump Administration’s Proposal to Close Down OPIC, and more here.

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D/Secretary Sullivan Touts 500 Additional Comments Submitted to Redesign Portal

Posted: 3:40 am ET
Updated: 3:12 pm PT
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Deputy Secretary John Sullivan held a town hall for State Department employees on August 8, 2017 (see Three Reasons For Sullivan’s Town Hall, Plus Feedback, and Some Re-Design Concerns;  Deputy Secretary Sullivan’s Town Hall With @StateDept Employees Now in Gifs), and  Why Tillerson Not Sullivan Needs the Town Hall: Morale Is Bad, “S” is Accountable.  He recently updated employees with several questions he promised to answer during the town hall.

In a brief message to employees, D/S Sullivan said that “the redesign process is moving ahead on schedule” and that they appreciate the employees participation.  Apparently, before the town hall, the State Department received approximately 300 suggestions/ comments submitted to the online portal dedicated for the redesign. Mr. Sullivan told employees that in the week after the town hall, they had received more than 500 additional submissions to the portal. “Each of those contributions has been reviewed and considered by the teams working on the redesign effort.” He urge employees to “remain engaged” as “we work together to improve this wonderful institution to which you and so many others have given so much over our nation’s history.”

On the Department’s Pathways Programs

D/S Sullivan announced that on August 17, Secretary Tillerson approved conversions to one-year term, part-time Civil Service appointments for Pathways interns who have successfully completed the program, who are within their 120-day conversion period, and have been recommended for conversion by their hiring bureaus.

On LGBT employees/assignments

D/S Sullivan told employees that the Department is “dedicated to ensuring equal treatment for all employees.” He informed employees that the State Department “pro-actively maintain a matrix to assist LGBT colleagues planning assignments overseas.” He also told employees that as of 2017, 97 governments have granted accreditation. “This is 58 percent of reported countries, which is a substantial increase since we started monitoring accreditation in 2011. We have also made significant progress in moving countries off the “No” list into another category that may be short of accreditation but provides employees with additional options.”  

On the Travel Approval Process

He informed employees that “there has been no change to the process for routine international travel and a clarification has already been sent to bureau front offices.” We’ve previously learned that the guidance was issued Monday evening, August 7, that ALL overseas travel “to participate in events” must be approved via action memo to the Secretary himself. It also requested a detailed budget breakdown of the trip and information on other participants. The same guidance was rescinded by Tuesday evening, August 8.

Mandatory Retirement Age to 66

D/S Sullivan notes that the mandatory retirement age is a component of the Foreign Service’s up-or-out system, which was modeled after a similar system in the military. “It is also a recognition of the rigors and stresses of a Foreign Service career, largely spent overseas in often difficult and dangerous places.” He notes further that any change to the mandatory retirement age would require a change to the Foreign Service Act of 1980.  His response also cites the exception to the mandatory retirement at age 65  – if the Secretary of State “determines it to be in the public interest to retain someone for a period not to exceed 5 years beyond the mandatory retirement age.” 

That’s in the books, but we’ve never heard of the secretary of state invoke that exception. In one case we are aware of where an FSO was subject to mandatory retirement and asked how he/she can request that exception, HR reportedly told him/her not to bother.

A reader feedback notes that there were mandatory retirement exceptions granted to some FS specialists, specific to Financial Management Officers.  We were informed that extensions for FMOs seem to happen with regularity although “not everyone asks, and some that ask are politely told ‘don’t bother’.”  Those who were granted limited extensions were given 1-2 years and appears to be “high performers who for one reason or another were FS-1s who did not make SFS and were vital members of the regional bureau budget team.”  

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Three Reasons For Sullivan’s Town Hall, Plus Feedback, and Some Re-Design Concerns

Posted: 4:30 am ET
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We recently blogged Why Tillerson Not Sullivan Needs the Town Hall: Morale Is Bad, “S” is Accountable.  We also posted our comments on Deputy Secretary Sullivan’s on-the-record briefing with the State Department Press Corps (see Deputy Secretary Sullivan’s Town Hall With @StateDept Employees Now in Gifs).

We now understand that Deputy Secretary Sullivan had three reasons for holding a town hall with State Department employees.  It appears like he missed some marks.

State/USAID full merger no longer in the planning?

The first reason for the town hall was reportedly to make clear to employees that for planning purposes there will not be a full merger between the State Department and USAID. All Working Groups (now known as “Workstreams”) involved in the redesign were previously instructed to assume that State and USAID will “remain separate” but be “mutually dependent” entities. That is, USAID will not be fully subsumed but it will also not be further separated from State. Our understanding it that the Working Groups would consider consolidation at the management and program levels if it is best or moving things from USAID or State depending on who has the expertise. The important point that folks expected Mr. Sullivan to clarify was to make clear that the full merger is no longer in the planning. Apparently, this he did not do.

Based on the on-the-record briefing with D/Secretary Sullivan, he only mentioned USAID once when he said, “Nothing’s off the table, everything is going to be evaluated by them, the Secretary has not given – other than a mandate to make a better State Department and USAID more efficient and effective for the 21st century, he’s not directed that any outcome result from this redesign.” During the town hall, he reportedly told attendees that “The redesign is not the dismantling of State and USAID.”  Expectant folks were  disappointed, and were perplexed why Mr. Sullivan did not mention that the full merger is no longer in the planning.

Preparation, Organization, Skepticism

The other two reasons were more challenging. One, he was supposed to impressed upon employees that the re-design process is “truly employee-led” and two, he was supposed to provide some motivation to the staff.

On the re-design, we understand that there are two issues. First, the issue with trust is reportedly a huge concern.  In addition, employees also believe that the contracted firm has more access to Secretary Tillerson than all of the current leadership.  The State Department leadership reportedly doesn’t understand why no one believes that the process isn’t rigged.  So, they do all these things to try and convince folks that is not the case but without much success. Latest examples are the town hall with inadequate answers, and a stakeholder meeting last week with NGOs who do business with State/USAID. Both did not go very well.  In the latter, the State Department representatives apparently tried to take a poll on foreign aid priorities. Sources told a reporter that the poll questions were dumb and the answer choices were often irrelevant. NGO representatives told the reporter that they felt like they were being talked down to and offered BS responses.

The second concern has to do with preparation and organization. Apparently USAID is seen as seeming more prepared and organized in these meetings and in the Workstreams. State reportedly appears seemingly scattered and State folks more likely to disagree with other State people.  At this time, we only know that career employees are in these working groups. We don’t know if there are political appointees working with them and what roles are played by the consulting firms.

Below are the short and the long bits on D’s town hall.

via tenor.com

 

Town Hall Feedback

One blog feedback we received: I was there and DS Sullivan might as well have not showed up. 80 percent of the questions seemed out of his league. Huge disappointment!”

One State Department employee told us he/she gave Deputy Secretary Sullivan a “B” for effort and style, and a “D” for substance, as there were too many questions that he could not answer. If the questions were collected from the Secretary’s Sounding Board, he should have been prepped better.

LGBT

We were informed that Mr. Sullivan did give a pretty good answer on diversity when he was asked if the Department was doing anything to help LGBT employees with the family member accreditation issue (now that State/HR has changed the Fair Share rule to 20% posts or greater, we’ve also learned that only 33% of posts are places where LGBT FSOs can serve accompanied by their families).

The Q&A from the town hall and a few comments in [brackets] below are provided anonymously through one of our contacts:

Re-design

Q: When will the redesign be complete? “There are a couple of steps in that process…when will we get to the point where the redesign is implemented that requires steps from Congress and OMB…as soon as we get clearance from OMB we will start…”

“The redesign is not the dismantling of State and USAID” [he really felt he had to say that out loud]. “Despite what you might read in the newspaper”[….fake news!!]

Future hiring

Q: AFSA: …We found the same thing Insigniam did – we love our jobs but are driven to distraction by onerous process…but as to the hiring freeze and the FS…because it’s an up or out system, we have a built-in RIF…so we are RIFing right now unless we are hiring…what can you tell us about hiring ELOs next year so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past? “The issues you raise are important” [oh boy…] “that’s why we have ambassadors and career FSOs working on this in the working groups…it’s an important issue we’re working on.”

CA to DHS

Q: One recommendation from the listening tour report was to move CA to DHS? “Nothing is off the table – because this is a bottom up employee-led process, but I have told S how important CA is, it’s not his intent nor mine to move CA. But nothing is off the table.”

Lateral transfers

Q: Why are you preventing lateral moves for civil servants? He’s explaining the hiring freeze... “it’s not a sign of disrespect”. [OMG he just said] “I’ll give you two examples of great civil servants I know.”

Delegations of Authority

Q: On delegations to P – ability to act for S and D in their place – how do we do legal necessary things if you aren’t available? “This process is ongoing…we will ensure decision making is launched at the right level…” [whaaaaaaT?! In the meantime we are f*****g drowning!]
(DS NOTE: Oops! On July 31, Secretary Tillerson issued DA-245-2 from S to the Deputy Secretary (Sullivan); we have yet to see the DA from the Secretary to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (Shannon). 
“S” Clearance for International Travel
Q: We have just been notified we need S’ clearance on all international travel…as you just said the survey mentioned so many of us mentioned the clearance process as onerous. “The means by which we authorize employees to travel is one of these issues that has been raised to me many times…I’m not completely familiar with the issue you raise…but what I can address is, delegations of authority, and the NYT said my authorities were removed because of something I did, but that’s not factually true…we found there are hundreds of delegations of authority and there’s no central way to keep track…but as to travel, I’ll have to get back to you…”
(DS NOTE: Guidance was issued Monday evening, August 7, that ALL overseas travel “to participate in events” must now be approved via action memo to the Secretary himself. It also requested a detailed budget breakdown of the trip and information on other participants. The same guidance was rescinded by Tuesday evening. On delegations of authority, the notion that there’s no way to track delegations of authority – that’s just incorrect. A/GIS/DIR maintains an electronic listing and database of all current and rescinded Department delegations on the A/GIS/DIR website). 
EFMs and hiring freeze

Q: Hiring freeze especially hard for EFMs. Will the freeze be reconsidered? “We will endeavor to lift the freeze as quickly as possible. In the interim there are waivers” [yeah but S insists on reading each waiver personally!!]

Vacancies

Q: You began your speech with how important Tom Shannon is, but there are a number of other people who could be helping you and poor Tom – the empty AS and under secretaries – why aren’t these being filled? (Applause) “There is no delay or freeze on nominating political appointees though many think there should be...[silence]...that’s a joke!” [Ugh.] “The process is underway, hasn’t gone as quickly as we’ve hoped but it’s underway…I think it’s gaining steam…”

 

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Ambassador Mark Green Assumes Charge as 18th USAID Administrator

Posted: 1:30 am ET
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U.S. Senate Confirms USAID’s Mark Green, 2 @StateDept Nominees, and 11 New Ambassadors

Posted: 12:05 am ET
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On Thursday, August 3, the U.S. Senate confirmed a slew of nominees for the State Department, including 11 new ambassadors.  Also confirmed was Ambassador Mark Green as USAID Administrator and nominees for OPIC, and the United Nations.

The Senate will adjourned on Friday to convene for pro forma sessions only with no business conducted between now and September 1. Hey, that means no recess appointments.  The Senate will next convene at 3:00pm on Tuesday, September 5, 2017.

 

STATE DEPARTMENT

Executive Calendar #229 – Nathan Alexander Sales to be Coordinator for Counterterrorism

Executive Calendar #239 – Carl Risch to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Consular Affairs)

AMBASSADORS

Executive Calendar #291 – John P. Desrocher to be Ambassador to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria

Executive Calendar #227 – Kelly Knight Craft to be Ambassador of the United States to Canada

Executive Calendar #228 – Sharon Day to be Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Costa Rica

Executive Calendar #289 – Michael Arthur Raynor to be Ambassador to Ethiopia

Executive Calendar #232 – Luis Arreaga to be Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Guatemala

Executive Calendar #233 – Krishna Urs to be Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Peru

Executive Calendar #230 – George Edward Glass to be Ambassador of the United States to the Portuguese Republic

Executive Calendar #231 – Robert Wood Johnson IV to be Ambassador of the United States to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Executive Calendar #235 – Lewis Eisenberg to be Ambassador to the Italian Republic, and to serve concurrently as Ambassador to the Republic of San Marino

Executive Calendar #290 – Maria E. Brewer to be Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone

USAID

Executive Calendar #166 – Mark Andrew Green to be Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

NATO

Executive Calendar #234 – Kay Bailey Hutchison to be United States Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

UNITED NATIONS

Executive Calendar #237 – Kelley Eckels Currie to be Representative of the United States on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC)

Executive Calendar #238 – Kelley Eckels Currie to be an Alternate Representative of the United States to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA)

OPIC

Executive Calendar #236 – Ray Washburne to be President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation

Executive Calendar #245 – David Steele Bohigian to be Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation

 

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SFRC Clears Mark Green’s Nomination to USAID as Talks About State/USAID Merger Get Louder

Once a year, we ask for your support to keep this blog going. We’re running our fundraising campaign until Saturday, July 15.  Help Us Get to Year 10!

Posted: 4:51 pm PT
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On July 12, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee finally cleared Mark Green’s nomination to be USAID Administrator. Also see Trump to Nominate Former Ambassador Mark Green as USAID Administrator (May 11, 2017);  Expected USAID Pick Ex-GOP Rep Mark Green Lost in the Trump Jungle.

Ambassador Green appeared before the Senate panel on June 15. Click here for the hearing video and his prepared testimony.

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AND NOW THIS —

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@StateDept Survey Report Recommends Moving Issuance of Visas, Passports, Travel Docs to DHS

Posted: 3:01 am ET
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The State Department spent at least $1,086,250 for the “listening tour” that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ordered in late April. On Wednesday, the report was made available internally to State and USAID employees. As of this writing, the State Department has not made the report publicly available. A State Department spokesperson told one media outlet that “Unfortunately, the results of the survey will not be available.”  

The 110-page report is copyrighted by Insigniam and marked “confidential and proprietary” (see more about that here: @StateDept Says It’s “Unfortunate” That It Withholds Employee Survey Results From Public 😢 Hu-Hu!).

The report which includes seven recommendations has a chapter on methodology, and a chapter on what employees want to tell Secretary Tillerson. There were 27,837 respondents from State, and 6,142 respondents from USAID. Some 17,600 overseas employees from the two agencies participated.

The largest category of respondents from State is Locally Employed Staff numbering at 6,735  (followed by 6,331 Generalists/FSOs, and 6,009 Civil Service employees). Mid-level rank employees across FS, CS and LE staff occupy the largest count of responders. The largest survey respondents in terms of tenure have served the State Department 6 to 10 years.

The highest number of respondents by regional bureau came from Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) at 3,131. The highest number of respondents by functional bureau came from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) with 2,524 respondents, followed by the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) with 2,142.

The “listening tour” report has multiple parts but we’d like to go straight to the recommendations it provides, which includes crafting a mission; alignment of purpose and mission; serving the frontline first; treasuring the talent; build a shared services model; duration of assignments and overlap transition time; and the removal of the uncertainty of cuts as soon as possible.

Of special note is Recommendation #5 which is “Build a Shared Services Model” which includes 1) security clearances, 2) human resources, 3) IT, 4) planning, budgeting, finance, procurement, and administrative functions, and  5), Move issuance of passports,visas,and other travel documents to Homeland Security.

Folks, ever heard of ICASS? There are already 13 agencies, in addition to State and USAID who are ICASS shared services participating agencies.  State doesn’t have to build a shared services model, it already has one; and that it can expand. Agencies pay their share of post administrative costs based on usage. “Department of State management personnel currently provide most ICASS services, the post ICASS Council can select other U.S. Government agencies or commercial firms to provide services if it can be demonstrated that they have a competitive advantage in improving services or cutting costs.”  As of August 1, 2016 update, participation in services offered through ICASS is voluntary for agencies except for Basic Package, Community Liaison Office Services, Health Services, and Security Services which are mandatory.

The International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) system is the principal means that the U.S. Government provides and shares the cost of common administrative support needed to ensure effective operations at its more than 200 diplomatic and consular posts abroad.  In the spirit of the Government Performance and Results Act, the ICASS system seeks to provide quality services at the lowest cost, while attempting to ensure that each agency bears the cost of its presence abroad.  ICASS, through which over 300 Government entities receive bills for shared services, is a break-even system; the charge to the customer agencies equals the cost of services.

The ICASS program provides a full range of administrative services.  These include motor pool operations and vehicle maintenance, travel services, reproduction services, mail and messenger services, information systems management, reception and telephone system services, purchasing and contracting, human resources management, cashiering, vouchering, accounting, budget preparation, residential and nonresidential security guard services, and building operations.  In addition to the services delivered at the post level, the ICASS system also provides service at the regional level.  An example of regional service delivery is the regional finance centers.  ICASS also delivers services at the headquarters level.  Examples of headquarters level services are the shared expenses of the overseas medical program and the grant program managed by Office of Overseas Schools (A/OPR/OS).  The cost of regional and headquarters level programs are added to the cost of post administrative support and distributed to customer agencies as part of the headquarters-level bill.

The recommendation talks about “creating, at minimum a DOS/USAID and optimally, a federal shared services model that includes these functions:”

Item 1: “Security clearances: eliminate the need to apply for a new security clearance for each new federal agency someone is hired by.”

That sounds awkward. Anyway, right now every agency has its own security clearance process. For instance, if an EFM (diplomatic spouse) were hired by DEA at post, his/her security clearance would be done by the DEA. We understand that whichever agency is doing the hiring also does the security clearance. The smart folks who explained this to us said that having a clearance from one agency might speed up your ability to get a clearance from another agency, but the clearances are not reciprocal from one agency to another. For example, if a Secret Service agent is hired by Diplomatic Security, his/her security clearance from the Secret Service doesn’t transfer to the State Department.

So if you’re talking about “eliminating” the need to apply for a new clearance once hired into a new federal agency — well, that’s not at all within the control of the State Department or USAID. Every agency has its own rules.  You want to make those security clearance rules reciprocal across agencies, you want employees to be able to carry their security clearance across agencies, neither the State Department nor USAID have authorities to do that.

A law enforcement pal told us that the only way this recommendation would work is if ALL background investigations were done by a national agency and all executive agencies are required to accept the security clearance issued by that national agency.  There is the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), housed at OPM (oh, dear), responsible for conducting background investigations for over 100 Federal agencies – reportedly approximately 95 percent of the total background investigations government-wide.  As of October 1, 2016, the NBIB was established as the primary service provider of government-wide background investigations for the Federal Government with the mission of “delivering efficient and effective background investigations to ensure the integrity and trustworthiness of the Federal workforce.” On paper, Executive Order 13764 of January 17, 2017 already provides for the reciprocity of background investigations and adjudications conducted by other authorized agencies. But we don’t know how NBIB works in real life.

So —  if you really want to make the process more efficient and effective, you want not just the portability of a security clearance across agencies, you also want the revalidation process for security clearance to move faster. For that to happen, you need people to process and approve the revalidation. You can’t do that if people are rotating out of positions, and/or if you can’t hire even temporary help because of a self-imposed hiring freeze. So …

Item 4: Other planning, budgeting, finance, procurement, and administrative functions: “…one of the initial areas of focus must also be a comprehensive audit of all reports. This will be followed by an aggressive initiative to streamline and consolidate the cacophony reports and the large amount of people-hours invested in writing them.”

Back in 2010, State/OIG determined that the Bureau of Legislative Affairs (State/H) tracked 310 congressionally mandated reports that needed to be submitted in FY 2010. The Bureau of Administration (State/A) on the other hand separately tracked 108 recurring reports required by the Department. If you want to streamline or consolidate those reports, the State Department could start with the A bureau, but would obviously require congressional approval for those 310 reports. The Bureau of Legislative Affairs (State/H) could certainly tackle that, except wait, we don’t have a Senate confirmed Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, or a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary. My gosh, that bureau is like a ghost town!

Finally item 5 under the report’s “Build Shared Services Model” may prove to be the most controversial:

Item 5: “Move issuance of passports, visas, and other travel documents to Homeland Security: we heard enough comments (combined with our own expertise in organization design and patterns to conclude) that there may be an opportunity to elevate efficiency and reduce cost by this change. Indications are that doing so would elevate security at our borders and remove a source of dissatisfaction and frustration.”

Folks, the entire report contains three references to visas …

#1 –  an acknowledgement of the men and women behind the scenes who helped the contractors obtained visas during the listening tour;

#2 – a comment from one of the respondents who said, “Focus the Department’s mission and rein in the mission creep. Too much goobly-gook has crept in. We should protect American citizens and businesses, vet visas, and encourage democratic rule of law and good governance. Full stop;”

#3 – Under Recommendation 5 “Move issuance of passports,visas,and other travel documents to Homeland Security.

The report does NOT/NOT  include any discussion or justification presented on how moving the issuance of passports, visas and other travel documents may elevate efficiency, and reduce cost, or how it would elevate security at our borders. The contractors heard “enough comments” but those comments do not appear to be in the report.

By the way, what’s the upside of cost reduction if you actually lose $2.45 billion of annual revenue in the process?

We should note that Consular Affairs (CA), the bureau responsible for the issuance of passports and visas has over 12,000 employees at 28 domestic passport facilities, 2 domestic visa centers, 8 headquarters offices, and more than 240 consular sections at embassies and consulates around the world.  In FY2012, the Bureau also generated approximately $3.14 billion in consular fee revenue, of which 78% ($2.45 billion) was retained by the State Department and shared among its regional and functional bureaus.

We will write a separate post about this recommendation because it deserves a longer post. It is also worth noting that the Trump Administration’s nominee to lead Consular Affairs is publicly on record in support of moving the visa function to DHS (see Ex-FSO Who Once Advocated Moving Visas to DHS May be the Next Asst Secretary For Consular Affairs).

 

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