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Trump to Nominate Ex-RNC Co-Chair Sharon Day to be Ambassador to Costa Rica

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Posted: 1:59 am ET

 

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Trump to Nominate Kelly Knight Craft to be U.S. Ambassador to Canada

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Posted: 1:50 am ET

 

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#ThrowbackThursday: Secretary of State Addresses International Press Corps

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Posted: 1:47 am ET

Via state.gov

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses an international press corps on July 5, 2015, in Vienna, Austria, during a break in P5+1 negotiations with Iranian leaders about the future of their country’s nuclear program. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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VOL 1 ISSUE 1

NEWZ 🎱 BRIEF |  6.14.2017

Mystery Human Appointed as Special Advisor for Morale, Welfare, But Not Recreation (MWBNR)
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FOGGIEST BOTTOM, WASHDC — After weeks of constant leaks concerning plummeting morale at the diplomatic service of the last remaining super power, Foreign Minister Haw Haw assured senators at a private meeting that he is bringing in a Special Advisor for Morale, Welfare, But Not Recreation (MWBNR), as soon as possible. “The paperwork is being processed as we speak,” he assured Committee members.

“I want to let you know that the special advisor will be attentive to the morale and welfare of our employees, though not recreation,” he warned. “We have turned a page; we will no longer support recreation activities for federal employees even at their own discretionary time. The world is going — in diplomatic parlance — bananas, and seriously, who has time for recreation?” he asked.

“Exactly!” the senator from Idaho nodded briskly. “Bananas! Who has time for recreation?” he parrots. “Or who has time for diplomacy when we have the MOTHER OF ALL BOMBS?” he asked loudly as he let out a brief cackle.

The Committee’s ranking member expressed concern that the lack of support for recreation would further demoralized the agency.  “Who is this special advisor?” she asked.  “What are the plans to improve morale and welfare?” another senator inquired.  The Foreign Minister declined to identify the special advisor except to say that the individual is a marvelous, and emphatic human being who is perfectly qualified to be Special Advisor for MWBNR.  He added that the special advisor should be applauded for rolling out a quick and cost-free initiative to improve morale at his agency. He explained that the first phase of the morale improvement plan is to allow employees — regardless of type, rank, or location —  to vote for an agency theme song. “And all it took was a free subscription to Pandora!” he exclaimed.

One senator wanted to know if the theme songs proposed include ABBA’s S.O.S?  Another suggested Yusuf/Cat Steven’s Wild, Wild World. The Foreign Minister told the Committee members that he is happy to consider their suggestions but told them it is crucial that the employees get a say in their own theme song. “Buy-in makes a difference, you see,” he added.  He concluded the meeting with a promise to provide the Committee with a short list of proposed theme songs at a later date.

 

NEWZ 🎱 BRIEF |  6.14.2017

Last EFM Still Employed In Embassy Wonders What Section She Will Be Working In Today
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BISSAU, GUINEA-BISSAU —  After arriving at the embassy this morning in order to begin her work day, Jennifer Smith-Collier sat timidly on a chair positioned outside of a nearby conference room door.

“This is my new routine,” Ms. Smith-Collier told reporters. “After this daily morning meeting, I will find out what section – or sections – I’ll be working in today. It changes so often there’s no way to even print up a schedule for me in advance.”

Noting that she was the last EFM still employed at the embassy since all other EFMs had rotated out and were not being replaced due to the hiring freeze, Ms. Smith-Collier shared that this new morning routine of hers was out of necessity. “There’s actually a meeting every morning now where the different sections try to iron out who needs me the most and what my schedule will be for that day. For example, yesterday I escorted a crew doing work in the Ambassador’s bathroom, filled in as a temporary secretary at the political section for two hours, and then assisted the consular section with pulling fingerprints from visa applicants for the rest of the day.”

Ms. Smith-Collier, a graduate of Wellesley with an MBA from Wharton, noted that she and her husband are due to depart post for their onward assignment in three weeks. “I feel terrible that we’re going to be leaving soon, since I know that when I leave the embassy will have no other employed EFMs, but I suppose that’s something that cannot be helped,” she said sadly. “I have no idea who will do all of this work once I leave, since the embassy is already seriously short staffed and some direct-hire employees are already facing double, triple, and even quadruple their normal workloads.”

As raised voices filtered out of the nearby conference room within which the meeting regarding her daily schedule was being held, Ms. Smith-Collier bit her lip. “Things can sometimes get a bit heated in there,” she confessed.

Several minutes later, a red-faced Management Officer emerged from the conference room and handed Ms. Smith-Collier a handwritten daily schedule that contained several edits and scratched out blocks. “Stick with what’s written in black pen, please,” he told her. “Blue pen was used for the working copy, and black was used for your final schedule.” Ms. Smith-Collier nodded, smiled, and set out to begin her work day.

WARNING:
Reading The Wicked Wasabi may result in occasional fun or indigestion.
It is not intended for readers over 18 years of age
without a fully developed sense of humor.

Since you’re visiting the blog …

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Today: Tillerson Before SFRC and Appropriations Hearings For FY18 State Dept Budget Request

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Posted: 3:24 am ET

 

Today, Secretary Tillerson is scheduled to appear before two Senate panels on the FY2018 State Department Budget Request. He will appear before the the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) for a Review of the FY 2018 State Department Budget Request in the morning. That hearing will be chaired by SFRC Chairman Bob Corker. This will be Secretary Tillerson’s first public Senate appearance since his confirmation as Secretary of State. Questions will be specific to the FY18 budget but we expect that there will also be questions on the planned agency reorganization, staffing gaps, morale, and a host of items that have surfaced on the news since he was confirmed in February. He is also scheduled to appear before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee in the afternoon. That hearing will be chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham. 

Date: Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Time: 10:00 AM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Corker

The prepared statement and live video will be posted here when available.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
Date: Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Time: 02:30 PM
Location: Dirksen Senate Office Building 192
Presiding: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)

The live video will be posted here when available.

But what in heavens name is this all about?

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Trump to Nominate Career Diplomat Michael Arthur Raynor to be Ambassador to Ethiopia

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Posted: 2:49 am ET

 

On May 22, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Michael Arthur Raynor to be the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia. The WH released the following brief bio below:

Michael Arthur Raynor of Maryland to be Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Mr. Raynor, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1988. He is currently the Director of the Office of Career Development and Assignments in the Bureau of Human Resources of the Department of State. A former Ambassador and senior official at the State Department, Mr. Raynor is known for his Africa policy expertise leadership of interagency teams in high-threat environments. He has served at eight United States Missions overseas, including six in Africa. Mr. Raynor earned a M.I.A. from Columbia University and a B.A. from Lafayette College. He speaks French and Italian.

The nomination was received by the Senate on May 25 and is currently pending in the Committee on Foreign Relations:

2017-05-25 PN519 Department of State | Michael Arthur Raynor, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

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America’s Redefinition as the Foreign Relations Equivalent of a Sociopath

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Posted: 1:55 am ET

 

The following is an excerpt from Ambassador Chas W. Freeman‘s lecture on Reimagining Great Power Relations – Part 1.

America has now chosen publicly to redefine itself internationally as the foreign relations equivalent of a sociopath[1] – a country indifferent to the rules, the consequences for others of its ignoring them, and the reliability of its word.  No nation can now comfortably entrust its prosperity or security to Washington, no matter how militarily powerful it perceives America to be.

In the United States, there has been a clear drift toward the view that outcomes, not due process, are the sole criteria of justice.  Procedures – that is, judicial decisions, elections, or actions by legislatures – no longer confer legitimacy.  The growing American impatience with institutions and processes is reflected in the economic nationalism and transactionalism that now guide U.S. policy.  Washington now reserves the right to pick and choose which decisions by international tribunals like the World Trade Organization (WTO) it will follow or ignore.

The idea that previously agreed arrangements can be abandoned or renegotiated at will has succeeded the principle of “pacta sunt servanda” (“agreements must be kept”).   The result is greatly reduced confidence not only in the reliability of American commitments but also in the durability of the international understandings that have constituted the status quo.  In the security arena, this trend is especially pronounced with respect to arms control arrangements.  As an example,, Russia has cited American scofflaw behavior to justify its own delinquencies in Ukraine and with respect to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

When a hegemon fails to pay attention to the opinions of its allies, dependencies, and client states or to show its adversaries that it can be counted upon to play by the rules it insists they follow, it conjures up its own antibodies.  In the absence of empathy, there can be no mutual reliance or collective security.  Without confidence in the reliability of protectors or allies, nations must be ready to defend themselves by themselves at any moment.  If covenants are readily dishonored, the law offers no assurance of safety.  Only credible military deterrence can protect against attack.
[…]
[1]Mental health specialists define a “sociopath” as someone who exhibits a lack of empathy and a disregard for community norms, the rules both written and unwritten that help keep the world safe and fair for all. A sociopath is someone with no conscience who ignores reality to lead an uncaring and selfish life. The sociopath cares only for himself and lacks the ability to treat other people as worthy of consideration.

Read in full here. See Part II Reimagining China and Asia, and Part III Reimagining the Middle East.

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Court on FSGB tenure denial case: “ignores significant parts of record and fails to connect rationally”

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Posted: 1:50 am ET

 

The 2016 Annual report of the Foreign Service Grievance Board only mentions the Aragon v. Tillerson case in passing as follows:

Daniel P. Aragon, a former Foreign Service career candidate at the Department of State, filed an appeal on January 29, 2016, with the District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the Board’s denial of his appeal in FSGB Case No. 2014-034. Mr. Aragon had contested two EERs and the withholding of tenure and involuntary separation that flowed from those EERs.

This case was filed in 2016. Per Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, the Court substituted as defendant the current Secretary of State,Rex Tillerson, for former Secretary of State John Kerry.

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has harsh words for the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB) on this specific case:

The plaintiff, the Foreign Service, and American taxpayers have invested heavily in the plaintiff’s career as a Foreign Service officer, and the FSGB does a disservice when it renders a decision that ignores significant parts of record and fails to connect rationally the underlying facts to its ultimate conclusion. This is what the FSGB did in finding that the May and November 2013 EERs were not falsely prejudicial. For these reasons, the FSGB’s decision is vacated with respect to its conclusion that these EERs were not falsely prejudicial, and this action is remanded to the FSGB for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion.21

Quick summary of the case:

The plaintiff, Daniel Aragon, served as an entry-level Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State for five years, until he was denied tenure and involuntarily separated in 2014. The reason for the tenure denial arose during the plaintiff’s second overseas assignment, when the plaintiff was responsible for supervising an employee, whose undisputed pattern of insubordination, tardiness, abuse of leave policies and performance issues would, in many work environments, warrant termination of employment. Instead, the plaintiff’s management efforts, which were ultimately successful, to bring this employee into compliance with basic workplace rules, has led to the plaintiff’s own termination from a job he “love[s].” AR at 354.1

The plaintiff filed the instant action against the Secretary of State, in the Secretary’s official capacity, after the State Department denied his grievance contesting the performance evaluations on which the tenure denial was predicated, and the Foreign Service Grievance Board (“FSGB”) upheld the State Department’s decision.2 Alleging that the FSGB’s decision was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law,” in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A), the plaintiff seeks, inter alia, an order directing the State Department to remove from his personnel file the two performance evaluations on which the denial of tenure was predicated, Compl., Relief ¶ 3, ECF No. 1; an order rescinding the tenure decisions predicated on those evaluations, id.; an order directing the State Department to reinstate the plaintiff retroactively, with back pay and benefits, id. ¶ 4; and an order directing the State Department to place the plaintiff in the same promotional class he would be in had he received tenure in the winter of 2013, id. ¶ 5. Pending before the Court are the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, see generally Pl.’s Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.’s MSJ”), ECF No. 12, and the Secretary’s cross-motion for summary judgment, see generally Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J. (“Defs.’ MSJ”), ECF No. 14. For the reasons set out below, the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part, without prejudice, the Secretary’s cross-motion for summary judgment is denied without prejudice, and this action is remanded to the FSGB for further proceedings.

What the what? Excerpt from court’s opinion:

[T]he record shows that the CPS [cultural program specialist FSN] had an “apparent pattern” of abusing sick leave and would disappear from work for extended periods of time. Id. at 42; see also id. at 335 (describing the manner in which the CPS “took sick leave immediately before or after a block of annual leave[, which] suggest[ed] that she was abusing sick leave in order to augment her annual leave”). This apparently lax office culture was extant before the plaintiff’s arrival, leaving him with the task of changing that culture to ensure that employees, such as the CPS, on the U.S. Government payroll complied with the most basic work performance rules of coming to work on time and providing notice of absences.”

Lip service to evidence

The FSGB paid this evidence lip service in the section of its decision summarizing the plaintiff’s claims, see id. at 405, but the Board did not refer to it, let alone grapple with it, in deciding that the AFI concerning the counseling session was not falsely prejudicial for completely omitting any reference to the events giving rise to the counseling session or the context, in which even before the plaintiff’s arrival, the Dubai office had such deficient management that the CPS was able to develop and engage in a pattern of poor work behavior.

Fails to connect rationally …

That prior agency management in Dubai allowed such poor work habits to persist likely made the plaintiff’s effort to enforce the most basic workplace rules more difficult and makes it all the more impressive that the plaintiff was, apparently, ultimately successful in reining in the CPS’s behavior. See, e.g., AR at 42 (noting that after the plaintiff spoke with the CPS about her “apparent pattern of abusing sick leave, . . . there were no further incidents of suspected leave abuse during the rating period”). As the FSGB itself has noted, a supervisor will “almost inevitabl[y]” have “a difficult relationship” with an employee when the supervisor “is trying to effect changes” in the employee’s behavior. FSGB Op. 2006-052 at 13.

Read in full below:

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Trump to Nominate Nathan Alexander Sales to be @StateDept Coordinator for Counterterrorism

Posted: 2:41 am ET

 

Screen Shot

Mr. Sales publicly available bio (PDF) says that he is an Associate Professor of Law (May 2014-present) at Syracuse University College of Law in New York.  Prior to that, he was Assistant Professor of Law (January 2008-May 2014) at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Virginia.

He previously worked at DHS’s Office of Policy as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development (July 2006-December 2007) and at DOJ’s Office of Legal Policy. His bio says that he “Managed Justice Department “war room” during confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts.” It also says he received Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service (Justice Department’s highest honor) in 2002, for his role in drafting the USA PATRIOT Act and in 2003, received the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award for his role in judicial confirmation process.  He served as a law clerk for David B. Sentelle at the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia from July 2000-July 2001.

If confirmed, Mr. Sales would succeed career diplomat Tina S. Kaidanow who was appointed to CT from 2014-2016 (see Bureau of Counterterrorism’s Tina Kaidanow Moves to Pol-Mil Affairs, Justin Siberell Now Acting Coordinator).  Mr. Siberell, a career FSO was nominated to be Coordinator for Counterterrorism to head the Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism (CT/CVE) in September 2016. The nomination was not acted by the Senate and was returned to President Obama in January 2017 (see @StateDept Nominations Forgotten By the Senate Time Lords of the 114th Congress). 

Below is a quick description of this position:

On Aug 1, 1976, the Department of State elevated the position of Special Assistant to the Secretary of State and Coordinator of the Office for Combating Terrorism to that of Director of the Office for Combating Terrorism, with rank equivalent to an Assistant Secretary of State. All Directors have been designated by the Secretary of State, not commissioned. The Department had established the earlier position in October 1972 to head an interagency working-level committee charged with addressing the problem of international terrorism.

The State Department website notes that in 1994, Congress officially mandated the Bureau of Counterterrorism in Public Law 103-236 [H.R. 2333]. In 1998, Congress further defined the role of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism in Public Law 105-277 [H.R. 4328]:

“There is within the office of the Secretary of State a Coordinator for Counterterrorism…who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate…. The principal duty of the coordinator shall be the overall supervision (including policy oversight of resources) of international counterterrorism activities. The Coordinator shall be the principal adviser to the Secretary of State on international counterterrorism matters. The coordinator shall be the principal counterterrorism official within the senior management of the Department of State and shall report directly to the Secretary of State. The Coordinator shall have the rank and status of Ambassador at Large.”

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Trump and Tillerson Show Off Incoherent Qatar Policy in 90-Minute Cliffhanger

Posted: 3:10 am ET

 

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