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Official Involved in Bush-Era Purge of Gay Employees Now in Trump Administration

by Justin Elliott,ProPublica
April 10, 2017, 2:27 p.m.

 

It was one of the uglier scandals of the Bush administration: Top officials at an agency dedicated to protecting whistleblowers launched a campaign against their own employees based on suspected sexual orientation, according to an inspector general report.

Staffers were abruptly reassigned from Washington, D.C., to a new office 500 miles away in Detroit in what the head of the office reportedly described as an effort to “ship [them] out.” Staffers who refused were fired.

Crude anti-gay emails were found in the agency chief’s account.

Now one of the major players in the scandal has a new assignment: He works in the Trump administration.

In December, James Renne was appointed to the Trump “landing team” at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as part of the transition effort between the election and the inauguration. He was then hired Jan. 30 in a senior role at the Department of Agriculture, though his exact job duties are not clear.

Renne was part of the wave of early political appointees on so-called “beachhead teams,” whose role is to lay the groundwork for the new administration’s policies. (We published details on hundreds of beachhead hires, obtained through public records requests.)

In the Bush administration, Renne was hired in 2004 as deputy special counsel of the Office of Special Counsel, the small federal agency that is supposed to protect employees across the government from retaliation for whistleblowing. The tenures of Renne and his boss, Special Counsel Scott Bloch, were almost immediately mired in controversy after career employees said they were improperly fired. Language stating that job discrimination protections extend to sexual orientation also disappeared from the agency website.

A little-noticed inspector general report, released in 2013, depicts Renne as a central player in the efforts. Bloch and Renne, it found, hatched the plan to abruptly open a new “Midwest Field Office” in Detroit and reassign career staff there. Employees who declined to move lost their jobs.

The report found that the employees were targeted for no legitimate reason, pointing to “facts which reflect that Mr. Bloch and Mr. Renne may have been motivated in their actions by a negative personal attitude toward homosexuality and individuals whose orientation is homosexual.”

One evening shortly after he was hired in 2004, Renne took the lead in removing the language from the agency’s website about how job protections cover sexual orientation, the report says.

From the report: “Mr. Renne was depicted as intently searching the OSC website with the assistance of a senior career official to identify passages which interpreted [the nondiscrimination law] as extending protection to employees on the basis of their sexual orientation. According to this account, Mr. Renne demanded that OSC’s information technology manager remove these materials from the website immediately.”

That change was later the subject of congressional hearings.

Renne did not respond to requests for comment. The Department of Agriculture, which hired him, declined to comment.

The scandal at the Office of Special Counsel dragged on for years, spawning congressional and criminal investigations.

In a formal complaint filed at the time, the employees who were reassigned to Detroit pointed to a “Concerned Catholic Attorneys” letter Renne had signed in 2000 that is a broadside against a range of gay rights efforts. It warns that the “homosexual lobby’s power has grown exponentially.”

The inspector general report found that Renne played a central role in the plan to open a Detroit office, noting that “the reorganization was formulated by Mr. Bloch and Mr. Renne very early in their tenure.” An outside consultant they hired to help with the plan told investigators that “it appeared that Mr. Bloch may have been heavily influenced by Mr. Renne.”

That consultant, retired Lt. Gen. Richard Trefry, told investigators:

Mr. Bloch indicated to General Trefry that there was a sizeable group of homosexuals employed by OSC, which had developed during the years prior to his taking office, that he “had a license” to get rid of homosexual employees, and that he intended to “ship them out.”

The report continues:

Further, in the portions of Mr. Bloch’s official e-mail account that were available to the investigative team, there were crude and vulgar messages containing anti-homosexual themes that appeared to have been forwarded from his personal email. 2026 Similarly, Mr. Bloch’s public media references to [his predecessor as Special Counsel, Elaine] Kaplan contained repeated, negatively-phrased assertions regarding her sexual orientation. For example, in interviews he granted during 2007, Mr. Bloch described her as a “lesbian activist,” a “public lesbian,” a “well-known gay activist”, and similar depictions.

Now in private practice, Bloch told ProPublica the report is “filled with untruth, outright falsehoods, and innuendo.” When the report was released, Bloch denied that he ever talked about targeting gay employees.

The inspector general report says it was based on interviews with more than 60 people and examination of over 100,000 emails.

The affected employees ultimately came to a settlement with the government. The terms were not released.

During the investigation into his tenure, Bloch’s home and office were raided by the FBI and he ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge arising from his hiring the company Geeks on Call to do a “seven-level wipe” on his government computers. Years later, Bloch later unsuccessfully sued the government over his firing.

There’s little public record of what Renne has been doing since his time working with Bloch. The Trump landing team announcement identified him as working for Renne Law. A fellow member of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence landing team said that Renne had worked at the ODNI inspector general office. And Bloch said he also heard that Renne had gotten a job in the intelligence community after their work together. An ODNI spokesman declined to comment.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

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The OPM OIG report is available to read here — DS

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Trump Bombs Syria While Hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russia Demands UNSC Meeting

Posted: 4:23 am ET

 

Meanwhile in Mar-a-Lago, where President Trump is hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping:

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“Stoned” Guy in the Street Ruins U.S. Embassy Kabul’s Supposed Drug-Free Workplace

Posted: 4:10 am ET

 

The AFP reported last week that six employees of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul have been dismissed for drug use or possession.  The State Department confirmed that “six individuals were involved” but that they are not State Department employees according to AFP. The report does not indicate what drugs were used but Afghanistan remains the world’s top opium producer despite billions of dollar spent by the U.S. government there.

It’s not like this is the first time there have been major personnel issues at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan.

Some years ago both American and expatriate Diplomatic Security contract U.S. Embassy guard staff members (including supervisors) appeared naked in numerous photographs and were also photographed fondling each other. These photographed activities took place at parties in or around the guard staff housing compound, and were evidence of, not surprisingly, “a pattern of blatant, longstanding violations of the security contract.” See POGO writes to Secretary Clinton about US Embassy Kabul Guards.

In 2013, the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) went looking for a contractor who would be responsible for administering drug tests to the estimated 1,300 security employees in Kabul. Noting that these “armed employees” in Kabul, who were “exposed to extreme conditions,” needed to be “reliable, stable, and show(ing) good use of judgment,” the cyclical drug testing (every six months) for amphetamines, opiates, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, cocaine, and marijuana was required.  So basically new contractors testing other contractors, see more here: State Dept Seeks Drug/Steroid Testing of Security Personnel in Afghanistan and Jerusalem.

But something obviously went wrong somewhere, hey? Sounds like the twice a year screening did not work. A person who appeared to be intoxicated was apparently noticed “wandering around in a state of confusion.” As a consequence, six U.S. Embassy Kabul mission members have been fired for allegedly using, possessing, and even selling illegal drugs. According to the Wall Street Journal, after investigators identified “the drug dealer” involved, his cellular phone was mined for contacts/leads and extensive searches of the embassy employees’ housing complex were launched, which led to the discovery of yet more drugs and more drug users.

According to the Wall Street Journal, most of the employees who were fired were American employees. Furthermore, this number allegedly includes contractors for Aegis/Garda. It is noteworthy that several years ago, dozens of Embassy Kabul guard staff members signed a petition accusing Aegis/Garda guard staff leaders of “tactical incompetence,” and shared that they had “a dangerous lack of understanding of the operational environment.” These American employees further called attention to serious gaps in the manned security of the compound, such as guard shortages at key guard positions.

In 2013, former Embassy Kabul security guards filed a class-action lawsuit against Aegis, claiming that the company refused to pay them for the overtime that they had worked while in Kabul. Though this lawsuit was later sent to arbitration, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) noted her opposition to the State Department’s continued reliance on contractors for embassy security. “We’ve seen failure after failure after failure by these contracted individuals to be competent, professional, and thorough,” she stated.

Note that last year, the housing compound for U.S. Embassy Kabul security personnel was also hit by a bomb (see US Embassy Kabul: January 4 Attacks Target USG Employees at Camp Sullivan).  According to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the severity of the blast was significant. The blast radius was 100 meters wide, and the explosion left a crater that was fifteen feet deep. Half of the housing compound was rendered uninhabitable.

Aegis, the security contractor discussed above, was purchased by Garda/GardaWorld in 2015. Canada-based Garda, the world’s largest security services provider, acquired Aegis in order to expand their company presence throughout both the Middle East and Africa. Garda bids aggressively for embassy security contracts in places like Kabul. In 2015, it undercut former contractor Hart Security Australia with a three-year $72.3 million bid for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). In this case, Australian Security staff  reportedly faced a 60% wage reductions to keep their jobs. Read more about that here.

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@StateDept Contractor Pleads Guilty to Stealing USG Money by Falsifying Travel Expense Claims

Posted: 2:43 am ET

 

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, a State Department contractor who worked at USCG Jerusalem has pled guilty to stealing money from the U.S. Government by falsifying his travel expenses. When Timothy James Nelson, the defendant first began working in Jerusalem, the U.S. Department of State Regional Security Office made his hotel arrangements at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem. The nightly rate at that hotel was $360.00 per night, which was the U.S. Government lodging per diem in Jerusalem.  The Government’s statement of facts alleged that beginning on or about July 3, 2015, the defendant elected to stay at a third location for a cheaper hotel rate but asked for travel reimbursements at the maximum lodging per diem. The defendant was reimbursed a total of $59,300 for five stays of different durations at Jerusalem Apartments. Since he was only charged half of that amount by Jerusalem Apartments, the defendant stole or converted for his own use $29,650 from the U.S. Department of State. See the attached documents below:

Navarre Man Pleads Guilty to Stealing Money from the Government by Falsifying Travel Expense Claims

PENSACOLA, FLORIDA – Timothy James Nelson, 36, of Navarre, Florida, has pled guilty to theft of government funds. The guilty plea was announced by Christopher P. Canova, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.

Documents introduced at the time of the guilty plea reflect that, between July 1, 2015, and April 1, 2016, Nelson submitted false travel expense claims for hotel stays to steal $29,650 from the U.S. Department of State. Nelson did so while working as a contractor in Jerusalem for a security company installing and repairing communication equipment in vehicles operated by employees of the U.S. Department of State.

Nelson faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 16 at 1:00 p.m. at the United States Courthouse in Pensacola.

The case was investigated by special agents from the United States Department of State’s Office of Inspector General (DOS-OIG), Steve A. Linick inspector general. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney J. Ryan Love.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. To access public court documents online, please visit the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida website. For more information about the United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Florida, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/fln/index.html.

Financial Fraud
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Tillerson Responds to North Korean Missile Launch With a 23-Word Statement 👀

Posted: 12:49 am ET

 

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Talking to the Press, Congress, and the Path to Blowing the Whistle

Posted: 12:30 am ET

 

The Foreign Policy Project produced a podcast in partnership with the Women’s Foreign Policy Network on the do’s and don’ts of talking to the press, congress, and the path to blowing the whistle. The discussion includes an overview of protections available – do you want to disclose openly or anonymously?  What does the process of going to the Project on Government Oversight look like? What tools can you use to encrypt your communications? What should you consider before going to the press? POGO’s Danielle Brian is in the podcast. Check it out.

Check out the rest of the podcasts here: http://theforeignpolicyproject.org/women-in-diplomacy-podcast/.

 

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Tillerson Finally Issues Condemnation of Syria Chemical Attack

Posted: 12:19 am ET

 

Shortly after 1:00 pm, the State Department finally released a statement from Secretary Tillerson. One wonders if the folks in Foggy Bottom had to get clearance for this statement all the way to the White House.

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We’re officially nine going on ten, but who drank all the wine?

Posted: 4:36 am ET
Updated: 4:57 pm ET:  Thanks everyone for the notes and the help. ❤️  ❤️  ❤️  For those asking, I don’t want to deal with a fundraising right now but I hope to have an update down the road for funding the blog.  DS

 

This blog marked its 9th anniversary last month but we could not celebrate it so we’ll officially mark it today. Now we are nine, but who drank all the wine?

via stuckinaloop

 

Some  of you are aware that I was wrestling whether to shut down this blog, or go on a hiatus while I attend to some personal matters — I may need to sell the old house, go back to school — yada, yada, yada real life happening yada.  I confess I also need a mental health break. I’m not eating right, I’m not sleeping right, I have a recurring nightmare that I’m living inside a reality show and most distressing of all, my bathroom weighing scale is screaming, “Help me!”

 

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Aww, @StateDept Sends Official Take Down Request For April Fools’ Day Cable

Posted: 9:11 pm ET

 

On April 1 at 1:48 pm ET, we posted Inside @StateDept: Leaked Cable Provides Guidance For ‘America First’ Cost Savings Initiatives to celebrate the time honored tradition of April Fools’ Day.

At 2:41 PM, an email was sent to this blog by the State Department’s acting director of press operations Mark Stroh (with courtesy copy to Rasheeda J Clements) with a request that we “immediately take down” the blog post. Apologies, we were out doing errands, and then we watched the most recent episode of “Scandal” so we did not see the two emails until now. But you guys, here is the first request:

From: Mark E Stroh <Stroh**@state.gov>
cc: Rasheeda J Clements <Clements**@state.gov>
Saturday, April 1, 2017 at 2:41 PM

Diplopundit,

You may or may not know that the cable posted at the link below is false, a forgery. This may be an April fool that you all have executed or one that was executed on you but either way we’d ask that you immediately take it down and note with a prominent correction that this was a forgery and not a real cable.

We thank you in advance for your immediate action in this regard.

https://diplopundit.net/2017/04/01/inside-statedept-leaked-cable-provides-guidance-for-america-first-cost-savings-initiatives/

Regards,

Mark
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.

At 6:42 PM, a second request was sent asking that post be taken down and that we post a correction “IMMEDIATELY.”  It feels like the Bureau of Public Affairs with its ALL CAPS was shouting at us.  Please stop with the all caps, it hurts our ears!

Email: stroh**@state.gov
Website:
Comment: Diplopundit,

You may or may not know that the supposed State cable you posted today is false. Please take this down and post a correction IMMEDIATELY.

If you have any questions you can reach me at stroh**@state,gov
Time: April 1, 2017 at 6:42 PM
Contact Form URL: https://diplopundit.net/contact-us/
Sent by an unverified visitor to your site.

 

Dear State Department, it’s one day a year. What happened to your tickle bones?

For the record, on April 1, 2013, we posted this “cable”: State Dept Issues New Guidance for 2013 Fourth of July Embassy Events – More Zombies, Please.  The zombies never complained.  In 2014, we announced a new set of State Department awards: State Department Issues Nomination Call For First Golden Gooseberry Awards.  Neither the State Department nor the Golden Gooseberry awardees complained.

We were asked a while back if we have ever received a take down from the State Department. Never once in the blog’s nine year history. Until now. But we have also penned previously that if we ever received a take down notice, we will publish it in full. And so just when we’re about to go on vacation, here we are.  We’d love to know which very senior people from the 7th Floor forgot to bring their humor machine to Foggy Bottom.  But congrats to the State Department’s new overlords tasked with supporting the principles of a free press and free expression. It must be um … hard when every day feels like April Fools’ Day.

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Inside @StateDept: Leaked Cable Provides Guidance For ‘America First’ Cost Savings Initiatives

Posted: 1:48 pm ET
Updated: 9:27 pm ET: See Aww, @StateDept Sends Official Take Down Request For April Fools’ Day Cable

 

A leaked cable from the State Department provides new guidance to embassies and consulates on cost savings initiatives under President Trump’s “skinny budget.” Amidst a barrage of bad press, Secretary Tillerson’s ALDAC cable not only urges employees to do more with less but also includes morale boosters for an anxious bureaucracy.  The cable is marked Routine and Unclassified so we are publishing it in full below:

VZCZCXRO3921
RR RUEHIK RUEHRY
DE RUEHC #8174/01 2922053
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 010033Z APR 17
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO ALL DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHRY/AMEMBASSY CONAKRY 2019
BT
UNCLAS STATE 108174

POST FOR MANAGEMENT OFFICER, AND FOR FMO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ATRN, AMGT, AFIN, KSEP
SUBJECT: GUIDANCE FOR ‘AMERICA FIRST’ COST SAVINGS INITIATIVES

This is an action request. Please see paragraphs 2, 11-13.

#1. Summary.  This cable reiterates the Secretary’s  three values for the State Department, and includes some housekeeping issues and cost savings commendations and initiatives in support of the President’s Budget Blueprint. As posts begin the planning stage for Fourth of July events, this cable also provides guidance for allowable expenditures. This is the first in a series of cables in cost cutting measures to help achieve the President’s agenda to urgently fund defense and homeland security. End Summary.

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Three Key Values: Accountability, Honesty, Respect

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2.  Department reminds all employees of three key values that the Secretary articulated on his first day in office: accountability, honesty, and respect.  It will be useful to everyone as we go about our daily work in terms of how we interact with each other and in terms of how we interact externally as well.  Posts should ensure that all employees, including locally hired employees and contractors, have viewed the Secretary’s speech or have read the transcript of his remarks outlining the values we  all must adhered to.  Eligible family members (EFMs) are not required to view or read the Secretary’s remarks but are urge to get familiar with these three values.  Innovative ways on how to better imprint these values on Foreign Service communities worldwide are welcome. Suggestions are accepted via email to ourthreevalues@state.gov.

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Housekeeping Issues

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3.  S Trips:  The Secretary todate has made three official overseas trips.  This cable reiterates instructions regarding S trips and all future secretary of state travels. The Secretary’s chief of staff  (Margaret Peterlin) MUST come immediately after S in protocol order, and all seating must reflect this regardless of the ambassador’s or chargés d’affaire’s presence during official visits. This is not a reflection of the Secretary’s opinion of the career service, of which he has only the highest regard.  Department recognizes that this changes the traditional protocol order but requests understanding as S needs his chief of staff to sit next/next to him.

4.  ‘No Eye Contact’ Rumors: Department reminds employees of their obligation not to pass on fake rumors that are detrimental to the efficiency of the service. A recent press report alleged that some career diplomats have been instructed not to speak to S directly or make eye contact.  Note that no such instruction had been issued.  During his recent trip to Turkey, the Secretary did a meet and greet with embassy employees and family members in Ankara, drank lemonade with the mission’s family members who are Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and commended employees for serving in a high-stress posting. The Secretary is determined to get to know the men and women of this agency, and to that end he plans to eat lunch in the cafeteria once a week when he is not traveling.  S/ES is currently working on a lottery that would allow a random employee to be included in the Secretary’s table during the weekly lunches. Lottery guidance will be posted at a later date at https://www.sbu.state.gov/s/es/slottery/

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Commendations for Ongoing Cost Savings

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5. The Department commends the following bureaus/offices/posts for their demonstrated commitment to a smaller footprint and cost savings for the American taxpayers:

6. S/ES-S: By utilizing a smaller aircraft for the Secretary’s official trips — domestic and international — and eliminating the staff for the “mobile office,” the Secretariat Staff is commended for the most significant cost savings in travel and staffing that have not been seen in this department for the last eight years. As a result, the Secretary is able to travel and work more efficiently using less fuel, less staff, and, without a traveling press corps, less talk.

7. Embassy Minsk saves money by drying and reusing paper towels: With great spills come great opportunity!  Post has divided its used paper towels into two categories: paper towels to toss and paper towels to dry. At the commendation ceremony attended by a very senior State Department official, post’s management officer said matter of factly, “No one said that paper towels have to be used just once.”

8. Embassy Addis Ababa commits to flushing less: The UNICEF says that an estimated 8 million of Ethiopia’s 60 million people are at immediate risk due to drought.  With that in mind, post has been committed to water conservation for the last few years.  Post bidders should be aware that mission has a standing policy on flushing less or as the mission motto goes, “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” At the commendation ceremony, post’s management officer announced that they are currently testing the “weekly flush” at the consular section.

9. Consulate General Yekaterinburg on track on saving 35% of its heating bill:  According to energy.gov, you can save as much as 10 percent on your heating bill simply by turning your thermostat back seven to 10 degrees for eight hours a day.  The weather-acclimated staff at Consulate General Yekaterinburg asked, “If you can turn it back 10 degrees, why not 15 degrees?” In the first four months of FY2017, post has already saved 20% of their heating bill. Post aims to save 35% of heating bill by end of fiscal year.  During the commendation ceremony, post’s management officer via Skype said that staffers are working to increase their cold hardiness by stripping to their underwear and throwing buckets of icy water and slush over themselves three times a week.

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Cost Savings Initiatives

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10. Every bureau, office, and post will be required to achieve greater efficiency and to eliminate wasteful spending in carrying out their honorable service to the American people. We are going to do more with less, and make the Government lean and accountable to the people. Under the direction of the Secretary, the Department is rolling out the following cost savings initiatives in support the President’s Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.  These initiatives are not only sensible but also exceptionally rational.

11. Change Font Initiative. 5 FAH-1 H-414 dictates that all written materials prepared for Department principal officers must use Times New Roman 14 pitch as standard font and size. Materials prepared by L/T (Treaty Affairs) and by HR/PAS (Presidential Appointments) for the President’s signature have traditionally used Courier New 12. Effective immediately, the standard State Department font and size without exception will be Garamond 14 pitch.  Garamond’s lighter strokes will require 24% less ink and is projected to save the Department considerable amount in toner and ink.

12. Sheep and Goat Landscaping Initiative .  Where economical to the U.S. Government, posts may now permit the purchase of sheep and goats to clear brush or mow the lawn at embassies and consulates in place of landscape and gardening services. Per 3 FAM 3251.1 sheep and goats may also count for official residence expenses (ORE) for the maintenance of official residences in which principal representatives represent the United States abroad. Studies show that the total cost is typically 75 percent less than human-based work and much more effective. All new landscaping contracts should switch to the sheep or goat landscaping initiative as soon as practical. For high stress posts where employees are travel restricted, the sheep and goat initiative will also provide live animals for feeding and petting, which will translate to stress reduction and less use of telemedicine by embassy employees.

13. Make USG Reports Great Again to Read. The Bureau of Legislative Affairs tracks 310 congressionally mandated reports each fiscal year (e.g. Human Rights Report (HRR), Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), and International Religious Freedom (IRF)). The Bureau of Administration separately tracks 108 recurring reports required by the Department.  Instructions for congressionally mandated and Department-required reports are often overly long and detailed. The reports themselves have become encyclopedic in detail and length. In both instances, shorter would be better. An OIG report estimates that it costs approximately $65 million per year for embassies to produce all the congressionally mandated and Department-required reports.  Effective immediately, the following guidance should be observed in the production of these reports:

1) Stop producing glossy reports.  The thicker the paper, the shinier the pages, the brighter the colors, the more taxpayers think: “Is this where my tax dollars go?”  2) Maximum word limits on the length of individual reports will soon be released.  Long reports that nobody reads are a waste of officer time and a means of avoiding spending accountability. 3) All reports should be digital downloads. On demand printed reports should be made available only for a fee. 4) In the event that a printed report is required, double side printing must be use to save trees. 5) Instructions for report preparation must not/must not be longer than the finished reports. 6) Reports requiring submission per post cannot have more than 20 pages in length for any country.

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Fourth of July Expenditures

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14. To the maximum extent practicable, use shall be made of American products, including specifically American wine and spirits during representational events. While embassies’ sommeliers may insists on German or Italian wine as the best pairings for formal representational events, the Department reminds posts of the imperative of buying American.

15. The Made in America WH wine is the finest terroir-driven sparkling, white, and red wines bottled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia.  Posts are authorized to bulk order the WH wine brand from the nearest military PX. Alternatively, posts may direct order the WH Super Premium Vodka shipped via the Diplomatic Post Office if ordered no later than May 30, 2017. Note that this vodka is quintuple-distilled in Holland by renowned Dutch master distiller Francois De Latte, but the labels were designed and printed in America, and for procurement purposes, this product is “Buy America” eligible. Where economical to the U.S. Government, wine and spirits may also be purchased locally as long as it is American in brand.

16.  Posts are reminded that per 3 FAM 962.9, donations may be solicited and accepted from a U.S. citizen, a U.S. organization or U.S. company (including foreign subsidiaries, franchisees, or distributors), or a foreign company that meets the criteria in 2 FAM 962.8, subparagraph a(2) only when the individual, organization, or company is neither seeking substantial assistance from post (e.g., nonroutine consular assistance or nonroutine commercial advocacy or assistance) nor would be substantially affected by a pending or reasonably anticipated post official action. Department also reminds posts that representational funds have been significantly slashed todate.  Recommendations for finger foods to serve for Fourth of July affairs include favorite American foods like popcorn, one stick hotdogs, freedom fries, s’mores, and mac and cheese.  Note that the per person cost for invited guests should not exceed $4.50.  As has been the tradition, posts may continue to supplement the all-American feasts with contribution from American companies operating in the host country. Family members of diplomats who are at least 16 years old may be utilized to provide free labor or provide supplemental food for Fourth of July events as long as 1) there is no additional cost to the government; and 2) the volunteered food is American (e.g. chocolate chip cookies are acceptable, not baba ghanoush).

17.  Unless privately funded, there will be no USG-sponsored fireworks at embassies and consulates until further notice.  Posts are reminded that the fireworks freeze does not preclude solicitations for fireworks sponsors. Posts may run a Red, White and You contests for American companies at post to underwrite the fireworks show as long as the cost does not exceed $6,108 USD. Sponsors’ advertising billboards on embassy properties are allowed for the duration of the event, and 24 hours before and after the event.  Specific questions may be addressed to L/M at beggingbowl@state.gov.

18. The Secretary appreciates what all of you are doing on behalf of the State Department, and in particular what you’re doing on behalf of this country to Make America Great Again.  As always, the Department thanks you for your commitment and dedication to this extraordinary team.

TILLERSON
BT
8174

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