Update 3/30: A source with insight into the FSGB process informed us that the new metric starts counting the days when the file is complete and ready for adjudication. Prior to file completion, processing times depend heavily on how promptly the grievant and agencies provide documentation. It appears that the FSGB want to focus on the period that is totally under the FSGB’s control. That’s understandable but that does not give a full picture. The source agreed that it would have been useful to also report the total processing time as previously calculated. There’s no reason why FSGB can’t include the processing time from ROP closure to decision, as well as the total processing time as it has done in the past. We also learned that to keep cases moving forward during the October 2020 to mid-February 2021 staffing gaps, the remaining 11 FSGB members reportedly had to increased their case work hours on average by about 21 percent. Some cases were also reportedly judged by two-member panels instead of the usual three-member panels.
Last December, AFSA called on then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to fulfill his statutory responsibility (22 U.S.C. 4135b) to make appointments to the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB). Eight seats on that board have been vacant since October 1 due to inaction on their nominations. “The nomination paperwork was transmitted to Secretary Pompeo’s staff on or before August 28, 2020, giving him at least four weeks to act prior to the September 30 expiration of the terms of office of the eight positions. If Secretary Pompeo had adverse information on any nominees, he could have allowed the Foreign Service agencies and AFSA to submit replacement nominations prior to September 30. Unfortunately, Secretary Pompeo has taken no action over the past three months.”
In the March 2021 issue of the Foreign Service Journal, AFSA Retiree Representative John Naland wrote that “Secretary Pompeo left office without acting on the nominations, leaving it to his successor to fulfill that responsibility. Secretary Antony Blinken did so within two weeks of taking office. Perhaps by the time a future historian finds this column, Secretary Pompeo will have explained his failure to act. But my impression today as the AFSA Governing Board member charged with overseeing the annual FSGB nomination process is that Secretary Pompeo’s dereliction of duty was of a piece with the arrogance and contempt for the rule of law that he frequently showed to committees of Congress, the media and others. Secretary Pompeo’s passive-aggressive evisceration of the FSGB deserves to be recorded and remembered.”
Lawrence C. Mandel, the Chairperson of the Foreign Service Grievance Board issued the Annual Report for 2020 on March 1, 2021. The report notes that staffing was complicated by delay in the re- appointment of the Board’s Senior Advisor and two annuitant members, and the delay in appointment of five new Board Members, resulting in vacancies of nearly half of their members over the final three months of the year. Members of the Board are appointed for terms of two years by the Secretary of State.
The Annual Report says that despite these staffing challenges, “the Board closed 66 cases – almost as many cases as in 2019 (69). The average time to issue decisions was 66.9 days after closure of the Record of Proceedings (ROP).”
Whoa, whoa, wait, “the average time to issue decisions was 66.9 days after closure of the Record of Proceedings (ROP)?” That got our attention. Based on the previous annual reports, the disposition of a case was measured from the time of filing to Board decision (or withdrawal/dismissal); not from when decisions are issued after closure of the ROPs.
In 2019, the disposition of cases, as we normally understood it, took 57 weeks, which would have been 399 days. In 2020, the average time is 66.9 days which is just 9.5 weeks. See below:
2020: Average time for disposition of a case, from closure of Record of Proceedings to Board decision was 67 days
2019: Average time for disposition of a case, from time of filing to Board decision, withdrawal, or dismissal, was 57 weeks. A number of older cases were closed this year, including some that had to await decisions in other fora. Additionally, fewer cases were settled and withdrawn this year, which increased the average time for disposition.
2018: Average time for disposition of a case, from time of filing to Board decision, withdrawal, or dismissal was 41 weeks. Excluding three cases that were significantly delayed by extraordinary circumstances, the average time for disposition was 38 weeks.
2017: Average Time for disposition of a case, from time of filing to Board decision, withdrawal, or dismissal was 41 weeks.
2016: Average Time for disposition of a case, from time of filing to Board decision, withdrawal, or dismissal was 39 weeks.
So we asked the FSGB about this new way of describing the average time of disposition of FSGB cases. The new way of describing duration of cases is not from time of filing, but rather from when a decision is issued after closure of the ROPs.
We also wanted to know what impact the 3 month delay in appointing/reappointing eight seats to the Board affected the processing of their cases.
We received a brief response that says in part, “We allow the FSGB Annual Report, as submitted to Congress, to speak for itself.”
Help alert! That is, we need help to understand stuff. We still can’t understand the way they calculate the disposition of a case. Counting from closure of ROPs to Board decision does not tell us the actual duration of cases, does it?
Good news though; at least they do not have an email chewing doggo over there!
BREAKING: Joe Biden intends to name Tony Blinken to lead the State Department, people familiar said. https://t.co/ePOw4VYrY7
— Bloomberg Politics (@bpolitics) November 23, 2020
Breaking News: President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Antony Blinken, a defender of global alliances and a close adviser, as secretary of state. https://t.co/IzeynG9AUH
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 23, 2020
President-elect Joe Biden to nominate Antony Blinken as secretary of state https://t.co/WwyZ3x2HZM
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) November 23, 2020
Biden once told me “Tony Blinken is a superstar and that’s not hyperbole." He joked that Obama "recognized that after four years with me and stole him.” Blinken, he added, “could do any job, any job.”https://t.co/THKykup31s
— Jason Horowitz (@jasondhorowitz) November 23, 2020
Told @FinancialTimes @ABlinken «was an American in Paris & both terms are key. He was very conscious of being an American & believed in US values but also understood how US policy affects rest of world bc he witnessed how others view America »
— Robert Malley (@Rob_Malley) November 23, 2020
Nothing helps a Secretary of State succeed more than the perception that he/she is close to the president (See Baker:GHWB and Rice:GWB.) Blinken is so close to Biden that world leaders will have little doubt that he speaks for the president and they can rely on his commitments.
— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) November 23, 2020
Posted: 2:11 am ET
Ambassador Daniel Fried assumed his position as the State Department’s Coordinator for Sanctions Policy on January 28, 2013. Prior to that, he served as Special Envoy for Closure of the Guantanamo Detainee Facility starting on May 15, 2009, with the additional responsibility as the Secretary’s Special Advisor on Camp Ashraf (Iraq) from November, 2011. He also served from May 5, 2005 until May 15, 2009 as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council from January, 2001 to May, 2005. He was Principal Deputy Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for the New Independent States from May 2000 until January 2001. He was Ambassador to Poland from November 1997 until May 2000.
Daniel Fried joined the Foreign Service in 1977. He served in the Economic Bureau of the State Department, the U.S. Consulate General in then-Leningrad, the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, the Office of Soviet Affairs, and as Polish Desk Officer at the State Department. He later served as Political Counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw from 1990 to 1993. In his service during the Administrations of the first President Bush, President Clinton, President George W. Bush, and the early months of the Obama Administration, Ambassador Fried was active in designing and implementing U.S. policy to advance freedom and security in Central and Eastern Europe, NATO enlargement, and the Russia-NATO relationship. Last week, he retired from the Foreign Service after 40 years of service to this country. He delivered the speech below at his retirement ceremony last Friday. The text was shared by former Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken.
Thank you, colleagues and friends.
And thank you to my daughters Hannah and Sophie for putting up with all that my job has required over many years. And I am so happy that my son-in-law Brian Hanley, a good guy, has joined our family.
To Olga, there is much to say, but now I will say only that I relied on your professional guidance for many years, and your analytic judgment helped me make some crucial calls early on. You know what you did, and for that, and much else, my thanks.
And to our 15-month old granddaughter Ava, in her terms, “Hi!”
My 40 years in the Foreign Service – and the careers of many of my friends – became associated with the fall of the Soviet Empire and the putting in order of what came after: the building of a Europe whole, free and at peace. It is hard to recall today how improbable victory in the Cold War appeared. For two generations, up through the mid-1980s, many thought we were losing the Cold War. Even in early 1989, few believed that Poland’s Solidarity movement could win, that the Iron Curtain would come down, that the Baltic states could be free, that the second of the 20th Century’s great evils – Communism – could be vanquished without war. But it happened, and the West’s great institutions – NATO and the EU – grew to embrace 100 million liberated Europeans. It was my honor to have done what I could to help. I learned never to underestimate the possibility of change, that values have power, and that time and patience can pay off, especially if you’re serious about your objectives. Nothing can be taken for granted, and this great achievement is now under assault by Russia, but what we did in my time is no less honorable. It is for the present generation to defend and, when the time comes again, extend freedom in Europe.
America put its back into this rebirth of freedom in the West, not because we sought to “impose” ourselves on unwilling nations, but because captive nations sought our aid, and we saw that our interests would advance along with our values. This was no new insight, but merely the expression in my time of what I will call America’s Grand Strategy.
From our emergence as a world power at the end of the 19th Century, the U.S. opposed spheres of influence and the closed European empires of the time. Instead, we favored an open world, ordered by rules, in which the values of our Republic and our business interests could simultaneously succeed. In our abundant self-confidence, we assumed that our Yankee ingenuity would prevail in a fair playing field and that our values would naturally follow. We would fashion the world in our own, democratic, image and get rich in the process: a vision breathtaking in its ambition. Yet our positive-sum world view, exceptional among the great powers, allowed room for others to prosper alongside the United States. In fact, the genius of the American system is that our success depended on the prosperity and security of other nations. We would lead in concert with the other great democracies of the world. George Kennan didn’t think much of what he termed America’s moralistic-legalistic tradition. But this foreign policy exceptionalism was the heart of our Grand Strategy through two World Wars, the Cold War and the post-1989 era, and it was crowned with success. Our mistakes, blunders, flaws, and shortcomings notwithstanding, the world America made after1945 and 1989 has enjoyed the longest period of general peace in the West since Roman times, and decades of prosperity.
This track record suggests that an open, rules-based world, with a united West at its core, is an asset and great achievement, and a foundation for more. Yet, some argue that this is actually a liability, that values are a luxury, that in a Hobbesian or Darwinian world we should simply take our share, the largest possible. Consider the consequences of such arguments. By abandoning our American Grand Strategy, we would diminish to being just another zero-sum great power. Spheres of influence – admired by those who don’t have to suffer the consequences — would mean our acquiescence when great powers – starting with Russia and China – dominated their neighbors through force and fear, while creating closed economic empires. Were we to recognize this, we would abandon our American sense of the potential for progress in the world; we would abandon our generations-old support for human rights, turning our backs on those who still turn to American in hope. And of course we would have to accept permanent commercial disadvantage. America would essentially retreat from whole areas of East Asia, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe. More retreat would follow as other emerging great powers carved out their own spheres, small and large.
Some so-called realists might accept such a world as making the best of a harsh world, but it is not realistic to expect that it would be peaceful or stable. Rather the reverse: a sphere of influence system would lead to cycles of rebellion and repression and, if the past 1000 years is any guide, lead to war between the great powers, because no power would be satisfied with its sphere. They never are. In 1940, Germany offered Britain a sphere of influence deal: German recognition of the British Empire in exchange for London’s recognition of Germany dominance of continental Europe. Churchill didn’t take the deal then; we should not take similar deals now.
America’s Grand Strategy did not come from nowhere: it followed from our deeper conception of ourselves and our American identity. Who are we Americans? What is our nation?
We are not an ethno-state, with identity rooted in shared blood. The option of a White Man’s Republic ended at Appomattox. On the contrary, we are “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” We say this more often than we consider its significance. Our nation is based on an idea that, when embraced, makes us Americans. We fought a Civil War over whether that sentence – that all men are created equal – was meant literally.
Don’t take my word for it. Consider Abraham Lincoln’s speech given just after July 4, 1858. Lincoln observes that in celebrating the 4th of July, descendants of the generation of 1776 feel proud, as they should. But he goes on:
“We have besides these men—descended by blood from our ancestors – among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from Europe…and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things. If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,’ and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, and so they are.”
And so we are, all Americans. We opened our country to the stranger, from all lands on Earth, with the door to American identity the principle of that old Declaration, “All men are created equal.” We feel that sense of American identity to this very day. And that rough sense of equality and opportunity, embedded in us, informed the way that we brought our American power to the world, America’s Grand Strategy. We have, imperfectly, and despite detours and retreat along the way, sought to realize a better world for ourselves and for others, for we understood that our prosperity and our values at home depend on that prosperity and those values being secure as far as possible in a sometimes dark world. And we have done well.
My time in the Foreign Service is ending. I am grateful for the opportunity it has given me to witness history and, sometimes, to try to bend history’s arc.
For those of you remaining in government service, I say this: serve your nation and this Administration as you serve all Administrations: with loyalty, dedication and courage. Help Secretary TIllerson. He deserves it. And he needs it. And help the President as well, putting your backs in it.
And as you serve, you will, as I did, always remember your oath to the Constitution, and to that principle behind the Constitution: our nation is dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Have faith in our nation, in our Constitution and in that proposition. Have faith in yourselves, thus inspired, and in each other.
And therefore, as Lincoln said, “LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.”
Posted: 12:20 am ET
Updated: Sept 22, 12:56 am EST
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Here’s a video; almost afraid Grover was going to ask, “which state?”
Posted: 2:54 am ET
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Below is an excerpt from the remarks made by D/Secretary Blinken at the swearing-in ceremony of the new U.S. Ambassador to Somalia, Stephen Schwartz . The ceremony was attended by the ambassador’s family and Ahmed Awad, the ambassador of the Federal Republic of Somalia to the United States. Ambassador James Keough Bishop (1938–), our last ambassador to Somalia who served in Mogadishu from September 19, 1990–January 5, 1991 also attended the event according to the transcript. Via state.gov:
Somalia needs leaders who believe in this future and whose legitimacy to realize it is beyond question. The hope of political stability is ultimately not possible without the assurance of security. We have to continue to degrade al-Shabaab and deny them safe haven in Somalia. As the date of elections approaches, the United States will remain a strong partner to the Somali national security forces and to AMISOM.
It’s precisely because this moment represents so much possibility, so much potential, that President Obama has chosen as his representative a diplomat of unmatched caliber and a public servant of unrivaled heart. Sober and idealistic – (laughter) – is how one of his cousins, who happens to be a good friend of mine, described Steve to me. It was very good to hear that he has at least half the attributes necessary – (laughter) – to be an effective Foreign Service officer and ambassador.
From his first days as a Peace Corps volunteer advising a cooperative in Cameroon through decades of distinguished service in the Foreign Service, Steve has proven that true leadership is equal parts confidence and humility. I know this because we actually dug up a document that he once wrote for his team. It’s called “How to Be a Foreign Service Star.” (Laughter.) Now, to my colleagues who are Foreign Service officers, there’s a lot of very valuable advice here and I commend this to you.
Today we have with us the flag that flew and the seal that adorned the U.S. Embassy Mogadishu in 1991. While we work to transition or mission from Kenya back to Somalia, it is our sincere hope, Steve, that you will have the opportunity to raise this flag in Mogadishu once again.
Posted: 1:35 am EDT
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Excerpt from D/Secretary Antony J. Blinken on “American Diplomacy: Preparing for the Challenges of Tomorrow,” February 2, 2016:
Every day, our team here at State works towards big goals like this that benefit from the leadership and creativity of the innovation community.
And every day, our team tackles issues at the intersection of technology and foreign policy—from modernizing arms control agreements to negotiating norms of behavior in cyberspace or outer space.
Despite this focus, we need to create more bridges that allow our diplomats to tap into the energy and ingenuity of American education, innovation, and entrepreneurship—and enable our foreign policy priorities to spark or accelerate new ideas.
Developed under Deputy Secretary Burns’ leadership, the Foreign Service Institute’s Center for the Study of the Conduct of Diplomacy is one such bridge—ensuring that we apply the lessons of the past to our conduct and actions in the future.
We are also developing a new core curriculum at FSI, to ensure that everyone starts their careers with foundational knowledge and skills relevant to this century. Through new and experiential training, we will prepare our officers to better understand unstated assumptions that shape conflict and collaboration, apply future forecasting to the geopolitical world of tomorrow, and tap into unconscious drivers of behavior that will help us effectively conduct and advance our foreign policy.
To help build another of these bridges, Secretary Kerry recently established the Innovation Forum in order to enable our foreign policy leaders to be able to see around the innovation corner—to ask important questions like: “What does the revolution in robotics mean for warfighting? What do advances in artificial intelligence mean for our labor markets? What does the advent of digital currency mean for the dollar?”
Read in full here.
Posted: 1:48 am EDT
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The State Department’s two deputies, Tony Blinken and Heather Higginbottom joined the White House for its third #BigBlockofCheeseDay on January 13 (see @StateDept to Join @White House’s #BigBlockOfCheeseDay — Have Your Policy Qs and Bad Cheese Puns Ready!).
Most of the questions are posted under Secretary Kerry’s tweet (see below). Fair warning, most of the questions are um, interesting to put it mildly. It’ll give you a window at the misconceptions out there on what diplomacy is and is not (also if you’re multi-tasking, you’re not doing your job), and the expectations the public hoards for our public officials (why don’t you have a magic wand, those sailors should have been home yesterday?).
The questions posted for Deputy Secretary Blinken are answered on his TL here: https://twitter.com/ABlinken. The questions and answers for Deputy Secretary Heather Higginbottom are posted on her TL here: https://twitter.com/hhigginbottom.
Below is Kissinger Hamster’s spot report from the Big Block of Cheese Day event.
He’s not perfect but what do you think? Should we keep him as a stringer?
Posted: 1:44 am EDT
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This is the third year in a row that the White House is hosting the Big Block of Cheese Day. The Obama Administration has adopted the story of Big Block of Cheese Day from the popular political drama, The West Wing. Inspired by President Andrew Jackson’s 1837 open house featuring a 1,400 pound block of cheese, see the WH’s video from last year below. As in the other BBCD, dozens of White House officials will take to social media for a day long ‘open house’ answering questions in real-time on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and via Google+ Hangout. Check out these cheese puns to go!
See the list of those participating on January 13. Think your questions Caerphilly and use the #BigBlockOfCheeseDay hashtag. We hope you’ll have a Gouda time!
Posted: 6:41 pm EDT
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On November 30, the U.S. Senate confirmed Gayle Smith as Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development by a vote of 79-7.
The National Security Advisor was quick to issue a statement. The State Department’s number 2 was quick to issue a tweet.