@StateDept’s Secret ‘Hellz Yeah’ Employee-Led Organizational Revolution Study

Posted: 2:50 pm PT


A lot has been written about former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s “Redesign” initiative at the State Department. What is less known is a parallel project, a purported employee-led organizational revolution study that until this week was not revealed. While the controversial and unpopular “Redesign” boasts over 300 interviews from the potential pool of 25,000 U.S. direct hire employees and over 30,000 survey respondents from a 75,000 global workforce, the “Hellz Yeah” employee-led organizational revolution drew responses from what is said to be 33,300 secret interviews within the organization. The results of those interviews have been under lock and key and, until recently, only a handful of individuals were given access to the consolidated report.

In the chaos following the presidential pink tweet that saw the firing of the 69th secretary of state and the departure of his top lieutenants, a few individuals discovered the secret study in an unlocked vault on the 7th Floor. The following are from our interviews with three employees who were among the first to read the contents of the secret interviews. For obvious reasons, our sources did not want to be identified publicly but they were willing to speak to us on background. They all described the discovery of the secret interviews as shocking. Our sources said “shocking” because they all said that they had never seen a previous study in which employees actively contributed to the retreat or destruction of their own institution under the guise of improving its operation. One source asked, “Who the hell does that?” Another source worry that incoming Secretary Pompey may use this as an excuse for a new top-town restructuring and cultural reorganization of the agency.



Controversial Proposals

One of the more controversial proposals that previously leaked was the transfer of the visa function from State to DHS.  One respondent reportedly asked, “How is it that Dennis Rodman gets to sit down with Kim Jong Un smoking cigars while I have to interview 120 visa applicants a day for 2-4 years?” Another one said, “I did not sign up to be a visa stamper; I was top of my class and expected to be doing multi-lateral negotiations in Europe after A-100. Instead they sent me to Nigeria. Nigeria!” Yet another respondent said, “What Jared can do, I can do better”, admitting that he did not particularly like consular work as visa applicants not only have spit on him three times through the glass window but have also breast-fed screaming babies multiple times at his interview window.

A majority of those advocating this change pointed out that most new diplomats did not sign up for consular work and questioned why they were not allowed to conduct arms control negotiations or advance our nuclear nonproliferation policy on their first tours. They think that the new era of “America First” in public and foreign policies should also bring a new era in diplomatic hierarchy. One respondent lamented, “The only person who has fun at this post is the ambassador.”  

Dashboard Initiative: KSALs Leaderboard (Knowledge, Skills, Ability, and Loyalty) 

We can report further on the reasons why so many offices have been  left vacant at the upper echelons of the State Department. The secret study reportedly indicates that this, too, was an idea put forward by employees actively engaged in keeping their agency “nimble” and “agile.” The reasoning appears to be that by not appointing Senate-confirmed individuals to these high level positions, the entire agency operation can be controlled from the dashboard in the secretary of state’s office.

A majority of the respondents purportedly suggested that the “S” dashboard be color-coded for efficiency.  Acting assistant secretaries and office directors who speak out of turn in meetings and public appearances are buzzed with a red button, while those with harmless opinions are buzzed with a yellow button, and those with favorable views to everything proposed by the Administration are buzzed with a green button. The buzzes are then tallied weekly. Those with too many red buzzes on their records will be replaced by individuals on the waitlist who are anxious to demonstrate their KSALs to get ahead, that is, knowledge, skills, ability, and loyalty. Those of particular distinction in service and loyalty (e.g. those willing to throw their colleagues and staff members under speeding buses) will be short-listed for creative new positions of great honor and responsibility.

Of particular note in this study is that a significant portion of the respondents proposed the use of Veritaserum, a colorless, odourless potion that is practically indistinguishable from water to ensure that all employees old and new are forced “to answer sincerely and truthfully any question they are presented with.”

One of our three sources told us that the “Dashboard Initiative” envisioned to promote an “agile” and “nimble” organization in Foggy Bottom was beta-tested for several months with notable success but there was unresolved debate on who will have access to the “S” dashboard. Also, questions were raised about how to deploy the initiative to the wider organization, with top aides additionally arguing for the creation of a “leaderboard” to enhance the initiative and with dual-function as a replacement for the now defunct “Secretary’s Sounding Board. “Agile and nimble won’t mean a lot if the effect is not immediate,” one argued.”It should be simple like baseball, three strikes and you’re out,” added  another helpfully.

According to two sources, the secret study indicates that the organizers could not agree on the finer details of the “Dashboard Initiative”. The initial plan reportedly was to send it down to the employees to promote the perception of crowdsourced-decision making while top officials figure out what to do with it; no one has any idea what happens now.

MDSGA Initiative: Make Diplomatic Spouses Great Again

As with the Redesign, a select number of diplomatic spouses were also interviewed. Our second source, an FSO who has been married to the same spouse for twenty-four years expressed shock at the interview results from eligible family members. Fifty-one percent of these interviewees (214 in actual numbers) implored the agency’s leadership to strike down the 1972 Spouse Directive stating that diplomatic spouses are their own persons, and could not be forced to provide free labor for diplomatic missions overseas.

One respondent reportedly complained, “What’s the use of being a senior spouse if you can’t round up junior spouses to help you do the necessary work of supporting the mission overseas?” At least five respondents proposed that the Department bring back the rating system that includes diplomatic spouses in the performance evaluations of employees. “Some spouses are just way too independent, living their own lives away from the mission,” complained one senior spouse. “Junior spouses should be trained to be respectful of the senior spouses, and should be put in tiger teams to support the highest ranking spouses in the mission,” added another.

A majority of respondents apparently also suggested that the agency freeze all available jobs for spouses so women in particular would not have an excuse to work outside the home. The rationale appears to be that the longer the spouses are unable to work, the more they will appreciate not having to work. These respondents were confident that “this will result in more happiness and contentment in the mission.”

“The availability of work to some spouses but not to others leads to envy and discontent,” was one of the study’s conclusion. By removing the available jobs for spouses altogether, according to the summary of the interviews, “There will be less stress, less competition and better quality of life.”

One topic that the respondents proposed that did appear to result in policy change was how the Professional Associates program for spouses are filled. The secret study reportedly indicates that respondents suggested should it become necessary to lift the hiring freeze, Professional Associates jobs in particular should have the highest standards possible in terms of experience and educational experience.

The interviewers asked if this would not make it harder for diplomatic spouses to fill these professional jobs and 50.9% of respondents declared that while that might be the case, they think that this would make the organizational more “nimble” and “stronger.” “I may not actually qualify for these jobs under the proposed new standards” one respondent said without blinking an eye,“but I totally support the secretary’s and his aides efforts to professionalize the spouses’ jobs,” she added. When the interviewer pointed out that the job requirements are more stringent than the requirements for officers and specialists, one spouse dismissed the matter. “We want the very best of the best, even spouses, why is that so difficult to understand?”

Gamespot Initiative: Rewards and Promotions

All three sources told us that the most controversial idea to come out of the ‘Hellz Yeah’ secret study has the potential to “disrupt” the career services. The summary of the study indicates that majority of the employees think that the current rewards and promotion systems are faulty and are easily influenced or manipulated “by correct grammar” and “charming but exhausting narratives.” 

Apparently, the secret study’s main suggestion was to transition the entire agency into a point system for rewards and promotions; reward points for management issues, and promotion points for policy issues. For instance, higher reward points would earn employees better housing, better schools for dependents, improved health benefits, retirement benefits for spouses and travel arrangements that exempt them from “Fly America” and allow for better travel connections, best air carriers, and exceptional hotel and pet accommodations.

Similarly, higher promotion points over policy matters would earn employees progressively senior positions, the best housing in the embassy pool, larger offices with windows, newer furniture, up to $5,000 in decoration expense, Internet download privileges, personalized stationery, pens, and water bottles, and most importantly for those assigned overseas, armed official chauffeurs who already passed the Armored Vehicle Driver Training.

A focus group of carefully selected employees produced some intense discussions about how employees  can earn points, how many points are required to “level up”, and what time frame might be required to “boot out” deadwood employes who are not actively earning reward and promotion points. One respondent said, “If they’re not in the game, they should be out!”

A few respondents also wanted to know — if a senior bureau official says “I’ve succeeded in ousting five detailees from my office prior to the secretary’s arrival” — should reward points be higher if the ousted detailees were in the middle of their assignments, than if they were at the end of their detail? What if an employee is able to provide a list of the former administration’s “holdovers”?  The respondents wanted to know what number would be enough to merit a level up for a corner office or a house with a gazebo and a jacuzzi? What if an employee is able to provide proof through secret social media posts that his colleagues “are not fully on board” with the Administration’s agenda? The respondents wanted confirmation that reward points are higher for Facebook posts than Twitter or Instagram posts.

Under this controversial employee-led proposal, diplomatic officials who get out of their comfort zone to publicly support pre-emptive strikes against XYZ countries or invade ABC countries for their oil will always get the highest promotion points. Officials who appear in government-run radio and television programs get extra promotion points. Employees with at least 2K social media followers and who actively amplify official messages from the Voice of American Truth in their private capacities also get extra promotion points.

We are interested in tracking down the organizers of this employee-led organizational revolution study, as well as identifying potential commonalities between the “Hellz Yeah” study and other recent blue ribbon studies and surveys previously conducted. We’ve formally requested the 5,000-page study and its associated raw data. As of today, April 1, we have not heard from any of our 7th Floor contacts. We understand that Easter Sunday and April Fools’ Day festivities may be keeping them occupied. We will do a follow-up post if/when we hear from their April 1 Task Force.


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

Posted: 9:11 pm ET
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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


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.



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
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.


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
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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:

DE RUEHC #8174/01 2922053
R 010033Z APR 17


E.O. 12958: N/A

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.


Three Key Values: Accountability, Honesty, Respect


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.


Housekeeping Issues


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/


Commendations for Ongoing Cost Savings


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.


Cost Savings Initiatives


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.


Fourth of July Expenditures


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.



State Department Issues Nomination Call For First Golden Gooseberry Awards

— Domani Spero

Hollywood has the  Golden Raspberry Awards or Razzies for short, in recognition of the worst in film. The State Department now has the Golden Gooseberry Awards or the “Gozzies” in recognition of the worst performances of the year.  Below is the cable released to posts:

DE RUEHC #8174/01 2922053
R 012110Z APR 14

E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 015541


1. In response to a popular post on the Secretary’s Sounding Board, the State Department is pleased to announced the first call for the Golden Gooseberry Awards.  Nominations are due on the second week of November or the week immediately preceding the State Department’s Annual Awards (reftel), whichever is later.  Winners of the “Gozzies” Awards will be announced on or about April 1, 2015. End Summary.
2.  On February 1, 2013, John F. Kerry was sworn in as the 68th Secretary of State of the United States, becoming the first sitting Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman to become Secretary in over a century. Following the tenure of two female secretaries of state and a most immediate predecessor who was popular and well-liked inside the building, Secretary Kerry, himself admitted, “I have big heels to fill.” To that end, Secretary Kerry wanted to ensure that some of the more popular initiatives and innovation started under the Clinton tenure continue.  For instance, the Secretary continue the tradition of “Meet and Greet” with embassy/consulate employees and families when he travel overseas.  Efforts on public outreach and social media engagement were expanded.  State’s bicycle to work program which resulted in showers for those who bike to work, and a monthly stipend for bike repairs and maintenance in lieu of the Government Metro Check subsidy was also given the nod.

3.  The employee “Sounding Board,” another innovation of former Secretary Clinton, is a visible platform for employee ideas and management response that Secretary Kerry’s team was interested in supporting boldly. On Secretary Kerry’s first week in Foggy Bottom, a request that the State Department needs its own version of the “Razzies” to recognize the worst performances was upvoted on the Sounding Board.   We listened, we asked questions, and we consulted with all stakeholders within the seven floors, the annexes and with employees in over 280 missions overseas.  Today, thirteen months after Secretary Kerry’s arrival in Foggy Bottom, the ‘Goozies’ Awards are finally here.  The ‘Gozzies’ are intended to serve as a reminder that the Secretary is listening, and that the worst performances will be held up as a teachable lesson on how not to behave as public leaders and servants.

4.  Most Memorable HHE Shipper of the Year Award
Eligibility: All chief of mission employees who are in the rotational system and had to ship household effects. Nominations are welcome from post management, regional bureaus and State Department offices.
Criteria:  Selection will be based on (1) the most outrageous item shipped on HHE, (2) apportionment of blame to the General Services Office, (3) evidence of the degree of ignorance and idiocy demonstrated.  Names and supporting documents must be submitted online at state.gov/gozzies.
Example: An FSO shipped and stored 44 boxes of tiles, weighing 5,871 pounds as part of his household effects (HHE). FSO was advised that he owed $14,804.01 for packing, shipping, storage and repacking the tiles.  After filing a grievance, the Department later waived over $9,000 of this debt because FSO had not been timely notified of the disallowed items.

5. The Fair Share Escapee Award
Eligibility: All chief of mission employees who are subject to “Fair Share” requirement and have successfully evaded the rule for at least two assignment cycles. Nominations are welcome from  all direct-hire employees who have successfully concluded a tour in differential pay posts.
Criteria:  Fair Share rules require employees who are completing assignments to bid on differential pay posts if they have not served at a differential post during the eight years prior to their transfer eligibility date.  DS-6699, statement from DGHR, LinkedIn profiles, or Facebook posting indicating absence of differential post assignments in at least 9 years or more is required.  Names and supporting documents must be submitted online at state.gov/gozzies.
Example: See LinkedIn profiles and State Department bios.

6. Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct of the Year Award
Eligibility: All domestic and chief of mission employees of agencies. NDC is “that conduct which, were it to become widely known, would embarrass, discredit, or subject to opprobrium the perpetrator, the Foreign Service, and the United States.
Examples of such conduct include but are not limited to the frequenting of prostitutes, engaging in public or promiscuous sexual relations, spousal abuse, spousal harassment to facilitate a contested divorce, neglect or abuse of children, manufacturing or distributing pornography, entering into debts the employee could not pay, or making use of one’s position or immunity to profit or to provide favor to another (see also 5 CFR 2635) or to create the impression of gaining or giving improper favor.”
Criteria: No formal nominations required.  Incident reports from Police Department, Diplomatic Security, indictment from the Department of Justice or a viral hit would suffice.  For consideration, names and links must be submitted online at state.gov/gozzies.
Example: DS Agent Charged With “Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct” Gets Three Days Suspension

7. ‘Old School’ Screamer of a Boss Award
The new consensus among leaders and managers is that screaming and yelling alarms people, drives them away rather than inspire them, and hurts the quality of their work. This award recognizes an individual in international affairs responsible for repeatedly throwing nuclear bombs and leaving officer’s blood and dreams all over the wall.
Eligibility:  All employees of the Foreign Service and the Civil Service including Senior Foreign Service and Senior Executive Service serving domestically or abroad, are eligible.
Criteria: An employee or group of employees familiar with the nominee’s performance, including direct reports, task forces, working groups and country desks, may nominate candidates. Nominations, not to exceed three typewritten pages are to be submitted online to state.gov/gozzies.  Nominees responsible for multiple curtailments from posts or early retirements/resignations of generalists/specialists from the Foreign Service will receive extra consideration.
Example: If your boss can scream like this, consider the submission of a nomination.

8.  The Consular Fraudster Award
This award recognizes criminal and unethical actions performed in conjunction with  consular work. It is inspired by the this consular officer jailed for visa fraud and bribery.
Eligibility: All domestic and chief of mission employees working in passport offices and consular sections
Criteria: No formal nominations required. Department of Justice indictment and plea agreement and/or jail term acceptable. Names and links must be submitted online at state.gov/gozzies.

9.  Department appreciates your full cooperation. As always, thank you for all that you do and for being part of this extraordinary team.  Questions, clarifications, suggestions for additional awards may be submitted online at state.gov/gozzies.



Amazing! Kudos to Secretary Kerry and his team. And here we thought bureaucratic life must be quiet boring.  An agency official speaking on background emphasized that the “Gozzies” are the first of its kind in the Federal government and that a half dozen additional awards will be rolled out after the summer rotation.

Well, what are you waiting for?

* * *








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Earth Embassy Ganymede Administrative Notice #04-010103: Morale, WD-40, Duct Tape

— Domani Spero

Originally posted in Diplopundit on April 18, 2013. Republished today for a very good reason.

Administrative Notice #05-011300: Morale

It has come to management’s attention that there has been a lot of chatter and hyperspace email about morale and safety at this outpost.  This notice serves as a reminder to everyone under Ganymede outpost authority that discussion about morale is an unproductive use of work time. Morale is self-esteem in action; individuals who perceived that morale is lacking may need help in improving their self-esteem. Please make every effort to schedule an appointment to see the quadrant psychiatrist.

Ganymede management fully believes, like the 34th American President Dwight Eisenhower, that the best morale exist when you never hear the word mentioned. In that sprit, management formally informs all departments and employees that morale is not/not an issue and is not/not a subject to be discussed in hypermail, text, video, radio, verbal or any alternate manner of communication within and outside the mission.  Anyone caught peddling these stories will be subject to disciplinary action, including but not limited to curtailment of current assignment or a lengthy TDY to the outermost prograde moon of Carpo.

In an effort to be responsive to all concerns, below are some FAQs that the section  had the pleasure of addressing the last 12 moons. We hope that the answers are useful to you and your families and help alleviate persistent concerns.

English: WD-40

English: WD-40 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

EaEmbassy Ganymede

Is Ganymede a family-friendly post?

Absolutely. It is the most family-friendly assignment in the quadrant with excellent schools and some of the best apartments available in the sector. Living conditions are approximated to be similar to the home planet and the quality of life is super-excellent.  Consistent demand for assignments to this outpost has repeatedly resulted in a long wait list at every rotation cycle.

I’ve been thinking of asking for a transfer to Ganymede.  But I heard that life there is a big joke … I don’t get what’s the joke.

Life in Ganymede is not/not a big joke. Once you understand that Ganymede is too big to fail, you’ll find your groove. This is the place where you want to be.  No other outpost will afford you the challenges and opportunities to excel and earn a fast-tracked promotion.

How safe is Ganymede given that riots are breaking out in all parts of the hostplanet:

Safe. Very safe, if you’re careful.

Ganymedeans breached the outpost walls, they can do it again, should I worry?

There’s no reason to worry.  Ganymedeans are not/not anti-Earthlings, anti-humans or what have you.  They were blowing off steam. Period. Now that they have, things should return to normal. If you think things have not returned to normal, give it time; things should return to normal. Soon.

There are assaults reported daily, it sounds like traveling around the hostplanet has become extremely dangerous. Is that perception correct?

Ganymede is the largest moon in this sector. Like any large, densely inhabited city on Earth (e.g. New York City, New Delhi, Bogota, Buenos Aires), crime is ever present. This is not/not unique to this outpost.  Travel in pairs if needed, and bring your stun gun, if necessary.

The Manager for Planetary Services reportedly quit over extreme bureaucratic bullying, is this true?

Absolutely not. The manager quit because the official got too old for the job. Other employers in this sector throw old officials out the airlock. Fortunately, EaEmbassy Ganymede has a generous separation package specifically for older workers traveling back to the home planet.

There are rumors and allegations that some of the top Ganymede officials have, on several occasions, pushed and bossed around subordinates and threatened them with penalties. How accurate are these stories?

Have you ever heard of American poet, Robert Frost?  He said that the reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work.  Isn’t that an excellent point?  Stop listening to rumors. Stop worrying. All our top Ganymede officials were handpicked and subjected to a battery of reviews and 360 feedbacks from friends, peers, and colleagues. All with spectacular results. They are all as lovable and huggable as Alaskan polar bears.

I used to have an open mind, then I got to Ganymede and my brains kept falling out. What am I doing wrong?

To keep an open mind, a person needs only two tools: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn’t move and it should, use WD-40. If it moves and shouldn’t, use the tape. This works even in Ganymede.

I am terribly upset that my concerns have not been taken seriously.  How do I set a laser printer to stun?

The management office works hard to address all of your concerns and aims to make every assignment to Ganymede a satisfying one.   Unfortunately, all laser printer at post at this time do not have a stun setting.  However, the procurement section is exploring the possibility of adding a stun setting to all laser printers with end of year funding.


Note that this is from a work in progress.  Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Morale is self-esteem in action,  is a quote by Avery Weisman; WD-40 and laser printer quips are found items around the net.

Ugh! Just saw that the Russians are interested on Ganymede, now.  Well, dammit, I am not changing my fictional embassy’s name again, so don’t write to complain about that.


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State Dept Issues New Guidance for 2013 Fourth of July Embassy Events – More Zombies, Please

A newly leaked cable from the State Department provides new guidance to embassies and consulates for this year’s Fourth of July events.  Apparently, in an effort to step up outreach to a fast expanding demographic, Independence Day festivities will have a theme for the first time ever in diplomatic history.  According to Foggy Bottom, this year’s celebration will focus on the pop-culture theme of “Zombie Apocalypse” to better connect with the younger population. The cable marked Routine and Unclassified is published in full below:

DE RUEHC #8174/01 2922053
R 010033Z APR 13

E.O. 12958: N/A

This is an action request. Please see paragraphs 2, 10,  and 11.

1.  Summary.   It is that time of year again for your Foggy Bottom team to send its annual guidance for Fourth of July celebrations around the world.  This year, we will celebrate the 237th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with non-traditional Fourth of July events. With over 1.8 billion young people in the world today, and an expected 89.5 percent growth by 2025, we must step up our public diplomacy efforts aimed at youth.  To that end, this year’s celebration will focus on the pop-culture theme of “Zombie Apocalypse.” End Summary.

Fourth of July Events

2.  Department requests that all posts conduct zombie-themed Fourth of July or U.S. National Day events.  While we understand that majority of posts’ host country contacts belong to older demographics, a concerted effort is necessary to reach host country nationals in the 18-24 age bracket.  Posts will invite no more than 60 percent of its traditional local contacts and should allocate 40 percent of the invitation for our target age group.  Posts will provide these celebrations the greatest possible exposure on social media in order to attract younger populations to American culture and values. Posts are welcome to stage variations of the theme — such as a “Zombie Walk”, a “Living Dead” cocktail reception or a “Walking Dead” party — each with zombie-themed food or  games. To the maximum extent practicable, posts should use American products particularly finger foods, as well as American wine and cheese in these events.

Acceptance of Cash and In-Kind Donations

3. Management officers at post may accept cash and in-kind donations for official embassy-sponsored July Fourth events in their host countries. In addition, ambassadors and other principal officers at post may solicit, or authorize the solicitation of, such donations without prior authorization by the Under Secretary for Management.

4. Donations may be received from U.S. firms (or their foreign subsidiaries, franchisees, or distributors) or organizations only when the firms and/or organizations neither are seeking substantial assistance from post nor would be substantially affected by a pending post decision. This is a reminder that post must show no preference among U.S. firms and/or organizations in receiving donations, as, for example, by accepting donations from one U.S. firm and refusing donations from a competing firm, unless such a distinction is justified based on the criteria listed in 2 FAM 962.1-6, subparagraphs a(1) and a(3);

5. To the extent possible, the official authorized to accept in-kind donations must ensure that there is some variety in the goods accepted and/or solicited. For instance, brains and livers are extremely popular zombie food fare and are desirable but cannot be the only two items accepted as this would severely limit the food choices for guests. Posts are strongly urged to be creative and may accept free labor and assistance from eligible family members within the mission in putting together zombie-appropriate feasts for embassy guests.

Pre-Approved Expenditure

6. Where economical to the U.S. Government and authorized by agency regulation, agencies may permit the bulk purchase of zombie costumes as long as such attires are tasteful, not culturally offensive to host country nationals and are only used for official purposes(eff. 03/29/13 TL:SR-670). Guests should be encouraged to attend the national day events in their favorite zombie attire. Shoes and high heels optional.

7. Posts are authorized to hire extra waiters, busboys, zombie extras, make-up and special effects artists or other temporary help to serve at this function, and to pay overtime for ORE staff serving at these official representation events; (eff. 10/29/06 TL:SR-670). Temporary and extra help employed at posts are expected to come in their Zombie get-up with no additional assistance or compensation from the mission.

Made in America for Oenophile Zombies

8. Among the best wine for enophile zombies are the Grosses Gewachs riesling, a top-level dry wine from Germany, the  Barolo from the northern Italian region of Piedmont and apparently the  chardonnay from the Maconais in Burgundy. While the embassy’s sommelier may insists on any of these wine as the best pairings for zombie food, we remind you of the importance of buying American.  To the maximum extent practicable, use shall be made of American products, including specifically American wine and spirits.

9. Posts are cautioned to limit serving to no more than two Zombie cocktail per guest. The drink’s fruity taste works to conceal its extremely high alcoholic content. If planning to serve Zombie cocktails, posts are authorized to bulk order rum from the nearest military PX. Alternatively, rum may be shipped via the Diplomatic Post Office if ordered no later than May 30, 2013. Where economical to the U.S. Government, rum may be purchased locally as long as it is American in brand.

Zombie-Themed  Events Before End of Fiscal Year

10. We understand that some posts already have celebrated Fourth of July or held national day events in February and March.  Those posts will be required to host at least one zombie-themed event before the end of the fiscal year. Events may include but not limited to: a “Zombie Townterview” with the chief of mission, a “Twittersation with Diplomatic Zombies,”  a social media conference on “Diplomatic Protocol for Zombies”, a movie marathon of the “Top Ten Zombie Movies”, or “Culinary Diplomacy for Zombies,” to name a few.  Whatever event you decide to do, be creative.  Let’s show that you can go big and be bold, and not just on the Fourth of July.  Remember that when you go out and talk to somebody on behalf of the United States of America, you are carrying our values, you are sharing how people can connect to those hopes, how we work together with rule of law, with a set of standards by which people can actually improve everybody’s lives.

11. Department requests posts assistance in documenting these Fourth of July zombie events via social media – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram and other previously approved platforms. The chief of mission wearing zombie regalia who attracts the highest number of online followers within a 24 hour period following online posting of Fourth of July videos/photographs will received special recognition. As always, thank you for all that you do and for being part of this extraordinary team.


We particularly like the fact they they want posts to serve other dishes besides brain fritters, that is considerate. Can’t wait to see all the photos!

Related posts:




Bolivia Seizes Suspicious Weapons From US Embassy Vehicle, Claims Unauthorized Test of Alien Technology

On early Saturday, members of Bolivia’s Mobile Rural Patrol Unit seized a Nissan Trail X car, with a diplomatic plate 27-MI-30 which belong to the US Embassy in Bolivia.  Local authorities informed the media that the vehicle was transporting U.S.-made 12-mm Remington shotguns, a .38 Smith & Wesson special revolver, five boxes with 2,350 .38 rounds of ammunition and other suspicious weapons which include two flashbang bra holsters, and what appears to be one weapon similar in appearance to an AMR-B21 Arc Generator, also known as Mulcher, an extraterrestrial weapon shown in District 9.

Photo from Flashbang Women's Holster

AMR-B21 Arc Generator

The US Embassy said in a brief statement that it has an agreement with the GOB to transport weapons to protect its facilities.  It denies the existence of suspicious weapons testing alien technology. It also reiterates that it is working with the Government of Bolivia to resolve this issue expeditiously and avoid further escalation of an already rocky relationship.

Interior Minister Carlos Romero said that it is weird that the Embassy, which claimed to have authorization from the police, does that kind of transaction at dawn. “We want to inform that no agreement has been processed by the Bolivian government, which has empowered the Foreign Ministry to generate this kind of accord,” Romero said in a joint press conference with Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra.

An unnamed witness who was using an open air toilet at dawn has come forward to inform authorities of what he saw the morning before the vehicle was seized by police. Confidential police sources indicate that the witness is still in shocked from the incident. Apparently, the witness could not stop talking about the embassy vehicle suddenly turning into a cow, and then back again into a vehicle and again into a cow.  He told the police that he fainted in fear.   The Bolivian Police  who has also impounded the embassy vehicle is reportedly considering the possibility that the vehicle is equipped with an invisibility cloak that makes it appear like a cow. Farmers are now afraid to milk their cows.  The Bolivian Government is recommending that milking cows be suspended until further notice.  As for the rest of the suspicious weapons seized, sources are mum as police and top scientists have yet to find the weapon switch.

Meanwhile, Bolivian President Evo Morales who is in constant communication with the ongoing investigation has stern warnings for the Americans:

“If the US embassy continues bothering Bolivia and our cows, as it is doing now, and if it continues to export alien technologies that we do not understand, then it is best we close the United States embassy in Bolivia because we are anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-neoliberals and anti-alien technology.  Yanqui go home! We do not want you testing your ray guns here or bothering our cows.”

Reporting from La Paz

Domani Spero

Diplopundit Responds to Blog Take Down Notice from Tiger Boss

After mulling around for ten hours and consulting with our supporters at EOP, SCOTUS, SFRC, DOS, DZZZ, EPA and other benefactors we are not at liberty to share, below is our official response to the blog take down notice received earlier today.


TO:  The Director
     Office of Professional Responsibility
     in Participatory Media (PR/PM)

FROM: Domani Spero

SUBJECT: Diplopundit Blog

Thank you for your email concerning the runaway blog, Diplopundit. Although I am unable to confirm or deny ownership of that specific blog, I think the author(s) should appreciate all compliments, even backhanded ones. That said, if I were the blog owner and ….not saying I am, but if I were, just speculating here….where was I?

Oh, and if I were an FSO, I probably would like to know if the position of Team Leader at PRT Tora Bora comes with a wifi connection and a cushy onward assignment with white beaches and tropical fruit drinks.

If I were an EFM, I probably would not respond kindly to being told to “keep busy” but would also appreciate an offer for PRT Tora Bora so I could put my “overqualifications” to good use and up my Social Security credits. 

If I were a consultant, contractor, intern or unemployed writer — I probably would call to hear your offer. Just for fun.  

But what if I’m none of the above — ??

Excuse me, Director, your memo drafter forgot to cover all available options. Please edit and resend the complete offer ASAP.  

Yours truly,

P.S. You are welcome to use my official email address if you can find it in the GAL.  

P.P.S If I don’t bump into you today, Happy April Fool’s Day, to you, too!   



Tiger Boss Sends "Polite" Blog Take Down Notice

First blog take down notice. Reprinted in full below. We are currently mulling our appropriate response – DS

Sent to Link Number: 29ca0
Sender Name: Director, Office of Professional Responsibility in Participatory Media
Sender Email Address: prpmoffice@*****.***

TO:   Domani Spero

FROM: Director
      Office of Professional Responsibility in
      Participatory Media (PR/PM)

DATE: 1 April 2011

SUBJECT: Diplopundit Blog

Greetings, Domani. I hope all is well with you in … actually, I’m not exactly sure where you are, but I hope all is well with you nonetheless.

It has come to my attention that you may be running a blog entitled Diplopundit located at http://diplopundit.blogspot.com/.  If you are, this notice is to inform you that the blog and most of its contents are highly inappropriate and may violate official regulations and policies. Although your blog carries a disclaimer, it still gives the appearance of being officially sanctioned by the organization. Your use of a globe implies a formal association with international affairs; your occasional use of official photos, acronyms, the seal, the flag, and symbols such as arrows and eagles also can mislead the reading public. Ads on your blog may violate ethics rules on the use of public office for personal gain.   

More to the point, your discussions of events in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and other nations may be perceived as conduct unbecoming to diplomatic discourse. Your Monday-morning-quarterbacking of the Raymond Davis affair at U.S. Mission Pakistan was particularly not appreciated.  Your blog post on U.S. Mission Mexico had people hunting for your email address in the GAL. And by the way, not applauding the Secretary’s principled push for Internet Freedom and posting about it in your blog was bad form and frowned upon.  

According to 3 FAM 4170, these topics are “of official concern,” and your discussion of them in a public forum could be in violation of clear, well stated, understandable Internet and social media regulations and policies unless previously cleared by relevant offices. Your links to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other blogs also gives the appearance of endorsement and official sanction and is very inappropriate given your identification as somebody who does not work for the organization (nobody in my office actually believes that, by the way).  

Please do not take this personally; I’m just doing my job.  As a matter of fact, I enjoy reading your blog occasionally, even if you seem to be rather fond of run-on sentences and take a lot of liberties with proper tenses and punctuation. Your convoluted sentences sometimes make me wonder if you learned to write at the George W. Bush School of English Languages. If you take the Foreign Service Exam, you may have difficulty passing the written portion.  If you did pass it, I can say only that sometimes people do get lucky.    

I have been told by reliable sources that you have threatened to quit blogging a few times previously.  But since it does not now appear that you will say goodbye anytime soon, I feel compelled to write you this email to strongly urge you to go.
Again, if you are the author of this blog, please take all immediate and necessary steps to remove this blog and all its inappropriate contents from the Internet as soon as possible. I cannot impress the utmost importance of this request strongly enough.

If you are an FSO suffering from discontent in your current assignment, please contact me immediately. I should be able to put your talents to good use as team leader at PRT Tora-Bora. The job is yours if you want it.   

If you are an eligible family member who is suffering from depression or other serious issues, please contact me immediately.  I should be able to help direct your energies to something more appropriate. Options may include volunteer work or perhaps even a stress-free embassy job to keep you busy.   

If you are a consultant, contractor, intern or unemployed writer, contact me ASAP. I have an opportunity for you that you will find hard to refuse.      

If you think you have received this memo in error and you are not the author of aforementioned blog, please call 1-800-808-8000 now.  Charges apply if you are calling from overseas. 

Oh, and Happy April Fool’s Day!