When should you recuse yourself from the State Dept Award Selection Committee?

re·cuse  /riˈkyo͞oz/
Excuse oneself from a case because of a possible conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.

We understand that the Foreign Affairs Manual does not provide for the recusal of any member of the Award Selection Committee for whatever reason. We don’t think that’s mentioned anywhere in the awards regulations.

But — just because it’s not in the books, that’s no reason why it cannot and should not be done — as they like to say inside the building — for the proper functioning of the service.

Reasonable people can agree that the perception that the award deliberation is slanted toward one nominee or another demoralizes as well as make people question the real value of any award.  Just as that long ago incident of an officer who nominated himself for an annual award and won.  Those can only generate derision and not/not admiration for both the award process and the recipient.

Remember R –?
Is he that one who nominated himself for the —-  award in —-?

Or:

Did you know that so and so won the —- award on —?
Really? Wait, didn’t — who sat in the Award Selection Committee directly supervised that officer in our post in —-?

Or this one:

Although I do not want to disparage the award recipient in anyway, I was horrified that the selection of — as the —  award recipient was made by a selection committee that included his very recent boss —-.

Hey! Awards are supposed to be happy news.  Inspiring even, if it passes the “fairness” test.  But it’s a small world and this still sounds bad whether the back and forth is done in the toilet stalls or down Foggy Bottom’s convoluted corridors.

So please – consider a few suggestions:

One, if you know any of the nominees –
Recuse yourself from the Selection Committee.

Two, if you’ve supervised or worked with any of the nominees-
Recuse yourself from the Selection Committee.

Three, if you’ve written or contributed to any of the EERs of any of the nominees –
Definitely, recuse yourself from the Selection Committee.

And to the bureau PDAS who allowed this show to roll on, walk the talk, man, walk the talk. The next generation you want to inspire is watching you closely.

 

 

 

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D/SecState on 2012 State Department Awards: 32 of Our Very Best

The State Department hold its Annual Awards Ceremony in November.  The news coverage is usually brief or late, in cable format, emails weeks after the event and in a spread in State Magazine probably sometime in February or March. In all, 32 awards were given in a ceremony attended by Deputy Secretary Bill Burns. He lauded “32 of our very best in the Foreign Service, Civil Service, and Foreign Service National corps” and said:

“You represent diplomacy at its finest and demonstrate that great diplomats can do much more than hold their own at the negotiating table. Great diplomats are innovative, they’re intrepid, and they’re endlessly dedicated. They work beyond embassy walls. They help create jobs and promote trade. And they venture out to the most war-torn corners of the world to act as enduring forces for peace.”

We have previously blogged about the 2012 Annual Awards (see 2012 State Dept Annual Awards: Greatest Achievements in Many Fields, Mostly By Men).

All of the awards include a certificate, signed by the Secretary of State and monetary rewards ranging from $2,000 – $10,000. Many of the awards are sponsored by private donors, who are often former members of the Foreign Service or their families but the nominations go through the State Department process.

Some awards require that a supervisor nominate the candidate. Other awards require that nominations be submitted by the chief of mission.  Still other awards open the nomination from anyone having knowledge of the nominee’s contributions.  An employee or group of employees familiar with the nominee’s work, including supervisors, task forces, and country desks, may also nominate candidates. In almost all instances, the awards require the endorsement of the nomination by the chief of mission or principal officer at posts abroad or the appropriate assistant secretary or equivalent from participating agencies. Bureau assistant secretary may also submit nominations for chiefs of mission.

The awards program is in the 3 FAM 4800 series. The regs for the Annual Awards are in 3 FAM 4830.

Here are the awardees:

James A. Baker III—C. Howard Wilkins, Jr. Award for Outstanding Deputy Chief of Mission – Recipient:  R. Stephen Beecroft

Former Ambassador to the Netherlands, C. Howard Wilkins, Jr., made this award possible. It recognizes outstanding contributions made by a deputy chief of mission who demonstrates the proficiency, creativity, and overall capacity to serve effectively as ambassadors and as chargé d’affaires in their absence. The winner receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $5,000.

Before he was appointed Ambassador to Iraq, Robert Stephen Beecroft was US Embassy Baghdad’s DCM.  A career member of the Foreign Service, he joined Embassy Baghdad as Deputy Chief of Mission on July 14, 2011.  Prior to that, Mr. Beecroft served as Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  He became Chargé d’affaires upon the departure of Ambassador James Jeffrey on June 1, 2012. We have previously blogged about him here.

Robert C. Frasure Memorial Award – Recipient:  Phillip Carter III

This award honors an individual who best exemplifies the late Ambassador Robert C. Frasure’s commitment to peace and the alleviation of human suffering caused by war or civil injustice. The winner receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $10,000.

We have previously blogged about Ambassador Carter when he was appointed to Abidjan, when his post went on ordered departure, and when his staff was ordered to shelter in place when the bloody battle reached the capital.

Arnold L. Raphel Memorial AwardRecipient:  Paul O. Mayer

This award recognizes an individual in international affairs who embodies the special human qualities exemplified by the late Ambassador Arnold L. Raphel—the mentoring and development of subordinates, especially junior officers. The winner receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $10,000. The recipient’s name is placed on a plaque in the Department.

Paul Mayer is currently the DCM at US Embassy Vientiane. If he sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve blogged about him here following the January 2010 Haiti earthquake and about his “K-Visa Delight” (set to the tune of “Afternoon Delight“)  for the Consular Corner Creative Writing Contest.

We have it it good authority that this is one of those awards where the subordinates, at least 18 of them banded as a group and put in the nomination.

Sue M. Cobb Award for Exemplary Diplomatic Service – Recipient:  David C. Jacobson

The Sue M. Cobb Award for Exemplary Diplomatic Service is presented to a Non-Career Ambassador who (a) has used private sector leadership and management skills to make a significant impact on bilateral or multilateral relations and (b) has done so in a manner that best reflects the foreign service culture of uncommon commitment in carrying out United States foreign policy through proactive diplomacy. The award is made possible by the generosity of Sue M. Cobb, former U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica. The honoree receives a certificate signed by the Secretary and the Embassy receives $5,000.

We have blogged about Ambassador Jacobson here and here with his curling consuls.

Charles E. Cobb, Jr. Award for Initiative and Success in Trade Development – Recipient:  Scot A. Marciel

The former Ambassador to Iceland, Charles E. Cobb, Jr., made this award possible. It is conferred on two career members of the Department: one member serving under an ambassadorial appointment; and one member at any grade serving abroad in a non-ambassadorial assignment. The award recognizes outstanding contributions toward innovative and successful trade development and export promotion for the United States. The winners each receive a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $5,000.

We have blogged about Ambassador Marciel here and here.

Secretary’s Award for Excellence in International Security Affairs – Recipient: Thomas F. Daughton

The award recognizes individual excellence in the development, negotiation and/or implementation of national policy and solutions to counter country-specific, regional and/or global nonproliferation, counter-proliferation, political-military, arms control, verification, and/or noncompliance challenges facing the United States. The winner receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State and a $10,000 stipend and the runner-up receives a signed certificate and a $2,000 stipend. (via Wikipedia)

We have blogged about Mr. Daughton a while back in US Embassy Algiers: Diplomatic Kerfuffle Over DCM’s “Rare Candor”

Robert C. Bannerman Diplomatic Security Employee of the Year – Recipient:  Robert Joseph Baldre, Jr.

This award recognizes outstanding contributions made by an employee in the security field. The winner receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $10,000.

Is he Diplomatic Security’s Chief Financial Officer (DS/EX/CFO)?

Warren Christopher Award for Outstanding Achievement in Global Affairs – Recipient:  Steven G. Gillen

This award recognizes sustained excellence and initiative in the substantive policy areas of oceans, the environment, and science; democracy, human rights, and labor; population, refugees, and migration; and international narcotics and crime.  The winner receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $10,000.

Civil Service Secretary of the Year – Recipient:  Crystal Y. Johnson

This annual award recognizes the high standards of performance which characterize the work of Civil Service Secretaries in the Department and abroad.  It is granted annually to one Civil Service Secretary whose performance is judged by a selection committee to exemplify most clearly these high standards.  The recipient receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State and $10,000.  In addition, the recipients’ names are placed on a plaque in the Department. (via Wikipedia)

Director General’s Award for Impact and Originality in Reporting – Recipient:  Ryan L. Hass

The Director General’s Award for Impact and Originality in Reporting recognizes the high standards that characterize the reporting of the Department.  The recipient of the award receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, $10,000, and an engraved desk set. The recipient’s name is placed on a plaque in the Department.

James Clement Dunn Award for Excellence – Recipient: G. Kathleen Hill

The James Clement Dunn Award for Excellence recognizes leadership, intellectual skills, managerial ability, and personal qualities that most fully exemplify the standards of excellence desired of employees at the mid-career level. The winner of the award receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $10,000.

Equal Employment Opportunity Award – Recipient: Gregory S. Stanford

The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Award recognizes outstanding contributions toward improving employment opportunities for minorities and women and significant achievements in taking affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified minorities and women.  The winner of the award receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $10,000.

Foreign Service National (FSN) of the Year Award

This award recognizes the high standards of performance and the value to the U.S. Government of the special contributions made by Foreign Service National (FSN) employees and foreign nationals serving under a personal services contract or agreement at our missions abroad.  The primary winner receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $10,000. Each of the other five nominees receives a certificate signed by the assistant secretary of the appropriate regional bureau or International Organization (IO) and $2,500.

  • FSN of the Year Award (AF) Recipient: Emmanuel Umar
  • FSN of the Year Award (EAP) Recipient: Chen Er
  • FSN of the Year Award (EUR) Recipient:  Zlatko Moratic
  • FSN of the Year Award (WHA) Recipient:  Sylvia Cabezas

FSN of the Year Award (SCA) Recipient: Farah Naz

D/SecState Bill Burns had this to say about the awardee from the SCA Bureau: “Farah Naz joined Embassy Islamabad more than 25 years ago as an administrative assistant in the Health Unit. Today, she supervises a staff of 56 at the Embassy’s Warehouse—and she’s the first woman to ever serve in that role. Last year, Farah was at the helm of a massive transition that involved moving warehouse operations from one facility on the compound to two separate facilities, off-campus. To make it happen, Farah coordinated with local police, crane and moving vendors, the Regional Security Office, a local guard force, and other agencies to move fifty 20-foot shipping containers filled with goods worth over $53 million from one side of town to the other. And she did it efficiently, cost-effectively, and with a calm, confident smile. Today, we are recognizing Farah’s decades of hard work and dedication as FSN of the year for the Bureau of South and Central Asia.”

Cordell Hull Award for Economic Achievement by Senior Officers – Recipient:  Kurt Tong

The former U.S. Ambassador to Singapore, Steven J. Green made this award possible. It recognizes outstanding contributions in advancing U.S. interests in the international economic field. The winner of the award receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State and $5,000.

Leamon R. Hunt Award for Management Excellence – Recipient:  Jason A. Brenden

The Leamon R. Hunt Award for management Excellence recognizes outstanding contributions to management operations. The winner of the award receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $10,000.

Swanee Hunt Award For Advancing Women’s Role in Policy Formulation – FS Recipient:  Heera K. Kamboj

The Swanee Hunt Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Improving the status of women globally by advancing their influence in policy formulation is made possible by the former U.S. Ambassador to Austria, the Honorable Swanee Hunt. This award recognizes outstanding achievement in the area of promoting women as participants in the political and economic processes or as policy shapers. The annual amount of the award is $10,000, which will be given in two awards of $5,000 each: (1) To a Foreign Service or Civil Service employee; and (2) To a Foreign Service National at a U.S. embassy or consulate, along with a certificate signed by the Secretary.

Award for Excellence in Labor Diplomacy – Recipient:  Peter T. Shea

This award recognizes excellence in promoting U.S. foreign policy interest in the labor field. The winner receives a certificate signed by the Secretaries of Labor and State, and $10,000.

Linguist of the Year Award – Recipient: Adedeji E. Okediji

This award recognizes unusually successful acquisition and maintenance of a high level of proficiency in one or more foreign languages and use of the language ability to achieve Department objectives. The winner of the award receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $10,000.

Frank E. Loy Award for Environmental Diplomacy – Recipient: Christo Artusio

This award recognizes outstanding achievement in international environmental affairs. The winner receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $5,000.

Thomas Morrison Information Management Award – Recipient:  Todd C. E. Cheng

The Thomas Morrison Information Management Award recognizes outstanding and unique contributions in the information management field. The winner of the award receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $10,000.

We heard that Mr. Cheng “did amazing work for our missions in Tripoli and Benghazi in 2011 and 2012.”

Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy – Recipient:  Gloria F. Berbena

This award recognizes significant contributions in the field of public diplomacy and the special qualities that reflect the integrity, courage, sensitivity, vision, and dedication to excellence that were so highly exemplified in the life of Edward R. Murrow. The winner of the award receives a plaque presented during the commencement exercises at the Fletcher School, Tufts University. The winner also receives $10,000, which is presented at the annual Departmental Awards Ceremony held at the State Department.

Office Management Specialist of the Year Award – Recipient: Gail M. Cooper

The Secretary of the Year and Office Management Specialist of the year awards recognize the high standards of performance that characterize the service of secretaries in the Civil Service and Office Management Specialists in the Foreign Service. The award is conferred on both a Civil Service and a Foreign Service Office Management Specialist.  b. The winners each receive a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $10,000. The recipients’ names are placed on a plaque in the Department.

D/SecState Bill Burns on Gail Cooper, the Office Management Specialist for the Regional Security Office at US Embassy Sarajevo: “Last October, as our Embassy in Sarajevo suffered a brief attack, Gail sprung into action and served as a one-person ops center for the post. She worked with Washington and others involved to give regular updates on the situation, coordinated outreach to make sure embassy personnel were safe and accounted for, and eased the fears of understandably concerned family members. In a chaotic and frightening time, Gail was an island of calm. So today, we’re recognizing Gail as the office Management Specialist of the Year, not only for her superior office management abilities, but also for her leadership in the midst of a crisis.”

Luther I. Replogle Award for Management Improvement – Recipient:  Mark J. Cohen

The late Luther I. Replogle, former U.S. Ambassador to Iceland, makes this award possible. It recognizes outstanding contributions to management improvement. The winner of the award receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $5,000.

Mary A. Ryan Award for Outstanding Public Service – Recipient:  M. Andre Goodfriend

Selection will be based on the extent to which nominees demonstrate leadership abilities when providing services while assigned domestically or abroad to U.S. citizens. The recipient receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $5,000.

Herbert Salzman Award for Excellence in International Economic Performance – Recipient: Douglas J. Apostol

This award is made possible by the late Herbert Salzman, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It recognizes outstanding contributions in advancing U.S. international relations and objectives in the economic field. The recipient of the award receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $5,000.

Rockwell Anthony Schnabel Aard for Advancing U.S.-EU Relations  – Recipient:  Paul E. Pfeuffer

A supervisor must nominate candidates for this award. Endorsement of the nomination by the chief of mission or principal officer at posts abroad or the appropriate assistant secretary or equivalent from participating agencies, State, USAID, Commerce, and Agriculture, is required. The winner of the award receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $5,000.

Innovation in the Use of Technology Award – Recipient:  David C. Schroeder

This award recognizes the suggestion, planning, development, or implementation of an innovative use of technology (both program and administrative) that has substantially contributed to the efficiency and effectiveness of the Department. The winner of the award receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $10,000.

Barbara M. Watson Award for Consular Excellence – Recipient: Joshua D. Glazeroff

This award recognizes outstanding contributions to consular operations. The winner of the award receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and $10,000. The Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs will chair the selection committee, which will be comprised of the principal deputy assistant secretary for consular affairs, and representatives from CA offices, the Bureau of Human Resources, and the bureaus.

D/SecState Bill Burns on the awardee: “Joshua Glazeroff, Consul General New Delhi, is compassionate and perceptive — a combination of qualities that make him a consular officer of the highest caliber. A few months ago, when a gunman shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Josh took charge to help the friends and relatives of those who were slain travel to the U.S. to grieve for their loved ones. Josh was put in an extremely difficult position—he had to strike the balance between helping make a tragic situation a little less painful without making the visa process any less rigorous—and he pulled it off. Today we recognize Josh’s outstanding contributions with the Barbara M. Watson Award for Consular Excellence.”

Ryan C. Crocker Award for Outstanding Leadership in Expeditionary Diplomacy (no award given)

The award recognizes those who excel in the most challenging leadership positions overseas.  The winner, if an employee of the agencies covered by the Foreign Affairs Manual, receives a certificate signed by the Secretary of State and $10,000.  In accordance with 3 FAM 4813.2(c), the winner, if a member of the military, may only receive the certificate.

Human Rights Officer of the Year Award – this award was reportedly shared jointly by 4 officers at a US Mission in the EAP Bureau.  We’ve looked for references to this award and the awardees at http://www.humanrights.gov/ but have been unable to find any further details or press. A previous winner of a human rights award was roughed up by police in central Vietnam.  Not sure that’s the reason why this is  low key — but if the names of the awardees are published by State mag next month, we will update this entry.

For additional details on all of the awardees, we have to wait and read it in the next issue of State magazine. The 2011 awardees were featured in its February 2011 issue.
domani spero sig

 

 

 

State Dept FOIA Requests: Agency Ranks Second in Highest Backlog and Here’s Why

State/OIG recently published its inspection of the Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS) located in the Bureau of Administration.   IPS is responsible for the Department’s records management and related technologies, including public access to information under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, privacy information and protection and classification management and review, including declassification. The IPS office according to the OIG inspectors has no overseas locations. A director leads a staff of 358 employees, including 152 Civil Service employees, 184 when actually employed (WAE) staff members, and 22 student interns.

The OIG notes that IPS plays a critical role in the Department’s communication with the public:

“By providing citizens access to the Department’s records, the office is instrumental in maintaining openness and transparency in the conduct of foreign affairs.”

Openness and transparency okay but nothing about promptness

“The Department’s FOIA process is inefficient and ineffective. IPS’s backlog of 6,950 cases continues to grow. A relatively small staff is processing the heavy volume of requests and dealing with new software. Delays in responses from other bureaus, offices, and agencies contribute to the problem. The Department receives among the highest number of FOIA requests in the U.S. Government. In FY 2011, IPS reported that it received 14,262 requests, in addition to the 21,252 requests already pending at the beginning of the year. IPS employees processed 26,802 requests during the year, leaving 8,712 pending. IPS reported that in FY 2011, the average number of days to process simple cases was 156; for complex cases, 342. Some cases have been pending for 5 or 6 years.”

According to http://www.foia.gov/ the State Department is second only to DHS in its ranking of federal agencies with the highest FOIA request backlog.  State/IPS average response time to a simple FOIA request in FY2011 is 156 days, its highest number of days to respond is 1,603.  The highest response time for complex cases is 2,460 days and for expedited cases is 1,802 days.

POGO points out that it takes State and USAID “on average seven times longer to process a simple FOIA request than the 20-day legal limit for simple requests” because as “they have to gather records from “hundreds of posts throughout the world” and “missions in over 80 countries.”

If it would make you feel better, click here for the Department of State FOIA Backlog Reduction Plan way back in 2008 with colorful graphics.

Below are some of the OIG report’s key judgments:

  • Leadership and management practices contribute to problematic morale and poor communication across the Bureau of Administration, Global Information Services, Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS). Management controls in IPS are insufficient, indicating leadership and management deficiencies in many parts of the organization.
  • The main responsibilities of IPS include managing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and declassification programs, administering the Privacy Act, and conducting records management. Lack of cooperation from the Department of State (Department) and internal weakness hamper IPS’s performance of these duties.
  • IPS handles one of the largest FOIA workloads in the Federal Government. However, IPS’s lack of a sound process to develop its information systems led to delayed and flawed deployment of the Freedom of Information Document Managing System 2 (FREEDOMS 2), IPS’s key software for managing cases, resulting in significant backlogs.

This is the same system that State’s Annual FOIA Report dated March 2012 says is “designed to more efficiently and effectively perform case processing functions.”

State’s Chief FOIA Officer is Joyce Barr, the Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Administration. IPS is headed by Deputy Assistant Secretary Margaret P. Grafeld who assumed post on September 2010. The director and deputy director of IPS are Sheryl L. Walter and Alex Galovich respectively.

The little devils in the fine details

  • Personnel in Department bureaus who serve as liaisons to IPS are normally staff assistants or others for whom FOIA responsibilities are a small part of their job. Their lack of responsiveness indicates that performance in handling FOIA requests is not a significant factor their evaluations. Even if it were, the Department has not developed performance standards for responding to IPS’s requests for documents. IPS does not report to the upper levels of the Department about the responsiveness of bureaus and embassies on FOIA. To improve the Department’s FOIA performance, the Department must fix responsibility at all stages of the process.
  • Persistent neglect of fundamental leadership responsibilities and management practices has had profound consequences in IPS. The OIG team’s observations, discussions with IPS staff, and the responses to OIG’s questionnaires indicated an office with problematic morale, perceptions of favoritism, micromanagement practices, and confused lines of authority. Inspectors found failures of communication, lack of training, questionable staffing decisions, and poor time and attendance record keeping. IPS’s new director is just beginning to address the many challenges that she faces.  Many suggest that poor morale stems from frequently changing priorities and excessive workload. REDACTED
  • Communication among all levels of IPS staff is poor. Division chiefs are located on the same floor in order to strengthen communication within higher-level management. This physical arrangement limits managers from seeing what their employees are doing on a daily basis, however. IPS leadership told the OIG team that they plan to change this arrangement with the building renovation, currently in process, which will colocate managers with members of their staff.

Is it just us or does it seem like when there is a negative report, things are often just in the cusp or the verge of change?  Apparently a new director is addressing the problem and the office’s physical arrangements will be changed with the building renovation.  Which should happen soon.


Despite the huge backlog, staffers go on excursion tours … to Brazil …to Brazil

“IPS recently allowed several staffers who process FOIA requests to take excursion tours in Brazil to assist in visa processing. At a time when IPS has a large backlog of cases, it is unwise to divert staff to other duties.”

In her Chief FOIA Officer March 12, 2012 Annual Report, Ms. Barr reports that “Comprehensive quarterly training is provided to employees who review documents in response to FOIA requests.” And that “Staffing has remained the same. Any vacant positions were filled during the year.”

The OIG report on staff development, training, staffing gaps

  • IPS management has not made staff development a priority because of the heavy workload. Some employees noted that the only training they have received during their tenure in IPS is on-the-job training and that they receive minimal constructive feedback regarding performance.
  • IPS does not have a plan to manage retirements and fill vacancies promptly. Since 2009, 69 employees have retired or resigned. Three division head positions and one branch chief position were vacant at the time of the inspection, one since 2007. The deputy director, in addition to his other duties, serves as acting head for all of those offices. This situation is unacceptable. These offices handle a significant part of the workload for IPS and require consistent, full-time leadership. However, IPS used funding for these positions to hire new full-time equivalents at lower grades.

All together now — Sister Sledge sings “We are family ….”

  • IPS employs an unusually large percentage of WAEs and contractors. The presence of these experienced employees, who work under a flexible system, is a source of strength to the organization. However, the OIG team identified multiple occasions when WAEs reached their hour or salary caps, and IPS rehired them under a contract so that they could continue performing the same work. It is not permissible for an employee on a temporary appointment who reaches his or her hourly or salary cap to continue work as a contractor performing the same duties.10 This practice can result in violations of Federal employee ethical standards and related criminal laws.
  • At the time of the inspection, three former deputy directors and one former senior advisor of IPS were working as contractors. The common perception among IPS staff is that only certain employees are provided this opportunity. The OIG team found several cases of immediate family members of IPS employees working in the office. Several employees raised the issue of nepotism in questionnaires or interviews with inspectors, and staff thought that family members have an advantage in the office. Some of these same family members were interns in the IPS student program before they received a full-time position with the Department.

Trickle up Awards Program Sounds Familiar?

  • IPS has an active awards program, but many employees noted that its implementation appears unfair. A few upper-level management employees appeared to receive consistent high-dollar cash awards in the past 3 years, but division staff at lower grade levels did not receive corresponding amounts. According to staff members, many believe that only a select group of individuals in IPS receives awards each year.

More not so fun details:

  • Many position descriptions have not been updated recently, with some dating from 1990.
  • IPS cannot identify how many records the Department creates.
  • IPS cannot account for hard-copy records that domestic bureaus and overseas posts should be sending on a regular basis to the records service center.
  • Despite the large number of hard-copy documents IPS reproduces, the office lacks copy machines that can handle the volume required.
  • In the absence of an accurate inventory, AAS was only able to estimate the levels of idle equipment as between 70 and 125 workstations.
  • SMART [State Messaging and Archival Retrieval Toolset] captured 61,156 of an estimated 15 million record emails in the system that should be captured.
  • An estimated 13,000 cubic feet of retired records are past due for destruction.
  • IPS issues office-specific security badges to its own employees […] Issuance of the IPS-specific badges is excessive and a waste of resources.

The Chief FOIA Officer reports that “Due to its global structure and the nature of its record holdings, the Department faces great challenges in achieving full compliance with the time limits of the FOIA.”  But don’t you worry, she insists in her annual report that “it remains committed to achieving the fullest possible compliance, with the greatest level of customer service.”

Related items:

Inspection of the Bureau of Administration, Global Information Services, Office of Information Programs and Services Report Number ISP-I-12-54, September 2012

State Department Chief Freedom of Information Act Officer Annual Report | March 12, 2012