Posted: 1:21 am ET
Posted: 1:21 am ET
Posted: 12:40 am ET
On September 28, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination for the new Assistant Secretary for State for EUR, and the nominees as chiefs of mission to Bahrain, Afghanistan, and Russia.
Posted: 12:12 am ET
On September 26, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the following nominations:
Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., of Utah, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Russian Federation (Sep 26, 2017 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report).
Justin Hicks Siberell, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
A. Wess Mitchell, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (European and Eurasian Affairs), vice Victoria Nuland.
The SFRC also cleared the nomination of J. Steven Dowd, of Florida, to be the United States Director of the African Development Bank for a term of five years, vice Walter Crawford Jones, who resigned.
Posted: 3:08 am ET
President Trump announced his intent to nominate Justin H. Siberell to be the U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain. In 2016, Mr. Siberell was designated the Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Mr. Siberell entered the Foreign Service in March 1993, and joined the CT Bureau in July 2012. He is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and was confirmed by the Senate to the rank of Minister-Counselor. Below is a brief bio via state.gov:
Before joining the CT Bureau, Mr. Siberell was Principal Officer in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Other overseas assignments include service at U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Baghdad, Iraq; Amman, Jordan; Alexandria, Egypt; and Panama City, Panama.
In Washington, Mr. Siberell completed tours in the State Department Operations Center and Executive Secretariat; as Desk Officer for Iran in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs; and as Executive Assistant to the National Security Advisor at the White House.
Mr. Siberell was raised in California, and attended the University of California at Berkeley where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History. Mr. Siberell is a 2002 graduate of the State Department’s Arabic Language Field School in Tunis, Tunisia. Mr. Siberell speaks Arabic and Spanish.
In September 2016, Mr. Siberell was officially nominated to be to be Coordinator for Counterterrorism, with the rank and status of Ambassador at Large (PN1758). The nomination was not acted by the Senate and in January 2017, the nomination was returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI.
Last month, President Trump nominated Nathan Sales to be Coordinator for Counterterrorism (Trump to Nominate Nathan Alexander Sales to be @StateDept Coordinator for Counterterrorism).
— Domani Spero
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]
— Senate Periodicals (@SenatePPG) November 18, 2014
Ambassador-designate James Zumwalt was nominated as Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal and the Republic of Guinea Bissau. Embassy operations in Guinea Bissau had been suspended since June 14, 1998. The U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal is dual-hatted as the Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea-Bissau “to serve concurrently and without additional compensation” and is based in Dakar, Senegal.
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— Domani Spero
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) September 22, 2014
Before you know it, this fellow on Twitter live-tweeted the strikes :
Breaking: Huge explosions shook the city in what might be the beginning of US airstrikes on ISIS HQs in Raqqa — Abdulkader Hariri (@3bdUlkaed6r) September 23, 2014
The Pentagon soon confirmed the air strikes:
US military & partner nation forces have begun striking ISIL targets in Syria using mix of fighters, bombers and Tomahawk missiles. — Rear Adm. John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) September 23, 2014
Here is the official statement
Here’s a YouTube video of the ISIL strike:
The new coalition of the willing includes five Arab countries: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar:
Despite all the skepticism about his coalition, a real feat for Obama: 5 Arab countries sent warplanes to Syria. http://t.co/zoKPtCrOhI
— Craig Whitlock (@CraigMWhitlock) September 23, 2014
The five Arab countries and their planes:
Arab role in US coalition thus far: Jordan: 4 F15s, Saudi/UAE: 4 F16s, Bahrain: 2 F16s, Qatar: 2 Mirage 2000s that did not drop ordinance
— Daniel Nisman (@DannyNis) September 23, 2014
President Obama’s statement on the Syria bombing:
[WH] President Obama Delivers a Statement on Airstrikes in Syria: President Barack Obama delivers a… http://t.co/Aei6LLmOLm
— US Government News (@USGovNews) September 23, 2014
Here is the congressional notification:
New: Obama War Powers Resolution letter on last night’s strikes pic.twitter.com/3aIkj0Uv6t
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) September 23, 2014
Still “no boots on the ground!?”
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) September 23, 2014
How much will all this cost?
— The Hill (@thehill) September 22, 2014
Did Congress say/do anything?
Reminder: Congress opted to go home for 2 months vs. debate/vote on war authorization (http://t.co/IFSHyeWwNf). Now we’re in it.
— jennifer bendery (@jbendery) September 23, 2014
How about those war predictions?
— Diplopundit (@Diplopundit) September 24, 2014
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As of this writing, the State Department has not announced any new Travel Warning for Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain or Qatar. The last Worldwide Caution notice was published on April 10, 2014.
One post out of the five Arab countries in the coalition, the US Embassy in Jordan, has issued a Security Message noting the coalition strikes against ISIL targets and the likely increased of police presence at public and diplomatic buildings throughout the country.
The only other post in the area to issue a Security Message citing “regional events” is the US Embassy in Lebanon. Embassy Beirut advises U.S. citizens that coalition airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in Syria have begun and notes an increased in kidnappings in northern and eastern Lebanon. Both embassies say that there is no specific threat against U.S. citizens in their respected countries but caution citizens to exercise security awareness and maintain a heightened level of vigilance.
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— Domani Spero
State/OIG posted its March 31, 2014 Inspection Report of the U.S. Embassy in Manama, Bahrain. While there are some pockets of sunshine in this report, it comes across like post is a huge management mess. Post is headed by career diplomat, Ambassador Thomas Krajeski who assumed charge in October 2011. According to the embassy’s website, Stephanie Williams arrived as Deputy Chief of Mission in Manama in June 2010. The current Deputy Chief of Mission Timothy Pounds arrived at post in March 2013.
The inspection took place in Washington, DC, between September 3 and 23, 2013, and in Manama, Bahrain, between September 25 and October 19, 2013. Ambassador Marianne Myles (team leader), Michael Hurley (deputy team leader), Alison Barkley, Beatrice Camp, Roger Cohen, David Davison, Shawn O’Reilly, Keith Powell II, Richard Sypher, Joyce Wong, and Roman Zawada conducted the inspection.
Embassy Manama is a medium-sized mission with 80 U.S. direct hires, 23 U.S. local hires and 85 locally employed (LE) staff members who oversee a $14 million budget and manage 78 leased properties. The embassy building opened in 1991 and is nearing capacity. Manama is one of the Middle East missions that allow families, and assignments there continue to be 3-year tours. Continuing demonstrations and attacks against government and commercial targets have severely restricted the movement of staff and taken a toll on their morale.
You’ve got to wonder what’s else is going on when the embassy’s website displays this white space despite its DCM’s arrival at post about a year ago.
More details below extracted from the OIG report.
Leadership and Management – Ambassador:
Leadership and Management – Deputy Chief of Mission:
[T]he volume of economic reporting has been low, with approximately 1 economic cable for every 10 drafted by the political unit. The lack of front office attention to economic matters has left the economic unit with little guidance on issues of potential interest to Washington. The frequent diversion of the economic specialist’s attention to political issues, while the political specialist performs backup protocol duties, has also hurt economic reporting.
Public Affairs Section
The public affairs section has an experienced and dedicated staff conducting innovative programming and responding to intense front office interest in media reporting. […] Post public diplomacy programs would have greater impact if they were part of an overall strategy that included greater participation by the Ambassador. The public affairs officer (PAO) has not directed the section in establishing policies, defining goals, and prioritizing plans to achieve mission objectives. Internal processes for dealing with grants, speakers, and exchanges are not consistent, clearly understood, or readily accessible. The section posts only limited information about its processes and activities on its SharePoint site.
The government-controlled press is frequently highly critical of the Ambassador but the embassy is cautious about using social media to counter this, concerned that doing so often draws negative comments. The public affairs section posts the Ambassador’s public appearances on Facebook but does not generally tweet his activities. The embassy does not use blogs. Officers adept at social media can help use these tools to improve the Ambassador’s public image and to correct misinformation about U.S. policies.
There is a need for better management planning across the board, including for staffing, real property acquisition, office space, housing, safety, and maintenance. Management controls are inadequate; in the procurement section, weak controls constitute a serious deficiency. The section requires outside help. Customer satisfaction scores from OIG questionnaires for most support services were low, reflecting a lack of basic processes and standard operating procedures. Embassy Manama should make improving management operations and internal controls a priority.
General Services Office
The general services office suffers from poor communication up and down the chain of command. An accurate arrivals and departures list would enhance the efficiency of all general services sections. The embassy’s internship program is not adequately coordinated with the general services office, creating adverse effects on housing, motor pool, and travel services.
Customs and Shipping
The customs and shipping staff consists of one LE employee who expedites shipments and has a large contact base at the port and at the airport. This employee has not been able to take leave, even when he has scheduled it well in advance, because of emergencies that require his presence. Sound management requires backup for each critical function.
Work and quality of life questionnaires administered by the OIG team report scores significantly below prior embassy averages in human resources support and services, administration of the awards program, and fairness of family member hiring. Poor leadership, lack of adequate processes, and the absence of transparency and communication have hampered the staff. The human resources officer needs to reinvigorate the section and regain the trust of the mission’s direct-hire employees, LE staff, and eligible family members.
Inspectors encountered a number of shortcomings in the office. The retail price survey had not been completed since 2009. Personnel cables were not being sent using the proper template and each message was being created from scratch. Supervisors were not being notified 6 months prior to LE subordinates’ retirement dates. Staffing patterns contained numerous mistakes.
Foreign Service National Issues
The LE committee cited several examples of culturally insensitive behavior by American employees. It is unclear whether the words and actions were spiteful or occurred because the employees lacked knowledge of Bahraini culture and norms. To guard against such events, it would be helpful for the embassy to incorporate a cultural sensitivity component into its orientation programs for U.S. direct-hire and locally employed staff.
COM Residence: The chief of mission residence costs $272,000 per year (approximately $22,500 per month) to rent. It is one of the Department’s most expensive short-term leased properties, qualifying it for consideration to purchase. The embassy has requested the Department also consider purchase of a DCM residence and a Marine security guard residence.
Language Designated Positions: Embassy Manama has 10 language designated positions: the DCM; 4 political/economic officers, 2 consular officers, 2 public diplomacy officers, and the management officer. As half the population of Bahrain is expatriate, many from South Asia, the common language of the country is English. Six of the 10 officers in language designated positions reported to inspectors that they do not use Arabic in their jobs. The number of language designated positions makes finding qualified candidates for embassy jobs more challenging. Moreover, it costs the Department approximately $500,000 to train an officer to speak proficient Arabic.
Management Controls: Management controls at Embassy Manama are inadequate. Despite the embassy’s positive responses to the OIG functional questionnaires, and the positive information provided by the regional bureau, the OIG team determined the breakdown in procurement processes reaches the level of a significant deficiency. Though adequately staffed, Embassy Manama paid 2,000 hours of overtime compensation to general services employees and 1,000 hours to facilities management employees in FY 2013. According to the Foreign Affairs Handbook, (FAH) 4 FAH-3 H-525.1-2 the management officer must establish controls for accurate and timely recording and reporting of time and attendance. The mission delegates responsibility for overtime authorization to each section supervisor and time and attendance to the financial management officer. Nobody monitors LE staff overtime, resulting in anomalies and improper overtime approvals.
The report is available to read here (pdf).
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