HFAC Seeks @StateDept Documents on Possible Surveillance of Amb Yovanovitch

 

 

Advertisements

We’ve Only Just Biegun: Pompeo Swears-In New Deputy

Secretary Pompeo swore-in Stephen E. Biegun as Deputy Secretary of State on December 21, 2019. The State Department has posted his official bio on state.gov (see below). No word yet on when he will start on his new role as Acting Secretary of State (word on Twitterverse seems to be “when” not “if”). Without a nominee for Deputy Secretary for Management, it is likely that the new deputy secretary will be dual-hatted, unless, management has been delegated to Pompeo-pal and  Under Secretary for Management, Brian Bulatao.

On August 23, 2018, Secretary Pompeo appointed Stephen E. Biegun as the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea, responsible for leading U.S. efforts to achieve President Trump’s goal of the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea, as agreed to by Chairman Kim Jong Un at the Singapore summit. As Special Representative, on behalf of the Secretary of State he directed all U.S. policy on North Korea, led negotiations, and spearheaded U.S. diplomatic efforts with allies and partners.

Biegun has three decades of experience in government in the Executive and Legislative Branches, as well as in the private sector. Through his extensive career in foreign policy and business, he has excelled in tough negotiating settings. Most recently, Biegun was vice president of International Governmental Relations for Ford Motor Company, where—as a third generation Ford employee—he oversaw all aspects of Ford’s international governmental interactions including throughout the Indo-Pacific Region.

Previously, as national security advisor to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, he provided analysis and strategic planning for the U.S. Senate’s consideration of foreign policy, defense and intelligence matters, and international trade agreements. Prior to that, Biegun worked in the White House from 2001-2003 as Executive Secretary of the National Security Council. He served as a senior staff member to the National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, and performed the function of chief operating officer for the National Security Council.

Before joining the White House staff, Biegun served for 14 years as a foreign policy advisor to members of both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. During this time, he held the position of Chief of Staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 1999-2000. In addition, he served as a senior staff member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs for 6 years.

From 1992 to 1994, Biegun served in Moscow, Russia, as the Resident Director in the Russian Federation for the International Republican Institute, a democracy-building organization established under the National Endowment for Democracy.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1963, Biegun graduated from the University of Michigan where he studied Political Science and Russian Language. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has served on the boards of the National Bureau of Asian Research, the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, the U.S.-Russia Foundation for Economic Development and the Rule of Law, and Freedom House.

Highlighting Heroes: Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch Honors Her Oath

It is highly likely that the State Department will not include Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in its Highlighting Heroes initiative.  So we will do our own highlights here. No matter what is in the future for her, we and many others will remember her and honor her for her courage in speaking up first when it mattered most.
The secretary of state, proud … um defender of the rule of law only when convenient, told the committee Ambassador Yovanovitch may not attend the deposition without agency provided counsel (counsel that looks after the government not the employee’s interest), and the undersecretary for management, who oversees personnel at the State Department instructed her not to appear for a deposition. She was issued a congressional subpoena and appeared for her deposition and public testimony.
Her private counsel wrote to U/S Brian Bulatao: “Although the Ambassador has faithfully and consistently honored her professional duties as a State Department employee—including at all times following her abrupt termination as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine—she is unable to obey your most recent directive.”
Excerpt from The Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report

Despite President Trump’s explicit orders that no Executive Branch employees should cooperate with the House’s impeachment inquiry and efforts by federal agencies to limit the testimony of those who did, multiple key officials complied with duly authorized subpoenas and provided critical testimony at depositions and public hearings. These officials adhered to the rule of law and obeyed lawful subpoenas.

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Department of State
See PDF pp 245-247

On September 13, the Committees sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeking a transcribed interview with Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and other State Department officials.287

The Committees received no direct, substantive response to this letter. On September 27, the Committees sent a letter informing Secretary Pompeo that Ambassador Yovanovitch’s deposition was being scheduled on October 2, stating:

On September 13, the Committees wrote to request that you make State Department employees available for transcribed interviews. We asked you to provide, by September 20, dates by which the employees would be made available for transcribed interviews. You failed to comply with the Committees’ request.288

Also on September 27, the Committees sent a letter directly to Ambassador Yovanovitch seeking her appearance at a deposition on October 2.289

On October 1, Secretary Pompeo sent a letter to the Committees stating:

Therefore, the five officials subject to your letter may not attend any interview or deposition without counsel from the Executive Branch present to ensure that the Executive Branch’s constitutional authority to control the disclosure of confidential information, including deliberative matters and diplomatic communications, is not impaired.290

After further discussions with Ambassador Yovanovitch’s counsel, her deposition was rescheduled for October 11. On October 10, Brian Bulatao, the Under Secretary of State for Management, sent a letter to Ambassador Yovanovitch’s personal attorney directing Ambassador Yovanovitch not to appear for her deposition and enclosing Mr. Cipollone’s October 8 letter stating that President Trump and his Administration would not participate in the House’s impeachment inquiry. Mr. Bulatao’s letter stated:

Accordingly, in accordance with applicable law, I write on behalf of the Department of State, pursuant to the President’s instruction reflected in Mr. Cipollone’s letter, to instruct your client (as a current employee of the Department of State), consistent with Mr. Cipollone’s letter, not to appear before the Committees under the present circumstances.291

That same day, October 10, when asked whether he intended to block Ambassador Yovanovitch from testifying the next day, President Trump stated: “You know, I don’t think people should be allowed. You have to run a country, I don’t think you should be allowed to do that.”292

On the morning of Ambassador Yovanovitch’s deposition on October 11, the Committees sent a letter to her personal attorney transmitting a subpoena compelling her appearance, stating:

In light of recent attempts by the Administration to direct your client not to appear voluntarily for the deposition, the enclosed subpoena now compels your client’s mandatory appearance at today’s deposition on October 11, 2019.293

Later on October 11, Ambassador Yovanovitch’s personal attorney sent a letter to Mr. Bulatao, stating:

In my capacity as counsel for Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, I have received your letter of October 10, 2019, directing the Ambassador not to appear voluntarily for her scheduled deposition testimony on October 11, 2019 before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform in connection with the House of Representatives’s impeachment inquiry. Just this morning, the Ambassador received a subpoena issued by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, requiring her to appear for the deposition as scheduled. Although the Ambassador has faithfully and consistently honored her professional duties as a State Department employee—including at all times following her abrupt termination as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine—she is unable to obey your most recent directive. As the recipient of a duly issued congressional subpoena, Ambassador Yovanovitch is, in my judgment, legally obligated to attend the depositions as scheduled.294

Ambassador Yovanovitch participated in the deposition on October 11, in compliance with the Committees’ subpoena.295 During her deposition, Ambassador Yovanovitch’s personal attorney confirmed that “she received a direction by the Under Secretary to decline to appear voluntarily.”296

On November 15, the Committees transmitted a subpoena to Ambassador Yovanovitch compelling her to testify at a public hearing of the Intelligence Committee that same day.297 Ambassador Yovanovitch complied with the Committees’ subpoena and testified at the public hearing. During the hearing, Chairman Schiff acknowledged Ambassador Yovanovitch’s compliance, stating:

Ambassador, I want to thank you for your decades of service. I want to thank you, as Mr. Maloney said, for being the first one through the gap. What you did in coming forward and answering a lawful subpoena was to give courage to others that also witnessed wrongdoing, that they, too, could show the same courage that you have, that they could stand up, speak out, answer questions, they could endure whatever threats, insults may come their way. And so in your long and distinguished career you have done another great public service in answering the call of our subpoena and testifying before us today.298

Why State/OIG Should Look Into Diplomatic Security’s Mina Chang Headache

 

NBC News did a follow up report on the Mina Change story it broke that lead to the resignation of the deputy assistant secretary of state at the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. Excerpt:

To secure her job at the State Department in April, Chang leveraged social connections to senior officials who could help open the doors to the administration, including Brian Bulatao, a close friend and deputy to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; a State Department official and former defense contractor who she succeeded as deputy assistant secretary, Pete Marocco; and a congressional staffer for key GOP lawmaker Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, multiple sources said. Marocco endorsed her for the job and McCaul wrote her a recommendation letter.
[…]
By the time Rep. McCaul issued the recommendation letter, Chang’s nomination was moving ahead thanks to her own contacts in the administration, said a spokesperson for the congressman, Kaylin Minton.
[..]
Chang lists just $12,000 in income before she took the State Department job and listed no salary from her charity. According to papers from her divorce case in 2011, she was due to receive nearly $1,400 a month in child support and $500 in alimony per month for a year from her ex-husband, a real estate developer. She lived in an affluent neighborhood in Dallas in a high-end apartment building, former colleagues and acquaintances said.

The updated NBC News piece also notes that “The State Department and its Diplomatic Security Service, which helps vet appointees, did not respond to requests for comment.”
Oh, dang!
State and DSS are probably hoping that this story will just go away now that she had submitted her resignation. But there is something in this story that is troubling.  If it was this easy for her to get this position despite the now revealed holes in her resume,  how many more are there in Foggy Bottom who were hired under similar circumstances? And how exactly did Diplomatic Security “missed” um …  a few things that reporters were able to easily dig up? Is this a case of Diplomatic Security “missing” a few things or a case of the security bureau being “responsive” to the 7th Floor?
Perhaps more importantly, if it was this easy to get around these “holes” and get a deputy assistant secretary position (which typically requires years and years of experience for career appointees), just how hard could it be for foreign intel services to do the same?
Now, we’re not suggesting that Diplomatic Security investigates itself on how this individual got through its security clearance process,  or see if the bureau has systemic holes in that process. We think State/OIG or a congressional panel with oversight authority should look into it.

 

Related posts:
State/CSO DAS Mina Chang Resigns After NBC News Asked About Newly Discovered False Claims;
Dear @StateDept, How Many More Mina Changs Do You Have?

West Point Mafia Gets the Spotlight: Pompeo, Brechbuhl, Bulatao

 

 

State/EUR’s Philip Reeker on the Hill Despite Bulatao’s Letter Not to Testify

 

It is Saturday, but Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker is on the Hill for a deposition in the impeachment inquiry. On Friday, the Undersecretary for Management Brian Bulatao reportedly sent a letter to Ambassador Reeker’s lawyer ordering him not/not to testify.

Below is his official bio via state.gov:

Ambassador Philip T. Reeker is the Acting Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs since March 18.

Prior to his appointment, Ambassador Reeker assumed his duties as the USEUCOM Civilian Deputy and POLAD November 2017 and will continue to serve in this position until May 31, 2019. Prior to that he served as the United States Consul General in Milan, covering northern Italy beginning in September 2014. From July 2011 through 2013, Ambassador Reeker served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs focused on the Balkans, Central Europe, and Holocaust Issues.

He was U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia from 2008 to 2011, and Deputy State Department Spokesman/Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, under Secretaries of State Albright and Powell (2000-2004). Previous assignments also include: Minister Counselor for Public Affairs under Ambassador Ryan Crocker at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq (2007-2008); Deputy Chief of Mission in Budapest (2004-2007); and Director of Press Relations at the State Department (1999-2000). He was Spokesman for the Special Envoy for Kosovo, Ambassador Christopher Hill. Ambassador Reeker joined the Foreign Service in 1992, and served earlier tours in Budapest, Hungary and Skopje, Macedonia.

Ambassador Reeker is the 2013 Recipient of the Robert C. Frasure Memorial Award for “his commitment to peace and the alleviation of human suffering caused by war or civil injustice” in the Balkans; the National Albanian American Council presented Ambassador Reeker with its “Hands of Hope Award” the same year. He received the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy in 2003, and several State Department Superior Honor Awards.

Ambassador Reeker is a graduate of Yale University (1986), and received an MBA from the Thunderbird School of International Management in Arizona (1991). Born in Pennsylvania, Ambassador Reeker grew up in several U.S. cities and spent his high school years in Brisbane, Australia. His foreign languages are: Hungarian, Macedonian, Italian, and German.

Foggy Bottom’s Top ‘Champion of Diplomacy’ to Step Up, or Maybe Not

 

On Wednesday, the WH released the transcript (PDF) of President Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Just Security has a helpful timeline here for those not caught up with the matter yet.
Foggy Bottom watchers were immediately drawn to the two presidents’ exchange referencing the then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Louise Yovanovitch who served as Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv from August 18, 2016 – May 20, 2019.  (see @StateDept Recalls Amb. Marie Yovanovitch From Ukraine After Persistent Campaign For Removal).
We have seen folks calling publicly for Secretary Pompeo to stand up for one of his top career diplomats. Maybe he’ll surprise us but those waiting will probably be in for a disappointment.
The Trump-Zelensky call occurred in July 25, 2019 (although there apparently was an April 2019 call, too), about two months after Ambassador Yovanovitch was recalled from Ukraine.  The released July 25 transcript does not indicate the individuals in on the call, but the declassified whistleblower complaint identified at least one participant from the State Department, Secretary Pompeo’s Counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl (see Pompeo Appoints West Point Pal, Ulrich Brechbuhl as @StateDept Counselor).  Somebody pointed out to us that the “counselor” title often causes outsiders to believe that this position handles legal matters. It does not. With few exceptions, most recently, Tom Shannon Jr. (2013–2016) and Kristie Ann Kenney (2016–2017), the “C” position is typically held by a political appointee who performs tasks assigned by the Secretary of State (i.e., a senior official without portfolio).

“Counselor of the Department, T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, is an Under Secretary-level principal officer who serves the Secretary as a special advisor and consultant on major problems of foreign policy and who provides guidance to the appropriate bureaus with respect to such matters. The Counselor conducts special international negotiations and consultations, and also undertakes special assignments from time to time, as directed by the Secretary.

The day after the phone call, July 26, Secretary Pompeo also met with the president at the White House.  The notion that the targeting of a veteran public servant by this president, his personal lawyer, and others is a surprise to the secretary of state, begs for some creative imagination. He had a chance to stand up for her before she was recalled, did he do that? The idea that he must have done so or she would have been fired doesn’t make sense. She is a career FSO with workplace protections. They could not just fire her on a whim. But what could a recalled career diplomat do with no onward assignment? The State Department could send her to a university, right?
Ambassador Yovanovitch is currently a Senior State Department Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy (ISD), in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown. She is a Career Minister (FE-CM) of the U.S. Foreign Service; that’s equivalent in rank to a Lieutenant General in the U.S. military.  She had three previous ambassadorial appointments: Ukraine (2016-2019) and Armenia (2008-2011) under the Obama Administration, and the Kyrgyz Republic (2005-2008) under the G. W. Bush Administration. She also previously worked as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, the #2 senior ranking official at the EUR bureau. Which is to say that she has extensive diplomatic experience overseas and in Foggy Bottom. And yet, for some reason, Secretary Pompeo, who talks way too much about swagger and professional ethos could not find a spot for Ambassador Yovanovitch in his org chart.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, we ‘d like to note once more that ambassadors like Ambassador Yovanovich, a career diplomat, do not go freelancing nor do they go rogue; they do not make their own policy concerning their host countries.  They typically get their marching orders from their home bureau, in this case, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) at the State Department, under the oversight of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, who reports to the Secretary of State.  And they follow those orders.  Even on instances when they personally disagree with those orders or the administration’s policies, they follow orders. Career diplomats who do not follow their instructions do not have lengthy careers in the U.S. diplomatic service.
We, of course, have to acknowledged the presidential prerogative on the appointments of ambassadors. But. If her recall had really nothing to do with politics, if as the State Department puts it, the departure was “as planned” how come Foggy Bottom has not put her extensive experience and training to appropriate use?  How come she’s not in Foggy Bottom?  How come she had no senate-confirmed successor at the US Embassy in Kyiv, if this was “as planned”? There are a few officials at State who would know the whys and hows of her treatment based on their responsibilities in the bureaucracy.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Secretary Pompeo’s second bestie in Foggy Bottom in May 2019 (see Senate Confirms Brian Bulatao as Under Secretary of State For Management). Prior to Bulatao’s confirmation,  the Deputy Under Secretary for Management William Todd was running the bureau with oversight on personnel and assignments.
The Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources Carol Perez assumed her post as DGHR  on January 30, 2019. She directs the recruitment, assignments and professional development of State Department and Foreign Service personnel. Prior to her assumption of office, William Todd was also Acting DGHR.
At the geographic bureau, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine is under the umbrella of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) . The most recent Senate-confirmed assistant secretary Wess Mitchell took office in October 2017 and left post on February 15, 2019 (see EUR’s Wess Mitchell Quits, New Acting EUR A/S Millard Reportedly to Retire 2/22).  Since March 18, 2019, Ambassador Philip T. Reeker, a career diplomat has been the Acting Assistant Secretary for the bureau.
Given what we know now, what happened at the IO bureau was not a glitch but a marker to alert us of a dreadful trend (IO case involved the departures of 50 of 300 domestic IO employees). There are now two very public instances where Secretary Pompeo appeared unable to protect his people from political retaliation. How good a “champion of diplomacy” are you if your umbrella can only keep the shit off your head but not your people? This is a necessary question to ask as we enter a most difficult period in our national life.

Via Politico:

While it’s still not clear what Pompeo did or did not do, the still-unfolding Ukraine scandal could dramatically affect his standing at Foggy Bottom and on Capitol Hill, not to mention his well-known political future political ambitions.
[…]
State Department staffers, meanwhile, are questioning how the secretary could have allowed the Ukraine-related dealings to go on under his nose, and whether he was complicit in derailing the career of a respected ambassador along the way.

“It’s impossible to believe that the secretary wasn’t aware of what was happening,” said one State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “If he was kept in the dark, that’s even more troubling.”
[…]
Aside from Pompeo, lawmakers and their aides are trying to establish what role certain U.S. envoys played in connecting Giuliani with Ukrainian officials, and whether Pompeo signed off.

Those diplomats include the special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland. There also are questions about the actions of U.S. ambassadors in other European countries where Giuliani may have met with Ukrainian officials.
[…]
Of special interest: the role Pompeo and his aides played in recalling Marie Yovanovitch, the career diplomat who was serving as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

Related posts:

Amb. Marie L. Yovanovitch

Who’s Going to be the Next @StateDept Deputy Secretary? Two Names Floating Around: Biegun, Bulatao

 

Politico is reporting that Steve Biegun, President Trump’s special representative for North Korea, is being seriously considered for the No. 2 job at the State Department, according to two senior administration officials with knowledge of the matter.
This follows an NYT report on August 20 concerning the expected nomination of Deputy Secretary John Sullivan to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Moscow.
The new report from Politico also says that “The whole building is vying for the job,” citing another senior administration official.  But only one other name, so far, has been mentioned besides Biegun.  A former State Department official told Politico that “one of the contenders could include Brian Bulatao, the undersecretary of state for management, who was chief operating officer of the CIA when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was CIA director.
Note that Bulatao was confirmed as “M” just this past May after the nomination languished in the Senate for several months.
The Deputy Secretary serves as the principal deputy, adviser, and alter ego to the Secretary of State …
Christopher (1993-1997) and Albright (1997-2001) had Strobe (Nelson Strobridge) Talbott III (1994–2001) although Clifton Reginald Wharton Jr. did serve as Deputy Secretary on the first year of Christopher’s tenure. Powell (2001-2005) had Richard Lee Armitage (2001–2005) for his entire tenure at State. Rice (2005-2009) had Robert B. Zoellick (2005–2006) and career diplomat John Dimitri Negroponte (2007–2009). Clinton (2009-2013) had James Braidy Steinberg (2009–2011) and career diplomat William Joseph Burns (2011–2014). Kerry (2013-2017) kept Burns as Deputy Secretary after taking office then had Antony Blinken (2015–2017) as Deputy for the remainder of his tenure.
John Sullivan was originally nominated for a post at DOD (see Previously Announced DOD Nominee John J. Sullivan Now Slated to be @StateDept’s No. 2). On April 2017, he was nominated to be Deputy Secretary at State (see Trump to nominate John J. Sullivan to be @StateDept’s No.2 and to also serve as No.3.   He got his confirmation hearing in May 2017, and was confirmed the same month as Deputy Secretary of State in a 94-6 vote. He went on to serve as Rex Tillerson’s deputy, and subsequently as Acting Secretary of State after Tillerson’s firing. If he is nominated for the ambassador’s post in Russia, we expect that he’ll sail quickly through the confirmation process.
We were kind of perplexed why he would take this Moscow job, which is a step down from his current position in Foggy Bottom. As chief of mission at the US Embassy in Moscow, his reporting chain would be to the EUR bureau, an office under the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P), a position that reports to the Deputy Secretary (his old job) and to the Secretary. Of course, he is a political appointee so we expect that he’ll go where they send him but we’re really curious why or how this came to be.
CNN cites two sources saying that “Sullivan is well-liked at the State Department but is not inside Pompeo’s inner circle. Sullivan has often felt out of the loop and wanted a new post. Despite having little experience when it comes to Russia, Sullivan lobbied to get this job and Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton ended up supporting him. The sources said Pompeo and Bolton recognize that the US ambassador to Russia is a challenging role, but not one that holds a lot of significance in this administration.”
Hmmnn…. he could have also picked Japan, Brazil, Canada or Gabon and São Tomé & Príncipe among a host of capitals with no ambassadors!  We’ll have to wait for Mr. Sullivan’s oral history, hey?

#

Under Secretary Bulatao on Enhancing Support for Employees with Children with Special Needs

Help Fund the Blog | Diplopundit 2019 — 60-Day Campaign from June 5, 2019 – August 5, 2019

______________________________________

 

According to State/OIG which is conducting a review of the State Department’s Special Needs Education Allowance (SNEA), “By law, for employees serving in foreign areas, the Department must provide a Special Needs Education Allowance (SNEA) for children who meet the requirements of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act.”]

Also from state.gov’s FAQ on SNEA:

Is the State Department required to meet the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) with regard to the education of special needs children overseas? If so, how does it do that?

No. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its 2004 reauthorization, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), are federal funding laws ensuring a free and appropriate education to children with disabilities in the United States. IDEA/IDEIA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to eligible children and youth. While existing law does not require DOS to replicate what a public school would provide to a student in the United States, our goal is to approximate what a child would receive in a good US public school system. Per the Overseas Differentials and Allowances Act and the Department of State Standard Regulations (DSSR), the IDEA/IDEIA framework is the basis for the allowable reimbursable services for the Special Needs Education Allowance (SNEA). DOS is committed to assisting employees in meeting the necessary expenses incurred when deployed overseas in providing adequate education for their school-age children. The education allowances are designed to assist parents in defraying those costs necessary to obtain educational services which are ordinarily provided free of charge by public schools in the United States.

In 2018,  a group representing employees with special needs children warned that the State Department Bureau of Medical Services was taking “deleterious actions” to restrict funding access for benefits the department is required to offer under U.S. disability law according to reporting from FP. Some internal battles with MED made it to the public sphere but there were a lot more stories that stayed under wraps out of fear of retaliation, or in at least one case we are aware of, due to an expressed threat from MED. More recently, there was reportedly a no-confidence letter related to a specific MED official, circulated and signed by Foreign Service employees and family members.

Last Friday. the new Under Secretary For Management Brian Bulatao issued new guidance on SNEA.

I am pleased to announce the Department has begun to implement a series of revisions and clarifications to policies and procedures that improve how we support our families who have children with special educational needs. These reforms are the result of a review by a Department-wide working group convened last fall by Deputy Under Secretary Bill Todd.  

Key Points: 

·         A new FAM section for the Special Needs Education Allowance has just been published. It will be updated over the next few months as we implement additional reforms. 

·         Guidance in this FAM chapter includes revisions to where a service can be provided. 

·         Separately, the Summer 2020 bid cycle will include changes to simplify bidding for employees with children with Class Two medical clearances. 

New FAM Section:  Overseas educational support is governed by DSSR 270 and 5 U.S.C. 5924 (4), which are complex interagency regulations. We have just published a new FAM section – 3 FAM 3280 –  to ensure that these regulations, especially those pertaining to the Special Needs Education Allowance (SNEA), are interpreted consistently and to make clear the intent of SNEA. Additional changes are in interagency clearance, and any resulting changes would be added to the appropriate FAM section(s) and announced via ALDAC and Department Notice. 

The new FAM makes clear the Department’s policy intent regarding SNEA: 

By assisting employees with the fulfillment of the educational needs of their children, SNEA encourages employees who have children with special educational needs to bid on and serve in foreign assignments. It is in the Department’s interest to take care of its employees and maximize their ability to serve in foreign assignments.

International schools vary in their ability to match the support structure, special education environment, or services found in U.S. public schools. For this reason, the Department should authorize SNEA as flexibly as possible in order to accommodate the unique and often challenging circumstances of overseas operating environments and foreign-area assignments.

Implementation guidance for the new FAM section and bidding rules will be sent separately. 

I am excited about these changes. We have an obligation to equip and engage our team to meet mission needs. Providing support to our people so they can get the job done is the best way to ensure we deliver on the Department’s goals.  

AFSA has reportedly reviewed and commented on the new FAM guidance. 

The SNEA issue and problems with MED should have been resolved soonest instead of being allowed to linger this long. We are pleased to see that Under Secretary Bulatao addressed this issue soon after he assumed charge as “M.”

John Naland, the President of the Foreign Service Youth Foundation said that These are important reforms towards creating a transparent program that rests on a solid interpretation and consistent application of law and regulations to allow Foreign Service parents of children with special educational needs to take care of their families while simultaneously fulfilling their overseas service obligations as Foreign Service members.”

Now, we’ll have to watch and see what MED is going to do about this.

Below is an excerpt from 3 FAM 3285  which spells out in ints entirety the Department policy

(CT:PER-949;   06-27-2019)
(State)
(Applies to Foreign Service & Civil Service Employees)

a. The purpose of SNEA is to assist employees serving at posts abroad with obtaining for their children with special educational needs special early intervention, kindergarten, elementary, and secondary educational services, including such educational services as are provided in the United States under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, that public schools in the United States ordinarily provide without charge.

b. By assisting employees with the fulfillment of the educational needs of their children, SNEA encourages employees who have children with special educational needs to bid on and serve in foreign assignments.  It is in the Department’s interest to maximize employees’ ability to serve in foreign assignments. 

c.  International schools vary in their ability to match the support structure, special education environment, or services found in U.S. public schools.  For this reason, the Department should authorize SNEA as flexibly as possible in order to accommodate the unique and often challenging circumstances of overseas operating environments and foreign-area assignments.

d.  Ideally, special education services should be provided in a school setting as part of a child’s educational curriculum.  However, recognizing that educating children with disabilities in overseas settings often involves unique challenges, in circumstances when special education services cannot be provided directly in a school setting but are available as services offered outside school or school hours, or via the internet (e.g., online speech therapy), SNEA will cover special educational services required by the child’s IEP or equivalent which are provided outside of school and/or outside normal school hours, when consistent with the DSSR.  SNEA reimbursements may be made directly to employees who have used their personal funds for these services.  Parents may not be reimbursed for special therapeutic services that they personally provide, although, in accordance with DSSR regulations, they may be reimbursed for eligible Home Schooling expenses.

e.  Because most children of Department of State employees would be enrolled in one of the school districts of Washington, DC, Virginia, or Maryland if their employee parent were assigned domestically, school districts in these areas will generally be the point of reference when determining what special educational services are “ordinarily provided without charge by public schools in the United States.” Within this context, services named in a child’s IEP, or equivalent document, may be eligible to be covered by SNEA.

f.  SNEA is an education allowance. It is subject to other applicable legal authorities and policies that govern education allowances in general.

Read the whole thing here.

 

Related posts:

Related items:

So @StateDept’s guidance is do whatever you want. EXCEPT fly the Pride Flag on the pole #PrideMonth

Help Fund the Blog Diplopundit 2019 — 60-Day Campaign from June 5, 2019 – August 5, 2019

______________________________________

 

On May 17, 2018, Secretary Pompeo just three weeks into his tenure as secretary of state issued a statement on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.  This year, the State Department statement marking IDAHOT was noticeably missing.

We understand from a source on background that there was guidance circulated within the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) this past May saying that there will be no IDAHOT/Pride cable this year. The directive reportedly came from the 7th floor although it apparently also said, there is no change in policy, including on display of the Pride flag. “The best we can do is rely on last year’s cable and the statement that policy has not changed.”

The directive last year would have been sent by an Acting Under Secretary for Management as there was no confirmed “M” at the State Department since U/S Kennedy departed his position in January 2017.

On June 7, NBC News reported that the U.S. embassies in Israel, Germany, Brazil and Latvia have requested permission from the State Department to fly the rainbow pride flag on their flagpoles and have been denied, citing three unnamed U.S. diplomats.

On June 10, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told NBCNews that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “respects the dignity of every individual” but did not believe other flags should fly alongside the American flag at U.S. embassies.

In an interview with NBC News, VPOTUS said that the Trump administration had “put no restrictions” on the pride flag or other flags flying elsewhere at U.S. embassies. When pressed, he also said, “We both feel that way very passionately, but when it comes to the American flagpole, and American embassies, and capitals around the world, one American flag flies.”

Another official who is LGBT speaking on background told this blog that flying the Pride flag on the flag pole with the U.S. flag has always been controversial.  This same official told us that while he/she personally does not believe that they should fly the Pride flag on the flag pole, there are others who have cited the Flag Act to justify flying the pride flag:

4 U.S. Code § 7 – Position and manner of display
(f) When flags of States, cities, or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States, the latter should always be at the peak. When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last. No such flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the United States or to the United States flag’s right.

This same source indicated to us that his/her understanding was that the Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao has not approved flying the Pride Flag on the same staff as the U.S. flag at State Department federal buildings within the United States and overseas (Mr. Bulatao was officially sworn into office in late May). We were told that this process is usually done via a decision memo and that this year, there was no cable in or out;  which confirmed the circulated guidance reportedly from DRL in May. This official also told us that his/her understanding is that posts are free to display the pride flag everywhere and anywhere, or to light up embassies in the pride colors, or do anything else they want to mark Pride month.  EXCEPT fly the Pride Flag on the pole.

We should note that in previous years, some posts, not all, have marked Pride Month with a rainbow flag on the flagpole or hanging the rainbow flag on the side of the embassy building. Others participated in local pride parades, or lighting up the embassy in rainbow colors. Social media indicates that our overseas posts are marking Pride month in a similar manner (poles excepted) this year, but they have not/not been prevented from marking or celebrating the event (if post is preventing you from marking Pride Month, holler, please).

Also typically, on June 1st or within the first week of June, the Secretary of State also releases a statement marking LGBTI Pride Month. Pompeo did that last year on June 1st.  The year before that, his predecessor Rex Tillerson released a similar statement on June 7, 2018. This year, we’re still waiting for a similar statement from Secretary Pompeo; 18 days to go before the days of June runs out. Write faster, folks!

Here is the official spox addressing the “except on the pole” issue:

Related posts: