Don’t Forget the @StateDept Redesign, But Get Ready For “New Carpool Karaoke With S”

Posted: 12:43 am ET
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Politico’s Nahal Toosi has a leaked State Department document reportedly alarming diplomats and others who say it shows the accumulation of power among a small and unaccountable group of senior aides to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The chart, obtained by POLITICO, illustrates the growing influence of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, which traditionally has served as an in-house think tank but which Tillerson heavily relies upon for day-to-day decision making. Critics already complain that the office — led by Brian Hook, a powerful Tillerson aide not subject to Senate confirmation — accepts too little input from career diplomats, and the chart, which lays out a method to craft foreign policy, shows no explicit role for them.
[…]
“This says to me that they are developing a new foreign policy structure that is designed to largely ignore those who know these regions and who know these issues,” said Brett Bruen, a former State Department official who served under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

Folks, this is Foggy Bottom’s version of Carpool Karaoke where there are extremely limited seats available in the car, but in this version, no one tell each other they’re singing out of tune. Why not? The passengers  don’t know what they don’t know and they all think they have great singing voices. Right.

That “Review Slides with S” is indeed “amazeballs.”  But where are the effing charts and the laugh machine?

AND NOW THIS — it looks like there’s a red on red campaign against S/P’s Brian Hook, who is publicly identified as a “de facto deputy” for the State Department by no less than one of the louder voices in Trump’s orbit. This same campaign is also directed against Tillerson sidekick Margaret Peterlin.

Mick Cernovich who has been called an alt-right provocateur and Trump loyalist has tweeted about Tilleron’s aides Hook and Peterlin going back months.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE – Mr. Tillerson who came to Washington with an aversion for the press has now given multiple interviews to several media outlets presumably to help … um with what now appears to be a prevailing public’s view of his poor stewardship of the State Department. One of the latest interviews, this one with Bloomberg News:

—he doesn’t know what to make of news reports that morale is low at his agency and that he’s not doing a good job running it. “I walk the halls, people smile,” he says in a recent interview in his spacious office in Washington. “If it’s as bad as it seems to be described, I’m not seeing it, I’m not getting it.”

The former U.S. ambassador to Qatar gave the secretary of state a suggestion on how he can “communicate better” and also “get” what the problem is at the State Department.  Is that a quiet applause we’re hearing?

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Photo of the Day: Tillerson Meets with Bureau of Administration Folks

Posted: 2:43 am ET
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The Bureau of Administration provides support programs to the Department of State and U.S. embassies and consulates. These programs include: procurement; supply and transportation; diplomatic pouch and mail services; official records, publishing, and library services; language services; setting allowance rates for U.S. Government personnel assigned abroad and providing support for Department assisted overseas schools; domestic real property and facilities management; domestic emergency management; support for White House travel abroad; and logistical support for special conferences.

On August 16, the State Department released a photo of Secretary Tillerson with S/P Brian Hook meeting with unidentified representatives of the Bureau of Administration, an office located under the umbrella of the Under Secretary for Management. A nominee for “M” has been announced but has not been confirmed. No nominee has been announced for the Bureau of Administration.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with representatives of the Bureau of Administration, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on August 16, 2017. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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Making Sense of Tillerson’s Rescinded Delegations of Authority @StateDept

Posted: 5:07 am ET
Updated: Aug 11, 2:24 pm PT
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We recently blogged about the rescinded delegations of authority at the State Department (see Tillerson Rescinds Delegated Authorities Department-Wide, Further Gums Up Foggy Bottom).  A State Department official (SDO) told Politico that Tillerson only rescinded three delegations of authority. Just three.  SDO frequently is the attribution used when the folks at the State Department press shop do not want to speak on the record.  The same official who commented to Politico also said Tillerson has requested the Under Secretaries to undertake an immediate review of the remaining authorities. The SDO forgot to remind himself that the State Department currently do not have Under Secretaries but only one Under Secretary (P).

The sources who informed us of the rescinded authorities are SDOs but are not part of the agency’s press office.  They are folks who are not known for running around with their hair on fire.  One of them told us “all”, another confirmed that it was “department-wide,” and that’s the story we ran.  One of our sources subsequently told us that decisions will be made quickly on which authorities will be redelegated. It was pointed out to us that some will be quick and obvious to make like authorities concerning consular services.

We understand that there is also a memo floating around outlining the delegations of authority that have been rescinded.

 

DA-14: Delegation of Authority to Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P) and the Under Secretary for Management (M), January 18, 2017
(no text publicly available)

One the three authorities the State Department said it rescinded was DA-14 dated January 18, 2017 granted by then Secretary Kerry to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P) and the Under Secretary for Management (M) that the State Department says “allowed for almost unlimited re-delegation of those authorities.”  DA-14 has not/not been published in the Federal Register nor the GPO so we don’t know all the details that it covered.

A former State Department official (SDO) familiar with this issue, however, told us that the January 18 delegation was essentially envisioned as “a temporary, unlimited delegation of authorities to P and M because it was anticipated that there would be no “D” and perhaps no “S” for some period of time” and that its revocation “would not have a dramatic effect” on operations.  According to the former SDO, the revocation of this specific DA is not surprising since the Secretary and the  Deputy Secretary are now both in place.  The former official further told us that rescission of ALL of the delegations of authority would be much more significant but said, “I can’t imagine that all of the delegations were rescinded.”

The former SDO added that “If the Secretary did revoke all of the delegations one would hope that this would be very temporary.” The former official explained that “Without delegations in place, any decisions that by law lie with the Secretary literally would need to be made by the Secretary. This could result in significant delays, including on decisions that are by and large technical.”

A piece published by the New York Times over the weekend notes that “all decisions, no matter how trivial, must be sent to Mr. Tillerson or his top aides: Margaret Peterlin, his chief of staff, and Brian Hook, the director of policy planning.” 

A Foggy Bottom worker bee told us that whether or not Tillerson rescinded delegated authority “the effect is the same –the paper goes to him.” FBWB added that “In normal circumstances we would know the staffers in S, as we do in other 7th floor offices, and can keep paper moving with a telephone call” but that this is now “unknown” territory.

So what does it mean if ALL decisions must now go up to the Secretary of State?

Please don’t tell us that the next wrinkle we’re going to hear would be folks unable to PCS (Permanent Change of Station) because Tillerson is traveling and is unable to approve travel orders.


DA 284-1: Delegation of Authority to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Feb 13, 2009

Text: Delegation of Authority No. 284–1

By virtue of the authority vested in me as Secretary of State by the laws of the United States, including 22 U.S.C. 2651a, I hereby delegate to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, to the extent authorized by law, all authorities and functions vested in the Secretary of State or the head of agency by any act, order, determination, delegation of authority, regulation, or executive order, now or hereafter issued. This delegation includes all authorities and functions that have been or may be delegated or redelegated to other Department officials but does not repeal delegations to such officials.

This delegation shall apply only when the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, and the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources are absent or otherwise unavailable or when the Secretary or either Deputy Secretary requests that the Under Secretary exercise such authorities and functions.

Notwithstanding this delegation of authority, the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of State and the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources may exercise any function or authority delegated by this delegation.

This is one of the three DAs cited  by the State Department official to the press.  The language is clear that this authority apply only when the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary are “absent or otherwise unavailable” or “when the Secretary or either Deputy Secretary requests that the Under Secretary exercise such authorities and functions.”

Excuse us, but this is perplexing to us, ok? If Secretary Tillerson and Deputy Secretary Sullivan are traveling who has authority over the State Department in their absence if it’s not going to be the third highest ranking person in the agency?

A separate source  familiar with inner workings at State but has no direct knowledge of these developments suggested that the Delegation of Authority exercise exposes more than anything else “the profound lack of knowledge and grasp” on the 7th floor especially with the political appointees.  This source says that there are practical and long standing reasons for delegations to D and P of certain things, such as making it possible for Tillerson to seamlessly have things done without having to go through the “Acting” designation every time he’s not around or unavailable. It appears that no one understood that.

And no one thought about asking the Office of the Legal Adviser?

 

DA 280-1: Delegation by the Secretary of State to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs of Authorities Regarding Congressional Reporting Functions, Feb 13, 2009:
Text: Delegation of Authority No. 28o–1 

By virtue of the authority vested in me as Secretary of State by the laws of the United States, including 22 U.S.C. 2651a, I hereby assign to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, to the extent authorized by law, the function of approving submission of reports to the Congress.

This delegation covers the decision to submit to the Congress both one-time reports and recurring reports, including but not limited to those recurring reports identified in Section 1 of Executive Order 13313 (Delegation of Certain Congressional Reporting Functions) of July 31, 2003. However, this delegation shall not be construed to authorize the Under Secretary to make waivers, certifications, determinations, findings, or other such statutorily required substantive actions that may be called for in connection with the submission of a report. The Under Secretary shall be responsible for referring to the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, or the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources any matter on which action would appropriately be taken by such official.

Any authority covered by this delegation may also be exercised by the Deputy Secretary and the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, to the extent authorized by law, or by the Secretary of State.

This is the last of the three DAs cited by the State Department as having been rescinded by Tillerson. According to Reuters, the authorities regarding congressional reporting functions will now go to the Office of Policy Planning (S/P), The current S/P head is a member of Tillerson’s inner circle, Brian Hook. The position does not require Senate confirmation.  Three former officials told Reuters that giving the policy planning staff final sign-off on the reports could inject political considerations into their preparation.  (For what it’s worth, a Foggy Bottom denizen who knew Mr. Hook during his prior stint at State during the Bush administration told us that he is “very smart and thoughtful — a good pick for the head of the policy shop — and also really a nice man.”)

S/P was created in 1947 by George Kennan at the request of Secretary of State George C. Marshall. The office serves as a source of independent policy analysis and advice for the Secretary of State. According to state.gov, the Policy Planning Staff”s mission is to take “a longer term, strategic view” of global trends and frame recommendations for the Secretary of State to advance U.S. interests and American values.

Note that there are at least 300 congressionally mandated reports required by Congress. So S/P will now have sign off on all those reports? The rumors of an expanding S/P empire is in all likelihood, true, because how are you going to clear all these reports?  And if this is the case, who’s going to be doing “longer term, strategic view” for the State Department if S/P is signing off on all reports and every policy memo? What’s the career diplomat at “P” going to be doing?

One other thing pointed out to us, particularly on the delegation to P for signing off on reports to Congress is that these reports must have a “policy sign-off.”  We understand that the Bureau of Legislative Affairs (H) never had this function which is primarily coordination of legislative activity/strategy and principally as liaison to Congress.  Apparently, the 7th floor is not even aware of this and was under the assumption that the bureau’s responsibility to “transmit” reports is the same as responsibility to “sign-off” for policy purposes.

Did somebody send the Office of the Legal Adviser (L) a smoke signal for help?

NOTE: Delegation of Authority: 245-2 Delegation from the Secretary to the Deputy Secretary, July 31, 2017 to be published in the Federal Register on August 14, 2017. This DA supersedes Delegation of Authority 245-1, dated February 13, 2009. PDF

AND NOW THIS —

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Rex Tillerson’s Inner Circle Photo Album, Say Cheese Con Quezo!

Posted: 11:22 am PT
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Since Secretary Tillerson arrived at the State Department, he has been surrounded by a small group of people who appears to manage his interactions inside and outside the building including his extremely limited availability to the media. We understand that as secretary of state, his time is limited and that his staff has to prioritize who/what he sees but the reports coming out of Foggy Bottom appears to have less to do with a new staff learning to prioritize and more to do with control and trust. More of the former, and less of the latter.  Even folks who were hopeful, even excited when the former Exxon CEO was appointed to Foggy Bottom, have since expressed dismay at how the newbie secretary of state is running the oldest executive agency in the country. If Secretary Tillerson is walled off from his workforce, and only gets his information through the filtered lens installed by his inner circle staffers, what kind of information do you think he’s going to get? Just the rosy ones (like everthing is A-OK) or they have pitchforks out for ya? Must be the reason why Secretary Tillerson delivered his remarks at State without even taking questions or why the 69th secretary of state has yet to do a townhall meeting with demoralized employees who are facing not only a reduction in workforce but also a 30% reduction in funding.

If folks don’t want Secretary Tillerson talking to anyone, why not just park him in a vault and issue admission tickets?

Below is a round-up of Secretary Tillerson’s inner circle. Let us know if we forgot anyone.

Margaret Peterlin

Tillerson’s Chief of Staff, previously served as a former deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  The Chicago Maroon notes her appointment in February: “While at the University of Chicago, Peterlin was the first editor-in-chief of The Chicago Journal of International Law. Following her graduation, she clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and later worked for House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX).  Following the September 11 attacks, Peterlin drafted pieces of national security legislation, such as the authorization for the use of force in Afghanistan, the U.S.A. Patriot Act, and legislation behind the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security.”

If you’ve noticed that Ms. Peterlin is seated next to Secretary Tillerson at almost every event, that’s by design.  Instructions were sent from the Executive Secretariat to the field that “Margaret [chief of staff] MUST come after S in protocol order and all seating must reflect this.” That one is not an April Fool’s joke.  There is a reason why the Ambassador/Charge come after S in protocol order, but hey it’s a new world, who needs reasons? There apparently was not even an attempt to explain why they needed to change protocol in order to allow her to sit next to the Secretary of State. Of course, this is more than just about a seating arrangement. After Tillerson’s party is gone, the Ambassador/Charge is still in country. This change does not reflect well on the ambassadors and the perception (right or wrong) on how they are valued by the Secretary of State. Besides, you gotta ask — why would host country officials bother with the embassy if they think an ambassador is not important enough to the secretary of state? Why not just pick up the phone and call Margaret?

Politico is now reporting that when Secretary Rice tried to reach Tillerson last month, “it was an aide to his chief of staff Margaret Peterlin who called back, asking what Rice wanted to discuss.” That means the gatekeeper has other layers of gatekeepers. And how many exactly?

Bloomberg called Peterlin “enigmatic” in its recent extensive profile. We should note that Peterlin’s official biography remains blank, and with few exceptions, she is often unidentified in photos released by the State Department.

See Bloomberg’s Tillerson’s enigmatic chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin, wields power, not the spotlight; WaPo’s Tillerson must bridge the gap between his workforce and the White House; Politico’s The former ExxonMobil chief is leaning heavily on two senior aides who, officials say, have cut him off from the rest of his 75,000-person staff; The Atlantic’s The State of Trump’s State Department.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, on March 19, 2017. [State Department photo/Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chats with Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se at the Ministerial Working Luncheon of the Global Coalition Working to Defeat ISIS at the U.S. Department of State on March 22, 2017. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

 

Brian Hook

Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State and Director of Policy Planning, and apparently the guy whose “hair is always on fire,” according to an unnamed State Department official quoted by Politico. He held a number of senior positions in the Bush Administration, including Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations; Senior Advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Special Assistant to the President for Policy in the White House Chief of Staff’s office; and Counsel, Office of Legal Policy, at the Justice Department. See his official bio here.  And now everyone inside the beltway is reading that he tasked an official with an economics portfolio to draft a memo summarizing the U.S. fight against the Islamic State. Well, now….

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a bilateral meeting in Beijing, China, on March 18, 2017. [State Department photo/ Public Domain] DS NOTE: Next to Tillerson is Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin, Acting Assistant Secretary for EAP Susan Thornton, and  Brian Hook, Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State and Director of Policy Planning

Christine Ciccone

Deputy Chief of Staff. She was formerly the chief operating officer of Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. She resigned late in 2015 when the Bush campaign underwent downsizing according to the Daily Wire.  Ciccone also worked in George W. Bush’s presidential administration as special assistant to the president and before then was a longtime Senate staffer. See Bush chief operating officer departs campaign.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, joined by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, left, and Deputy Chief of Staff Christine Ciccone, prepare for a meeting with U.S./Alaska Permanent Participants to the Arctic Council in Fairbanks, Alaska, on May 10, 2017. [U.S. Air Force photo / Public Domain]

R.C. Hammond

Describes his job as “chief cat-herder.” On Twitter, he is @rchammond “Omitting needless words since 2003.  +  alum.” He was press secretary for Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign.

In April, Mr. Hammond famously compared the department’s organizational structure to the Titanic in an interview with NYT (See Tillerson in No Rush to Fill Nearly 200 State Department Posts). Recently, after demanding the names of her sources, this State Department’s Senior Adviser for Communications apparently told a CNN reporter that no one from the agency would speak to her again, and reportedly this: “WE don’t think you’re SMART ENOUGH to HANDLE our information!!!!!” Charming. Are these the folks with no sense of humor?

Also see Politico’s Yet another R.C. Hammond-press episode; Daily Beast’s Rex Tillerson vs. The Enemy of The People: Inside The Media War At The State Department;

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and members of the U.S. delegation listen to opening remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ahead of their bilateral meeting in Moscow, Russia, on April 12, 2017. Pictured right to left: U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft, interpreter Marina Gross, Secretary Tillerson, Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin, and senior advisers Brian Hook and R.C. Hammond. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Matt Mowers (@mowers)

“Current . Alum of  &   campaigns. Working everyday to .” Not sure what his official title is (his name is not listed on the org directory) but Bloomberg reported in March that this former aide to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is Tillerson’s main conduit to the White House (see American Diplomats’ Comfort With Tillerson Gives Way to Unease;  also see Former Christie aide, witness at Bridgegate trial, rises at State Department and At Bridgegate trial, Trump aide describes how Christie’s office tracked endorsements.

Via Twitter

William “Bill” Inglee

Behind the Scenes Guy at the State Department; he is so behind the scenes that we have not been able to locate a public photo of him on the state.gov account, nor is he listed on the agency’s org directory.  A non-state.gov site lists him as the Special Assistant on Budget, Office of the Secretary [S], United States Department of State.  He is currently on leave from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) where he is a visiting fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies. He previously worked as Clerk and Staff Director, House Committee on Appropriations, 2011–13; and was Policy Adviser (national security and trade) to former Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert, 1999–2000. Read the full biography here.

click on image to read the full bio

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