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All U.S. Passports Invalid for Travel to North Korea Without Special Validation Effective 9/1/17

Posted: 11:37 am PT

 

On July 21, the Department of State declared that all U.S. passports are invalid for travel to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) unless the travel meets certain criteria.

The Department of State has determined that the serious risk to United States nationals of arrest and long-term detention represents imminent danger to the physical safety of United States nationals traveling to and within the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), within the meaning of 22 CFR 51.63(a)(3). Therefore, pursuant to the authority of 22 U.S.C. 211a and Executive Order 11295 (31 FR 10603), and in accordance with 22 CFR 51.63(a)(3), all United States passports are declared invalid for travel to, in, or through the DPRK unless specially validated for such travel, as specified at 22 CFR 51.64. The restriction on travel to the DPRK shall be effective 30 days after publication of this Notice, and shall remain in effect for one year unless extended or sooner revoked by the Secretary of State.

The notice was published in the Federal Register on August 2, 2017.

photo from travel.state.gov

Per 22 CFR 51.63 Passports invalid for travel into or through restricted areas; 

(a) The Secretary may restrict the use of a passport for travel to or use in a country or area which the Secretary has determined is:

(1) A country with which the United States is at war; or

(2) A country or area where armed hostilities are in progress; or

(3) A country or area in which there is imminent danger to the public health or physical safety of United States travelers.

(b) Any determination made and restriction imposed under paragraph

(a) of this section, or any extension or revocation of the restriction, shall be published in the Federal Register.

Per 22 CFR 51.64 Special validation of passports for travel to restricted areas.

(a) A U.S. national may apply to the Department for a special validation of his or passport to permit its use for travel to, or use in, a restricted country or area. The application must be accompanied by evidence that the applicant falls within one of the categories in paragraph (c) of this section.

(b) The Department may grant a special validation if it determines that the validation is in the national interest of the United States.

(c) A special validation may be determined to be in the national interest if:

(1) The applicant is a professional reporter or journalist, the purpose of whose trip is to obtain, and make available to the public, information about the restricted area; or

(2) The applicant is a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross or the American Red Cross traveling pursuant to an officially-sponsored Red Cross mission; or

(3) The applicant’s trip is justified by compelling humanitarian considerations; or

(4) The applicant’s request is otherwise in the national interest.

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Secretary Tillerson Swears-In Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Carl Risch

Posted: 12:22 am ET

 

Via state.gov

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson swears-in Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Carl Risch, at the Washington Passport Agency, in Washington, D.C. on August 31, 2017. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

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Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Carl C. Risch Assumes Post

Posted: 12:14 pm PT

 

Related posts:

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Top Diplomatic Security and Consular Affairs Officials to Step Down: Bill Miller, Kurt Rice, David Donahue, John Brennan

Posted: 3:25 am ET
Updated: 2:33 pm PT
Updated: July 25, 3:03 pm PT

 

Sources informed us that Acting Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Bill A. Miller announced his intention to step down from his post late last week. A/S Miller will reportedly retire next month.  Until his appointment as Acting A/S for Diplomatic Security in January 20, he was the bureau’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) from April 14, 2014.  Previous to that, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High Threat Posts.

A member of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service since 1987, Bill Miller is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. His last overseas assignment was a three-year posting as Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Mission in Cairo, Egypt.  Preceding his assignment to Cairo, Mr. Miller was the Chief of the Security and Law Enforcement Training Division at the Diplomatic Security Training Center in Dunn Loring, Virginia.

Prior to entering duty in 1987 with the Department of State as a Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent, Mr. Miller served as a U.S. Marine Infantry Officer. Mr. Miller was honored as the 2004 Diplomatic Security Service Employee of the Year in recognition for his service in Iraq. In addition, Mr. Miller is a recipient of the Department of State’s Award for Valor, several Superior Honor Awards, the Department of Defense Joint Civilian Service Commendation Award and the Marine Security Guard Battalion’s award as RSO of the Year.

To-date, President Trump has not put forward a nominee to succeed Gregory Starr as Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security.  Mr. Starr retired a week before inauguration day, and Mr. Miller has been in an acting capacity since January 20. Without a newly appointed successor, we were informed that the next senior official, Christian J. Schurman, will be the Acting Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security.  Mr. Schurman is currently the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security/Director of Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) and responsible for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s international and domestic operations and training programs. Beyond his name and title, State/DS does not have an extensive biography for Mr. Schurman.  We don’t know yet who among the seven top bureau officials would be acting PDAS during this time.

Kurt R. Rice, the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Assistant Director for Threat Investigations and Analysis (DS/TIA) will not be one of those officials.  Mr. Rice is also retiring.  Mr. Rice who was appointed to his position in May 2016 was in charge of all threat management programs within Diplomatic Security that analyze, assess, investigate, and disseminate information on threats directed against U.S. facilities and personnel overseas and domestically.

He was also responsible for the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), a public-private partnership that promotes the sharing of security information between the U.S. Department of State and American private sector organizations with operations and personnel abroad. We rely on OSAC for security guidance when there are breaking news overseas.  His office also provides oversight for the Reward for Justice program, the U.S. Government’s premier public anti-terrorism rewards program.

Mr. Rice joined Diplomatic Security in May 1987 and is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. As DAS/TIA, he was the senior Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) advisor regarding intelligence and counterterrorism matters. He is also the DSS organizational representative to the U.S. Intelligence and Counterterrorism communities. He previously served as Regional Security Officer for the Russian Federation, and Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of all DS activities in the embassy and three subordinate consulates. He is a recipient of several State Department Meritorious and Superior Honor Awards, as well as interagency Intelligence Community awards.

There are five office directors under TIA, so anyone of those directors could potentially be appointed as Acting DAS for Threat Investigations and Analysis (DS/TIA) until a nominee is officially announced. Given that there is no nominee for the assistant secretary position, it is possible that the principal deputy assistant secretary (PDAS) position and deputy assistant secretaries (DASes) could get filled before the top bureau appointment is officially identified, nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

At the Consular Affairs Bureau, the Acting Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs David Donahue is also set to step down the end of this week.  We understand that AA/S Donahue’s retirement has been long planned but he will still be missed. The Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs is Ed Ramotowski, who was previously the DAS for Visa Services. Our assumption is that Mr. Ramotowski will now step up as Acting Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs pending the confirmation of Mr. Risch to the Consular Bureau. The CA bureau has three four DASes: Overseas Citizens Services DAS Karen L. Christensen, Passport Services DAS Brenda Sprague, Acting DAS for Visa Services Karin King, and DAS for Resources, John Brennan. We understand that the  Deputy Assistant Secretary for Resources (DAS/R) position was created in 2015 to coordinate CA/EX, the Comptroller, the IT systems people, and the 1CA management initiative. Mr. Brennan is also retiring. One of them will most probably step us as PDAS, so one more office in CA will have a new acting name on its door.  So one of the three remaining DASes (Brennan excepted) will probably become the PDAS, and two more offices in CA will have a new acting name on its door. 

We’ve endeavored to look for Mr. Donahue’s official biography but state.gov does not appear to carry any biographies for senior officials for  the Bureau of Consular Affairs. The public facing CA website travel.state.gov also does not include biographies of its senior officials.  We were able to get hold of Mr. Donahue’s official biography since we originally put up this blogpost (thank you J!). 

David T. Donahue has been Acting Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Consular Affairs since January 2017. He served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary from September 2015 after serving as Senior Advisor to the Bureau from April 2014.

Prior to this assignment he was Division Director for the Bureau of Human Resources Office of Career Development and Assignment, Senior Level Division. From 2012 to 2013 he served as Coordinator for Interagency Provincial Affairs (IPA) at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan with oversight of all U.S. Civilian Provincial Reconstruction Teams throughout Afghanistan.

Mr. Donahue was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs from 2008 to 2012, where he managed visa operations for our 225 visa-issuing posts overseas and directed visa policy for the State Department. He has also served as the Director of Policy Coordination and Public Affairs for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, 2007 – 2008, and Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs in Mexico City, Mexico from 2005 – 2007.

Mr. Donahue also served tours in the Philippines, Pakistan, Singapore, and Trinidad and Tobago. Other domestic assignments include serving as Watch Officer in the State Department Operations Center, Bangladesh Desk Officer, and Consular Training instructor at the Foreign Service Institute. Mr. Donahue joined the Foreign Service in 1983 and is the recipient of numerous awards including the Presidential Meritorious Service Award.  While assigned in Islamabad, Mr. Donahue went to Afghanistan in 2001 to secure the release of two Americans held by the Taliban. Read more of that here.

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Sen. Menendez Asks the Consular Affairs Nominee the Questions Y’All Wanna Ask

Posted: 1:26 pm PT

 

The Trump nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday (see July 18 SFRC Hearing: Carl Risch to be Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs). There were four nominees during the hour and a half hearing chaired by Senator Ron Johnson, so basically 22.5 minutes for each nominee although the CT and CA nominees got most of the more substantial questions.

(click image to see the video)

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) reminded Mr. Risch of his old congressional testimony advocating for the transfer of visa function to DHS in 2002 (see Ex-FSO Who Once Advocated Moving Visas to DHS May be the Next Asst Secretary For Consular Affairs). The exchange between Menendez and Risch starts at 00:45:50 via C-SPAN video here.

Senator Menendez started by congratulating all the nominees then quoted from Mr. Risch’s old testimony: “Congratulations to all of you. Mr. Risch in 2007 you appeared before the House Subcommittee on Government Reform. In a hearing, you said during my tenure as unit chief I adjudicated approximately 25,000 visa applications. I resigned in May of 2002 even though I received top evaluation and a challenging assignment. While I longed to return to my private practice, I was discouraged by the State Department’s lack of dedication to the enforcement of laws. I took my job very seriously. The State Department did not.”

Senator Menendez then asked: “Do you believe the State Department isn’t  committed to rule of law and national security of the United States?”

Mr. Risch’s response:

“Thank you senator, for the question and for the opportunity to address that testimony. The testimony was in 2002, not in 2007. It was 15 years ago that that testimony took place. It was during the time that the Department of Homeland Security was just being stood up. I believe a lot has changed at the State Department in 15 years. I’m enthusiastic about the future the way the bureau will be fulfilling its function with interagency cooperation, continuous vetting.”

Senator Menendez did not let him off the hook and asked again, “Do you believe the State Department is committed to the rule of law and the national security of the United States?”

Mr. Risch responded, Currently senator, I absolutely do.”

The NJ senator started talking about refugee and migration issues then asked Mr. Risch, “So do you believe that the Department of Homeland Security, which is notoriously bloated with a whole host of dysfunctional components, should be responsible still to have the visa, the very essence of the department you’re being nominated to, to be transferred to the Department of Homeland Security?”

Mr. Risch’s response:

“Well, 15 years ago, senator, I stand behind my testimony. It was a completely different time. And there were a lot of talk about consolidating different things into the Department of Homeland Security. Currently, I watched the Deputy Secretary testify yesterday that it’s currently not the intent of the Department of State —”

This is in reference to Deputy Secretary Sullivan’s testimony from Monday, at the same panel, about State not having an intention to transfer the consular function to DHS.  Senator Menendez cut him off saying “I’m not asking what their intent, I’m asking your view. You’re nominated for this position.”

This is Mr. Risch’s response:

“My view is I would … I follow the leadership of Department of State if confirmed. But as of today, I intend to lead the Bureau of Consular Affairs as it is currently formed. I believe that I will be, if confirmed a strong leader of all functions of the consular bureau including the visa function.” 

 

 

 

There’s something about Mr. Risch’s response that’s not very comforting to our ears. You, too? Maybe it’s the use of the word “currently” as “at the present time,” as in “now.” Maybe, that’s just his favorite word. Maybe it indicates that he does not have a solid view about a U.S. Government agency’s commitment to the rule of law and national security of this country.

To the question about his belief whether the State Department is committed to the rule of law and national security of the United States, Mr. Risch responded with “I absolutely do,” but he prefaced that response with “currently.” He used the same word when talking about the intent of the State Department, and in describing the bureau he is nominated to lead.

The use of the word “currently” implies that things might change. Does he know something we don’t? What he believes now, may not be what he believes next month, or next year. If the White House decides to move the visa function to DHS, and the State Department’s intent changes, Mr. Risch will “follow the leadership” at State. Then he will be back in the Senate to explain, “Currently, the State Department believe it is best to …”

For what it’s worth, we asked somebody who previously worked with Mr. Risch at an overseas post and the one feedback we got though brief was complimentary.

Mr. Risch’s prepared testimony is available here (pdf).

If confirmed, Mr. Risch would succeed career diplomat Michele Thoren Bond who served as Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs from 2015-2017.

Below is a brief summary of the position and the previous appointees to this office via history.state.gov:

Assistant Secretaries of State for Consular Affairs

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (Jun 27, 1952; P.L. 82-414; 66 Stat. 174) established within the Department of State a Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs, headed by an Administrator with rank equal to that of an Assistant Secretary. From Mar 1 to Dec 30, 1954, the Bureau was renamed “Inspection, Security, and Consular Affairs.” From 1953 to 1962, the Secretary of State designated incumbents to this position. The Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (Jun 28, 1962; P.L. 87-510; 76 Stat. 123) made the Administrator a Presidential appointee subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. In 1962, the Department transferred the security function to the Deputy Under Secretary for Administration, but the title remained unchanged until 1977, when the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1978 (Aug 17, 1977; P.L. 95-105; 91 Stat. 847) changed the Administrator’s title to “Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.” This title has been given in full in all subsequent commissions to this office.

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New Report on Tillerson-Miller Battle Over Visa and Refugee Functions

Posted: 12:40 pm ET

 

The Bureau of Consular Affairs via history.state.gov:

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (Jun 27, 1952; P.L. 82-414; 66 Stat. 174) established within the Department of State a Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs, headed by an Administrator with rank equal to that of an Assistant Secretary. From Mar 1 to Dec 30, 1954, the Bureau was renamed “Inspection, Security, and Consular Affairs.” From 1953 to 1962, the Secretary of State designated incumbents to this position. The Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (Jun 28, 1962; P.L. 87-510; 76 Stat. 123) made the Administrator a Presidential appointee subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. In 1962, the Department transferred the security function to the Deputy Under Secretary for Administration, but the title remained unchanged until 1977, when the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1978 (Aug 17, 1977; P.L. 95-105; 91 Stat. 847) changed the Administrator’s title to “Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.” This title has been given in full in all subsequent commissions to this office.

WaPo’s John Rogin reported on Sunday about the internal administration debate over which part of the government should be charged of deciding who gets into the United States.  WH policy adviser Stephen Miller has reportedly been pushing Secretary Tillerson to get “tougher” on immigration, vetting and refugee policy at the State Department.   Rogin writes that a White House official told him that if Tillerson doesn’t go along with the changes that Miller and others (???) in the White House are pushing the State Department to implement internally, the plan to strip Foggy Bottom of its role supervising these functions could gain traction.  Rogin’s report quotes State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert saying that Tillerson believes that two bureaus should remain where they are and the Secretary of State reportedly views consular and refugees work “as essential to the Department’s mission to secure our borders and protect the American people.” We linked to Rogin’s report below.

Stephen Miller is widely regarded as the principal author of Trump’s travel ban.  We have a feeling that the only “tougher” vetting that Miller and company will find acceptable is shutting down the U.S. border.

We know that some folks are already distressed with the news about the the potential transfer of consular function to DHS. It doesn’t help that Secretary Tilleron’s “listening tour” recommended it (see @StateDept Survey Report Recommends Moving Issuance of Visas, Passports, Travel Docs to DHS).  Neither is it helpful to discover that the nominee to be the next Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs is on the record supporting this move (see Ex-FSO Who Once Advocated Moving Visas to DHS May be the Next Asst Secretary For Consular Affairs. And we haven’t forgotten that the nominee to be the next “M” is a seasoned GOP budget aide (see Trump to Nominate Top GOP Budget Aide Eric Ueland to be Under Secretary for Management #StateDept).

But take a deep breath.

Last March, OPM released a publication titled, Workforce Reshaping Operations Handbook (pdf). Under Transfer of Function, OPM writes:

An interagency transfer of a function and/or personnel requires specific statutory authorization. Without a specific statutory basis, there is no authority for an agency to permanently transfer a function and/or personnel to another agency on the basis of a memorandum of understanding, a directive from the Executive Office of the President, a reimbursable agreement, or other administrative procedure.

So Congress would have a say whether or not consular function should be stripped from State and moved to DHS. We anticipate that Congressional representatives — especially those with oversight responsibilities are already aware of the many improvements over the visa and refugee vetting process — would need a compelling justification for moving both functions to another agency.  Like how would DHS make it better, with Agatha and a pre-crime division?

Per historical record, on April 18, 1997 then President Clinton announced the reorganization of foreign affairs agencies. In December 1998, he submitted a report to Congress on the reorganization as required by the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, the Act that provided authority to reorganize the foreign affairs agencies. On March 28, 1999, the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) was integrated into the State Department. The United States Information Agency (USIA) was integrated into State on October 1, 1999.  The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), part of USIA, became a separate federal entity. The Act also provided that USAID remained a separate agency but on April 1, 1999, the USAID Administrator reported to and came under the direct authority and foreign policy guidance of the Secretary of State.  Shrinking State’s budget started in 1993 during the first Clinton term under Warren Christopher. The reorganization did not get completed until halfway through Clinton’s second term.

We cannot say whether or not this is going to happen. After all, during the Clinton years, GOP Senator Jesse Helms was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. So we need to pay attention where this is going, but would not do any good to panic over something that appears to be a floated idea at this time. It would, of course, be helpful if we can hear directly from Secretary Tillerson.

@StateDept Survey Report Recommends Moving Issuance of Visas, Passports, Travel Docs to DHS

Posted: 3:01 am ET

 

The State Department spent at least $1,086,250 for the “listening tour” that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ordered in late April. On Wednesday, the report was made available internally to State and USAID employees. As of this writing, the State Department has not made the report publicly available. A State Department spokesperson told one media outlet that “Unfortunately, the results of the survey will not be available.”  

The 110-page report is copyrighted by Insigniam and marked “confidential and proprietary” (see more about that here: @StateDept Says It’s “Unfortunate” That It Withholds Employee Survey Results From Public 😢 Hu-Hu!).

The report which includes seven recommendations has a chapter on methodology, and a chapter on what employees want to tell Secretary Tillerson. There were 27,837 respondents from State, and 6,142 respondents from USAID. Some 17,600 overseas employees from the two agencies participated.

The largest category of respondents from State is Locally Employed Staff numbering at 6,735  (followed by 6,331 Generalists/FSOs, and 6,009 Civil Service employees). Mid-level rank employees across FS, CS and LE staff occupy the largest count of responders. The largest survey respondents in terms of tenure have served the State Department 6 to 10 years.

The highest number of respondents by regional bureau came from Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) at 3,131. The highest number of respondents by functional bureau came from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) with 2,524 respondents, followed by the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) with 2,142.

The “listening tour” report has multiple parts but we’d like to go straight to the recommendations it provides, which includes crafting a mission; alignment of purpose and mission; serving the frontline first; treasuring the talent; build a shared services model; duration of assignments and overlap transition time; and the removal of the uncertainty of cuts as soon as possible.

Of special note is Recommendation #5 which is “Build a Shared Services Model” which includes 1) security clearances, 2) human resources, 3) IT, 4) planning, budgeting, finance, procurement, and administrative functions, and  5), Move issuance of passports,visas,and other travel documents to Homeland Security.

Folks, ever heard of ICASS? There are already 13 agencies, in addition to State and USAID who are ICASS shared services participating agencies.  State doesn’t have to build a shared services model, it already has one; and that it can expand. Agencies pay their share of post administrative costs based on usage. “Department of State management personnel currently provide most ICASS services, the post ICASS Council can select other U.S. Government agencies or commercial firms to provide services if it can be demonstrated that they have a competitive advantage in improving services or cutting costs.”  As of August 1, 2016 update, participation in services offered through ICASS is voluntary for agencies except for Basic Package, Community Liaison Office Services, Health Services, and Security Services which are mandatory.

The International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) system is the principal means that the U.S. Government provides and shares the cost of common administrative support needed to ensure effective operations at its more than 200 diplomatic and consular posts abroad.  In the spirit of the Government Performance and Results Act, the ICASS system seeks to provide quality services at the lowest cost, while attempting to ensure that each agency bears the cost of its presence abroad.  ICASS, through which over 300 Government entities receive bills for shared services, is a break-even system; the charge to the customer agencies equals the cost of services.

The ICASS program provides a full range of administrative services.  These include motor pool operations and vehicle maintenance, travel services, reproduction services, mail and messenger services, information systems management, reception and telephone system services, purchasing and contracting, human resources management, cashiering, vouchering, accounting, budget preparation, residential and nonresidential security guard services, and building operations.  In addition to the services delivered at the post level, the ICASS system also provides service at the regional level.  An example of regional service delivery is the regional finance centers.  ICASS also delivers services at the headquarters level.  Examples of headquarters level services are the shared expenses of the overseas medical program and the grant program managed by Office of Overseas Schools (A/OPR/OS).  The cost of regional and headquarters level programs are added to the cost of post administrative support and distributed to customer agencies as part of the headquarters-level bill.

The recommendation talks about “creating, at minimum a DOS/USAID and optimally, a federal shared services model that includes these functions:”

Item 1: “Security clearances: eliminate the need to apply for a new security clearance for each new federal agency someone is hired by.”

That sounds awkward. Anyway, right now every agency has its own security clearance process. For instance, if an EFM (diplomatic spouse) were hired by DEA at post, his/her security clearance would be done by the DEA. We understand that whichever agency is doing the hiring also does the security clearance. The smart folks who explained this to us said that having a clearance from one agency might speed up your ability to get a clearance from another agency, but the clearances are not reciprocal from one agency to another. For example, if a Secret Service agent is hired by Diplomatic Security, his/her security clearance from the Secret Service doesn’t transfer to the State Department.

So if you’re talking about “eliminating” the need to apply for a new clearance once hired into a new federal agency — well, that’s not at all within the control of the State Department or USAID. Every agency has its own rules.  You want to make those security clearance rules reciprocal across agencies, you want employees to be able to carry their security clearance across agencies, neither the State Department nor USAID have authorities to do that.

A law enforcement pal told us that the only way this recommendation would work is if ALL background investigations were done by a national agency and all executive agencies are required to accept the security clearance issued by that national agency.  There is the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), housed at OPM (oh, dear), responsible for conducting background investigations for over 100 Federal agencies – reportedly approximately 95 percent of the total background investigations government-wide.  As of October 1, 2016, the NBIB was established as the primary service provider of government-wide background investigations for the Federal Government with the mission of “delivering efficient and effective background investigations to ensure the integrity and trustworthiness of the Federal workforce.” On paper, Executive Order 13764 of January 17, 2017 already provides for the reciprocity of background investigations and adjudications conducted by other authorized agencies. But we don’t know how NBIB works in real life.

So —  if you really want to make the process more efficient and effective, you want not just the portability of a security clearance across agencies, you also want the revalidation process for security clearance to move faster. For that to happen, you need people to process and approve the revalidation. You can’t do that if people are rotating out of positions, and/or if you can’t hire even temporary help because of a self-imposed hiring freeze. So …

Item 4: Other planning, budgeting, finance, procurement, and administrative functions: “…one of the initial areas of focus must also be a comprehensive audit of all reports. This will be followed by an aggressive initiative to streamline and consolidate the cacophony reports and the large amount of people-hours invested in writing them.”

Back in 2010, State/OIG determined that the Bureau of Legislative Affairs (State/H) tracked 310 congressionally mandated reports that needed to be submitted in FY 2010. The Bureau of Administration (State/A) on the other hand separately tracked 108 recurring reports required by the Department. If you want to streamline or consolidate those reports, the State Department could start with the A bureau, but would obviously require congressional approval for those 310 reports. The Bureau of Legislative Affairs (State/H) could certainly tackle that, except wait, we don’t have a Senate confirmed Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, or a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary. My gosh, that bureau is like a ghost town!

Finally item 5 under the report’s “Build Shared Services Model” may prove to be the most controversial:

Item 5: “Move issuance of passports, visas, and other travel documents to Homeland Security: we heard enough comments (combined with our own expertise in organization design and patterns to conclude) that there may be an opportunity to elevate efficiency and reduce cost by this change. Indications are that doing so would elevate security at our borders and remove a source of dissatisfaction and frustration.”

Folks, the entire report contains three references to visas …

#1 –  an acknowledgement of the men and women behind the scenes who helped the contractors obtained visas during the listening tour;

#2 – a comment from one of the respondents who said, “Focus the Department’s mission and rein in the mission creep. Too much goobly-gook has crept in. We should protect American citizens and businesses, vet visas, and encourage democratic rule of law and good governance. Full stop;”

#3 – Under Recommendation 5 “Move issuance of passports,visas,and other travel documents to Homeland Security.

The report does NOT/NOT  include any discussion or justification presented on how moving the issuance of passports, visas and other travel documents may elevate efficiency, and reduce cost, or how it would elevate security at our borders. The contractors heard “enough comments” but those comments do not appear to be in the report.

By the way, what’s the upside of cost reduction if you actually lose $2.45 billion of annual revenue in the process?

We should note that Consular Affairs (CA), the bureau responsible for the issuance of passports and visas has over 12,000 employees at 28 domestic passport facilities, 2 domestic visa centers, 8 headquarters offices, and more than 240 consular sections at embassies and consulates around the world.  In FY2012, the Bureau also generated approximately $3.14 billion in consular fee revenue, of which 78% ($2.45 billion) was retained by the State Department and shared among its regional and functional bureaus.

We will write a separate post about this recommendation because it deserves a longer post. It is also worth noting that the Trump Administration’s nominee to lead Consular Affairs is publicly on record in support of moving the visa function to DHS (see Ex-FSO Who Once Advocated Moving Visas to DHS May be the Next Asst Secretary For Consular Affairs).

 

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Consular Affairs Specifically Responds to ‘Move CA to DHS’ News, Spectacularly Omits It in Message to Troops

Posted: 1:50 pm ET

 

So we blogged about Carl Risch who was recently nominated to be the next Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Consular Affairs (State/CA).  See Ex-FSO Who Once Advocated Moving Visas to DHS May be the Next Asst Secretary For Consular Affairs. Yesterday, CNN reported that the Trump White House is reportedly considering a proposal to move both CA and PRM to the Department of Homeland Security. See Trump White House Reportedly Considering Folding CA and PRM to Homeland Security.

Today, Acting Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs David T. Donahue sent a message of “reassurance” to CA employees, without ever mentioning that CNN report. AAS Donahue must think CA folks all live under huge rocks with no cable teevee, or the Internets. Here is the short form:


Below is the long, not funny form where the AAS says he is “committed to keeping you informed as information is available” in the same message that specifically respond to and spectacularly omits the news report that there is a proposal to move CA to DHS:

You may have seen news reports about a draft proposal to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regarding Consular Affairs. Executive Order 13781<https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/03/13/presidential-executive-order-comprehensive-plan-reorganizing-executive> tasked OMB with a broad collection of proposals from the public and from agencies on how to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the government. This is one of many proposals that resulted from those conversations and brainstorming sessions.

I know we are all proud of the work we do to protect the lives and serve the interests of U.S. citizens abroad and to strengthen the U.S. border with every visa and passport decision we make. We share the President’s desire to do that work as efficiently and effectively as possible. Input from the field has resulted in a number of innovations in recent years, and I encourage all of you to continue to share your thoughts and ideas as to how we can improve our processes.

I am committed to keeping you informed as information is available. Please feel free to forward this message to your consular colleagues. Thank you for the work you do every day to execute our mission with excellence, professionalism, and the highest commitment to public service.

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Trump White House Reportedly Considering Folding CA and PRM to Homeland Security

Posted: 3:43 am ET

 

Last week, we blogged about Carl Risch who was recently nominated to be the next Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Consular Affairs (State/CA).  See Ex-FSO Who Once Advocated Moving Visas to DHS May be the Next Asst Secretary For Consular Affairs. On Wednesday, CNN came out with a report about the Trump White House is reportedly considering a proposal to move both CA and PRM to the Department of Homeland Security. The report says the memo came from the WH Domestic Policy Council.  Trump’s DPC page currently says “Domestic Policy Council – Check back soon for more information.”

According to the Obama White House, Executive Order in 1993, established the Domestic Policy Council (DPC) to coordinate the domestic policy-making process in the White House, to ensure that domestic policy decisions and programs are consistent with the President’s stated goals, and to monitor implementation of the President’s domestic policy agenda.

The DPC is chaired by the President and comprised of the following Council members (see if you can spot who’s missing):

  • Vice President;
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services;
  • Attorney General; Secretary of Labor;
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs;
  • Secretary of the Interior;
  • Secretary of Education;
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development;
  • Secretary of Agriculture;
  • Secretary of Transportation;
  • Secretary of Commerce;
  • Secretary of Energy;
  • Secretary of the Treasury;
  • Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency;
  • Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers;
  • Director of the Office of Management and Budget;
  • Assistant to the President for Economic Policy;
  • Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy;
  • Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of National Service;
  • Senior Advisor to the President for Policy Development;
  • Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy;
  • AIDS Policy Coordinator; and
  • such other officials of Executive departments and agencies as the President may, from time to time designate.

You can read the full Executive Order here.

A January 5 Transition announcement includes the following appointments to the DPC; director and council report to the Senior Advisor to the President for Policy, Stephen Miller.

Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council - Andrew Bromberg -worked at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2001 to 2009, including serving as the Chief of Staff for the Office of Public Health and Science. He later served as Policy Advisor and Counsel on Nominations for Senator Mitch McConnell. He worked as the Policy Director for the 2016 Republican Party Platform. He now works in a lead policy and administrative role on the Presidential Transition Team.

Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council and Director of Budget Policy  – Paul Winfree – Director of the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, the Center for Data Analysis and the Richard F. Aster Research Fellow, all at The Heritage Foundation. Prior to joining Heritage, Mr. Winfree was the Director of Income Security on the U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget.

Via CNN:

The White House is considering a proposal to move both the State Department bureau of Consular Affairs and its bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration to the Department of Homeland Security, a senior White House official tells CNN.

The move, which the White House official cautioned was far from becoming official policy, would likely be controversial among diplomats and experts in State Department matters.
[…]
The proposals were written in a memo submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget from the White House Domestic Policy Council as part of President Trump’s March executive order pushing for ideas for Government Reorganization.
[…]
A senior White House official cautioned that the proposal was far from becoming policy, telling CNN that the idea of moving the longstanding State Department bureaus to the Department of Homeland Security is “one among many in a document resulting from a brainstorming session focused on improving efficiencies across government. None has been reviewed in great depth, let alone formally approved.”
More ….

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Ex-FSO Who Once Advocated Moving Visas to DHS May be the Next Asst Secretary For Consular Affairs

Posted: 10:08 am PT
Updated: 1:14 pm ET

 

On June 21, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Carl C. Risch to be the next Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs. The WH released the following brief bio:

Carl C. Risch of Pennsylvania, to be an Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs. Carl C. Risch is the Acting Chief of Staff in the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. He was previously the Field Office Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, at the American Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. He is a highly regarded Pennsylvania attorney. A senior immigration official abroad and in Washington, D.C. for over a decade, and a former Foreign Service Officer (Consular) with the Department of State, Mr. Risch is expert in the responsibilities and challenges of managing Consular Affairs worldwide. He earned a BA from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and a JD from Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

A quick background: The Consular Affairs (CA) Bureau has over 12,000 employees at 28 domestic passport facilities, 2 domestic visa centers, 8 headquarters offices, and more than 240 consular sections at embassies and consulates around the world.  In FY 2015, it adjudicated 13.2 million visa applications. A 2014 OIG report notes that “international tourism supports more than $180 billion of economic activity and more than 8 million U.S. jobs. A total of 819,644 international students in the United States contribute as much as $24 billion to the U.S. economy.”  We don’t have updated numbers but in FY2012, the Bureau also generated approximately $3.14 billion in consular fee revenue, of which 78% ($2.45 billion) was retained by the Department of State and shared among its regional and functional bureaus.

The State Department’s staffing models include potential developments such as an expected Consular workload increase of approximately 50 percent from FY 2013 to FY2021; and a projected deficit of more than 900 Entry Level Generalists for EL Consular positions by the end of FY 2020 under current Consular workload forecasts. That’s just for starters.  A 2014 report notes that the U.S. mission in China processed more than 1 million visa applications in 2011; the mission also believed that within 10 years, annual demand for visas in China alone could jump to 10 million.

U.S. Consular Flag: For use of consular officers in charge of consular posts

So, folks might recall that in the aftermath of 9/11, there was a big fight to move the visa function from the State Department to the newly proposed agency department, the Department of Homeland Security.  Congress eventually established the Department of Homeland Security in November 2002 and tasked the new agency entity with setting visa policy, leaving responsibility for adjudicating visa applications with the State Department. In July 15, 2002, about four months prior to the creation of DHS, the Sub-Committee on the Civil Service, Census and Agency Organization of the Committee on Government Reform held a hearing called “Strengthening America: Should the Issuing of Visas be Viewed as a Diplomatic Tool or Security Measure?”

Among the many witnesses in that hearing was Carl C. Risch who was introduced as an attorney who practiced law in Pennsylvania and a former Foreign Service officer in the State Department who also “has some firsthand experience of Consular Affairs.”

The official WH announcement did not mention this, but Mr. Risch who served one tour as a junior officer in Europe in 1999, once advocated before Congress that the visa function be moved from the State Department to Homeland Security. Perry-Pruitt familiar? That was 15 years ago, and we don’t know what is his thoughts on this issue from his current cubicle at DHS/CIS, but this is part of the nominee’s history with the bureau that he is now nominated to lead. We expect that there would be questions related to this during his confirmation hearing.

The GPO record of the 2002 hearing includes a biographic data for Mr. Risch as follows:

Carl C. Risch is an attorney and former foreign service officer now living in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Bom March 10, 1970, in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, he was graduated from Bloomsburg University  summa cum laude in 1992 and the Dickinson School of Law magna cum laude in 1995. He worked as a litigation associate at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart LLP from 1995 until 1997. In 1997, Mr. Risch joined his  present law firm, Martson Deardorff Williams & Otto in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, as an associate  specializing in corporate law, business transactions, and land use and development. From 1998 until 1999, he served as an assistant adjunct professor of business law at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he taught contracts and business organizations.

In 1999, Mr. Risch took a leave of absence from his law practice to accept an appointment to the United States Foreign Service. Following a year of training in Washington, D.C., Mr. Risch and his wife, Wendy, were assigned to the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. While in Holland, Mr. Risch managed the Nonimmigrant Visa Unit for 15 months, worked for 3 months at the U.S. Embassy in The Hague, and managed the American Citizen Services Unit in Amsterdam for 7 months.  In May 2002, Mr. Risch resigned from federal service and rejoined his law firm in Carlisle.

The GPO record also includes Mr. Risch statement to the Sub-Committee.

-> STATEMENT OF CARL C. RISCH, ATTORNEY

Mr. Risch. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me to come
and testify on such an important issue. My name is Carl Risch and
I’m a former Foreign Service officer of the U.S. Department of
State having served from 1999 until 2002. From 2000 until 2002,
I served as Vice Consul at the Consulate General in Amsterdam,
the Netherlands, where I managed the Nonimmigrant Visa Unit
for 15 months, including on September 11, 2001.

During my tenure as Unit Chief, I adjudicated approximately
25,000 visa applications. I resigned in May 2002 even though I re-
ceived top evaluations and a challenging onward assignment. While
I longed to return to my private law practice, I was also discour-
aged by the State Department’s lack of dedication to the effective
enforcement of the immigration laws of the United States. I took
my job very seriously. The State Department did not.

Unlike other witnesses you’ve seen, I never served in a so-called
visa mill. In fact, I experienced the best the State Department has
to offer; a tour in a first class, Western European city and at a post
with no staffing problems and a high visa issuance rate.

The fact that even I was terrified by State’s incompetence and
apathy toward law enforcement proves just how far this problem
has progressed. I urge the Congress to support the transfer of the
visa issuing function from State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs to the
new Department of Homeland Security, a department that will be
committed to the rule of law and the national security of the
United States.

During my tour in Amsterdam, I observed two primary institu-
tional problems with the way the State administers visas. First,
State routinely sacrifices the rule of law in order to further its dip-
lomatic goals and ignores the impact this may have on national se-
curity. Second, State considers visa adjudication to be a right of
passage of all Foreign Service officers, even the vast majority who
are disinterested in consular service.

The State Department is by definition a diplomatic institution.
Our officers at posts abroad work hard to improve America’s image
overseas. Adjudicating visa applications, however, has nothing to
do with diplomacy. Immigration law like environmental regulations
and the tax code is a complex, specialized set of rules which allows
foreign nationals to apply for permission to travel to the United
States. The proper administration of these laws requires strict ad-
herence to the rule of law even when decisions are unpopular.

State’s diplomatic function has proven too inconsistent with this
law enforcement function for it to be trusted with this responsibil-
ity. The result has been a visa policy whereby the rule of law is
repeatedly sacrificed to please host country officials and important
contacts in reckless disregard of the impact on national security.

Just one example: While serving in Amsterdam, I interviewed a
Tanzanian who wanted to visit the United States. He had only
been in Holland for a few days as a visitor. He could not articulate
a single reason for wanting to visit the United States or even give
a specific geographic destination for his trip. He had no evidence
of employment or other ties to Tanzania or any other country.

I refused his application for failure to prove his qualifications for
a visit to visit the United States. Less than an hour later, a high-
ranking official called me into his office. Apparently, a local VIP
had called to report that he was disappointed to hear that his
neighbor’s safari jeep driver from Tanzania had been denied a visa.

After the State official apologized to the neighbor for any incon-
venience this man caused, I was then directed to issue the visa.
The fact that the applicant did not qualify for a visa under any rea-
sonable interpretation of the Immigration and Nationality Act did
not seem to bother the official. The only thing that mattered was
the diplomatic mission. Only an agency committed to law enforce-
ment and not diplomacy should be trusted with enforcing the laws
as intended by Congress.

State’s record on visa worsens when one views its staffing policy.
Simply put, State views visa adjudication as garbage work to be
delegated to the lowest ranking, least experienced officers. Poorly
trained, unenthusiastic officers are sent by the hundreds every
year to be our first line of defense at visa issuing posts abroad.

Although virtually all FSOs must spend some time adjudicating
visas, only a minority are actually interested in the work. The rest
suffer through it with the knowledge that the rest of their careers
will be spent elsewhere. It is no wonder that State cannot com-
petently administer the visa function when it intentionally staffs
its Consular sections with people who desperately do not want to
be there.

Visa work should be done by people who are interested in a law
enforcement career, although State behaves as if no one ever wants
to spend their careers adjudicating visas abroad. This is simply not
true. I found visa work to be an exciting and important job where
I could use all my skills as an attorney to implement and enforce
the laws of the United States. I know I’m not alone.

I urge the Congress to support the transfer of the visa issuing
function to the new Department of Homeland Security where visa
sections will likely be staffed with dedicated and enthusiastic law
enforcement officers committed to the national security of the
United States. Thank you.

-> END STATEMENT

 

Related notes:

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 (HSA) contained language stating that DHS is responsible for formulating regulations on visa issuances. In §428, the Secretary of DHS is expressly tasked as follows:

…shall be vested exclusively with all authorities to issue regulations with respect to, administer, and enforce the provisions of such Act, and of all other immigration and nationality laws, relating to the functions of consular officers of the United States in connection with the granting or refusal of visas, and shall have the authority to refuse visas in accordance with law and to develop programs of homeland security training for consular officers (in addition to consular training provided by the Secretary of State), which authorities shall be exercised through the Secretary of State, except that the Secretary shall not have authority to alter or reverse the decision of a consular officer to refuse a visa to an alien … 17

The HSA also enabled DHS to assign staff to consular posts abroad to advise, review, and conduct investigations, which is discussed more fully below. It further stated that DOS’s Consular Affairs continued to be responsible for issuing visas. The HSA required DHS and DOS to reach an understanding on how the details of this division of responsibilities would be implemented.

Some critics of transferring the visa function to DHS warned that visa issuance “adjudication” might become subject to judicial appeals or other due process considerations if a stateside agency, such as DHS, assumed responsibility. As a result, §428(f) of the HSA stated: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to create or authorize a private right of action to challenge a decision of a consular officer or other United States official or employee to grant or deny a visa.” (via CRS)

Memorandum of Understanding Between the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security Concerning Implementation of  Section 428 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (via state.gov)

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