Some Dings and Cheers For the Bureau of Counterterrorism in New OIG Report

State/OIG recently released its inspection report of the Bureau of Counterterrorism.

“At the time of the inspection, the bureau’s authorized staffing included 112 Foreign Service and Civil Service positions, augmented by 53 contractor positions and 43 additional personnel and detailees from other U.S. Government agencies. The bureau has 13 offices in addition to the Front Office. Nine offices support policy issues, such as counterterrorism finance, aviation security, collection of biometric information, foreign terrorist fighters, and bilateral and multilateral diplomatic engagement. Two offices carry out operational responsibilities related to the Department of Defense, and one office designs and manages CT-funded assistance programs. Finally, the Office of the Executive Director focuses on bureau administrative requirements and also provides support to the Office of the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs. The bureau managed $642 million in active foreign assistance program funds that spanned multiple fiscal years, including through annual and multiyear projects involving other Department bureaus and Federal agencies.”

The report says that the CT Coordinator “exhibited decisive leadership” but apparently, CT bureau employees and senior officials from other Department bureaus “told OIG about occasions on which the Coordinator lost his temper in meetings with U.S. Government officials and foreign partners. When OIG spoke with the Coordinator about the issue, he acknowledged the problem and responded positively to OIG’s suggestions for improvement.”
The report notes that “staff in interviews and in responses to OIG questionnaires gave the Coordinator lower marks for adherence to leadership principles found in 3 FAM 1214b(6) and (9) regarding self-awareness and managing conflict.” 
The Bureau concurred with all 11 recommendations and the OIG considered all recommendations resolved.
Summary of OIG Findings:

• The Coordinator for Counterterrorism exhibited decisive leadership, marked by setting clear strategic goals and communicating them effectively to staff. This enabled the Bureau of Counterterrorism to navigate major shifts in its mission since 2016.

• At times, the Coordinator engaged in conduct that negatively affected employee morale and productivity.

• The bureau established effective internal policy coordination and communication processes.

• Employees from other Department of State bureaus and Federal agencies expressed differing opinions about the bureau’s effectiveness in promoting its policy goals in interagency processes.

• The Bureau of Counterterrorism did not provide sufficient policy guidance, training, and administrative support to overseas employees responsible for coordinating and reporting on regional counterterrorism issues.

• Vacancies in 22 percent of the bureau’s Civil Service positions hampered operations.

• The bureau’s Office of the Executive Director did not have systems in place to measure the results of key administrative activities and efficiently communicate with customers. As a result, bureau staff expressed dissatisfaction with the administrative and support services delivered by the office.

• The bureau did not follow Department procedures for software development.

•The lack of information technology contingency plans placed at risk the bureau’s ability to support these functions in the event of an unplanned disruption.

Executive Direction:

Tone at the Top and Standards of Conduct : The Coordinator assumed his position in August 2017. At the time of the inspection, he also served as acting Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. Prior to joining the Department, the Coordinator was a law professor. He previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the Department of Homeland Security and worked on counterterrorism policy and judicial confirmations in the Office of Legal Policy in the Department of Justice. The Principal Deputy Coordinator, a career member of the Senior Executive Service, arrived in 2016, after having previously served as Coordinator for U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, among other senior positions in the Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Coordinator Decisively Led Bureau During Major Mission Shifts, but Travel Schedule and Temperament Issues Resulted in Employee Stress: The Coordinator exhibited decisive leadership during a major expansion of the bureau’s counterterrorism efforts. CT employees and others interviewed by OIG described the Coordinator’s operating style as decisive, strategic, and action-oriented — qualities that are consistent with leadership principles in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214(2) and (3). The Coordinator demonstrated a command of complex technical and diplomatic policy issues in meetings OIG observed, consistent with responsibilities outlined in 1 FAM 481.1. Since 2016, the bureau had broadened its efforts to counter violent extremism, launched the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF) initiative, 9 assumed responsibility for aspects of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and took over responsibility for the sensitive policy area of terrorist detentions. OIG concluded the Coordinator took appropriate steps to set and communicate policy priorities for these new responsibilities.

Nonetheless, despite positive comments regarding his decisiveness, staff in interviews and in responses to OIG questionnaires gave the Coordinator lower marks for adherence to leadership principles found in 3 FAM 1214b(6) and (9) regarding self-awareness and managing conflict. Staff described the Coordinator as unaware of the demands his travel schedule placed on employees and said that at times they lacked a clear understanding of the purpose and outcomes of the Coordinator’s travel, which included 21 international trips in FY 2019, of which 1 was to a CTPF focus country.10 Additionally, the Coordinator’s practice of scheduling trips on short notice burdened staff, who had to put regular duties on hold to prepare briefing documents and handle travel logistics. OIG advised the Coordinator to share readouts of the outcomes of his travel with his staff to broaden their understanding of the purposes and results of his trips. Although it is within the Coordinator’s discretion to determine the extent and nature of such readouts, providing at least some information would be consistent with the Department’s leadership principles in 3 FAM 1214(4) and (7) pertaining to communication and collaboration.

Bureau employees and senior officials from other Department bureaus also told OIG about occasions on which the Coordinator lost his temper in meetings with U.S. Government officials and foreign partners. When OIG spoke with the Coordinator about the issue, he acknowledged the problem and responded positively to OIG’s suggestions for improvement. OIG advised the Coordinator to review the Leadership and Management Principles for Department Employees in 3 FAM 1214, which he agreed to do.

The Coordinator delegated many operational and policy tasks to the Principal Deputy Coordinator, with whom he had a productive relationship. In responses to OIG’s questionnaire, bureau staff gave the Principal Deputy Coordinator strong scores on her performance and leadership. In addition, several bureau employees cited her improvements to, and transformation of, the bureau’s budget and program management functions as positive developments for the bureau. Outside observers also noted the Principal Deputy Coordinator’s leadership and support for CT staff as being essential to the bureau’s success at a time of rapid change and significant pressure.

The CT Coordinator is Nathan Sales. The Principal Deputy Coordinator at the time of this review was Alina Romanowski. She was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait in December 2019. The inspection team was headed by Ambassador Joseph Macmanus, former U.S. Ambassador to UNVIE and Executive Secretary of the State Department from 2014-2017.

Bureau Tasks With Countering Violent Extremism: 96 Authorized Employees, Running on 17-23% Vacancies

Posted: 12:28  am EDT
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Via GAO:

Terrorism and violent extremism continue to pose a global threat, and combating them remains a top priority for the U.S. government. State leads and coordinates U.S. efforts to counter terrorism abroad. State’s Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism was elevated to bureau status in 2012 with the aim of enhancing State’s ability to counter violent extremism, build partner counterterrorism capacity, and improve coordination. GAO was asked to review the effects of this change and the new bureau’s efforts.

While the bureau has undertaken efforts to assess its progress, it has not yet evaluated its priority Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program and has not established time frames for addressing recommendations from program evaluations. Specifically, the bureau established indicators and targets for its foreign assistance–related goals and reported results achieved toward each indicator. The bureau has also completed four evaluations covering three of its six programs that resulted in 60 recommendations. The bureau reported having implemented about half of the recommendations (28 of 60) as of June 2015 but has not established time frames for addressing the remaining recommendations. Without specific time frames, it will be difficult for the bureau to ensure timely implementation of programmatic improvements. In addition, despite identifying its CVE program as a priority and acknowledging the benefit of evaluating it, the bureau has postponed evaluating it each fiscal year since 2012.

image from gao.gov

image from gao.gov

The bureau’s number of authorized FTEs grew from 66 in fiscal year 2011 to 96 in fiscal year 2015, which is an increase of more than 45 percent. Figure 6 shows the number of authorized FTEs within the bureau for fiscal years 2011 to 2015, along with the number of FTE positions that were filled. While the bureau’s current authorized level of FTEs for fiscal year 2015 is 96 positions, it had 22 vacancies as of October 31, 2014. The percentage of vacancies in the bureau has ranged from 17 percent to 23 percent in fiscal years 2011 to 2015. According to the CT Bureau, these vacancies have included both staff-level and management positions.

In addition to the authorized FTEs, the CT Bureau also has non-FTE positions, which include contractors; interns; fellows; detailees; and “When Actually Employed,” the designation applied to retired State employees rehired under temporary part-time appointments. For fiscal years 2013, 2014, and 2015, respectively, the CT Bureau had 92, 78, and 69 such positions, in addition to its authorized FTEs, according to the CT Bureau.

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Related item:

State Should Evaluate Its Countering Violent Extremism Program and Set Time Frames for Addressing Evaluation Recommendations | GAO-15-684 | pdf

 

State Dept’s Counterterrorism Official Arrested For Allegedly Soliciting Minor Online

Posted: 13:45 EST
Updated: February 27, 2015, 20:45 PST
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This is not the kind of news you want to read with your latte. Via CBS News:

A senior State Department official who oversees counter terrorism programs was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of soliciting sex from a minor, reports CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan.

The department’s director of counterterrorism was charged with one count of attempting to solicit sex from a juvenile, and spent the night in Washington, D.C. jail.

According to police, Daniel Rosen, 44, was taken into custody at home after exchanging multiple online messages with an undercover detective from their child exploitation unit. The detective was operating a sting operation to bust online predators.

Court documents do not appear to be publicly available online as of this writing. However, the Fairfax County Police Department says that the charge was for “one count of use of a communications device to solicit a juvenile” and that Rosen will be extradited to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center at some point within the next 10 days.   He will have a status hearing at the D.C. Superior Court in the afternoon of March 3.  Click here for  @wusa9 video coverage.

Below is a recap via Twitter.  There was a DC man:

 

Who turned out to be some official working in a high profile bureau:

 

Local news covered the arraignment, see Peggy Fox’s timeline on Twitter:

 

Also covered by CNN after bail denial.  The larger problem cited by Dr. Lori Handrahan, the author of forthcoming book Child Porn Nation: America’s Hidden National Security Risk which details America’s child sex abuse epidemic:

 

 

The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris reports that at the State Department on Wednesday, “there was no official communication to staff about Rosen’s arrest, just an awkward silence.” He writes:

Those who know Rosen pushed back on initial reports that he was a senior-level official in charge of all counterterrorism programs at the State Department. His job was largely budgetary and bureaucratic, they said. Rosen had mastered the byzantine rules imposed on how a federal agency can spend money.
[…]
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told The Daily Beast in a statement: “We are aware that a State Department employee has been arrested and charges have been issued. For issues related to Department personnel and for privacy reasons, we are not able to confirm the identity of the individual or specific charges.”

Psaki said the employee would be placed on administrative leave during the judicial process. “We are following standard procedure in this case,” she said.

Rosen’s publicly available LinkedIn profile says that he is the Director of Counterterrorism Plans, Programs and Policy at the U.S. Department of State  from August 2008 to present (6 years 7 months). Among the experience he listed is oversight of $300 million per year in CT programs related to Countering Violent Extremism, Antiterrorism Assistance, Counterterrorism Financing, Counterterrorism Engagement and Regional Initiatives and management of an office with over 20 personnel.

This case is serious and creepy but we should also note that the charge in the complaint is an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in the court of law.

Meanwhile, the State Department’s telephone directory had been scrubbed.  The updated directory dated February 25 lists the Bureau of Counterterrorism’s Director for the Office of Programs and Policy located at 2509 as currently “vacant.”

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US Embassy Nairobi Suspends All USG TDY Travel to Post Until Further Notice

— By Domani Spero

 

The US Embassy in Nairobi announced that it has suspended all TDY trips to post until further notice due to the shopping mall attack this weekend and subsequent demands on embassy resources.

September 22, 2013

This message is to inform U.S. citizens that due to the ongoing security operations in Nairobi following the attack by violent extremists at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi and subsequent demands on Embassy resources, the U.S. Embassy has suspended all USG temporary duty personnel (TDY) travel to post until further notice.  U.S. Mission personnel have also been advised to shelter in place during the day on Sunday, avoid the Westgate Mall area, and to avoid demonstrations or large gatherings should they come upon them.  Stay tuned to local media sources for further information.

 

A separate message urged U.S. citizens “to remain close to their residences and to shelter in place” and to “avoid the Westgate area and large gatherings.”

The American Citizen Services Unit may be reached during normal working hours at tel. +254-(0)20-363-6451, and via email at Kenya_ACS@state.gov .  For after-hours emergencies, please call +254-(0)20-363-6170. The number for the U.S. Embassy switchboard is +254-(0)20-363-6000.

Secretary Kerry released a statement here:  Terrorist Attack at Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya;  the National Security Council also released a statement here: NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden on the Attack in Nairobi.

The State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism program in Nairobi has an annual budget of about $8 million over the last 2 years according to the most recent OIG report.  State’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program has also trained about 1,200 Kenyan personnel in a variety of prevention, investigation, and crisis management skills.

The US Mission in Kenya,  a large post with a high number of interagency presence is headed by career diplomat, Robert Godec.  Ambassador Godec was assigned as the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya in August 2012, following the resignation of General Scott Gration (see US Embassy Kenya: Ambassador Scott Gration Quits Over “Differences” Effective July 28). Prior to his assignment in Nairobi (see Obama Nominates Ambassador Robert Godec as Next Ambassador to Kenya), Ambassador Godec was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) for the Bureau of Counterterrorism in the Department of State. From 2006 to 2009, he served as U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia.

(;_;)

 

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Oversight Committee Announces Names of Benghazi Hearing Witnesses: Mark Thompson, Gregory Hicks, Eric Nordstrom

Via the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee dated May 4, 2013:

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa today announced three witnesses who will appear at a full committee hearing, “Benghazi:  Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage,” on Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 11:30 AM in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.

“I applaud these individuals for answering our call to testify in front of the Committee.  They have critical information about what occurred before, during, and after the Benghazi terrorist attacks that differs on key points from what Administration officials – including those on the Accountability Review Board – have portrayed,” said Issa.  “Our committee has been contacted by numerous other individuals who have direct knowledge of the Benghazi terrorist attack, but are not yet prepared to testify.  In many cases their principal reticence of appearing in public is their concern of retaliation at the hands of their respective employers.  While we may yet add additional witnesses, this panel will certainly answer some questions and leave us with many new ones.”

Witnesses:

Image via House Oversight Committee

Image via House Oversight Committee

 

In October 2012, the Oversight Committee held the first hearing on the Benghazi attacks, which exposed denials of security requests and forced the Administration to acknowledge that the attacks were not sparked by a protest of a YouTube video, contrary to claims made by Obama Administration officials.

*** NOTE: Press seating will be reserved, but limited. Please arrive early (hearing room will open to press at 10:30 AM) to guarantee a seat. An overflow area will be available. ***

Hearing Details:
Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage
Full Committee, Chairman Darrell Issa, (R-CA)
11:30 a.m. in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building and streaming live at oversight.house.gov.

 

We can’t seem to find the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism  in the State Department directory.  The Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT) is headed in an acting capacity by  Ambassador-at-Large & Coordinator Jerry P. Lanier.  The directory also list Mark I. Thompson as Deputy Coordinator for Operations  (teldir dated May 3,2013 p.OD-16). We can’t say if this is the same person referred to in the Oversight announcement.

Mr. Hicks is running for State VP in the AFSA elections; we cannot locate him in the phone directory so we can’t say what his current assignment is in the State Department.  When the State Department sent  some  embassy personnel back to Tripoli to reopen the embassy in September 2011,  Joan Polaschik was the DCM (see Modest Diplomatic Footprint Returns to Tripoli Without Ambassador Cretz).  So Mr. Hicks must have succeeded Ms. Polachick sometime in 2012. We’re trying to track down when was his exact tenure at US Embassy Tripoli.

Mr. Nordstrom has previously testified at the Oversight Committee on July 26, 2012.

It’ll probably be standing room only.  Come prepared.

— DS