13 Going on 14 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27
Oh, but look here. How long has the FAM been outdated, pet?
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday rejected congressional subpoenas issued for him and for the State Department to provide information and testimony to lawmakers about two politically charged developments. https://t.co/ScQEbuqVHw
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) August 9, 2020
BREAKING: Chairs @RepEliotEngel & @RepMaloney and @SenatorMenendez announce subpoenas for witnesses in the investigation of President Trump's firing of State Department IG Steve Linick. pic.twitter.com/PR9C6mSPIN
— House Foreign Affairs Committee (@HouseForeign) August 3, 2020
House committees subpoena Mike Pompeo's alleged dog walker they accuse of 'stonewalling' probe of Trump's firing of IG https://t.co/6qeQjSzS8G
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) August 3, 2020
NEW: President Donald Trump fired a watchdog who was investigating one of his friends.
— Project On Government Oversight (@POGOBlog) August 7, 2020
House Democrats scored a significant and potentially far-reaching victory with a federal appeals court ruling that Congress can sue to enforce subpoenas of senior White House officials. https://t.co/DC8r9TYf1F
— Bloomberg Government (@BGOV) August 10, 2020
The State Department plans to dramatically downsize the number of American personnel in Iraq, according to a memo sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and obtained by CNN.
The document, dated December 6 and sent by Bureau of Legislative Affairs Assistant Secretary Mary Elizabeth Taylor to committee Chairman Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican, outlines plans to reduce staffing levels at US Mission Iraq by 28% by the end of May 2020.
The U.S. Mission in Iraq will reduce the number of staff at its embassy, diplomatic support center, and consulate in Erbil in Northern Iraq from 486 to 349, a 28 percent decrease, by the end of May 2020. The majority of the staff leave will come from the State Department, but other government agencies, including the Defense Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will also cut the size of their staff at the embassy, as the document shows.
The number of security and life support personnel required to maintain this limited substantive staff is huge: 82 management, 2,008 security, 157 aviation, and 1,085 life support personnel. In other words, depending on the definition of support staff, it takes a minimum of 15 and possibly up to 60 security and life support staff to support one substantive direct-hire position. To put this into perspective, a quick calculation of similar support ratios at three major embassies (Beijing, Cairo, and New Delhi) shows an average of four substantive officers to every three support staff (4:3) in contrast to 1:15 to 1:60 in Iraq.
State lays out plans to reduce Iraq footprint by 28% by May 2020, as FP first reported. "It is a new normal. We are one rocket away, one attack away, from smoke in Iraq due to Iran and their proxies. This is a cautionary tale,” Sr State Official tells me. https://t.co/1Mr1smZgJp
— Kylie Atwood (@kylieatwood) December 18, 2019
Painful to watch US diplomatic, development and defense staff in Iraq reduced to meager levels. Critical country, critical times. What’s the logic? We will have more political officers in Embassy Rome than in Baghdad when this is over. https://t.co/sBACA0dumI
— Barbara A. Leaf (@SafiraLeaf) December 18, 2019
"Good news" for Iran inside Iraq has been around for a while. First time in diplomatic history that the phrases "skeleton crew" and "US Embassy Baghdad" are used in the same sentence. https://t.co/bNXzGK0tyW
— Alberto Miguel Fernandez (@AlbertoMiguelF5) December 17, 2019
Exclusive: The U.S. State Department is reducing its presence in Iraq by nearly 30 percent, documents show. Critics say that's bad news for Washington—and good news for Iran, FP's @RobbieGramer reports.https://t.co/M6mC1HAi6J
— Foreign Policy (@ForeignPolicy) December 17, 2019
Posted: 5:07 am ET
Updated: Aug 11, 2:24 pm PT
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 —
Posted: 2:17 am EDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]
The U.S. Senate went home for the holiday and will convene on January, 4th, 2016 at 12:00 noon for a pro forma session only, with no business to be conducted. The Senate stands adjourn until 2:00 pm on Monday, January 11th, 2016.
So we’re looking at the long list of nominees stuck both at the Executive Calendar and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the end of 2015. Some of these nominees are regular Foreign Service officers who have been waiting for confirmation for at least 24 months without action. So we sent an email to Rori Kramer, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Regional, Global and Functional Affairs at the Bureau of Legislative Affairs who “directs the policy-making and technical aspects of the Department’s relationship with Congress across the full range of regional, global, and functional interests of the Department of State.”
We are particularly interested in two things: 1) the regular FSO nominees whose names have been held at the SFRC for 2-3 years. These are not ambassador rank officials but regular FSOs. We’ve also notice that more and more, names are split from the main FS lists when they reach the SFRC; 2) we’re also looking at the high ranking nominees still waiting for confirmation.
Since the Senate composition will not change in 2016, we are curious what is the State Department’s plan to get these nominees through the Senate and into their posts in 2016? Are we looking at the next 12 months with very little movement on confirmations? What is the end game for regular FSOs whose names are held by the SFRC year after year with no vote in the Senate?
Ms. Kramer acknowledged our email but handed the inquiry off to some other State Department official who told us the following:
While the vast majority of our FSO promotions have been approved, we are working for the promotion of all our waiting Foreign Service officers and nominees and will continue to do so until they are approved by the Senate.
Every foreign service promotion list that has been sent to the Senate has been approved. The State Department does not split the list in any way.
The lists, in fact, have been split in more than one occasion, below is the latest:
PN951-2 — 114th Congress (2015-2016) STATE — Class of Career Minister (FE-CM); currently pending in the SFRC.
PN951 is obviously one promotion list until Ambassador Richard Olson‘s name was split from the list and held back at the SFRC. Ambassador Olson is currently the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP). He was previously the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan.
As to having “Every foreign service promotion list that has been sent to the Senate has been approved,” we had to email back and asked if they realize that the following have not, in fact, been approved?
2015-11-19 PN953 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jennifer M. Adams, and ending Sunil Sebastian Xavier, which 37 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 19, 2015.
2015-11-19 PN952 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Cheryl L. Anderson, and ending Melissa A. Williams, which 11 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 19, 2015.
Below is a list of the pending nominations both on the Executive Calendar and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as of December 28, 2015. Senate rules provide that “nominations neither confirmed nor rejected during the session at which they are made shall not be acted upon at any succeeding session without being again made to the Senate by the President…” In practice, such nominations have sometimes been returned to the President at the end of the first session and are always returned to the President at the end of the Congress. Nominations also may be returned automatically to the President at the beginning of a recess of more than 30 days (Senate Rule XXXI), but the rule providing for this return has often been waived (Via CRS – PDF). Senate.gov makes no indication at this time that these nominations have been returned to the President.
The most common way a nomination fails to be confirmed is through lack of action: either the committee never takes up the nomination or the Senate fails to consider it, despite committee action.
Folks, if staffers in the SFRC want to see records of FSOs all the way back to kindergarten, ought the State Department not put a warning on its careers.state.gov page? If an employee threw a punch in Kinder 1 and had been cleared of all charges, he/she better have records to show for it. Because just saying one had been cleared of any allegation or charge will not be enough. If you or the principal’s office had shredded those reports per disposition of records regulation, well boo! on you! If the Iranians were able to reconstruct shredded cables at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the Senate folks probably thought anyone should be able to recreate any record all the way back to the Time Lords!
There’s something inherently unfair about this that we find disturbing. If this is the new normal in the confirmation process, not just with ambassador ranked nominations but with regular Foreign Service Officers, how is this supposed to end for nominees? What is the end game for FSOs promoted by a Selection Board but whose names have been pending in the SFRC for years? Will these nominations be resubmitted to the committee periodically … but until when? How does one bid for an onward assignment if he/she had been technically promoted but not confirmed by the Senate?
And what is Secretary Kerry, formerly of the Foreign Relations Committee, doing about this?
Pending on the Executive Calendar, 114th Congress:
PN175 Cassandra Q. Butts, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
PN49 Azita Raji, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Sweden.
PN87 Brian James Egan, of Maryland, to be Legal Adviser of the Department of State.
PN478 Samuel D. Heins, of Minnesota, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Norway.
PN45 Marisa Lago, of New York, to be a Deputy United States Trade Representative, with the rank of Ambassador.
PN477 John L. Estrada, of Florida, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
PN828 Barbara Lee, of California, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Seventieth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
PN829 Christopher H. Smith, of New Jersey, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Seventieth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
PN910 David McKean, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Luxembourg.
PN526 Roberta S. Jacobson, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Executive Service, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the United Mexican States.
PN872 Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Ambassador, to be an Under Secretary of State (Political Affairs).
Pending at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC):
2015-12-18 PN1041 Department of State Adam H. Sterling, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Slovak Republic.
2015-11-09 PN934 Department of State Karen Brevard Stewart, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
2015-11-09 PN933 Department of State Robert Annan Riley III, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federated States of Micronesia.
2015-10-21 PN915 Department of State Scot Alan Marciel, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Union of Burma.
2015-10-08 PN909 Department of State Amos J. Hochstein, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Energy Resources).
2015-01-08 PN48 Department of State Jennifer Ann Haverkamp, of Indiana, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
FS LISTS – PROMOTIONS
2015-11-19 PN953 Foreign Service Nominations beginning Jennifer M. Adams, and ending Sunil Sebastian Xavier, which 37 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 19, 2015.
2015-11-19 PN952 Foreign Service Nominations beginning Cheryl L. Anderson, and ending Melissa A. Williams, which 11 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 19, 2015.
2015-11-19 PN951-2 Foreign Service Nomination for Richard Gustave Olson, Jr., which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 19, 2015.
2015-01-13 PN72-6 Foreign Service Nominations beginning Eric N. Rumpf, and ending Daniel Menco Hirsch, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.
2015-01-13 PN71-2 Foreign Service Nominations beginning David J. Barth, and ending R. Douglass Arbuckle, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.
FS LISTS – APPOINTMENTS
2015-09-10 PN830 Foreign Service Nominations beginning Christopher Alexander, and ending Tipten Troidl, which 28 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on September 10, 2015.
2015-06-10 PN573-2 Foreign Service Nominations beginning Jeffries Blunt de Graffenried, Jr., and ending Christopher Nairn Steel, which 3 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on June 10, 2015.
2015-05-07 PN464 Foreign Service Nominations beginning Eric Del Valle, and ending Ryan Truxton, which 7 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on May 7, 2015.
2015-02-26 PN230-2 Foreign Service Nominations beginning David Elliott Horton III, and ending Victoria L Mitchell, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 26, 2015.
2015-12-07 PN1005 United States Agency for International Development Marcela Escobari, of Massachusetts, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.
2015-11-19 PN948 Asian Development Bank Swati A. Dandekar, of Iowa, to be United States Director of the Asian Development Bank, with the rank of Ambassador.
2015-10-05 PN895 Department of State Matthew John Matthews, of Oregon, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, for the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as United States Senior Official for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum
2015-09-16 PN844 European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Catherine Ann Novelli, of Virginia, to be United States Alternate Governor of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
2015-09-10 PN827 United Nations Cassandra Q. Butts, of the District of Columbia, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Seventieth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
2015-08-05 PN771 International Atomic Energy Agency Laura S. H. Holgate, of Virginia, to be the Representative of the United States of America to the International Atomic Energy Agency, with the rank of Ambassador.
2015-08-05 PN770 United Nations Laura S. H. Holgate, of Virginia, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Vienna Office of the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.
2015-07-08 PN628 Department of State Mari Carmen Aponte, of the District of Columbia, to be Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States, with the rank of Ambassador.
2015-03-04 PN240 International Monetary Fund Mark Sobel, of Virginia, to be United States Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund for a term of two years.
2015-02-26 PN229 African Development Bank Marcia Denise Occomy, of the District of Columbia, to be United States Director of the African Development Bank for a term of five years.
2015-02-26 PN228 Inter-American Development Bank Mileydi Guilarte, of the District of Columbia, to be United States Alternate Executive Director of the Inter-American Development Bank.
— By Domani Spero
On October 16, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Julia Frifield – to be an Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs. The WH released the following brief bio when President Obama announced her nomination on July 18, 2013:
Julia Frifield is Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, a position she has held since 2004. She served as Senator Mikulski’s Legislative Director from 1999 to 2004 and Legislative Assistant from 1995 to 1999. Previously, Ms. Frifield was a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Harris Wofford from 1992 to 1995. From 1989 to 1992, Ms. Frifield worked for U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, first as a Legislative Correspondent and then as Special Assistant. Ms. Frifield received a B.A. from Smith College and an M.A. from Cambridge University.
The Cable noted back in July that Secretary Kerry technically poached Frifield away from Mikulski, but that the hire was amicably arranged last spring.
“I want someone who has been chief of staff to someone like Barbara,” Kerry said at the time. “Or why don’t we just recruit Barbara’s chief of staff — if she’ll let me.”
The Bureau of Legislative Affairs (H) coordinates legislative activity for the Department of State and advises the Secretary, the Deputy, as well as the Under Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries on legislative strategy. H also facilitates effective communication between State Department officials and the Members of Congress and their staffs. This was an excellent pick not just because of her long experience in Congress but because for almost 10 years, Ms. Frifield was the chief of staff for Senator Barb, the Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Ms. Frifield succeeds David S. Adams who was appointed to this position in August 2011. Previously Adams was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for House Affairs. But prior to coming to State, he served for 24 years on the staff of Gary L. Ackerman a member of the United States House who sat in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr. Adams in now a principal at the Podesta Group.
One of my blog pals scolded me on a serious error in my recent blog post (see Angry Lawmakers Care About the Foreign Service. Seriously. When It’s Convenient!). The lawmakers are political opportunists with more stripes than a zebra but since she has an excellent point, I’ll let you listen to the scolding:
A (I imagine her wagging her finger at me):
State doesn’t want attention from Congress. The result is a Congress that does not understand State’s mission.
Me: (small voice) Uh-huh, isn’t there a State Dept liaison office in Congress?
It takes two to tango and in this case, State rarely goes to the ballroom. When State does get near the dance floor, it often steps on its own feet.
Me: Wearing the wrong shoes?
A (ignores me totally):
When State does go to the Hill, compare the general quality of their testimony with that of their military counterparts. We know the quality of communication matters, even if both sides continue to disagree. (Call it public diplomacy with the Hill if you want.)
On the quality of the testimony, the Libya hearings provides an immediate example. Two State people + two military. Both military were clear in content, substance, and delivery. On the State side, only Kennedy excelled in all areas with Lamb coming up short across the board.
Me: (mumble) But those military guys get lots of practice briefing their generals (mumble).
How do you think the military developed a constituency? Most ascribe that to the military-industrial complex, and while that is a large factor, it creates opportunities not the relationship itself. The military actively courts the Congress. Since the 40’s (or late 30’s), it has played one master against the other. It has realized that it helps to keep the Hill informed. How do you get money and authorities from a group of lawmakers that have no idea what you do? Defense is constantly reminded of this. When budget cuts are threatened, the Pentagon quickly engages members and staff. The Pentagon and the Hill are no strangers to each other. State and the Hill, on the other hand, is something else.
Me: When you put it like that, it seems like State and the Hill are a series of one night stands. Maybe Alec should have stayed home and helped develop a culture of developing constituency in Congress right there in Foggy Bottom?
That the Hill doesn’t know or care about State is largely State’s problem. Legislative Affairs (H) is more interested with preventing information from moving between the two bodies than increasing understanding and partnership. Who in Foggy Bottom can you identify has good relationships, either professional or personal, with Hill staff or members (yes, plural)?
Me: Who? Well. Um … they don’t sign out with me when they’re doing their engaging over there. But … oh, wait, there’s an entire bureau working on that. State says that “H facilitates effective communication between State Department officials and the Members of Congress and their staffs.” In fact since 2001, it has a Capitol Hill House Liaison Office in the Rayburn House Office Building and the Senate Liaison Office since 2010 in the Senate Russell Office Building. Here is what it says:
Both offices provide a full range of State Department support services to members of Congress and their staff. In particular, it provides services related to consular affairs and travel by members of Congress. In fact, there are two full time Foreign Service Officer who are Consular Affairs specialist and available to assist with questions related to visas and passports.
Oops! Damn! Primarily just for CODELs?…. isn’t that like the Pentagon having an office in Congress just for miljets?
A – how come I just know that you’re going to ruin my happy, bubbly day?
In terms of the Hill committees, there is the problem of HFAC and SFRC not being known as effective committees. That does not mean State should ignore them or ignore the Hill. In most cases, the real power, with regard to foreign operations then, is with the appropriators. But getting legislation to the appropriators requires going through the authorizers. Beyond these committees, it would generally behoove State to actively engage the rest of the Congress because you never know when one might change committees or make a public statement. After all, State truly does have constituents all over the country across all sectors of American life, not just the military-industrial complex like the Pentagon: exchange students, support for businesses operating overseas, tourism, relationships with NGOs based in the US that operate overseas, national security, and more.
Me: See? There. I know she’s going to get me one of these days. 😥
Oh, hey, would it help if FSOs blog about their lives overseas beyond the perfect PD moments and not get eaten by State Department tigers?
Or maybe some senior FSOs reassigned to Foggy Bottom can adopt a congressman or a senator?
State can start with Larry Schwartz, the Public Affairs officer from the US Embassy Cairo who ignited a political firestorm for his condemnation (cleared with the embassy’s acting ambassador) of a YouTube video that mocked the Prophet Muhammad. Heard that he had just been “relocated” to WashDC, perfect timing. I should mention that Mr. Schwartz’s boss who reportedly cleared that statement had prior experience with the House International Relations Committee and would have been an ideal candidate to adopt Congressman Jordan or Gawdy, too. Except that he remains stuck in Cairo.
A? A? Where are you? She’s a dear pal, but she can only take so much of me sometimes especially when I’m being scolded ….and I get all 😮