@StateDept Deputy Secretary of State Nominee John Sullivan Gets a Senate Hearing

Posted: 2:11 am ET
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On April 11, the White House officially announced President Trump’s intent to nominate Mr. Sullivan not only as the State Department’s Deputy Secretary of State (D) but to also serve concurrently as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (D/MR). )see Trump to nominate John J. Sullivan to be @StateDept’s No.2 and to also serve as No.3 and Previously Announced DOD Nominee John J. Sullivan Now Slated to be @StateDept’s No. 2).

On May 9. Mr. Sullivan appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing. NPR reported that the deputy secretary of state nominee said during the confirmation hearing that there have been no decisions on job cuts despite reports that 2,300 positions are on the chopping block. Sullivan says that the secretary of state has only just begun to solicit input from staff around the globe.

The nominee is a nephew of the late Ambassador William Healy Sullivan (October 12, 1922 – October 11, 2013), a career FSO who served as Ambassador to Laos from 1964–1969, the Philippines from 1973–1977, and Iran from 1977–1979.  Barring any late minute issue, we expect that Mr. Sullivan will be confirmed as the next “D.”

Excerpt from his prepared testimony:

A small number of public servants are accepted into the Foreign Service, which I know well. My uncle Bill Sullivan was a Foreign Service Officer for 32 years. He was the last U.S. Ambassador to Iran in the late 1970s. It was his staff in Tehran that was taken hostage on November 4, 1979—a few months after the President had recalled him.

It is an earlier date from 1979, however, that sticks out in my mind: February 14, Valentine’s Day. The U.S. Embassy in Tehran was overrun by a mob, and my uncle and his staff were seized. After a few hours, the Americans were released and the embassy reopened. My uncle appeared in a picture on the cover of the next issue of Newsweek. He was surrounded by Iranians carrying assault weapons, one of whom was brandishing a bayonet in his face.

That day in 1979 is significant to me not merely because of the drama in Iran, but also because of a tragedy in Afghanistan. Our Ambassador, Spike Dubs, was kidnapped and assassinated in Kabul. Like my uncle, Ambassador Dubs was a U.S. Navy World War II veteran and a career Foreign Service Officer.

The assassination of Ambassador Dubs and the seizure of our embassy in Tehran on February 14, 1979, made a huge impression on me. I have remained in awe of our Foreign Service Officers who venture into such dangerous places on our behalf.

If confirmed, it would be my highest honor to work with the Foreign Service, the Civil Service, and the Department’s locally employed staff in the conduct of American diplomacy. In a world in which we face significant and enduring threats, these challenging times require leadership from the United States. As Secretary Tillerson said when he came before this committee, “to achieve the stability that is foundational to peace and security in the 21st century, American leadership must not only be renewed, it must be asserted.”

Read in full here (PDF). Clips below:

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Trump to nominate John J. Sullivan to be @StateDept’s No.2 and to also serve as No.3

Posted: 1:47 am ET
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Back in March, the WSJ reported that John J. Sullivan is set to be nominated as Deputy Secretary of State (see Previously Announced DOD Nominee John J. Sullivan Now Slated to be @StateDept’s No. 2). On April 11, the White House officially announced President Trump’s intent to nominate Mr. Sullivan not only as the State Department’s Deputy Secretary of State (D) but to also serve concurrently as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (D/MR). If confirmed, the White House would get two positions filled with one nominee; Mr. Sullivan would succeed Tony Blinken as “D” and Heather Higginbottom as “D/MR” at the same time.

Click here for Mr. Sullivan’s archived biography via DOC.

Deputy Commerce Secretary John J. Sullivan Swearing In Ceremony | May 27, 2008 (Photo via Department of Commerce)

Since 2009, the State Department has been authorized a Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (D/MR), the third highest ranking position at the agency.   Jack L. Lew stayed from January 28, 2009 – November 18, 2010, before moving on to better jobs. Thomas R. Nides was in from January 3, 2011 – February, 2013, then rejoined Morgan Stanley as vice chairman. After a stint at OMB, Heather Anne Higginbottom served the State Department from 2013-2017.  This is an eight year old position, and while it may be worrisome for some that this job will now be concurrently filled by “D”, the State Department managed for a long time without this position. Also, if the top ranking person in the agency is not willing to fight for the State Department’s funding, how the heck is the deputy for management and resources going to make a difference in the White House or with Congressional appropriators?  We suspect that the D/MR office will be folded into D, which makes the most sense, and “P” will again become the 3rd most senior person in the Department.  One of our main concerns continue to be the appointment of the Under Secretary for Management, and that he/she has a depth of experience  not only in management but in the many challenges of overseas assignments.

Some clips:

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Will Rex #Tillerson Get to Pick His Deputies For the State Department?

Posted: 3:58 am ET
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History.state.gov notes that Congress created the position of Deputy Secretary of State in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1972, approved Jul 13, 1972 (Public Law 92-352; 86 Stat 490), to replace the Under Secretary of State as the second ranking officer in the Department. The Deputy Secretary (D) serves as the principal deputy, adviser, and alter ego to the Secretary of State; serves as Acting Secretary of State in the Secretary’s absence; and assists the Secretary in the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy and in giving general supervision and direction to all elements of the Department. The Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (D/MR) serves as the Chief Operating Officer of the Department. The D/MR also serves as principal adviser to the Secretary on overall supervision and direction of resource allocation and management activities of the Department as well as provides final recommendations to the Secretary on senior personnel appointments.

Lawrence Eagleburger is the only career diplomat ever appointed the top-ranking post in the US Cabinet. He became Secretary of State on December 8, 1992, and continued in that position until January 19, 1993 when Warren Christopher was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 20, 1993.

A former assistant secretary of state under President Bush told the NYT, “So much of the operational work is in the jurisdiction of the deputy and helps to have somebody who knows how the building works, and it will make the secretary more effective.”  In the last 27 years, only three career diplomats were ever appointed Deputy Secretary of State: Lawrence Eagleburger, John Negroponte and William Burns. Note that both Rice and Clinton picked noncareer deputies at the first half of their tenures and then picked seasoned foreign service officers for the second half of their stints at State. Secretary Baker recognized the value of having a career diplomat as second in command and picked Eagleburger from the get go. Secretary Kerry could have picked a new deputy, but opted instead to keep career ambassador Bill Burns who was appointed deputy under Clinton.

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D/MR Higginbottom Swears In Mary Beth Leonard, New Ambassador to the African Union

Posted: 2:24 am ET
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Foggy Bottom Finally Delivers Guidance for Domestic or Overseas Obstetrical Medevac– What’s New?

Posted: 12:15 am ET
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Remember the January 2016 Burn Bag: Expectant Parents Still Waiting For Foggy Bottom to Deliver 2015 Pregnancy Cable? It’s May, and the Pregnancy Guide (PDF) finally came out!

“The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Human Resources’ Pregnancy Guide provides information to assist Foreign Service employees and family members with pregnancy-related questions and issues. The guide includes information on payment for medical expenses, types of leave, obtaining a diplomatic passport and visa for the child, allowances and per diem, and other topics related to an obstetrical medevac.”

The guide above is available directly from state.gov here.

According to the pregnancy guide above, its key source of information is 3 FAH-3 (Maternity, Surrogacy, and Adoption Handbook) and 16 FAM 300 (Medical Travel).  “Information was selected to address the specific issues related to a birth parent serving overseas on overseas or domestic obstetrical medieval.”  Also 16 FAM 315.2 for Delivery Outside the United States.

3 FAH-3  (Maternity, Surrogacy, and Adoption Handbook) reportedly has some superseding text issued by the Department in a Department Notice in June 2015 and this subchapter according to the online regs will be revised to reflect the new guidance  — FAH says refer to Department Notice 2015_06_099 for more information.

16 FAM 300 (Medical Travel) — as far as we could tell from the online regs — has not been updated since July 11, 2012.

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So okay, help us out here —  if there was a Department Notice back in June 2015 for 3 FAM-3, and 16 FAM 315.2  has not been updated since July 2012, where was the holdup with this new guidance? Or for that matter, can anyone tell what is new here?

 

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@StateDept Launches Gender Mainstreaming Assessment, and Let’s Give These Folks a Poke, Hey?

Posted: 2:58 pm EDT
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Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (D-MR) Heather Higginbottom and the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Cathy Russell (S/GWI) recently announced the “first-ever Department Assessment on the Implementation of the Secretary’s Gender Guidance” (18 FAM 003).  The assessment will reportedly be conducted by Department contractors Dynamo Technologies, and its subcontractor, Blue Compass, LLC.

Some background:

In June 2014, Secretary Kerry released policy guidance on “Promoting Gender Equality and Advancing the Status of Women and Girls” which expands upon the previous gender policy released in 2012 (18 FAM 003).  Together, the two outline guidance for integrating the promotion of gender equality and the advancement of the status of women and girls into the full range of Department planning and activities. The Gender Integration Assessment will focus on the four key areas of Department operations as identified in 18 FAM 003: 1) Strategic and Budget Planning, 2) Management & Staffing, 3) Monitoring& Evaluation, and 4) Training & Knowledge Management.

What can you expect?

In support of this assessment, Department leadership is asked to designate key focal points in offices and bureaus who will work with Dynamo and Blue Compass to present on efforts in the aforementioned four key areas.  D/MR and S/GWI are reportedly asking for full cooperation in providing the assessors access to personnel and documents — as relevant and appropriate — to facilitate their work.

“In addition, S/GWI will consult with bureaus to identify up to 50 missions that will provide the representative sample of how the Secretary’s Gender Guidance is implemented overseas.  A separate communication will then go to those missions identified to introduce Dynamo’s work.  In coordination with the regional bureaus, the contractors will then visit a sampling of these missions to assess gender integration in the four areas noted above.  The contract companies are charged with interviewing key personnel from embassies, consulates, offices, and bureaus and will also conduct surveys of Department employees.  A separate notice will go out to inform employees about this survey.”

These contractors will provide recommendations to Department senior officials based on this assessment on diplomatic engagement efforts undertaken since 2012 in support of the gender guidance, identify challenges to implementation of the policy guidance, and provide recommendations to build on successes and best practices.

The internal announcement says that for  additional information on the Secretary’s Gender Guidance, to please see 14 STATE 38129 and 18 FAM 003. Look it up!

18 FAM 003 is behind the firewall and we could not find the secretary’s gender guidance but the Office of Global Women’s Issues did issue the U.S. Department of State Policy Guidance: Promoting Gender Equality and Advancing the Status of Women and Girls dated July 3, 2014.

A side note — what else is behind the firewall?  Lots, but don’t forget — the State Department’s promotion statistics by gender and race, as well as its breakdowns by grade level for FSOs and specialists by gender and race, are still behind the firewall.  Any good reason why the State Department continues to put its gender and ethnicity/race promotion data beyond public reach? We heard through the grapevine that there is legislation pending in both Hill and Senate to force the Department to publish these statistics. We gotta look that up.  Also, go read Patricia Kushlis in More than undiplomatic moments: State’s diversity record remains behind a hard line.

Okay, back to — below is Dynamo Technologies via USASpending.gov

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Photo of the Day: In Cowries and Frangipanis at Boera, Papua New Guinea

Posted: 12:23  am EDT
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Via state.gov

Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom meets with community members in Boera, Papua New Guinea, on September 10, 2015, to learn about climate change impacts on the community and to join them in celebrating with Motuan cultural songs, dances, and history. Earlier in the day, Deputy Secretary Higginbottom launched a USAID Coastal Community Adaptation Project (C-CAP), which will build the resilience of vulnerable coastal communities in the Pacific region to withstand more intense and frequent weather events and ecosystem degradation in the short term and sea level rise in the long term. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom meets with community members in Boera, Papua New Guinea, on September 10, 2015, to learn about climate change impacts on the community and to join them in celebrating with Motuan cultural songs, dances, and history. Earlier in the day, Deputy Secretary Higginbottom launched a USAID Coastal Community Adaptation Project (C-CAP), which will build the resilience of vulnerable coastal communities in the Pacific region to withstand more intense and frequent weather events and ecosystem degradation in the short term and sea level rise in the long term. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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Quote: “I did email with her … I don’t remember exactly how it showed up.”

Posted: 12:04 am EDT
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“I did email with her from time to time and I don’t remember exactly how it showed up.”

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew

 

At a hearing at the House Financial Services Committee in Washington, on March 17, 2015 when asked by GOP lawmaker, Rep. Sean Duffy (R., Wis.), if he knew Mrs. Clinton was emailing on a private account.  Mr. Lew was the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources from January 28, 2009 – November 18, 2010 when the D/MR position was first established.

 

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Dear Future D/MR Heather Higginbottom — Your Third Priority Up Close With Prospective Savings

— Domani Spero

We would guess from the kind of email we get that a good number of our readers are not newbies or prospective employees of the State Department.  But every now and then, we’d hear from folks interested in joining the Foreign Service.  Recently, we heard from a prospective employee informing us that there are 600 individuals currently waiting on the State Department “Register.”

“Some have even lost their jobs after having Diplomatic Security show up to interview their supervisors and coworkers, only to be timed off the register for lack of hiring.”

Of course, being on the Register does not guarantee that you will be given a firm offer of employment.  But it means that 600 people have taken and passed the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT), have submitted their Personal Narratives, have passed the QEP and taken the Oral Assessment, have completed the required clearances: Medical and Security, have gone through the  Final Review Panel and are waiting on The Register, the rank-ordered list of successful candidates, sorted by career track.

Here is careers.state.gov:

“You should be aware that your placement on the Register does not guarantee an appointment as a Foreign Service Officer, for the number of appointments depends on the needs of the Foreign Service. Your rank-order on the Register is dynamic. People with higher scores will be placed above you regardless of when they are placed on the Register. Likewise, you will be placed above candidates with lower scores, regardless of how long they have been on the Register. Your name may stay in the Register for a maximum of 18 months. After that, your name will be removed. You may decline the first offer of employment. If you decline a second offer, your name will be removed from the Register. “

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But … but… the State Department makes no mention that invitation to join the Foreign Service not only depends on the “needs of the Foreign Service” it also depends on funding from Congress.

Below is an extract from FY2014 State and Foreign Operations Budget Request:

The Administration’s FY2014 request seeks to grow its Human Resources account (under Diplomatic & Consular Programs) by 5% over its FY2012 level, to a total of $2.60 billion. While the Administration’s FY2014 request indicates that it plans 186 new positions at the Department of State altogether, 151 of these would be funded by consular fees and devoted to meeting increasing visa demand. The remaining 35 new positions (30 Foreign Service, 5 Civil Service) for which State seeks appropriated funding would be focused on the high priorities of the “rebalance” to Asia, and to staffing the Secretary’s Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues. As a point of comparison, the State Department requested appropriated funding for 121 new positions in its FY2013 request, and for 133 in its FY2012 request.

It is not clear from the justification above if the 186 new positions are FSOs or Limited Career Appointees (LNAs) tasked to handle visa work in selected places around the globe (Brazil, China, Mexico).  But what is clear is given the budget constraints, officials at the State Department know that their authority to hire new employees is severely restricted.

And yet, the FSOT continue to be administered multiple times a year.  Interviews continue to be conducted. The selection process continue to chug along as usual resulting in a glut of candidates waiting on the Register.  A good number of these individuals will most probably time out after 18 months.

So we asked a former State Department official who previously worked at BEX if this makes sense.  And got a royal scolding. Like, “what planet are you living in, girl?” Apparently, it’s what they do “free from reality” according to our source.

“It means little if there are 10 or 10,000 on the register. Also, all those people in HR and DS have to be kept busy, so they march on.”

That’s a little harsh, right?

But look,  if 600 people are sitting on the Register, that’s 600 candidates ready to hire.  Which also means the State Department had already paid for the medical examination of these individuals.  In addition, it had already conducted “a comprehensive background investigation, in cooperation with other federal, state, and local agencies, and has determined each candidate’s suitability for appointment to the Foreign Service and for a Top Secret security clearance.”

According to the GAO, the fiscal year 2012 base price for a top secret clearance investigation conducted by OPM is $4,005 and the periodic reinvestigation is $2,711.  For the State Department, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Personnel Security and Suitability, conducts all national agency and credit history checks in support of their investigations. Diplomatic Security investigators located worldwide also conduct all other investigative leads, which includes local law enforcement checks. While there is no readily available data on the TS clearance adjudications for State, it has been suggested elsewhere that the the average cost to process a TS clearance is between $3,000 and about $15,000, depending upon individual factors.

If we take the lower figure, $6,700 X 600 = $4,020,000.

If we take the upper figure, $15,000 X = $9,000,000.

The actual cost of processing the TS clearance for 600 candidates sitting on the Register is probably somewhere in the middle.  Add the medical clearance cost for the candidates and family members and you got quite a pile of money there.

If we only hire a third from that pool of candidates, how much money have we wasted?

President Obama recently announced the nomination of Heather Higginbottom, the new Counselor in the Office of the Secretary of State to be the third Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources. During her November confirmation hearing, Ms. Higginbottom told the Senate that her third priority, if confirmed, will be management, reform, and innovation.

Well, here’s one place to start.

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Deputy SecState for Management & Resources Nominee Heather A. Higginbottom’s Top Priorities

— Domani Spero

From 2009-2010, Jacob J. Lew was the State Department’s Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and oversaw the civilian surge in Afghanistan. From 2011-2013, Thomas R. Nides was D/MR and delivered State’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).  Most recently, President Obama announced the nomination of Heather Higginbottom, the new Counselor in the Office of the Secretary of State to be the third Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.

Today, Ms. Higginbottom went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) for her confirmation hearing. She indicated in her written statement that she will oversee the second Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), “which will identify important policy shifts, areas for innovation, and management reforms required to address the challenges that we face today and in the future.” If confirmed, she also promised to “bring new focus to innovation at the State Department and USAID. Innovation in what we do, as well as the way we work, is critical to deliver on our foreign policy and development priorities.”

Below is a list of Ms. Higginbottom’s top priorities for the State Department (extracted from prepared statement):

  • First, my top priority will be ensuring that our people and posts are safe and secure. President Obama has made it clear that we need our diplomats fully engaged wherever our vital national interests are at stake – from Colombia to Indonesia, and Kenya to Yemen.   That is why, if confirmed, I will work to make certain that our processes, organization, and culture keep pace with the rapidly evolving threats facing our diplomats and development professionals.
  • Second, if confirmed, I will work to better prioritize the resources and programs of State and USAID. I will see to it that our limited resources are going where we need them most and being used responsibly and effectively.  This is especially important as we continue our efforts to right-size our presence and engagement in key places like Afghanistan and Iraq. In particular, I will work to align resources with policy as we carry out the planned transition in Afghanistan.
  • My third area of focus will be management, reform, and innovation. We must do a better job of aligning our planning, budget, and management functions with our foreign policy and national security priorities.  I will also work to ensure that the remarkable men and women at State and USAID have the training, tools and skills they need to succeed.
  • My fourth area of focus will be better targeting and coordinating our development efforts. These investments aren’t just the right thing to do – they are also the smart thing to do, because helping to promote stability and creating opportunities for future trade and shared growth is in America’s interest.  I will make certain that our key development initiatives like global health and food security deliver results and are sustainable. We must align our business model and investments to have maximum impact.
  • Finally, if confirmed, I will build on the great work that has been done to strengthen the State Department’s economic impact. At his own confirmation hearing earlier this year, Secretary Kerry said that today “foreign policy is economic policy.” More than ever, our prosperity at home depends on our engagement abroad – opening markets, expanding exports, and attracting foreign investment. If confirmed, I will work to help our embassies and consulates abroad do even more to fight for American companies and promote foreign investment that leads to jobs and opportunity here at home.

Read her full statement here.

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