We are concerned that State Department and USAID employees experiencing mental health challenges may not be able to access mental health care services while serving abroad, or may refrain from seeking assistance if they are worried that disclosing personal mental health information will adversely affect their diplomatic careers or ability to hold a security clearance.
It is critical that the State Department and USAID recognize and take steps to address the mental health challenges of their personnel serving abroad. To that end, we request that GAO initiate a review that evaluates the following:
1. What policies, programs, and initiatives do the State Department and USAID have in place to identify, detect, and monitor mental health risks and conditions among Civil and Foreign Service employees serving abroad?
2. To what extent do the State Department and USAID take clinical and non-clinical mental health conditions, either disclosed by an employee or identified by a mental health care provider, into consideration when assigning them to work at an
3. What stress management and mental health services do the State Department and USAID provide to employees serving at overseas posts?
As you already know, the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) has oversight relating to the management and operations of the State Department.
HFAC has an online reporting tool for whistleblowers. Federal employees may report waste, fraud, and abuse of authority to HFAC. The website says “You may remain anonymous if you choose. However, if you provide a way to contact you, it will make us better able to follow up on your report.”
Below via HFAC:
Whistleblowers are entitled to protection under federal law. If you are a covered federal employee or applicant for federal employment you have the right to confidentially and, if you choose, anonymously report waste, fraud, or abuse of authority, without facing retribution or loss of your position.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee Democratic office is committed to rooting out mismanagement, wrongdoing, and abuse of authority in the federal government and to protecting government employees, applicants, and contractors who bring such information to light.
If you know of wrongdoing and wish to report it, you can use this secure online form. You are not limited to reporting to your agency’s ombudsman or inspector general. You may report wrongdoing to the Committee and still be entitled to whistleblower protection. Please contact us if you have questions about whether whistleblower protections apply to you.
A few things to know about reporting wrongdoing at your agency:
- It can make a difference. Often, employees who are aware of wrongdoing choose not to come forward because they believe nothing will change. This Committee and other Congressional offices are committed to stopping waste, fraud, and abuse. If you have something to report, this Office will review your submission and take appropriate action.
- The law allows you to report any information to Congress. Our staff can assist you in understanding what protections exist for federal employees who report wrongdoing.
- Many whistleblowers come forward. Federal employees who report problems at their agencies play an invaluable role in making sure our government works the way it should. Not every whistleblower story ends up on the front page of the paper, but the information whistleblowers provide is constantly helping Congress fulfill its oversight role.
Click here to submit your report.
In September 2018, we blogged about State/OIG and the Office of Special Counsel looking into political reprisals at the State Department (See State/OIG and OSC Reportedly Looking Into Political Reprisals @StateDept); Office of Special Counsel on Political Inquiries/Political Discrimination During Reassignments).
The probe is expected to cover a wide array of suspected mistreatment of Foreign Service and Civil Service officers by Trump political appointees. The majority of the alleged improprieties are thought to have occurred under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, but the accused include some political appointees who also served under Pompeo.
Among the allegations: that a political appointee made loyalty lists of career staffers she considered supportive or unsupportive of Trump; that numerous career employees, including high-ranking ones, were given low-level duties processing Freedom of Information Act requests to punish them for work they did under former President Barack Obama; and that one career staffer’s assignment to a top policy post was cut short because of her Iranian ancestry and her work on the Iran nuclear deal.
Revelations that outside conservative figures, such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, may have played a role in targeting career staffers have fueled the anticipation of Linick’s findings.
Originally, one major report was expected, but Linick has said he decided to split it into two. The first will cover dysfunction in the State bureau that deals with international organizations. The second will cover the actions of top officials who report directly to the secretary.
We’ve asked State/OIG about this and here’s what the office told us:
“We submitted the draft report to the Department in July. As is always the case, we have given the Department the opportunity to submit a response to the report, and the Department has informed us that it wishes to do so. We have granted the Department’s request for two extensions for this report, and its response is due this week. We regularly grant extensions because, if at all possible, we believe that it is important to have the Department’s response to our conclusions. We anticipate publishing the report this month.”
“The delayed release of the State Department inspector general's findings has generated rising suspicion that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is trying to derail the investigation, whose results could be damning to some of his top aides.” https://t.co/FYO6dyAcE4
— Daniel W. Drezner (@dandrezner) August 9, 2019
Pompeo tells HFAC his department is sharing information with the House committee and is awaiting Inspector General report on possible political retaliation against career diplomats.
Rep. Engel accuses Pompeo's staff of failing to provide docs, respond to requests for info
— Dan De Luce (@dandeluce) March 27, 2019
Emails incl Tillerson's inner circle, being examined as part of the ongoing State Department Inspector General's investigation into alleged vetting and retaliation against career diplomats by Trump political appointees. @CNNPolitics https://t.co/oRtCYMf8Et
— Antonia Juhasz (@AntoniaJuhasz) February 20, 2019
The U.S. State Department’s Office of the Inspector General has widened an investigation into alleged political retaliation by Trump administration officials against America’s diplomatic corps. https://t.co/qeQHWZLlwX
— Foreign Policy (@ForeignPolicy) September 7, 2018
Retaliation is a pattern in the Trump administration. We’ve opened an investigation into reports of retaliation and political loyalty tests at other Trump agencies – including the State Department: https://t.co/hpPNuXVHP2
— American Oversight (@weareoversight) June 29, 2018
— Diplopundit (@Diplopundit) June 27, 2019
While you're reading this Tillerson transcript remember that w/the Trump Admin it's almost always true that there are only ever different kinds of shitty. Tillerson ALSO wasn't a good SoS, even if he may be better in some ways than Pompeo. https://t.co/zcIc4FfEPx
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) June 27, 2019
A newly released transcript reveals how Jared Kushner was freelancing U.S. foreign policy, leaving former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the dark, FP's @RobbieGramer and @MDGANDHI report. https://t.co/NLj37t9snx pic.twitter.com/bwx6DNf0cX
— Foreign Policy (@ForeignPolicy) June 27, 2019
NEW: Just released testimony has Rex Tillerson explaining how Kushner ran foreign policy, with secret world leader meetings that left Tillerson and State Dept. out of the loop and in the dark on emerging U.S. policies and crises. From me and @jdawsey1 https://t.co/YwNFBTFPeC
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) June 27, 2019
NEW: Rex Tillerson claims that the State Department was left in the dark over critical foreign-policy decisions because Jared Kushner had his own operationhttps://t.co/zXahpTPppB
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) June 27, 2019
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) June 27, 2019
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) June 27, 2019
Posted: 3:01 am EDT
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On May 28, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), issued a subpoena (pdf) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The subpoena compels OMB to provide the Committee with critical information he said HFAC has sought for nearly a year concerning the State Department’s plan to construct a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FAST-C) in Virginia.
The State Department plans to construct the FAST-C facility in Virginia at a cost of $413 million. However, the project’s initial estimate of $950 million suggests the likelihood of considerable cost escalation over the construction period. At either amount, the State Department proposal appears far more costly than the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) proposal to expand its Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia to provide State Department diplomatic security training, as is currently taking place.
Chairman Royce said: “In an increasingly dangerous world, the security of U.S. diplomats abroad is paramount. We must ensure that our diplomats receive improved security training, and a big part of providing that training effectively is making the most of our limited resources. That is why for nearly a year, I’ve been asking OMB to provide the Committee with its analysis, which according to OMB officials’ statements to Committee staff, recommended using an existing facility — a course that the Administration has apparently chosen to ignore. I’d like to know the factors considered in this important decision.”
In late 2013, OMB examined the two proposals to determine whether State’s request for funding for FAST-C was justified. Chairman Royce encouraged OMB to determine which proposal best addresses the State Department’s vital training needs in a fiscally responsible way. He also requested that the Government Accountability Office perform an independent analysis of the proposals in September 2014.
The Committee is aware that OMB analysts had completed a written analysis recommending that the State Department pursue its diplomatic security training at the DHS’s FLETC facility.
On May 19, 2014, Chairman Royce requested that then-OMB Director Sylvia Burwell provide the Committee with a copy of OMB’s analysis. On May 1, 2015, Chairman Royce reiterated his request to current OMB-Director Shaun Donovan, expanding it to include all “documents and communications” pertaining to the FASTC and FLETC facilities during OMB’s review period. OMB has given no indication it will comply fully with these requests.
Chairman Royce said: “I am disappointed that OMB hasn’t provided the Committee its analysis so that the Congress can make informed and responsible policy decisions in this critical area. The internal documents underlying this analysis should tell us how and why OMB arrived at its decision. In light of OMB’s continued refusal, I am left with no choice but to issue this subpoena.”
- Chairman Royce’s January 9, 2014 letter to then-OMB Director Sylvia M. Burwell encouraging an independent OMB analysis is available here.
- Royce’s May 19, 2014 letter requesting OMB’s analysis is available here.
- Royce’s May 1, 2015 letter threatening to compel production of the analysis is available here.
- In September 2014, Chairman Royce, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency Chairman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) requested an independent Government Accountability Office review of the State and DHS proposals. That review is ongoing.
- A Look at the DOS Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) in Fort Pickett and Nottoway County
- Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) For Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (Fort Pickett) Now Available
- GAO: State Dept Management of Security Training May Increase Risk to U.S. Personnel
- Hard Skills Training Center at Old Smelting Plant Site?
— By Domani Spero
Express mail has been terribly busy between the Hill and Foggy Bottom. On May 28, the House Oversight Committee issued a subpoena for “documents and communications referring or relating to the Benghazi talking points” from ten current and former State Department officials.
The very next day, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, along with 14 other Members of the Committee, also called on Secretary Kerry to detail what personnel actions the State Department has taken regarding the four Department employees who were cited by the Accountability Review Board (ARB) for displaying “leadership and management deficiencies” that led to the grossly inadequate security at the diplomatic facility in Benghazi last year.
In December last year, State Spokesperson, Victoria Nuland said: “The ARB identified the performance of four officials, three in the Bureau of the Diplomatic Security and one in the Bureau of Near East Asia Affairs….The Secretary has accepted Eric Boswell’s decision to resign as Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, effective immediately. The other three individuals have been relieved of their current duties. All four individuals have been placed on administrative leave pending further action.”
You might want to read WaPo’s The Fact Checker – Has anyone been ‘fired’ because of the Benghazi attacks?
Below is an excerpt of Mr. Royce’s letter to Secretary Kerry:
As part of our inquiry, Committee Members have repeatedly asked the State Department to explain the employment status of certain Department personnel who were cited by the Accountability Review Board (ARB) for displaying “leadership and management deficiencies” that led to the inadequate security in Benghazi.
Initial reports indicated that these officials were “relieved of their duties,” thus implying their employment had been terminated. However, by all accounts, these individuals have instead been placed on administrative leave and may or may not be returning to work. Moreover, at least one of these individuals has stated that he has still not been informed of why he was removed from his position within the Department, or been allowed to view the ARB’s conclusions with respect to his job performance. The Department’s handling of these matters is of great concern to the Committee, other Members of Congress, and the public.
When appearing before the Committee on April 17, 2013, you testified that you would soon be weighing in on an “internal review and analysis” of the performance of these individuals with respect to their handling of security issues. Now that over one month has passed since your testimony, and over a full five months have passed since the ARB issued its report, we expect an immediate update on this process, and confirmation as to whether the referenced personnel are still employed by the Department.
Additionally, if these officials are still employed but on administrative leave, please describe what steps the Department has taken to resolve the issue of their employment status. Please also provide a detailed account of any action taken by these officials to challenge the findings of the ARB report, including their basis for doing so. Lastly, if any of these individuals are no longer employed by the Department, please provide a detailed explanation of the circumstances leading to the termination of their employment.
The full text of the letter is here.
The “at least one of these individuals” referred to in the letter above is without a doubt, Raymond Maxwell who told The Daily Beast that “nobody from the State Department has ever told him why he was singled out for discipline and that he has never had access to the classified portion of the ARB report.”
Ahnd, so do we!!
Obviously since there was no leadership and management deficiencies at the top … well, we need to see what the bureaucracy actually does to officials below who are deemed deficient in leadership and management.
But — hey, do you know why this is taking so long? Are they still researching the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) so they can break the um … administrative gridlock? Or are they updating the FAM so they can have a citation to cite?
Waiting bored until somebody translates this bureaucratic puzzle into something understandable for Congress and the neighbors …
Update: On May 30, the State Department was specifically asked about this during the Daily Press Brief, and here is the official word from the podium:
QUESTION: Okay. You’re aware of this letter that Congressman – also Chairman – Royce has sent inquiring as to the status of the four individuals who the ARB singled out in their classified version. Do you have an answer to – well, one, have you responded to him, and two, can you – if you have or if you haven’t, can you give us any update on what those – on what their status is —
MS. PSAKI: Well, we just received the letter yesterday, so I’m not aware of a formal response at this time, although that is something that we do do in response to letters, of course. I have seen the content of the letter. There’s no real mystery here. We talk – we’ve talked about this. I have talked about this from the podium, so let me walk you through a couple of status issues. One is the Secretary is briefed regularly by his senior staff and is focused on not only continuing the ongoing cooperation with Congress, but on implementing the ARB recommendations and coming to a conclusion on the status of these four individuals. He has publicly made that clear that he considers – and that he’s considering a number of factors.
As we’ve talked about a little bit before, career Foreign Service employees are entitled to due process and legal protections under the Foreign Service Act with respect to any potential disciplinary action, and Secretary Kerry, as he said in his budget testimony, there are a set of rules and standards that govern personnel actions such as these, and any actions must be considered with a full understanding of options.
So in terms of what the status is, he continues to review with all those factors —
QUESTION: Okay. Still pending?
MS. PSAKI: — and will make a decision soon.
In short, still pending.
- State Dept Announces Implementation of 24 Out of 29 ARB Benghazi Recommendations (diplopundit.net)
- What’s Missing From the Accountability Review Board Reform Act of 2013 (H.R. 1768) (diplopundit.net)
- State Dept’s Inspector General to Conduct a “Special Review” of the ARB Process, Not/Not the ARB Panel (diplopundit.net)
- Josh Rogin’s Exclusive: Benghazi ‘Scapegoat’ Raymond Maxwell Speaks Out – Duck and Cover! (diplopundit.net)