New Sounding Board Topic: “Please don’t share the Sounding Board with Al Kamen.”

Posted: 2:53 am EDT
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We have it in good authority that there is now a hopeless new Sounding Board topic that says, “Please don’t share the Sounding Board with Al Kamen.”

C’mon, folks. Don’t do this. People should be able to talk freely about rodents and critters with whoever they want, even Al. Like  the song goes … ♫ let it go, let it go,  don’t hold back, it’s only about the damn rats ♬

Oh, but there’s something else, please cover your eyes if you don’t want to see this but … last year somebody unearthed a Mike Causey column from the Washington Post that talks about … you guess it, rats.  The Ghost of DC says this was published on October 7th, 1968.

1968! That was before all of you were born.

But there’s good news.  An average rat’s life span is 2-3 years. The bad news? Apparently, according to Discover Magazine, a female rat can mate as many as 500 times with various males during a six-hour period of receptivity—a state she experiences about 15 times per year. Thus a pair of brown rats can produce as many as 2,000 descendants in a year if left to breed unchecked.  See  20 Things You Didn’t Know About… Rats

Ugh! So, clearly, the old plan from 1968 still works: the rats must be stopped now before the Government gets bogged down in another unwanted ground war. Sign-up sheets over there.


SFRC May 20 Hearings: Delawie (Kosovo), Kelly (Georgia), Pettit (Latvia), Raji (Sweden), Noyes (Croatia)

Posted: 12:09 am EDT
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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) will hold confirmation hearings on May 20 for ambassadorial nominees for Kosovo, Georgia, Latvia, Sweden and Croatia.

The fellowship of the tortoise SFRC held confirmation hearings on March 10 (see Nominations), March 25 (see Nominations), and May 19 (see Nominations). So far, it had only cleared cleared 6 Foreign Service lists on March 26 (see Business Meeting); all were cleared by the full Senate on March 27.  The SFRC is currently scheduled to take up 10 ambassadorial nominations and five FS lists on Thursday, May 21st.

Here’s what’s up for Wednesday, May 20:

Date: Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Time: 02:30 PM
Location: Senate Dirksen 419
Presiding: Senator Johnson

The confirmation hearing video will be online here when available.


  1. Gregory T. Delawie
    Of Virginia, To Be Ambassador To The Republic Of Kosovo
    (see Certificate of Competency: Delawie, Gregory T. – Republic of Kosovo – March 2015)
  2. The Honorable Ian C. Kelly
    Of Illinois, To Be Ambassador To Georgia
    (see Certificate: Kelly, Ian Crawford – Georgia- March 2015)
  3. Nancy Bikoff Pettit
    Of Virginia, To Be Ambassador To The Republic Of Latvia
    (see Certificate: Pettit, Nancy B. – Republic of Latvia – October 2014)
  4. Azita Raji

    Of California, To Be Ambassador To The Kingdom Of Sweden
    (see WH announcement of nomination dated October 23, 2014; political appointee, no Certificate of Competency posted on State Department website).

  5. Julieta Valls Noyes
    Of Virginia, To Be Ambassador To The Republic Of Croatia
    (see Certificate: Noyes, Julieta Valls – Republic of Croatia – April 2015)



Burn Bag: CA Bureau’s Biggest Problems — Washington Post and Diplopundit, Really?

Via Burn Bag:

“CA management feels the biggest problem facing CA are leaks to the Washington Post (old news) and comments on Diplopundit (new excuse).  So much for actually addressing real problems.”

No Way. Really?






Officially In: Daniel Sepulveda to EB/CIP (DAS with Ambassador Rank)

— By Domani Spero

On May 23, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Daniel Sepulveda – with rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Communications and Information Policy in the Economic and Business Affairs Bureau. The WH released the following brief bio:

Daniel Sepulveda is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Communications and Information Policy, a position he has held since April 2013.  From 2009 to 2013, he was a Senior Advisor in the Office of U.S. Senator John Kerry.  Previously, he was Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Congressional Affairs in the Office of the United States Trade Representative from January 2009 to November 2009.  Before serving in the Obama Administration, he was a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Barack Obama from 2005 to 2008 and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer from 2001 to 2005.  He served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs from 2000 to 2001 and Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Policy from 1999 to 2000 at the U.S. Department of Labor.  From 1997 to 1999, he was a Policy Analyst with the National Council of La Raza.

Mr. Sepulveda received a B.A. from Emory University and an M.P.A. from the University of Texas in Austin where he studied as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow in Public Policy and International Affairs.

The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State normally would not require a Senate confirmation, but since this one carries an ambassador rank, it does. Longer bio here.

Al Kamen’s In the Loop on this appointment:

The Clinton State Department had Washington power couple Phil and Melanne Verveer in senior positions: she as ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues and he as coordinator of international communications and information policy.

Sepulveda is the long-time (some 14 years) boyfriend of Heather Higginbottom, former deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget who Kerry tapped as his counselor.

Active links added above.  The Orlando Sentinel also has a recent article on Mr. Sepulveda including his bout with testicular cancer at age 23 and the couple’s upcoming  wedding this month.   Read it here.


Related item:

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts | May 23, 2013

37 Former Ambassadors Urge Appointment of a Career Diplomat to State Dept’s Public Diplomacy Bureau

A group of 51 retired senior foreign affairs professionals including 37 former ambassadors recently wrote a letter to the Secretary of State urging that  “a career foreign affairs professional be appointed as the next Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.” Below is an excerpt from the letter.  The full text of the letter is at the end of this post:

A career foreign affairs professional, with years of overseas and Washington experience, is more likely to understand the larger world context and how public diplomacy can help achieve America’s policy goals.   
The President’s and your public engagements are among our country’s greatest diplomatic assets.  You have over a thousand skilled, culturally-aware, and language-trained public diplomacy officers ready to leverage advanced technology and person-to-person communications skills in order to change foreign outcomes in America’s favor.  All they need is truly professional, experienced leadership.


Tara Sonenshine, the incumbent of what is known as the “R” bureau  was appointed on April 5, 2012 and reported to be leaving post early this summer. This position was created on October 1, 1999 after the abolishment of the United States Information Agency. The Under Secretary oversees three bureaus at the Department of State: Educational and Cultural Affairs, Public Affairs, and International Information Programs.

Matt Armstrong’s Mountainrunner posted a backgrounder on this position: R we there yet? A look at the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs) in January 2012.

No career diplomat has ever been appointed to this position (via

  1. Evelyn Simonowitz Lieberman (1999-2001)
  2. Charlotte L. Beers (2001-2003)
  3. Margaret DeBardeleben Tutwiler (2003-2004)
  4. Karen P. Hughes (2005-2007)
  5. James K. Glassman (2008-2009)
  6. Judith A. McHale (2009-2011)
  7. Tara D. Sonenshine (2012-)

The ambassadors’ letter and the reportedly forthcoming “scathing” OIG report on the IIP Bureau might just be the nudge to move this bureau under a career professional. But that remains to be seen.

If you haven’t read that OIG report, that’s because it has apparently been floating around for months but has yet to be released to the public.  Somebody got tired of waiting, of course, and leaked a portion of it to WaPo’s Al Kamen:

“The unredacted version of a new IG report on the state of the Bureau of International Information Programs the modern successor to the USIA and a part of the underscretary’s portfolio, says that “leadership fostered an atmosphere of secrecy, suspicion and uncertainty” and where staff “describe the . . . atmosphere as toxic and leadership’s tolerance of dissenting views as non-existent.”

There’s a “pervasive perception of cronyism,” the 50-page draft report says, “aggravating the serious morale problem.” But before you think the place needs a good old-fashioned reorganization, staffers already talk about what the report calls “reorganization fatigue,” for the constant prior reorganizations.”

Below is the text of the letter sent to Secretary Kerry.  The signatories include John R. Beyrle, Director, U.S. Russia Foundation, and former Ambassador to Russia and Bulgaria; Barbara K. Bodine, former Ambassador to Yemen; Edward Brynn, former Ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ghana, and Acting Historian of the Department of State;  Brian Carlson, former Ambassador to Latvia and Public Affairs Officer (PAO) in Spain, Norway, and Bulgaria; John Campbell, Ambassador (Retired), Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Walter L. Cutler, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Zaire; John Evans, former Ambassador to Armenia; Linda Jewell, former Ambassador to Ecuador;  Robert Finn, former Ambassador to Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

It also includes Richard LeBaron, former Ambassador to Kuwait and Founding Coordinator of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications and Thomas R. Pickering, former Ambassador to Nigeria, Jordan, El Salvador, Israel, the United Nations, India, and Russia, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Full text below:

We urge that a career foreign affairs professional be appointed as the next Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.  Such an appointment would support your efforts fully to integrate public diplomacy into U.S. foreign affairs.

No career professional has served as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.  Coincidentally or not, today there is a wide consensus that U.S. perspectives are less well understood abroad, and people-to-people exchanges are less robust than they should be.  In today’s globalizing but still threatening world, and as our military forces abroad are drawn down, it is more important than ever that America strengthen its “soft power.”  For this, public diplomacy is an essential and powerful tool.

A career foreign affairs professional, with years of overseas and Washington experience, is more likely to understand the larger world context and how public diplomacy can help achieve America’s policy goals.  And it is challenging to direct and energize public diplomacy if the leadership  has brief tours or vacancies are lengthy.  Prior to the incumbent Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, leaving after just over a year in office, the previous four served, on average, nearly two years.  By comparison, the previous four Under Secretaries for Political Affairs, all career professionals, served, on average, nearly three-and-one-half years.  The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy reports that the position of Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has been vacant more than 30% of the time since it was created in 1999.  The position of Under Secretary for Political Affairs has been vacant only 5% of that time.

Studies by the Defense Science Board, RAND, and other independent groups have found that America’s engagement with foreign publics succeeds best when led by experienced officials having the authority to establish priorities, assign responsibilities, transfer funds, and concur in senior appointments.  Leaders must have direct access to you and the President on critical communication issues as policies are formulated and implemented.

When done well, public diplomacy works.  Large numbers of foreign heads of government, legislators, and social, economic, and political leaders — many of them America’s staunch allies and stalwart friends — have participated in U.S. public diplomacy programs.  The University of Southern California recently reported that of individuals exposed to U.S. public diplomacy, 79 percent have used what they learned to bring about positive change in their own communities by running for political office, organizing a civil society group, doing volunteer work, and starting a new business or other projects.  Fully 94 percent say the exposure has increased their understanding of U.S. foreign policy, and America’s people, society, and values.

The President’s and your public engagements are among our country’s greatest diplomatic assets.  You have over a thousand skilled, culturally-aware, and language-trained public diplomacy officers ready to leverage advanced technology and person-to-person communications skills in order to change foreign outcomes in America’s favor.  All they need is truly professional, experienced leadership.

End text/


We’ll see if anything happens.  In the meantime, we’re looking forward to reading that IG report.  We hope it comes out before the end of summer.













US Embassy Helsinki: Ambassador Bruce “Biceps” Oreck Launches Innovation Center

Remember in December when our man in Finland, Ambassador Bruce Oreck caused quite a stir when his holiday card made it to Al Kamen’s In The Loop column? This one:


Boulder’s Daily Camera could not resist with “Call it bicep diplomacy. Hopefully he doesn’t set off an arms race.”  Ahaha! And here he is without a shirt on featured on the cover of Kuukausiliite.

We must say that if we were approaching the big 60 and we have guns like that, we would pose without a shirt, too. And then you’d call that gun-boat diplomacy, no? But hey, so what?!

Last year Ambassador Oreck also wore a fashionable rhubarb summer hat but no one complained about that. Take a look, isn’t that cute?!

Ambassador Oreck and Ms. Cody Oreck visited the charming Kumpula School Garden on June 15. Host Janne Länsipuro (in the photo) styled a fashionable rhubarb summer hat for the Ambassador as it was a warm and sunny day!

Ambassador Oreck visited the charming Kumpula School Garden on June 15. Host Janne Länsipuro (in the photo) styled a fashionable rhubarb summer hat for the Ambassador as it was a warm and sunny day! (Photo via US Embassy Finland)

But we want to write this post because we actually are quite of fan of Ambassador Oreck’s approach to his job  in Finland.  Pardon me? Oh, yes … we know he is a political appointee, that’s not necessarily a red mark in our books. Why? We just happen to think that one is either a good steward of the U.S. mission overseas or not. So there’s no “but” here.

Anyway, you might not remember this but the US Embassy in Helsinki celebrated the 236th Independence Day with hard hats.  That’s because they were in the middle of a renovation project at post.  Instead of renting out a place somewhere for the 4th of July celebration, they (including the guests) just put on hard hats and carried on with the fun.

And remember the official residence in Embassy Port of Spain  which the OIG described as having “a feeling of neglect and disrepair, in part because the previous Ambassador viewed repair activities as intrusive?”  Well, it was the exact opposite in Finland.  In December last year, Ambassador Oreck’s wife  posted this on the embassy blog, which we thought was amiable and considerate:

Work continues apace here at the Embassy to restore the Residence and to open the Innovation Center.  Since we are passionate about both historic preservation AND high-performance building techniques, we have decided that it is better to live through the chaos ourselves so that the next Ambassador won’t have to deal with the disruption. We deeply appreciate the forbearance of our dear neighbors.  We do literally feel your pain!


Embassy renovation project (photo via US Embassy Finland)

State/OIG also did an inspection of US Embassy Helsinki. The report says that there were concerns about the 9 months of noisy and dirty construction, and the lack of information about what comes next but the inspectors reported that “It is clear that employees do not question the need to renovate the dilapidated and unsafe facilities at Embassy Helsinki. Many also understand that without the Ambassador’s persistence, the project would not be underway (a judgment shared by OBO).” Also this:

An energetic, construction savvy, and persistent Ambassador has revived a stalled project to renovate the antiquated and unsafe chancery buildings; he is extremely involved in all details of the renovation and sees keeping the project on schedule as one of the greatest contributions he can make during his time in Finland. 

The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) acknowledges that the embassy renovation project would not have been funded or advanced at an accelerated pace without the constant pressure of the Ambassador, both from Helsinki and during frequent trips to Washington.

Screen Shot 2013-04-25

In Helsinki, new high-security spaces–mostly without windows–had to be inserted into a complex setting of heritage buildings and neighborhood, on a prominently visible site looking out over the Gulf of Finland. Here too climate was significant, as well as the profound cultural context of modern architecture and design in Finland.The new wing is attached to a remodeled 1926 apartment house, the Annex, and had to fit into a tightly circumscribed footprint, as determined by security requirements–an exercise we called ‘form follows setback’. But we welcomed the fish-shaped plan that resulted, as a form complementary to the historic neighbors, a contrast that is accentuated by materiality. The curved walls are rendered in vertically textured warm white brick toward the street, and a spectrum of textured glass surfaces facing the waterfront, reflecting the often icy context of the Gulf, as well as Finland’s famed modern glass craft. (Via Moore Ruble Yudell)

Ambassador Oreck reportedly logged about 250,000 miles in dozens of trips between Washington, D.C., and Helsinki to personally address concerns about costs and security. “In 36 months, we went from ‘no’ to ‘done,’ ” he said.

Early this year, the embassy staff returned to the building and the Innovation Center was officially opened in late February. The Innovation Center houses the public offices of the U.S. Embassy in Finland and is reportedly one of the most energy efficient embassy buildings in the world.  According to the embassy, the Center also “harnesses the best of Finnish technology by being the first U.S. government building in the world to use district cooling and heating.”

Somebody once said that it’s what you do on your third and fourth tries that matters.  We’re glad that Ambassador Oreck did not give up when he was told ‘no’ the first time.


Related articles








Oh hello there — we’re in today’s In the Loop show, no photos please!

WaPo’s Emily Heil gave Diplopundit a walk-on part in today’s In the Loop.

The State Department is considering instituting an extreme version of the famous 7-second delay used to keep profanity off live TV.

The department is rewriting its rules on social media, blogging, speeches and other appearances by employees, suggesting that officials get a full two days to review an employee’s proposed tweets and five days to give a yea or nay to a blog post, speech, or remarks prepared for a live event, according to the blog Diplopundit.
State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner tells the Loop the still-in-the-works changes are merely updates “to recognize the dynamic and decentralized nature of the 21st century information environment.”

We know agency budgets are tight all around, but it sounds like the State Department better spring for some extra red pens.

Read in full here.

Also see Life After Jerusalem: New Rules on the Use of Media: going back to “people to bureaucracy to people”

Just to be sure, this is in reference to the — okay, “still-in-the works” changes of 3 FAM 4170 and not/not 5 FAM 790 released in 2010 which set the rules for the use of social media by State Department employees.

We’ve asked if these new changes have any bearing on spouses and partners of State employees but have not heard anything back.

As mentioned in this blog before, among the listed authorities of 5 FAM 790 is 3 FAM 4125, Outside Employment and Activities by Spouses and Family Members Abroad.(pdf)  The regs say “Family members of Department personnel working abroad who create and/or use social media cites must adhere to the policies contained in 3 FAM 4125.”

That section of course, is like Mars, without the rover.

domani spero sig



Jennifer Santiago: Lawyer, Reporter, Former Model, Now Diplomat – You Go Girl!

From best we could tell, the story has been online forever but got resurrected in Peter Van Buren’s blog, then got picked up by WaPo’s In The Loop column, and by The National Confidential puts it under its Weird news section.  The old but new again story is slowly ricocheting around the web until it gets booored.

Jennifer Santiago is a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S Department of State and is training with the 162nd A-100 Junior Officer Class at the Foreign Service Institute. In about a month, she will start her first overseas assignment at the US Consulate in São Paulo, Brazil.  You normally do not start your career in the Foreign Service with a “walk-in” appearance in Al Kamen’s In The Loop column. Despite her public blog, she did not actually do the walking in (and who does?).

Apparently, there are some sexy Jennifer photos from way back when.  And they are online. Really, who doesn’t have some sexy photos out there? Haven’t you seen mine? See below, painted by no less than the eccentric genius of the Venetian Renaissance, Lorenzo Lotto:

Artist: Lorenzo Lotto

For those who want to quibble, no, I am not naked; I am wearing a veil, a diadem and a pearl earring. And for the record, I am perfectly happy with this painting. The only thing that embarrasses me about this is that I clearly needed more Vitamin D!

And then there’s the sexy photo of Senator Scott “Centerfold” Brown, the senator representing Massachusetts in the United States Senate.  See, we are for one standard here. If men are allowed their youthful indiscretion, women are not exempt from the same standard. Now that you’ve seen the photos, let’s take a peek at Senator Scott’s photo.  Gosh! What an even tan!  And isn’t this just a poor copycat of my Venus and Cupid pose? Except for the strategic placement of the arm, of course, but then he did not have the little rascal peeing on him!

Cosmopolitan magazine's "America's Sexiest Man" contest

So anyway, back to Jennifer.  In her blog, without addressing the brouhaha, Ms. Santiago writes:

I have made mistakes in my past. Who hasn’t? But- I have come to live and love the fact that we are all flawed beings and as long as we strive to be better and learn from our experiences, all these mistakes are merely lessons. So- I forgive myself. And forgiveness is very empowering.
Yoga certainly helps mend the wounds.

So, while I appreciate and love the support of my family, friends, work colleagues, sometimes even total strangers, I also find peace in my practice. My favorite yoga quote (Betsy Cañas Garmon) says: ” I do yoga so that I can stay flexible enough to kick my own arse if necessary.”

With all the self-inflicted arse kicking I’ve done over the past 15 years, my skin has grown thick and numb to the attempts of others.

I do not know Ms. Santiago and have never meet her but I can only admire her zen and spunk particularly in her recent post.  This could not possibly be an easy time for her and yet, today, she writes about her A-100 classmate, Hannah who was recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and asks State folks to donate leave on Hannah’s behalf. Head over there and consider a donation if you are able.   Yep, that’s one classy lady.

So since Ms. Santiago had other lives (promotional/reporting stills are quite gorgeous) prior to joining the Foreign Service, I am posting below a link to a brief segment she did on during a visit to the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station. In Florida, this is where hundreds of pelicans, blue jays, masked boobies and other injured birds are rescued and nursed back to health. She chats with  the Director of the Rehab Center, Wendy Fox on internal and external injuries caused by fishing tackles. Via Miami’s PlumTV (not able to embed the video, please click on the image to view the video):

Secrets of Miami: Pelican Harbor Seabird Station

In “Diving Into the Wreck” the recently departed feminist and poet, Adrienne Rich writes about a dive into the dark, a metaphor for the depths of women’s experience:

I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body
We circle silently about the wreck
we dive into the hold. …
We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to the scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

Sometimes the mermaid’s name appear. She even says, I’ll do my own arse-kicking if needed, thank you very much. And don’t you just want to say — me, too, dammit?!

Domani Spero