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SFRC Grills D/S Sullivan About @StateDept FY18 Reauthorization Bill and Reorganizational Plans

Posted: 4:22 am ET

 

Deputy Secretary John Sullivan appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 18 for a hearing intended to Review the State Department Reauthorization Bill for FY 2018 and the State Department Reorganization Plans. As we expected, the deputy secretary cited the “listening tour” as the “cornerstone” of the agency’s redesign efforts:

In the 21st century, the United States faces many evolving threats to our national security. As the Committee knows well, the State Department – with a workforce of more than 75,000 – must respond to these challenges with the necessary speed and the appropriate resources. In other words, the nature of our work at the State Department demands flexibility and adaptability to an ever-changing world. We ask that the Committee keep this in mind as you continue to evaluate proposals for the Authorization Bill.

We also appreciate the great interest and support the Committee has shown to the Department’s efforts to make our programs and organizations more efficient and effective. The cornerstone of this redesign effort has been the input and feedback received from State Department employees.

Our main take away from watching the hearing is that D/Secretary Sullivan is a more personable and reassuring presence when talking about the State Department and USAID. He comes across as a champion of his agency without contradicting his superiors. He sounded reasonable and accommodating to the requests of the senators. At one point during the hearing, Senator Udall (D-NM) complained that he sent the Department a letter asking for specific information but has not received a response in four months. D/Secretary Sullivan quickly apologized, saying this is the first he’s heard of it, and he will make sure it is acted soonest.

There were lots of concern about the reported merger of State and USAID.  D/S Sullivan assured the senators that there is no predetermination in absorbing USAID to State. He also told Senator Menendez that there is no intention to fold USAID into State. He explained that the merger is a proposal made by people outside of the State Department but that there has not been an intention to absorb USAID to State.

He was also asked about the idea floated by the WH of moving CA and PRM functions to DHS. He told the panel that it is not the intent of the Department to move these functions.  He told the senators that it is something that if it were raised, they would  consider it but that it would be from a position that the two are vital to the mission of the State Department. Senator Shaheen (D-NH) informed him that if this  happens, she would be one of those leading the charge against it.

Senator Udall said the panel need significant oversight language in the bill to ensure that Congress has a say on the reorganization at State. Senator Cardin said that he expect State to implement what Congress has authorized and wanted some some assurance that when Congress passes the appropriation and authorization that it would be carried out. D/S Sullivan assured him that his agency will comply with the law, execute the law, and follow the instructions of Congress.

Special envoys is a big topic for the panel. Apparently there are about 68 special envoys; of that 7 are permissive positions (Congress uses may instead of shall) and 11 are mandated positions.  The senators worry that they all come with large staff. One senator wanted to know — if Congress is the authorizing body, do they have to put these positions in a statute? And should the Senate provide advice and consent for all of them. Senator Corker notes that despite the complaints about the multiple special envoys, Secretary Tillerson had recently appointed a Special Envoy for Ukraine. He notes that if we have somebody working on policy that the individual should go through confirmation.

In addition to the budget request and the reorganization, other topics discussed include diversity, employee welfare (Mission Juba got a mention from Senator Coons), Global Engagement Center (a mention from Senator Portman), morale problems and isolated leadership (Senator Udall’s concerns), hiring freeze, and the Russian diplomatic properties.

Senator Corker closed the meeting with a compliment for D/S Sullivan about the latter bringing a lot to the Department at the time when it is most needed.

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DGHR Arnold Chacón Steps Down, One More @StateDept Office Goes Vacant

Posted: 2:41 am ET

 

We’ve learned from our sources late Friday that Ambassador Arnold Chacón, the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the State Department has tendered his resignation. Ambassador Chacón, a member of the Career Senior Foreign Service, was sworn in on December 22, 2014. He heads the bureau with 800 Civil and Foreign Service employees “who carry out the full range of human resources activities essential to recruiting, retaining and sustaining” the State Department’s 75,000+ workforce.  Prior to his appointment as DGHR, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala from 2011-2014. He previously served as Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Madrid from 2008-2011, and has served as the Department of State’s Deputy Executive Secretary.

One source later told us that Ambassador Chacón’s email recalled that he had tendered his resignation January 20, and that it had been accepted as of June 1 (also see Patrick Kennedy, Other Officials Step Down – Yo! That’s Not the “Entire” Senior ManagementRecipe For Disaster Transition @StateDept: Situation AltNormal, All Fucked Up).

Ambassador Chacón reportedly talked about “looking forward to a next assignment.” Since he is a career diplomat, it is likely that he will rotate to a new assignment after he steps down as DGHR. Whether he gets another ambassadorial apost or another State Department assignment remains to be seen.

Since there is no public announcement on who will succeed Ambassador Chacón, we are presuming at this time that the next highest ranking official at his office will be in an acting capacity until a new nominee is announced and confirmed by the Senate. That appears right now to be Ambassador Jo Ellen Powell who is the Principal Deputy Secretary of State (PDAS) at the DGHR’s office. Prior to her appointment at DGHR, she was the U.S. Ambassador to Mauritania from 2010-2013. Her other prior assignments include serving as Director of the Office of Employee Relations and assignments in the Executive Secretariat and the European Bureau Executive Office.

Perhaps, the notable thing here is that Ambassador Chacón steps down from his post (as did other career officials who were let go last February), with no successor officially identified or nominated (also see Patrick Kennedy, Other Officials Step Down – Yo! That’s Not the “Entire” Senior ManagementRecipe For Disaster Transition @StateDept: Situation AltNormal, All Fucked Up).  Given that a long list of top posts at the State Department has been vacant since February, a Senate-confirmed DGHR position could remain empty for months.

So now the State Department not only has no DGHR who manages personnel and assignments, its Under Secretary for Management slot also remains vacant.  Folks, we gotta ask — who’s going to be Assistant Secretary for personnel and everything — the new Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, or Secretary Tillerson’s chief of staff Margaret Peterlin? This is a chief of staff so enigmatic, the State Department has kept her biographic page in Morse code (one looong dash, one dot). See Bloomberg’s profile of Tillerson’s “enigmatic” chief of staff.

With the State Department reorganization gearing up between June and September, and with workforce reduction looming large in Foggy Bottom and at overseas posts (with a real potential for a reduction-in-force), it is nuts to remove the top HR official and one of the last Senate-confirmed officials still at post — with no successor in the pipeline. We gotta wonder, what were they thinking?

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

Posted: 2:11 am ET

 

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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