With about 20 days left in session, time is running short for nominees in Senate logjam

Posted: 12:02 am EDT
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It looks like the Senate will not be back at work until November 16-20, and again, from Nov 30-December 18. That’s from a tentative schedule (pdf) but that leaves us with approximately 20 working days before the body adjourns for the year.

The following are the nominees pending on the Executive Calendar. They have cleared the SFRC and just need the full Senate vote before they can go packing:

BAHAMAS | 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 (cleared by SFRC on May 21, 2015; subject of a Senate hold on Oct. 5, 2015  by Mr. Cotton).

SWEDEN| Azita Raji, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Sweden (cleared by SFRC on June 10, 2015; subject of  Senate hold on Oct. 5, 2015  by Mr. Cotton)

NORWAY | Samuel D. Heins, of Minnesota, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Norway (cleared by SFRC on July 29; subject of  Senate hold on Oct. 5, 2015  by Mr. Cotton).

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO | John L. Estrada, of Florida, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (cleared by SFRC on October 1)

STATE/L | Brian James Egan, of Maryland, to be Legal Adviser of the Department of State, vice Harold Hongju Koh, resigned (cleared by SFRC on June 25, 2015; subject of a Senate hold on Sept. 30, 2015 by  Mr. Grassley)

STATE/CSO | David Malcolm Robinson, of Connecticut, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Conflict and Stabilization Operations), vice Frederick D. Barton, resigned (cleared by SFRC on October 1; subject of a Senate hold on Aug. 4, 2015 by Mr. Grassley)

USAID | Gayle Smith, of Ohio, to be Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, vice Rajiv J. Shah, resigned (cleared by SFRC on July 29; potential snag to this nomination has been reported to include Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) although no formal objection has been filed in the Senate.

USAID | Thomas O. Melia, of Maryland, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, vice Paige Eve Alexander, resigned  (cleared by SFRC on July 29).

USAID/OIG | Ann Calvaresi Barr, of Maryland, to be Inspector General, United States Agency for International Development, vice Donald A. Gambatesa, resigned (cleared by SFRC on October 1, and by HSGA on October 22).

USAID | 2015-08-05 PN769 Linda I. Etim, of Wisconsin, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (cleared by the SFRC on Nov 10).

UNGA | 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 (cleared by SFRC on October 1).

UNGA  | 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 (cleared by SFRC on October 1).

Cleared by the SFRC on November 10:

2015-06-02 PN526 MEXICO | 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 (potential snag to this nomination from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) reported via Politico, though no formal objection has been filed in the Senate).

2015-07-08 PN629 LIBYA | Peter William Bodde, of Maryland, 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 Libya.

2015-07-08 PN633 TAJIKISTAN | Elisabeth I. Millard, of Virginia, 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 Tajikistan.

2015-07-16 PN671 OMAN | Marc Jonathan Sievers, of Maryland, 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 Sultanate of Oman.

2015-09-16 PN843 UGANDA | Deborah R. Malac, of Virginia, 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 Uganda.

2015-09-16 PN845 SWAZILAND | Lisa J. Peterson, 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 Kingdom of Swaziland.

2015-09-16 PN846 MOZAMBIQUE | H. Dean Pittman, of the District of Columbia, 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 Mozambique.

2015-11-09 PN933 MICRONESIA | 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.

2015-09-21 PN872 STATE/P | 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).

2015-07-16 PN672 OPCW | Kenneth Damian Ward, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Executive Service, for the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as United States Representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

2015-06-16 PN579 OPIC | John Morton, of Massachusetts, to be Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

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Philip Arsenault has been tracking the length of time these nominees have waited pending confirmation.  At least 13 nominees have waited over a hundred days and there is no end in sight. At least four of these nominees have been renominated once before.  John Estrada, the nominee for Trinidad and Tobago has waited the longest at over 800 days. Some of these nominees, particularly the political appointees may not want to have their lives on hold while they wait for the Senate to make up its mind, and will probably decline to be renominated a second time. Most of these nominees will likely be renominated if the Senate fails to act on the nominations this year but we can’t imagine right now that 2016 will be any different. The confirmation process has grown wilder and more unpredictable. That’s true even for midlevel career diplomats, as can be seen with the multiple Foreign Service lists that continue to languished within the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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The following are the nominees submitted by the President to the Senate for confirmation during the current congress. They are currently undergoing committee consideration at the SFRC according to senate.gov:

AMBASSADORS

2015-11-09 PN934 MARSHALL ISLANDS | 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.

2015-10-21 PN916 BARBADOS+ | Linda Swartz Taglialatela, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Executive Service, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Barbados, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

2015-10-21 PN915 BURMA | 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.

2015-10-21 PN914 EL SALVADOR | Jean Elizabeth Manes, of Florida, 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 Republic of El Salvador.

2015-10-08 PN910 LUXEMBOURG | David McKean, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Luxembourg.

2015-10-05 PN894 ECUADOR | Todd C. Chapman, of Texas, 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 Ecuador.

2015-09-16 PN848 SERBIA | Kyle R. Scott, of Arizona, 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 Serbia.

2015-09-16 PN847 BULGARIA  | Eric Seth Rubin, of New York, 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 Bulgaria.

2015-07-30 PN744 PANAMA | John D. Feeley, of the District of Columbia, 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 Panama.

2015-07-08 PN632 MALTA | G. Kathleen Hill, of Colorado, 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 Republic of Malta.

2015-07-08 PN630 PAPUA NEW GUINEA/SOLOMON IS/VANUATU | Catherine Ebert-Gray, of Virginia, 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 Independent State of Papua New Guinea, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Solomon Islands and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Vanuatu.

STATE DEPARTMENT

2015-10-08 PN909 STATE/ENR | Amos J. Hochstein, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Energy Resources).

2015-01-08 PN48 STATE/OES | Jennifer Ann Haverkamp, of Indiana, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

2015-10-05 PN895 APEC | 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.

2015-07-08 PN628 OAS | 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.

2015-09-10 PN827 UNGA | 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 IAEA | 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 UNVIE | 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.


OTHERS

2015-01-08 PN50 Peace Corps | Carlos J. Torres, of Virginia, to be Deputy Director of the Peace Corps.

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.

2015-03-04 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.

FOREIGN SERVICE LISTS pending at the SFRC:

2015-11-10 PN939 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Steven Carl Aaberg, and ending Sandra M. Zuniga Guzman, which 119 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 10, 2015.

2015-09-21 PN877-2 Foreign Service | Nomination for Derell Kennedo, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on September 21, 2015.

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.

2015-01-13 PN72-4 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Eric N. Rumpf, and ending Daniel Menco Hirsch, which 3 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.

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Asking about the security clearance logjam: “Seriously? I suggest we sent her to FLO…” Seriously, let’s not!

Posted: 12:46 am EDT
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According to Diplomatic Security’s FAQ, the general time to process security clearance averages about 120 days. But the Department of State has apparently initiated a goal to render a security clearance decision in 90 days.   We have, however, heard complaints that eligible family members (EFMs) overseas waiting to start on jobs have been caught in a security clearance logjam with some waiting much longer than four months. We’ve also heard rumors that DS no longer issue an interim security clearance.

So we thought we’d ask the Diplomatic Security clearance people. We wanted clarification concerning interim clearances and the backlogs, what can post do to help minimize the backlogs and what can EFMs do if they have been waiting for months without a response.

We sent our inquiry to Grace Moe, the head of public affairs at the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). We did not get any response. Three days later, we sent a follow-up email to her deputy, and the group’s security clearance mailbox. Shortly, thereafter, an email popped up on my screen from the Security Specialist at DS’s Customer Service Center of the Office of Personnel Security/Suitability:

“Seriously? I suggest we sent her to FLO…”

Somebody suggesting they send Diplopundit to the FLO? Let’s not.    We’re not privy to the preceding conversation on that email trail.  But seriously, a straight forward  inquiry on security clearance should not be pushed over to the Family Liaison Office (FLO) just because it’s related to family members.

So we told DS that we sent the security clearance inquiry to them for a very good reason and that we would appreciate a response unless they want to decline comment.

The lad at the Customer Service Center wrote back with a lame response that they will answer, but he was not sure about our email because it ends with a .net. Apparently, we’re the only one left in the world who has not moved over to dot com.  And he asked if it would be possible to obtain a name from our office.

Whaaaat? The next thing you know, they’ll want a phone date.

We’re sorry to inform you but this Customer Service not only shovels inquiry elsewhere but it also cannot read and see contact names on emails. So days later, Customer Service is still waiting for us to provide them a name that’s already on the email we sent them.  That kind of redundant efficiency is amazing, but we hate to waste any more of our time playing this game.

So we asked a DS insider, who definitely should get double pay for doing the Customer Service’s job. But since the individual is not authorized to speak officially, try not to cite our source as your source when you deal with that DS office.

Anyway, we were told that it is not/not true that DS no longer issue interim clearances.  Apparently, what happens more frequently is that HR forgets to request an interim clearance when it makes the initial request. So you paperwork just goes into a big pile. And you wait, and wait, and wait.  So if you’re submitting your security paperwork, make sure you or your hiring office confirms with HR that they have requested an interim clearance.

We were going to confirm this with HR except that those folks appear to have an allergic reaction to our emails.

In any case, the logjam can also result from the FBI records checks. If the FBI has computer issues, that, apparently, can easily put tens of thousands of cases behind because without the results of the FBI check, “nothing can be done.” There’s nothing much you can do about that except pray that the FBI has no computer issues.

We also understand that the Office of Personnel Security/Stability or PSS is backed up because of a heavy case load. “Posts seem to be requesting clearances with reckless abandon.”  We were cited an example where an  eligible family member (EFM) works as a GSO housing coordinator. The EFM GSO coordinator has access to the same records as the local staff working at the General Services Office but he/she gets a security clearance.

The Bureau of Human Resources determines whether a Department of State position will require a security clearance, as well as the level required, based upon the duties and responsibilities of the position. So in this example, HR may determine that the EFM GSO housing coordinator needs a clearance because he/she knows where everybody lives – including people from other agencies.  Again, that same information is also accessible to the  Foreign Service Nationals working as locally employed staff at GSO and HR.

Not sure which EFM jobs do not require a security clearance.  We understand that HR routinely asks for it when hiring family members.  Of course, this practice can also clog up the process for everyone in the system.  Routinely getting a clearance is technically good because an EFM can take that security clearance to his/her next job.  The Department of State will revalidate a security clearance if (1) the individual has not been out of federal service for more than 2 years and (2) if the individual’s clearance is based on an appropriate and current personnel security clearance investigation.  So the next time an EFM gets a job in Burkina Faso or back in Foggy Bottom, the wait won’t be as long as the clearance only requires revalidation.

And there is something else. Spouses/partners with 52 weeks of creditable employment overseas get Executive Order Eligibility, which enables them to be appointed non-competitively to a career-conditional appointment in the Civil Service once they return to the U.S. A security clearance and executive order eligibility are certainly useful when life plunks you back in the capital city after years of being overseas.

There is no publicly available data on how many EFMs have security clearances. But we should note that EFMs with security clearance are not assured jobs at their next posts. And we look at this as potentially a wasted resource (see below). EFMs who want jobs start from scratch on their security package only when they are conditionally hired. So if there’s an influx of a large number of new EFMs requesting security clearance, that’s when you potentially will have a logjam.

Back in 2009, we blogged about this issue (some of the numbers below are no longer current):

We have approximately 2,000 out of 9,000 family members who are currently working in over 217 missions worldwide.  Majority if not all of them already have, at the minimum, a “Secret” level clearance. And yet, when they relocate to other posts, it is entirely possible that they won’t find work there. The average cost to process a SECRET clearance has been reported to run from several hundred dollars to $3,000, depending on individual factors. The average cost to process a TOP SECRET clearance is between $3,000 and about $15,000, depending on individual factors. Given that most FS folks spend majority of their lives overseas, the $3,000 for a Secret clearance process for EFMs would be way too low. But let’s assume that all the EFMs currently working only have a Secret level clearance – at $3,000 each that’s still 6Million USD right there. Even if only 500 of them lost their jobs due to regular reassignment, that’s 1.5M USD that’s not put to effective use.

So here’s the idea – why can’t we create an EFM Virtual Corps? The EFMs who are already in the system could be assigned a specialization based on prior work experience within the US Mission. When not employed at post, their names could be added to the EFM Virtual Corps, a resource for other posts who require virtual supplementary or temporary/ongoing support online. Their email and Intranet logon should be enabled to facilitate communication while they are on a float assignment and their reporting authority should be a straight line to a central coordinator at Main State and a dotted line to the Management Counselor at post.  I know, I know, somebody from HR probably have a ready list of reasons on why this can’t be done, but – how do we know if this works or not if we don’t try? The technology is already available, we just need organizational will and some, to make this work.

Here’s our related post on this topic: No Longer Grandma’s Foreign Service. You’re welcome to post this on the leadership site behind the State Department firewall. Hey, the somebodies already post our burn bag entries there, so why not this one?

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