U.S. Senate Confirms USAID’s Mark Green, 2 @StateDept Nominees, and 11 New Ambassadors

Posted: 12:05 am ET
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On Thursday, August 3, the U.S. Senate confirmed a slew of nominees for the State Department, including 11 new ambassadors.  Also confirmed was Ambassador Mark Green as USAID Administrator and nominees for OPIC, and the United Nations.

The Senate will adjourned on Friday to convene for pro forma sessions only with no business conducted between now and September 1. Hey, that means no recess appointments.  The Senate will next convene at 3:00pm on Tuesday, September 5, 2017.

 

STATE DEPARTMENT

Executive Calendar #229 – Nathan Alexander Sales to be Coordinator for Counterterrorism

Executive Calendar #239 – Carl Risch to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Consular Affairs)

AMBASSADORS

Executive Calendar #291 – John P. Desrocher to be Ambassador to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria

Executive Calendar #227 – Kelly Knight Craft to be Ambassador of the United States to Canada

Executive Calendar #228 – Sharon Day to be Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Costa Rica

Executive Calendar #289 – Michael Arthur Raynor to be Ambassador to Ethiopia

Executive Calendar #232 – Luis Arreaga to be Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Guatemala

Executive Calendar #233 – Krishna Urs to be Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Peru

Executive Calendar #230 – George Edward Glass to be Ambassador of the United States to the Portuguese Republic

Executive Calendar #231 – Robert Wood Johnson IV to be Ambassador of the United States to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Executive Calendar #235 – Lewis Eisenberg to be Ambassador to the Italian Republic, and to serve concurrently as Ambassador to the Republic of San Marino

Executive Calendar #290 – Maria E. Brewer to be Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone

USAID

Executive Calendar #166 – Mark Andrew Green to be Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

NATO

Executive Calendar #234 – Kay Bailey Hutchison to be United States Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

UNITED NATIONS

Executive Calendar #237 – Kelley Eckels Currie to be Representative of the United States on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC)

Executive Calendar #238 – Kelley Eckels Currie to be an Alternate Representative of the United States to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA)

OPIC

Executive Calendar #236 – Ray Washburne to be President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation

Executive Calendar #245 – David Steele Bohigian to be Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation

 

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July 19 SFRC Hearing: Luis Arreaga to be U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala

Posted: 1:48 am ET
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Today, the SFRC is holding a confirmation hearing on the nomination of career diplomat Luis Arreaga to be the U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala. Ambassador Arreaga previously served as chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Iceland.

Date: Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Time: 02:00 PM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Rubio

The live video and the prepared testimony will be posted here when available.

Below is the report submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

SUBJECT:  Ambassadorial Nomination:  Certificate of Demonstrated Competence — Foreign Service Act, Section 304(a)(4)

POST: Republic of Guatemala

CANDIDATE:  Luis E. Arreaga

Luis E. Arreaga, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is currently Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Department of State, a position he has held since 2016.  A former Ambassador, Deputy Chief of Mission, Consul General and Office Director, Mr. Arreaga possesses cultural and linguistic fluency in the region as well as extensive leadership and interagency management expertise.   He has led the development of civilian security assistance programs in Mexico, Central America, and Colombia as well as the largest increase in recruitment, assessment, and hiring in the State Department’s history.  He advocated for a $1 billion sale of Boeing aircraft to Icelandair and led a team of 18 agencies that helped conclude a Free Trade Agreement and oversaw a large expansion of U.S. military support to Panama.

Previously, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Department of State (2013-2016), Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Reykjavik, Iceland (2010-2013), Director, Office of Recruitment, Examination, and Employment, Bureau of Human Resources, Department of State (2008-2010), Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Panama City, Panama (2005-2008), U.S. Consul General in Vancouver, Canada (2002-2005), and Director, Executive Secretariat Staff, Department of State (2001-2002).  He has also served as Deputy Director of the State Department’s Operations Center and as Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs.  Other overseas postings include the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, the U.S. Embassy in Spain, and Agency for International Development Missions in Peru, El Salvador and Honduras.

Mr. Arreaga is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee where he received a Ph.D., M.S. and B.A.  He is the recipient of eleven notable senior State Department awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Alumni Association.  A heritage speaker of Spanish, he is also fluent in French and speaks basic Icelandic.

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State/OIG Report on US Embassy Estonia Gets a “D” For Um … Dazzle?

Posted: 2:09 am  EDT
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The Office of the Inspector General inspected the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia from October 3–22, 2014.  It released its inspection report  on June 18, 2015.

Inspection of Embassy Tallinn, Estonia
Posted On: June 18, 2015 Report Date: June 2015
Report Number: ISP-I-15-23A
Report: application/pdf icon isp-i-15-23a.pdf

Quick look at post fro the IG report:

Missionwide staffing is 42 U.S. direct-hire employees, including 27 Department U.S. direct-hire employees. The FY 2014 missionwide budget was $8.9 million. Other agencies represented at the mission include elements of the U.S. Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security. A small number of U.S. military personnel on rotation to Estonia fall under chief of mission authority. The mission has no consulates. The mission’s FY 2015 request for foreign assistance funds totaled $3.6 million for Estonian military stabilization operations and security sector reform ($2.4 million for foreign military funding and $1.2 million for international military education and training). Embassy Tallinn’s missionwide budget for FY 2014 was approximately $8.9 million. Department staffing was 27 U.S. direct-hire employees and 85 locally employed (LE) staff members.

Excerpt from key findings:

  • The Ambassador and the deputy chief of mission provide appropriate oversight to the country team, and U.S. Department of State sections, in accordance with Section 207(a) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980. However, stronger leadership from the Ambassador and his greater adherence to Department of State rules and regulations are necessary.
  • The political/economic section is staffed adequately to carry out its policy advocacy and reporting responsibilities but needs to adjust local staff portfolios and the language requirements of its U.S. officers to maximize resources.
  • The public affairs section is central to mission efforts to carry out Integrated Country Strategy objectives, using traditional public diplomacy tools, media engagement, social media, and regional outreach to amplify policy messages.
  • The embassy’s consular warden system has not been reviewed, activated, or tested since at least 2011. Worldwide tensions increase the need for an effective warden system with the flexibility to meet multiple contingencies, including the potential interruption of electronic messaging capability.
  • The aging chancery does not meet—and cannot be retrofitted to meet—even the most basic security standards, and numerous infrastructure deficiencies need to be addressed if the embassy is to remain at its present location.
  • The telecommunications and power cabling infrastructure throughout the chancery is disorganized and largely undocumented, which limits the ability of information management staff to carry out their duties.
  • The embassy needs a comprehensive training plan for locally employed staff that reflects priority training needs.
  • Internal management controls need to be strengthened, with particular attention to separation of duties, documenting processes and standard operating procedures, clarifying backup duties, and reassessing organization structure.

Here is what Section 207(a) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 says:

excerpt from Foreign Service Act of 1980

 

Quite impressive, yo!

The ambassador is popular with the Estonian public, helped sold Javelin missiles worth $50–$60 million, met so infrequently with senior Estonian Government officials but succeeded, nonetheless, to get Estonia to accept one Gitmo detainee. This report reminds us of those evaluation reports where the drafter attempts walking on water. Excerpts:

  • The Ambassador’s interpersonal skills have enabled him to participate effectively in public affairs and other programing in several parts of the country and have garnered him personal popularity with the Estonian public.
  • His support for the military includes advocacy for U.S. military sales. His efforts have helped secure a sale to the Estonian Government of U.S. Javelin missiles worth $50–$60 million.
  • The Ambassador, however, has not established strong relationships at the Government of Estonia’s ministerial level. In his 2 years as Chief of Mission, he has met infrequently with the Prime Minister or other ministers in the cabinet (less than 12 times during his 24 months in the embassy, in addition to initial courtesy calls or accompanying visitors and at public events). … Despite the infrequency of his meetings with senior Estonian Government officials, the Ambassador successfully led the effort to obtain the government’s acceptance of a Guantanamo detainee—an impressive achievement given the small size of the country and the government’s reluctance.

On getting the Estonians to “yes,” how did he do it? The IG report did not say, which would have been really helpful given how many Gitmo detainees we still need to place elsewhere.

On leadership, the IG report says:

The most significant findings concern the need for stronger leadership from the Ambassador and his greater adherence to ethics principles, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) guidelines, and security policies.

Buried in the report is this:

[T]he embassy staff rated the Ambassador below average in leadership categories, including vision, engagement, fairness, and ethics. Segments of the mission community, including some U.S. direct-hire and LE female employees told the OIG team that they feel undervalued. .. Some American and LE staff members gave examples of preferential treatment that the Ambassador afforded to specific employees and interns. It is imperative that the Ambassador reverse these perceptions; he indicated that he is willing to work hard to do so, and he began the process by apologizing to his staff before the inspection team’s departure.

On the EEO program, the report says, “The EEO program at Embassy Tallinn requires attention by embassy leadership.” Oy! What happened?

Non-review of visa issuances/refusals:

The DCM has not met requirements in 9 FAM 41.113 and 9 FAM 41.121 to review nonimmigrant visa issuances and refusals. The most recent regional consular officer report for Tallinn, dated January 2014, states that “[t]he DCM did not meet adjudication review standards…since the last regional officer report visit [in May 2013].” A Bureau of Consular Affairs preinspection report found that standards had also not been met between May 1 and July 30, 2014. The DCM’s review of visa adjudications at single officer embassies is especially important, as no other person provides required oversight and quality control.

Things that happen just before the OIG starts work, or leave post:

  • The Ambassador’s efforts to establish an overall strategic vision, in accordance with 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214, have not been successful. Few of Embassy Tallinn’s senior leaders can articulate the Ambassador’s overall strategic vision or identify the top priorities contained therein, despite an off-site planning session held just days before the start of the inspection. The Ambassador held the previous planning off site almost 2 years earlier—too long ago to enable employees to have a lasting awareness of his goals and direction. A clear shared vision—key to coordinated team work and productivity—is missing. Greater communication is needed. No structured effort exists to inform the mission employees, including LE staff members, of the outcome of the planning session, which has left a large part of the embassy team uninformed.
  • At the start of the inspection no program was in place for mentoring the mission’s two first- and second-tour (FAST) employees, and some mid-level officers stated that they would welcome mentoring on career development issues. The DCM structured a FAST program and scheduled initial mentoring sessions prior to the inspection team’s departure.

Counsel from EUR/Office of the Legal Adviser?

Elsewhere on the report, it says that “the OIG team identified instances in which the Ambassador did not appear to adhere to established Department rules and regulations. Each instance was small, but collectively they suggest his disregard for adherence to the rules.” It recommends that EUR, in coordination with the Office of the Legal Adviser, should counsel the Embassy Tallinn Ambassador concerning ways to avoid breaches of Department of State rules and regulations.


What the hey?  

[T] he Ambassador has been involved only marginally in efforts that would identify potential opportunities in Estonia for U.S. businesses, as outlined in 18 FAM 015. He agreed to increase efforts in that area, as well as not to pursue Estonian export interests that would not directly result in U.S. jobs.

The IG inspectors cited Section 207(a) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 on its key findings but forgot Section 207 (c) of the Act?


Oh darn, we almost forgot —  whatabout curtailments?  

Read more about that in U.S. Embassy of Curtailments.


Recusals, anyone?

Embassy Tallinn’s chief of mission is Jeffrey Levine. Prior to his appointment  as ambassador to Estonia, he was the State Department’s director of Recruitment, Examination and Employment from 2010-2012 (HR/REE).

The OIG team who inspected the mission was headed by Marianne Myles who was previously Ambassador to Cape Verde (2008-2010). Prior to her appointment to Cape Verde, she, too was the director of the State Department’s Office of Recruitment, Examination and Employment (HR/REE). She was also Director of Policy Coordination for the Foreign Service’s Director General (DG/HR).

A side note here, HR/REE had three directors spanning at least  six years who went directly from HR to an ambassadorship. (Luis Arreaga, the HR/REE director from 2008-2010 was appointed Ambassador to Iceland from 2010-2013).  This is an extremely small club to belong to.

So we asked Mr. Linick’s office about its recusal policy. Wasn’t IG Linick concerned about potential conflict of interest in this instance? We also asked if there has ever been an instance when OIG inspectors who are/were FS members recused themselves when there is potential or appearance of conflict of interest?

Over the weekend, we received the OIG’s response to our inquiry.  Repeated below in its entirety:

OIG strictly follows the  independence standards established by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE).    In order to ensure each inspector is free, both in fact and appearance, from personal, external, and organizational impairments to independence, OIG has a rigorous conflict review within the Office of Inspections (ISP).

Pursuant to this policy, prior to an inspection, every member of the inspection team must review a staffing chart with every employee of the inspected entity, and report, in writing, all prior professional and personal relationships with any such individual.  ISP management  and the Office of General Counsel carefully review this information to ensure that all ISP teams’ members are independent and free from real or apparent conflicts of interest.  This process happens  early in the inspection process as ISP assigns staff to individual teams.   If any such conflicts are identified, ISP takes action to mitigate the conflict, which could include removing a team member from a team.  OIG  provides training to all inspectors on CIGIE independence standards and how to avoid conflicts of interest.

Regarding the Tallin inspection, OIG followed its standard procedure in reviewing input from Ambassador Myles regarding any relationships with employees in Embassy Tallinn and concluded her participation in the inspection was appropriate under CIGIE standards and OIG policy.

So there you go.

We must note that for years, the names of the OIG inspection team members were redacted from these publicly released OIG reports. We have railed about those redactions for various reasons. In 2013, when Steve Linick assumed charge of the OIG — the first Senate-confirmed IG since the 2007 resignation of Howard J. Krongard —  one of his first actions was to release the names of the inspectors with the publicly available reports. We have not forgotten that.

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Zombies Invade Reykjavik or What Are You Doing With Young Zombies in Your Host Country

Via US Embassy Reykjavik:

The U.S. Embassy, Skjárinn and BíóParadís cooperated to present a zombie party and special screening of the first episode of Season 3 of the U.S. television series The Walking Dead. Ambassador Arreaga and other embassy staff joined a large group of zombie enthusiasts who organized a “Zombie Walk” from Hlemmur to BioParadis. At BioParadis, the ambassador presented awards to the Best Dressed, Bloodiest and Scariest zombies.

Photo via US Embassy Iceland/FB

Ambassador Arreaga during the zombie walk; see, even zombies need eyeglasses!
Photo via US Embassy Iceland/FB

Ambassador Arreaga in his non-zombie get-upPhoto via US Embassy Iceland/FB

Ambassador Arreaga in his professional get-up before his brain was eaten by zombies
Photo via US Embassy Iceland/FB

More photos of Zombies Invade Reykjavik (46 photos).  Ambassador Arreaga also posted about the zombie incident on his blog here.

“In one of the more unusual and perhaps the most fun activities in my foreign service career, Mary and I joined a group of Icelandic zombies on a “walk” from the Hlemmur bus station to Bíó Paradís where we had a chance to watch the first chapter of the third season of “The Walking Dead” a highly successful American television series.”

The event was held by the embassy for a group of young Icelandic zombies in partnership with SkjárEinn, cable television provider of the show, and Bíó Paradís, an independent cinema in downtown Reykjavik.

It looks like they had fun! But think about that for a moment. The targeted demographics are young Icelandic zombies.  Now, the next ALDAC cable going out of Foggy Bottom will be asking this question:  What are you doing with the young zombies in your host country? We hope you have a handy response.

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US Embassy Iceland: Ambassador Visits Game of Thrones Film Shoot, and Lives to Blog About It

The second season of popular television series Game of Thrones started airing on HBO over the weekend.  The American medieval fantasy with mainly British and Irish cast  created for HBO by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss was filmed in Belfast, and on location elsewhere in Northern Ireland, Malta, Croatia and Iceland.  Reportedly, the scenes set north of the Wall, in the the Frostfangs and at the Fist of the First Men, were filmed in Iceland last year.

Wanna guess who showed up during the film shoot in Iceland? Our ambassador to Iceland, Luis E. Arreaga, that’s who.  Ambassador Arreaga who was appointed chief of mission to the US Embassy in Iceland in 2010, showed up for the shoot, had a pic taken, survived the cold and lived to blog about it:

Ambassador Arreaga at Game of Thrones Set
(Photo from Ambassador Arreaga's blog)

“We were very excited to learn that the producers of Games of Thrones intended to film part of the second season in Iceland. The visit gave us the opportunity to highlight how the American television industry partners with the Icelandic film industry in producing very popular and successful shows. We drove up to the Höfðabrekka glacier to meet with the producer, director, and some of the actors during filming. It was a lot of fun to watch some of the scenes being filmed against spectacular, but very cold, Icelandic scenery. I nearly froze during the visit and I can’t figure out how the crew managed to stay warm throughout the entire day. Can’t wait until the second season of the program starts.”

Fitte. Fini hazi? I hope he did not have to speak to the film crew in Dothraki.

Domani Spero

 

 

 

 

Officially In: Jeffrey D. Levine – from HR to Estonia

On February 16, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Jeffrey D. Levine to the next Ambassador to the Republic of Estonia. The WH released the following brief bio:

Jeffrey D. Levine, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, has served as the State Department’s Office Director of Recruitment, Examination and Employment since September 2010.  Prior to this position, he was Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, Hungary from 2007 to 2010.  From 2003 to 2006, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Sofia, Bulgaria.  Other overseas positions include: Management Counselor in Brasilia, Brazil (1999-2002); Management Officer in Nicosia, Cyprus (1995-1998); Consular/General Services Officer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (1988-1990); and Consular/Political Officer in Lima, Peru (1985-1987).  In Washington, Mr. Levine served as Special Assistant in the Office of the Under Secretary for Management (1994-1995), Hungary Desk Officer in the Office of Eastern European Affairs (1993-1994), and Watch Officer in the State Operations Center (1992-1993).

He holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Humboldt State University and a Master’s Degree from National Defense University.

US Embassy Tallinn was established on October 2, 1991, with Robert C. Frasure as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim, also subsequently commissioned as Ambassador. If confirmed, Mr. Levine would succeed career diplomat, Michael C. Polt who was appointed chief of mission to Tallinn by President Obama in 2009.

A nice coincidence of note — the most recent Office Director of Recruitment, Examination and Employment (HR/REE), that is, Mr. Levine’s predecessor was appointed Ambassador to Iceland in 2010. Another previous Office Director who served in HR/REE was appointed Ambassador to Cape Verde in 2008.  So just in the last five years or so, all career diplomats who served as top gun in REE went on to an ambassadorship.  That is a pretty darn good record.

 

Related item:

February 16, 2012 | President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts