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American values? Tillerson: “The president speaks for himself.” Uh-oh!

Posted: 4:51 am  ET

 

Axios writes: “We’ve been hearing for weeks, from sources who’ve spoken to the president, that Trump is getting more and more fed up with Tillerson, who has still yet to staff his agency.” The report enumerates multiple criticisms directed at Tillerson:
1) why he still doesn’t have political appointees in the top roles at the State Department;
2) Tillerson hasn’t put in the time to build goodwill with Washington’s foreign policy community or with the media;
3) reports that Tillerson has destroyed morale at State, empowering only the tiniest inner circle;
4) Qatar;
5) Venezuela and Tom Shannon;
6) Iran;
7) Tillerson’s Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin

AND NOW THIS —

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Making Sense of Tillerson’s Rescinded Delegations of Authority @StateDept

Posted: 5:07 am ET
Updated: Aug 11, 2:24 pm PT

 

We recently blogged about the rescinded delegations of authority at the State Department (see Tillerson Rescinds Delegated Authorities Department-Wide, Further Gums Up Foggy Bottom).  A State Department official (SDO) told Politico that Tillerson only rescinded three delegations of authority. Just three.  SDO frequently is the attribution used when the folks at the State Department press shop do not want to speak on the record.  The same official who commented to Politico also said Tillerson has requested the Under Secretaries to undertake an immediate review of the remaining authorities. The SDO forgot to remind himself that the State Department currently do not have Under Secretaries but only one Under Secretary (P).

The sources who informed us of the rescinded authorities are SDOs but are not part of the agency’s press office.  They are folks who are not known for running around with their hair on fire.  One of them told us “all”, another confirmed that it was “department-wide,” and that’s the story we ran.  One of our sources subsequently told us that decisions will be made quickly on which authorities will be redelegated. It was pointed out to us that some will be quick and obvious to make like authorities concerning consular services.

We understand that there is also a memo floating around outlining the delegations of authority that have been rescinded.

 

DA-14: Delegation of Authority to Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P) and the Under Secretary for Management (M), January 18, 2017
(no text publicly available)

One the three authorities the State Department said it rescinded was DA-14 dated January 18, 2017 granted by then Secretary Kerry to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P) and the Under Secretary for Management (M) that the State Department says “allowed for almost unlimited re-delegation of those authorities.”  DA-14 has not/not been published in the Federal Register nor the GPO so we don’t know all the details that it covered.

A former State Department official (SDO) familiar with this issue, however, told us that the January 18 delegation was essentially envisioned as “a temporary, unlimited delegation of authorities to P and M because it was anticipated that there would be no “D” and perhaps no “S” for some period of time” and that its revocation “would not have a dramatic effect” on operations.  According to the former SDO, the revocation of this specific DA is not surprising since the Secretary and the  Deputy Secretary are now both in place.  The former official further told us that rescission of ALL of the delegations of authority would be much more significant but said, “I can’t imagine that all of the delegations were rescinded.”

The former SDO added that “If the Secretary did revoke all of the delegations one would hope that this would be very temporary.” The former official explained that “Without delegations in place, any decisions that by law lie with the Secretary literally would need to be made by the Secretary. This could result in significant delays, including on decisions that are by and large technical.”

A piece published by the New York Times over the weekend notes that “all decisions, no matter how trivial, must be sent to Mr. Tillerson or his top aides: Margaret Peterlin, his chief of staff, and Brian Hook, the director of policy planning.” 

A Foggy Bottom worker bee told us that whether or not Tillerson rescinded delegated authority “the effect is the same –the paper goes to him.” FBWB added that “In normal circumstances we would know the staffers in S, as we do in other 7th floor offices, and can keep paper moving with a telephone call” but that this is now “unknown” territory.

So what does it mean if ALL decisions must now go up to the Secretary of State?

Please don’t tell us that the next wrinkle we’re going to hear would be folks unable to PCS (Permanent Change of Station) because Tillerson is traveling and is unable to approve travel orders.


DA 284-1: Delegation of Authority to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Feb 13, 2009

Text: Delegation of Authority No. 284–1

By virtue of the authority vested in me as Secretary of State by the laws of the United States, including 22 U.S.C. 2651a, I hereby delegate to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, to the extent authorized by law, all authorities and functions vested in the Secretary of State or the head of agency by any act, order, determination, delegation of authority, regulation, or executive order, now or hereafter issued. This delegation includes all authorities and functions that have been or may be delegated or redelegated to other Department officials but does not repeal delegations to such officials.

This delegation shall apply only when the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, and the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources are absent or otherwise unavailable or when the Secretary or either Deputy Secretary requests that the Under Secretary exercise such authorities and functions.

Notwithstanding this delegation of authority, the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of State and the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources may exercise any function or authority delegated by this delegation.

This is one of the three DAs cited  by the State Department official to the press.  The language is clear that this authority apply only when the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary are “absent or otherwise unavailable” or “when the Secretary or either Deputy Secretary requests that the Under Secretary exercise such authorities and functions.”

Excuse us, but this is perplexing to us, ok? If Secretary Tillerson and Deputy Secretary Sullivan are traveling who has authority over the State Department in their absence if it’s not going to be the third highest ranking person in the agency?

A separate source  familiar with inner workings at State but has no direct knowledge of these developments suggested that the Delegation of Authority exercise exposes more than anything else “the profound lack of knowledge and grasp” on the 7th floor especially with the political appointees.  This source says that there are practical and long standing reasons for delegations to D and P of certain things, such as making it possible for Tillerson to seamlessly have things done without having to go through the “Acting” designation every time he’s not around or unavailable. It appears that no one understood that.

And no one thought about asking the Office of the Legal Adviser?

 

DA 280-1: Delegation by the Secretary of State to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs of Authorities Regarding Congressional Reporting Functions, Feb 13, 2009:
Text: Delegation of Authority No. 28o–1 

By virtue of the authority vested in me as Secretary of State by the laws of the United States, including 22 U.S.C. 2651a, I hereby assign to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, to the extent authorized by law, the function of approving submission of reports to the Congress.

This delegation covers the decision to submit to the Congress both one-time reports and recurring reports, including but not limited to those recurring reports identified in Section 1 of Executive Order 13313 (Delegation of Certain Congressional Reporting Functions) of July 31, 2003. However, this delegation shall not be construed to authorize the Under Secretary to make waivers, certifications, determinations, findings, or other such statutorily required substantive actions that may be called for in connection with the submission of a report. The Under Secretary shall be responsible for referring to the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, or the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources any matter on which action would appropriately be taken by such official.

Any authority covered by this delegation may also be exercised by the Deputy Secretary and the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, to the extent authorized by law, or by the Secretary of State.

This is the last of the three DAs cited by the State Department as having been rescinded by Tillerson. According to Reuters, the authorities regarding congressional reporting functions will now go to the Office of Policy Planning (S/P), The current S/P head is a member of Tillerson’s inner circle, Brian Hook. The position does not require Senate confirmation.  Three former officials told Reuters that giving the policy planning staff final sign-off on the reports could inject political considerations into their preparation.  (For what it’s worth, a Foggy Bottom denizen who knew Mr. Hook during his prior stint at State during the Bush administration told us that he is “very smart and thoughtful — a good pick for the head of the policy shop — and also really a nice man.”)

S/P was created in 1947 by George Kennan at the request of Secretary of State George C. Marshall. The office serves as a source of independent policy analysis and advice for the Secretary of State. According to state.gov, the Policy Planning Staff”s mission is to take “a longer term, strategic view” of global trends and frame recommendations for the Secretary of State to advance U.S. interests and American values.

Note that there are at least 300 congressionally mandated reports required by Congress. So S/P will now have sign off on all those reports? The rumors of an expanding S/P empire is in all likelihood, true, because how are you going to clear all these reports?  And if this is the case, who’s going to be doing “longer term, strategic view” for the State Department if S/P is signing off on all reports and every policy memo? What’s the career diplomat at “P” going to be doing?

One other thing pointed out to us, particularly on the delegation to P for signing off on reports to Congress is that these reports must have a “policy sign-off.”  We understand that the Bureau of Legislative Affairs (H) never had this function which is primarily coordination of legislative activity/strategy and principally as liaison to Congress.  Apparently, the 7th floor is not even aware of this and was under the assumption that the bureau’s responsibility to “transmit” reports is the same as responsibility to “sign-off” for policy purposes.

Did somebody send the Office of the Legal Adviser (L) a smoke signal for help?

NOTE: Delegation of Authority: 245-2 Delegation from the Secretary to the Deputy Secretary, July 31, 2017 to be published in the Federal Register on August 14, 2017. This DA supersedes Delegation of Authority 245-1, dated February 13, 2009. PDF

AND NOW THIS —

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More Than Words: Tillerson/Peterlin Lunch With @StateDept Employees

Posted: 2:58 am ET

 

So our blogpost last April Fools’ Day which made Secretary Tillerson’s inner circle throw a hissy fit (see Inside @StateDept: Leaked Cable Provides Guidance For ‘America First’ Cost Savings Initiatives) includes “lunchies” with the Secretary of State in Foggy Bottom’s cafeteria.

The Secretary is determined to get to know the men and women of this agency, and to that end he plans to eat lunch in the cafeteria once a week when he is not traveling.  S/ES is currently working on a lottery that would allow a random employee to be included in the Secretary’s table during the weekly lunches. Lottery guidance will be posted at a later date at https://www.fbu.state.gov/s/es/slottery/.

So now here is real life: Secretary Tillerson, with Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin having lunch with 4-5 State Department employees presumably to help shore up rock bottom morale in Foggy Bottom. It’s going to take more than a few lunches to do that. But anyway, we understand that the lunches are apparently monthly, and darnit, the lunch companions are not selected via lottery. Well, at least not yet. We estimate that if S is having monthly lunches with 5 employees, that’ll be 60 employees/year. If the CoS gives up her chair, that will be be 84 employees.

“Do you need some Wicked Wasabi with that  sushi?” we imagined somebody asked during lunch.

“Be careful, that chili is nasty,” says a familiar warning that would have been issued to every Secretary of State.

Had they added John Sullivan (D), and Tom Shannon (P), it would have been a lunch meeting with the entire State Department leadership.

But seriously, if we can suspend belief for now that this is all theater, this is not a bad start, though a bit late. But given the size of the building and the time demands on Tillerson, they probably can find other activities with a better return for his investment in time and energy  — offsite meetings with senior managers (except he has yet to appoint most of them), townhalls where employees can ask questions, or hey, why not an ‘Ask Me Anything’ on Reddit for a couple hours?

But more than words, actions speak louder than words. Like the exemption to the hiring freeze of a number of priority EFM positions issued last Friday (see Unemployment Status of @StateDept Family Members Overseas (4/2017) #ThanksTillerson). Whether the State Department is successfully reorganized or not, there will remain a need for community liaison coordinators, security escorts, consular associates, mailroom clerks, security coordinators, etc. at our overseas posts (also see Are #EFM positions literally about to become…extinct under #Tillerson’s watch?). So the freeze on these jobs did not make a whole lot of sense in the first place. But it did make life at overseas posts more difficult for employees who have to cover for these unfilled positions, and make for distressed diplomatic spouses who already suffer from extended under employment when they go overseas.

He can certainly do a lot more, but will he?

Meanwhile Derek Chollet has a new piece on FP about how future Secretaries of State will study Tillerson’s first 6 mos for lessons of what not to do: Why Has Rex Tillerson Belly-Flopped as Secretary of State? Ouch!

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Tillerson Rescinds Delegated Authorities Department-Wide, Further Gums Up Foggy Bottom

Posted: 12:19 am ET
Updated: 9:05 pm PT

 

According to the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), a delegation of authority states the specific actions for which an officer has authority, as well as the limitations and special conditions that apply to the authority. A delegation of authority is subject to any legally prescribed condition or criteria of execution, whether or not mentioned in the delegation. The FAM identifies two authorities:

(1) Authorities originally assigned to the Secretary or the Department: Unless otherwise specified in law, the Secretary of State may delegate authority to perform any of the functions of the Secretary or the Department of State to officers and employees under the direction and supervision of the Secretary. If the Secretary so specifies, such functions may be redelegated by the delegated officer or employee to any officers and employees under the delegated officers direction and supervision (see 22 U.S.C. 2651a); and

(2) Authorities originally assigned to the President: If an authority was originally assigned to the President, there must be a delegation of authority from the President to the Secretary or the Department before a Department of State delegation of authority to a Department officer can be signed. In addition, unless otherwise specified in law, authorities originally delegated from the President may only be redelegated to officials who are appointed by and with the advice of the Senate (see 3 U.S.C. 301).

We heard from sources that Secretary Tillerson has rescinded all delegated authorities last week. The two sources are not Public Affairs shop officials.  The revocation of authorities is department-wide and includes everything apparently from the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) sanctions, and  even routine authorities related to military exercises. 

One called it “completely insane.”

Another said, “Basically it’s a clusterfuck.”

Icky, Sticky Bubble Gum’s Gonna Eat Ya

The Bureau of Administration’s A/GIS/DIR is supposed to maintain a database of delegated authorities including those rescinded. But, of course, those are not public.  On July 20, the Federal Register published the May 1 delegation of authority by Tillerson to the Director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources.

Below are some examples of delegated authorities:

Secretary of State to the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security:  Diplomatic The Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act of 1999 (Foreign Relations Authorization Act, FY 2000 and 2001, Title VI, Public Law 106-113) (22 U.S.C. 4865), established two security requirements for U.S. diplomatic facilities abroad:  collocation and setback.  The authority to waive these requirements has been delegated from the Secretary of State to the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, except for chancery and consulate buildings.

OFM’s Director and Deputy Director: Requests from foreign missions for the Department to certify to the Department of the Treasury the reciprocal income tax exemption privileges that are provided to employees of the U.S. mission in the respective country.  Such certifications are required under 26 U.S.C. 893(b).  The authority to make such certifications has been delegated to OFM’s Director and Deputy Director.

Deputy Legal Advisers: Per 22 CFR 172.4 and 172.5 (approval of testimony and production of documents by Department employees, delegated to the Deputy Legal Advisers by Delegation of Authority No. 206, dated September 7, 1993).

Under Secretary for Management : The Secretary of State is responsible for control of the organizational structure and assignment of functions in the Department of State.  The Secretary has delegated this authority to the Under Secretary for Management (M). Other authorities delegated to M are (not an exhaustive list):  

  • Department of State Delegation of Authority No. 311, Negotiation, Conclusion and Termination of Treaties and Other International Agreements; 
  • Department of State Delegation of Authority No. 147, Delegation of Authorities vested in the Secretary by Title II of the Basic Authorities Act (primarily foreign mission administration), dated September 13, 1982; 
  • Department of State Delegation of Authority No. 147-1, covering acceptance of gifts and vehicles overseas, dated December 21, 1990.

Bureau of Consular Affairs: We don’t know how many delegated authorities there are in totality but the Bureau of Consular Affairs alone has 27 delegated authorities going back to 1969. We understand that this was recently just been renegotiated.  Here are some (not an exhaustive list):

  • Delegation of Authority 119 (2/13/1969):  Authority to designate persons who shall be authorized and empowered to administer oaths in connection with the execution of passport applications.
  • Delegation of Authority 143 (10/30/1981):  Delegation of Authority to Issue Certificates of Authentication for Documents Maintained by the Office of Passport Services Department of State.
  • Delegation of Authority 253 (9/1/2002):  Delegation from the Secretary of State to the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Exceptions from Port-of-Entry Special Registration, Fingerprinting and Photographing (Class A Referrals).
  • Delegation of Authority 261 (9/16/2003):  Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 – Authority of the Secretary of State under the Hague Adoption Convention and the IAA delegated to the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs.
  • Delegation of Authority 361 (7/15/2013):  Authority to disclose certain visa information to national security officials for a national security purpose.
  • Delegation of Authority 298 (4/9/2007):  Delegation by the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Overseas Citizens Services; the Managing Director, Overseas Citizens Services; the Director, Office of Children’s Issues, Overseas Citizens Services; and the Director, Office of American Citizens Services, Overseas Citizens Services, of Authority to Issue Hague Adoption Certificates and Custody Declarations.
  • Delegations of Authorities 367 (9/17/2013)and 367-3 (3/30/2015): Authority to administer and enforce immigration and nationality laws, and re-delegation of certain of those authorities to CA/VO, CA/VO/L/A, and CA/VO/L/R.

So this is really bonkers. Whoever advised Tillerson to rescind the delegation of authorities department-wide could not possibly be this dumb because this is one quick way of gumming up further the entire agency. Much more than it already has been gummed up.

Why yes, if you need a pass for the State Department parking garage, you have to ask Tillerson’s Front Office for that, too.

The parking garage permit needs the 7th Floor approval. Just think about that.

Continue reading

Tillerson Signals No Career Nominees For Regional Bureaus? #FoggyBottomBlues

Posted: 2:55 pm PT

 

Via BuzzFeed’s John Hudson:

After an intense battle with the White House over his first choice to become the top US diplomat to Asia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is considering a new candidate with a deep resumé in business and economics but little diplomatic experience…
[…]
Olin Wethington, a former Treasury Department official and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, is now a contender for the nomination of assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, four individuals familiar with the matter said.
[…]
Tillerson originally wanted the job to go to Susan Thornton, a veteran diplomat who speaks Mandarin Chinese, two US officials told BuzzFeed News. But White House officials opposed her due to concerns that her views were out of step with the president’s agenda — a claim State Department officials deny.
[…]
Ultimately, in shifting to Wethington, Tillerson appears to be acquiescing to the White House, which has shown a preference for appointments with a strong business background over career diplomatic experience.

Read in full the John Hudson scoop below.

For more of the rumored nominee, see this and this.

Secretary Tillerson once took a few minutes to “communicate” his  “high regard for the men and women of the State Department.

He promised that as secretary of state he would “deploy the talent and resources of the State Department in the most efficient ways possible, and that he would “depend on the expertise of this institution.”

“Your wisdom, your work ethic and patriotism, is as important as ever. And as your Secretary, I will be proud to draw upon all these qualities in my decision-making,” he told his employees not too long ago.

When asked once what inspires him when he comes to work at the State Department every day, Secretary Tillerson said that “the men and women of the State Department inspire me, my colleagues – their professionalism, their commitment, their patriotism.”

As recently as last month, during a hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee defending the gutted budget of his agency, he repeated that “My colleagues at the State Department and USAID are a deep source of inspiration, and their patriotism, professionalism, and willingness to make sacrifices for our country are our greatest resource.”

Despite his “high regard” for the men and women of the State Department, and his promise to “depend on the expertise of the institution” he is now leading, and despite the fact that he declared them a “deep source of inspiration” to him, he apparently does not have any control over his staffing, or for that matter, how his building is run.

And seriously, if Tillerson “loves” the AA/S for EAP Susan Thornton, a career diplomat with deep expertise in the former Soviet Union and East Asia, but could not hire her because she has not sworn a blood oath to the kool aid special, what hope is there for other career professionals in Foggy Bottom?

So the next time, Secretary Tillerson talks about his high regard for his people at the State Department, or how he is inspired by his people’s patriotism, professionalism and their sacrifices, remember that Foggy Bottom is now the “Real Post of the Month” and will remain to be so in the foreseeable future.  Also don’t forget to check your playbook to see what’s next in dramatic plays over in Foggy Bottom. We understand that the plays, Another Load of Old Crap With the Word Inspiration in the Title;  Margaret, Don’t Eat the Government Cheese; and Gone to Texas are all on repeat on BNET.

Please, clap.

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Tillerson’s Right-Hand Woman, Margaret J.A.Peterlin Gets the Spotlight

Posted: 2:18 am ET

 

The State Department finally posted a one sentence-bio for Secretary Tillerson’s Chief of Staff, Margaret Peterlin:

The Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State, Margaret J.A. Peterlin, advises the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary and other Principals on a full range of U.S. interests, both foreign and domestic, and counsels the Secretary, and senior members of the White House, Congress and Cabinet on his behalf, on international matters and events, in addition to supporting efficient Department operations.

More clips below, plus, there’s now a Wikipedia page that you can help expand, which totally makes sense considering the role she currently plays in Foggy Bottom.

Also see Rex Tillerson’s Inner Circle Photo Album, Say Cheese Con Quezo!

AND NOW THIS —

 

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Rex Tillerson’s Inner Circle Photo Album, Say Cheese Con Quezo!

Posted: 11:22 am PT

 

Since Secretary Tillerson arrived at the State Department, he has been surrounded by a small group of people who appears to manage his interactions inside and outside the building including his extremely limited availability to the media. We understand that as secretary of state, his time is limited and that his staff has to prioritize who/what he sees but the reports coming out of Foggy Bottom appears to have less to do with a new staff learning to prioritize and more to do with control and trust. More of the former, and less of the latter.  Even folks who were hopeful, even excited when the former Exxon CEO was appointed to Foggy Bottom, have since expressed dismay at how the newbie secretary of state is running the oldest executive agency in the country. If Secretary Tillerson is walled off from his workforce, and only gets his information through the filtered lens installed by his inner circle staffers, what kind of information do you think he’s going to get? Just the rosy ones (like everthing is A-OK) or they have pitchforks out for ya? Must be the reason why Secretary Tillerson delivered his remarks at State without even taking questions or why the 69th secretary of state has yet to do a townhall meeting with demoralized employees who are facing not only a reduction in workforce but also a 30% reduction in funding.

If folks don’t want Secretary Tillerson talking to anyone, why not just park him in a vault and issue admission tickets?

Below is a round-up of Secretary Tillerson’s inner circle. Let us know if we forgot anyone.

Margaret Peterlin

Tillerson’s Chief of Staff, previously served as a former deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  The Chicago Maroon notes her appointment in February: “While at the University of Chicago, Peterlin was the first editor-in-chief of The Chicago Journal of International Law. Following her graduation, she clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and later worked for House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX).  Following the September 11 attacks, Peterlin drafted pieces of national security legislation, such as the authorization for the use of force in Afghanistan, the U.S.A. Patriot Act, and legislation behind the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security.”

If you’ve noticed that Ms. Peterlin is seated next to Secretary Tillerson at almost every event, that’s by design.  Instructions were sent from the Executive Secretariat to the field that “Margaret [chief of staff] MUST come after S in protocol order and all seating must reflect this.” That one is not an April Fool’s joke.  There is a reason why the Ambassador/Charge come after S in protocol order, but hey it’s a new world, who needs reasons? There apparently was not even an attempt to explain why they needed to change protocol in order to allow her to sit next to the Secretary of State. Of course, this is more than just about a seating arrangement. After Tillerson’s party is gone, the Ambassador/Charge is still in country. This change does not reflect well on the ambassadors and the perception (right or wrong) on how they are valued by the Secretary of State. Besides, you gotta ask — why would host country officials bother with the embassy if they think an ambassador is not important enough to the secretary of state? Why not just pick up the phone and call Margaret?

Politico is now reporting that when Secretary Rice tried to reach Tillerson last month, “it was an aide to his chief of staff Margaret Peterlin who called back, asking what Rice wanted to discuss.” That means the gatekeeper has other layers of gatekeepers. And how many exactly?

Bloomberg called Peterlin “enigmatic” in its recent extensive profile. We should note that Peterlin’s official biography remains blank, and with few exceptions, she is often unidentified in photos released by the State Department.

See Bloomberg’s Tillerson’s enigmatic chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin, wields power, not the spotlight; WaPo’s Tillerson must bridge the gap between his workforce and the White House; Politico’s The former ExxonMobil chief is leaning heavily on two senior aides who, officials say, have cut him off from the rest of his 75,000-person staff; The Atlantic’s The State of Trump’s State Department.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, on March 19, 2017. [State Department photo/Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chats with Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se at the Ministerial Working Luncheon of the Global Coalition Working to Defeat ISIS at the U.S. Department of State on March 22, 2017. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

 

Brian Hook

Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State and Director of Policy Planning, and apparently the guy whose “hair is always on fire,” according to an unnamed State Department official quoted by Politico. He held a number of senior positions in the Bush Administration, including Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations; Senior Advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Special Assistant to the President for Policy in the White House Chief of Staff’s office; and Counsel, Office of Legal Policy, at the Justice Department. See his official bio here.  And now everyone inside the beltway is reading that he tasked an official with an economics portfolio to draft a memo summarizing the U.S. fight against the Islamic State. Well, now….

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a bilateral meeting in Beijing, China, on March 18, 2017. [State Department photo/ Public Domain] DS NOTE: Next to Tillerson is Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin, Acting Assistant Secretary for EAP Susan Thornton, and  Brian Hook, Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State and Director of Policy Planning

Christine Ciccone

Deputy Chief of Staff. She was formerly the chief operating officer of Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. She resigned late in 2015 when the Bush campaign underwent downsizing according to the Daily Wire.  Ciccone also worked in George W. Bush’s presidential administration as special assistant to the president and before then was a longtime Senate staffer. See Bush chief operating officer departs campaign.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, joined by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, left, and Deputy Chief of Staff Christine Ciccone, prepare for a meeting with U.S./Alaska Permanent Participants to the Arctic Council in Fairbanks, Alaska, on May 10, 2017. [U.S. Air Force photo / Public Domain]

R.C. Hammond

Describes his job as “chief cat-herder.” On Twitter, he is @rchammond “Omitting needless words since 2003.  +  alum.” He was press secretary for Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign.

In April, Mr. Hammond famously compared the department’s organizational structure to the Titanic in an interview with NYT (See Tillerson in No Rush to Fill Nearly 200 State Department Posts). Recently, after demanding the names of her sources, this State Department’s Senior Adviser for Communications apparently told a CNN reporter that no one from the agency would speak to her again, and reportedly this: “WE don’t think you’re SMART ENOUGH to HANDLE our information!!!!!” Charming. Are these the folks with no sense of humor?

Also see Politico’s Yet another R.C. Hammond-press episode; Daily Beast’s Rex Tillerson vs. The Enemy of The People: Inside The Media War At The State Department;

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and members of the U.S. delegation listen to opening remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ahead of their bilateral meeting in Moscow, Russia, on April 12, 2017. Pictured right to left: U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft, interpreter Marina Gross, Secretary Tillerson, Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin, and senior advisers Brian Hook and R.C. Hammond. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Matt Mowers (@mowers)

“Current . Alum of  &   campaigns. Working everyday to .” Not sure what his official title is (his name is not listed on the org directory) but Bloomberg reported in March that this former aide to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is Tillerson’s main conduit to the White House (see American Diplomats’ Comfort With Tillerson Gives Way to Unease;  also see Former Christie aide, witness at Bridgegate trial, rises at State Department and At Bridgegate trial, Trump aide describes how Christie’s office tracked endorsements.

Via Twitter

William “Bill” Inglee

Behind the Scenes Guy at the State Department; he is so behind the scenes that we have not been able to locate a public photo of him on the state.gov account, nor is he listed on the agency’s org directory.  A non-state.gov site lists him as the Special Assistant on Budget, Office of the Secretary [S], United States Department of State.  He is currently on leave from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) where he is a visiting fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies. He previously worked as Clerk and Staff Director, House Committee on Appropriations, 2011–13; and was Policy Adviser (national security and trade) to former Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert, 1999–2000. Read the full biography here.

click on image to read the full bio

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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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Oy! That Rumor About Foreign Service Family Member Employment as “Corporate Welfare”

Posted: 1:39 am ET

 

We posted recently about the hiring freeze, the jobs for diplomatic spouses, and the worries that these jobs could soon be filled not by the U.S. citizen spouses of USG employees overseas but by locally hired employees (see Are #EFM positions literally about to become…extinct under #Tillerson’s watch?).

We have since learned that the Foreign Service community has been roiled by a rumor that the top diplomat of the United States has allegedly called the employment of Foreign Service family members as “corporate welfare” and allegedly said to one of his deputies that this practice is going to stop.

The secretary of state is surrounded by a small number of inner circle staffers like Margaret Peterlin, Christine Ciccone, Matt Mowers and Bill Ingle but his top deputies are currently nowhere in sight in Foggy Bottom as he has no confirmed deputy. Where did this rumor come from?  Was this overheard in the cafeteria, by the water coolers, in Foggy Bottom’s sparkling bathrooms?  We have not been able to trace the origin of this alleged quote, or locate a first hand account of who heard exactly what when.  But since the rumor has raced like wildfire fire within the State Department, and has a potential deleterious effect on morale, we’ve asked the Bureau of Public Affairs via email, and on Twitter to comment about this alleged quote. Unfortunately, we got crickets; we got no acknowledgement that they even received our multiple inquiries, and we’ve seen no response to-date.

Not even smoke signals! Dear Public Affairs, please blink if you’re being held hostage …

via reactiongifs.com

We’ve also asked the Family Liaison Office (FLO), the institutional advocate for Foreign Service family members. The FLO folks also did not respond to our inquiry. Finally, we’ve asked the Director General of the Foreign Service via email. We got a canned response thanking us for our inquiry and advising us that if a response is required, we’ll hear from DGHR within 10 days. Yippee! The DGHR’s office did bother to set up an auto-response and we’re holding our breath for a real response!

H-e-l-p … g-u-l-p …we’re still holding our breath!

Dual Career Households

Foreign Service spouses have similar challenges to military spouses in maintaining dual careers while following their spouses during assignments — have you ever heard our top generals call the jobs for military spouses  “corporate welfare?” Of course not. Why? Because dual career households have been trending up since 1970.  According to a Pew Research Center analysis of Current Population Survey data in 2015, the share of two-parent households in which both parents work full time now stands at 46%, up from 31% in 1970.  “At the same time, the share with a father who works full time and a mother who doesn’t work outside the home has declined considerably; 26% of two-parent households today fit this description, compared with 46% in 1970.” 

So, we were counting on the State Department to set the record straight on what this secretary of state thinks about the family members who serve overseas with our diplomats.  We are unable to say whether this quote is real or not, whether he said this or not but we can tell you that the rumor is doing the rounds and upsetting a whole lot of people.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that a good number of folks within the organization also believe this to be true.

Rumors Uninterrupted. Why?

Well, there are a few reasons we can think of.  One, the White House has now lifted the hiring freeze, but there is no thaw in sight for the State Department until the reorganization plan is approved (see No thaw in sight for @StateDept hiring freeze until reorganization plan is “fully developed”).  Two, we’re hearing all sorts of news about gutting State and USAID budgets and staffing but we have yet to hear about the Secretary of State actually talking to his people in Foggy Bottom or defending the agency that he now leads. And then there’s this: there are apparently over 70 exceptions to the hiring freeze for EFM jobs that have been requested. Only 6 EFM positions for the Priority Staffing Posts (like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan) were reportedly approved by Secretary Tillerson.  PSPs are important to watch as EFMs can only accompany their employee-spouse if they have a job at post. If State only grants exceptions to EFM jobs at PSP posts on the rarest of cases, will employees break their assignments when their EFMs are unable to accompany them?

These EFM jobs, almost all requiring security clearance range from Community Liaison Officers tasked with morale and family member issues to security escorts, minders for the janitorial or repair staff, to mailroom clerks who process mail and diplomatic pouches, to security clerks who process security badges and do other clerical work.  With few exceptions like consular associates who work in the visa sections and professional associates, most of these EFM jobs are  clerical in nature and require no more than a high school education. Some 80% of diplomatic spouses have college degrees but only 29% works inside U.S. missions overseas, 14% works in the local economy and a whopping 57% are not employed.

Let’s pause here for a moment to note that the 57% for the State Department more than double the Pew Research Center analysis of Current Population Survey data from 2015 for two-parent households where the wife does not work outside the home.

Hard Choices Ahead

If the EFM job freeze becomes indefinite, we anticipate that some families with financial obligations for college tuitions or other family obligations may opt for voluntary separation to enable the EFM to keep her/his Civil Service job or stay stateside to keep her/his private sector job. More senior  spouses may also have particular concerns about having jobs/keeping their jobs so we may see an increase in voluntary unaccompanied tours and family separations. Is that something the State Department really wants to do?

Given that the summer rotation is coming up between June and August, how is the State Department going to remedy the staffing gaps at various locations while the EFM hiring freeze is on?  We’ve also asked the State Department this question, but we did not hear anything back, not even a buzz-buzz.  Do you think there is even a plan?

We should note that not all rotations are created equal.  There are posts that may have a light staff rotation this year, while other posts have larger staff turnovers.  Small posts may be hit particularly hard.  Sections with one FSO supported by a couple of EFMs could potentially lose both EFM staffers and be unable to hire new ones because of the hiring freeze.  Meanwhile, the work requirements including all congressionally mandated reporting go on.

One source told us that the main option for his/her post during rotation is to suck up the extra work, and even temporarily reassign the existing staff to higher priority projects. Which means somethings will not/not get done.  There are already posts where one officer has two-three collateral duties, so those are not going to get any better. Visa officers may need to collect fingerprints as well as conduct visa interviews. Unless their jobs get handed over to DHS (yes, there are rumors on that, too!).   Regional Security Officers may need to process embassy badges, and answer their own phones, as well as attend to mission security, supervise the local guards, review contracts, etc.

An Aside — on Rumors

We once wrote about rumors in a dysfunctional embassy.  It now applies to the State Department.  Rumors express and gratify “the emotional needs of the community.” It occupies the space when that need is not meet, and particularly when there is deficient communication between the front office and the rest of the mission.  In the current environment, the rampant rumors circulating within the State Department is indicative of Mr. Tillerson’s deficient communication with his employees.

If State Really Cares About the Costs

In any case, if the State Department no longer even pretends to care that FS spouses are under-employed or not employed overseas, it still ought to care about costs. These are support employees who already have their security clearances, and require no separate housing. It is estimated that there are about 5,000 EFMs who would qualify for the Foreign Service  Family Reserve Corps. A few years ago, we noted that majority of EFMs employed at US mission, at the minimum, have a “Secret” level clearance. The average cost to process a SECRET clearance has been reported to run from several hundred dollars to $3,000, depending on individual factors. We suspect that the cost is higher for FS members due to overseas travels and multiple relocations.  The average cost to process a TOP SECRET clearance is between $3,000 and about $15,000, depending on individual factors. If State gets rid of EFM jobs (already cheap labor compared to direct-hire), the work will still be there.  Or is it planning on hiring contractors to bridge the gap? If yes, these contractors would all have to get through the security clearance process themselves.  State still has to fund contractors’ travel and housing, etc. How would that be cheaper?  Or … if not, who will do all the work?

Tillerson’s 9% Cut and a Troubling Nugget

The latest news from Bloomberg talks about Tillerson reportedly seeking a 9% cut in State Department staffing with majority of the job cuts, about 1,700, through attrition, while the remaining 600 will be done via buyouts (we’ll have to write about this separately).   Oh, and he’ll be on a “listening tour” sometime soon.  Note that during the slash and burn in the 1990’s, the State Department “trimmed” more than 1,100 jobs at the State Department, 600 jobs at  the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), and had identified for elimination about 2,000 jobs at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Bloomberg report also has this troubling nugget:

“Tillerson was taken aback when he arrived on the job to see how much money the State Department was spending on housing and schooling for the families of diplomats living overseas, according to one person familiar with his thinking.”

So next, we’re gonna to be talking about those houses with concertina wire on top of 18 foot walls?

Since there may not be EFM jobs for diplomatic spouses, and we could soon be back to the old days when American diplomats are accompanied overseas by stay-at-home spouses who make no demands on having careers of their own, who’s to say when dependents’ schooling will next be upgraded to allow only homeschooling, when travel will be made only by paddle boats,  and diplomatic housing will be reduced to yurts?

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NOTE: There are a few EFMs who are hired in Civil Service positions and allowed to telecommute from their locations overseas once they go abroad with their spouses . They’re officially on DETO status (domestic employee telecommuting overseas).  We understand that last year,  one bureau had “pushed out” its EFM employees on DETO status. The employees either had to resign their CS jobs or return to DC to report to work.  In these DETO cases, the spouses can either stay at post with no jobs, or return to Washington, D.C. and endure the family separation. While this predates Tillerson’s arrival, we’d like to see how many other bureaus have now done away with DETO employees. Email us.

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Staffing the State Department: Campaign Staffers and Supporters Find a New Home

Posted: 1:16 am ET

 

We’ve previously posted in this blog the names of the Trump landing team at the State Department (see Trump Transition: Agency Landing Team For @StateDept Includes Old Familiar NamesTrump Transition: Additional Agency Landing Team Members For @StateDept).

On March 8, ProPublica released the names of more than 400 individuals who were hired by the Trump Administration across the federal government. These jobs do not require Senate confirmation.  ProPublica notes that its list represents Trump administration hires primarily made between Jan. 20 and Jan. 30, according to the Office of Personnel Management. It also says that at least a few of the officials have since moved to other agencies or left the government. The names were obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests to federal agencies.

Below are the names from the ProPublica list hired at the State Department.  Based on this list, it looks like only one from the Trump Landing Team (Ambassador Charles Glazer) has remained at the State Department as senior advisor. The rest of the names appear to include mostly former Trump campaign staffers. Note that GS for Grade level refers to the pay scale for federal employees. SES stands for Senior Executive Service, who serve in top positions the government.

If you have any information about members of the Trump beachhead teams or their roles in the agencies, contact ProPublica at beachhead@propublica.org to add to their list or via Signal at (774)-826-6240. Here is a guide for how to leak to ProPublica.

Via ProPublica

State Michael Dougherty (see) Senior Advisor GS-15 1/23/17
State John Eanes Senior Advisor SES 1/20/17
State Emily Eng (see) Staff Assistant GS-11 1/26/17
State Matthew Flynn Special Assistant GS-14 1/20/17
State Katherine Giblin Special Assistant GS-14 1/20/17
State Charles Glazer Senior Advisor GS-15 1/20/17
State Julia Haller Senior Advisor GS-15 1/23/17
State Jennifer Hazelton (see) Special Assistant GS-14 1/23/17
State Abigayle Jones (see) Staff Assistant GS-12 1/20/17
State Federico Klein (see) Staff Assistant GS-09 1/23/17
State Amanda Middlemas Special Assistant GS-13 1/24/17
State Hunter Morgen (see) Staff Assistant GS-07 1/20/17
State Matthew Mowers (see) Senior Advisor SES 1/20/17
State Christina Perrone (see) Senior Advisor GS-15 1/23/17
State Margaret Peterlin (see) Senior Advisor SES 1/25/17
State Pamela Pryor (see) Senior Advisor GS-15 1/20/17
State Jack Sewell (see) Staff Assistant GS-07 1/20/17
State Jared Smith (see) Staff Assistant GS-11 1/23/17
State Danielle Stoebe Staff Assistant GS-05 1/20/17
State Robert Wasinger (see) Senior Advisor GS-15 1/20/17
State Katheryn Wellner Special Advisor to Transition GS-15 1/23/17

 

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