Women in the Foreign Service — go own the night like the Fourth of July!

Updated: Mar 10, 2014 10:36 am PST: Clarified post to indicate that the WHA Assistant Secretary is a career CS, and added links to the bios of the five assistant secretaries on state.gov.

— Domani Spero

Lucile Atcherson was the first woman in the Foreign Service. She passed the Diplomatic Service examination in 1922 with the third-highest score, and was appointed a secretary in the Diplomatic Service on December 5, 1922. She was assigned as Third Secretary of the Legation in Berne, Switzerland, on April 11, 1925. She resigned on September 19, 1927, in order to get married.

Via the National Archives Text Message blog:

Lucile Atcherson was born in October 1894 in Columbus, Ohio. She graduated from Smith College in 1913 and subsequently did graduate and research work at Ohio State University and the University of Chicago. She was active in the women’s suffrage movement and during World War I worked overseas in the American Committee of Devastated France. She spoke French, German, and Spanish.

Atcherson began her quest to join the American diplomatic corps in 1921, enlisting the support of political leaders in her home state of Ohio. Department of State officials tried to steer her towards a clerk position where her war relief experience might be helpful. Instead, in May 1921, she applied for a position as a Diplomatic Secretary (a secretary in the Diplomatic Service of the time was one of importance; secretaries performed substantive work, not clerical duties, under the direction of the chief of mission). Her application was accepted and she subsequently passed the July 1922 Diplomatic Service examination, at which point she was placed on the list of those eligible for appointment.

Click here to see Ms. Atcherson’s December 5, 1922 job offer.

Source: Lucile Atcherson; Official Personnel Folders-Department of State; Record Group 146: Records of the U.S. Civil Service Commission; National Archives, St. Louis, MO

Source: Lucile Atcherson; Official Personnel Folders-Department of State; Record Group 146: Records of the U.S. Civil Service Commission; National Archives, St. Louis, MO

But baby, you’re a firework!

Other firsts:

Pattie H. Field was the first woman to enter the Foreign Service after passage of the Rogers Act. She was sworn in on April 20, 1925, served as a Vice Consul at Amsterdam, and resigned on June 27, 1929, to accept a job with the National Broadcasting Company.

First woman to head a geographic bureau: Rozanne Ridgway (FSO), Assistant Secretary for European and Canadian Affairs (1985).

Carol C. Laise was the first female FSO to become an Assistant Secretary of State.  No career female FSO has ever been appointed higher than the position of Assistant Secretary of State.  But for the first time ever, women are leading five of the six geographic bureaus in the State Department: Linda Thomas-Greenfield, AF; Victoria Nuland, EUR; Anne Patterson, NEA, all career Foreign Service;  Roberta Jacobson, WHA (career Civil Service) and Nisha Biswal Desa, SCA (formerly with USAID and HFAC).

How about career ambassadors?

Below via history.state.gov:

The class of Career Ambassador was first established by an Act of Congress on Aug 5, 1955, as an amendment to the Foreign Service act of 1946 (P.L. 84-250; 69 Stat. 537). Under its provisions, the President with the advice and consent of the Senate was empowered to appoint individuals to the class who had (1) served at least 15 years in a position of responsibility in a government agency, including at least 3 years as a Career Minister; (2) rendered exceptionally distinguished service to the government; and (3) met other requirements prescribed by the Secretary of State. Under the 1980 Foreign Service Act (P.L. 96-465; 94 Stat. 2084), which repealed the 1946 Act as amended, the President is empowered with the advice and consent of the Senate to confer the personal rank of Career Ambassador upon a career member of the Senior Foreign Service in recognition of especially distinguished service over a sustained period. 

This very small class of career diplomats accorded the personal rank of Career Ambassador has 55 members since its inception in 1955; seven are women, only three are in active service.

  • Frances Elizabeth Willis (Appointed to rank of career ambassador: March 20, 1962) Deceased July 23, 1983. She was the first female Foreign Service Officer to become an Ambassador; she was appointed to Switzerland in 1953, Norway in 1957 and Sri Lanka in 1961.
  • Mary A. Ryan (Appointed career ambassador: March 25, 1999); Deceased April 25, 2006.
  • Ruth A. Davis (Appointed career ambassador: April 1, 2002). Retired from the State Department in February 2009; recently a member of the AFSA Working Group on COM Guidelines.
  • A. Elizabeth Jones (Appointed career ambassador: October 12, 2004). Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Near Eastern Affairs, June 2012/13.
  • Anne Woods Patterson (Appointed career ambassador: June 6, 2008). Confirmed as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in December 2013.
  • Nancy Jo Powell (Appointed career ambassador: January 3, 2011). Appointed U.S. Ambassador to India in February 2012.
  • Kristie Ann Kenney (Appointed career ambassador: September 26, 2012). Appointed U.S. Ambassador to Thailand in December 2010.
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson meets with Saudi Interior Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Nayef at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 11, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson meets with Saudi Interior Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Nayef at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 11, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell at Aero India 2013 in Bangalore. (Photo by U.S. Consulate General in Chennai)

U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell at Aero India 2013 in Bangalore. (Photo by U.S. Consulate General in Chennai)

Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) William Brownfield and Ambassador Kristie Kenney visited the Wildlife Forensic Science Unit at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. There, they observed the scientists at work, who were trained under the ARREST (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking) Program, funded by USAID Asia and implemented by the FREELAND Foundation.

US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney with her husband, Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) William Brownfield during a visit to the Wildlife Forensic Science Unit at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. There, they observed the scientists at work, who were trained under the ARREST (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking) Program, funded by USAID Asia and implemented by the FREELAND Foundation. September 2013.                   Photo via US Embassy Bangkok

FSO Margot Carrington wrote about the state of women in the Foreign Service in 2013 in FSJ:

After starting from a low base (due, in part, to a longstanding policy requiring female FSOs to resign upon marriage), by 1990 women comprised just 13 percent of the Senior Foreign Service—even though they represented 25 percent of the Foreign Service generalist corps. The proportion of women in the senior ranks gradually rose, but took until 2005 to break the 30-percent mark. The number has hovered there ever since, even though women now make up 40 percent of Foreign Service generalists.

That despite having Madeline K. Albright (64th), Condoleezza Rice (66th) and Hillary Clinton (67th) as Secreatries of State.  Women in the FS have come a long way from the days when they had to quit their jobs just to get married, but there’s work to do. The posts with the highest numbers of female ambassadors still appear to be in Africa. Female U.S.ambassadors  to the G8 countries are registering between 0-1 in stats. We’re guessing career female diplomats get less than zero consideration when it comes to the selection of chiefs of mission in G8 countries. France (male ambassador appointed 65/female ambassador appointed 1) ; Italy (47/1); Japan 41/1); UK (68/1);Canada (31/0); Germany (49/0) and Russia (73/0).

Additional readings below via U.S. Diplomacy:

Also check out Challenges facing women in overseas diplomatic positions (2004), the Women in Diplomacy page of state.gov, and UKFCO’s Ambassadors in high heels.

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Indian Deputy Consul General Arrested For Visa Fraud and False Statements Related to Domestic Worker

— Domani Spero

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the arrest of Devyani Khobragade on charges that “Khobragade allegedly caused a materially false and fraudulent document to be presented, and materially false and fraudulent statements to be made, to the United States Department of State in support of a visa application for an Indian national employed as a babysitter and housekeeper at Khobragade’s home in New York, New York.” Ms. Khobragade  39, is currently employed as the Deputy Consul General for Political, Economic, Commercial and Women’s Affairs at the Consulate General of India in New York, New York. According to the announcement, she was charged with one count of visa fraud and one count of making false statements, which carry maximum sentences of ten years and five years in prison, respectively.

One thing notable about this announcement:  “Manhattan U.S. Attorney Bharara thanked the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit for playing an integral role in this investigation, and for providing ongoing support in this prosecution.”

The announcement made no mention of what role, if any, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security or Consular Affairs bureau played in this case. However, the statement in the complaint is made by the lead investigator of this case, DSS Agent Mark J. Smith of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

Below is part of the December 12 announcement via USDOJ | Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Arrest Of Indian Consular Officer For Visa Fraud And False Statements In Connection With Household Employee’s Visa Application

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Foreign nationals brought to the United States to serve as domestic workers are entitled to the same protections against exploitation as those afforded to United States citizens. The false statements and fraud alleged to have occurred here were designed to circumvent those protections so that a visa would issue for a domestic worker who was promised far less than a fair wage. This type of fraud on the United States and exploitation of an individual will not be tolerated.”

According to the allegations in the criminal complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

Diplomats and consular officers may obtain A-3 visas for their personal employees, domestic workers, and servants if they meet the requirements set out in 9 Foreign Affairs Manual (“FAM”) 41.22. As part of the application process, an interview at the embassy or consulate is required. Proof is required that the applicant will receive a fair wage, sufficient to support himself financially, comparable to that being offered in the area of employment in the U.S. To apply for an A-3 visa, the visa applicant must submit an employment contract signed by both the employer and the employee which must include, among other things, a description of duties, hours of work, the hourly wage – which must be the greater of the minimum wage under U.S. federal and state law, or the prevailing wage – for all working hours, overtime work, and payment.

DEVYANI KHOBRAGADE prepared and electronically submitted an application for an A-3 visa (the “Visa Application”) through the website for the U.S. Department of State’s Consular Electronic Application Center for an Indian national (“Witness-1”), who was to be the personal employee of KHOBRAGADE beginning in November 2012 at an address in New York, New York. The Visa Application stated that Witness-1 was to be paid $4,500 per month in U.S. dollars. KHOBRAGADE and Witness-1 also signed an employment contract (the “First Employment Contract”) for Witness-1 to bring to Witness-1’s interview at the U.S. Embassy in India in connection with the Visa Application, which Witness-1 did at KHOBRAGADE’s direction. The First Employment Contract stated, among other things, that KHOBRAGADE would pay Witness-1 the prevailing or minimum wage, whichever is greater, resulting in an hourly salary of $9.75.

KHOBRAGADE knew that the First Employment Contract that KHOBRAGADE caused Witness-1 to submit to the U.S. State Department in connection with Witness-1’s Visa Application contained materially false and fraudulent statements about, among other things, Witness-1’s hourly wage and hours worked. Prior to the signing of the First Employment Contract, KHOBRAGADE and Witness-1 had agreed that KHOBRAGADE would pay 30,000 rupees per month, which at the time was equivalent to $573.07 U.S. At 40 hours per week, with approximately 4.3 weeks in a month, $573.07 equates to a rate of $3.31 per hour. However, KHOBRAGADE instructed Witness-1 to say that she would be paid $9.75 per hour, and not to say anything about being paid 30,000 rupees per month. KHOBRAGADE also instructed Witness-1 to say that Witness-1 would work 40 hours per week, and that Witness-1’s duty hours would be 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. She told Witness-1 that the First Employment Contract was a formality to get the visa.

After the First Employment Contract was submitted to the United States Department of State, KHOBRAGADE told Witness-1 that Witness-1 needed to sign another employment contract (the “Second Employment Contract”). KHOBRAGADE and Witness-1 signed the Second Employment Contract, which provided that Witness-1’s maximum salary per month including overtime allowance will not exceed 30,000 rupees per month. The Second Employment Contract does not contain any provision about the normal number of working hours per week or month.

Witness-1 worked for KHOBRAGADE as a household employee in New York, New York, from approximately November 2012 through approximately June 2013. Notwithstanding the terms of the First Employment Contract, Witness-1 worked far more than 40 hours per week, and Witness-1 was paid less than $9.75 per hour by KHOBRAGADE. In fact, notwithstanding the terms of the oral agreement between KHOBRAGADE and Witness-1 and the terms of the Second Employment Contract, Witness-1 was paid less than 30,000 rupees per month, or $3.31 per hour.

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KHOBRAGADE, 39, was charged with one count of visa fraud and one count of making false statements, which carry maximum sentences of ten years and five years in prison, respectively. She is expected to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Bharara thanked the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit for playing an integral role in this investigation, and for providing ongoing support in this prosecution.

The Office’s Organized Crime Unit is handling the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amanda Kramer and Kristy Greenberg are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the complaint are merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The Embassy of India in Washington, D.C., also released the following statement:

We were informed that Deputy Consul General of India in New York, Dr. Devyani Khobragade, was taken into custody by law enforcement authorities in New York in the morning of December 12, 2013 while she was dropping her daughter at school. Dr. Khobragade was later released that same evening.
Action was apparently taken against Dr Khobragade on the basis of allegations raised by the officer’s former India-based domestic assistant, Ms Sangeeta Richard, who has been absconding since June this year. In this context the Delhi High Court had issued an-interim injunction in September to restrain Ms Richard from instituting any actions or proceedings against Dr Khobragade outside India on the terms or conditions of her employment.
 
The US Government had subsequently been requested to locate Ms Richard and facilitate the service of an arrest warrant, issued by the Metropolitan Magistrate of the South District Court in New Delhi under Sections 387, 420 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code.
The Embassy of India in Washington DC had immediately conveyed its strong concern to the U.S. Government over the action taken against Dr Khobragade. The US side have been urged to resolve the matter with due sensitivity, taking into account the existing Court case in India that has already been brought to their attention by the Government of India, and the Diplomatic status of the officer concerned.

NDTV is reporting that India has summoned US Ambassador Nancy Powell to “lodge a strong protest against what it has called the “unacceptable treatment” of its high-ranking diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who was arrested and handcuffed in public in New York on Thursday for an alleged visa fraud.”

The Times of India reports the reaction from India’s ministry of external affairs in New Delhi with a spokesperson saying, “We are shocked and appalled at the manner in which she has been humiliated by the US authorities. We have taken it up forcefully with the US government through our embassy in Washington. We are also reiterating, in no uncertain terms, to US embassy here that this kind of treatment to one of our diplomats is absolutely unacceptable.”

This is not the first allegation involving a foreign household worker in the United States and a foreign diplomat assigned here. In the Washington Diplomat February 2010 issue, it was alleged that “the State Department has been uninterested in dealing with these cases.”

This is also not the first allegation involving the Indian Mission in the United States. In June 2011, the Consul General (CG) of India in New York, Prabhu Dayal was “slapped with forced labour charges after his 45-year-old domestic help Santosh Bhardwaj accused him of treating her like a “slave.” ( see Back in the Spotlight: Alleged Abuse of Household Workers by Foreign Diplomats with Immunity). According to thehindu.com, in 2012 a New York City Magistrate Judge also ordered Neena Malhotra, an Indian diplomat and her husband Jogesh to pay nearly $1.5 million reportedly arising from their employment of an Indian girl, Shanti Gurung who alleged “barbaric treatment” while she was employed as their domestic worker (see Gurung v. Mahotra).

For additional reading on this subject, see  GAO: July 2008 | U.S. Government’s Efforts to Address Alleged Abuse of Household Workers by Foreign Diplomats with Immunity Could Be Strengthened and GIHR: June 2011 | Domestic Workers in Diplomats’ Households Rights Violations and Access to Justice in the Context of Diplomatic Immunity.   

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US Mission Pakistan: Ambassador Munter’s Summer Departure and Is This Our Next Man in Islamabad?

The rumor mill is working fast and furious about Ambassador Cameron Munter‘s reported departure this summer from US Embassy Islamabad after a 2-year tenure.  Although his immediate two predecessors, Anne Patterson (2007-2010) and Ryan Crocker (2004–2007) both served 3-year terms in Islamabad, Nancy Powell who is now ambassador to India only served for two years (2002-2004). And previous to her, Wendy Jean Chamberlin served for less than 12 months.

The news made it to the May 8 Daily Press Briefing:

QUESTION: And on Pakistan itself, has the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan offered to resign? He is leaving the post by the end of the summer?

MR. TONER: He did, in a staff meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, announce that he’d made the personal decision to depart Pakistan this summer. This is at the conclusion of his tenure, I believe, at the end of two years, which is a perfectly normal period for an ambassador to Pakistan. I do note that Secretary Clinton did praise his efforts and his performance earlier today in an interview that she did in New Delhi and also noted that she understood his decision.

Meanwhile, CBS News citing an unnamed Pakistani foreign ministry official reports that “Pakistani authorities have been informally told that a senior diplomat from the U.S. Embassy in neighboring Afghanistan will likely take the position. […]  We understand that Richard Olson, who is a senior U.S. diplomat in Kabul and is looking after U.S. aid and economy related matters, is being actively considered for the job,” added the Pakistani foreign ministry official.

Richard Olson is US Embassy Kabul’s Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs (CDDEA) since June 2011. His bio is here. No official announcement has yet come out of the White House.

You may remember Ambassador Olson wearing a lungei during a visit to Paktika, Afghanistan  in our Headgears in the Foreign Service Round-up. That’s a perfectly nice photo; unfortunately, that photo has now been deleted from the photostream of US Embassy Kabul.

So instead, we’ll bring you a compendium of sartorial good taste. With Ambassador Olson, who may or may not be our next ambassador to Pakistan.

click on image to view the slideshow

Oh, and if you wonder how he wears his suits so well, we know the answer — he is an avid cyclist who competed in last year’s Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.

Domani Spero

FSTube Trends: Ambassador Video Cards from Washington, D.C.

In the past, we have seen a smattering of ambassador video greetings usually posted on  embassy websites, urging host country nationals to visit the website and check out embassy services.  Like this welcome message by then U.S. Ambassador to Montenegro Roderick W. Moore, which is noisy and and could stand some improvement.

In December 2010, then U.S. Ambassador-designate to Thailand Kristie Kenney sent a video message greeting the people of Thailand, while she was still in Washington, D.C.. The video is in English with Thai subtitle; approximately 16,000 views.

On Dec 9, 2011, Ambassador Adrienne O’Neal also sent a video message to the people of Cape Verde prior to her arrival in the country, in Portuguese; some 385 views.

According to a recent OIG report, before the Ambassador’s arrival in Hanoi, he recorded “a video of his preliminary thoughts and goals for his tenure in Hanoi, some of it in Vietnamese, for a television interview. An estimated 20 million viewers watched the interview. Another 6 million people viewed it after it was posted on the Internet.”  We have not been able to find a video of that interview.   In August 2011, Ambassador David Shear did have a video greeting for the people of Vietnam (some Vietnamese, English with subtitle) posted in the mission’s YouTube channel; it has 8,310 views.

On Jan 12, 2012, US Embassy Moscow posted Ambassador Michael McFaul’s introduction video, in English with Russian subtitle; some 76,500 views.

On April 3, 2012, the US Embassy Bridgetown and the Eastern Caribbean posted an video message from Ambassador Larry Palmer, who was confirmed by the Senate on March 30. Video in English, approximately 200 views.

On April 16, 2012, the US Embassy in New Delhi followed with a video greeting from DC by Nancy Powell, Ambassador-Designate to India, also done prior to her arrival at post; 4,301 views.

Last week, it was US Embassy Cambodia’s turn with a video on YouTube of Ambassador-Designate William Todd introducing himself to the Cambodian people; some 3200 views.

This appears to be a video trend in the Foreign Service, no doubt created in Foggy Bottom.  You can tell from looking at these videos that they have become more sophisticated. The sounds are better, the graphics are more snazzy, the editing more professionally done, etc. New shop at Foggy Bottom busy with these videos, huh?

We do wonder what kind of views would be considered a satisfactory return of investment for the production of these videos? We’re not saying these intro videos are bad, we are simply pointing out that it cost staff hours (also known as manhours in govspeak) and money to produce and edit these videos. At what point are they considered successful – at 200 views, 500 views, a couple thousand views?

Is this something that the Evaluation & Measurement Unit (EMU) under Office of Policy, Planning and Resources for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R/PPR) even looks at?  We know not. But this is the unit that “advances the culture of measurement in U.S. public diplomacy.” 

Domani Spero

SFRC Hearings: Palmer, Powers, Farrar, Reynoso and Powell

The SFRC has commenced with its new hearings for the year starting today February 7 with five nominees from the State Department:

Nominees: February 7 | 10:00 a.m.

The Honorable Larry L. Palmer
of Georgia, to be Ambassador to Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Honorable Phyllis M. Powers
to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Republic of Nicaragua
Download Testimony
Mr. Jonathan D. Farrar
of California, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Panama
Ms. Julissa Reynoso
of New York, to be Ambassador to the Oriental Republic of Uruguay

Nominee: February 7 | 2:30 p.m.

The Honorable Nancy J. Powell
of Iowa, to be Ambassador to India

Officially Moved: Nancy J. Powell goes from DGHR to New Delhi, and if she turns 65 in 2012, so what?

On December 16, President Obama announced his intent to nominate outgoing Director General of the Foreign Service, Nancy J. Powell to be Ambassador to India.  The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador Nancy J. Powell, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, currently serves as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the Department of State.  She was conferred the personal rank of Career Ambassador in January 2011.  Prior to her current assignment, Ambassador Powell served as Ambassador to Nepal (2007-2009), Ambassador to Pakistan (2002-2004), Ambassador to Ghana (2001-2002), and Ambassador to Uganda (1997-1999).  Previous overseas assignments included service in Ottawa, Kathmandu, Islamabad, Lome, Calcutta, New Delhi, and Dhaka.  Her Washington assignments have included: Refugee Assistance Officer, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Acting Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Activities, and the National Intelligence Officer for South Asia at the National Intelligence Council.  Ambassador Powell joined the Foreign Service in 1977 following six years as a high school social studies teacher in Dayton, Iowa.

She received a B.A. from the University of Northern Iowa.

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In State Magazine’s December issue, Ambassador Powell said goodbye after a two-year tenure as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the Department of State. She also highlighted the accomplishments of her HR shop including the following:

“We successfully staffed our priority posts, especially in AIP, with volunteers. Thank you to all who recognized the vital importance of providing Foreign Service expertise to these missions. This willingness to step up is crucial to maintaining a system that gives employees the opportunity to decide when it is best for them and their families to serve in these dangerous places without sacrificing our mission.”

That sorta got my porcu-quills up.  The previous DGHR who oversaw arm twisting and directed assignment threats of diplomats during Condi Rice’s time, got a nice onward assignment as ambassador to a tropical country. His deputy, similarly, ended up as ambassador to another tropical “paradise” albeit, where the last surviving tribes in the world engaging in cannibalism lives. Don’t worry, the tribe does not venture into the capital city just to dine.

I wish — just for once, that the folks asking people to
volunteer to serve in our priority posts in the war zones of Afghanistan
and Iraq and in Pakistan, would themselves volunteer to work there? No,
not just visit. But. Work. There. Because why not? That would be a nice
example of leadership in action instead of a misfired caper of “follow
what I say but not what I do.”

Wonderful to see all you volunteers stepping up to fill in vacant slots in AIP posts (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan), but Ambassador Powell herself ain’t going there. She was in Pak seven years ago before the civilian uplift and before State bundled it up as part of AIP.  And now she is going to New Delhi, India, a 15% COLA and a 20% hardship post. What are you grumbling about?  India is almost an AIP post, and really — given its close proximity to Pakistan shouldn’t it count as a priority post also without the flying bullets? Wonder where the Deputy DGHR going for onward assignment? Don’t know but we’ll sure hear about it.

Col. Michael Howard, commander, 4th Brigade Combat Team,  25th Infantry Division,
escorts senior State Department representatives, Ambassador Nancy Powell, Ambassador
Joseph Mussomeli, and Dr. Ruth Whiteside at Forward Operating Base Salerno
in Khost province, eastern Afghanistan, Oct. 14. Representatives visited various areas
within the provinces  of  Paktya, Paktika, and Khowst to assess
the security and governance in the area.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Butler

In any case, if confirmed, the reportedly 64-year-old nominee would succeed Tim Roemer, who resigned from his post in April 2011 following a two-year stint as U.S. envoy to India.  And if all goes well, this would be Ambassador Powell’s 5th ambassadorial appointment.

Besides the issue of an onward assignment, I find this a rather curious nomination in terms of timing.  It does not look like she will get a confirmation hearing between now and the end of the year. So she would need to be renominated next year. Depending on how things are in the Senate, she could have her confirmation hearing within the first three months. Or not.

I recognize that 2012 is an election year but Ambassador Powell is a career diplomat.  The presidential election outcome should have limited bearing on her tenure.  Typically in a political transition, career appointees with some exceptions are allowed to serve their full term, which is normally three years. Except that Ambassador Powell is a prospective candidate for what I’d call, State Trek’s “airlock.

If her Wikipedia entry is correct and she was born in1947, she would turn 65 next year. She would run right smack of the mandatory retirement age under the Foreign Service Act of 1980. Which means, her ambassadorial tenure in New Delhi could be a short 8-10 months or less depending on when she would get her Senate confirmation or when is her actual birth month. Normally, FSOs are supposed to retire on the last day of the month they turn 65.

Spending 2-3 months on confirmation preparation for a tenure that would not even last more than 12 months seems like a questionable allocation of resources. Also the USG has to pay for her entire relocation to India.  Retired diplomat Peter Burleigh (who served as Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and the UN) has been acting as Charge d’affaires at U.S. Mission India since Mr. Roemer’s departure last spring. Two consecutive one-year tours of the chief of mission in India would not have any impact on continuity, priorities and mission effectiveness, of course.

But it gets better.  Apparently, there is also such a thing called the Foreign Service Standard Operating Procedure D-01:

(click on image for larger view)

In all of US Embassy India’s constituent posts, only Kolkata is considered an HDS post.  So, if the SOP above is current, why is Ambassador Powell, a career member of the Foreign Service even nominated for New Delhi when it seems she would hit 65 in less than 24 months?

I bring this up for good reason.  See, the given justification why Dr. Elizabeth Colton’s assignment to Algiers was withdrawnn according to her age discrimination court filings was that “she would be unable to fulfill a two year tour because of the “statutory retirement requirements.”

And yet, here the State Department has recommended and the WH nominated somebody who will be legally kicked out under the law for being officially old next year.  The only reason this would not seem like a questionable allocation of resources is if a decision is already made that the Director General, Ambassador Powell, if confirmed, would not be mandatorily retired next year. Yeah, because there is something called — whatchamaculit?  A mandatory retirement waiver or something called an extension of service if it’s “in the public interest.”

(click on image for larger view)

Um, wait — what’s that? Ambassadors are exempt from “officially” getting old? Sec. 812 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 says that “Any participant who is otherwise required to retire under subsection (a) while occupying a position to which he or she was appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, may continue to serve until that appointment is terminated.”

So if Ambassador Powell gets confirmed, and I see no reason why she won’t get senate confirmation given that this would be her 6th, she could serve from 2012-2015.  Until she’s 68.  No mandatory retirement waiver even required.

Now, one of the majority arguments for mandatory retirement in the Foreign Service the last time it was litigated to conclusion has always been that the Foreign Service involves extended overseas
duty under difficult and often hazardous conditions, and that the wear
and tear on members of this corps is such that there comes a time when
these posts should be filled by younger persons. Mandatory retirement,
it is said, minimizes the risk of less than superior performance by
reason of poor health or loss of vitality. The Court noted the “common
sense proposition that aging — almost by definition — inevitably wears
us all down.”

It is good to know that ambassadors unlike regular
members of the U.S. diplomatic corps are not afflicted by this “common
sense proposition” of aging.

So there you go — there are rules and there are rules, and just as important, there are exceptions to the rules.  The 1% and 99%, even in the Foreign Service — who knew?

On a related note, Dr. Colton who I heard was nominated for the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy for her work in Egypt this past year (a nomination gobbled up by a black hole never to be heard of again), and was forced to retire last September is scheduled to appear before the U.S. Court of Appeals for her age discrimination case against the State Department.

 

 

Updated with additional info on MRA under the FS Act of 1980 12/18.