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Recipe For Disaster Transition @StateDept: Situation AltNormal, All Fucked Up

Posted: 12:12 pm PT
Updated: 1:15 pm PT

 

We just posted about the reported mass resignations of senior management officials at the State Department (see Patrick Kennedy, Other Officials Step Down – Yo! That’s Not the “Entire” Senior Management).

The State Department spox released the following statement:

“As is standard with every transition, the outgoing administration, in coordination with the incoming one, requested all politically appointed officers submit letters of resignation. The Department encourages and advocates for senior officers to compete for high level offices in the Department. These positions are political appointments, and require the President to nominate and the Senate to confirm them in these roles. They are not career appointments but of limited term. Of the officers whose resignations were accepted, some will continue in the Foreign Service in other positions, and others will retire by choice or because they have exceeded the time limits of their grade in service. No officer accepts a political appointment with the expectation that it is unlimited. And all officers understand that the President may choose to replace them at any time. These officers have served admirably and well. Their departure offers a moment to consider their accomplishments and thank them for their service.”

The senior management officials reported to be stepping down today are not exactly quitting because U/S Kennedy resigned.  Our understanding is that they are leaving because they, too, got letters telling them to go.

What we know right now is that a good number of senior career official received letters yesterday morning essentially saying, “Thank you for your service.  You’re done as of Friday.”  The letters went to U/S Pat Kennedy, A/S Michelle Bond (CA), Joyce Barr (A), and Gentry Smith (DS M/OFM).  We noted previously that there are 13 offices under the “M” group which includes among other things, housing, medical, logistics, personnel, training, security.  We understand that the only person left in the “M” family in a Senate-confirmed position is DGHR Arnold Chacon.

We can confirm that one career under secretary serving in an acting capacity did not receive a letter or notification to leave.  But letters reportedly also went to others, including an assistant secretary in a geographic  bureau overseeing a most challenging region saying “you’re done, once we nominate your successor.”

Here’s the problem, with the exception of the announced nominations for ambassadors to China and Israel, there are no announced nominees for the State Department in the under secretary or assistant secretary level.  How soon will the replacements come onboard? As soon as the nominees are announced, vetted, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Just to be clear, this is not the case of career employees refusing to continue working with a new administration or quitting public service, or quitting in protest — they were told to leave.

People who got these letters are “resigning.”  A good number of them are also retiring as of the 31st because they can no longer be in the Foreign Service due to mandatory retirement (they’re over 65) or they are subject to time-in-class/time-in-service restrictions.  For those who are not retirement-eligible or subject to TIC/TIS, they’re still in the Senior Foreign Service and could theoretically move into different jobs.

With the exception of the DGHR position, we understand that all Senate-confirmed positions in the “M” family are “unemcumbered” or will soon go vacant. The Trump Transition may not know this, but these positions are the most critical to keeping the Department going.  We understand that these firings cause all sorts of problems because “there are certain authorities that can only be vested in someone who is in a confirmable position.”  For example, whenever “M” is on travel, the role of “Acting M” always defaulted to the Senate confirmed senior official at Diplomatic Security, Administration, or Consular Affairs.

For real life consequences, “M” approves authorized and ordered evacuation requests and authorizes the use of K funds. So better not have an evacuation or embassy shutdown right now because without an “M” successor, even one in an acting capacity, no one has any frakking idea who is responsible.  We are presuming that the Legal Affairs bureau is trying to figure this out right now. That is, if the Legal Advisor is still in place and had not been asked to leave, too.

This need not have to happen this way. The Landing Team get to an agency, and it goes about the job of filling in positions with their selected appointees in an orderly manner. This is not the first transition that the agency has gone through.  We understand from the AP’s Matt Lee that there was only one under secretary position left at State during the Clinton to Bush transition.  But giving career employees, some with 30-40 years of dedicated service to our country a two-day notice to pack-up is not just disgraceful, it is also a recipe for disaster.

Unless somebody with authority steps in now, by Monday, the only person possibly left standing in the 7ht Floor is Ambassador Tom Shannon who is the Acting Secretary of State pending Rex Tillerson’s confirmation.  And when Rex Tillerson, who has never worked for the federal government shows up for his first day at work next week, with very few exception, he may be surrounded with people, who like him will be lost in Foggy Bottom.

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Patrick Kennedy, Other Officials Step Down – Yo! That’s Not the “Entire” Senior Management

Posted: 10:09 am PT
Updated: 10:29 am PT

 

Yesterday, Mark Toner, the State Department’s Acting Spokesperson said that “Patrick Kennedy will resign as Under Secretary for Management on January 27, and retire from the Department of State on January 31. A career Foreign Service Officer, Under Secretary Kennedy joined the Department in 1973.”  To read more about him, see The State Department’s Mr. Fix-It of Last Resort Gets the Spotlight.

Today, WaPo reports that the “entire senior management team just resigned.” In addition to U/S Kennedy stepping down, others named includes A/Barr, CA/Bond, DS/Gentry Smith, all career diplomats, and presumably are retiring from the Foreign Service. Previous departures include OBO’s non-career appointee, Lydia Muniz o/a January 20, and Diplomatic Security’s Greg Starr who retired a week before inauguration.

As we have noted before in this blog, U/S Kennedy has been the Under Secretary for Management since 2007. He is the longest serving “M in the history of the State Department, and only the second career diplomat to encumber this position. U/S Kennedy’s departure is a major change, however, it is not unexpected.

The “M” family of offices is the train that runs the State Department, it also affects every part of employees lives in the agency. But there are 13 offices under the “M” group.  Four departures this week including Kennedy, plus two previous ones do not make the “entire” senior management.  If there are other retirements we are not hearing, let us know.  But as one former senior State Department official told us  too much hyperventilation at the moment “is distracting from things that really are problematic.”  

The challenge now for Mr. Tillerson who we expect will be confirmed as the 69th Secretary of State next week, is to find the right successor to lead the “M” group.  We hope he picks one who knows the levers and switches in Foggy Bottom and not one who will get lost in the corridors.

Update: Via CNN “Any implication that that these four people quit is wrong,” one senior State Department official said. “These people are loyal to the secretary, the President and to the State Department. There is just not any attempt here to dis the President. People are not quitting and running away in disgust. This is the White House cleaning house.”

Update: Statement from Mark Toner, Acting Spokesperson:

“As is standard with every transition, the outgoing administration, in coordination with the incoming one, requested all politically appointed officers submit letters of resignation. The Department encourages and advocates for senior officers to compete for high level offices in the Department. These positions are political appointments, and require the President to nominate and the Senate to confirm them in these roles. They are not career appointments but of limited term. Of the officers whose resignations were accepted, some will continue in the Foreign Service in other positions, and others will retire by choice or because they have exceeded the time limits of their grade in service. No officer accepts a political appointment with the expectation that it is unlimited. And all officers understand that the President may choose to replace them at any time. These officers have served admirably and well. Their departure offers a moment to consider their accomplishments and thank them for their service.”

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@StateDept Transition Names: Jim Carafano, Kristie Kenney, Patrick Kennedy, Joseph MacManus

Posted: 1:58 am ET

Per State Department, three senior State Department career officials have been designated several months ago by Secretary Kerry to ensure a professional and orderly transfer of power at the State Department.  The three experienced senior career officials tasked to oversee that transition are Counselor Kristie Kenney and Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy, and they’re working closely with Executive Secretary Joseph MacManus.

On November 15, the State Department was asked if it is normal that at this stage the agency does not yet have any contact with the Trump transition team.  The State Department spox Elizabeth  Trudeau said that “It’s up to the president-elect and his team. We stand ready to welcome them, provide the briefing materials, the facilitation, as we look towards inauguration in January.”

The NYT published a list of the Trump Transition team and assignments. The list names Jim Carafano, the director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies and the deputy director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation as the transition person for the State Department. Here he is talking about an August meeting with the president-elect.

Here is the transition list via the NYT, although given that it has apparently been re-shaped, the list might be OBE already:

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More transition news:

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The State Department’s Mr. Fix-It of Last Resort Gets the Spotlight

Posted: 5:04 am ET

 

FP’s John Hudson recently wrote a profile of the the State Department’s powerful Under Secretary for Management (M). The official spox, John Kirby is quoted in the article, as well as former acting assistant secretary for NEA Beth Jones, and former assistant secretary for CA Janice Jacobs. Just about everyone quoted in the profile, even those with complimentary quips, spoke anonymously to avoid getting into hot water

John Hudson’s profile starts with the line — “In a town infamous for throwing bureaucrats under the bus, Patrick Kennedy’s survival is the stuff of legend.”

Here are some of the quotes extracted from the profile:

“Pat Kennedy is the most powerful guy you’ve never heard of,” said a former diplomat, who like many others spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering the influential government boss.

“The guy has nine lives” a former diplomat said of Kennedy, who has spent more than 40 years at the State Department.

“No one works harder and cares more about the day-to-day management of diplomacy,” said a foreign service officer.

“Pat Kennedy is one of the main gateways to getting an ambassadorship,” said a career foreign service officer. “He comes to people’s aid or demise depending on what they’ve done for him.”

“Like Stalin, his power comes from his understanding and control over the bureaucracy,” said a former State Department official.

“He needs to groom a successor, but he hasn’t done that,” said one foreign service officer.

“He’s an extraordinary public servant and a pillar of this Department,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby.

“Kennedy is the quintessential bureaucrat,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.).

“When anything happens in the world, someone at the White House is going to call Pat first,” said Beth Jones, the former acting assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs.

Jones, a longtime Kennedy ally, volunteered during an interview: He knows “where all the bodies are buried.”

“If the next secretary of state asks him to stay on, I bet anything he’ll say yes,” said Jones, a longtime acquaintance of Kennedy and his wife.

“Quite frankly, I’m not sure what Pat would do in retirement. He gives a new definition to the word workaholic,” said Janice Jacobs, a former assistant secretary of state for Consular Affairs and the Department’s current Transparency Coordinator.

Read the entire piece below:

We should add that as of November last year,  U/S Kennedy became the longest serving Under Secretary of State for Management in the history of the State Department. He is apparently 67 years old. That’s two years past the mandatory retirement age for ordinary FSOs.  Sec. 812 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 does 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 there’s that, save by section (a).

He certainly has admirers and critics, even from readers of this blog. When the Hudson profile  came out, half a dozen folks sent us the link to the FP article.

One complaint we’ve heard is that rather than ask, “what’s good for the mission?”management type folks allegedly say things like “Pat would like that” or “Pat wouldn’t like that!”   A State Department staffer who would only speak on background said that “It’s not healthy for an organization when people associate one man with the organization itself.”

The Under Secretary of State for Management serves as principal adviser to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary on matters relating to the allocation and use of Department of State resources (budget, physical property, and personnel), including planning, the day-to-day administration of the Department, and proposals for institutional reform and modernization. Specific duties, supervisory responsibilities, and assignments have varied over the years according to history.state.gov.  There is no/no other position in Foggy Bottom that has a more significant impact on the day to day lives of employees and family members than the Under Secretary of State for Management.

Since 2009, the State Department was authorized a Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (D/MR), the third highest ranking position at the agency.   Jack L. Lew stayed from January 28, 2009 – November 18, 2010, before moving on to better jobs. Thomas R. Nides was in from January 3, 2011 – February, 2013, then rejoined Morgan Stanley as vice chairman.  Heather Anne Higginbottom joined the State Department in 2013 after a stint at OMB. One or two or all of them may show up again if there is a Clinton White House. Or an entirely new crew will show up if there is a Trump White House. Forgive us for imagining that nightmare (by the way, 121 GOP National Security leaders wrote an open letter in opposition to a Donald Trump presidency).

Michael Singh writing about The Dysfunction Exposed by the Clinton Investigation in the State Department and Beyond notes that “the State Department now has two deputy secretaries instead of one, meaning that resolving the tension between resource constraints and policy priorities is now organizationally the responsibility of the secretary rather than a deputy.” Heh!  The thing is, Secretary Kerry is almost never home and his deputy is also often on the road. You’d think that D/MR would be running the agency, that is, if she, too, is not traveling.  But, you can probably guess who actually runs the building.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses for photo at the groundbreaking ceremony for the U.S. Diplomacy Center with former Secretaries of State Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker, III, Under Secretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Madeleine K. Albright, and Colin L. Powell at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC on September 3, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Here is a quick timeline of U/S Kennedy’s career with some of the more significant events the State Department confronted through the years:

1973 | Kennedy joined the Foreign Service

1973 – 1993 | he served in a number of positions in Washington and overseas, including as Management Counselor at the Embassy in Cairo and Executive Director and Deputy Executive Secretary of the Executive Secretariat.

1993 – 2001 | he became Assistant Secretary of State for Administration (State/M/A) during President Clinton’s two terms in the White House from 1993-2001.

— concurrently from August 1996 to August 1997 he served as the Acting Under Secretary for Management

— in 1998 he served as Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security

— from 1997 to 2001, he served as the coordinator for the reorganization of the foreign affairs agencies.

February 2000 | he was nominated as Representative of the U.S.A. to the European Office of the United Nations (Geneva); nomination was not acted upon by the Senate (see)

September 2001 – May 2005 |  he was U.S. Representative to the United Nations for Management and Reform with the Rank of Ambassador.

— During this period he also served from May 2003 to the end of November 2003 as Chief of Staff of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq

— From May 2004 to late August 2004 as the Chief of Staff of the Transition Unit in Iraq

February 2005 to April 2005, | he headed the Transition Team that set up the newly created Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)

April 2005 to May 2007 | he was Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Management (ODNI/M)

May 2007 – November 2007 | he was Director of the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation (State/M/PRI)

November 2007 | he was appointed Under Secretary of State for Management (M). He was one of the three appointees as “M” in the GWBush tenure, and the first career diplomat. He followed Grant S. Green, Jr. who served in the Bush’s first term under Secretary Powell, and  Henrietta H. Fore, who served from 2005-2007 in the Bush’s second term under Secretary Rice. U/S Kennedy was kept on as “M” during the first Obama term under Secretary Clinton, and continued in the same position under Secretary Kerry.

In November last year, U/S Kennedy became the longest serving Under Secretary of State for Management in the history of the State Department.  Besides Ronald Ian Spiers who served as “M” from 1983–1989, Kennedy would be the only other  Foreign Service Officer appointed to this position.

One of the first incidents that publicly featured U/S Kennedy occurred in November 1993.  Then Secretary of State Warren Christopher dismissed two mid-ranking State Department employees, apparently for their role in searching the personnel files of 160 former Bush Administration officials. The NYTimes named two officials who were political appointees rewarded with State Department jobs for their work in Bill Clinton’s Presidential campaign and the transition to the White House. According to the DPB at that time, the Assistant Secretary for Administration Patrick Kennedy “had immediately taken custody of the cartons of files in  question and had put them in a place where they could be reviewed by the  Inspector General;” within 24 hours reportedly of the initial account appearing in the news.

It’s no wonder that we’ve heard Mr. Kennedy dubbed as the State Department’s Mr. Fix-It.  In October 2007, Mr. Kennedy was also involved in the investigation into the behavior of Blackwater Worldwide following the Nisour Square shooting during Secretary Rice’s tenure (see Ambassador Patrick F. Kennedy on the Report of the Secretary of State’s Panel on Personal Protective Services in Iraq). Diplomatic Security’s Richard Griffin resigned in the wake of that deadly shooting and amidst growing questions about the State Department’s use of private contractors to protect diplomats in Iraq.

In March 2008, the State Department fired two employees and reprimanded a third for improperly opening electronic information from the passport file of then Senator Barack Obama. Mr. Kennedy talked about the unauthorized accessed of Obama passport records of yet another on-the-record briefing.

In September 2009, allegations surfaced via POGO on the shortcomings in Kabul embassy security and in State Department oversight of a guard force supplied by ArmorGroup, North America (AGNA), owned by Wackenhut Services, Inc. U/S Kennedy was once again in Congress on behalf of the State Department.

In October 2012, U/S Kennedy made one of his appearances in Congress concerning the Benghazi attack. See Benghazi Hearing: Looking for Truth Amidst a Partisan Divide, Outing OGA, Zingers.

In August 2013, U/S Kennedy testified in the Bradley Manning case on the release of classified diplomatic cables to the WikiLeaks website.

In June2016, he was deposed in connection with an FOIA litigation related to the Clinton email server. See JW v. @StateDept: Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy’s Testimony (Transcript)

Perhaps, one of the most notable case, in the history of the State Department came in 1998. In 1998, the twin embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam occured; the ARB Report dated January 1999 is online here. Mr. Kennedy who was then the Assistant Secretary for Administration (A) — having relinquished his acting capacity in Diplomatic Security, but nevertheless an authoritative spokesman on issues related to security and the recent bombings in Africa” according to the State Department spokesman — was the point man.

Prior to the attack, in December 1997, the then U.S. ambassador to Nairobi, Prudence Bushnell expressed her concerns over the vulnerability of the embassy. She apparently requested a security assessment team and stated her desire to have a new building. In the DPB of August 14, 1998, the press wanted to know who did Ambassador Bushnell write to express her concerns. Mr. Kennedy’s response at that time is worth noting:

“Bonnie Cohen, the Under Secretary for Management, who would be the Under Secretary that an ambassador would communicate with on something that involved security, logistics, construction, management.”

Bonnie Cohen was a non-career appointee who served as “M” from August 1997 to January 2001 under Madeleine Albright.

In the July 9, 2012 cable (12 TRIPOLI 590), Ambassador Stevens reported that, “Overall security conditions continue to be unpredictable, with large numbers of armed groups and individuals not under control of the central government, and frequent clashes in Tripoli and other major population centers.” The cable requested continued TDY security support for an additional 60 days, through mid-September 2012. The request also said that 13 security personnel would be the “minimum” needed for “transportation security and incident response capability.”

In his on-the-record briefing following the Benghazi attack, U/S Kennedy said:

I’ve been confirmed, I think, three or four times. Every time you’re confirmed, you tell the Congress that you will appear before the Congress for hearings. I regard it as both an honor and a privilege to be called. The Legislative Branch of the U.S. Government is incredibly important, and it is my job as a confirmed official to appear before them. They had a lot of questions. We answered lots of their questions. I regard that as my job.

That’s after a long grilling in Congress.

We came up with a bureaucrat’s motto — always willing and ready, and never, ever show an angry face.

What remains striking to us is that one assistant secretary, and three DASes, including one from the NEA bureau with no direct security responsibility for Benghazi was where “the rubber hits the road.”  

Inside Harry S. Truman’s building, named after the president noted for his motto, the buck stops here, it seems that the buck stopped everywhere and nowhere.

Ah — bonus email from Senator BAM of Maryland, the longest-serving woman in the history of the United States Congress via the email dump at foia.state.gov:

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Suspending Embassy Operations: Post and Bureau Not Told, and FOIA Redaction Fail

Posted: 1:12 am EDT
Updated: 5:28 pm EDT

 

On February 25, 2011, the State Department announced the suspension of U.S. Embassy operations in Libya (see State Dept Suspends US Embassy Operations in #Libya, Withdraws All Personnel).  What we didn’t know then but we know now, thanks to the Clinton email dump, is that just a few days before that, neither the embassy nor the bureau was aware that they were suspending operations.

February 22, 2011 09:50 PM – HRC aide Jake Sullivan sent an email (partially redacted with FOIA b(5) code) to Janet A. Sanderson, the Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of Near East Affairs, with subject line “Suspending embassy ops” and asking “Where do we stand?”

February 22, 2011 10:14 PM – Sanderson emailed Sullivan:

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Feb 22 22:18:23 2011 (10:18 PM) – Sanderson also sent an email to M/Patrick Kennedy and Kathleen T. Austin-Ferguson, M’s Executive Assistant:

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February 22, 2011 10:37 PM – Kennedy responded to Sanderson saying he “talked to cheryl and tom” and that “they are also unaware.”“Checking with Secretary. At this moment we are NOT suspending. Fully agree not possible to do tomorrow and also risks libyan blow back.”  Email must be referencing HRC Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Secretary Tom Nides.

Embassy Tripoli eventually suspended operations on February 25, three days after the start of this email chain.  These emails are part of the Clinton email dump and it shows just how messed up is the FOIA at the agency.

On Feb 22 22:40:17 2011 (10:40 PM) – Sanderson responded to the Kennedy email, adding Ronald Schlicher to the email chain. Ambassador Schlicher was previously assigned to Cyprus, and also served as a DAS at the Bureau of Near East Affairs. We are not sure what was his position in 2011, but he must have been attached to NEA to be looped in in this exchange. Ambassador Schlicher was Principal DAS at the NEA bureau, and he would have been Sanderson’s boss at the time.  Here’s a clip from that email:

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Now, take a look at the email below with the same time stamp and same addresses, released as a separate email by the FOIA office at State:

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Why, they’re the same email, except that they were released as separate documents, and in the second document, the email is redacted under the b(5) FOIA exemption, also known in the FOIA community as the “Withhold It Because You Want To” Exemption.  “Yael” must have been Yael Lempert who was assigned to Tripoli as consular section chief in 2009 and featured in the NYT here for the release of four New York Times journalists in 2011 in Libya.  She may have been the acting DCM at the time of the suspension of operations.  “Joan” is presumably Joan Polaschik who was DCM and then CDA of Embassy Tripoli. She is currently the U.S. Ambassador to Algeria.

Here is what DOJ says about the b(5) exemption:

Exemption 5 of the FOIA protects “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.” (1) The courts have construed this somewhat opaque language, with its sometimes confusing threshold requirement, (2) to “exempt those documents, and only those documents that are normally privileged in the civil discovery context.” (3)

Here is what we are not supposed to read according to the FOIA ninjas, except that one of them forgot the Sharpie:

“I have just talked to post (Yael).She and Joan will work to reduce staff and send more out on ferry. Shd get down to 10- 12. She fully understands need for limited staff to stay to deal with community. Believes likely remainder will be position to leave in few days. Says situation is “worse than Baghdad in 2004-2005 “

No matter how you read the above passage, it is difficult to make the case that it fits the b(5) exemption unless you’re thinking of the “withhold it because you want to” exemption threshold.

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Emails in full released via FOIA below:

Suspending Ops Libya – February 22, 2011 11:05 PM: https://cloudup.com/cAlO_WHTfpc

Suspending Ops Libya February 23, 2011 7:59 AM: https://cloudup.com/cD33FlF7TCo

Suspending Ops Libya February 23, 2011 8:08 AM: https://cloudup.com/cjplOQtTEmw

 

Americans in Iran Prisoner Swap Arrived in Germany

Posted: 2:20 am EDT

 

According to media report, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini arrived in Germany Sunday and will meet with their families soon.  The three arrived on a flight at Ramstein Air Base via Geneva and were scheduled to undergo medical checkups at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a U.S. military hospital in Germany.

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@StateDept Politely Tells Inspector General to Um … Buzz Off

Posted: 4:55 am EDT

 

On December 2, State/OIG posted online its Management Assistance Report: Progress Made But Action Still Needed to Address Physical Security Deficiencies Reported in FYs 2012 and 2013 (PDF). Excerpt below:

During FYs 2012 and 2013, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued 12 reports that identified deficiencies in the security posture of 10 posts visited. As part of OIG’s audit compliance and follow-up process, OIG assessed the extent to which the Department of State (Department) implemented the 137 recommendations issued in these 12 reports (see Appendix A). Based on the Department’s actions and responses to these recommendations as of September 15, 2015, OIG had closed 122 of the 137 recommendations (or 89 percent). However, 15 of these recommendations had remained open, 6 of which were unresolved with no communication from the post or bureau since the reports were issued (see Appendix B).

State/OIG acknowledges the State Department’s efforts on complying with the security recommendations but would not let go of the remaining nine recommendations that it says have remained open more than two years after they were made:

U) OIG acknowledges the Department’s efforts to address OIG’s physical security recommendations in a timely manner. As of October 30, 2015, the Department has implemented 128 of 137 recommendations (93 percent) made by OIG in these 12 reports, although 9 recommendations remain open. Prompt and timely corrective action by the Department has resulted in several positive outcomes,REDACTED. However, more than 2 years later, nine of these recommendations remain open. While the responsible bureaus and posts agreed to the other nine open recommendations, final action has not occurred. REDACTED
[….]
[T]he Under Secretary did not provide a plan of action to address the implementation of the remaining nine open recommendations. As such, this recommendation will remain open until OIG receives a plan of action from the Under Secretary or obtains sufficient evidence that the nine open recommendations have been fully implemented. In addition, OIG will continue to track the implementation of these open recommendations and report the status in OIG’s Semiannual Report to Congress.

The heavily redacted audit includes Table 1 which contains a list of the responsible Bureaus and posts and the number of open and closed recommendations as of September 15, 2015. State/OIG notes that “uncorrected physical security deficiencies, if exploited, could compromise the safety of post personnel and property.”

State/OIG also includes the response from “M” that says in part, “If OIG agrees with the Department’s planned way forward for these nine recommendations, then additional attention from this office is not needed.” Elsewhere in the State Department’s response, the Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy also tells IG Steve Linick “this exercise is redundant.”

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State/OIG made the following response:

With respect to the Under Secretary’s statement that “this exercise is redundant,” the purpose of this Management Assistant Report is to prompt action to close all open recommendations associated with the aforementioned reports. Although OIG considers the open recommendations referenced in this report resolved because the responsible bureaus and posts agreed to implement them, the fact is that more than 2 years has passed and nine recommendations [Redacted] (b) (5), [Redacted] (b) (7)(F) remain open. For this reason, OIG raised these open recommendations with the Under Secretary for Management and recommended a plan of action to complete corrective actions.

And added two more recommendations:

Recommendation 1: (U) OIG recommends that the Under Secretary for Management provide a report to OIG within 60 days of report issuance on the status of corrective actions and the reasons for delays in completing corrective actions on the nine open recommendations listed in Appendix C.

Recommendation 2: (U) OIG recommends that the Under Secretary for Management provide a plan of action to complete corrective actions, including appropriate milestones, to address the remaining nine open recommendations listed in Appendix C.

Read more below though lots of Sharpied out places:

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Senate Pit Bull Digs Up Old Bone About State Dept’s Alleged Prostitution Case

Posted: 12:50 am EDT

 

We’ve written previously about Senator Chuck Grassley’s pursuit for answers related to a State/OIG report on Trafficking in Persons (see Senator Grassley Eyes Linda Howard Case, Seeks Answers on TIP Policy and @StateDept Employees).   On November 23, Senator Grassley threw a larger net and has now included questions about the State Department’s response to an old allegation related to prostitution and a U.S. ambassador. Excerpt from the letter from Senator Grassley to Secretary Kerry:

[T]he Belgium case raises questions as to whether the Department takes allegations of TIP-related misconduct seriously and investigates them thoroughly, free from undue influence and favoritism. With the foregoing in mind, I respectfully request on behalf of this Committee that you submit responses to the following questions by December 11, 2015:

1. Why did the Department halt DS’s preliminary inquiry of the Belgium case and treat this matter as a “management issue”?

2. Why did Under Secretary Kennedy, DS, and L provide OIG with three different explanations of the decisions referenced in Question 1?

3. Was Secretary Clinton informed of the decision to halt DS’s investigation of the Belgium case or to treat it as a “management issue”? If so, please provide all related records, including emails. If not, please explain why not.

4. In how many other cases involving allegations of employee misconduct was Ms. Mills designated as the individual to conduct the investigation?

5. Under Secretary Kennedy told OIG that he had relied on Section 4322.2 of the FAM to address misconduct allegations involving other Chiefs of Mission. The Under Secretary acknowledged that such misconduct issues can arise several times each year. During Mr. Kennedy’s tenure as Under Secretary, how many misconduct allegations involving Chiefs of Mission have been treated as a “management issue”?

6. OIG states that it searched for and found no contemporaneous evidence of the Under Secretary’s determinations in this case, or of Ms. Mill’s investigation.31 OIG made this finding before public revelations that Secretary Clinton and her senior aides conducted official Department business through a private email server. Does the Department currently have access to any of the records OIG was unable to find? If not, will you commit to notifying this Committee as soon as such access is obtained?

7. In September, I wrote you about Linda Howard, who was found liable in federal district court for human trafficking offenses committed against her Ethiopian housekeeper, while Howard was stationed as a diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Japan in 2008 and 2009.32 Reportedly, however, two years after DS interviewed the victim housekeeper about those offenses, Howard not only remained employed at the Department, but even received an honor award and a cash bonus.33 Was the Linda Howard case also treated as a “management issue”?

Full letter is here:

According to that 2014 report, the OIG “discovered some evidence of disparity in DS’s handling of allegations involving prostitution. Between 2009 and 2011, DS investigated 13 prostitution-related cases involving lower-ranking officials. OIG found no evidence that any of those inquiries were halted and treated as “management issues.”

Senator Grassley has been doggedly asking questions about various State Department issues the last few years.  We seriously doubt that the senator can be persuaded to drop this old bone. He’s up for reelection in 2016 so unless he is unable to multi-task, he probably will continue looking for answers on this  matter.  And of course, some folks will probably scream partisan witch hunt, and we can understand that, but …  we also think these are actually questions that need some real answers.

Should be interesting to see what he digs up.

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Related items:

— July 16, 2015: The ambassador’s tale: Lessons I learned about success and scandal by Former U.S. Ambassador  to Belgium Howard Gutman (WaPo Magazine).

— 09/30/14   Review of Selected Internal Investigations Conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (ESP-14-01)  [685 Kb] Posted on October 16, 2014

— May 10, 2012 | ROP Case No. 2011-064 | FSGB grievance case (read online) that may or may not be related to the Howard case (names have been redacted) but the timeframe and circumstances appears similar, and it looks like DOJ declined to prosecute the case in 2011.

 

Related posts:

 

 

Clinton Email Challenge Now a Sharknado, and Secretary Kerry Is Right to be “Concerned”

Posted: 2:13  pm PDT

 

This happened Thursday night. We drafted this post early morning but waited for a piece of information we wanted to see. So yup, overtaken by events.  In any case, you may now read the inspector generals memos referenced to in the NYT report here. See NYT: Criminal Inquiry Sought Over Clinton Emails? Read the Inspector Generals Memos.  We’re also waiting for the OIG to issue a clarification on the DOJ referral the NYT reported.

The memos went possibly from two IG offices — State Department Steve Linick and Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough, III — to the Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy. The IGs memos are also cc’ed to one of the State Department’s deputy secretaries. It looks like, the memos or contents/snippets of it were shared with DOJ, as a DOJ official appears to be the NYT’s source for this story (see tweets below).

Here are the tweets from July 24:

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The report from the NYT includes the following:

— 1.  The memos were provided to The New York Times by a senior government official.

— 2.  The inspectors general also criticized the State Department for its handling of sensitive information, particularly its reliance on retired senior Foreign Service officers to decide if information should be classified, and for not consulting with the intelligence agencies about its determinations.

— 3.  The revelations about how Mrs. Clinton handled her email have been an embarrassment for the State Department, which has been repeatedly criticized over its handling of documents related to Mrs. Clinton and her advisers.

— 4.  Some State Department officials said they believe many senior officials did not initially take the House committee seriously, which slowed document production and created an appearance of stonewalling.

— 5.  State Department officials also said that Mr. Kerry is concerned about the toll the criticism has had on the department and has urged his deputies to comply with the requests quickly.

Today:

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On this whole email debacle at the State Department, it must be said that this might not have happened if not enabled by senior bureaucrats in the agency. We do not believe for a moment that senior officials were not aware about the email practices of then Secretary Clinton or the record retention requirement. But hey, if the practice was done for four years over the protests and dissent of officials at “M”, “A”, the Legal Adviser or the CIO, we’d like to see that email trail.

By the way, this NYT report follows a July 20 Politico report about a contentious hearing where U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon demanded explanations for why some of the Associated Press’ FOIA requests received no reply for four years or more before the wire service filed suit in March.

“The State Department’s not going to have the luxury of saying, because we’re focusing on Hillary’s emails, we’re doing so at the cost and expense of four-year-old requests. So, that’s not going to be an excuse,” the judge said. “In my judgment, a four-year-old request gets a priority over a recent request.”

On Mr. Kerry’s concern about the toll the criticism has had on the department … the secretary is right to be concerned. Senior officials did not take Congress seriously?  Even if senior bureaucrats do not agree or approve of the conduct of the Select Committee, even if they think this is a sideshow seeking to derail a presidential campaign, the required document production is still part of their jobs. In my view, the most serious consequence on the appearance of stonewalling is it also gives the appearance that bureaucrats are picking sides in this political shitstorm.

This can potentially undermine the expectation of the State Department as an impartial and non-political entity. The perception, right or wrong, that this impartiality is compromised, will not serve it or its employees well in the long run.

You might like to read a couple previous posts on FOIA personnel, costs and the “persistent neglect of fundamental leadership responsibilities” that made this the Clinton email debacle a challenge of Sharknado proportion for the agency. (see Snapshot: State Dept FY2014 FOIA Personnel and Costs and State Dept FOIA Requests: Agency Ranks Second in Highest Backlog and Here’s Why).

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Fobs For Everyone: 624,000 More Hours of Productivity at the State Department! Woohoo!

Posted: 4:33 pm EDT

 

Not too long ago, State Department EFM Jen Denoia wrote about the reasonable expectation of family members to have access to the department’s online resources:

Eligible Family Members (EFMs) such as myself are still mired in the same backwards technology that existed when our family joined the State Department 15 years ago. Despite advances such as the development of fobs, a device many employees use to generate passwords for intranet access from off-site computers, EFMs have not been granted access to such tools. While we tend to do most of the post research, we are still reliant upon non-State resources in order to retrieve bidding information when we need it the most.

A year after Secretary Clinton arrived at State (and to this day), there is still no decent online access for family members of State Department employees.  The Foreign Service version of MilitaryOneSource for family members may remain only a dream for the foreseeable future.  In 2009, a senior adviser at the State Department helped justify the “fobs for everyone” by citing that the program “will produce new fewer than 624,000 more hours of productivity by end of year.”

On May 12, 2009, CIO Susan Swart wrote an email to Alec Ross, then State Department senior advisor for innovation:

I met with Pat today and we did discuss expansion of the fob program. He is supportive and asked that we do a decision memo to him. WE need this get decision on funding and longer term strategy but I don’t see this as slowing down an announcement the Secretary might make, we just need to coordinate timing.

A couple days later, Alec Ross sent an email to Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan:

We’re going to forward with the doubling of mobile access to email and productivity tools. It’s INSANE that fewer than 1 in 5 state Department are able to access their email or documents when they’re away from their desk.

It has contributed to the 9:00-5:00 culture here and exacerbates the disconnection between D.C. and the missions. This is a good short-term win and by my estimates will produce new fewer than 624,000 more hours of productivity by end of year one which I think is extremely conservative – it assumes just 1.5 additional hour online per employee per week.

Given that those being given the tools are principally foreign service officers and people more senior than the mean average DoS employee, I think this is very reasonable. Will put an evaluative instrument into this to see if I’m correct.

More detail on all this below if you want it.

I should point out that Pat Kennedy and the CIO have been great. This has been one of several instances where they listened, they got it, and they’re moving forward. The CIO said she’d thought of it before, just didn’t know if she could handle the politics. I’m not going to spend a ton of time on our “corporate IT” but in obvious cases like this I’ll keep jumping in.

Last thing — this idea got a lot of attention on The Sounding Board. I propose that HRC respond to the staff (maybe in a quick 60 second video that we post there) saying in effect – Thank you for sharing your thinking. I heard you. Because of you we’re doing this.

Re-enforce that HRC is still listening to the staff.

That same day, Cheryl Mills forwarded the email to HRC:

FYI – we’re going to get a short video from you that we’ll put on our site announcing this. It’s also one of the ideas we can use for how we are reforming the department for the reform committee.

Secretary Clinton replied:

Sounds great but you’ll have to explain to me!

So then Ms. Mills sent the following:

sure — bottom line – you need a special security code to get on line from a computer outside the building. Only 1 in 5 of our employees has gotten the device (fob) that allows you to do this access.

This effort is making sure they get fobs into the hands of more (or all) employees so folks can work from home thereby increasing productivity substantially since the 4 in 5 essentially do no work from home once they leave the building until they get in again b/c they don’t have access to their email.

On May 14, 2009, at 10:20 PM, the Secretary replied:

Got it. Is the other matter fixed. Anything else going on?

Whatever it was she was asking about,  Ms. Mills told her, it was “fixed.”  The rest of the email chain is redacted. Click C05761923 (pdf) to read this emails via foia.state.gov.

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