What POTUS told “our wonderful Secretary of State” (and all) about Rocket Man

Posted: 12:12 am ET
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AND NOW THIS —

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When @StateDept Folks Send Action Memos to the 7th Floor … ūüė≠ ūüė≠ ūüė≠

Posted: 12:12 am ET
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Via Politico:

State Department officials began urging Tillerson to seek the first $60 million from the Defense Department soon after he took office in February, according to the former senior State Department official.

But they quickly found themselves mired in a new, confusing and bottlenecked decision-making process imposed by Tillerson’s top aides. For example, officials involved with the center first put in their request in an “action memo,” the standard document sent to the secretary of state when a decision is required. Tillerson’s aides retorted that he “didn’t like being told what to do,” the former senior State official said, and ordered that the request be refashioned as an “information memo.”

Poor action memos, after years and years of being known as action memos, they will now be just info, not action memos. Kind of like the building.  No more Bruce Willis yippie-kai-yay memos.  But how long before 7th floor papers will be upgraded from 12 pt TNR (Times New Roman) to 14pt TNR once more?  All over the building desk officers will be mourning the loss of 100 words that will no longer fit in the call sheet. Or maybe, even the loss of hundreds more words if information memos now need to fit into a notecard.

But here you go …

Via astrologygifs

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

Posted: 11:22 am PT
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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¬†‚Äúhair is always on fire,‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúchief cat-herder.” On Twitter, he is @rchammond¬†“Omitting needless words since 2003.¬†¬†+¬†¬†alum.” He¬†was press secretary for Newt Gingrich‚Äôs 2012 presidential campaign.

In April, Mr. Hammond famously compared the department‚Äôs 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: ‚ÄúWE don‚Äôt think you‚Äôre SMART ENOUGH to HANDLE our information!!!!!‚ÄĚ 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‚Äô 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‚Äď13; and was¬†Policy Adviser (national security and trade) to former Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert, 1999‚Äď2000. Read the full biography here.

click on image to read the full bio

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The Last Time @StateDept Had a 27% Budget Cut, Congress Killed ACDA and USIA

Posted: 4:39 am ET
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Reporting for the Washington Post in 1996, Thomas Lippman wrote that “The total budget for civilian international programs, the so-called 150 account, started to decline in the mid-1980s. It leveled off during the Bush administration, then resumed a downward slide in President Clinton’s first year.” He noted that “the relentless budget pressure that began in the mid-1980s accelerated with the Clinton administration’s deficit-reduction plan, forcing the closing of consulates, aid missions, libraries, cultural centers and even a few entire embassies, from Italy to Indonesia, from Antigua to Thailand” (see U.S. Diplomacy’s Presence Shrinking).

Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States defeating incumbent George H. W. Bush in 1992.  Warren M. Christopher was nominated Secretary of State by then President-elect Clinton in December 1992.  Christopher was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 20, 1993, and sworn in the next day. Two months into the new administration, Secretary Christopher made his first official congressional appearance as Secretary of State before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary House Appropriations Committee to talk about redirecting American foreign policy, refocusing the aid budgets, and reforming institutions.

Secretary Christopher at that time said that “American foreign policy in the years ahead will be grounded in what President Clinton has called the three “pillars” of our national interest:¬† first, revitalizing our economy; second, updating our¬† security forces for a new era; and, third, protecting democracy as the¬† best means to protect our own national security while expanding the¬† reach of freedom, human rights, prosperity, and peace.” ¬†He talked about Saddam Hussein, “If the lawlessness of [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein has taught us any single lesson, it is that weapons of mass destruction, especially when combined¬† with missile technology, can transform a petty tyrant into a threat to world peace and stability.” Secretary Christopher talked about the State Department budget, “It will be a tough budget for tough times.¬† It will be a flexible budget that seeks austerity, not as a¬†hardship to be endured but as a challenge to innovate and do our job¬† better.¬† Above all, we hope that this budget will mark a transitional step to a truly focused budget that sets priorities and puts resources¬†behind them.”

Oh, brother where are ya?

In February 1993, Secretary Christopher also sent a ¬†message to State Department employees on the¬†Implementation Directive on Reorganization. ¬†Two months into the Trump Administration, and days after the OMB released Trump’s “skinny budget” we have yet to hear from Secretary Tillerson on where the State Department go from here. ¬†We know that he supports the budget cuts for his department, and he has made no public effort of defending the funding and programs for his agency but the top diplomat of the United States still has not articulated the foreign policy priorities of this administration. If Secretary Tillerson has sent a message to his troops in Foggy Bottom, we have yet to hear about it or its contents.

The proposed FY18 budget slashes the international affairs budget by 28% or 36% with Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) funding factored in.  If passed by Congress, what happens to That Three-Legged Stool of American Foreign Policy?  As diplomacy and development will be hobbled by cuts, are we going to see an exponential growth in private contractors in support of DOD, diplomacy and development? Or are we going to just see staffing gaps and reduced diplomatic footprints from Algeria to Zimbabwe?

In Tillerson’s recent interview with IJR, he said about the State Department budget that¬†‚ÄúOne can say it‚Äôs not going to happen in one year, and it‚Äôs not.”

He’s right. ¬†The cuts may happen this year, and next year, and every fiscal year thereafter. ¬†It sounds to us like an “American First” foreign policy does not see much use for diplomacy. ¬†So we expect that the State Department budget will continue to be targeted during the entire Trump term. But if history is any indication, the decisions made today will have repercussions for our country down the road. Back in 1993, Secretary Christopher said, “when the time eventually comes to restore diplomatic relations with Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Libya, the money and personnel for those posts probably will have to come out of existing resources, officials said, thus increasing the pressure to close marginal posts elsewhere.” In 1996, the then¬†Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) director¬†John D. Holum warned that the agency “no longer has a U.S. technical expert assigned to the U.N. weapons inspection team in Iraq.” ¬†

With the exception of Iran, we are back in Iraq, and Somalia, and we know what happened in Libya. ¬†We don’t grow diplomats overnight. Expertise and diplomatic muscle grow with time, with every assignment, with every challenge. What happens when the next crisis erupts in Asia? Can we just pluck diplomats and development experts from the OPM growth chamber? ¬†Or are we going to have a civilian surge once more with¬†diplomats lacking experience and language skills thrown into a pit and then expected to do an effective job?

Remember, do you remember?

We should note that the Democrats had control of the House and the Senate after the 1992 elections but the midterm elections in 1994 resulted in a net gain of 54 seats in the House of Representatives for the GOP, and a pickup of eight seats in the Senate. That was the Gingrich Revolution.  By the way, R.C. Hammond who previously served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich (a vocal Trump ally) is now a communications adviser for Secretary Tillerson.

WaPo reported that between 1993-1996 “the State Department has cut more than 2,000 employees and shuttered consulates in 26 foreign cities. The Agency for International Development (AID), which runs foreign aid programs, has been hit especially hard by the Republican-controlled Congress and has closed 23 missions overseas.”

In 1995, according to NYT: The U.S. ambassadors to Italy, France, Britain, Spain, the E.U., Germany, Russia and NATO reportedly got together and sent a secret cable to Secretary Christopher, signed by all of them, telling him that the “delivery system” of U.S. foreign policy was being destroyed by budget cuts. They pleaded with him to mobilize those constituencies in the U.S. that value the work of embassies, and volunteered to come to Washington to testify before Congress in their defense. The ambassadors got a polite note back from Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott, telling them he understood their concerns but that there was a new mood in Congress. There was no invitation to testify.

The State Department at that time reportedly¬†also promoted the concept of “diplomatic readiness,” similar to military readiness, “in hopes of persuading Congress to divert some money from the defense budget into diplomacy and foreign aid — activities that, in the diplomats’ view, save money over time by reducing the need for military actions.”

More than 100 businesses, trade associations, law firms and volunteer groups did¬†organize a “Campaign to Preserve U.S. Global Leadership” without much success.

And this despite the fact that a 1994 GAO study indicates that¬†only 38 percent of the U.S. government personnel in embassies work for the State Department, while 36 percent work for the Pentagon, 5 percent for Justice and 3 percent for Transportation. The other 18 percent includes representatives of the Treasury, Agriculture and Commerce departments. ¬†We don’t know what is the current breakdown of federal agencies operating overseas under the State Department umbrella but if the Trump Administration¬†starts turning off the lights in Africa, or Asia for instance, that could also prove problematic for the Pentagon.

What a 27% budget cut looked like for the international affairs budget?

By Fall 1995, the State Department released a Q&A on the¬†International Affairs Budget–A Sound Investment in Global Leadership. ¬†It includes the following:

Q. Since most Americans favor reducing government spending to balance the federal budget, have the State Department and other foreign affairs  agencies done anything to cut costs?

A. Yes, the Administration has done a great deal to cut costs. We have already:

— Cut the foreign assistance budget request by 20%;

–Trimmed more than 1,100 jobs at the State Department and 600 jobs at ¬†the U.S. Information Agency (USIA);

–Identified, for elimination by 1997, about 2,000 jobs at the U.S. ¬†Agency for International Development (USAID);

–Decreased administrative and overhead costs by $100 million; and

–Closed, or scheduled for closing, 36 diplomatic or consular posts, 10¬†USIA posts, and 28 USAID missions abroad.

OVERSEAS POSTS CLOSED, 1993-96 Consulates, consulates general and State Department branch offices: Algeria Austria Australia Brazil Colombia Egypt France Germany Indonesia Italy (2) Kenya Martinique Mexico Nigeria Philippines Poland Somalia Spain Switzerland (2) Turkey Thailand (2) Venezuela Zaire Embassies Antigua and Barbuda Comoros Equatorial Guinea Seychelles Solomon Islands. AID missions Afghanistan Argentina Belize Botswana Burkina Faso Cameroon Cape Verde Caribbean region Chad Chile Costa Rica Estonia Ivory Coast Lesotho Oman Pakistan South Pacific Switzerland Thailand Togo Tunisia Uruguay Zaire (via)

According to WaPo in 1996, USAID’s overall work force “has been reduced from 11,500 to 8,700 and is heading down to 8,000. The number of full “sustainable development missions” — on-site teams promoting long-term diversified economic development — declined from 70 at the start of the administration to 30.”

That’s what a 27% budget cut inflected on the international affairs budget did in the 90’s.

By 1999, with the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) and the United States Information Agency (USIA) were both abolished and folded into the State Department.

Who ya gonna call?

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell was recently quoted saying, “America being a force is a lot more than building up the Defense Department. Diplomacy is important, extremely important, and I don’t think these reductions at the State Department are appropriate.”

According to the Washington Examiner, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn ¬†apparently signaled that¬†President Trump’s initial proposed budget “won’t dictate how the State Department gets funded.”¬†“The president’s budget goes in the waste basket as soon as it gets here,”¬†he said.

We should note that in the 1990s, both houses of Congress (GOP) and a White House under a Democrat worked together to slashed the State Department budget. It was not a question of how much to cut, but where to cut. ¬†This time around, we have a Republican Congress and a Republican White House, but while the WH is gunning for these cuts, the Senate particularly, appears not to be quite on board with the slash and burn cuts. ¬†Still, we are reminded what¬†former Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament Stephen J. Ledogar (1990-1997) noted¬†in his oral history (PDF) — that “Not very many people will admit this, but the administration bowing to Congress on those consolidations was part of the price that was paid by the Clinton administration to Jesse Helms in exchange for him agreeing to let the Chemical Weapons Convention go through the Senate.”¬†

So … while there are differences in the circumstances during the budget cuts in the 1990’s and the proposed budget cuts in the current and FY18 fiscal years, we are mindful how things can change with the right carrots.

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