Posted: 1:56 pm PT
Posted: 1:56 pm PT
Posted: 2:21 am ET
Excerpt from Rex W. Tillerson’s Remarks to Staff and Families at U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 22, 2017:
But a real – a real honor to be here. I do want to say a real quick word because I know there’s a lot of interest in what we’re doing back home with what we’re styling as the redesign of the State Department. And this is very much a bottom-up, a bottom-up, employee – your colleagues – led initiative. Many of you, I hope, participated early on when we had the listening tour, we called it, exercise. We had over 35,000 of your colleagues, and I’m sure many of you responded to the survey that was conducted early on. We had 300 face-to-face interviews with various members of the State Department at all types of positions and including people out in mission.
And this was so that I could get some baseline understanding of what are the issues that you’re faced with, what are the challenges, what are things we can do to help you get your work done more effectively and more efficiently. So out of that we’ve created a number of working teams. There are five core teams that are working on a number of work processes and addressing all kinds of issues, from hardware issues like our IT systems, which I know everyone knows we need some upgrading to, and other ways that we can make you efficient. But we’re looking also at how we train people for assignment, lengths of assignment, how do we allow you to contribute more, what are the obstacles to getting your work done, what are the interface issues, how can we clear some of the obstacles out for you. So this is very much led by your colleagues, and then my role is to try to clear and do some blocking and tackling for all of that effort as well.
So the work’s underway. We’re going to be saying more here as we get towards the end of the year. We have some what we’re calling quick – we believe they’re quick wins and things that we’ll be able to do right away and implement throughout 2018 that we hope you’re going to see the effects of that are going to make your work easier, more efficient. And ultimately, the objective is that you have a very fulfilling, rewarding career. You’ve dedicated yourself. This is what you want to do. We want to allow you to be successful and to have a very fulfilling career and realize all of your own aspirations as well. So it’s something that I’m quite committed to, and we have a great team of folks back home helping us, your colleagues helping us in that regard as well.
Read the full remarks here.
Posted: 2:24 am ET
On Tuesday, September 26, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on the State Department’s redesign efforts. You’d think that the chief sponsor of this entire endeavor, Secretary Tillerson would be at the hearing to answer questions from congressional representatives. But it looks like Mr. Tillerson is meeting the Holy See Secretary for Relations with States Paul Gallagher at the Department of State at 10:25 a.m.. That leaves his Deputy John Sullivan as “it” for the hot seat instead.
Chairman Royce on the hearing: “This hearing is the latest in our ongoing oversight of the State Department’s vital work. It will allow members to raise important questions about the State Department’s redesign plan, and help inform the committee’s efforts to authorize State Department functions.”
The American Academy of Diplomacy previously wrote to Secretary Tillerson requesting that the reorganization plan be made public and was refused (see Former Senior Diplomats Urge Tillerson to Make Public @StateDept’s Reorganization Plan). The group has now written a new letter addressed to the House Foreign Affairs Committee expressing its support for the “sensible streamlining and the elimination of offices and positions in order to promote effective diplomacy.” It also tells HFAC that it believes that “the Administration should reconsider the decision to declare its plan for reorganization “pre-decisional.” The Congress should ask that the plans to date and those to be considered be made available for public comment.” More:
The Academy believes certain principles should guide the reorganization.
–Change only those things which will strengthen U.S. diplomacy.
–People are more important than programs. Programs can be rebuild quickly. Getting a senior Foreign Service takes 5 to 20 years.
–As a rule, front-line personnel should be increased, although there are Embassies where there are more people, including those from other agencies, than U.S. interests require
It points out that the Foreign Service has a built-in RIF in its system:
The Foreign Service, as up-or-out service, loses about 300 – 400 FSOs and Specialists each year by selection out for low ranking, expiration of time in class, failure to pass over a promotion threshold or reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65. Only Foreign Service personnel are subject to world-wide availability. With their experience, capabilities and languages, they can be sent anywhere, anytime to meet America’s foreign policy objectives. Over the last 12 years the largest personnel increases have been the additions of Civil Service personnel in State’s Regional and, particularly, Functional Bureaus.
And there is this interesting request for clarity on potential appointees; are there talks that DGHR would be filled by a political appointee?
We believe the key positions of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, the Director General, and the Dean of the Foreign Service Institute should be career Foreign Service Officers. The Director General, a position established by the Act, should be appointed from those that have the senior experience and personal standing to guide the long-term future of the staff needed for effective diplomacy. We respectfully ask that Congress get clarification as to whether it is the Department’s intention to nominate an appropriately senior serving or retired Foreign Service Officer for the position of Director General.
The group also writes that it “encourage the Congress to press hard for clarity about the objectives of this reorganization process: is the goal increasing effectiveness or rationalizing budget decisions?”
Read the letter below or click here (PDF).
Posted: 1:59 pm PT
On September 6, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs announced that it approved “a $51.35 billion appropriations bill to strengthen federal programs and operations that support national security and American values abroad.” The minority announcement notes that the allocation is $10.7 billion above the President’s request as scored by CBO, but it is $1.9 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level when factoring in fiscal year 2017 funding for famine relief but not the Security Assistance Appropriations Act, 2017. The State Department’s reorganization/redesign is huge news; this bill provides for notifications and consultations with the subcommittee on proposed changes. Most notably, it requires the Government Accountability Office and Department of State and USAID Inspectors General (IG) to review the redesign plans.
Senator Patrick Leahy notes that ““The President sent us a budget that was irresponsible and indefensible. We were provided no credible justification for the cuts that were proposed, which would have severely eroded U.S. global leadership. This bill repudiates the President’s reckless budget request, and I commend Chairman Graham for reaffirming the primacy of the Congress in appropriating funds.” Also this:
The bill does not endorse the reorganization or redesign of any part of the Department of State, USAID, or any other entity funded in the bill absent consultation with, and the notification and detailed justification of any proposed modifications to, the Committees on Appropriations. In addition to such consultation and notification requirements, section 7083 of the bill requires any such proposal to first be submitted to GAO for review. The bill further restricts changes to, and provides specific amounts of funding for, certain bureaus, offices, and positions, and removes authority for the administration to deviate from certain operating and assistance funding levels.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee said: “Through the bill and report, the Subcommittee has articulated its vision of an active American role in the world today. ‘Soft power,’ as it’s commonly called, is an essential ingredient to national security. This bill recognizes and builds upon the significance of ‘soft power.’”
Below excerpted from the the Appropriations Subcommittee statement:
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs today approved a $51.35 billion appropriations bill to strengthen federal programs and operations that support national security and American values abroad.
The FY2018 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill provides $51.2 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs. Of this amount, $30.4 billion is for enduring costs and $20.8 billion is for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).
Full committee consideration of the bill is scheduled for Thursday (http://bit.ly/2gGCwhL).
Supports Key Allies, Counters Extremism, and Promotes Democracy and Human Rights
• $3.1 billion for military aid for Israel, $7.5 million for refugees resettling in Israel; and continues restrictions on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
• $1.5 billion for economic and military assistance for Jordan.
• $120 million for the Countering Russian Influence Fund.
• $31 million for the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai.
• $165.4 million for assistance for Tunisia, and requires an assessment of the feasibility of establishing a multi-year Memorandum of Understanding with Tunisia.
• $500 million for the Relief and Recovery Fund to hold, repopulate, and establish governance in areas liberated from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other extremist groups.
• $19 million for a program to assist women and girls at risk from extremism in predominantly Muslim and other countries.
• $2.3 billion for democracy programs, and an additional $170 million for the National Endowment for Democracy.
• $15 million to promote democracy and rule of law in Venezuela.
• $8 million for programs to promote human rights in North Korea.
Promotes and Protects International Religious Freedom – $25 million for programs to promote international religious freedom, and $5 million for atrocities prevention programs. In addition, the bill provides $6 million for the Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom, and $2 million for the Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom in the Near East and Central Asia.
Strengthens Embassy Security – $5.8 billion to ensure the safety of American diplomats, development professionals and facilities abroad.
Provides Assistance for Refugees – $3.11 billion for Migration and Refugee Assistance, maintaining the long-held United States commitment to protecting and addressing the needs of refugees impacted by conflict and other natural and manmade disasters.
International Disaster Assistance – $3.13 billion for International Disaster Assistance, which is $311.5 million above the FY2017 level, excluding emergency assistance for famine relief. Funds provided in excess of the FY2017 level are made available for famine prevention, relief, and mitigation.
Does Not Include Funds for the Green Climate Fund – The bill does not include funds for grants, assistance, or contributions to the Green Climate Fund, as none were requested by the President.
Protects Life – The bill expands the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits U.S. assistance for foreign nongovernmental organizations that promote or perform abortions, and caps family planning and reproductive health programs at $461 million. The bill continues provisions relating to abortion, including the Tiahrt, Helms, and Kemp-Kasten Amendments.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE OPERATIONS AND OTHER FUNDING
Administration of Foreign Affairs – $11.51 billion for the administration of foreign affairs, including funding to maintain staffing and operations levels at the Department of State consistent with prior fiscal years. Funding is also provided to implement the recommendations of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board report.
Reorganization or Redesign – Maintains funding for Department of State and USAID personnel levels consistent with prior fiscal years; prohibits funds from this and prior acts from being used to close, move, or otherwise incorporate USAID into the Department of State; requires submission of notifications and reports on any proposed reorganization or redesign plans; and requires the Government Accountability Office and Department of State and USAID Inspectors General (IG) to review plans.
USAID Operations – $1.35 billion for USAID operating expenses, including to maintain staffing and operational levels consistent with prior fiscal years.
Posted: 3:40 am ET
Updated: 3:12 pm PT
Deputy Secretary John Sullivan held a town hall for State Department employees on August 8, 2017 (see Three Reasons For Sullivan’s Town Hall, Plus Feedback, and Some Re-Design Concerns; Deputy Secretary Sullivan’s Town Hall With @StateDept Employees Now in Gifs), and Why Tillerson Not Sullivan Needs the Town Hall: Morale Is Bad, “S” is Accountable. He recently updated employees with several questions he promised to answer during the town hall.
In a brief message to employees, D/S Sullivan said that “the redesign process is moving ahead on schedule” and that they appreciate the employees participation. Apparently, before the town hall, the State Department received approximately 300 suggestions/ comments submitted to the online portal dedicated for the redesign. Mr. Sullivan told employees that in the week after the town hall, they had received more than 500 additional submissions to the portal. “Each of those contributions has been reviewed and considered by the teams working on the redesign effort.” He urge employees to “remain engaged” as “we work together to improve this wonderful institution to which you and so many others have given so much over our nation’s history.”
On the Department’s Pathways Programs
D/S Sullivan announced that on August 17, Secretary Tillerson approved conversions to one-year term, part-time Civil Service appointments for Pathways interns who have successfully completed the program, who are within their 120-day conversion period, and have been recommended for conversion by their hiring bureaus.
On LGBT employees/assignments
D/S Sullivan told employees that the Department is “dedicated to ensuring equal treatment for all employees.” He informed employees that the State Department “pro-actively maintain a matrix to assist LGBT colleagues planning assignments overseas.” He also told employees that as of 2017, 97 governments have granted accreditation. “This is 58 percent of reported countries, which is a substantial increase since we started monitoring accreditation in 2011. We have also made significant progress in moving countries off the “No” list into another category that may be short of accreditation but provides employees with additional options.”
On the Travel Approval Process
He informed employees that “there has been no change to the process for routine international travel and a clarification has already been sent to bureau front offices.” We’ve previously learned that the guidance was issued Monday evening, August 7, that ALL overseas travel “to participate in events” must be approved via action memo to the Secretary himself. It also requested a detailed budget breakdown of the trip and information on other participants. The same guidance was rescinded by Tuesday evening, August 8.
Mandatory Retirement Age to 66
D/S Sullivan notes that the mandatory retirement age is a component of the Foreign Service’s up-or-out system, which was modeled after a similar system in the military. “It is also a recognition of the rigors and stresses of a Foreign Service career, largely spent overseas in often difficult and dangerous places.” He notes further that any change to the mandatory retirement age would require a change to the Foreign Service Act of 1980. His response also cites the exception to the mandatory retirement at age 65 – if the Secretary of State “determines it to be in the public interest to retain someone for a period not to exceed 5 years beyond the mandatory retirement age.”
That’s in the books, but we’ve never heard of the secretary of state invoke that exception. In one case we are aware of where an FSO was subject to mandatory retirement and asked how he/she can request that exception, HR reportedly told him/her not to bother.
A reader feedback notes that there were mandatory retirement exceptions granted to some FS specialists, specific to Financial Management Officers. We were informed that extensions for FMOs seem to happen with regularity although “not everyone asks, and some that ask are politely told ‘don’t bother’.” Those who were granted limited extensions were given 1-2 years and appears to be “high performers who for one reason or another were FS-1s who did not make SFS and were vital members of the regional bureau budget team.”