Tillerson’s Aides Brief Senate Staffers on @StateDept Reorganization With a Chockful of Buzz Words

Posted: 11:41 am PST

 

On November 7, we wrote that a State Department top official did a presentation to ranking officials of the agency concerning the ongoing redesign (see @StateDept Redesign Briefing Presents Five “Guiding Beliefs” and Five “Key Outcomes” #OMG).

It looks like that presentation document was expanded and was used to brief the aides at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 9. Politico’s Nahal Toosi posted the briefing document here crammed with corporate buzz phrases.  Oh, where do we start? Maybe the corporate B.S. generator helpfully pointed out to us on social media?

Slide 2 is labeled Overview of the DOS/USAID Redesign / Culture Change. It asks “What is Redesign?” and has the four bullet points with lots of words, but short on the how. Or the why for that matter. What kind of cultural change does this redesign envision? What is the current organizational culture, what’s wrong with it, and why is this new culture better? We don’t know because it doesn’t say on the overview. We do know that the SFRC bosses were not satisfied with the briefing given to the staffers.

So when they talked about “Focusing on strengthening the State Department’s and USAID’s future capacity” how did they align that with hiring below attrition with a graying workforce, a third of them eligible to retire by 2020?  (see @StateDept/USAID Staffing Cut and Attrition: A Look at Real Numbers and Projected Attrition).

A third point says “Equipping us to be the U.S. government’s agency leader in foreign policy and development over the next forty years.”

Lordy, who wrote these slides? Also folks, why forty years?  That’ll be 2057, what’s the significance there? Or are they talking forty years in biblical time as in Numbers 32:13“The Lord’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone.”

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Senators Issue Bipartisan Concern Over Tillerson’s Management of @StateDept

Posted: 12:37 am ET

 

On November 14, we heard  SFRC Senators Corker and Cardin expressed clear dissatisfaction with the information they received from the State Department concerning the ongoing reorganization.

On November 15, Senators Shaheen and McCain wrote to Mr. Tillerson expressing concern over the continued hiring freeze and the depletion of the career corps.  The Shaheen-McCain letter include three requests:

1)  Consult with Congress prior to implementing any additional measures that could   potentially have long-term impacts on the recruitment, staffing and retention of State Department personnel.

2)  Remove the arbitrary hiring freeze on both lateral transfers and the intake of new Foreign Service and Civil Service officers to maintain a smooth, predictable flow of new talent.

3)  Resume promotions for the best and the brightest to avoid losing our top officers.

The State Department’s non-partisan Foreign Service and Civil Service career professionals represent a unique national asset that belongs to all Americans. They are America’s front line, promoting our safety, security and prosperity, often in difficult and dangerous places. Their expertise, carefully cultivated over decades, is an integral part of our government’s national security architecture. While we support reasonable steps to improve the efficiency of the State Department, such efforts must be fully transparent, with the objective of enhancing, not diminishing, American diplomacy.

Full letter after the fold.

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SFRC Clears Gonzales (Lesotho), Johnson (Namibia), Goldstein (R) and Lawler (Protocol)

Posted: 12:10 am ET

 

On Tuesday, November 14, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) held a business meeting to consider several items on their agenda including over half a dozen State Department nominations.  The panel held over the nomination of  Eric M. Ueland, of Oregon, to be Under Secretary of State  for Management. Senator Corker on video said that the nomination will be taken up the next business meeting, but there is no announced date at this time. This announcement was made at the 24.00 mark of this video after Senator Corker said that they had a very unsatisfactory meeting with the State Department regarding the reorganization, and that they need to do more to hold the agency accountable.

The SFRC cleared the following nominees:

Ms. Rebecca Eliza Gonzales, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Lesotho

Ms. Lisa A. Johnson, of Washington, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Namibia

Mr. Irwin Steven Goldstein, of New York, to be Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy

Mr. Sean P. Lawler, of Maryland, to be Chief of Protocol, and to have the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service

The panel also cleared the following list:

FSO LIST

Lisa-Felicia Afi Akorli, et al., dated November 1, 2017 (PN 1199)

John R. Bass, II, et al., dated November 1, 2017 (PN 1200)

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@StateDept Building Ops Employees Asked to Pick Top Ten Core Values From a 99 Values Menu

Posted: 3:21 am ET

 

This is OBO according to the state.gov:

The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) directs the worldwide overseas building program for the Department of State and the U.S. Government community serving abroad under the authority of the chiefs of mission. In concert with other State Department bureaus, foreign affairs agencies, and Congress, OBO sets worldwide priorities for the design, construction, acquisition, maintenance, use, and sale of real properties and the use of sales proceeds.

OBO’s mission is to provide safe, secure and functional facilities that represent the U.S. government to the host nation and support our staff in the achievement of U.S. foreign policy objectives. These facilities should represent American values and the best in American architecture, design, engineering, technology, sustainability, art, culture and construction execution.

OBO folks recently received the following information:

Transformational change is underway within OBO and your involvement is integral to this process. In preparation for the Department’s larger Redesign effort, the OBO Transformation Team is hosting discussions around organizational culture and values to help chart the future OBO course. An organization’s core values are fixed and timeless, inform customers and third parties alike about “who we are, what we believe in and what drives us” and are touchpoints for decision-making. They are not best practices or necessarily related to the mission; they are the north star(s) that remain constant regardless of the operating environment. You will shortly be sent a survey and asked to select those top ten core values that you hold and that you think are representative of OBO’s values. During the discussion on November 14, we will talk about these values and work toward a common understanding about what OBO might need to do, to change or to prioritize in order to make our values present every day in our organization.

We understand that the recipients were instructed to respond to a two-point survey via surveymonkey but the response is reportedly needed by noon on Tuesday, November 14. The first point in the screen grab above says “Core values are those “essential ingredients” that support the OBO vision, shape our culture and reflect what we value. Which ten choices from the list below represent your idea of OBO’s core values?” and one option to click on the “ok” button. If you’re not okay with that description on “core values”, well, there are no other choices.

The second survey point asks recipients to “Choose ten values” by selecting the respective radio buttons from a list of ninety-nine “values” arranged alphabetically from “Accomplishment” to “Wellness.”

Well, this is kinda perplexing. OBO is not/not a stand alone entity but is part of the State Department; it shares its organizational norms and culture, why does it need its very own OBO “fixed and timeless” core values?  How many OBO employees are part of this OBO Transformation Team?

Some folks are just curious if this is going to be another word cloud exercise.

If you’re in the middle of this “transformational change” does this exercise and hosted discussion helpful in making you adjust/deal/understand the changes unfolding in your organization? Are they useful in addressing employee concerns and anxieties? We’re also interested to know — is this exercise being replicated in every geographic and functional bureau of the State Department? How many “transformation teams” are there? What are their team compositions and roles?

In related news, we understand that a Republican nominee who ran and lost in the 2012 U.S. House of Representatives elections will soon be joining OBO as a Schedule C appointee. He will reportedly be supporting directly the bureau director; a permanent OBO director has yet to be named but there is an ambassador leading the bureau in an acting capacity. More OBO news in a bit.

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Inbox: Feast-or-Famine Games Being Played With State Staffing Levels

Posted: 1:33 am ET
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From our inbox this week:

I agree with AFSA that the house is on fire, but the question is what to do about it?  To use the fire analogy, you have to remove the fuel, the oxygen, or the heat to put out a fire.  So, what should be done to extinguish the current situation?  I certainly appreciate Ambassador Stephenson’s pointing out that there is indeed a fire, and I hope she will promote some constructive ways it can be put out.

From my perspective as an 02 generalist who has been in the Department for 10 years, staffing has never been constant.  I came in after Secretary Powell’s Diplomatic Readiness Initiative, which was needed because of the hiring freeze under Secretary Albright.  Colleagues hired under the DRI saw accelerated promotions to fill the ranks out where too many vacancies existed.  After I joined State, Secretary Clinton started the Diplomacy 3.0 accelerated hiring, which resulted in the much-discussed Pig in the Python.  Now, we are seeing a strategy to reduce jobs at the top, limit hiring of new employees, and encourage early retirement through a $25k incentive.  This is no way to run any kind of organization, public or private!  The feast-or-famine games being played with State staffing levels over the years distort careers and upturn lives.  Because of the DRI, employees with too little experience were placed in positions they were ill prepared for.  Because of the current situation, I know of some good, experienced officers who opened their windows to join the Senior Foreign Service (before Trump’s election), who are now facing an early exit from State with the reduced promotion numbers.  How in the world can people plan their careers?   How can State train and develop the next set of leaders?  How can we recruit the best and brightest to public service that is not related to the military or homeland security?  Again, this is no way to run a professional organization.

Although I certainly agree that reforms at State are needed, I strongly disagree with the approach that the supposed employee-led redesign has been enacted.  Reducing staffing levels to meet some arbitrary goal only serves to weaken the organization and create unintentional distortions.  (Side note: And the EFM hiring freeze, I mean EFM managed hiring process, is literally tearing apart families.)  Perhaps the solution is to have more Congressional oversight, at least as far as staffing levels are concerned.  I know of no one who welcomes more Congressional oversight, but I am frustrated with the yo-yo like nature that staffing at State has been treated.

The State Department will get through this latest challenge, I have no doubt.  The question is just how long it will take to recover, and how many good people will be sacrificed along the way.

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@StateDept Awards $2,105,663 Contract For Efficiency Task Force Support #Redesign

Posted: 12:58 am ET
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According to a July 2017 NYT report, Mr. Tillerson had hired Deloitte and Insigniam to help oversee the State Department’s reorganization.

If you click on Award ID GS00Q09BGD0018 displayed below via USAspending.gov that shows $2,105,663.00, it will take you to SAQMMA16F1155 dated June 30, 2017 with an obligated amount of $2,105,663.00. The contract awarded to Deloitte Consulting LLP includes the following details for Deloitte:

Product or Service Code | D318: IT AND TELECOM- INTEGRATED HARDWARE/SOFTWARE/SERVICES SOLUTIONS, PREDOMINANTLY SERVICES

Principal NAICS Code | 541512: COMPUTER SYSTEMS DESIGN SERVICES

Under contract information for SAQMMA16F1155, USASpending notes “THIS TASK ORDER PROVIDES SUPPORT FOR A DEPARTMENT OF STATE EFFICIENCY TASK FORCE. IGF::OT::IGF”

If we add this to the $1,086,250 for the organizational study that the State Department previously spent, the cost for Tillerson’s redesign is now $3,191,913.00.

As of this writing, we have not been able to locate the SAQMMA16F1155 documents on fedbiz.gov. The following clips are extracted from USAspending.gov where bare bones contract information is typically published. Click on the image for a larger view.

 

 

Related posts:

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Question of the Day: How many meaningless words can you cram into one Redesign slide? #Q&A

Posted: 1:56 pm PT
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Tillerson Talks About the Styled Redesign and Expected “Quick Wins” in 2018

Posted: 2:21 am ET
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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.

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House Foreign Affairs Committee Holds Hearing on @StateDept ReDesign With Tillerson Oops, Sullivan

Posted: 2:24 am ET
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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).

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Former Senior Diplomats Urge Tillerson to Make Public @StateDept’s Reorganization Plan

Posted: 2:14 pm PT
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On September 18, the American Academy of Diplomacy released a letter from Ambassadors Thomas Pickering and Ronald Neumann asking that Secretary Tillerson make to the State Department’s reorganization plan public.  Below is the text of the letter, the full letter is posted at www.academyofdiplomacy.org.

We understand that the State Department reorganization plan forwarded to OMB has been deemed “pre-decisional” and will therefore not be made public.

On behalf of the Board of the American Academy of Diplomacy, a non-partisan and non-governmental organization comprising senior former career and non-career diplomatic practitioners, we ask that you reconsider this decision and make your recommendations available for public comment.  The Academy, whose only interest is in strengthening American diplomacy, is already on record supporting many needed changes in the State Department’s structure and staffing.  Indeed, we would hope to make the Academy’s extensive experience available and relevant to any conversations about the future of the Department so that we might be able to support the outcome of this process, just as we supported your decision on reducing special envoys.  We cannot do so if your vision and plans remain publicly unavailable.

As the recent report prepared by your consultants very properly highlighted, the Civil Service and Foreign Service employees who work for you are patriotic, dedicated, public servants.  Many have gone in harm’s way and more will do so.  For nearly eight months these employees, and many of their families, have lived in a state of suspended animation, not knowing how reorganization will affect their lives and careers.  In light of their sacrifices for our Country, it strikes us as unfair to ask them to remain in this limbo for additional months while the Administration considers in private your recommendations for change.

Keeping your decisions from public view will only fuel the suspicion and low morale which now affects so many in the Department.  We ask that you be transparent with those most affected by your efforts to build efficiency and expertise.  Not doing so prejudices their future support.  Your leadership and America’s diplomacy would be better served by allowing public comment.  It is on that basis that we respectfully ask that you reconsider this decision.

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Related to this, Politico reported last week that “as part of his plan to restructure the State Department, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is pledging not to concentrate more power in his own hands — for now.” See Tillerson vows State Dept. redesign won’t concentrate power in his hands. Click here or image below to see the State Department-USAID Redesign Overview Capitol Hill Brief via Politico’s Nahal Toosi. Note the slide titled “What Redesign is Not.” There is no intention at this time to dismantle State or USAID at this time. Whewww! That’s a relief, hey?

Click on image to view the document.

Click on image to view the document: Redesign Overview Capitol Hill Brief, September 2017 via Politico

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