Top U.S. Diplomat in China David Rank Resigns Over #ParisAgreement Withdrawal

Posted: 3:22 am ET
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Reports broke on Twitter on Monday that David Rank, the chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy in Beijing, has left the State Department over the Trump administration’s decision to quit the 2015 Paris agreement to fight climate change.  Reuters later confirmed his resignation citing the spokesperson from the EAP Bureau:

“He has retired from the foreign service,” said Anna Richey-Allen, a spokeswoman for the department’s East Asia Bureau. “Mr Rank has made a personal decision. We appreciate his years of dedicated service to the State Department.”
[…]
A senior US official confirmed the account given in the tweets but added that after Rank announced his intention to retire on Monday in Beijing, he was told by the State Department to leave his post immediately.

David H. Rank is the Chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy Beijing. He assumed the position when Ambassador Max Baucus departed post.  Prior to assuming the position of Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy Beijing in January 2016, he served as the Director of the State Department’s Office of Afghanistan Affairs and as a Senior Advisor to the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.  From 2011-2012, Dave was the Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Since joining the State Department in 1990, he has also served in Washington, DC; Beijing, Taipei, Shanghai, Athens and Port Louis, Mauritius.  In Washington, he worked in the Office of Korean Affairs, served as the Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and was a Dean Rusk Fellow at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.

Dave has received numerous Superior Honor and Meritorious Honor Awards, as well as the American Foreign Service Association’s Sinclaire Award for the study of languages and their associated cultures (Greek, 2004).  In 2015 he received the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award for his role in securing the return of the only American service member held by the enemy in Afghanistan. Dave speaks Mandarin Chinese, French, Dari and Greek.  He and his wife, Mary, have three children – Mary Margaret, Robert and Ellen.

If true that his resignation is over the Paris Agreement withdrawal, this would be the first resignation by a career Foreign Service officer over a policy disagreement.  In March 2017, a Foreign Service specialist, DS Agent TJ Lunardi resigned over his belief that President Trump is “a threat to our constitutional order” (see Diplomatic Security Agent With 17-Year Service Resigns Over Trump). If there are other resignations we should know about, email us!

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@StateDept/USAID Staffing Cut and Attrition: A Look at Real Numbers and Projected Attrition

Posted: 3:32 am ET
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In late April, Bloomberg reported that Secretary Tillerson is seeking a 9% cut in State Department staffing with majority of the job cuts, about 1,700, through attrition, while the remaining 600 will be done via buyouts.

9% Staffing Cut: A Look at the Numbers

The following is the best numbers we could come up with for the State Department and for USAID. The State Department data is from its HR Fact Sheet as of March 31, 2017, while the USAID data is from the Semi-Annual USAID Worldwide Staffing Report from September 30, 2016.

The 3% personnel cut mentioned in some media reports is if the staffing cut is applied to the entire State Department workforce  (2300/75,555).  If we include USAID’s workforce in this calculation, the staffing cut would be 2.7% (2300/84,048). More than half of the total combined workforce, some 55,148 employees are Foreign Service Nationals, also known as Locally Employed Staff (LES) in over 275 posts around the world. One notable thing about FSNs is their compensation. Almost all of them are paid under local compensation plans. Unless the State Department is slashing FSN positions in high-income economies where local compensations are as high as in the U.S., the savings realized from eliminated local positions would barely register.  The reported staff reduction does not specify if FSNs will be affected.  However, if there are post closures in the next 2-3 years, the likelihood for a reduction-in-force for local employees would inevitably follow. So far, we have not heard of post closures, but we suspect that with the kind of cuts projected in FY2018 funding, and potentially in the fiscal years after that — it will only be a matter of time before this dog bites.

The 9% personnel cut reported by some media outlets is if the staffing cut is applied to the State Department’s U.S. direct-hire employees to include Foreign Service and Civil Service employees only (2300/25,007). If we include USAID’s direct-hire workforce in this calculation, the staffing cut would be 7.9%.

1,700 Through Attrition: A look at the Numbers

The Bloomberg report also says that the personnel cuts which includes 1,700 through attrition may be phased in over two years. We don’t have the attrition projection for USAID but there is one for the Foreign Service which projects the total Foreign Service attrition at 2,450 for the next five years.  The average annual attrition for Foreign Service Officers is 261 and 230 for FS Specialists from FY2016-2020 or 490 per year.

Note that the highest projected attrition for FSOs is in the Political and Economic career tracks. Among FSSs, the highest projected attrition occurs in the security officer, office management, and information management skills group.

So, if the State Department is phasing in this personnel cuts of 1,700 through attrition over two years, the projected attrition for FSOs/FSSs for the next two years is only 980.  That means they have to find the rest of their attrition number of 720 from a combination of State Department Civil Service (and USAID/FS-CS, if USAID is part of the calculation), and Foreign Service Nationals (locally hired employees).  They also have to find 600 who are willing to take a buyout to get to 2,700.

If you know anything more about where this is going, get in touch!

 

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Snapshot: Historical and Projected Foreign Service Attrition

Posted: 3:39 am  ET
Updated: Feb 14, 2:18 pm PT: Notification reportedly went out o/a 9 pm on Feb 13 that the FSO/FSS March classes are on.
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According to the State Department, Foreign Service (FS) and Civil Service (CS) attrition is categorized as either non-retirements or retirements and as voluntary or involuntary.  Nearly all retirements in the CS are voluntary; however, in the FS, retirements may be either voluntary or involuntary.  Between FY 2016 and FY 2020, the Department projects that close to 5,400 career CS and FS employees will leave the Department due to various types of attrition.

Via state.gov:

Involuntary retirements include those due to reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65, which cannot be waived unless an employee is serving in a Presidential appointment, and those who trigger the “up-or-out” rules in the FS personnel system (e.g., restrictions in the number of years FS employees can remain in one class or below the Senior Foreign Service threshold).

Voluntary non-retirements include resignations, transfers, and deaths.

Involuntary non-retirements consist of terminations, as well as “selection out” of tenured employees and non-tenured decisions for entry level FS employees.

Overall attrition in the FS increased from 485 in FY 2014 to 539 in FY 2015. Most FS attrition is due to retirements. In FY2015, over two thirds of all separations in the FS were retirements. For the FY 2016 to FY 2020 period, the attrition mix is expected to be 81 percent retirements and 19 percent non-retirements.

FS Generalist Attrition in FY2014 is 242; in FY2015 the humber is 279. The number of retirements increased from 169 in FY 2014 to 186 in FY 2015 and the number of non-retirements increased from 73 in FY 2014 to 93 in FY 2015. FS Generalist attrition rates increased only slightly from 3.3 percent in FY 2014 to 3.8 percent in FY 2015. Most of the non-retirements were at the entry-level.

FS Specialist Attrition in FY2014 is 243;  and in FY 2015 the number is 260. The number of retirements decreased from 179 in FY 2014 to 178 in FY 2015 and the number of non- retirements grew from 64 in FY 2014 to 82 in FY 2015. FS Specialist attrition rates increased slightly from 4.7 percent in FY 2014 to 4.8 percent in FY 2015. (Counts exclude conversions within the FS and into the CS. Rates include conversions.)

attrition

|>> Attrition in the FS workforce is projected to average 491 employees per year between FY 2016 and FY 2020, nearly nine percent lower than last year’s projected average annual attrition of 541. This projection represents a two percent decrease per year when compared to the annual average attrition of 500 for the past five years.

|>>As detailed in Tables 11 and 12, the projected average annual attrition over the next five years for FS Generalists is expected to essentially mirror the average annual attrition of the previous five years, 261 vs. 257, and the average for the FS Specialist workforce is expected to decrease by five percent, 230 vs. 243.

|>>The two largest FS Specialist groups – Security Officers and Office Management Specialists – account for over 40 percent of the average annual Specialist attrition. As the attrition trends change, attrition projections will be revised next year to further reflect the changes in separations.

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Foreign Service Retirements, and State Department Farewells and Departures

Posted: 1:50 am ET
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On November 15, Secretary Kerry congratulated Ambassador Rick Olson on his retirement after three decades of dedicated service to the United States. Prior to his retirement, Ambassador Olson served as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Secretary Kerry cited his service as U.S. Ambassador to both the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs at U.S. Embassy Kabul, and other positions in Mexico, Uganda, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Iraq, NATO, as well as a number of leadership positions here in Washington. On November 28, Secretary Kerry awarded Ambassador Olson the Distinguished Service Award during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. More photos here via Flickr. Secretary Kerry’s remarks on the Retirement of Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard G. Olson, 11/15/16.

 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presents Ambassador Rick Olson, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP), with the Distinguished Service Award during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on November 28, 2016. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presents Ambassador Rick Olson, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP), with the Distinguished Service Award during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on November 28, 2016. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]


On November 30, Ambassador Deborah Jones announced on Twitter that she is retiring from the Foreign Service after 34 years of service as a diplomat.  Ambassador Jones is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, having been with the Department of State since 1982. She served previously as U.S. Ambassador to Libya and as Ambassador to Kuwait. She also previously served as Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey.  Her previous overseas assignments include: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Baghdad, Iraq; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Damascus, Syria.  Her service in Washington, D.C. includes two years as Country Director of the Office of Arabian Peninsula and Iran Affairs in addition to assignments as Staff Assistant to Assistant Secretary for Near East and South Asia Affairs Richard Murphy, Acting Public Affairs Advisor to Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs, Desk Officer for Jordan, and duty in the Department’s Operations Center.  She speaks Arabic, Spanish and French.

safiradeborah

 

Tom Cochran was Deputy Coordinator for Platforms in the Bureau of International Information Programs, from March 2014 until this past November. In this role, he was responsible for providing places for public engagement that prioritize individuals, facilitate long-term relationships, and simplify public diplomacy to make it more measurable. Before his appointment at the Department of State, he was the Chief Technology Officer at Atlantic Media, publisher of international news outlets including: The Atlantic, Quartz, Government Executive and National Journal. Prior to joining the Atlantic Media, he was the Director of New Media Technologies for the White House where he led the team of people that created the “We the People” petition website. Mr. Cochran, a third culture kid who grew up in Japan and Thailand is a son of a foreign service officer.

Richard Stengel, the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs tweeted today as his last day as “R” at the State Department. Mountainrunner notes back in July that in January 2012, the office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy was ‘unencumbered’ 30% of the time (as in, a confirmed, not acting, Under Secretary was in place). By the time Rick Stengel was sworn in as the third Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy of the Obama Administration (the Bush Administration had four Under Secretaries), the vacancy rate was 33%. On July 1, 2016, Stengel became the longest serving Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy at 870 days, surpassing the previous record holder, Karen Hughes, who served 868 days. As of today, that’s 998 days on Stengel’s record.

The U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland Suzi LeVine announced her departure from post on FB for January 20.  “I wanted to let you know that my family and I will be leaving Switzerland on January 20, 2017 and heading back to our beloved Seattle. This opportunity to serve as President Obama’s personal representative here to these extraordinary countries of Switzerland and Liechtenstein has been rewarding, humbling, and truly awesome – beyond our wildest imaginations!”

U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard announced that he will depart Pretoria on December 16.  Prior to being appointed U.S. Ambassador to South Africa,he served as the Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee, a position he held since 2011. Previously, he served as an Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Political Affairs from 2009 to 2011. Prior to that, he was the National Political Director for Obama for America.

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