Why ‘Rexit” Is Not Happening Anytime Soon, in Rex Tillerson’s Own Words

Posted: 2:45 am ET
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‘Rexit’ was in the news for a few days. Reports that Secretary Tillerson had gone to Texas, putting in 20-hour workdays while also on some time off did not help quell the rumors. Last week during an appearance at the State Department with the Foreign Minister of Qatar, Secretary Tillerson told the press that he is not going anywhere, and that he is staying as long as President Trump would let him. And that helped taper off the Rexit talks.

There are quite a few reasons why Secretary Tillerson will not be in a hurry to exit, despite issues with the White House, or his inability to pick his own staff, or being publicly undermined by his boss. Here he is in his own words.

“We’re going to carve our piece into that history.”

In Secretary Tillerson’s remarks to State Department employees in May, he talked about history.

“One of the great honors for me serving in this department, the Department of State, and all of you know, the Department of State, first cabinet created and chartered under the Constitution. Secretary of State, first cabinet position chartered and created under the Constitution. So we are part of a living history and we’re going to get to carve our little piece of it, our increment, in that clock of time. We’re going to carve our piece into that history.”

Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky on CNN writes that “Tillerson does not have a small ego. He doesn’t want to be the answer to the question in a game of Trivial Pursuit of which Secretary of State holds the record for the shortest tenure in the modern era.”  We should add that Tillerson was the CEO of the 6th largest company in the world in terms of revenue. His compensation was in the millions and he apparently has a right to deferred stock worth approximately $180 million over the next 10 years. He does not need another job for the rest of his life after he steps down as secretary of state. But his reputation, which is all that’s left in the end, could suffer.

Questions are already being asked, “Is he the worst Secretary of State in living memory?”  

What he does here, now, history will remember, and history is judgy.

So he will be mindful of history and his place in that history. We don’t think he will leave his post without being able to cite a major accomplishment during his tenure. A potential accomplishment could be the reorganization of the State Department, but that is not happening overnight.

“How do we effect the change and begin to get that into place?”

In a June 13, 2017 appearance at the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee, Secretary Tillerson talked about the timeframe of his reorganization plan (see Notable Details From Tillerson’s Congressional Appearances on FY18 Budget Request).

“We hope to have the way forward, the next step framed here in the kind of August timeframe, so that we can then begin the redesign process itself September. I’m hoping we can have all of that concluded by the end of the calendar year, and then ’18 will be a year of how do we implement this now? How do we effect the change and begin to get that into place?”

We don’t think he will leave before the reorganization is completed at the State Department, and implementation for that is not even happening until sometime in 2018.  If he leaves his position before his agency’s reorganization is completed, what will his Wikipedia page say? That he started reorganizing the Department of State and then he quit to spend more time with his family? Oftentimes reorganizations cause unpalatable changes — and if the real reasons for this reorganization are cost efficiencies and effectiveness (as opposed to WH vindictiveness for that leaked dissent cable) — how do you make it stick if the chief sponsor of the reorganization leaves?

Remember Condi Rice’s “transformation” initiative and job repositioning efforts at the State Department? She did not step down for two more years following that splashy announcement. And even that was not enough to make the changes stick.  The heart of change is changing hearts, and a secretary of state perceived to be disconnected from the building and his people will find the job of changing a bureaucracy almost as old as this country even harder, and tougher.

“We don’t intend to leave anybody out.”

During his remarks to employees in May, Tillerson talked about the State Department as a ship, and his tenure as taking a voyage with his employees, to get “there” wherever that is. And he talked about not leaving anybody out.

“But we’re on all this ship, on this voyage together. And so we’re going to get on the ship and we’re going to take this voyage, and when we get there, we’re all going to get off the ship at wherever we arrive. But we’re all going to get on and we’re going to get off together. We don’t intend to leave anybody out.”

While it may not be his intention, he actually is already leaving the entire building out. We don’t know how he feels about that. We do know that Mr. Tillerson would have a better relationship with Foggy Bottom, and a better chance at successfully fulfilling his job if not for the small circle of individuals controlling the air space over the secretary of state.

Secretary Tillerson is in a bubble with his interaction in the building scrupulously laundered through an inner circle of advisers who are dismissive of people who are not considered worthy and who see dark shadows in every corner.  We understand that Secretary Tillerson does not meet with career staffers without the presence of at least a member or two from his inner circle (this circle should have a name, hey?).  As if somehow, his folks are afraid that Tillerson might get poked and wake up to the reality he is in. Tillerson’s front office managers have done an atrocious job of representing him inside the building. Changing that should be Tillerson’s top priority, then he won’t leave the entire building out.

“I want to shake the hand of every State Department employee…”

In a remarks to employees earlier this month, Tillerson said that he wanted to shake the hand of every State Department employee. The State Department has over 75,000 employees in Foggy Bottom and at over 270 posts worldwide.

“I want to shake the hand of every State Department employee at some point during this tenure of mine, anyway. You’re all extremely important to us — individual, but you’re extremely important to us, collectively, in what you do.”

So he’s not going to get that hand-shaking done before the end of the year.  To-date, Secretary Tillerson has travelled nine times overseas to twenty-two foreign destinations. He’s got ways to go here and there.

And there is a bonus reason why Secretary Tillerson will not be be resigning soon or in the foreseeable future. According to the secretary of state’s strategic adviser, “As long as there are rogue regimes pursuing nuclear weapons or terrorists seeking safe haven the secretary will remain on the job.”

Well, that’s it then. Waiting for the collapse of rogue regimes and terrorists before you quit makes for quite a long wait. Unless his boss think otherwise, and tweets after this blogpost is posted online.

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‘Rexit’ From Foggy Bottom Is Now a Thing … Plus PredictIt Odds

Posted: 1:20 am ET
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Via CNN:

For weeks, conversations with Tillerson friends outside of Washington have left the impression that he, despite his frustrations, was determined to stay on the job at least through the end of the year. That would allow time to continue efforts to reorganize the State Department and would mean he could claim to have put in a year as America’s top diplomat.
But two sources who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity over the weekend said they would not be surprised if there was a “Rexit” from Foggy Bottom sooner that that.
Both of these sources are familiar with Tillerson conversations with friends outside Washington. Both said there was a noticeable increase in the secretary’s frustration and his doubts that the tug-of-war with the White House would subside anytime soon.

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Expected USAID Pick Ex-GOP Rep Mark Green Lost in the Trump Jungle

Posted: 12:18 am ET
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Via Politico:

Former GOP Rep. Mark Green is the Trump administration’s expected pick to lead the United States Agency for International Development, but has struggled to close a deal with the Trump administration, according to four sources with knowledge of the talks.
[…]
Green has been frustrated by his dealings with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other Trump officials, the sources said. In addition to wanting the title of USAID administrator, Green is also seeking to be named to a high-ranking position in the State Department. And he is seeking promises that Trump won’t dismantle USAID or make it a subsidiary of the State Department, a move that’s feared by people in international development circles as a way to sideline foreign aid.

Green made the case to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus that he wanted the dual title of USAID administrator and a deputy slot with an office on the 7th floor, and was led to believe that the White House had given him those terms for accepting the job, according to a source close to State.

 

Oy! That Rumor About Foreign Service Family Member Employment as “Corporate Welfare”

Posted: 1:39 am ET
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We posted recently about the hiring freeze, the jobs for diplomatic spouses, and the worries that these jobs could soon be filled not by the U.S. citizen spouses of USG employees overseas but by locally hired employees (see Are #EFM positions literally about to become…extinct under #Tillerson’s watch?).

We have since learned that the Foreign Service community has been roiled by a rumor that the top diplomat of the United States has allegedly called the employment of Foreign Service family members as “corporate welfare” and allegedly said to one of his deputies that this practice is going to stop.

The secretary of state is surrounded by a small number of inner circle staffers like Margaret Peterlin, Christine Ciccone, Matt Mowers and Bill Ingle but his top deputies are currently nowhere in sight in Foggy Bottom as he has no confirmed deputy. Where did this rumor come from?  Was this overheard in the cafeteria, by the water coolers, in Foggy Bottom’s sparkling bathrooms?  We have not been able to trace the origin of this alleged quote, or locate a first hand account of who heard exactly what when.  But since the rumor has raced like wildfire fire within the State Department, and has a potential deleterious effect on morale, we’ve asked the Bureau of Public Affairs via email, and on Twitter to comment about this alleged quote. Unfortunately, we got crickets; we got no acknowledgement that they even received our multiple inquiries, and we’ve seen no response to-date.

Not even smoke signals! Dear Public Affairs, please blink if you’re being held hostage …

via reactiongifs.com

We’ve also asked the Family Liaison Office (FLO), the institutional advocate for Foreign Service family members. The FLO folks also did not respond to our inquiry. Finally, we’ve asked the Director General of the Foreign Service via email. We got a canned response thanking us for our inquiry and advising us that if a response is required, we’ll hear from DGHR within 10 days. Yippee! The DGHR’s office did bother to set up an auto-response and we’re holding our breath for a real response!

H-e-l-p … g-u-l-p …we’re still holding our breath!

Dual Career Households

Foreign Service spouses have similar challenges to military spouses in maintaining dual careers while following their spouses during assignments — have you ever heard our top generals call the jobs for military spouses  “corporate welfare?” Of course not. Why? Because dual career households have been trending up since 1970.  According to a Pew Research Center analysis of Current Population Survey data in 2015, the share of two-parent households in which both parents work full time now stands at 46%, up from 31% in 1970.  “At the same time, the share with a father who works full time and a mother who doesn’t work outside the home has declined considerably; 26% of two-parent households today fit this description, compared with 46% in 1970.” 

So, we were counting on the State Department to set the record straight on what this secretary of state thinks about the family members who serve overseas with our diplomats.  We are unable to say whether this quote is real or not, whether he said this or not but we can tell you that the rumor is doing the rounds and upsetting a whole lot of people.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that a good number of folks within the organization also believe this to be true.

Rumors Uninterrupted. Why?

Well, there are a few reasons we can think of.  One, the White House has now lifted the hiring freeze, but there is no thaw in sight for the State Department until the reorganization plan is approved (see No thaw in sight for @StateDept hiring freeze until reorganization plan is “fully developed”).  Two, we’re hearing all sorts of news about gutting State and USAID budgets and staffing but we have yet to hear about the Secretary of State actually talking to his people in Foggy Bottom or defending the agency that he now leads. And then there’s this: there are apparently over 70 exceptions to the hiring freeze for EFM jobs that have been requested. Only 6 EFM positions for the Priority Staffing Posts (like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan) were reportedly approved by Secretary Tillerson.  PSPs are important to watch as EFMs can only accompany their employee-spouse if they have a job at post. If State only grants exceptions to EFM jobs at PSP posts on the rarest of cases, will employees break their assignments when their EFMs are unable to accompany them?

These EFM jobs, almost all requiring security clearance range from Community Liaison Officers tasked with morale and family member issues to security escorts, minders for the janitorial or repair staff, to mailroom clerks who process mail and diplomatic pouches, to security clerks who process security badges and do other clerical work.  With few exceptions like consular associates who work in the visa sections and professional associates, most of these EFM jobs are  clerical in nature and require no more than a high school education. Some 80% of diplomatic spouses have college degrees but only 29% works inside U.S. missions overseas, 14% works in the local economy and a whopping 57% are not employed.

Let’s pause here for a moment to note that the 57% for the State Department more than double the Pew Research Center analysis of Current Population Survey data from 2015 for two-parent households where the wife does not work outside the home.

Hard Choices Ahead

If the EFM job freeze becomes indefinite, we anticipate that some families with financial obligations for college tuitions or other family obligations may opt for voluntary separation to enable the EFM to keep her/his Civil Service job or stay stateside to keep her/his private sector job. More senior  spouses may also have particular concerns about having jobs/keeping their jobs so we may see an increase in voluntary unaccompanied tours and family separations. Is that something the State Department really wants to do?

Given that the summer rotation is coming up between June and August, how is the State Department going to remedy the staffing gaps at various locations while the EFM hiring freeze is on?  We’ve also asked the State Department this question, but we did not hear anything back, not even a buzz-buzz.  Do you think there is even a plan?

We should note that not all rotations are created equal.  There are posts that may have a light staff rotation this year, while other posts have larger staff turnovers.  Small posts may be hit particularly hard.  Sections with one FSO supported by a couple of EFMs could potentially lose both EFM staffers and be unable to hire new ones because of the hiring freeze.  Meanwhile, the work requirements including all congressionally mandated reporting go on.

One source told us that the main option for his/her post during rotation is to suck up the extra work, and even temporarily reassign the existing staff to higher priority projects. Which means somethings will not/not get done.  There are already posts where one officer has two-three collateral duties, so those are not going to get any better. Visa officers may need to collect fingerprints as well as conduct visa interviews. Unless their jobs get handed over to DHS (yes, there are rumors on that, too!).   Regional Security Officers may need to process embassy badges, and answer their own phones, as well as attend to mission security, supervise the local guards, review contracts, etc.

An Aside — on Rumors

We once wrote about rumors in a dysfunctional embassy.  It now applies to the State Department.  Rumors express and gratify “the emotional needs of the community.” It occupies the space when that need is not meet, and particularly when there is deficient communication between the front office and the rest of the mission.  In the current environment, the rampant rumors circulating within the State Department is indicative of Mr. Tillerson’s deficient communication with his employees.

If State Really Cares About the Costs

In any case, if the State Department no longer even pretends to care that FS spouses are under-employed or not employed overseas, it still ought to care about costs. These are support employees who already have their security clearances, and require no separate housing. It is estimated that there are about 5,000 EFMs who would qualify for the Foreign Service  Family Reserve Corps. A few years ago, we noted that majority of EFMs employed at US mission, at the minimum, have a “Secret” level clearance. The average cost to process a SECRET clearance has been reported to run from several hundred dollars to $3,000, depending on individual factors. We suspect that the cost is higher for FS members due to overseas travels and multiple relocations.  The average cost to process a TOP SECRET clearance is between $3,000 and about $15,000, depending on individual factors. If State gets rid of EFM jobs (already cheap labor compared to direct-hire), the work will still be there.  Or is it planning on hiring contractors to bridge the gap? If yes, these contractors would all have to get through the security clearance process themselves.  State still has to fund contractors’ travel and housing, etc. How would that be cheaper?  Or … if not, who will do all the work?

Tillerson’s 9% Cut and a Troubling Nugget

The latest news from Bloomberg talks about Tillerson reportedly 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 (we’ll have to write about this separately).   Oh, and he’ll be on a “listening tour” sometime soon.  Note that during the slash and burn in the 1990’s, the State Department “trimmed” more than 1,100 jobs at the State Department, 600 jobs at  the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), and had identified for elimination about 2,000 jobs at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Bloomberg report also has this troubling nugget:

“Tillerson was taken aback when he arrived on the job to see how much money the State Department was spending on housing and schooling for the families of diplomats living overseas, according to one person familiar with his thinking.”

So next, we’re gonna to be talking about those houses with concertina wire on top of 18 foot walls?

Since there may not be EFM jobs for diplomatic spouses, and we could soon be back to the old days when American diplomats are accompanied overseas by stay-at-home spouses who make no demands on having careers of their own, who’s to say when dependents’ schooling will next be upgraded to allow only homeschooling, when travel will be made only by paddle boats,  and diplomatic housing will be reduced to yurts?

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NOTE: There are a few EFMs who are hired in Civil Service positions and allowed to telecommute from their locations overseas once they go abroad with their spouses . They’re officially on DETO status (domestic employee telecommuting overseas).  We understand that last year,  one bureau had “pushed out” its EFM employees on DETO status. The employees either had to resign their CS jobs or return to DC to report to work.  In these DETO cases, the spouses can either stay at post with no jobs, or return to Washington, D.C. and endure the family separation. While this predates Tillerson’s arrival, we’d like to see how many other bureaus have now done away with DETO employees. Email us.

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Previously Announced DOD Nominee John J. Sullivan Now Slated to be @StateDept’s No. 2

Posted: 3:30 am ET
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On March 7, President Trump nominated John J. Sullivan as General Counsel for the Department of Defense. According to the WSJ, Trump administration officials in recent days have reportedly decided to tap Mr. Sullivan instead for the State Department’s deputy secretary position. The nomination has yet to be announced

The following brief bio was originally released during the announcement of Mr. Sullivan’s nomination for DOD General Counsel earlier this month:

Mr. Sullivan was most recently a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington, D.C. office and co-chair of the firm’s National Security practice. He has held senior positions at the Justice, Defense, and Commerce Departments, advising the Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Counsel to the President on the most sensitive legal and policy issues. During his tenure at Mayer Brown, Mr. Sullivan focused his practice on the growing intersection of global trade and investment and national security. Prior to joining Mayer Brown, Mr. Sullivan served at the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, where he was Counselor to Assistant Attorney General J. Michael Luttig. He advised senior officials on legal issues arising out of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and provided legal advice to the FBI, CIA, Treasury Department, and White House Counsel’s Office. Earlier in his career, he served as a law clerk for Associate Justice David H. Souter of the Supreme Court of the United States, and for Judge John Minor Wisdom of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Mr. Sullivan received his bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Brown University and his law degree from Columbia University School of Law, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, Teaching Fellow, and Book Reviews Editor of the Columbia Law Review.

Mayer Brown has a more extensive Sullivan biography available online here: https://www.mayerbrown.com/en-US/people/John-Sullivan/

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@StateDept Budget Could Be Cut By As Much as 30% in Trump’s First Budget Proposal?

Posted: 3:40 am  ET
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Via Bloomberg:

Trump’s first major fiscal marker will land in the agencies one day before his first address to a joint session of Congress. […] The Pentagon is due for a huge boost, as Trump promised during the campaign. But many nondefense agencies and foreign aid programs are facing cuts, including at the State Department. The specific numbers aren’t final and agencies will have a chance to argue against the cuts as part of a longstanding tradition at the budget office.

Note that in fiscal year 2016, the Pentagon has had nearly $600 billion at its disposal. According to Newsweek, that’s twice the size of the defense budget before the 9/11 attacks and more than 10 times the amount the State Department received for diplomacy. For fiscal year 2017, then President Obama had asked Congress to increase Pentagon spending by $22 billion, while his State Department request has remained flat, at $50 billion.  And now, potentially a 30% cut? We hope to have a follow up post when we have further details.

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@StateDept Special Envoy Positions Could Be in Trump’s Chopping Block — Which Ones?

Posted: 1:42 am  ET
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Via Bloomberg:

President Donald Trump is proposing major defense spending increases and big cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, State Department and other federal agencies in a proposed budget to be presented soon to Congress, said a person familiar with the plan.[…] But the State Department will not share in the largesse. One of the agency’s deputy secretary positions, in charge of management and resources, is expected to be eliminated and its staff reassigned, people familiar with the plan said. Trump and his aides also are reviewing whether to eliminate many special envoy positions, the people said — diplomatic staff assigned to key regions and issues, including climate change, anti-Semitism and Muslim communities.

Back in September 2015, we blogged that Congress has been looking into the special envoys/reps, etc, at the State Department (see Congress Eyes @StateDept’s Special Envoys, Representatives, Advisors, and Coordinators).  Last December, Congress sent then President Obama the first State Department authorization bill sent by Congress to the President in 14 years.  Section 418 of that bill requires a one-time report on the special envoys, representatives, advisors, and coordinators of the Department, including details related to the individuals rank, position description, term in office, justification of authorization for the position, any supporting staff or resources of the position, and other related details (see Congress Sends President Obama First State Department Authorization in 14 Years).

Per state.gov, the following is a list of special envoys, special representatives, ambassadors at large, coordinators, special advisors, senior advisor, senior official, personal representative, and  senior representative positions that could be in the chopping block.

Special Envoys

Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS (Brett McGurk)
Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs (James O’Brien)
Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs (vacant)
Special Envoy and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center (vacant)
Special Envoy for Climate Change (vacant)
Special Envoy for Closure of the Guantanamo Detention Facility (vacant)
Special Envoy for Global Food Security (vacant)
Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues (vacant)
Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons (Randy Berry)* (also Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor)
Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations (vacant)
Special Envoy for Libya (Jonathan Winer)
Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism (vacant)
Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (vacant)
Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues (Robert R. King)
Special Envoy for Six-Party Talks (vacant)
U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan (vacant)
U.S. Special Envoy for Syria (Michael Ratney)

Special Representatives

Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation (rank of Ambassador) (vacant)
Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma (vacant)
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (vacant)
Special Representative for the Arctic Region (vacant)
Special Representative for Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Issues (Robert A. Wood)* (Also Permanent Representative for Conference on Disarmament)
Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs (vacant)
Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy (Deborah Birx, M.D.)* (also Ambassador at Large and Coordinator of United States Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS Globally)
Special Representative for Global Partnerships (vacant)
Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region of Africa (vacant)
Special Representative for International Labor Affairs (vacant)
Special Representative to Muslim Communities (vacant)
Special Representative of North Korea Policy (Joseph Yun)* (also Deputy Assistant Secretary in East Asia and Pacific Affairs Bureau)
Special Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) (Michael Scanlan)
U.S. Special Representative to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) (Linda S. Taglialatela)* (also Ambassador to Barbados)
U.S. Special Representative for Religion and Global Affairs (vacant)

Ambassadors at Large

Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Ambassador at Large and Coordinator of United States Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS Globally (Deborah Birx, M.D.)* (also Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy)
Ambassador at Large for Global Criminal Justice (vacant)
Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues (vacant)
Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom (vacant)
Ambassador at Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (Susan Coppedge)

Coordinators

U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, with the rank of Ambassador (vacant)* (also DAS in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs)
Lead Coordinator for Iran Nuclear Implementation (Stephen D. Mull)
Coordinator for Cyber Issues (Christopher Painter)
Coordinator for Sanctions Policy (Dan Fried)
Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs (rank of Ambassador) (vacant)
Coordinator for U.S. Assistance to Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia (vacant)
Fissile Material Negotiator and Senior Cutoff Coordinator (Michael Guhin)
International Information Programs Coordinator (vacant)
Israel and the Palestinian Authority, U.S. Security Coordinator (Lieutenant General Frederick S. Rudesheim)
Senior Coordinator for International Information Technology Diplomacy (vacant)* (Also Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment)
Senior Coordinator for Knowledge Management (vacant)
Special Coordinator for Global Criminal Justice (Todd F. Buchwald)
Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues (Sarah Sewall)* (also Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights)
Transparency Coordinator (Janice Jacobs)

Special Advisors

Science and Technology Adviser (vacant)
Special Adviser for Global Youth Issues (Andrew Rabens)
Special Adviser for Holocaust Issues (Stuart Eizenstat)
Special Advisor for International Disabilities Rights (vacant)
Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control (Robert J. Einhorn)
Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia (Knox Thames)
Special Advisor for Secretary Initiatives (vacant)

Senior Advisor

Senior Advisor (vacant)

Senior Official

U.S. Senior Official to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) (Matthew Matthews)* (also Deputy Assistant Secretary in Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs)

Personal Representative

Personal Representative for Northern Ireland Issues (Gary Hart)

Senior Representative

Senior Representative to Minsk (vacant)

 

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Tillerson/Priebus Standoff on Ambassadorships, Plus Rumored Names/Posts (Updated)

Posted: 2:03 am  ET
Updated: 2:31 pm PT
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The following report may explain the slow announcement of ambassador picks under the Trump administration. To-date, only two ambassador’s postings have been announced, China and Israel. The nominee for Israel, David Friedman has a scheduled confirmation hearing this week.   Terry Branstad’s nomination as Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China was sent to the Senate on January 20 but so far, no schedule has been announced by the SFRC. Note that Nikki Haley was previously announced as Trump’s pick for the UN and was confirmed by the Senate on January 24. Her official title is United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, an ambassador-rank position; it is also a cabinet level position. 

For a list of ambassadorships that may be the cause of the reported standoff between Secretary Tillerson and WH Chief of Staff Priebus, see America’s Cushiest Ambassadorships Will Go Vacant By Inauguration Day.

Via the WSJ:

Senior White House advisers have suggested to cabinet secretaries or nominees that they need to be consulted on all personnel and policy decisions, creating friction between the agencies and the White House officials who have been permanently stationed inside their buildings.

Many of the U.S. ambassadorships remain unfilled, a result of a standoff between Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Priebus, the chief of staff, said people familiar with the process.

Below is a round-up of names floated around as possible picks for ambassadorships to Canada, Austria, Dominican Republic, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Czech Republic, and the UK.

Ex-Senator Scott Brown to New Zealand

Sarah Palin to Canada, to Canada. Or not.

Patrick Park, Sound of Music Fan to Austria?

From Palm Beach — Robin Bernstein to the Dominican Republic? Brian Burns to Ireland?

Major Campaign Donors Lewis Eisenberg to Italy, William Hagerty to Japan?

Woody Johnson to the United Kingdom, but role not official?

Ivana to the Czech Republic, and she’ll get agrément?

Ted Malloch, potential European Union pick attacks the EU?

Miami Marlins owner Jeff Loria to head to France?

GOP activist Georgette Mosbacher to Luxembourg?

Hedge funder Duke Buchan to Spain?

Edwin Feulner, Heritage Foundation founder to South Korea?

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Inbox: Another example of top-notch FSI communications strategy?

Posted: 12:57 am  ET
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We received the following in our inbox on Friday, February 4, 2017:

“Rumor is spreading like wildfire that on Friday afternoon at an administrative staff meeting FSI language school management announced that all language immersion trips planned for this spring would be cancelled. No one has yet bothered to tell the students or teachers who have already purchased non-refundable airline tickets for trips that have been planned and approved by language division supervisors since last year. The cancellations seems to be based on lack of FSI funds to pay per diem to accompanying teachers, but it is not clear whether students will still be permitted to travel on self-directed immersion trips. Some students are frantically trying to get flights and hotels refunded under travel insurance policies, but this is not likely to be a covered circumstance.

Another example of top-notch FSI communications strategy. No one has bothered to tell the affected parties, but half the administrative staff at FSI heard about it.”

really_cdn

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Reactions to Trump’s Reported T. Rex Pick For the State Department #dazzleandwow

Posted: 12:52 am ET
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On Sunday, the Trump Transition says that “ There will be no announcements on Secretary of State until next week at the earliest.”  Even as unnamed sources continue to tell members of the press that Tillerson is the pick, Reince Priebus who is slated to become President-elect Trump’s chief of staff cautioned that it’s a “little premature to be claiming” the secretary of state choice for the incoming Trump administration is a “done deal.”  So until the official announcement is made, which could happen tomorrow or on Friday or whenever is the season finale, it may still be open season for the secretary of state candidates.

The secretary of state nomination has to go through a confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC).  That’s a 10 GOP/9 Dems split. GOP Members include Senators Marco Rubio, Jeff Flake, and Rand Paul. If the nomination makes it out of the SFRC, it has to go through a full vote in the Senate. The 115th Congress includes 46 Democratic Senators, 2 Independents, and 52 Republican Senators.  A simple majority vote is required to get confirmation. So the Senators. Don’t forget them, particularly the Republican Senators. Makes one wonder if the leak on Tillerson as pick is a trial balloon to see what kind of reception the nomination is going to get, and what the potential confirmation fight might look like in the Senate. Also, add this to your SOS candidate trivia.  Rex Tillerson’s salary in 2015 is reportedly $27.2 million. The secretary of state’s annual salary in 2015 is $203,700.

Reactions to the potential Tillerson appointment:

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