American Academy of Diplomacy Opposes Nomination of Stephen Akard as @StateDept Personnel Chief

Posted: 2:10 am ET
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In a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Bob Corker and Ranking Member Ben Cardin, released publicly on October 30, the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD) requests that the senators oppose the nomination of Stephen Akard to be Director General of the Foreign Service:

The American Academy of Diplomacy requests that you oppose the nomination of Stephen Akard to serve as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the State Department. We have concluded that voicing our concerns with Mr. Akard’s nomination is required if the Academy is to meet its most important mission: to promote and protect America’s interests in a dangerous world by supporting an effective American diplomacy based on a strong Foreign Service and a strong Civil Service.

It looks like the AAD requested to meet with the nominee but had not been successful. The letter authored by former senior diplomats Ambassadors Tom Pickering and Ronald Neumann on behalf of the group says about Mr. Akard, “We hold no personal animus toward him.”  But added that ” … we have concluded that Mr. Akard lacks the necessary professional background to be the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the State Department. His confirmation would be contrary to Congress’s long standing intent and desire to create a professional American diplomatic service based on merit.

The letter further adds: “While Mr. Akard is technically eligible for the position, to confirm someone who had less than a decade in the Foreign Service would be like making a former Army Captain the Chief of Staff of the Army, the equivalent of a four-star general.”

The full letter is available to read here (pdf).

We’ve previously blogged about the Akard appointment on October 17 (see Trump’s Pick For @StateDept Personnel Chief Gets the Ultimate “Stretch” Assignment).

With the exception of noting this nomination on Twitter, and separately urging FS members “to embrace their roles as stewards of the institution”, we have not seen any public position on this nomination by the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the professional association and labor union of the Foreign Service since 1924.

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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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Five Ex-U.S. Ambassadors to Israel Tell Senate Trump Pick David Friedman “Unqualified” For Post

Posted: 1:31 am  ET
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On December 15,  Trump named David Friedman, a two-state solution critic as the next Ambassador to Israel. On Thursday, February 16, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) will hold his confirmation hearing (see SFRC Hearing 2/16/17: David Friedman to be U.S. Ambassador to Israel).

We understand that a letter signed by five former U.S. Ambassadors to Israel during Republican and Democratic administrations (Thomas Pickering, William Harrop, Edward Walker, Daniel Kurtzer and James Cunningham) was delivered on February 15 to the senior staffers of all members of the SFRC to be passed to their principals. The letter quickly leaked to the press.

“We believe him to be unqualified for the position,” the former ambassadors wrote.

The letter also urged the Senators to examine whether Friedman “has the balance and the temperament required to represent the United States as ambassador to Israel.”

“The American ambassador must be dedicated to advancing our country’s longstanding bipartisan goals in the region: strengthening the security of the United States and our ally Israel, and advancing the prospects for peace between Israel and its neighbors, in particular the Palestinians,” the former ambassadors wrote. “If Israel is to carry on as a democratic, Jewish nation, respected internationally, we see no alternative to a two-state solution.”

Read more below:

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Top Diplomats Oppose Lateral Entry Program to the MidLevels in the Foreign Service

Posted: 1:28 am ET
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Last month,  the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD) sent a letter to SFRC Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn) to register its strong opposition to the provision in the draft FY 2017 State Department Authorization Bill (Section 207) mandating a program for lateral entry into the Foreign Service at the middle and higher ranks. Below is an excerpt:

— The provision will damage American security interests by undermining the professional nature of the U.S. Foreign Service. Professionalism is as necessary for diplomacy as for the military.

— The provision will subject the Foreign Service to unprecedented politicization to the detriment of our nation’s security.

— At a time when we ask Foreign Services Officers to risk life and limb in assignments from Afghanistan to Africa, the provision would allow entry into the Service at ranks equivalent to Major, Lt. Colonel and Colonel without earning that distinction by actual service and without accumulating the experience to support their status.
[….]
The Academy’s mission is to promote a strong American diplomacy, which today is needed more than ever to support and protect America’s interests. Our most recent report, American Diplomacy at Risk, called for an effective American diplomacy based on a strong State Department founded on strong Foreign and Civil Services. We called for robust funding of diplomacy and we highlighted the need to enhance a professional Foreign Service, not diminish it as this proposed provision will do. The need for a professional Service has been affirmed repeatedly in legislation for nearly 100 years. It will be even more needed in the global world of tomorrow.

The letter signed by AAD Chairman Thomas Pickering, Vice Chairman Marc Grossman, and President Ronald Neumann, was also sent to Senators Cardin and McCain and Representatives Engel and Royce.

The Academy of American Diplomacy founded in 1983 is a non-profit organization whose active membership is limited to men and women who have held positions of high responsibility in crafting and implementing American foreign policy. Last year, it issued the report, American Diplomacy at Risk available to read here (PDF).

Read the letter in full below:

 

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An American Diplomatic Service That Looks Like America, But How?

Posted: 12:53 am EDT
Updated: 3:54 pm PDT
Updated: 5/24/15 11:58 am PDT
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Ambassador Tom Pickering, a seven-time ambassador and former Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P), and   Ambassador Edward J Perkins, a four-time ambassador and former Director General of the Foreign Service just did an op-ed for WaPo about the American Foreign Service being too white. And that while our diplomats are “more representative,” we have not made “nearly enough progress.”

That’s changing. Today, our diplomats are more representative. But we haven’t made nearly enough progress. According to the latest statistics, 82 percent of Foreign Service officers (the commissioned career officers serving in embassies and consulates abroad as well as some policy positions stateside) are white. Seven percent are Asian American, 5.4 percent are African American, and 5 percent are Latino. About 60 percent are men. In contrast, the U.S. population is more than 50 percent female, more than 17 percent Hispanic and more than 14 percent African American.

U.S. foreign policy is informed and improved by a wider range of experiences, understandings and outlooks. To represent America abroad and relate to the world beyond our borders, the nation needs diplomats whose family stories, language skills, religious traditions and cultural sensitivities help them to establish connections and avoid misunderstandings.
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How can the Foreign Service draw upon the country’s total talent pool? The challenge isn’t only eliminating the last vestiges of discrimination but also actively recruiting the most talented and dedicated people from every segment of society, especially those of great ability but limited means.

Continue reading, The Foreign Service is too white. We’d know — we’re top diplomats. Warning, the comments are mighty brutal.

Last year we posted Snapshot: State Department’s Permanent Workforce Demographics but that is the total agency workforce which includes Civil Service and Foreign Service employees.  The Foreign Service demographics including the diversity stats from the annual promotion numbers continue to elude us.

The only publicly available data on diversity that we were able to locate is one done by State/HR in 2009 and published online by AFSA, which includes the FY08 Foreign Service workforce diversity statistics.

2009 DOS Diversity Stats FY2008

click for larger view | extracted from 2009 data (pdf)

 

The latests stats cited by the Pickering-Perkins op-ed says that “82 percent of Foreign Service officers (the commissioned career officers serving in embassies and consulates abroad as well as some policy positions stateside) are white. Seven percent are Asian American, 5.4 percent are African American, and 5 percent are Latino.”  The numbers they cite do not include the Foreign Service specialists (DS, HR, IT, etc).

But let’s look at those numbers against the pie chart and see what they look like.  From 2009-2015, we have total gains of 1.4% and total losses of 1.66% or an overall loss of 0.26%.  Take a look:

White:                           82.0% – 81.87% = 0.13% (+)
Asian Americans:     7.0%  –  5.73%   = 1.27% (+)
African Americans:  5.4% –  6.81%   = 1.41% (-)
Latino/Hispanic:        5.0% – 5.25%   = 0.25% (-)

Wait, we have not gone anywhere in the last five years?  It is, of course, possible that the numbers will not be as flat if this category includes the Foreign Service specialists. Maybe there is some  improvement in the diversity hiring for FS specialists.  Maybe it’ll look a lot better when we include those in the calculations.  Or maybe not. See, there’s no way to tell how well, how bad, or how flat are those numbers since they’re not available publicly.

We’re wondering if this is the real reason why the demographics and diversity stats for the American Foreign Service is not publicly available. We’d be happy to update this post if State/HR or the Office of Civil Rights would helpfully send us the most current numbers, including the diversity numbers from the promotion statistics.

Oops, here is the workforce racial breakdown from 2013 (thanks A!):

Department of State - Diversity Statistics Full-time Permanent Employees - as of 09/30/13

Extracted from Department of State – Diversity Statistics Full-time Permanent Employees – as of 09/30/13

 

A related topic, the current Director General of the Foreign Service Arnold Chacón (with  Alex Karagiannis) also penned a lengthy piece in the May issue of the Foreign Service Journal. Below is an excerpt:

[T]he Bureau of Human Resources is committed to an overarching goal: to recruit, retain and sustain a diverse workforce geared to succeed in 2025 and beyond. We are moving forward on three tracks.

First, we are partnering with AFSA to develop and implement a professional code of ethics for the Foreign Service, based on our core values of accountability, character, community, diversity, loyalty and service.
[…]
Second, we are focusing on improving operational effectiveness.
[…]
Third, we want to devote greater resources to professional development. Partnering with the Foreign Service Institute and the Management Bureau’s Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing and Innovation, we are using the Culture of Leadership initiative to better align recruitment, training, bidding and assignments, and employee performance management. FSI is revamping many of its courses to concentrate on concrete, practical training and coaching, not just mentoring.

Within HR, we are advancing in three areas:

  • Recruiting and developing talented employees with diverse backgrounds (through internships and fellowships, and disability hiring), expanding our marketing strategies and underscoring our merit-based system;

  • Enhancing and integrating leadership and management skills (mandatory supervisory training, coaching for chiefs of mission and their deputies); and

  • Undertaking performance management and assignment reform (new FS employee evaluation form, overhaul of selection board operations, improved recognition and rewards, modernized assignment system, and targeted details beyond State).

If you’re looking at 2025, it would probably be helpful to see what the workforce would be like in say, 2020.

BLS projections say that every race and ethnicity is projected to grow over the 2010–2020 period. However, the share of White non-Hispanics in the total resident population is expected to decrease.

Over the next decade, the workforce will become even more racially and ethnically diverse. The share of minorities in the labor force will expand more than ever before, because immigration is the main engine of population growth and because Hispanics and Asians have high labor force participation rates. BLS projects that, by 2020, Hispanics (18.6 percent), Blacks (12.0 percent), Asians (5.7 percent), and all those belonging to the “all other groups” category (2.9 percent) will make up nearly 40 percent of the civilian labor force.

Asians: Asians accounted for 4.4 percent of the labor force in 2000 and 4.7 percent in 2010 and are projected to increase their share to 5.7 percent in 2020. The continued immigration of this group to the United States, coupled with the group’s high participation rates, contributes to its increasing share of the labor force. The Asian labor force totaled 7.2 million in 2010, and BLS projects this number to increase to 9.4 million in 2020.

Blacks: Blacks accounted for 10.9 percent of the labor force in 1990 and 11.6 percent in 2010; they are expected to increase their share to 12.0 percent in 2020. The increase in the share of Blacks in the total labor force comes mainly from higher birthrates, a steady stream of immigrants to the country, and the very high labor force participation rates of Black women.

The Hispanic labor force was 10.7 million in 1990, 16.7 million in 2000, and 22.7 million in 2010. BLS projects that the Hispanic labor force will reach 30.5 million in 2020 and the Hispanic share in the total labor force will increase considerably over the next decade. In 2000, Hispanics composed 11.7 percent of the labor force, a share that increased to 14.8 percent in 2010. BLS expects that Hispanics will make up 18.6 percent of the labor force in 2020.

And by the way, it looks like the 55-years-and-older age group is also projected to increase to 41.4 million in 2020, and their share in the labor workforce is expected to reach 25.2 percent that year.

We have heard often that “the Department wants its workforce to reflect the diversity of the country we represent to the world.” In 2020, the American workforce will be 18.6 percent Hispanic.  DGHR’s recruitment strategy will have a hard time catching up with that.  There’s nothing new or particularly innovative with internships and fellowships, and we’re not sure how much of a dent those made in the last five years. Are they going to make a difference in the next five years? In ten years?  We have 16 Diplomats-in-Residence across the country who are responsible for providing guidance and advice to students, professionals and the community about Department careers. What kind of results do they get? Do they venture to state and community colleges? 

If the State Department wants its diplomatic workforce to reflect our country’s diversity, it will need more than a handful of internships and fellowships to get there.  And if it does not get there soon, it may be forced to do so soon enough  by a changing electorate, and congressional priorities reflected by that change.

Read more about the labor force projections to 2020 from BLS here (pdf).

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Not Going Benghazimazi But Let’s Revisit the ARB’s “Full & Unfettered Access” to State Dept Documents

Posted: 7:42 pm EST
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Last fall, Ray Maxwell alleged that there was a Foggy Bottom operation to “separate” damaging State Department documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. (see Former State Dept DAS Raymond Maxwell Alleges Benghazi Document Scrub Pre-ARB Investigation).

At that time, the State Department deputy spox, Marie Harf  called the allegations “a crazy conspiracy theory about people squirreling away things in some basement office and keeping them secret.” She also said this:

QUESTION: Did people involved in preparing the documents for the ARB separate documents into stuff that was just whatever and then things that they thought were – made people on the seventh floor, including the Secretary, look bad?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, Matt, at all. The ARB had full and unfettered access and direct access to State Department employees and documents. The ARB’s co-chairs, Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen, have both repeated several times that they had unfettered access to all the information they needed. So the ARB had complete authority to reach out independently and directly to people. Employees had complete authority to reach out directly to the ARB. And they’ve said themselves they had unfettered access, so I have no idea what prompted this somewhat interesting accounting of what someone thinks they may have seen or is now saying they saw.

But the ARB has been clear, the ARB’s co-chairs have been clear that they had unfettered access, and I am saying that they did have full and direct access to State Department employees and documents.

Read more: State Dept on Former DAS Raymond Maxwell’s Allegations: Crazy. Conspiracy Theory. What Else?

The State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach also denied the allegations (see State Department Denies Raymond Maxwell’s Document Scrub Allegations. Peeeeriod!!!!).

“That allegation is totally without merit. It doesn’t remotely reflect the way the ARB actually obtained information,” he said in an email. He explained that an “all-points bulletin”-type request went out department-wide instructing “full and prompt cooperation” for anyone contacted by the ARB, and urging anyone with “relevant information” to contact the board. 

“So individuals with information were reaching out proactively to the Board. And, the ARB was also directly engaged with individuals and the Department’s bureaus and offices to request information and pull on whichever threads it chose to. The range of sources that the ARB’s investigation drew on would have made it impossible for anyone outside of the ARB to control its access to information,” Gerlach said. He further noted that the leaders of the ARB have claimed they had unfettered access to information and people. 

In both cases, these government officials emphasized one thing: that the Pickering-Mullen Accountability Review Board “had full and unfettered access and direct access to State Department employees and documents.”

In the September 2013 congressional hearing, the Benghazi ARB co-chair also told Congress, “We had unfettered access to State Department personnel and documents. There were no limitations.” 

Shouldn’t we now consider the absent clintonemail.com server as one such limitation?

In light of reports that Secretary Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state, and that her private emails were never reportedly actual residents of Foggy Bottom, would these current and former government officials now revisit their statements on the ARB’s “unfettered” access to documents?

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Academy of Diplomacy’s Pickering and Neumann Warns Secretary Kerry About Risk Avoidance At All Cost

— Domani Spero
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The American Academy of Diplomacy’s chairman, Ambassador  Thomas Pickering and its president, Ambassador Ronald Neuman wrote a letter last week to Secretary Kerry urging his “support to get America’s diplomats into the field and back into contact with local societies.” The group is concerned that the demand that civilian officers operate “at or near zero risk” undermines the effectiveness of American diplomacy and America’s national security interests.

Excerpt below:

As terrorist attacks have grown, security restrictions have become more intense. This has been necessary but is now too dominant in decision making. Many of us have run critical threat posts. We have no illusions about the need to calculate and mitigate risk. But ultimately we must all judge the relative risks of any action against its benefits to the national interest. What we see happening in far too many places are decisions reflecting Washington guidance to avoid risk at all cost. This approach is spreading from critical threat posts to other less threatened posts and personnel, creating a chilling effect for our diplomats attempting to carry out their missions through travel and contacts across a wider range of security environments.

The demand that civilian officers operate at or near zero risk undermines the effectiveness of American diplomacy and, by extension, America’s national security interests. Engaging with the local population and its leaders is crucial to the knowledge essential to sound policy. Failure to do so adequately is a short-term loss for the conduct of diplomacy and a long-term loss for policy formulation. We support the view taken by senior Department officials who have acknowledged the need for accepting prudent risk in the conduct of diplomacy. However, we believe that your own leadership must be engaged to reinforce these statements and the concrete actions need to convey to the field some acceptance of measured risk taking.

The Academy urge more training on risk management not just for officers but also for Chiefs of Mission:

Foreign Service Officers accept worldwide assignment and that includes a measure of risk; that idea needs reinforcement. More tradecraft training for officers borrowing from the best the US government has to offer may be useful. Greater education in risk management certainly is needed for Chiefs of Mission who must be empowered to make critical decisions. Chiefs of Mission are already charged with securing their staffs but need much more training in how to make security judgments. More resources need to be devoted to all these areas. Security officers need to believe that their task is to enable mission performance as safely as possible but not to avoid all risk.

The group believes that “a focused conversation with Congress is required to gain acceptance for the realities of the decisions needed” and tells Secretary Kerry that it is prepared to help in a dialogue with Congress but needs a “specific direction” from the secretary of state for current practices to change.

The American Academy of Diplomacy is currently working on a major study of what is needed to improve the professionalism of American diplomacy and the capacity of Foreign Service Officers.

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Officially In: Danny Russel – from WH/NSS to the EAP Bureau

On May 15, 2013, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Danny Russel as the next Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (State/EAP). The WH released the following brief bio:

Danny Russel, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Asian Affairs on the White House National Security Staff (NSS).  From 2009 to 2011, he was the NSS Director for Japan, South Korea, and North Korea.  Before joining the NSS, Mr. Russel was Director of the Office of Japanese Affairs at the Department of State.  From 2005 to 2008, he was U.S. Consul General in Osaka-Kobe, Japan.  Previously, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in The Hague from 2002 to 2005, and as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus from 1999 to 2002.  From 1996 to 1999, Mr. Russel was Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.  Earlier assignments included posts at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea and with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.  Before joining the Foreign Service in 1985, Mr. Russel was a manager for an international firm based in New York City.

His bio posted on the Institute of Korean-American Studies indicates that Mr. Russel was educated at Sarah Lawrence College and University College, University of London, UK. He is married to Keiko Abo Russel and has three children: Emily, Byron and Kevin.

He joined the Foreign Service in 1985, was posted to Tokyo and according to his bio, served as the assistant to Ambassador and former Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield until 1987.

He worked twice previously with Ambassador Thomas Pickering – first from 1989-92 at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York as Political Adviser to the Permanent Representative, Ambassador Pickering, and was accredited to the Security Council.  And again from 1997-99 when he was Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador Pickering. In 1996 he was awarded the State Department’s Una Chapman Cox Fellowship sabbatical and wrote a book, America’s Place in the World, published by Georgetown University.

Click here to read this item from Dispatch Japan on a possible Caroline Kennedy appointment to Tokyo, seniority and other bureau details on this appointment.

If confirmed, Mr. Russel would succeed Kurt M. Campbell who was appointed EAP Assistant Secretary in 2009 and resigned in February 2013.

–DS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QotW: Will Beth Jones Be Formally Nominated as Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs?

Laura Rozen of The Back Channel has the Buzz on Obama 2.0 Middle East team.  Excerpt below related to the ARB fallout:

Among the top questions is whether acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Affairs Beth Jones will be formally nominated for the post under Secretary of State-nominee John Kerry , or whether someone new will be tapped.  Jones, a career foreign service officer, is, like Kerry, the child of US Foreign Service parents, who spent much of her childhood living abroad accompanying them on foreign assignments, including in Germany and Moscow.

Jones, who previously served as Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East, and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (2001-2005), came out of retirement in the private sector (APCO Worldwide) to assist in the Near East bureau in 2011. She assumed the Acting Assistant Secretary job for the bureau after Jeff Feltman retired to take the number three job at the United Nations last May.

Department sources said, however, that some State rank and file officers are troubled that the Benghazi investigation resulted in the departure of Jones’ deputy, Raymond Maxwell, who had come out of retirement to serve as deputy assistant secretary of state for Libya in 2011, department sources told the Back Channel. The perception among some in the ranks is that Jones let Maxwell take the fall, while escaping blame herself, in part because of her relationship with Tom Pickering, the veteran diplomat who chaired the Benghazi Accountability Review Board investigation, a department source who declined to speak for attribution said. Jones and Maxwell did not immediately return requests for comment.

Read in full here.

So that’s the question of the week.

We have previously blogged about the ARB fallout on personnel at State, both in the DS and NEA bureaus here and here.  We do not think that Ms. Jones will be formally nominated for a couple of reasons:

  1. While it is true that she has been on the job for about three months as acting Assistant Secretary at NEA when the September 11 attack occurred, she was the incumbent sitting at the top of the accountable regional bureau during the Benghazi Attacks. Formally nominating her for the job would look like a promotion despite the deadly fiasco inside the bureau in the lead up to the attacks.  That’s not good optics and the conspiracy sector will have a field day.  Frankly, we can’t even imagine what that confirmation would be like at the SFRC with Senators John McCain and Rand Paul plus newly minted senator from Arizona named Flake, joining in the fun, if she is nominated.
  2. If rank and file officers were troubled with the departure of NEA DAS Raymond Maxwell in the aftermath of the ARB report, imagine what the morale would be like if she formally assumes the job. With a new secretary of state, not sure, this is something he would really want to deal with at the start of his tenure. The incoming SecState has an opportunity to start with a new slate, we think that’s what he’ll do — not because of inside knowledge (we have none) but because that makes the most sense.

Besides — what’s this proclivity with calling people back from retirement?  How about these folks?  None of them qualified to run the bureau with lots of countries in the hotzones?  Where’s the next generation of State Department leaders coming up the ladder? Zap us an email if you know their undisclosed locations.

domani spero sig

 

 

 

 

How long will the State Dept’s bureaucratic firewall hold at the bureau level?

4 State Department Resignations Follow Benghazi Report – a headline repeated with some variation since Wednesday.

The bureaucratic casualties as of December 20:  One assistant secretary, and reportedly two of his deputies, and a fourth one who was third level down from his bureau’s assistant secretary.

Only one, the assistant secretary submitted his resignation. The other three apparently were put on  “administrative leave” pending further action. Hey! What does “further action” means?  Does that mean reassignment?  Retirement? Or just go disappear until the press gets tired of this thing?  Does that mean the higher ups who dodged the bullet are still looking up what FAM cite to slap them with? Why? Oh, because the Foreign Affairs Manual is the official rules book. Anything not on it, is not considered to have real teeth.  So, obviously, if you want to line them up on a career firing squad, you better get the FAM citation right. Or Legal would have a fit. And that’ll be a ton of paperwork and what with the holidays next week …

Who the foxtrot wants to be stuck at the office doing that sort of stuff!?

Anyway, one was reportedly preparing to retire, anyway.

Too bad his office was not on the 7th floor.

In any case, if he’s been in with XX years of service, he will get a Certificate of Appreciation personally signed by the Secretary of State. Woohoo!

One presumably did not know what was coming; blithely posting on social media about the NYT story on the ARB report the night it was released.

No one called to say we’re releasing this report tonight and there’s no breach or whatever, but that you might stay home tomorrow because the buzzards will be circling the Truman building?

Nothing like that?

According to Dead Men Working, “one will be sorely missed by DS, which would have benefited greatly from his continued service.”

Career execution is a fairly common practice in public organizations, but since they’re often done in private with few details, there is always talk about inability to discuss such personnel matters.  And since there are few breadcrumbs and even fewer witnesses, no can can definitely say who fired the coup de grâce. (thanks N., you may eat another xmas cookie).

We find the “fixin” the blame ‘er accountability at the bureau level quite disturbing but also laughable.  We are tempted to start calling this the “Accountability for Mid Level Officials Review Board” as suggested below.

More of that from the National Review, below an excerpt from Elliot Abrams:

Does the new report on the State Department’s failures in Benghazi really deliver “accountability?” No: In fact it actually sacrifices a few career officials and protects the higher-ups.

While the report has been called scathing and tough, it does not fix any real responsibility on top officials: the secretary of state, the two deputy secretaries of state, or the assistant secretary for the Near East. The Diplomatic Security bureau takes a lot of hits, but I don’t see in it any serious discussion of the roles played by the under secretary for management, who supervises that bureau, nor of the “Seventh Floor” — the very top officials of the department.
[…]
It is even odder that Secretary Clinton, who once said “I take responsibility. . . . I take this very personally,” also gets off without criticism. It’s not that absolving her or her top deputies is necessarily wrong, but where it leads is bound to affect morale in the department. Look at these events from the perspective of career officials at the office director or deputy assistant secretary level, and what just happened? People like you were just ruined, while people up the chain got off scot free. Being on the Seventh Floor appears to grant immunity. I’m sure that’s what is being said around the water coolers at State, and from what I can see they are not wrong. Pickering led what was called an “Accountability Review Board.” A better name might have been “Accountability for Mid Level Officials Review Board.”

As we’ve noted here, the NEA bureau has been headed by Elizabeth Jones in an acting capacity since June 2012. Don’t know her, never meet her. State always expect that its officers hit the ground running whether in Foggy Bottom or in Burkina Faso.  If we cut her some slack, that’s from our belief, rightly or wrongly, that one needs at least 3-6 months to do an effective transition. We wrote previously that “If she is nudged out when she was on the job barely three months when Benghazi happened, we might think that the pressured shakeup is for purposes of appearances.”

We’ll, it now looks like she’ll be spared but State has now reached down to the third level down at the NEA bureau to find someone “accountable.” And this has nothing to do with appearances and managing perception.

Also the Cable cites the Q&A during the hearing between D/S Bill Burns and Senator Rubio:

When pressed by Rubio over whether the March and July cable requesting more security had reached the upper echelons of the State Department, Burns said they had.

“Well, they certainly would have been reviewed up through assistant secretary level, and it may be that some of my colleagues on the 7th floor saw them as well.” Burns said. “There were certainly memos that came up to the 7th floor that talked about the deteriorating security situation in eastern Libya, yes, sir.”
[…]
Maxwell, according to several State Department sources, had been slated to retire in September but was asked to stay on as DAS for the Maghreb after the attack. Maxwell might have been in a position to directly receive the requests for more security in Benghazi, giving him a direct connection to the security failures, those sources speculated. Those details are confined to the classified version of the ARB report. But State Department officials insist that he would not have been able make any decisions about such matters with consulting with Jones, who would have had the final say.

“Either they have some kind of documentary evidence that puts Maxwell in a bad light specifically, or this could be the Foreign Service elite protecting itself. Maxwell is not a member of the elite, but Jones is,” one senior foreign policy hand who has worked in the State Department said.

So the three future scenarios we’re looking at next:

  1. That the four resignations will temper the noise and hold the firewall at the bureau level.
  2. That the four resignations will increase the noise, add more questions, breach the bureau firewall and one or more of the Under Secretaries will roll.
  3. That with the holiday week coming, people will be riveted by last minute shopping, and will be so Benghazid-out to care.

The next time you guys (those still in the building) attend your mandatory leadership and management training, ask your facilitators how to survive organizational life when your leadership is in crisis. When lower-ranked officials are pressured to take the blame while higher ups in the food chain skate, we don’t call it true leadership.

Also, note that we’re not suggesting that all these bureau officials forced to leave made no errors in judgment.  We don’t know.  But to expect us to believe that these folks alone in a highly structured organization committed a firing offense and that their upper bosses knew nothing about whatever it was they did  … why, that’s a bunch of somethings, dahrlings!

domani spero sig