Ten Ex-Directors General Call on the SFRC to Oppose Stephen Akard’s Confirmation

Posted: 2:30 pm PT

 

We previously blogged about the nomination of Stephen Akard as Director General of the Foreign Service and personnel chief of the State Department.

To-date, we have not heard from AFSA, the professional association and labor union of the United States Foreign Service, or its position on this nomination that has roiled the career service.

On December 8, ten former Directors General publicly opposed the confirmation of Mr. Akard as Director General. They have sent individual letters to each member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and call on the Senators not to confirm the nominee. We are publishing the text and the names of the signatories below:

We, the undersigned, served as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the Department of State and all of us had previous service as ambassadors before assuming that position. Our service as Directors General spans over a quarter century. 

We write today to urge you to vote against the nomination of Stephen Akard for the Director General position. In doing so, we are not questioning the right of the President to nominate a person of his choosing to this position nor do we question the legality of the nomination. We have no personal animus toward Mr. Akard and believe that Mr. Akard might well be suitable for other senior positions in the State Department. Rather, we write out of deep concern that he is not qualified for the enormous responsibilities of this position.

The Director General is at the apex of the Department’s personnel system, responsible for maintaining the professionalism of employees to whom we entrust the security and well-being of the United States in the global environment. The DG provides oversight and guidance as Chair of the Board of the Foreign Service to the entire Foreign Affairs community. He or she must be conversant with the vast array of laws and procedures that serve as a basis for the personnel system. For that reason, the Foreign Service Act stipulated that the incumbent had to come from the professional Foreign Service.

While the nominee meets the definition of the law, Mr. Akard does not have the experience, hence the knowledge, required to perform in this position. We honor the nominee’s eight years in the Foreign Service at the entry and lower midlevel ranks of the Service. However, service at that level gives the person no experience at the level of senior management where critical decisions are made. The Director General fulfills a position equivalent to a military Service Chief. This nomination would be like nominating a former, out of the army, captain to replace the four-star Chief of Staff of the Army.

Service in senior positions and first-hand experience become critical when the Director General is called upon to advise ambassadors, undersecretaries and assistant secretaries on personnel matters. While staff can advise on the rules it is up to the Director General to advise on exceptions. This is precisely the kind of judgment for which the nominee lacks the relevant background.

In addition, personnel in the Department of State include Civil Service and locally employed staff as well as Foreign Service. Civil Service employees work under a different system than Foreign Service while performing critical functions in support of the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Locally employed staff have yet different rules. The nominee has no relevant experience managing multiple personnel systems.

A significantly important attribute for successful service as Director General is the regard that employees have for the individual serving in the position. The Director General must be well respected, admired for his or her leadership and honesty and integrity. Employees, many of whom have or are serving in dangerous positions must have confidence that the incumbent understands their concerns, most likely has seen or experienced the same or similar situations as that of the employee, and thus will make fair and just decisions. He or she must deal daily with the many factors affecting recruitment including increasing the diversity of the Department, promotion, discipline, family issues, and retirement. The Director General must have the knowledge and experience to advise the Secretary of State and the Undersecretary for Management on the realities of the global personnel system. The nominee has no experience that would reassure State employees that he understands the personnel system or will stand for them when the inevitable crises occur.

The ability to counsel is central to an effective Director General. All of us devoted considerable care in mentoring employees. This mentoring occurs at all levels in the personnel system, from ambassadors facing issues in their embassy to entry level officers seeking guidance on their careers. The nominee may be gifted in interpersonal relationships, but that is undermined if the incumbent cannot relate to those seeking his advice.

In conclusion, we ask that you not advance this nomination. A strong professional personnel system is vital to the nation’s security. It must be led by a person who has risen through the ranks to senior positions enabling the incumbent to make vital decisions both for the Department at large and the individuals as well.

Thank you for your serious consideration of our concern and your support for a strong professional and well-trained team at the State Department to carry out the vital mission of promoting and protecting America’s interests around the world.

The letter above was signed by the senior officials listed below. These are ten of the last twelve Directors General with tenures that spanned from 1989 to 2013. The two DGHRs who are not signatories are Harry Keels Thomas Jr.  who served from 2007–2009, and is currently the U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, and Arnold A. Chacon who served as DGHR from 2014-2017 (see DGHR Arnold Chacón Steps Down, One More @StateDept Office Goes Vacant).

Ruth A. Davis
Director General (2001-03)
U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Benin (1992-95)

Edward W. Gnehm, Jr.
Director General (1997-00)
U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait (1991-94), USUN (1994-97), Australia (2000-01), and Jordan (2001-04)

Marc Grossman
Director General (2000-01)
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey (1994-1997)

Genta Hawkins Holmes
Director General (1992-95)
U.S. Ambassador to Namibia (1990-92) and Australia (1997-00)

W. Robert Pearson
Director General (2003-06)
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey (2000-03)

Edward J. Perkins
Director General (1989-92)
U.S. Ambassador to Liberia (1985-86), South Africa (1986-89), United Nations (1992-93), and Australia (1993-96)

Nancy J. Powell
Director General (2009-11)
U.S. Ambassador to Uganda (1997-99), Ghana (2001-02), Pakistan (2002-04), Nepal (2007-09), and India (2012-14)

Anthony C.E. Quainton
Director General (1995-97)
U.S. Ambassador to Central African Republic (1976-79), Nicaragua (1982-84), Kuwait (1984-87) and Peru (1989-92)

George M. Staples
Director General (2006-07)
U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Rwanda (1998-01), and to the Republics of Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea (2001-04)

Linda Thomas-Greenfield
Director General (2012-13)
U.S. Ambassador to Liberia (2008-12)

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SFRC Clears Ueland, Ford, Poblete, Evans, Braithwaite, McClenny, Bierman, and More

Posted: 3:28 am ET

 

Several State Department nominees were cleared by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, December 5.

STATE DEPARTMENT

Mr. Eric M. Ueland, of Oregon, to be Under Secretary of State (Management)

Mr. Christopher Ashley Ford, of Maryland, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (International Security and Non-Proliferation)

Ms. Yleem D.S. Poblete, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance)

AMBASSADORS

Mr. James Randolph Evans, of Georgia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Luxembourg

Rear Admiral Kenneth J. Braithwaite USN(ret), of Pennsylvania, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Norway

Mr. M. Lee McClenny, of Washington, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Paraguay

USAID

Mr. Brock D. Bierman, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development

*

Old SFRC reports | The following were nominations that previously cleared the SFRC but have yet to get a full Senate vote. The published Senate calendar indicates that it will be in session until Sunday, December 17, and then it will be on a scheduled non-legislative period from December 18-31, 2017.

Oct 26, 2017 | Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Richard Grenell, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Germany.

Samuel Dale Brownback, of Kansas, to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, vice David Nathan Saperstein, resigned.

Jennifer Gillian Newstead, of New York, to be Legal Adviser of the Department of State, vice Brian James Egan, resigned.

Sep 28, 2017 | Placed on the Calendar pursuant to S.Res. 116, 112th Congress.

Mary Kirtley Waters, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Legislative Affairs), vice Julia Frifield.

Sep 19, 2017 | Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Doug Manchester, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

Kathleen Troia McFarland, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Singapore.

Aug 03, 2017 | Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.

Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, during his tenure of service as Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations.

A note on the McFarland nomination as U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. As best we could tell, there is no official hold on this nomination in the latest Senate digest but CNN has reported that the Democrats have placed a hold on this nomination until she answers their questions. Whether or not she will be called back to the SFRC before the Senate breaks for the holidays depends on Senator Corker.

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Trump to Nominate Ex-NHTSA Admin Nicole R. Nason to be Asst Secretary For Administration

Posted: 2:12 am ET

 

On November 28, the White House announced President Trump’s intent to nominate former NHTSA Administrator Nicole R. Nason to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for Administration. The WH released the following brief bio:

Nicole R. Nason of New York will serve as an Assistant Secretary of State for Administration. Ms. Nason, an attorney and senior government official, has served as a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. since June 2017. She previously served in Washington, D.C. as Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (2006-2008), Assistant Secretary for Government Affairs, U.S. Department of Transportation (2003-2006), Assistant Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (2002-2003) and Attorney for the Subcommittee on Crime, U.S. House of Representatives (1995- 1999). From 2014-2017, she founded and ran Project Koe in Connecticut, empowering women and improving health and fitness using traditional Japanese martial arts techniques. Ms. Nason earned a B.A. in Political Science and Government at American University and a J.D. at Case Western Reserve University.

According to AllGov, she previously worked as counsel and communications director for Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss of Florida, as counsel for the House Judiciary Committee under Chairman Henry Hyde of Illinois, and as assistant commissioner of the Office of Congressional Affairs  at the U.S. Customs Service.

According to Consumer Report, Nason left NHTSA after serving a little more than two years as head of the government’s primary auto safety agency.

A quick summary about the A bureau via state.gov:

The Bureau of Administration provides support programs to the Department of State and U.S. embassies and consulates. These programs include: procurement; supply and transportation; diplomatic pouch and mail services; official records, publishing, and library services; language services; setting allowance rates for U.S. Government personnel assigned abroad and providing support for Department assisted overseas schools; domestic real property and facilities management; domestic emergency management; support for White House travel abroad; and logistical support for special conferences.

Direct services to the public and other government agencies include: responding to requests under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts and providing the Virtual Reading Room for public reference to State Department records and information access programs; printing official publications; simultaneous interpretation for Senior USG Officials; and determining use of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the Harry S Truman headquarters building in Washington, DC.

State/A oversees the offices of Allowances, Directives, Emergency Management, Global Publishing, Languages Services, Logistics Management, Overseas Schools, and the Office of the Procurement Executive. The incumbent reports to the Under Secretary for Management.

History.state.gov notes that the Department of State created the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Administration during a general reorganization in December 1944, after Congress authorized an increase in the number of Assistant Secretaries in the Department from four to six (Dec 8, 1944; P.L. 78-472; 58 Stat. 798). The reorganization was the first to designate substantive designations for specific Assistant Secretary positions. The title for this position has varied over the years. Assistant Secretaries for Administration have supervised a variety of functions ranging from budget and personnel matters to foreign buildings and record keeping. Several of these functions, such as accounting and diplomatic security have become the responsibility of newly created bureaus.

Of the last ten appointees to this position, two have been non-career appointments, Arthur Fort and Rajkumar Chellaraj.

Related items:

Nicole Nason: AllGov
Diplomacy, humor take new NHTSA chief far (by Jayne O’Donnell, USA Today)
Hey Auto Journalists, NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason Is Waiting To Take YOUR Call! (Jalopnik)
Bush Names Choice To Head Traffic Safety (by Sholnn Freeman, Washington Post)
What’s Off the Record at N.H.T.S.A.? Almost Everything (NYT, August 22, 2007 via Wayback Machine)
David Kelly replaces Nicole Nason as top NHTSA administrator (Consumer Reports News, Sept 8, 2008)
For NHTSA Chief Nason, Family Influences Policy (Edmunds.com, Wayback Machine)

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Trump to Nominate Career Diplomat Joseph E. Macmanus to be U.S. Ambassador to Colombia

Posted: 2:34 am ET

 

On November 21, the White House announced President Trump’s intent to nominate career diplomat Joseph E. Macmanus to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Colombia. The WH released the following brief bio:

Joseph E. Macmanus of New York to be Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Colombia. Mr. Macmanus, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1986. He is currently Adviser to the Secretary of State, a position he undertook in June 2017. Previously, he was Senior Adviser to the Secretary of State and Executive Secretary of the Department of State from 2014-2017. A former Ambassador, Mr. Macmanus has been a senior aide to four Secretaries of State. He has served at five U.S. Missions overseas. Mr. Macmanus earned a B.A. at the University of Notre Dame and a M.L.S. at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He speaks Spanish, French, and Polish.

If confirmed, Ambassador Macmanus would succeed career diplomat Kevin Whitaker who was appointed chief of mission in Bogota in April 2014.  The last seven chief of mission appointees to Colombia going back to the mid-1990’s have been career diplomats.  According to history.state.gov, the last non-career appointee sent to Bogota was Morris Dempson Busby (1938–) who served from September 1991–July 1994 under George H. W. Bush.

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Trump to Nominate Car-Dealer CEO David T. Fischer to be Ambassador to Morocco

Posted: 3:49 am ET

 

On November 21, the WH announced President Trump’s intent to nominate David T. Fischer to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Morocco. The WH released a five-sentence announcement as follows:

David T. Fischer of Michigan to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Morocco.Mr. Fischer is the Chairman, CEO, and principal owner of The Suburban Collection, one of the largest privately held automotive dealership groups in the United States. Mr. Fischer provides philanthropy to many charities and has joined the boards of numerous academic, cultural, and social welfare institutions and foundations. He has been a Member of the Judicial Tenure Commission in Detroit since 2012. Mr. Fischer earned a B.A. at Parsons College.

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Founding Member of Mar-a-Lago Club Robin Bernstein to be U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic

Posted: 4:23 am ET
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On October 31, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Robin Bernstein, a founding member of The Mar-a-Lago Club  to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic. The WH released the following brief bio:

Robin Bernstein to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Dominican Republic.  Ms. Bernstein has served as President and Director of Richard S. Bernstein and Associates, Inc. since 2004, and Vice President and Director of Rizbur, Inc. since 2002, both of West Palm Beach, Florida.  For four decades, she has provided leadership and management to the business, government, and the non-profit communities of Florida.  Currently, she is co-founder of Palm Beach Country Cares, a Florida relief effort for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Ms. Bernstein earned a B.A. from American University School of International Service and an M.B.A. from George Washington University.  She speaks French and basic Spanish.

This nomination has the potential to be the more contentious of the Trump ambassador nominations due to her association with Mar-a-Lago, but also because she was one of Trump’s 2016 Presidential Electors.

But hey, it’s the U.S. Senate where its “advice and consent” role often constitutes a light touch — just a few public questions, and whether or not the nominee has previously visited the country. In some of these public hearings, they have four-five nominees for an hour or so, most of that taken up by the prepared testimonies of the nominees, the senators listening to themselves talk, and then a few questions for the nominees. If a nominee is in a panel with a controversial individual, the nominee might get just a question or two. If the nominee is the controversial one, or in the crosshairs of one or two of the senators, then the nominee might get most of the questions. Sometimes though, when a nominee comes unprepared, it blows up the house, and a normally inattentive public reacts in unexpected ways. But that does not happen often.

We must admit, however, that we suffer from low expectations when it comes to these confirmations. Since singing in a church choir, and being spouse of an ex-politician are deemed relevant qualifications for an ambassador, the bar for the Senate is low. Other than making a real spectacle of yourself in front of the cameras, like trampling through the salad bowl with no dressing, most political nominees get handed the keys to embassies after their quick confirmation hearings. Not unique to this administration, we should add, but USA Today, notes that “never in modern history has a president awarded government posts to people who pay money to his own companies.” So we’ll have to watch what happens with Corker and Flake who sits in the SFRC, and if McCain shows up for the hearing.

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Trump Nominates Career Diplomat Joel Danies to be U.S. Ambassador to Gabon/Sao Tome and Principe

Posted: 4:17 am ET
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On October 27, President Trump announced his intent to nominate career diplomat Joel Danies to be the U.S. Ambassador to Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe. The WH released the following brief bio:

Joel Danies of Maryland to be Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Gabonese Republic and the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe.  Mr. Danies, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1987.  He is currently Associate Dean of the School of Professional and Area Studies, Foreign Service Institute, at the Department of State.  Mr. Danies has served in senior-level Department of State positions at home and abroad.  He earned a master’s degree from National War College in Washington, D.C., and a bachelor’s degree from University of Maryland, College Park.  He speaks French, Haitian-Creole and Arabic.

Is it just us or are the bios of career diplomats getting the minimalist treatment now? The WH-released bio doesn’t mention prior assignments anymore, only that the nominee has “served in senior-level Department of State positions at home and abroad.”

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NSC’s Christopher Ford to be Asst Secretary For International Security and Non-Proliferation

Posted: 4:16 am ET
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On October 31, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Christopher A. Ford, currently with the National Security Council to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation (ISN). The WH released the following brief bio:

Christopher Ashley Ford of Maryland to be an Assistant Secretary of State, International Security and Non-Proliferation.  Dr. Ford currently serves as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Counterproliferation at the National Security Council.  Dr. Ford served on several different committees in the U.S. Senate, served as a State Department official, and worked as a senior fellow at Hudson Institute.  Dr. Ford is the author of three books – China Looks at the West: Identity, Global Ambitions, and the Future of Sino-American Relations (2015), The Mind of Empire: China’s History and Modern Foreign Relations (2010), and The Admirals’ Advantage: U.S. Navy Operational Intelligence in World War II and the Cold War (2005) – and scores of articles and monographs.  He also served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, receiving an Honorable Discharge at the rank of Lieutenant Commander.  Dr. Ford earned an A.B., summa cum laude, at Harvard University, a D.Phil. at Oxford University in the United Kingdom (as a Rhodes Scholar), and a J.D. at Yale Law School.  A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, he lives with his family in Bethesda, Maryland.

Back in January, in a piece about the NSC, WaPo notes the following:

Longtime senate staffer Christopher Ford has joined the NSC staff to work on non-proliferation and nuclear issues. Ford has served as chief council for the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senate Banking Committee and most recently the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. During the George W. Bush administration, Ford was a deputy assistant secretary of state in the bureau of arms control and international security, then led by John Bolton.

His Wikipedia page is here.

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CDA Caracas M. Lee McClenny to be U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay

Posted: 1:20 am ET
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On October 26, President Trump announced his intent to nominate M. Lee McClenny to be the U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay. The WH released the following brief bio:

M. Lee McClenny of Washington to be Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Paraguay.  Mr. McClenny, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, began his public service with the U.S. Information Agency in 1986.  He is currently the Chargé d’Affaires e.p. of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela.  He has previously served overseas in Kuala Lumpur, Montreal, Manila, London, Brussels, Guatemala City, Belgrade and Ottawa, as well as in leadership positions at the Department of State and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  Mr. McClenny is a recipient of the Presidential Meritorious Service Award, and numerous performance awards from the Department of State and U.S. Information Agency.  He received a B.A. from the University of Washington, and speaks Spanish, French, and some Serbo-Croatian and Russian.

Also see US Embassy Caracas: Chargé Lee McClenny Gets the Spotlight, Plus Two Weeks to Downsize

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Trump to Nominate Career Diplomat Peter H. Vrooman to be U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda

Posted: 1:16 am ET
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On October 26, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Peter Hendrick Vrooman to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda. The WH released the following brief bio:

Peter Hendrick Vrooman of New York to be Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Rwanda.  Mr. Vrooman, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1991.  He most recently served as Chargé d’Affaires from 2016 to 2017 and Deputy Chief of Mission from 2014 to 2016 at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Mr. Vrooman has held senior positions with the Department of State at home and at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, as well as overseas.  He has served at seven embassies in Africa, the Near East and South Asia.  Mr. Vrooman possesses a deep knowledge of East African issues, expertise in UN peacekeeping, strong management and public diplomacy credentials, and economic/commercial advocacy experience.  He earned a M.S from the National Defense University’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces, and a B.A. from Harvard College.  He speaks French and Arabic.

 

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