Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch Retires From the Foreign Service After 34 Years of Service

Updated: 3:54 pm PST with correction on Amb. Yovanovitch’s promotion to Career Minister in 2016.

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine who was one of the top witnesses in the Trump Impeachment hearings reportedly retired from the State Department.  Ambassador Yovanovitch served 34 years in the U.S. Foreign Service.  She previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia (2008-2011) under President Obama and to the Kyrgyz Republic (2005-2008) under President George W. Bush.
Based on her online bio, Ambassador Yovanovitch is 61 years old, which is four years short of the mandatory retirement in the U.S. Foreign Service. (Foreign Service employees are eligible to retire at age 50 with 20 years of service).
Ambassador Yovanovitch was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service Class of Minister-Counselor in 2007. She was ranked Minister-Counselor during her last two appointments as Ambassador to Armenia in 2008 and as Ambassador to Ukraine in 2016. The maximum time-in-class (TIC) limits for Minister-Counselor is “14 years combined TIC with no more than seven years in the class of Counselor.” We don’t have public details beyond what is on congress.gov and the FAM, but it looks like she has not reach her maximum TIC in 2020. It is also likely that she was eligible for promotion to Career Minister prior to her retirement. Correction: Amb. Yovanovitch was promoted to Career Minister in 2016 (thanks B!)
So why would she retire? Perhaps she got exhausted by all the controversy. Or perhaps she simply realized that, given her rank, she could not find a warm home in Pompeo’s State Department nor is she going to get another presidential appointment under this Administration.  Having been yanked out of one assignment without an onward assignment, with a huge WH target on her back, we’ve always suspected that she would not be able to return to Foggy Bottom or get another overseas assignment.
Per 3 FAM 6215 career members of the Foreign Service who have completed Presidential assignments under section 302(b) of the Foreign Service Act, and who have not been reassigned within 90 days after the termination of such assignment, plus any period of authorized leave, shall be retired as provided in section 813 of the Act. 
Ambassador Yovanovitch was detailed to a university for a year. As a career member of the Foreign Service,  she was recalled from an assignment but wasn’t fired after her posting at the US Embassy in Kyiv. In reality, her career ended in Kyiv. Without that university assignment, it’s likely that she would have been subjected to the 90-day rule and be forced into mandatory retirement last summer.
In any case, that university assignment would have ran out this spring but in May 2019, it allowed the State Department to pretend that this was a normal job rotation. For the State Department, it also avoided one spectacle: given that the recall quickly became very high profile and political, they would have had to explain her mandatory retirement in Summer 2019 following the conclusion of her presidential appointment without an onward assignment.
Her case underscores some realities of the Foreign Service that folks will continue to wrestle with for a long time. How breathtakingly easy it was for motivated bad actors to whisper in powerful, receptive ears and ruin a 34-year career. You may have thought that Administration officials could not possibly have believed the whispers, that over three decades of dedicated service meant something, but believed them they did. Since this happened to her, how easily could it happen to anyone, at any post, at any given country around the world? Then to realize how thin the protection afforded career employees, and how easily the system adapts to the political demands of the day.
Note that in the Foreign Service, retirements may be either voluntary or involuntary. According to State, involuntary retirements include those due to reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 (except DS special agents where the mandatory retirement age is 57), which cannot be waived unless an employee is serving in a Presidential appointment, or if the Director General of the Foreign Service determines that the employee’s retention in active duty is in the “public interest”; and those who trigger the “up-or-out” rules in the FS personnel system (e.g., restrictions in the number of years FS employees can remain in one class or below the Senior Foreign Service threshold).
Voluntary non-retirements include resignations, transfers, and deaths. Involuntary non-retirements consist of terminations, as well as “selection out” of tenured employees and non-tenured decisions for entry level FS employees.
Between FY 2018 and FY 2022, the Department projected that close to 5,900 career CS and FS employees will leave the Department due to various types of attrition.  Most FS attrition reportedly is due to retirements. In FY 2017, 70 percent of all separations from the FS were retirements. For the FY 2018 to FY 2022 period, the attrition mix is expected to be 80 percent retirements and 20 percent non-retirements.

 

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Amb. Bill Taylor: Yes, Secretary Pompeo, Americans Should Care About Ukraine

 

 

HFAC Seeks @StateDept Documents on Possible Surveillance of Amb Yovanovitch

 

 

Santa Mike Is Coming Late to Town, But Wait … Who’s Avoiding Embassy Kyiv?

 

News media reported earlier that US Embassy Kyiv’s CDA Bill Taylor is stepping down at the end of the year (see US Embassy Ukraine Chargé d’Affaires Bill Taylor to Leave Kyiv at End of Year).  WSJ has the follow-up report:

“Ulrich Brechbuhl, a key aide to Mr. Pompeo who serves as State Department counselor, informed Mr. Taylor on Dec. 11 that Mr. Pompeo had instructed him to hand over his responsibilities in Kyiv on Jan. 1, according to the person familiar with the situation.

Mr. Taylor is planning to leave the country on Jan. 2, and had understood that Mr. Pompeo wanted to avoid being photographed with him while visiting Ukraine, the person familiar with the situation said.”

The Daily Beast reported the following:

“Pompeo is now scheduled to arrive in Kyiv on Jan. 3, according to two U.S. officials and one Ukrainian official. Two other individuals familiar with his visit to Ukraine said the secretary wanted to visit the country after Taylor’s departure.[…] In conversation with department aides about planning a trip to Ukraine, Pompeo said he wanted to avoid the embassy altogether and would hold meetings in his hotel, according to two individuals with knowledge of those conversations.”

Holyswagger macaroni! That’s one leaky ship!
So no photo-op with the diplomats’ children at Embassy Kyiv for Miles With Mike? Or is Mike going to show up on Sikorsky Street and say BOO! to all creatures large and small for the new year? Stay tuned!
All righty. All righty. But hey, serious question. If true that the secretary did not want to be photographed with Ambassador Taylor, what are they going to do with the Embassy’s Counselor for Political Affairs David Holmes? Hide him in the vault? PM, please, or we would not get any sleep at all!

US Embassy Ukraine Chargé d’Affaires Bill Taylor to Leave Kyiv at End of Year

 

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Open Hearings Week #2: Williams, Vindman, Volker, Morrison, Sondland, Cooper, Hale, Hill, Holmes

 

Related posts: Impeachment Inquiry: Transcripts of Depositions Released (Updated 11/18/19)Impeachment Open Hearings Week #1: William Taylor, George Kent, Marie Yovanovitch

Thursday, November 21

  • WH/NSC: Fiona Hill, Fiona Hill, Former Senior Director for Europe and Russia
  • State/FSO David Holmes, Political Counselor, US Embassy Kyiv, Ukraine

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US Embassy Ukraine’s Political Counselor David Holmes Appears For Deposition in #ImpeachmentInquiry

 

 

Read: Opening Statements By FSOs Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson in #ImpeachmentInquiry

 

Foreign Service Officers Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson appeared on the Hill today for their closed door depositions. The links to their Opening Statements are provided below.

Catherine M. Croft is a Foreign Service Officer with nine years in service. According to her Opening Statement, she started work on Ukraine in 2013, when she was posted to the U.S. Mission to NATO. After Russia invaded Crimea, she was assigned to NATO headquarters in Brussels. From August 2015 to July 2017, she served as one of several Ukraine Desk Officers in Foggy Bottom. In July 2017 she joined the National Security Council Staff at the White House as Director covering Ukraine. She left  the NSC in July 2018 and started studying Arabic at the ForeignService Institute in preparation for a tour in Baghdad. But in May 2019, she was asked to take over as Ambassador Volker’s Advisor. She spent the month of June at the US Embassy Kyiv “to prepare and then spent the week of July 8 overlapping with” her predecessor, Christopher Anderson.

Christopher J. Anderson is a Foreign Service Officer with fourteen years of service. According to his Opening Statement, he has been in the Foreign Service since 2005. His work in Ukraine began with a three-week temporary duty to Kyiv in March 2014 “just after Russia invaded and occupied Crimea.” He returned to Kyiv in September 2014 to serve as the External Unit Chief in the Political Section of Embassy Kyiv. He served in Kyiv from 2014–2017 and “worked closely with Ambassador Yovanovitch from 2015–2017.” In August 2017 Ambassador Volker reportedly asked him to serve as Special Advisor for Ukraine Negotiations. He served in that position from late August 2017 until July 12, 2019. He was succeed on his job by Catherine Croft.

 

Read: NSC’s Ukraine Expert Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s Opening Statement #impeachmentinquiry

 

According to his opening statement, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the Ukraine expert at the NSC has been in the U.S. Army for more than two decades. As an infantry officer, he served multiple overseas tours, including South Korea and Germany, and a deployment to Iraq for combat operations. He was wounded in an IED attack in Iraq, and was awarded a Purple Heart.

Since 2008, he has been a Foreign Area Officer specializing in Eurasia. He previously served at the United States’ embassies in Kiev, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia. He also served as a politico-military affairs officer for Russia for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs . In July 2018, he joined the National Security Council.