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U.S. Embassy Bahamas Now on ‘Ordered Departure’ For “Non-Essential” Staff/Family Members #Irma

Posted: 3:36 pm PT
Updated: 8:08 pm PT

 

Following the ‘authorized departure’ orders for the U.S. Embassies in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba, the State Department has now placed the “non-essential” personnel and family members of the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, The Bahamas on ‘ordered departure.’ That is mandatory evacuation for those considered non-emergency personnel and family members.  We understand that “non-emergency” is the preferred term but it looks like the “non-essential” terminology is still in use by the State Department.

The Department of State recommends U.S. citizens avoid all travel to The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands due to Hurricane Irma, a category 5 storm. On September 6, the Department ordered the departure of non-essential U.S. government employees and their family members due to Hurricane Irma.

A Hurricane Warning has been issued for Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas. A Hurricane Watch has been issued for the Central Bahamas. Storm conditions are expected to reach the southern Bahamas by September 7 and Nassau by September 8. U.S. citizens residing and traveling in coastal areas in this region should be alert to flooding.

We recommend U.S. citizens depart The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands if possible and work with commercial air carriers to leave prior to the arrival of the hurricane. Airports will close once conditions deteriorate and safe travel will not be possible, expected sometime on September 8. We recommend those citizens who are unable to depart to shelter in place in a secure location.

Travelers should apprise family and friends in the United States of their whereabouts, and keep in close contact with their tour operator, hotel staff, and local officials for evacuation instructions. Travelers should also protect their travel and identity documents against loss or damage, as the need to replace lost documentation could hamper or delay return to the United States.

Read in full here.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic, approved for “authorized departure” yesterday has a charter flight departing Santo Domingo today.

Seats remain available for U.S. citizens wishing to depart from Santo Domingo. A charter flight will depart from Aeropuerto Las Americas in Santo Domingo mid-afternoon on September 6th. American citizens wishing to travel on this flight must contact the embassy at SDOAmericans@state.gov. Seats will be available on a first come, first served basis, but all passengers are required to meet certain conditions.

Read more here.

The US Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica on its Security Message notes that Category 5 Hurricane Irma is affecting the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean but said that while there are currently no coastal watches or warnings in effect for Jamaica or the Cayman Islands, the National Hurricane Center forecasts that Irma will remain a powerful storm throughout the week.

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U.S. Embassy Cuba Now on ‘Authorized Departure’ For Employees/Family Members #Irma

Posted: 9:17 am PT

 

On September 6, the State Department issued a Travel Warning for Cuba warning U.S. citizens to “carefully reconsider” travel to Cuba due to Hurricane Irma and announced the authorized departure of USG employees and family members. This follows the declaration of “authorized departure” status for the U.S. embassies in Haiti and the Dominican Republic yesterday. As of this writing, no evacuation has been announced for U.S. Embassy Nassau.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to carefully reconsider travel to Cuba due to Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm that is projected to impact Cuba.  This storm may bring significant rainfall and wind that may result in life-threatening flooding, flash flooding, mudslides, and storm surge.  Disruptions to travel and services are likely throughout the country.  On September 6, the Department authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. government employees and their family members due to Hurricane Irma.

Read in full here.

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#HurricaneMatthew Closes US Embassies in Haiti, Jamaica, and The Bahamas; USAID Activates DART

Posted: 1:44 am ET

 

Due to Hurricane Matthew, the State Department has authorized the voluntary evacuation of authorized family members of U.S. government employees from the The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Haiti. A Travel Alert for Cuba recommends that U.S. citizens defer travel to eastern Cuba.

Alert October 3, 2016 Cuba Travel Alert
Warning October 2, 2016 Haiti Travel Warning
Warning October 1, 2016 Jamaica Travel Warning
Warning October 1, 2016 The Bahamas Travel Warning

 

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More Independence Day Celebrations 2012 – Around the Foreign Service

Catch up post on additional Fourth of July celebrations around the Foreign Service this year that caught our eye. The previous one we did is here: Independence Day Celebrations 2012 – Around the Foreign Service Round-Up.

US Mission Mexico

Guadalajara, Jalisco: Los Vice Cónsules Nick Geisinger y Timothy J. Dunaway interpretaron el himno nacional estadounidense durante la celebración.
Click on image for more photos of the Fourth of July celebrations in our Mexican posts.

US Embassy Paris, France

Ambassador Charles H. Rivkin at the 4th of July Garden Party, Ambassador’s Residence, July 4th, 2012.  More photos via FB here.

US Embassy Nassau, The Bahamas

On Tuesday, July 3 the United States Embassy commemorated the 236th Anniversary of Independence of the United States of America by hosting a celebration in Nassau, The Bahamas aboard the U.S. Naval Ship USS ANZIO docked at Prince George Wharf.  The event was held in partnership with the United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and included more than 200 of The Bahamas’ top leaders, representing the government, the business community, civil society, media, and the arts.

U.S. Charge d’Affaires John Dinkelman gives official remarks and toast at the 4th of July celebration. (Photo State Dept.)

US Embassy Dublin, Ireland

On July 4 2012, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney and his wife Patricia celebrated American Independence Day and hosted at their Residence in the Phoenix Park in Dublin the Third Irish American Flag Football Classic. Over 2,500 guests were in attendance for the Independence Day celebrations.

Photo from US Embassy Dublin/Flickr
(click on image for a slideshow)

US Consulate General Chennai, India

Photo via USCG Chennai/Flickr
Click on photo for a slideshow

US Embassy Afghanistan

U.S. Ambassador Stephen G. McFarland, the Coordinating Director of Rule of Law and Law Enforcement shakes hands with a Marine after he received his naturalization certificate on 29 June 2012 at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. Click on image for more photos

Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr

US Embassy Cairo, Egypt

Ambassador Patterson on the dance floor during the Fourth of July celebration.  Photo from US Embassy Egypt via FB
Click on image for a slideshow

US Mission Pakistan – Islamabad

Photo via US Embassy Islamabad website

US Mission Pakistan – USCG Lahore

Consul General Nina Maria Fite hosted U.S. Independence Day reception at her residence. She was joined by Chief Guest Senior Advisor to the Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa, U.S. Army Attaché Colonel Kurt H. Meppen, and USAID Punjab Director Theodore Gehr, and 400 guests from various walks of life. The event included the playing of the Pakistani and U.S. national anthems and a cutting of a cake.

Photo via USCG Lahore/FB

US Embassy Rome, Italy

Visitors arriving at the Villa Taverna for the Fourth of July celebration.  Photo via US Embassy Rome/Flickr
Click on photo for a slideshow

US Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

The theme of U.S. Embassy Bangkok Independence Day Celebration for this year is “The Great American Roadtrip.”

US Embassy Vientiane, Laos

Photo from Ambassador Karen Stewart’s Tumblr.
Click on image to read about it in the ambassador’s blog

US Embassy Beijing, China

Ambassador Gary Locke cutting the Fourth of July cake. Photo from US Embassy Beijing/Flickr. Click on photo for a slideshow

US Consulate General Hong Kong & Macau

Probably the most popular US mission online post for this Fourth of July, 11,000 forward and still counting. Via the WSJ:

For the July 4 commemoration of U.S. Independence, it stepped back into history to tweak the Party with its own words.  Accompanied by an exuberant image of the Stars and Stripes, its Weibo posting said:

On this day each year, joy and glory is felt by every good and honest person in this world. From the birth of this new nation, democracy and science were seeded beneath the foundations of a new liberal world… Day and night, the god of liberty shines her torchlight of freedom into the darkest corners of the earth, providing warmth for those who have suffered and reminding them there is still hope left yet.

This post quickly gained popularity and has now been forwarded more than 11,000 times.

Let’s see how long before the Chinese tigers bite.

Domani Spero

 

 

 

 

Remembrances Around the Foreign Service on Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. It was was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  It is observed annually in the United States on the last Monday of May.

Excerpt from General Logan’s 1868 order:

All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from his honor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

Below are some photos from US missions marking the day of remembrance overseas:

US Embassy Manila, Philippines

Memorial Day 2011:  An American boy plants American and Philippine flags beside a cross that marks one of the 17,000 graves in the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Taguig City on May 28 as part of the U.S. observance of Memorial Day. On May 29, U.S. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr. led representatives of the American community and guests in a ceremony at the Memorial to pay tribute to the soldiers of the U.S. and its allies who have fallen in defense of freedom and democracy. The 152-acre cemetery and memorial in Manila has the largest number of graves of U.S. soldiers who died in World War II. The graves include those of 570 Filipinos who served with the U.S. Forces in the Southwest Pacific.

Memorial Day, May 27, 2012.  Chargé d’Affaires Leslie A. Bassett offers a wreath in honor of all Veterans this Memorial Day, at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Taguig City, Philippines.
(Photo from US Embassy Manila)

US Embassy Montevideo, Uruguay

May 31, 2010. A U.S. Marine replaces a worn out flag at the grave site of a young sailor, honoring fallen U.S. servicemen buried at the British Cemetery in Montevideo [U.S. Embassy photo by Vince Alongi]

US Embassy Djibouti, Djibouti

Mike Lombardo, regional security officer for U.S. Embassy, Djibouti, gives the opening remarks during a Ceremony at Cimetiere non Mulilman de Djibouti, May 31. The Memorial Day Ceremony honored Pilot Officer Lawrence Maguire, an American who volunteered for the Canadian air force, one of the many military members who gave their lives during World War II. Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett

US Embassy Tunis, Tunisia

U.S. Army Col. Warren P. Gunderman, a military representative at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, lays a wreath Monday during a Memorial Day service at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial near Carthage, Tunisia. Photo by US Army Africa

US Embassy Nassau, The Bahamas

US Embassy observed Memorial day with a Wreath Laying Ceremony at Clifton Pier. On Monday, May 31, 2010 the United States Embassy observed Memorial Day with a wreath laying ceremony at Clifton Pier in memory of fallen service men and women. Special recognition was given to the U.S. Patrol Squadron 23 Sailors, who perished off the coast of Nassau on May 7, 1954.

US Embassy Baghdad, Iraq

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Maj. Gen. Mark Zamzow, bow their heads during a moment of silence. Troops deployed to Iraq hold a Memorial Day ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Denny Cantrell | 05.26.2008

US Embassy Tallinn, Estonia

U.S. Embassy Tallinn Recognizes Memorial Day – May 30, 2011
(Photo from US Embassy Tallinn/Flickr)

US Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan

Memorial Day, Kabul 2010
(Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr)

Plaque “In memory of Ambassador Adolp ‘Spike’ Dubs, Killed in Kabul on February 14, 1979”
(Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr)

U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry, DEA Regional Director Michael T. Marsac, program analyst Lisa Hostettler, Assistant Regional Director Craig Wiles and secretary Teresa Hernandez near a marker for DEA Special Agents Forrest N. Leamon, Michael E. Weston and Chad L. Michael at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, 2011. (Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr)

US Embassy Wellington, New Zealand

Memorial Day Service at Old St Paul’s, Wellington – May 30, 2011
(Photo from US Embassy New Zealand/Flickr)
Click here for slideshow

Memorial Day 2012 | This Memorial Day the people of Kapiti Coast on the North Island of New Zealand unveiled a memorial to the 10 U.S. sailors who died during a training exercise while trying to come ashore on June 20, 1943. About 350 people, including Charge d’Affaires Marie Damour and a U.S. Marine Color guard, were there for the dedication of the memorial, sculptured into the shape of a landing craft, close to the waters where the tragedy occurred. Read more here.
(Photo from US Embassy NZ/Flickr)

Something more to remember – below is a photo from Kabul, Afghanistan, April 10, 2006: The U.S. Embassy in Kabul renamed a camp in honor of Diplomatic Security Special Agent Eric Sullivan, who was killed on September 19, 2005, during a terrorist attack on his motorcade in Mosul, Iraq. Camp Sullivan is a self-contained facility for the local guard force that provides protection to all official U.S. facilities in Kabul. During Special Agent Sullivan’s career with the Diplomatic Security Service he volunteered to serve in Afghanistan and Iraq.

State Department photo

Domani Spero

 

 

 

US Embassy Nassau: Where Absence Makes the Heart Not/Not Grow Fonder

On March 2008, the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued (pdf) a limited scope review of the US Embassy in the Bahamas. Below is an excerpt from that report:

Under an interim chargé d’affaires for six months prior to the inspection, Embassy Nassau by all accounts has strong and centralized policy leadership. It supported the programs of the mission’s component agencies, strove successfully to assert Chief of Mission authority and dampened interagency frictions, earning agency chiefs’ declared respect in the process. Therefore, the inspection finds a smoothly working mission that lays claim to a long list of policy accomplishments.

The OIG has now posted its newest inspection report of the US Embassy Bahamas on February 23.  This inspection took place in Washington, DC, between September 13 and 28, 2011; in Nassau, The Bahamas, between September 29 and October 12, 2011; and in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, on October 2, 2011.  At the time of the inspection, the mission was led by an “active noncareer Ambassador at post for 2 years and an experienced DCM at post for less than 90 days.” The report is referring to Ambassador Nicole Avant who was appointed chief of mission by President Obama in 2009, and DCM, John Dinkelman who arrived at post in August 2011.  Ambassador Avant departed post on November 21, 2011 and Mr. Dinkelman has since assumed duties as Chargé d’Affaires. The former Deputy Chief of Mission in Nassau referred to in this report is currently a Charge d’Affaires a.i. at another embassy in the Western Hemisphere.

Ambassador Avant with local straw weaver Miss Emily of Arthur's Town's Emily's Island Crafts and Straw Work. (Photo State Dept.)

Here is a brief description of mission presence:

Embassy Nassau hosts a complement of 22 direct-hire Department employees (plus 6 Marine security guards) who also support and coordinate the activities of 4 other Cabinet departments, comprising 115 U.S. direct hires. Its staffing totals some 154 American personnel and 61 locally employed (LE) staff. The chancery is a poorly designed building with few common areas and little setback. The Department has scheduled it for replacement in 2016. Most of the large Department of Homeland Security presence is at international airports in Nassau and Freeport. Freeport is located on Grand Bahama Island, 120 miles or an hour flight from Nassau. The embassy had a limited-scope inspection in 2007.

Below is a quick run down of the report’s key judgments:

  • The Ambassador and new deputy chief of mission (DCM) are emerging strongly from a period of dysfunctional leadership and management. [REDACTED]
  • The Ambassador’s authorized absences from post exceeded those allowed in guidelines issued by the Under Secretary for Management. The embassy and the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs did not follow Department of State (Department) procedures for vetting these absences.
  • The regional security office is performing well in this critical crime threat post [REDACTED]
  • The large and diverse law enforcement community in Mission Bahamas works well together, under the Ambassador’s leadership, to counter threats to U.S. national security.
  • The consular section provides excellent services in a large geographic area of responsibility. However, its efforts have been hampered by the embassy’s inability to establish a consular agency in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
  • The public affairs section (PAS), invigorated with the arrival of its first American public affairs officer in nearly two decades, manages an effective and robust outreach effort, though it should develop a network of exchange program alumni.
  • The management section is also emerging from a difficult period, as evidenced by lower than-average customer satisfaction scores. The DCM and new management officer are working to improve internal coordination among management sections and provide better service to employees, including those stationed at Freeport, Grand Bahama Island.
  • Political and economic cables reflect excellent access to Bahamians at every level of society and government. Drafters, however, consistently neglect to add context or analysis to explain how events affect U.S. interests.

There are some good news:

  • The mission is led by an active noncareer Ambassador at post for 2 years and an experienced DCM at post for less than 90 days. The two are forging a good team, with the Ambassador focused principally on public outreach activities associated with the Mission Strategic and Resource Plan (MSRP) and the DCM on needed improvements in internal management. Mission personnel are encouraged by the new front office spirit.
  • The Ambassador’s efforts to facilitate law enforcement cooperation are notable. For example, when a Bahamian newspaper publisher attacked Department of Homeland Security officers in his publication, the Ambassador initiated a dialogue that defused the situation.
  • The Ambassador has been active in promoting business education and development. She invited a music industry executive and former basketball player Magic Johnson to the Bahamas to speak to the Bahamian Chamber of Commerce. She also promotes women in business fora for professionals and students.

Also, the OIG recommended one additional employment opportunity for spouses by hiring an EFM instead of a direct-hire OMS and saving the mission some $500,000.   So, definitely a win-win situation, and yes, with that kind of money, the mission can hire a dozen EFMs a year and still have change:

But there are not so good news in the report:

The report also says that the embassy’s entry-level officer program has been neglected and is ineffective. “Entry- level officers have come to rely on immediate supervisors for informal guidance. Front office engagement has been sporadic and unfocused. Entry-level officers have not been included regularly in mission representational events nor have regular discussion sessions been held.”

Traditionally, the DCM handles internal embassy issues while the Ambassador takes care of external issues. And yet, the previous DCM in Nassau is now in charge of another embassy in the Western Hemisphere?  Pardon me? What do you mean it’s a recycling program at work?

Okay – there is also that two years of wasted rental money for the requested Turks and Caicos Islands consular agent  in Providenciales:

The Under Secretary for Management approved the post in September 2008. The U.S. Government leased office space on August 31, 2009, and as of September 2011 paid $20,800 per year in rent. The embassy requested permission to establish the consular agency from the United Kingdom only in September 2011. The request was approved 3 weeks later, during the inspection. The embassy hired a half-time consular agent in May 2010, and she attended basic consular training at the Foreign Service Institute in July 2011. However, because the U.S. Government did not have permission to open the consular agency, it had not outfitted the rented office space. The matter finally seems to be proceeding forward after years of mismanagement.

And finally, the absences.  There’s the matter on ambassadorial absences, which is sure to catch fire.  Here is what the OIG report says:

The Department has not followed its own guidance or procedures for approving COM absences from post. The Ambassador was absent from post for 276 days during a 670-day period from November 19, 2009, to September 19, 2011—an average of 12 days per month. The 276 days include 84 nonwork days (weekends and holidays) and 102 personal leave days. The Ambassador also traveled to the United States for 77 work days on what she identified as business, with 23 days on what appear to have been official travel orders. All travel was at her personal expense except when she was on official travel orders. The Ambassador requested permission each time from the Department when she visited the United States. In each case, the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs approved her request. The frequent absences of the Ambassador contributed to poor mission management.

Wait — that’s a lot of absences from post — but she did not go AWOP (absent without permission), did she?.  The Bureau of Western Hemisphere could have disapproved Ambassador Avant’s leave request but did not. WHA must know that frequent absences could contribute to “poor mission management” and still it granted her permission to leave post.

OPM notes that officers and employees who are appointed by the President (PAS and PA) are not covered by the Federal leave system established by chapter 63 of title 5, United States Code. Presidential appointees do not earn annual and sick leave and cannot be charged leave for absences from work.

But here is the more troubling part:

And this is where I get terribly confused, I am sorry to say.

WHA referred three instances of absence to “M”, but Embassy Nassau did not follow “the requirements” and WHA did not follow the memo, so “M” did not have “accurate information” to make a decision? This was back in 2010. Like there’s no one at “M” who could have opened MS Outlook and send an email asking Nassau and WHA for the “accurate information” it needs?

Didst thou not hear a noise?  I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry. 

And the sound of water, and Lifebuoy soap, the original deodorant soap, as thou wash thy hands …

But seriously — according to the OIG inspectors, “3 FAM 3320 and 3 FAH-1 H-3320 sections governing absence of the COM have not been updated since March 24, 2005. The current process is confusing and subject to potential abuse.” It recommended that “The Bureau of Human Resources should update the Foreign Affairs Manual and the Foreign Affairs Handbook to reflect the current process for approving chief of mission absences from post. (Action: DGHR)”

Alas, the day is full of mine confusion, still…

Domani Spero