HOGR Hearing: Violence on the Border, Keeping U.S. Personnel Safe

Posted: 2:47 pm EDT
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The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on September 9, to examine the efforts to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel and assets in northern Mexico and along the U.S.-Mexican border. The Committee notes on its introduction the risks posed to U.S. personnel and the public by the criminal violence in northern Mexico are numerous including:

  • February 2015the U.S. Consulate in Matamoros reported 227 separate security incidents in the U.S. border region.
  • May 2015two government buildings in Matamoros were struck by bomb attacks. 
  • June 2015a gunman on the Mexican side of the border fired multiple shots at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter. 
  • June 2015a U.S.-contracted vehicle was hijacked by armed criminals which resulted in the theft of over 11,500 Border Crossing Cards.

The video is available here. The witnesses include three officials from the State Department (DS, OBO, WHA), an official from DHS/CBP, and a representative from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).  There is no representative from the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) in this hearing.

Screen Shot 2015-09-09

U.S. Mission Mexico | Border Posts

William H. Moser Deputy Director, Bureau of Overseas Building Operations U.S. Department of State Document
Gregory B. Starr Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Diplomatic Security U.S. Department of State Document
Sue Saarnio Deputy Assistant Secretary, Western Hemisphere Affairs U.S. Department of State Document
Robert L. Harris Director, Joint Task Force – West U.S. Customs and Border Protection Document
Brandon Judd President, National Border Patrol Council American Federation of Government Employees Document

The hearing is also available here via C-SPAN.

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Burn Bag: A weekend on lockdown, whataboutyou?

Posted: 12:01 pm  EDT
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Via Burn Bag:

While the Danger Pay Working Group contemplates denying Danger Pay to Mexico border posts, consulate staff in Guadalajara spent the weekend on lockdown and the narco violence related security incidents in Matamoros have gone up fourfold.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05

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Independence Day Celebrations 2012 – Around the Foreign Service Round-Up

US Mission New Zealand

Independence Day Celebration in Wellington, June 11, 2012.
With a 1942 theme.  2012 marks the 70th anniversary of the arrival of American forces in New Zealand during WWII. With so few veterans left the Embassy has decided this is an important anniversary to commemorate. (click on image for slideshow).

Photo from US Embassy NZ/Flickr

Independence Day Celebration, Auckland, June 18, 2012 (click on image for slideshow)

Photo from US Embassy NZ/Flickr

Independence Day Celebration in Christchurch, June 22, 2012
Present-day Marines talking with WWII Marine Harry Oliver, now living in Christchurch. Ambassador Huebner blogged about the Christchurch celebrations here.

Photo from US Embassy NZ/Flickr

US Embassy Stockholm, Sweden

On June 28, the Embassy celebrated Independence Day, with Sweet Home Chicago as the theme, a city that personifies America’s multicultural roots. Ambassador Brzezinski’s wife, Natalia also blogged about the celebration in the Brzezinski Blog(click on image for slideshow)

Image from US Embassy Sweden

US Embassy Tel Aviv, Israel

On July 3, 2012 beginning at 7pm, the embassy’s #1 event of the year with “Israel’s A-List” goes live for online viewing straight from the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro. The online invite says: “Be there as guests arrive, Dr. Eric Huntsman sings the “Star-Spangled Banner,” Ms. Hagit Yassu sings “Hatikva,” and the U.S. Ambassador, Israeli President, and Prime Minister deliver their remarks. Musical entertainment throughout the evening will be provided by an ensemble from the Israeli Conservatory of Music and the U.S. Military Band “Winds Aloft.” Of course don’t miss how the fireworks light up the night sky above the cliffs of the Mediterranean!

The US Embassy in Tel Aviv is also to “live Tweet” the event using the hashtag #July4inTA and has raffled invitation on its Facebook page. It has the most detailed web page we have seen on July 4th, including information for guests and facts and historical documents (with translation) about the Fourth of July.

US Embassy Helsinki, Finland

Ambassador Oreck and Ms. Cody Douglas Oreck hosted the Embassy’s 4th of July party on Wednesday, June 20th.  From the embassy presser: “In addition to the traditional 4th of July program, the guests had a chance to get a firsthand look at the construction site and even witness a blast—not quite the visual effects of the 4th of July fireworks but the noise level was the same!  Other attractions included the viewing of energy efficient vehicles Fisker Karma and Volt and a tour of the newly renovated library with its Karelian pine and flame-birch wall paneling.  The menu featured Georgia O’Keefe Southwestern Chili, in honor of the famous American artist currently exhibited at the Helsinki Art Museum.  The tasty dish was prepared with Finnish moose meat.” The event is complete with yellow hard hats! (click on image for slideshow)

Photo from US Embassy Finland/Flickr

US Embassy Prague, Czech Republic

On June 27, 2012, Ambassador Norman Eisen hosted the traditional Independence Day reception at the Ambassador’s residence in Prague. (click on image for slideshow)

Ambassador Eisen waits for his guests at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Prague. (Photo from US Embassy Prague/Flickr)

US Embassy Manila, Philippines

Photo collections Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Photo via US Embassy Manila/FB

US Consulate General Matamoros, Mexico

The U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros commemorated the 236th anniversary of American independence on June 15th with a reception at the Consul General’s home. The ceremonies ended with the traditional cake cutting ceremony, where Consul General Michael Barkin was joined by Mayors Alfonso Sanchez Garza of Matamoros, Alberto Gonzalez Peña of Mier, Ramon Rodriguez Garza of Miguel Aleman, and Juan Diego Guajardo of Rio Bravo.

Photo from USCG Matamoros, Mexico (website)

US Embassy Canberra, Australia

The July 4th celebration with a NASA theme, complete with a Mars bar and Buzz Aldrin! The NASA display was reportedly extremely impressive and done by the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex! (click on image for slideshow)

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, Ambassador Bleich and Buzz Aldrins with our Marines before the ceremony (Photo by US Embassy Canberra/Flickr)

US Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

On July 2, the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band from Okinawa performed at Chulalongkorn University as part of this year’s U.S. Independence Day celebration.

Photo from US Embassy Bangkok/FB

Happy 4th! Stay safe,

Domani Spero