The Foreign Service Journal - September 2017
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loss of PRM’s assistance functions would

have profound and negative conse-

quences for the Secretary’s ability to

influence policy issues.

The letter recognizes the important

role that DHS has to play in refugee and

resettlement programs in the United

States: ensuring robust vetting processes

and determining the eligibility and

admissibility of all refugees.

However, the signatories expressed

concern that DHS does not have the

international infrastructure or the neces-

sary expertise in identifying refugee

groups in need of protection. Most

importantly, DHS is unable to “under-

stand the diplomatic consequences or

opportunities to leverage resettlement for

U.S foreign policy interests.”

The letter was also sent to the chairs

and ranking members of the House and

Senate Committees on Foreign Relations

and the Appropriations subcommittees

on State, Foreign Operations and Related


Insigniam Survey

Results and Next Steps


esults of the Insigniam survey

of State Department and USAID

employees, commissioned by Secretary

of State Rex Tillerson, as part of a process

to “redesign” the department, were

released internally on July 5.

The report revealed wariness


employees about the management of

the State Department. “People do not

speak optimistically about the future,” the

report states. In particular, respondents

indicated concern that the Secretary

of State and President Donald Trump

do not fully understand the role of the

department in advancing the interests of

the United States in the world.

One respondent quoted in the report

said: “I am concerned that the dra-

matic reduction in budget, paired with

extended staffing gaps at the most senior

level, will result not only in the loss of an

exceptionally talented group of people

from our ranks, but will hamper our

impact to fulfill our mission for decades

to come.”

Other themes in the report reflect the

respondents’ frustration with outdated

technology and duplicative processes

(including congressional reporting

requirements) they perceive as inefficient.

The report also suggested that con-

sular responsibilities be transferred to

the Department of Homeland Security,

though it did not indicate whether that

suggestion came from employee input.

Sec. Tillerson announced that the next

step would be a series of working groups

led by Deputy Secretary of State John

Sullivan and covering five areas of con-

cern highlighted in the report: overseas

operations, foreign assistance programs,

technology, staffing and administration.

The groups will contribute to a report

outlining proposals for reorganization,

which the department will present to

the Office of Management and Budget

by Sept. 15. It’s not clear at this time how

much influence the survey report and

working group conclusions will have on

the final plan.

At a Town Hall meeting in the Dean

Acheson Auditorium at the State Depart-

ment on Aug. 8, the Deputy Secretary

discussed the “redesign” process and

responded to questions from employees.

Sullivan emphasized the importance

of employee input to the process, encour-

aging employees to make use of the spe-

cial intranet portal, the “Redesign Portal,”

established to receive recommendations

in the five areas of concern.

Sullivan said that he checks the

portal every day, and that the messages

are promptly forwarded to the relevant

working group to become part of their


Limited Foreign Service

Hiring Resumes


n June 30, the State Department

announced that entry-level Foreign

Service officer classes had been autho-

rized for July and September 2017. The

classes will be composed primarily of

Pickering and Rangel Fellows, along with

a small number of candidates from the

Foreign Service roster.

Earlier in June, the State Department

had notified about 60 Rangel and Pickering

fellowship recipients that they would not

be joining the Foreign Service as promised.

This was followed by an outcry from

various organizations and members of

Congress. AFSA also weighed in.

The Pickering and Rangel fellows were

supported by several prominent lawmak- ers, many of whom signed a letter to Sec-

retary Tillerson, urging him to bring them

into the Foreign Service. The decision was

reversed on June 29.

Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chair-

man of the Senate Foreign Relations

Committee said, “We’re pleased the

department is honoring its commitment

to these fellows so they can pursue their

careers in the Foreign Service.”

As we head to press, news is in that

State is temporarily withdrawing from

participation in the prestigious and popu-

lar Presidential Management Fellowship

program that brings top graduates into

federal government service.

A resumption of Foreign Service hiring,

even one that is limited in scope, has been

a top AFSA priority for the last six months.

At the Aug. 8 Town Hall, AFSA

President Barbara Stephenson asked the

deputy secretary about hiring, noting that

a steady intake of new employees is criti-

cal to staffing in the future.