Thursday, May 28, 2015


My brother-in-law is an idiot. In a certain presidential election, he justified his vote for the candidate he voted for by saying: "He got us into this mess. He's the only one who can get us out of it." Then - and here comes the funny part - he proceeded to spend the next four years agonizing over the fact that the person who got us into that mess actually continued to get us deeper and deeper into that mess, by doing the exact same things he had done during the four years of his earlier term.

Now, Matthew Asada, the Presidential candidate of the Future Forward AFSA Slate, wants your vote because he got us into this mess, and he's promising to get us out of it.

In recent communications, he's highlighted continued issues with DS pass-throughs, particularly with regard to Asian-Americans.

He's highlighted proposed cuts to benefits and allowances (danger pay),

Refusal to pay 2013 and 2014 Selection Board MSIs,

And banning of cellular phones from domestic facilities.

And he states that the solution to these problems is an "advocate who is willing to be independent from management."

People who actually care about the issues described above know two things:

They are not new,

And Matthew Asada, as AFSA's State Vice President during the past two years has done nothing to either fix them or keep them from getting worse.

Pass-throughs were an issue that Asada campaigned on in 2013, strongly supported by the Asian American Foreign Affairs Association. Despite marginal improvement due to internal improvements in the security clearance process in general, they continue to be the number one issue of interest to the AAFAA, and, apparently, an issue Asada continues to promise to fix. Readers would be correct to assume that the reason they are still an issue is that Asada was unable to make good on his campaign promise.

Pass-throughs are a unique internal process by which DS reviews (and sometimes vetos) the assignments of Americans descended from certain immigrant groups to the countries of their ancestry. Asada has vigorously opposed them as racist. That is why  he has failed to improve them.

Racism consists of treating people differently because of their race or ethnic heritage. The security clearance guidelines treat everyone the same. Those guidelines require every holder of a security clearance to be reevaluated if there is an event (such as marriage, reassignment, or investigative findings) which predictably raises concerns under 13 adjudicative guidelines. The guideline "Foreign Influence" addresses the question of whether a person may be subject to pressure or coercion by any foreign interest. Adjudication under this Guideline must consider the identity of the foreign country involved, including, but not limited to, such considerations as whether the foreign country is known to target United States citizens to obtain protected information and/or is associated with a risk of terrorism.

The risk here is not that a member of a certain ethnic group may be inherently less loyal, but rather that a person of a certain national origin, if assigned to their country of ancestral origin, may be subject to pressure or coercion by the government of that country of origin. Western European countries don't usually subject American descendants of their former citizens to pressure or coercion. Some Asian nations, some dictatorships, some communist nations, and some Middle Eastern nations, do.

Referring to that concern as racism, and demanding that DS, in essence, ignore a legal requirement imposed on every U.S. Government agency involved in the security clearance process, has done nothing except convince DS that Matthew Asada does not know what he is talking about. And as a general rule, people who are believed by their interlocutors to be ignorant, are not very effective advocates.

There are ways to improve the process, by improving the efficiency of information-gathering related to individual cases, by ensuring the accuracy of risk assessments, and by regularly re-evaluating the threats involved, but negotiating those changes requires doing something Matthew Asada cannot do: demonstrating sufficient familiarity with the real issues involved to be taken seriously by his DS interlocutors.

So, campaign promise in 2013. Campaign promise in 2015. And no improvement in between.

MSIs were an issue highlighted in three State Department telegrams that came out in July and September, 2013 and May, 2014, when Matthew Asada was already AFSA Vice President. Those cables, allegedly cleared by AFSA when Asada was (let us repeat it) already AFSA Vice President, contained inaccuracies which Asada did nothing to correct, and which formed the basis of the 2013 and 2014 refusals to pay MSIs.

Asada made an ineffective and ill-informed attempt to negotiate the matter (advocate for affected AFSA members) then filed an institutional grievance (implementation dispute) which a) contained inaccuracies and b) did what all grievances do: force the Department to dig in its heels, and to claim an obligation to take no further action until the grievance is resolved. Which it is not yet.

So, seeds of the problem sown by Asada in 2013, and a campaign promise to fix it in 2015.

Danger Pay reforms? Began over a year ago when Congress began to question the methodology used to calculate it. AFSA's State Vice President was silent for over a year, allowed the issue to be virtually completely decided, and is now promising, as a 2015 campaign promise, to fix it.

Other benefits and allowances may actually increase when Danger Pay goes down. In any event, they are all affected by a tasking given to the new Director of the Bureau of Administration's Office of Allowances when he assumed that office last year.

Again, over a year ago. And again, Asada only noticed the issue at campaign time.

The banning of cellular phones is an absolute non-issue, of the type Asada is good at creating and manipulating. People who work in the Department and in embassies all know that cellular phones are not allowed in secure areas where classified information may be discussed. As the Department has tightened security controls on passport issuance to include consideration of possible terrorist ties and other applicant factors, the process has begun to include consideration of classified information, and certain areas designated as being areas where such information might be discussed. So, no cell phones.

What, exactly, is AFSA going to do to change that?

Albert Einstein is alleged to once have said “The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.

Last election, AFSA members voted into AFSA office the least experienced least qualified, candidate ever to sit in the State Vice President's chair.  A Foreign Service Officer with barely five year's overseas experience, none of it in an actual Embassy, and a grand total of six months of experience dealing with (the mid-level bureaucracy) in HR (CDA).  The results speak for themselves.

It would be insane to assume that Asada, as President, would be better than Asada, as Vice President. It is time for a change.

AFSA members do indeed need an advocate who is willing to be independent from management. But they need, more than that. They need an advocate who is competent and credible.

Competence and credibility come from experience.

Learning how to work with Management, and even earning Management's respect, does not automatically make the person who can do that a puppet of the regime.

Last election, AFSA members voted into AFSA office the candidate they would most like to have a beer with, rather than the candidate who would be most respected by the interlocutors who make decisions affecting our careers.

How about, this election, we elect the candidate with experience and qualifications, and give her the benefit of the doubt that she will put that experience to use to benefit the members who elected her?

Monday, May 25, 2015

CFSO joins Rolling Thunder in Memorium

We join our colleagues and our friends in remembering those who have lost their lives or liberty in support of our own. May God grant peace to every veteran and to their families. May we never stop trying to find and return home those who are still missing in action.