By Patricia H.
Also see Peter Van Buren "An Example of Petty Corruption and Cronyism at State", January 23, 2013. Van Buren worked on Congressional Relations for State's Bureau of Consular Affairs at the time of the passport fiasco.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Maura Harty, State
Department darling – and Congressional bête noir – somehow received a
Presidential rank (the US government’s most prestigious civilian) award. This
happened in 2010. But for what? Staying home after being fired for causing
such a mess with the normally routine issuance of passports to American
citizens for the first six months of 2007 that members of Congress finally summoned
her to the Hill to testify – to her and the Department’s chagrin?
We remember it all
too well since WhirledView became the “go-to” website for advice on how to circumnavigate
the interminably long delays caused by incompetent bureaucratic decisions
because, well the mainstream media and most everyone else had largely been
ignoring this very human story. Perhaps as importantly we made it possible for applicants
to share experiences and for those successful in navigating the Passport Agency’s
rocky shoals to offer practical advice.
are rare and special.
These awards are normally reserved for a very few US
government officials successfully employed and in responsible positions who had
performed their duties in exemplary fashion for the previous three years.
This, we pointed out in 2010, Harty had
not been or done because she had been let go – not just moved to another
position in the Department – in early 2008 for incompetence in the passport
affair. She submitted her resignation on November 21, 2007 effective February
How is it that no one in authority in the Department noticed
Harty’s Presidential award nomination and questioned its propriety – before it was
announced? Shouldn’t this have come from
Nancy Powell then Director General of the Foreign Service?
Or what about – let’s fast forward to the
present – Harty’s far more recent reemployment by the Department – this time in
the Office of the Inspector General? Didn’t
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the current Director General think more than once
about rehiring someone who had been let go for cause just a few years earlier? Guess not.
While Harty herself is now back at State in the Office of
the Inspector General, we understand that her husband (different last name) is
employed in State’s Consular Affairs Bureau front office. Guess they can carpool together. Wonderful.
There’s one thing about bringing someone back on contract or
into the Foreign Service who performed well, left of his or her own volition or
was forced out because of the Foreign Service’s antediluvian up-or-out
promotion system despite the individual’s sustained superior performance. But face it Harty does not meet those
criteria. And employing her non-State
Department husband in the front office of the bureau she formerly headed
(before she became a public embarrassment) simply smacks of a weird form of
But why the Office of the Inspector General (OIG)? How can the Department hire someone for a
position in the Inspector’s Office with this track-record? Should she really be allowed to make judgment
calls as to how others perform their jobs?
And what about compensation? Has she been given a dual
compensation waiver – like so many of the Office of Human Resources (HR)’s other
favorite retirees receive when they are reemployed? In other words, what is her current situation
– is her employment status limited to six months “While Actually Employed”
(WAE) or does she receive full retirement topped off with a GS-15 salary?
Furthermore is she overseeing the work of her
old bureau – the place where she screwed up so badly in 2007 and where her
spouse now works? I hope these are
questions the General Accountability Office is investigating in its current
study of the Department’s human resources function.
As I’ve written here numerous times before, there are serious
issues with the State Department’s handling of its most precious resource – its
personnel. Accountability, or lack
thereof, is a major chunk of the problem.
Yet Maura Harty’s latest State Department reincarnation is just the
iceberg’s tip of the administrative problems besetting a department sinking
into a fog of irrelevancy.
Here’s the gist:
without competent and trustworthy staff, mistakes are made. The tragedy of Benghazi is the latest example
– as I noted this is the second time it has happened on the same officials’
watch – of such grandiose failures of a State Department administrative operation
tasked with protecting American government personnel and the facilities in
which they are assigned to work abroad.
Failures of the Benghazi magnitude turn into failures of policy. They reverberate badly for an administration
up and down its ranks.
Chicken and egg
When a human resources system is broken, people without the
requisite expertise and judgment occupy positions of authority. When
cronyism and worse permeate a system bad things happen. When a security system doesn’t work, people
die. When a personnel system fails,
incompetent employees make the decisions that result in things like a failed
uncorrupt and independent Office of the Inspector General established to keep the
US federal government on the straight and narrow is crucial to keeping the
system functioning. It’s the grease that
makes the wheels turn easily and what we as taxpayers should expect. But State hasn’t had such a person in years.
This may not be as sexy as making and overseeing foreign policy but without the
implementers and the requisite oversight the policy doesn’t have a snowball’s
chance in hell of success. John Kerry
Previous WV posts by Patricia H. Kushlis on this topic:
Benghazi and State: Where do the Bucks Stop? January 11, 2013.
Smoking Gun or Whitewash – the Continuing State Department Human Resources Saga, October 12, 2010.
The 2007 Passport Fiasco, Maura Harty and State's 2009 Presidential Rank Awards, September 1, 2010.
GAO Taking a Look at State Department HR Bureau, November 14, 2012.
The Troubled State of State – A System Run Amok, June 12, 2012. (Also see additioanl links at bottom of page to previous posts).