Wednesday, October 12, 2011

State Dept CA CIO Kirit Amin Rants on FSOs, Cronyism, Nepotism, "Doormats"... Two Days Later, Apologizes

In June, I wrote about the OIG review of the Consular Affairs Bureau's Consolidated Consular Database (CCD) ran under the umbrella of CA/CST.

To recap, the OIG arrived at the following conclusion:

The CCD is the backbone of all consular applications and services and supports domestic and overseas passport and visa activities. The CCD is the repository for data from all the individual consular sections and passport office databases. It uses state-of-the-art technology with agile and robust design for scalability and availability. The CCD is accessed by 11,000 Department users, as well as 19,000 users in other agencies (for example, DHS, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Social Security Administration.). The CCD is the personally identifiable data repository for American citizens services, passports, immigrant visas, and nonimmigrant visas. Because of the CCD’s importance to national security, ensuring its data integrity, availability, and confidentiality is vital

CST does not have adequate oversight of CCD operations. [REDACTED]

The report also reviewed leadership and management issues and its impact on CST, and points out that of the total 68 personnel working at CST only 6 are Foreign Service Officers.  Make a mental note of that. Read more here.

On October 5, 2011, Federal News Radio reports that "State's Amin leaving CIO role temporarily."  That's Kirit Amin who has been CIO at the Bureau of Consular Affairs for four years.  Excerpts below:
Kirit Amin, the chief information officer of the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, said he will take a 120-day reassignment with the State Department CIO.

He cited frustration with senior management decisions and the refusal of employees to change the way they work as some of the reasons for the move.

"I think we've made a tremendous difference in spite of opposition from people entrenched in the government for years," Amin said in an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio. " ... I was saying State was doing some contracts which are bad contracts — that was costing us far more than it should. I said 'Wait a minute,' and they want to cover it up. There is a lot of cronyism and nepotism going on at State."
"The State Department is ruled by the foreign service. These guys go overseas and have a good time and come here and have no idea what they are doing," he said. "The agency is ruled by them, and even Secretary Hillary Clinton is starting to admit to that. I think the civil service employees are treated like doormats. You fight with them for what's right and they can't take it."

The American Foreign Service Association has objected to Amin's comments, calling them "outrageous."
Read in full here.

Federal News Radio then reports that Daniel Hirsch, state vice president of AFSA, took exception to those comments. Also dated October 5, AFSA objects to Amin's characterization of Foreign Service:
In an emailed statement to Federal News Radio, Hirsch wrote, "These outrageous comments raise serious questions about whether Mr. Amin even understands the basic mission of the agency he is working for, much as protesting that the Department of Defense is "ruled" by the military would raise questions about whether a person understood the purpose of that agency."

On October 6, by great coincidence, Bob Gourley of Sys-Con Media has a piece on the Department of State’s Consular Systems and Technology: A Track Record of Innovation, and Kirit Amin.   
This year, CST also won two awards from the Association For Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM), a Leadership Award in Service Excellence for the CEAC team and a Leadership Award in Service of the Country to Kirit Amin.

Leadership Award for Service to the Country: Kirit Amin, CIO, Bureau Consular Affairs, Office of Consular Systems & Tech, US Department of State Presented for excellence in government information services improvement or effectiveness on a national level by leveraging information for mission accomplishment.

On October 7, Mr. Amin released an open letter to AFSA, published by Federal News Radio.
On Wednesday, Federal News Radio reported that I was to be seconded to the Information Resources Management Office within the State Department. That was not incorrect. An article based on the phone conversation that I had with Jason Miller, Executive Editor of that outlet, contained elements of an interview that characterized my opinion on a number of concerns within the State Department, including my comments about professional, Foreign Service Officers who work here. It is worth mentioning, that those comments as stated in the article had nothing to do with, or any relationship to that new assignment.

To my colleagues and peers at AFSA, I offer my complete and sincere apology. The phone conversation with Miller, someone who I have worked with and known for some time, could not have come at a more inconvenient time. I had just learned of my new assignment and was working to put together a transition strategy to honor that obligation, when I took the call. It is never wrong to work with members of the media however in this age of instant communications I should have remembered that an instant answer is not always required.
During my four years of working at the Bureau of Consular Affairs, I have had the honor to work with talented, dedicated and brave FSOs as they were serving their country, often in very dangerous postings around the world. I have been privileged enough to become close friends with a number of them. Because of that special consideration, I sincerely regret and apologize if my words brought discredit to them or Foreign Service Officers in general.
I am confident that those of you that recognize the work represented by my team are also aware of my professional frustration of not being able to make the changes more quickly; especially, when I am so sure that they would enable us to serve the FSO community more expeditiously. That every manager, director and senior leader that I know, in government and the private sector, shares this frustration, is little solace.
Read in full here.

I don't know how this will end. But one of the possible scenarios would be Mr. Amin's resignation to spend more time with his family.

1 comment:

Cassandra Was Right said...

I had suspected that the recent OIG inspection of CST might generate ruffled feathers; here is, again, that old conflict between what FSOs need and what the CC and contractors would rather do instead. Mr Amin is a well-known PITA, but so what? Lots of extremely competent folks are. Too bad this went so far.