The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2022
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2022 11 TALKING POINTS New Leadership for “Havana Syndrome” Response A mbassador Jonathan Moore and Ambassador (ret.) Margaret A. Uyehara have been appointed to lead the State Department’s response to what it calls “anomalous health inci- dents,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Nov. 5. Amb. Moore will serve as head of the department’s health incidents response task force, reporting directly to Secre- tary Blinken. A member of the Senior Foreign Service, he has served in Belarus, Namibia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He has also held front office positions in the bureaus of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs and International Organization Affairs, and office director positions in South Central European affairs and Russian affairs. Amb. Uyehara will serve as senior care coordinator, a role she described as “supporting injured employees and fam- ily members by advocating for their best interests, facilitating communication, and recommending and implementing improved policies.” Also in the Senior Foreign Service at the time of her retirement, Uyehara’s overseas tours included Austria, Germany, Ukraine, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, the United Kingdom, Mali and Monte- negro. She was executive director of the bureaus of European and Eurasian Affairs and International Organization Affairs. The announcement of new leadership comes just weeks after an Oct. 13 letter from top members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged the Secre- tary to appoint a senior-level official “to demonstrate that the State Department does take this matter seriously, and is coordinating an appropriate agency-level response.” occurrences as swiftly as possible. And while I can’t go into all the ways we’re doing that, I want to assure you that we’re pursuing every possible lead and sparing no resources. We’re drawing on the full capacity of our intelligence community; we’re enlisting the best scientific minds inside and outside of government.” Nominations and Confirmations Still Stalled S ince October, the Biden adminis- tration has significantly increased the pace of nominations. At the time of this writing in late November, only four Senate-confirmed positions that AFSA tracks at the foreign affairs agencies lack a nominee: three at the State Department and one at USDA. In addition, since the inauguration in January 2021 the administration has nominated a total of 76 individuals to serve as ambassadors. Confirmations, however, remain stalled. Of the 76 ambassador nominees, The previous head of the task force, Ambassador (ret.) Pamela Spratlen, left in September after six months in the position. In his remarks, Secretary Blinken outlined the actions the administration has taken to ramp up its response to the mysterious condition, including expand- ing access to medical experts through a new partnership with Johns Hopkins University, standardizing the initial medi- cal response for personnel who report symptoms, and launching a program to collect baseline personal health data that can be used as a point of comparison if an employee becomes sick. The Secretary noted that the State Department has also developed new training for personnel posted overseas and created a channel for anonymous incident reporting. “We’re working tirelessly with partners across the government to identify what is causing these incidents and to learn who is responsible,” he said. “We will do absolutely everything we can—leav- ing no stone unturned—to stop these U.S.DEPARTMENTOFSTATE Secretary of State Antony Blinken announces the appointments of Ambassador Jonathan Moore (at left) and Ambassador (ret.) Margaret Uyehara (at right) on Nov. 5.