On May 28, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), issued a subpoena (pdf) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The subpoena compels OMB to provide the Committee with critical information he said HFAC has sought for nearly a year concerning the State Department’s plan to construct a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FAST-C) in Virginia.
Subpoena to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) | HFAC
The State Department plans to construct the FAST-C facility in Virginia at a cost of $413 million. However, the project’s initial estimate of $950 million suggests the likelihood of considerable cost escalation over the construction period. At either amount, the State Department proposal appears far more costly than the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) proposal to expand its Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia to provide State Department diplomatic security training, as is currently taking place.
Chairman Royce said: “In an increasingly dangerous world, the security of U.S. diplomats abroad is paramount. We must ensure that our diplomats receive improved security training, and a big part of providing that training effectively is making the most of our limited resources. That is why for nearly a year, I’ve been asking OMB to provide the Committee with its analysis, which according to OMB officials’ statements to Committee staff, recommended using an existing facility — a course that the Administration has apparently chosen to ignore. I’d like to know the factors considered in this important decision.”
In late 2013, OMB examined the two proposals to determine whether State’s request for funding for FAST-C was justified. Chairman Royce encouraged OMB to determine which proposal best addresses the State Department’s vital training needs in a fiscally responsible way. He also requested that the Government Accountability Office perform an independent analysis of the proposals in September 2014.
The Committee is aware that OMB analysts had completed a written analysis recommending that the State Department pursue its diplomatic security training at the DHS’s FLETC facility.
On May 19, 2014, Chairman Royce requested that then-OMB Director Sylvia Burwell provide the Committee with a copy of OMB’s analysis. On May 1, 2015, Chairman Royce reiterated his request to current OMB-Director Shaun Donovan, expanding it to include all “documents and communications” pertaining to the FASTC and FLETC facilities during OMB’s review period. OMB has given no indication it will comply fully with these requests.
Chairman Royce said: “I am disappointed that OMB hasn’t provided the Committee its analysis so that the Congress can make informed and responsible policy decisions in this critical area. The internal documents underlying this analysis should tell us how and why OMB arrived at its decision. In light of OMB’s continued refusal, I am left with no choice but to issue this subpoena.”
Chairman Royce’s January 9, 2014 letter to then-OMB Director Sylvia M. Burwell encouraging an independent OMB analysis is available here.
Royce’s May 19, 2014 letter requesting OMB’s analysis is available here.
Royce’s May 1, 2015 letter threatening to compel production of the analysis is available here.
In September 2014, Chairman Royce, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency Chairman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) requested an independent Government Accountability Office review of the State and DHS proposals. That review is ongoing.
Ms. Sherman, the No. 3 official at the State Department, said she did not expect to take another post in the administration, and she has not announced any plans. But she is close to Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose presidential campaign she supported in 2008, and who is running again for the Democratic nomination.
It was Mrs. Clinton who brought Ms. Sherman back into the government to handle Iran and other issues. Previously, she had worked as a social worker in Boston, a Senate campaign aide, and a counselor to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright during the Clinton administration, handling North Korea. Her congressional critics often cited that credential in critiquing her negotiations with Iran.
She’s actually No.4 (Kerry, Blinken, Higginbottom) and depending on what happens with the Iran Talks and 2016, we might see her again. Is this the start of the exodus from the 7th Floor?
We don’t think this position will be too attractive for a political appointee at this point. Counting the vetting, nomination and confirmation, the wait could be anywhere between a couple of months to half a year. If that happens, that’ll give the new “P” barely a year on the job before the 2016 election, and the traditional resignation required when the new administration takes office in January 2017. That would be like 6 months to transition to the new job, and 6 months looking for a new job. Any political appointee who takes this on would appear desperate. We could be wrong, of course, but we anticipate that a career diplomat will succeed Ms. Sherman as “P.” This position has traditionally been assigned to a career diplomat, and that’s the most logical step right now.
The new book is dedicated to Matthew’s late father, Michael Palmer, MD, the author of Miracle Cure, Critical Judgment, Silent Treatment, Natural Causes, Extreme Measures, Flashback, Side Effects, and The Sisterhood, to name a few. Michael Palmer’s books have been translated into thirty languages. The 1991 thriller Extreme Measures starring Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Gene Hackman is based on his novel of the same name.
by Matthew Palmer
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication date: May 26, 2015
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-399-165719
eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-626375
Here is a brief clip from his publishing house:
After many years, Sam Trainor has left his Foreign Service job, trading his place as a South Asia analyst for the U.S. government for the same desk at Argus Security, a Beltway Bandit consulting firm. The reason for the move is simple: bypassed for promotion, Trainor, brilliant but a bit unbridled, knew his government career was dead in the water. Though none to comfortable with the reality that consultants have taken over far too much power in the running of the government, he sees the writing on the wall. And why not do the same work for twice the pay?
But working for Argus is different in ways that have nothing to do with salary. No longer sworn to uphold the constitution of the United States, Trainor now answers to corporate masters. So his options are less straightforward when he stumbles upon some Intel that points to a plan to upend the tenuous balance between India and Pakistan. Complicating things, one of the participants in the intercepted phone conversation is Vanalika Chandra, political counselor at the Indian Embassy in Washington—and, not incidentally, Trainor’s adulterous lover. For the veteran analyst, nothing about this sits right.
As Trainor and his team dig deeper for the source of this dangerous misinformation, it quickly becomes apparent that, left unchecked, it could lead to nuclear war. As the riveting plot unfolds—from the Beltway and the Pentagon to Mumbai and Lahore—Trainor will come to the troubling conclusion that his employer’s involvement—and motives—may not align with his own hard won view of the way the global politics should be conducted. And as the clock ticks, he must suss out a truth that will prevent the world from changing forever.
Matthew Palmer is a twenty-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service, currently serving as the Director of Multilateral Affairs in the State Department’s Bureau of Asian and Pacific Affairs. A life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, he has worked as a diplomat around the world. While on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, Palmer helped design and implement the Kimberley Process for certifying African diamonds as “conflict free,” expertise he drew on in writing his debut novel, The American Mission.
His third book already has a title — The Wolf of Sarajevo. It is set in the Balkans where he spent a good chunk of his Foreign Service career.
USAID’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a survey (pdf) to identify the challenges USAID faced during the early transition period (December 2010-June 2014) in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen. USAID/OIG identified and interviewed 31 key USAID officials from various parts of the organization who have worked on activities in these countries.It also administered a questionnaire to supplement the information gathered from the interviews. Together, 70 employees from USAID were either interviewed or responded to the questionnaire. It notes that the while the survey collected the perspectives of a number of USAID employees, it is not statistically representative of each office or USAID as a whole.
The highest addressee on this report is USAID/Middle East Bureau Assistant Administrator, Paige Alexander. It includes no State Department official nor congressional entities.
Below is an excerpt:
In 2013 OIG conducted a performance audit of USAID/Egypt’s economic growth project1 and found that the changes of the Arab Spring severely affected the project’s progress. Approximately midway through implementation, the project had not made significant progress in seven of the ten tasks in the original plan mainly because of changes in the Egyptian Government’s counterparts and priorities. To adapt to the environment, the project adjusted its plan and identified three new areas of work to focus on. In another audit that year,2 OIG found similar challenges at USAID/Yemen when one of that mission’s main projects had to adjust its approach after the Arab Spring started (page 16).
Beyond project delays, we found a host of other challenges common to all four countries that revolve around three broad categories:
Increased influence from the State Department
One of the most commonly cited challenges was the difficulty of operating in a volatile environment. Security dictated many aspects of USAID’s operations after the Arab Spring started, and it was not uncommon for activities to be delayed or cancelled because of security issues.
In addition to access, security also disrupted operations because employees were evacuated from the different countries. U.S. direct-hire employees at USAID/Egypt were evacuated twice in 3 years. In USAID/Yemen, employees were evacuated twice in 3 years for periods of up to 6 months.3 In our survey, 76 percent of the respondents agreed that evacuations made managing projects more difficult.
Because of the precarious security situations, strict limits were placed on the number of U.S. direct hires who were allowed to be in each country. Employees said the Agency did not have enough staff to support the number of activities. This problem was particularly pronounced in Tunisia and Libya, where for extended periods, USAID had only one permanent employee in each country
2. Increased Influence From State Department.
According to our survey results, the majority of respondents (87 percent) believed that since the Arab Spring the State Department has increased its influence over USAID programs (Figure 3). While USAID did not have activities in Libya and Tunisia before the Arab Spring, staff working in these countries afterward discussed situations in which the State Department had significant influence over USAID’s work. A respondent from Tunisia wrote, “Everything has been driven by an embassy that does not seem to feel USAID is anything other than an implementer of whatever they want to do.”
While there is broad interagency guidance on State’s role in politically sensitive environments, the specifics of how USAID should adapt its operations were not entirely clear to Agency employees and presented a number of challenges to USAID’s operations. In Yemen, the department’s influence seemed to be less of an issue (page 17), but for the remaining countries, it was a major concern. As one survey respondent from Egypt wrote:
[State’s control] makes long-term planning incredibly difficult and severely constrains USAID’s ability to design and execute technically sound development projects. A path forward is agreed, steps taken to design activities and select implementation mechanisms, and then we are abruptly asked to change the approach.
State’s involvement introduced a new layer of review and slowed down operations. USAID employees needed to dedicate additional time to build consensus and gain approval from people outside the Agency.
USAID employees also described challenges occurring when State employees, unfamiliar with the Agency and its different types of procurement, made requests that were difficult to accommodate under USAID procedures. One respondent wrote that State “think[s] programs can be stopped and started at will and that we can intervene and direct partners in a manner that goes far beyond the substantial involvement we are allowed as project managers.”
Beyond operational challenges, many people we interviewed expressed frustration over the State Department’s increased role, particularly when State’s direction diverted USAID programming from planned development priorities and goals. This was an especially contentious issue at USAID/Egypt (page 7).
This difference in perspectives caused some to question State’s expertise in development assistance, particularly in transitional situations. A USAID official explained that countries in turmoil presented unique challenges and dynamics, and embassies may not have experts in this area. Others said USAID was taking direction from State advisers who were often political appointees without backgrounds in development.
State was not the sole source of pressure; employees said other federal entities such as the National Security Council and even the White House had increased their scrutiny of USAID since the start of the Arab Spring. As a result, mission officials had to deal with new levels of bureaucracy and were responding constantly to different requests and demands from outside the Agency.
3. Host-Country Readiness.
In each of the four countries, employees reported problems stemming from award recipients’ ability to implement assistance programs. According to one employee, local capacity in Libya was a major problem because the country did not have a strong workforce. Moreover, local implementers had not developed the necessary technical capacity because development assistance was not a priority in Libya under Muammar Qadhafi’s closed, oil-rich regime. Activities in Tunisia and Yemen encountered similar issues because neither have had long histories of receiving foreign development assistance. In Egypt, employees reported that some of the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working on the mission’s democracy and governance program also lacked sufficient capacity.
On Egypt: More than 85 percent of the employees surveyed who worked on activities related to USAID/Egypt agreed that the State Department had increased its influence over USAID programs since the start of the Arab Spring (Figure 5). A number of respondents said State steered Agency programs to address political rather than development needs. This dynamic had a profound effect on the mission’s ability to follow USAID’s guidance on designing and implementing developmentally sound projects. […] Some mission officials questioned the value of adhering to USAID’s project design procedures when the State Department had already decided a project’s fate. […] In this example, State’s desire to award education scholarships to women in Egypt was difficult to justify because university enrollment data showed that higher education enrollment and graduation rates for women are slightly higher than for men. […] With so many differing voices and perspectives, USAID employees said they were not getting clear, consistent guidance. They described the situation as having “too many cooks in the kitchen.” One survey respondent wrote:
State (or White House) has had a very difficult time making decisions on USAID programming for Egypt . . . so USAID has been paralyzed and sent through twists and turns. State/White House difficulties in decisions may be expected given the fluid situation, but there has been excessive indecision, and mixed signals to USAID.
On Tunisia: The State Department placed strict restrictions on the number of USAID employees allowed to be in-country. As a result, most Agency activities were managed from Washington, D.C. … [O]ne survey respondent wrote, “I have been working on Tunisia for nearly 3 years now, and have designed programs to be carried out there, but I’ve never been. I don’t feel like I have been able to do my job to the best of my ability without that understanding of the situation on the ground.”
On Libya: The attacks in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, had a profound impact on USAID operations in Libya. According to one interviewee, after the attacks USAID did not want to attract too much political attention and put a number of Agency activities in Libya on hold. The period of inactivity lasted from September 2012 to September 2013. It was not until October 2013, after Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was abducted, that the U.S. Government refocused attention on Libya and funding for activities picked up again.
Before the attacks, USAID had five employees in the country; afterward, only one was allowed to remain. Although his main priority then was to manage USAID/OTI projects in Libya, he also was asked to oversee four to five additional activities managed out of Washington—a stretch for any employee. As one survey respondent wrote, “The lack of people in the field in Libya (small footprint) means that DC overwhelms the field. People in the field are worked ragged.”
On Yemen: USAID/Yemen did not suffer from the challenges of unclear strategy that other USAID missions did in the region; 70 percent of respondents who worked on activities in Yemen believed that the Agency had a clear strategy for its post-Arab Spring activities (Figure 12). This is a stark contrast to responses related to USAID/Egypt, where only 22 percent believed that USAID had a clear strategy. …[O]ur survey also found a strong working relationship between USAID/Yemen and the State Department; the two often agreed on what needed to be done. […] Some respondents said the collaborative atmosphere was due to individual personalities and strong working relationships between USAID and State officials. One employee said because employees of both organizations lived and worked together in the close quarters, communication flowed freely as perspectives could be exchanged easily. …[O]ne senior USAID/Yemen official said, some of what needed to be done was so obvious that it was difficult for the two agencies not to agree.
The report offers 15 lessons learned including the development of a USAID transition plan at the country level, even if it may change. USAID/OIG says that by having a short-term transition plan, the Agency “would have a better platform to articulate its strategy, particularly when it disagrees with the decisions of other federal entities.”It also lists the following:
Resist the urge to implement large development projects that require the support of host governments immediately after a transition.
Prepare mission-level plans with Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs)—locally hired USAID employees who are not U.S. citizens—in case U.S. direct hires are evacuated. Evacuation of U.S. staff can be abrupt with only a few hours’ notice. People we interviewed recommended that U.S. staff develop plans with the mission’s FSN staff ahead of time, outlining roles, responsibilities, and modes of operation to prevent a standstill in operations in the event of an evacuation.
Get things in writing. When working in environments where USAID is getting input and instructions from organizations that are not familiar with Agency procedures, decisions made outside of USAID may be documented poorly. In such circumstances, it is important to remember to get things in writing.
I’m not going to pretend to understand this type of contemporary American art; no more than I understand the one million granite sculpture reportedly intended for the new U.S. Embassy in London. I also looked up the artist’s collection of dogs sitting on furniture within elaborate grottos. I’m sorry, my soul has not been lifted. I just don’t get it, okay? But the ambassador’s wife appears to be really taken by this and she’s the one who gets to live with this “breathtaking” creation in her house. At least it’s in her house and not mine. But — just so you know, some people really, really like this. The artist has been in many public collections including the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Smithsonian Institution, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others. The big question is, what do we tell the Martians?
U.S. Embassy Ottawa and the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Art in Embassies, in partnership with the National Gallery of Canada (NGC), will welcome renowned American artist Nick Cave to Ottawa on May 28 for the second lecture in the Contemporary Conversations series.
Contemporary Conversations (#artconvoAIE) features four internationally recognized American artists who will visit Canada over the course of 2015 to speak about their work. Each artist in the series will participate in a public lecture at NGC, stimulating conversation around issues that transcend borders, and topics that inspire, teach, and create connections. As a foundation for the lecture series at the NGC, the participating artist’s work is displayed in a curated exhibition at Lornado, the official residence of U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman and Vicki Heyman, who helped to spearhead the series. Nick Cave’s work Soundsuit (2008) is part of that exhibit.
“For the program, I chose a series of living, contemporary American artists whose art was both visually exciting and also provided a platform for conversation,” said Vicki Heyman. “I think Nick Cave exemplifies those qualities. His exploration of identity, through the lens of race and sexual identity, compounded by the ethereal, whimsical quality of his incredible Soundsuits, just fit perfectly into the overall collection.”
This is part of the Art In Embassies program (AIE) and unlike the $1M piece for US Embassy London, the compensation to the artists and/or lenders come in kind like: “Artists and lenders receive international exposure through events hosted by the embassy that are attended by prominent political, business, and academic leaders as well as members of the local arts community. AIE acknowledges its partners through bi and tri-lingual exhibition labels, web publications produced by our office, and inclusion on our web site. Many U.S. embassies feature exhibitions on their official websites, extending accessibility to thousands of host country, international, and U.S. citizens annually.”
The Lornado is the official residence of the United States Ambassador to Canada. It sits in a commanding location high above the confluence of the Ottawa and Gatineau Rivers in Rockcliffe Village in Ottawa, Ontario. According to Embassy Ottawa, the U.S. government purchased the property from the Soper family in 1935. From 1935-38, the mansion was slightly modified by the Department of State, but it still maintains many of its Edwardian influences. The official residence has 32 rooms, and is a two-and-a-half story limestone manor sitting on a property that encompasses ten acres of grounds, a greenhouse, maintenance buildings, and a gatehouse.
Mark Toner has been Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs since September 2013. Prior to that appointment, he served as the State Department’s Deputy Spokesperson from 2010-2013. He was at that time succeeded as #2 in Foggy Bottom’s podium by Obama campaign spox Marie Harf. Brief bio below:
He is a career Foreign Service Officer who has served overseas in West Africa and Europe. Mark was the Information Officer in Dakar, Senegal; the Public Affairs Officer in Krakow, Poland; and the Spokesman for the US Mission to NATO, in Brussels, Belgium.
In Washington, Mark has worked as a senior advisor for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; as a Senior Watch Officer in the Department’s Operations Center; and as the Director of the European Bureau’s Press and Public Outreach Division. Mark has an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and a graduate degree from National Defense University’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
Prior to joining the State Department, Mark was a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia, West Africa, and carried out graduate work in Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.
What are we learning from this first batch of emails?
1) The document dump is not arranged or ordered in any useful way. The emails from 2011 are mixed with 2012. Some of the emails are included more than once. Some of the redactions are rather odd, given that some of these emails were already published via the NYT. The former secretary of state is not referred to as HRC, only as “H.” The emails show an extremely small number of gatekeepers – Mills, Sullivan, Abedin, plus a couple of folks routinely asked to print this or that.
2) Sid, Sid, Sid — there are a good number of memos from “friend of S” or “HRC’s contact,” Sidney Blumenthal, who apparently had his own classification system. The memos he sent were marked “Confidential” although he was no longer a USG employee at the time he sent them and presumably, no classifying authority. Imagine the COM in Libya and NEA folks chasing down this intel stuff. Right. Instead of “OGA” for other government agency, State got “FOS”or “friend of S” as intel source.
3) “Pls. print” one of the former secretary of state’s favorite response to emails sent to her.
4) When former Secretary Clinton finally addressed the firestorm of her use of private email, she said: “I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two,” a self-assured Clinton told more than 200 reporters crowded into a U.N. corridor. (via Reuters). It looks like she had more than one email address, and we don’t know how many devices. The email below was sent from an iPad.
8) In November 2012, the House Intelligence Committee had a closed hearing that reportedly had the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Matt Olsen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, CIA Acting Director Michael Morell and the State Department’s Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy. Those could be the Matt and Pat in this email:
9) There was a meeting at the WH Situation Room on Nov 26, 2:35 pm on Benghazi. The invitation was for the Secretary +1, and if she was unable to attend, an invitation for one representative only. The then Executive Secretary John Bass (now US Ambassador to Turkey) asked Mills if she’d prefer “Pat” to attend or “Dan.” Dan is State’s former counterterrorism guy, replied “Pat should go” in reference to Patrick Kennedy. Mills asked HRC if she’s good with Pat going and she replied “I think I should go w Pat.”
10) On December 17, 2012, then State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland (now A/S for the EUR bureau) confirmed that the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi had concluded its work, and that the report went to Secretary Clinton that day (see ARB Concludes Work, Unclassified Report May Be Publicly Available on Wednesday). The following email is between Burns and Mills dated December 18, 2012. It mentions three names, Eric, Pat, and Greg Starr. We are guessing that the Eric in the email is Eric Boswell, the then Assistant Secretary of Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and Pat is the Under Secretary for Management. The portion referencing Greg Starr was redacted except for Burns’ “I like the Greg Starr idea.”
11) On December 20, 2012, the State Department’s two deputies, William Burns and Thomas Nides went before Congress instead of Secretary Clinton (see Clinton Recovering, Top Deputies Burns and Nides Expected to Testify Dec.20). Thank yous all around with HRC saying thank you to Burns and Nides. Thereafter, Cheryl Mills sent an email praising HRC’s email as being “so nice.” This was then followed with more thank yous from Nides and Burns.
12) So nothing surprising in the emails except the parts that may give some of us toothache. And the missing parts. This is only the first batch of emails although our understanding is that this constitutes the Benghazi-related emails. If that’s the case, it is striking that we see:
a) No emails here to/from Eric Boswell, the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security.
c) No emails to/from Gregory Hicks who was Embassy Tripoli’s DCM at the time of the attack and who would have been attached by phone/email with Foggy Bottom (Hey! Are telephone conversations recorded like Kissinger’s?)
d) Except for an email related to one of the ARB panel member, there are no emails related to setting up the ARB, the process for the selection of ARB members, the assistance requested by the ARB, the support provided by the State Department to the panel, etc. What happened to those emails?
13) Then Secretary Clinton was using at least two emails from her private server according to these released emails. It does not look like anyone from the State Department could have just sent her an email by looking her up on the State Department’s Global Address List (GAL). But certainly, her most senior advisers including the experienced, career bureaucrats at the State Department must have known that she was using private email.
Seriously, no one thought that was odd? Or did everyone in the know thought it was beyond their pay grade to question the practice? Let’s imagine an entry level consular officer conducting official business using a private email server. How long would that last? Right.
So what happened there? Ugh! Pardon me? You were just doing your job? That CIA briefer also was just doing his job.
“As I decompress after completing a one-year tour in Afghanistan, I often find myself mulling these words by the great English historian Edward Gibbon: “I shall never give my consent to exhaust still further the finest country in the world in this prosecution of a war from whence no reasonable man entertains any hope of success. It is better to be humbled than ruined.”