Category Archives: Civilian Surge

Snapshot: Afghanistan Provincial Reconstruction Teams

– Domani Spero

 

According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the May 20-21, 2012, NATO summit in Chicago expressed agreement to phase out the PRTs in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The July 2014 CRS report also indicates that as of December 1, 2013, 12 PRTs have been transferred to Afghan control, and that the remaining 16 are to be transferred by the end of 2014.  District Support Teams (DSTs), which help district officials provide government services, are to close by the end of 2014 as well.  USAID and CRS calculations put the PRT projects cost (development and local governance) from FY2001 to 2011 at over USD $1.2 billion.

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-03

Screen Shot 2014-08-03

 

Below via the CRS:

The PRTs, the concept for which was announced in December 2002, have performed activities ranging from resolving local disputes to coordinating local reconstruction projects, although most U.S.-run PRTs and most PRTs in combat-heavy areas focused on counterinsurgency. Many of the additional U.S.civilian officials deployed to Afghanistan during 2009 and 2010 were based at PRTs, which have facilities, vehicles, and security. Some aid agencies say they felt more secure since the PRT program began,49 but several relief groups did not want to associate with military forces because doing so might taint their perceived neutrality. Virtually all the PRTs, listed in Table 15, were placed under the ISAF mission. Each PRT operated by the United States has had U.S. forces to train Afghan security forces; DOD civil affairs officers; representatives of USAID, State Department, and other agencies; and Afghan government (Interior Ministry) personnel. USAID officers assigned to the PRTs administer PRT reconstruction projects. USAID spending on PRT projects is in the table at the end of this report.
[...]
Despite the benefits, President Karzai consistently criticized the PRTs as holding back Afghan capacity-building and repeatedly called for their abolition as “parallel governing structures.” USAID observers backed some of the criticism, saying that there was little Afghan input into PRT development project decision-making or as contractors for PRT-funded construction.

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Afghanistan, Civilian Surge, Defense Department, End of Year, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, PRTs, Snapshots, State Department, U.S. Missions

US Mission Iraq: No Iraqi Visas Issued to USG Security Personnel Since December?

The Iraq Travel Warning dated January 19, 2012 saysthat “the ability of the Embassy to respond to situations in which U.S. citizens face difficulty, including arrests, is extremely limited.”

Apparently the “extremely limited” response even includes the issuance of visas for USG security personnel in Iraq.

In our mailbox is the following email:

“No visas have been issued to security personnel since December and there is no straight answer coming from the Department of State or the Ministry of Interior.”

One of our correspondents is concerned that this situation “will result in loss of life” as their “ability to protect continues to be compromised.”

The State Department’s current Travel Warning says that“The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S.

US State Department contract security, Interna...

US State Department contract security, International (Green) Zone, Baghdad, Iraq. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

government personnel in Iraq to be serious enough to require them to live and work under strict security guidelines. All U.S. government employees under the authority of the U.S. Ambassador must follow strict safety procedures when traveling outside the Embassy. State Department guidance to U.S. businesses in Iraq advises the use of protective security details.”

If so, how does the “strict security” guidelines and “strict safety procedures” work if the protective security details are missing due to the sticky wheel on the visa bus?

On February 8, 2012 WaPo reported that the US Embassy Baghdad compound was locked down for nearly all of December out of security concerns, and the vast majority of U.S. personnel rarely leave its confines.

“U.S. trainers for middle- and senior-level police officials, located for convenience across the street from Iraq’s national police headquarters and police academy, have been unable to cross that street without heavy security and have largely ceased any outside movement.”

One can only hope that they are not in permanent lock down as they’re rightsizing.  We understand that the US Mission in Baghdad was expected to have 16,000 personnel.  About 2,000 are reportedly diplomats and 14,000 are private security and life support contractors.

How much of the expected 5,000-7,000 security personnel made it to Iraq before the visa clamp down came down in December?  And if true that no visas had been issued to USG security personnel since December, how is that impacting the mobility and security of our embassy personnel? Has it been in lock down since the military left?

We have reached out to the US Embassy Baghdad on the visa issue last week and will update this post if we ever get a response. We say if because we’ve had very limited success in getting a response even from their Press Office, except on the few occasion when somebody there had a personal blog to plug in.

If you’re reading this from Baghdad, we’d like to hear if you’ve been forced to telecommute from the bunker due to limited availability of personal security support.

Domani Spero

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Filed under Civilian Surge, Contractors, Countries 'n Regions, Foreign Service, Iraq, Security, US Embassy Baghdad, Visas

Frienemies Strike Again: Two American Advisors Shot in the Head Inside Afghan Interior Ministry

As if things cannot get any worse over there –

According to USAToday, a gunman killed two American military advisers with shots to the back of the head Saturday inside a heavily guarded ministry building, and NATO ordered military workers out of Afghan ministries as protests raged for a fifth day over the burning of Qurans at a U.S. army base.

The LA Times reported that the details of the killings of the two Americans Saturday remained murky hours after the shooting. Although the NATO’s International Security Assistance Force confirmed the deaths of two of its service members in Kabul, it did not disclosed their nationalities.  However, Afghan officials speaking on condition of anonymity reportedly identified the two as American military officers who were advising the Interior Ministry.

Below is an excerpt from a WSJ report:

Top U.S. military officials said they were still trying to determine the identity of the attacker. But one Western official in Kabul said that the two Americans were shot by an Afghan police official who was upset about the burning of Qurans earlier this week at a U.S. military base.
[..]
Coalition officials in Kabul dismissed claims by some Afghan officials that the two Americans were killed by a Western colleague.

Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the two American military officers were found dead in a secure office on the compound by one of their colleagues. It remained unclear who killed the pair, or how the attacker got inside the well-protected part of the ministry, he said.

But other Afghan, Western diplomatic and military officials said that initial reports indicated that the gunman was a member of the Afghan security forces.

Photo by Spc. David Bonnell

Members of the Ministry of Defense Advisors Program hold a meeting with the mock Afghan Minister of Defense during field training at Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex, June 9. The civilians will deploy to Afghanistan later this year to assist the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of the Interior become self-sustaining. Photo by Spc. David Bonnell

Also today, the ISAF commander condemns the attack on ISAF personnel at the GIRoA ministry:

KABUL, Afghanistan – “I condemn today’s attack at the Afghan Ministry of Interior that killed two of our coalition officers, and my thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the brave individuals lost today,” said Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force.

“We are investigating the crime and will pursue all leads to find the person responsible for this attack. The perpetrator of this attack is a coward whose actions will not go unanswered.”

“For obvious force protection reasons, I have also taken immediate measures to recall all other ISAF personnel working in ministries in and around Kabul,” continued Gen. Allen.

“We are committed to our partnership with the Government of Afghanistan to reach our common goal of a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan in the near future.”

Damn fake partnership! The military advisors were killed reportedly inside the Command and Control room only accessible by people who know the correct numerical combination. Later news indicate that General Allen has also recalled all international military personnel from the ministries

In January 2012, an Afghan wearing an army uniform shot and killed four French troops and wounded others. Late last year, an Afghan army soldier also shot and killed two members of the French Foreign Legion serving in the NATO force.  Which made French President Sarkozy announced that “The French army is in Afghanistan at the service of the Afghans against terrorism and against the Taliban. The French army is not in Afghanistan so that Afghan soldiers can shoot at them.”

Also in January, an Afghan soldier turned his gun on American military personnel while they were playing volleyball at a camp in southern Afghanistan, killing one and wounding three others before being fatally shot

On April 2011, eight US troops and a US contractor  were killed by an Afghan air force pilot at the Kabul airport.

The NYT reported in early 2012 about a subordinate command’s report on mounting casualties killed by Afghan “allies”:

“Lethal altercations are clearly not rare or isolated; they reflect a rapidly growing systemic homicide threat (a magnitude of which may be unprecedented between ‘allies’ in modern military history).”

Officials have been calling these incidents, “isolated cases and are not occurring on a routine basis.”  The NYT cited a classified report which found that between May 2007 and May 2011, when it was completed, that at least 58 Western service members were killed in 26 separate attacks by Afghan soldiers and the police nationwide. Most of those attacks have occurred since October 2009. This toll represented 6 percent of all hostile coalition deaths during that period, the report said.

This latest attack inside the Ministry of Interior shows that these incidents are not isolated cases perpetuated just by boots-on-the ground soldiers.  We have military officers and unarmed civilians working in all parts of Afghanistan ministries – from Agriculture to Women Affairs.  The military advisors have now been pulled back, but how about the civilians?  Even if they grow eyes on the back of their heads, how can they trust that their Afghan colleagues will not one day pull that trigger?

We are wasting our time with frienemies in Afghanistan.  It’s time to leave and begin reconstruction at home and  not in 2014. It will be appreciated at home.

Domani Spero

 

 

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Filed under Afghanistan, Civilian Surge, Defense Department, War

US Embassy Iraq Staffing: To Slash or Not to Slash, That is the Question

A lesson in right-sizing exercise needed yesterday.

Tim Arango’s NYT piece about plans to slash the US Embassy staff in Iraq by as much as half has quotes from US Embassy Baghdad’s spokesman, Michael McClellan:

Michael W. McClellan, the embassy spokesman, said in a statement to the Times, “Over the last year and continuing this year the Department of State and the Embassy in Baghdad have been considering ways to appropriately reduce the size of the U.S. mission in Iraq, primarily by decreasing the number of contractors needed to support the embassy’s operations.”

McClellan said the number of diplomats was also “subject to adjustment as appropriate.”

The response from Foggy Bottom came swiftly. Below is part of the State Department’s push back via the official spokesperson, Victoria Nuland:

MS. NULAND: Well, we saw this reporting just as we were preparing to come down today. First, let me say that with regard to our diplomatic presence, there is no consideration being given to slashing our diplomats by half. What we are doing – and Deputy Secretary Nides is leading this process – is looking at how we can right-size our Embassy in Iraq and particularly how we can do more for that mission through the hiring of local employees rather than having to be as dependent as we’ve been in the past on very expensive contractors. So we’re trying to do our best to save the American taxpayer money in the way we support our diplomatic personnel.

We’re also looking to acquire more of the supporting things for the Embassy, including food supplies, et cetera, from the local economy, so trying to do more locally with local Iraqis and on the local economy and save the taxpayer money. So what ultimate numbers will result from this in reductions in contractors, we don’t know yet. This process has just begun, but we are trying to ensure that it is rigorous and that it gets us to a much more normal embassy, like some of our big embassies around the world.
QUESTION: So just talking about the diplomats for a moment, so you’re not considering slashing their numbers by a half?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Are you considering slashing their numbers by 40 percent, by 30 percent, by 20 percent, by 2 percent, by zero? I mean –
MS. NULAND: Again, if we can find efficiencies, we will. Obviously we’re still working with the Iraqis on some of the programming that these diplomats are charged with managing. So with regard to whether we may be able to reduce some of the diplomatic staff, we will look at that. But I just wanted to make clear that we have a lot to do in Iraq, so some of these reportings about the level of diplomats is – were exaggerated.
[...]
QUESTION: You’re talking about a different time, but the Embassy only opened, I think, in early 2009 or at the – maybe it was 2008. It’s not that long ago. It’s only three years ago.
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve had a diplomatic presence in Iraq all the way through, and it’s waxed and waned. But our view is that it is currently too dependent on contractors. We can do more with Iraqi staff. We can do more on the local economy, and it’ll make it cheaper.
[...]
QUESTION: Quick clarification on this. You said that you want to cut down in the contractors. Many of these contractors provide protection and security and so on. And you say that you want to hire local. So would you rely on Iraqis to provide security for the U.S. Embassy? Is that what you’re saying?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into, in advance of Deputy Secretary Nides’s review and his recommendations to the Secretary, what functions might be able to be done locally. But we’re looking at the whole thing.

So to sum it up –

Yes, they are right-sizing the US Embassy Baghdad.

No, they’re not considering slashing the number of diplomats.

Yes, they’re slashing down those expensive contractors.

No one knows by how much.

Yes, they want to hire local.

No one knows if they’d rely on Iraqis to provide security.

So there you go, a briefing as clear as mud.

Just a couple of things for the good folks who may be reading this.

One of the most expensive part of Embassy Baghdad’s operation is security protection. So when the spokesperson says that the embassy is “currently too dependent on contractors” and that “we can do more with Iraqi staff” in one breath, one has to wonder if this includes having Iraqis provide local security protection for the embassy.   Are armed Iraqi guards protecting our unarmed diplomats around the Green Zone and across Iraq, an option on the right-sizing table?

See, if State slashes the number of expensive contractors but won’t slash the number of diplomats, who will perform the necessary security protection? I understand that there are 200 Diplomatic Security Agents assigned in Iraq (where a traditional embassy normally gets 2-3), but that number won’t be enough to provide security protection for 1,600-2,000 diplomats.

As an aside, we’ve been training and arming Afghan soldiers in Afghanistan who in turn have used the guns and the training we’ve provided them to kill our own soldiers and coalition forces.  And those are not isolated one or two cases. I just feel the need to mention that.

Another point on local hire, the Iraqi staff at the US Embassy only need a year of service before qualifying for special immigrant visas to the United States (in other places, local employees need 15-20 years of service before qualifying for SIVs). Which means American officials are not the only ones learning on the job with each new rotation into Iraq. Local employees, traditionally the backbone of an embassy operation, are on Iraq’s case, in a state of perpetual training. Just as soon as they learn their jobs, they’re off to a new life in the United States.  Then the embassy in Baghdad is off to recruiting and training new local employees to replaced the ones who left. Just like *hamsters on the titanic (*term borrowed from blog pal, It’s Always Sunny in Kabul).

Domani Spero

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Filed under Civilian Surge, Counting Beans, Iraq, Staffing the FS, State Department, US Embassy Baghdad

US Embassy Baghdad is shrinking…shrinking…shriiinkiiing – to 8,000!

Oh, quit jumping up and down.

According to the New York Times, the U.S. is reportedly planning to slash the U.S. Embassy staff in Iraq by up to half. The staff there is estimated at 16,000, including some 2,000 diplomats, if reports are correct, and thousands of private security contractors.

The NYT underestimates the frustration:

“[T]he Americans have been frustrated by what they see as Iraqi obstructionism and are now largely confined to the embassy because of security concerns, unable to interact enough with ordinary Iraqis to justify the $6 billion annual price tag.”

The rationed chicken wings really brought home the almost insurmountable problem, which is not going to get fixed while our contentious relationship with the Iraqis is ongoing.  Again from the NYT:

“After the American troops departed in December, life became more difficult for the thousands of diplomats and contractors left behind. Convoys of food that were previously escorted by the United States military from Kuwait were delayed at border crossings as Iraqis demanded documentation that the Americans were unaccustomed to providing.

Within days, the salad bar at the embassy dining hall ran low. Sometimes there was no sugar or Splenda for coffee. On chicken-wing night, wings were rationed at six per person. Over the holidays, housing units were stocked with Meals Ready to Eat, the prepared food for soldiers in the field.”

As if rationed chicken wings and no Splenda for coffee are not bad enough, the Prime Minister of Iraq is now a visa officer.  What’s this world coming to?  The next thing you know, they’ll have Iraqi ministers acting as  anti-fraud officers to weed out the ones they like and those they don’t like? And if they don’t like the muscle guys doing private security work for our diplomats … oh dear, this is going to be messy …

“Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s office — and sometimes even the prime minister himself — now must approve visas for all Americans, resulting in lengthy delays. American diplomats have had trouble setting up meetings with Iraqi officials.”

Need I point out that even shrinking the US Mission in Iraq by up to half would give it a staffing of approximately 8,000 souls still?

That would make the US Mission in Iraq, still the largest in the world.  And we’re back to where we started. 8,000 employees will not be happy with six chicken wings each and no Splenda for coffee while Iraqis who are now “allies” are shooting outside the mylared window of the glorified bunker.

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Filed under Civilian Surge, Contractors, Iraq, Staffing the FS, State Department, US Embassy Baghdad

US Mission Baghdad: Who will taste-test the locally sourced food for the cafeteria?

Department of Defense Photo

Via WaPo’s Walter Pincus:

The State Department, seeking to cut costs in Iraq, is looking to locally purchase some of the food its personnel eat, potentially breaking from the U.S. military’s practice of importing all food and fuel.

American diplomats ate in a cafeteria in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces until 2008, when a new U.S. Embassy compound was completed. The embassy cafeteria has served food imported by the military.

Military commanders required that, for sanitary and security reasons, all food and fuel be trucked in from Kuwait in convoys protected by soldiers or private security contractors.

The State Department’s undersecretary for Management, Patrick Kennedy, said he will continue using the Defense Logistics Agency to bring in food and fuel after January.
[...]
While the military did not seek to purchase food or fuel on the Iraqi market, Kennedy said in an interview last week that he had asked the logistics agency to begin looking for reliable local sources for those commodities.

“It will never get down to zero,” Kennedy said about the need for imported goods, but he said that State had already been purchasing some fuel on the Iraqi market. Buying food and fuel locally, Kennedy said, would cut the overall cost and reduce the need for convoy security guards.

Read in full here.

I’m not worried about our diplomats acclimatizing to the local bacteria, mind you.  All FS folks do that with every country they are posted to.  They buy local food and shop in local stores; they buy fresh fruits and veges from the corner green grocer or the open market next door (often seasoned with Clorox at home).  Except in war zones.

And oh, I’m sure the State Department can save quite a bundle from buying fuel and food locally. Maybe I should applaud such fiscal creativity?  I just want to point out to Mr. Kennedy that folks do not drink fuel, see? If they procure food locally, will the embassy hire some supertasters? According to this account, the late King Hussein I of Jordan relates in his 1962 autobiography that he uncovered a Syrian spy plot involving his cook to poison
his food. The tip-off?  Apparently, the untimely deaths of the palace cats, victims
of the assassin’s try-outs. In this neighborhood where America is quite hated, this is not beyond the realm of possibility. 

This is Iraq, and the embassy, the largest in the world with potentially over 15,000 personnel by end of the year. They all need to eat.  And not MREs.  The military, with its command and supply chain structure in place (and never short of staff) did not try to procure food locally in all its years of operation in Iraq. And the State Department which does not have comparable structures or staff, will now buy local to feed its staff. Frankly, the thought of that is giving me a rather queasy stomach.

Of course, given that we have had several outbreaks of foodborne illness in the United States, perhaps I shouldn’t worry too much?

Except that — way back in October, the National Iraqi News Agency reported that Muqtada Al Sadr, leader of the Shiite al-Sadr Trend, considered all US embassy employees in Baghdad as “occupiers”, stressing that resisting them after 2011 is an obligation.

“In response to a query of one of his followers about the increase of the embassy employees’ number from 5000 to 15000 after the expiry of SOFA, Muqtada said “they are all occupiers and resisting them after the end of the agreement is an obligation.”

That’s a special mention from an Iraqi leader who commands not just powerful religious and political influence but also has his own army. We may think this war is over, but it’s not.  Iraq is still a war zone. And make no mistake about it.  Our soldiers will be home but our diplomats and their guards will be in the crosshairs even as they try to continue “reconstructing” that country.

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Filed under Civilian Surge, Iraq, Realities of the FS, State Department, US Embassy Baghdad, War

State Dept Seeks Aviation Advisor for Iraq Rescues 58 Days Before Liftoff?

Via Danger Room’s Spencer Ackerman:

The State Department has already requisitioned an army, part of the roughly 5,000 private security contractors
State is hiring to protect diplomats stationed in Iraq. Now, State is
hiring someone to provide a little help from the air: an “Aviation
Advisor” responsible for “Search
and Rescue (SAR), medical evacuations (ME), transporting Quick Reaction
Forces (QRF) to respond to incidents, and provid[ing] air
transportation for Chief of Mission personnel
.” It’s not a familiar job for the diplomatic corps, which is why State is seeking to bring in someone from the outside.

The State Department put out this notice on Nov. 4. That’s 58 days
before the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Fifty-eight days before State has
the skies over Iraq to itself.
[..]

Air operations are not as simple has hiring skilled pilots to put
well-maintained machines in the skies.

The military has long-standing
procedures in place for designing and executing aerial missions. An
experienced chain of command maintains order, discipline, coordination
and success. This is what the military does.



It’s not what the State Department does. Only a relatively few
officials go into the U.S. diplomatic corps to oversee security
operations.

[...]
Inevitably, things will go wrong in these complex air operations. A
functioning chain of command exists to minimize those mistakes and
mitigate their impact.

The State Department still does not have someone
atop that chain, with fewer than 60 days before it finds itself alone in
the skies.
[...]
Until State can figure out its chain of command for air operations, its
employees in Iraq — some 17,000 of them, according to current plans —
had better hope they don’t need air support. There’s not much time to
put one in place.

Continue reading, U.S. Hiring Mercenary Air Force for Iraq Rescues.

Anyway — even if you do find the right person for this job in 57 days,
how fast can that person get medically cleared, obtain a security
clearance, get administratively processed and get a plan together?  A plan is important; of the 75 helicopters downed in Iraq since May 2003, at least 36 were downed by enemy fire (source).

There is, too, the contractor run and led-medical supply chain.
If somebody is hurt, and is airlifted to one of the embassy district
hospitals in Iraq, is the embassy blood program even in place and
functioning as the military’s? 

I have posted previously about Embassy Air Iraq here, and the Embassy Baghdad General Hospital here.  I’ve also posted about the transition and the medical support functions here, here, here and here.

In one of those posts about hospitals, a reader commented that it’s strange that the subject wasn’t mentioned in the Afghanistan-Iraq-Pakistan bidding cables for foreign service officers.

Somebody who writes as NewtonCM2 said “It wasn’t mentioned in the AIP bidding cables because it’s not true. There will be continuous, full medical coverage through the entire military to State transition. The OIG got this one wrong.”

As far as I know, the OIG never corrected that report on the Iraq transition.

I hope that the State Dept is advising its contractors and employees bidding on Iraq jobs that its air operation in the country responsible for search and rescue, medevac, etc, etc. is still up on the air.  So they have the option to pack their broomsticks. 


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Filed under Civilian Surge, Diplomatic Security, Iraq, Realities of the FS, State Department, US Embassy Baghdad, War

Photo of the Day: If this is over $50, I’ll have to file a gift report

The photo below is from the photostream of the U.S. Embassy Kabul in Flickr. I don’t know how many folks have their hands on the embassy’s social media platforms. But for a while now, the photos uploaded to Flickr either have no captions or includes one caption for all the photos in the set. Which kind of defeats the purpose of having a photo gallery up, because viewers need to have some context on what they’re looking at. 

The photo below, as well as all the 67 photos included in the set has the following caption:

The Acting Minister of Higher Education Sarwar Danish, together with NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Kolinda Grabar and U.S. Embassy Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy Eileen O’Connor, joined university chancellors and others at the Ministry of Higher Education in Kabul to celebrate the progress of the PAS-funded NATO SILK Afghanistan Program on Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011.(Department of State)

It does not matter that NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Kolinda Grabar is not in this photo. You get the idea; these folks were all there according to the caption.  During a big do on Silk Afghanistan.  I have no idea if this is a dressmaker’s program or a silkworm propagation program either, hard to know without context, see?  The Silk Road? I really don’t know.  Some 68 photos of smiling people but no photos of silk dressmakers or silkworm, or the Silk Road, for that matter, which is rather confusing to tell you the truth. 

The photo above shows the U.S. Embassy Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy Eileen O’Connor receiving a gift. I imagine she’s saying, “Thank you very much for this gift; if this is over $50, I’ll have to file a gift report.”

Of course, that’s probably not what she said to the gifter, but without context, we’re left to our own imagination.

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Filed under Civilian Surge, Flickr, Public Diplomacy, Social Media, US Embassy Kabul

Thanks to a Hardworking Congress, Some Feds in the Garden Countries of I’Af/Pak to Lose Some Benefits

Stephen Losey of Federal Times reported last week that federal employees deployed to the I’Af/Pak region who are not in the Foreign Service have now lost numerous travel, medical and leave benefits because those benefits were not renewed by Congress after they expired Oct. 1. Excerpts:

The following benefits, which are available to Foreign Service officers, will no longer be available to non-Foreign Service personnel posted in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan, according to the Office of Personnel Management:

  • Reimbursement of travel costs when going home on leave.
  • Reimbursement of travel costs when obtaining necessary medical care when such care is not available locally.
  • Reimbursement of travel costs when evacuating family members who are in imminent danger.
  • Reimbursement of travel costs when transporting furniture and other personal effects when moving to another duty station.
  • Mandatory leave for employees who have returned home after a three-year deployment. Agencies also will no longer have the option to offer leave to employees who had served in a war zone for 18 months.
  • Medical examinations, mental health care, inoculations, vaccinations and other preventative care.
  • A death gratuity equal to one year’s salary when an employee dies of injuries sustained while supporting military operations.

Read in full here.

I have not read the OPM notice but I am presuming that these changes applies to non-Foreign Service and non-Defense employees serving in those three priority countries.

The 2010 OIG review of US Embassy Pakistan indicates that there are some three dozens non-State and non-DOD personnel in that country (DEA: 16, FBI: 7, DHS: 4, BBG:1, DOE: 1, NAS: 8, Treasury: 1).

On the U.S. Embassy Iraq staffing — well, trying to pin down the staffing number over there, is of course, rocket science and I simply do not have the brains for it. Also, with the military withdrawal and the embassy taking charge, a whole lot of big numbers are bring thrown around – 5,000 – 17,000.  Security people is a big component but not sure how many non-State/USAID and non-DOD personnel will continue to deploy in Iraq and our consulates there when all is said and done in 2011. 

Due to the recent “flavor of the month” in Afghanistan, the civilian uplift staffing picture there is a bit more clearer.  Seven civilian agencies (State/USAID excepted) account for about 26% of the total civilian uplift.  So all those folks, plus some three dozens in Pakistan and an undetermined number in Iraq will be affected by Congress’ non-renewal of warzone benefits.

In short, if they need mental health care after service in the warzones, they’re basically out of luck?

This will have an impact to the employees already deployed there, but may have a larger impact on recruitment of employees for the 2012 assignment and onward.

From SIGAR/State OIG

Below is an excerpt from the SIGAR/State OIG review of the civilian uplift in that country:

[...] State increased its civilian personnel deployed to Afghanistan from 192 in January 2009, to 501 in March 2011—an increase of 309 personnel.

State has an additional 81 authorized full-time equivalent positions for the civilian uplift as of May 31, 2011, but the positions are currently unfilled. According to State officials from the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA), they will continue to place additional civilian personnel in these positions through fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

USAID had the second largest presence of any agency prior to the start of the uplift. USAID personnel increased from 85 in January 2009 to 307 as of March 2011, an increase of 222 personnel. USAID has an additional 80 authorized positions for Afghanistan that are currently unfilled. According to USAID officials, they will continue to place additional U.S. civilians in these positions in fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

As of June 2011, the other seven civilian agencies with a presence in Afghanistan accounted for an increase of 189 personnel, or approximately 26 percent of the total civilian uplift. These agencies provide personnel at the request and direction of the Chief of Mission in Afghanistan and State officials in Washington in order to meet the mission’s strategic goals. The Chief of Mission determines the number of authorized civilian uplift positions in consultation with each department.

DOJ accounted for an increase of 78 personnel, or 11 percent, of the total civilian uplift. The majority of these uplift personnel are employees of the Drug Enforcement Administration who work on mentoring and training Afghan law enforcement entities in an effort to promote the rule of law. In addition, they provide leadership and guidance in the conduct of bilateral counternarcotics investigations and operations. USDA has deployed 59 civilian uplift personnel as of June 2011, representing eight percent of the total civilian uplift. These employees primarily mentor Afghan government officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock.

The remaining five agencies account for approximately seven percent of the total civilian uplift. DHS personnel advise, mentor, and train Afghan border, customs, and related entities to enforce Afghan customs and immigration law. Treasury places technical experts at Afghan government ministries where they provide assistance in four areas: strengthening budget and financial accountability, combating economic crimes and corruption, building internal audit capacity and increasing non-tax revenues, and achieving debt relief and improving debt management. Transportation personnel advise officials at the Afghan Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation on issues such as civil aviation law and surface transportation planning. HHS personnel work on health programs, such as programs to strengthen maternal and child health services in Afghanistan. Finally, Commerce personnel assist with efforts to promote Afghanistan’s economic development and trade. 

Related item:       
SIGAR Audit-11-17 & State OIG AUD/SI-11-45 Civilian Uplift | September 8, 2011

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Filed under Af/Pak, Afghanistan, Career Employees, Civilian Surge, Congress, Federal Agencies, FS Benefits, Iraq, Pakistan, State Department, War

Details: Costs to Deploy One Person to Afghanistan for One Year

Excerpted from SIGAR Audit-11-17 and State OIG AUD/SI-11-45 Civilian Uplift

It typically costs the U.S. government between $425,926 and $570,998 to deploy a civilian employee to Afghanistan for a 1 year tour. Costs vary due to differences in salary, travel expenses, and whether an employee works in the Embassy or in field locations. This estimated range does not include agencies’ headquarters support costs for Afghanistan positions, 15 days of transitional leave or home leave if the employee will be deployed for another year-long tour in Afghanistan, and any other expenses that the deploying agency may incur in the process of transitioning the employees back to their previous jobs within the government, if applicable.

We constructed the total cost range estimate for deploying one position to Afghanistan based on the following expenses:


Salaries: Civilian employees deployed to Afghanistan are compensated for their work either by the U.S. government Civil Service General Schedule (GS)26 or the Foreign Service (FS) schedule. U.S. agencies told us that they prefer to deploy civilians with considerable background experience to Afghanistan. Therefore, agencies typically deploy civilians at the higher end of the U.S. government pay scale (GS 14 and FS 1). In budget planning, State uses the amount of $110,000 as base salary for either the civil service or the foreign service positions, and USAID uses the amount of $122,733 as base salary for their Afghanistan positions in general.

Danger Pay: Danger pay is additional compensation above basic salary for service at designated danger pay posts where civil insurrection, terrorism, or war conditions threaten physical harm or imminent danger to all U.S. government civilian employees. The U.S. government sets the danger pay level for Afghanistan at 35 percent of base salary (based on a standard 40 hour workweek) prorated for the number of days while deployed in Afghanistan. Danger pay compensation begins on the day of arrival in Afghanistan (the employee must be in country for 4 hours or more to qualify) and ceases on the day of departure for both permanent or temporary employees deployed to Afghanistan.
or the Foreign Service (FS) schedule.

Post Differential: Post differential is additional hardship pay over basic salary for employees deployed to serve at foreign areas where conditions or the environment differ substantially from conditions or the environment in the continental United States and warrant additional compensation as a recruitment and retention incentive. State provides post differential for civilian employees deployed to Afghanistan at the maximum level of 35 percent of base salary. All civilian employees assigned for a 1 year tour, detailed, or on temporary duty to Afghanistan must spend 42 consecutive days at post before the post differential is activated; the differential is retroactive to the day the employee arrived at post.


Sunday Differential: The U.S. government provides full-time civilian employees in Afghanistan with additional compensation for hours of work on Sunday, as it is the start of the regular workweek at the U.S. Mission in Afghanistan. Sunday premium pay is equal to 25 percent of the employee’s rate of basic salary for each of the 8 hours of Sunday work, which means 5 percent of base salary.

Overtime: The U.S. Office of Personnel Management defines overtime pay as pay for hours of work officially ordered or approved in excess of 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in an administrative workweek. Civilian employees in Afghanistan are entitled to overtime compensation depending on their position and level of appointment. USAID sets its personnel overtime at the rate of 25 percent of base salary. State sets overtime at 20 percent of base salary. USDA follows U.S.Mission policy and allows for civilians working in Kabul to work 35 hours of overtime per pay period and for civilians working in the field in Afghanistan to work 45 hours of overtime per pay period. The overtime compensation rate is an employee’s base salary and an additional percentage based on the employee’s GS level.

Special Differential: A special differential is additional compensation for substantial amounts of extra work expected to be performed by Foreign Service direct hire generalists and is paid in lieu of overtime pay. State sets this differential at 20 percent of base salary for foreign service direct hire generalists. The dollar amount that State uses for budget planning is $22,000.


Separate Maintenance Allowance: The U.S. government provides this  allowance to assist a Foreign Service employee in meeting the additional expenses of supporting family members located outside the employee’s foreign post of assignment. The U.S. government applies this allowance to Foreign Service employees working in Afghanistan. The maximum amount used to plan a position’s budget in Afghanistan is $17,300 for State and $12,516 for USAID. A special differential is additional compensation for substantial amounts of extra work expected to be performed by Foreign Service direct hire generalists and is paid in lieu of overtime pay. State sets this differential at 20 percent of base salary for foreign service direct hire generalists. The dollar amount that State uses for budget planning is $22,000.

Deployment Travel: The U.S. government pays for civilian employee travel to Afghanistan, primarily including airfare, hotel, meals and shipment of household effects. State estimates this cost at $25,000; USAID estimates it at $48,983.


Mandatory Afghanistan Training: State requires all civilian employees deployed to Afghanistan to attend Foreign Affairs Counter Threat training (at the cost of $3,895) and Afghanistan Familiarization training (at the cost of $960). Civilian personnel deployed to locations outside of the U.S. mission in Kabul receive extra training, including the Afghanistan Provincial Reconstruction Team Orientation (at the cost of $960) and the Interagency Integrated Civilian-Military Training Exercise for Afghanistan (at the cost of $5,880). Some individual departments and agencies require additional specialized training for their employees deployed to Afghanistan; for example, Department of Justice civilian employees attend specialized training for their job assignments in Afghanistan.

Rest and Recuperation (R&R) and Regional Rest Breaks (RRB): The U.S. government provides civilians deployed to Afghanistan designated rest breaks after they have spent a certain number of days in country. For R&R, the government pays travel costs for employees to return home for 22 days, including travel time. For RRB, the government pays to transport employees to regional locations for quick breaks, including 5 days of paid administrative leave and no more than a total of 7 days, including travel time. There are two options for taking these types of leave during a 1-year deployment: three R&Rs or two R&Rs and three RRBs. State estimates $21,000 per year for the cost of these breaks, while USAID estimates $5,785.


International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS): ICASS is the principal means by which the U.S. government provides and shares the cost of common administrative support at its diplomatic and consular missions overseas. U.S. government agencies operating in Afghanistan pay ICASS charges for each of their civilian employees to benefit from services provided by the U.S. Mission in Afghanistan, such as motor pool operations and vehicle maintenance, travel services, mail and messenger services, and reception and telephone system services. ICASS fees range from $100,000 to $150,000 per person.


Residential Housing for Uplift Personnel: State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations provides housing for the uplift personnel in Afghanistan. In fiscal years 2009 and 2010, the Near East Asia and South and Central Asian Affairs Bureaus provided Overseas Building Operations (OBO) $41,616,000 to accommodate uplift personnel in Afghanistan. State budgets $45,000 for housing (non ICASS housing and infrastructure costs) for a single position in Afghanistan.


DOD Life Support in the Field: U.S. Force-Afghanistan provides security for uplift personnel located in the field in Afghanistan. DOD charges State $3,044 each month (or $101.47 per day) for each civilian deployed to a DOD-controlled provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan.


Capital Security Cost Sharing (CSCS): The U.S. agencies that establish a civilian presence at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Afghanistan pay fees, on a per person basis, to State to provide new, safe, secure, functional diplomatic and consular facilities and to replace vulnerable facilities currently occupied by the mission. The CSCS program charges the departments and agencies for each authorized or existing position in the U.S. diplomatic facilities and for each projected position above current authorized positions in new Embassy compounds. State estimates the CSCS costs for a Controlled Access Area (where sensitive information is processed) at $22,657, Non-Controlled Access Area (where sensitive information is not processed) at $8,803, and for
Non-Office Areas, such as housing, at $1,626.


Field Life Support Kits: The U.S. government issues kits to civilians deployed to work at field locations in Afghanistan, which include key life support supplies, such as satellite phones and protective equipment. State estimates the cost of these kits as $15,000.

 

 

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