Look Who Gets A Straight Answer Out Of Donald Rumsfeld

Posted: 2:27 am EDT

 

Below is Stephen Colbert’s interview with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The main feature in this interview is the declassified memo (PDF) from General Myers and an accompanying eight-page Joint Chiefs of Staff report which makes clear that the Intelligence Community’s (IC) “don’t know with any precision how much we don’t know” and that  “knowledge of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program is based largely – perhaps 90% – on analysis of imprecise intelligence.”  Read more here via UNREDACTED from the National Security Archive.

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Pentagon to Offer Voluntary Relocation to DOD’s Pregnant Family Members in Areas With Zika Virus

Posted: 1:25 am EDT
Updated Feb 3 3:03 pm EDT

 

According to Military Times, pregnant family members of active-duty personnel and civilian Defense Department employees assigned to areas affected by the Zika virus will be offered voluntary relocation.

The State Department issued a Zika virus information for travelers based on CDC information. We have yet to hear any update on what happens to pregnant family members of Foreign Service personnel in affected areas and whether the State Department will offer them voluntary relocation.  The Centers for Disease Control on January 15 issued an interim travel guidance related to Zika virus for 14 countries and territories in Central and South America and the Caribbean.  There is apparently an ALDAC that was sent out on January 21st, that says ALL pregnant USG employees or family members covered under the Department of State Medical Program are authorized voluntary medevac from posts affected by Zika, we don’t have the ALDAC number but check with MGT or MED at post, if you are overseas and have not seen it.

The CDC has confirmed active Zika virus transmission in the following 26 foreign countries and territories:

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From Creeping to Warp-Speed? Militarization of American Foreign Policy

Posted: 4:42 pm EDT

 

Via NYT, December 10, 2015

WASHINGTON — As American intelligence agencies grapple with the expansion of the Islamic State beyond its headquarters in Syria, the Pentagon has proposed a new plan to the White House to build up a string of military bases in Africa, Southwest Asia and the Middle East.

The bases could be used for collecting intelligence and carrying out strikes against the terrorist group’s far-flung affiliates.
[…]
The plan has met with some resistance from State Department officials concerned about a more permanent military presence across Africa and the Middle East, according to American officials familiar with the discussion. Career diplomats have long warned about the creeping militarization of American foreign policy as the Pentagon has forged new relationships with foreign governments eager for military aid.

Officials said the proposal has been under discussion for some time, including this week during a White House meeting with some members of President Obama’s cabinet. Shortly after General Dempsey retired in September, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter referred to the plan in a little-noticed speech in Washington. “Because we cannot predict the future, these regional nodes — from Morón, Spain, to Jalalabad, Afghanistan — will provide forward presence to respond to a range of crises, terrorist and other kinds,” Mr. Carter said. “These will enable unilateral crisis response, counterterror operations, or strikes on high-value targets.”

Pentagon planners do not see the new approach as particularly costly by military standards. One official estimated it could be in the “low millions of dollars,” mainly to pay for military personnel, equipment and some base improvements.
[…]
For the approach to have any chance of success, analysts said, regional American commanders, diplomats and spies will have to work closely together and with Washington — something that does not always happen now — to combat threats that honor no borders.

Continue reading, Pentagon Seeks to Knit Foreign Bases Into ISIS-Foiling Network.

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Related items:

These are all the countries where the US has a military presence

Mapping the growth of bases worldwide (August 2015)

Overseas Basing An Assessment of Relative Costs and Strategic Benefits (Rand, 2013)

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Delta to Stop Accepting Pets as Checked Baggage With One Notable Exception (Not the Foreign Service)

Posted: 12:59 am EDT

 

On November 16, Delta announced that it will no longer accept pets as checked baggage, but will continue to transport allowable pets in all cabins of service except Delta One, effective March 1, 2016. Customers may also ship pets for travel within the United States as freight through Delta Cargo. There is only one notable exception to this new policy: Members of the military with active transfer orders will be allowed to transport a pet as checked baggage. Delta says it will continue to accept service and emotional support animals that comply with federal regulations including proper documentation.  Below is part of the announcement:

“Many of us at Delta are pet lovers and we know that they are important members of the family,” said Bill Lentsch, Senior Vice President – Airport Customer Service and Cargo Operations. “This change will ultimately ensure that we have a high-quality, consistent service for pets when their owners choose to ship them with Delta Cargo.”

Pets that are transported via Delta Cargo are monitored closely by customer service teams during their travel. While at airports, pets are handled in temperature-controlled holding areas and vans. Also, Delta Cargo enlists professional kenneling services if overnight stays are required.

With the change effective March 1, customers will be able to travel with a pet as checked baggage through Feb. 29. Also, Delta will contact customers with bookings after March 1 that are known to include pets as checked bags.

Guidance for customers traveling with pets can be found at delta.com, but customers choosing to ship a pet with Delta Cargo should note that:

— A separate booking from their flight itinerary is required.  Additional fees and charges may apply.

— A pet shipped domestically via Delta Cargo cannot be booked until 14 days prior to departure.

— Pets are not guaranteed to be shipped on a customer’s same flight or flight schedule.

— Shipping a pet requires dropping it off at a Delta Cargo location at least three hours before departure time at a location separate from passenger check-in.

— Picking up a pet will also occur at a Delta Cargo location.

— Delta Cargo will only accept international pet shipments from International Pet and Animal Transportation Association members. International customers should visit ipata.org to find an approved member to assist with their transportation requirements.

A member of the Foreign Service who spoke with Delta multiple times including a supervisor was told the airline will NOT extend the exception to Foreign Service or any other USG employees, only to active duty military members on orders. We’ve verified with Delta, see below:

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The Fly America Act, 49 U.S.C. App. 1517, as implemented in the Comptroller General’s guidelines, Decision B-138942, March 31, 1981, requires Federal employees and their dependents, consultants, contractors, grantees, and others performing United States Government financed foreign air travel to travel by U.S. flag air carriers.

As of this writing United and American Airlines still allow travel with pet as checked baggage. Plan ahead!

UnitedU.S. military and State Department pet exceptions | Select military and government personnel and their dependents may transport their pet dog or cat as checked baggage when they are traveling on official orders.

American Airlines: Traveling With Pets

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OPM Data Breach Victims Get New Verification Site Through DOD, ID Protection Services Through ID Experts

Posted: 1:23 am EDT

 

 

OPM’s Cybersecurity Resource Center allows individuals impacted by the hack to sign up for protection services through ID Experts or verify if one is impacted by the data breach through DOD.

OPM says that while it is “not aware of any misuse of your information,” it is offering victims and dependent minor children who were under the age of 18 as of July 1, 2015, credit and identity monitoring, identity theft insurance, and identity restoration services for the next three years “through ID Experts, a company that specializes in identity theft protection.”

According to OPM, the identify thief insurance became effective on September 1, 2015 and the scope of the coverage includes all claims submitted on or prior to December 31, 2018. This insurance covers expenses incurred in restoring identity and is valid for amounts up to $1,000,000 with no deductible.

If you received a notification letter and PIN code from the Office of Personnel Management, OPM has determined that your Social Security Number and other personal information was stolen in a cyber intrusion involving background investigation records. You have to sign up for MyIDCare to access the protection if offers.

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OPM has published what its notification letters look like:

The Federal Government has also set up a verification center to assist individuals who have lost their PIN code or believe their data may be impacted but have not yet received notification letters. If you believe that you were impacted, but have not yet received your notification letter, OPM asks that you wait until mid-December before contacting the verification center. The Federal Government anticipates completing the mailing of notification letters by the end of the second week in December.

To verify by phone, call 866-408-4555 Toll Free; 503-520-4453 International; 503-597-7662 TTY or verify online here through DOD.

The https://opmverify.dmdc.osd.mil verification website offered through the Department of Defense says that its purpose is “To provide breach notification and facilitate the provision of breach mitigation services to individuals affected by the breach of information in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) background investigation databases.”

DoD will also “use the data to respond to breach verification inquiries received from individuals using the link on OPM’s website that redirects individuals to a DoD website where they can enter their information to find out if they have been affected by this breach. These records may also be used for tracking, reporting, measuring, and improving the Department’s effectiveness in implementing this data breach notification.”

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Click here for the Frequents Asked Questions. If you have already enrolled and have questions or concerns about your post-enrollment services, you may call OPM’s 800-750-3004.

 

Related posts:

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Happy 240th Birthday @USMC!

Posted: 2:23 am EDT

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DOD Builds the World’s Most Expensive Gas Station in Afghanistan For $43M, Oh, Joy!

Posted: 1:01 am EDT

 

Apparently, we’ve built a compressed natural gas (CNG) automobile filling station in the city of Sheberghan, Afghanistan. The project cost almost $43 million, and the average Afghans can’t even afford to use it.

The Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO or Task Force) was originally created by the Department of Defense (DOD) to help revive the post-invasion economy of Iraq. In 2009, TFBSO was redirected to Afghanistan, where its mission was to carry out projects to support economic development. From 2010 through 2014, Congress appropriated approximately $822 million to TFBSO for Afghanistan, of which the task force obligated approximately $766 million.

The contract awarded to Central Asian Engineering to construct the station was for just under $3 million. Yet according to an economic impact assessment performed at the request of TFBSO:

The Task Force spent $42,718,739 between 2011 and 2014 to fund the construction and to supervise the initial operation of the CNG station (approximately $12.3 [million] in direct costs and $30.0 [million] in overhead costs).

SIGAR says that the $43 million total cost of the TFBSO-funded CNG filling station far exceeds the estimated cost of CNG stations elsewhere. According to a 2010 publication of the International Energy Association, “the range of investment for a public [CNG] station serving an economically feasible amount of vehicles varies from $200,000 to $500,000. Costs in non-OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries are likely to be in the lower end of this range.”

The SIGAR report notes that the total cost of building a CNG station in Pakistan would be approximately $306,000 at current exchange rates.  In short, at $43 million, the TFBSO filling station cost 140 times as much as a CNG station in Pakistan.

$43 million from the American taxpayers.

The SIGAR report also says that its ’s review of this project was hindered by DOD’s lack of cooperation, and when it comes to TFBSO activities, DOD appears determined to restrict or hinder SIGAR access.

It is both surprising and troubling that only a few months following the closure of TFBSO, DOD has not been able to find anyone who knows anything about TFBSO activities, despite the fact that TFBSO reported directly to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, operated in Afghanistan for over five years, and was only shut down in March 2015.

Further, SIGAR says that “If TFBSO had conducted a feasibility study of the project, they might have noted that Afghanistan lacks the natural gas transmission and local distribution infrastructure necessary to support a viable market for CNG vehicles.  Additionally, it appears that the cost of converting a car to run on CNG may be prohibitive for the average Afghan. TFBSO’s contractor, stated that conversion to CNG costs $700 per car in Afghanistan, where the average annual income is $690.”

We meant well in Afghanistan, too. Oh, joy!  What edition are we on?

But serious question. How can we have something happen like this, with DOD hindering/restricting SIGAR’s access and no one is in jail?

The read and weep report is available online here: https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/special%20projects/SIGAR-16-2-SP.pdf 

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GAO Lists Titles of Restricted Reports, See @StateDept Report SubList

Posted: 1:57 am EDT

 

The following reports have been determined to contain either classified information or controlled unclassified information by the audited agencies and cannot be publicly released. As such, they have not been posted to GAO’s website and have product numbers that end in C (classified) or SU (controlled unclassified information).

The list is intended by the GAO to keep Congress, federal agencies, and the public informed of the existence of these products. The list consists of all such classified or controlled products issued since September 30, 2014 and will be updated each time a new report is issued according to gao.gov.

Members of Congress or congressional staff who wish to obtain one or more of these products should call or e-mail the Congressional Relations Office (202) 512-4400 or congrel@gao.gov.

All others who wish to obtain one or more of these products should follow the instructions found on Requesting Restricted Products.

Via FAS/Secrecy News:

A congressional staffer said the move was prompted by concerns expressed by some Members of Congress and staff that they were unaware of the restricted reports, since they had not been indexed or archived by GAO.

Publication of the titles of restricted GAO reports “was not necessarily universally desired by everyone in Congress,” the staffer said, and “it took about a year” to resolve the issue. But “GAO deserves a lot of credit. They decided it was the right thing to do, and they did it.”

Although primarily aimed at congressional consumers, the new webpage also serves to inform the public. GAO is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, but will usually entertain requests for records anyway. However, GAO is not authorized to release information that has been classified or controlled by an executive branch agency.

The full list of restricted reports is here. Below are the reports relevant to the State Department:

Kabul: Camp Sullivan Mishap Related to HESCO Security Barriers
GAO-15-708RSU: Published: September 28, 2015

Diplomatic Security: State Department Should Better Manage Risks to Residences and Other Soft Targets Overseas

GAO-15-512SU: Published: June 18, 2015

Combating Terrorism: Steps Taken to Mitigate Threats to Locally Hired Staff, but State Department Could Improve Reporting on Terrorist Threats

GAO-15-458SU: Published: June 17, 2015

Combating Terrorism: State Should Review How It Addresses Holds Placed During the Foreign Terrorist Organization Designation Process

GAO-15-439SU: Published: April 21, 2015

Interagency Coordination: DoD and State Need to Clarify DoD roles and Responsibilities to Protect U.S. Personnel and Facilities Overseas in High-Threat Areas

GAO-15-219C: Published: March 4, 2015

Critical Infrastructure Protection: DHS and State Need to Improve Their Process for Identifying Foreign Dependencies

GAO-15-233C: Published: February 26, 2015

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty: State Informs Congress of Russian Compliance through Reports and Briefings

GAO-15-318RSU: Published: February 25, 2015
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US Embassy Yaounde: USG begins deployment of up to 300 troops to Cameroon

Posted: 3:27 am EDT

 

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cameroon-map

Map from CIA World Factbook

According to the latest crime and safety report, no areas of Cameroon are off-limits to official U.S. government personnel.

Travel after dark is strongly discouraged anywhere in Cameroon due to the heightened risk for traffic accidents and increased criminality during the night. U.S. citizens should avoid unnecessary travel to areas bordering the C.A.R. and travel only during daylight hours. Official travel to the Far North and North Regions is thoroughly planned and scrutinized for safety and security and may require coordination with local authorities for additional protection. The U.S. Embassy recommends against travel to the Far North region, including Maroua, because of the kidnapping threat posed by the Nigerian extremist group, Boko Haram. Travelers are advised to exercise extreme caution when traveling to the North region. Border areas surrounding and between Amchide and Fotokol are particularly dangerous.
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Cameroon faces an emergent regional threat to include frequent violent attacks in Cameroon from the Boko Haram movement (in northern Nigeria) that has undertaken a campaign of violence against the Nigerian government and civilians since 2009. Boko Haram took 21 expatriate hostages in Cameroon in 2013 and 2014 and continues to target expatriates for kidnapping. Boko Haram also assassinated hundreds of security forces and private citizens. In May 2014, the government reorganized security forces to better combat Boko Haram. As a result, Boko Haram has responded with attacks on border villages, ambushes incorporating roadside explosive devices, assassinations of local leaders, intimidation, and stealing goods/livestock – all in the Far North region of Cameroon. The imposition of a “State of Emergency” in Nigeria’s northern states has led to another influx of refugees in the Far North region. Cameroon’s traditional stability accounts for its ability to absorb large numbers of refugees, though persistent pressure from its neighbors could lead to ethnic, religious, and/or regional disputes in the near future.
[…]
Throughout 2013 and 2014, the Central African Republic experienced waves of violence, leading to the overthrow of the governing regime and the installation of a transition government aided by an international peacekeeping mission. The U.S. Embassy in Bangui reopened in September 2014 with limited services. Ethnic, religious, and tribal strife and counter-attacks have killed hundreds in C.A.R. and forced thousands to seek refuge inside Cameroon. Border areas around Garoua-Boulai and Kendzou in the east are potential hotspots due to spillover violence from C.A.R. In 2014, Cameroon experienced sporadic incursions by bandits from the C.A.R., and hostage taking by these groups has occurred across the Cameroon border.

Our man in Cameroon is Michael S. Hoza, a career Foreign Service Officer with 29 years of service abroad.  He has served at eleven different Foreign Service posts in Africa, Asia, and Europe; and he also served in the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs in Washington, D.C.   He assumed his duties as Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon on August 22, 2014. He was nominated by President Barack Obama on July 31, 2013 and confirmed by the Senate in July 2014.

Below are some photos from Ambassador Hoza’s visit to Rey Bouba in the North Region, where he was welcomed by a representative of Lamido Abdoulaye Aboubakary and members of the community. More photos here.

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Lamido of Rey Bouba representative and community welcomes Ambassador Michael S. Hoza on February 12, 2015. (US Embassy Cameroon/FB)

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Ambassador Michael S. Hoza with Cameroonian security forces on February 12, 2015. (US Embassy Cameroon/FB)

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Ambassador Michael S. Hoza is honored by Rey Bouba community luncheon on February 12, 2015. (US Embassy Cameroon/FB)

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Ambassador Michael S. Hoza is honored with traditional leadership attire by Rey Bouba community members. (US Embassy Cameroon/FB)

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