Category Archives: FS Funding

US Embassy London: Don’t Worry, Be Happy — New Digs Not Funded By Appropriated Funds

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— Domani 
Spero

The U.S. Ambassador to London Matthew Barzun used his new Tumblr to dispel possible misconceptions concerning the construction of the U.S. Embassy in London following reports of funding prohibitions under the FY2014 Omnibus:

I noticed a few news outlets this week reporting that funding for the construction of our new Embassy building may be removed. As this might cause concern among those excited and invested in the redevelopment of Nine Elms, I wanted to put minds at rest.

The new building project is being funded entirely by the proceeds of the sale of other U.S. Government properties in London, not through appropriated funds. This has always been the plan. The proposed Omnibus Spending Bill does not provide any new, additional, restrictions to that plan.

So, construction continues and each month we get closer to the opening day. In the meantime, every six months, the State Department will report to Congress on progress. Our shared future, in a new part of this great city, continues.

The above item is posted here: http://matthewbarzun.tumblr.com.

Photo via US Embassy London/Flickr

Photo via US Embassy London/Flickr

We should note that the State Department signed a conditional agreement with the real estate developer Ballymore to acquire a site in the Nine Elms Opportunity Area in Wandsworth for the construction of a new embassy back in oh, October 2008. That initial agreement was conditioned on the approval of the United States Congress and local planning authorities. In November 2009, the Department entered into an agreement to sell the Chancery in London, located in Grosvenor Square.  The sale is to Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company headquartered in Doha, Qatar.  Then Ambassador Robert Tuttle, President George W. Bush appointee from 2005-2009, led the search for a new site. The 2009 sale agreement with the Qatari company was signed by President Obama’s first appointee to London, Ambassador Louis B. Susman. In November 2013, President Obama’s second appointee to London, Ambassador Barzun presided the groundbreaking ceremony of the new U.S. Embassy in the Nine Elms neighborhood in London.

While the sale of the U.S. Embassy property in Grosvenor Square was widely reported, the selling price was not widely known.  The London Evening Standard in 2009 reported that the embassy building was sold to Qatari Diar — the property development arm of the Qatari royal family — for an estimated £500 million (The report also noted that the 225,000 sq ft building could be worth as much as £1 billion when developed).  According to news report quoting Adam Namm, then acting director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (now current ambassador to Ecuador), the new embassy in London estimated to cost $1-billion would be “in the ballpark of the most expensive embassies we have built.”

The FY2014 Omnibus was signed into law by President Obama on January 17, 2014. The only reference to the U.S. Embassy in London that we could locate is under Sec. 7004 under Diplomatic Facilities (p.1148):

(e)(1) The limitation and reporting requirement regarding the New London Embassy contained in section 7004(f) of division I of Public Law 112–74 shall remain in effect during fiscal year 2014.

We dug up PL 112-74 to take a look. Here’s what it says:

(f)(1) None of the funds appropriated under the heading ‘‘Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance’’ in this Act and in prior Acts making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs, made available through Federal agency Capital Security Cost Sharing contributions and reimbursements, or generated from the proceeds of real property sales, other than from real property sales located in London, United Kingdom, may be made available for site acquisition and mitigation, planning, design or construction of the New London Embassy.

(2) Within 60 days of enactment of this Act and every 6 months thereafter until completion of the New London Embassy, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations a report on the project: Provided, That such report shall include revenue and cost projections, cost containment efforts, project schedule and actual project status, the impact of currency exchange rate fluctuations on project revenue and costs, and options for modifying the scope of the project in the event that proceeds of real property sales in London fall below the total cost of the project.

So no appropriated funds and the funding prohibition in the proposed omnibus does not appear to be in the final version signed by the president. The reporting requirement remains the same at 60 days and every six months thereafter until the embassy is completed in 2017.

Now — if the cost of building a new one in London is about $1 billion and Congress did not and will not make any appropriation for its construction, then that sale price must have cost more than the estimated £500 million. Just an aside — the US Embassy in Iraq, the most expensive embassy we have built to completion todate was started in 2005 and was completed in 2008 at a total cost of $592 million. VOA reported cost of more than $600million, USAToday reported total cost of $700million and in June 2012, WaPo’s Walter Pincus reported cost at $700 million plus $115 million to upgrade.

In any case, two things can happen here: 1) total sale price covers all construction cost and new embassy debuts in 2017; 2) total sale price covers all construction cost of the new embassy but not potential technical/design adjustments or potential cost overruns. If #2 happens, Congress will, at least, have a 6-month notice. If Congress decides to pay expenses in excess of funds from sale, it has two more fy appropriation cycle to make funds available.  Or not. If that happens, the State Department will have to look for other sources of funding. It sits on an annual visa collection fees of over $3 billion, by the way, but that will need congressional approval. Also  Winfield House is on 12 acres of grounds in Regent’s Park, so there’s that.  The mansion reportedly only cost US taxpayers $1.00 when the USG bought it from American heiress Barbara Hutton after World War II. Of course, the mansion which serves as the ambassador’s residence is in the Secretary of State’s Register of Culturally Significant Property, so there’s that, too. Lots of ifs but that’s all potentially in the future, which should be far and away and uncomplicated unless you’re Doctor Who.

No, as far as we know … no, they’re not planning to auction you to pay for the new embassy.  But the groundbreaking just occurred a couple of months ago, so there’s a long ways to go.

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FY2014 Omnibus – State and Foreign Operations Appropriations: $49 Billion

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— Domani Spero

On January 13, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, House Appropriations Ranking Member Nita Lowey, and Senate Appropriations Ranking Member Richard Shelby announced the release of the fiscal year 2014 consolidated appropriations bill.  The bill provides $1.012 trillion for the operation of the federal government and avoids a government shutdown. The Omnibus contains all 12 regular appropriations bills for fiscal year 2014, with no area of the government functioning under a Continuing Resolution.  Below is a quick summary of the FY 2014 Omnibus – State and Foreign Operations Appropriations:

The State and Foreign Operations portion of the fiscal year 2014 Omnibus contains funding to support American interests, diplomatic operations, and humanitarian assistance abroad. In total, the legislation provides $49 billion in discretionary funding – $4.3 billion less than the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.

Within the total, the bill provides full funding for embassy security – plus additional funds for upgrades of temporary missions, such as Benghazi – to prevent and protect against future terrorist attacks, unrest, and other acts of violence.

The bill also provides funding to support security and stability in the Middle East – including for our key allies such as Israel and Jordan and the frontline states of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. For Afghanistan, the bill provides the resources needed for diplomats and development experts to operate safely, but scales back assistance programs to a more sustainable level as U.S. armed forces drawdown during 2014. In addition, contingency funding is included for other areas of conflict and emerging crises, such as Syria and Africa.

In addition, the bill prioritizes global health, humanitarian, and democracy promotion programs – while reducing funding in other lower-priority areas – to advance American interests around the globe and to fulfill the nation’s moral obligation to those in dire need.

State Department Operations and Related Agencies – The bill contains a total of $15.7 billion in base and contingency funding for operational costs of the State Department and related agencies – a decrease of $2.4 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and $1 billion less than the request. Within this total, the legislation provides $5.4 billion – $25 million above the amount requested – for embassy security costs relating to the protection of personnel and facilities.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Operations – The bill contains $1.3 billion for USAID operations, a reduction of $215 million from the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. Within this total, $91 million is provided for contingency funding for USAID operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and for the USAID Inspector General to conduct appropriate and rigorous oversight of U.S. taxpayer dollars in those countries.

Funding Prohibitions – The bill seeks to promote good government and rein in unnecessary spending by prohibiting or eliminating funding for a variety of projects and activities. Some include:

    • A prohibition on funding for the renovation of UN Headquarters in New York;
    • A prohibition on appropriations for a new London embassy;
    • Providing no funding or authorities for debt relief for foreign countries;
    • A prohibition on funding to move the Vatican embassy unless certain conditions are met to maintain its importance and authority;
    • A prohibition on aid to Libya until the Secretary of State confirms Libyan cooperation in the Benghazi investigation;
    • A prohibition on funding to implement the UN Arms Trade Treaty; and
    • Providing no funding for assessed and voluntary contributions for the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Groundbreaking Ceremony, U.S. Embassy London November 2013 (Photo via US Embassy London/Flickr)

Groundbreaking Ceremony, U.S. Embassy London
November 2013
(Photo via US Embassy London/Flickr)

International Security Assistance – The bill provides a total of $8.5 billion in base and contingency funding for international security assistance. This includes funds for international narcotics control, anti-terrorism programs, nonproliferation programs, peacekeeping operations, and other critical international security and stabilization efforts. It also provides funds to support ongoing counter-narcotics and law enforcement efforts in Mexico, Colombia, and Central America.

Israel: In addition, the legislation provides security assistance to key allies, including fully funding the $3.1 billion commitment to the United States-Israel Memorandum of Understanding.

Egypt: Allows requested funds to be provided to Egypt if certain conditions are met – including maintaining the strategic relationship with the United States, upholding the peace treaty with Israel, and meeting milestones Egyptians have set for their political transition.

Palestinian Authority: The legislation stops economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority if the Palestinians obtain membership to the United Nations or UN agencies without an agreement with Israel. In addition, the bill puts new restrictions on aid if the Palestinians pursue actions against Israel at the International Criminal Court. New language is included to ensure that the Palestinian Authority is taking action to counter incitement of violence.

Afghanistan:  Withholds funds for the Government of Afghanistan until certain conditions are met, including having a signed Bilateral Security Agreement and safeguards being in place to ensure that U.S. assistance is not taxed. It also withholds a portion of funds until proper security is in place for implementers of USAID and State Department programs. In addition, the legislation strengthens requirements on the rights of Afghan women and girls and combatting corruption.

According to WaPo, the measure includes $85.2 billion for military operations in Afghanistan, a $2 billion cut from fiscal 2013 due in part to ongoing troop reductions. But the agreement also withholds money for the Afghan government “until certain conditions are met,” including a decision to sign a new bilateral security agreement (via).

The bill reportedly also authorizes a 1 percent pay increase for civilian federal workers and U.S. military personnel.

Read more on State here. See the Appropriations Committee here.  WaPo has a quick look at the winners and losers of the new spending bill. here.

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Senate Report on Benghazi Cites “Grievous Mistake” for Non-Suspension of Operations Despite Vulnerabilities

The Senate Committee On Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs on December 30, 2012 issued its Benghazi report, Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi.

The report says that the State Department’s Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy noted in a briefing for the Committee, that Libya and Benghazi were “flashing red” around the time of the attack.

And?

The follow-up query and the response must have fallen off the, well, what else, the cliff!

The “flashing red” went kaboom !!!

… and four men were dead.

Here is one of the findings:

“Despite the inability of the Libyan government to fulfill its duties to secure the facility, the increasingly dangerous threat assessments, and a particularly vulnerable facility, the Department of State officials did not conclude the facility in Benghazi should be closed or temporarily shut down. That was a grevious mistake.”

The Senate report refers to the Benghazi post as the “Temporary Mission Facility in Benghazi.”  The ARB refers to the Benghazi post as the “The U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi” or the “U.S. Special Mission compound (SMC) and Annex.”

According to the ARB, the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, established in November 2011, was the successor to Chris Stevens’ “highly successful endeavor as Special Envoy to the rebel-led government that eventually toppled Muammar Qaddafi in fall 2011.”

2 FAM 411.1 dictates that the assistant secretary for the requesting regional bureau prepares a written proposal requesting authorization to open, close, or change the status of a Foreign Service post.

Presumably, the request to open the SMC in Benghazi originated from State’s NEA bureau, which has jurisdiction over Libya.

According to 2 FAM 400, the final decision to open, close, or change the status of a consular post, consular agency, branch, or special office is made by the Under Secretary for Management.  The same person who noted the “flashing red.”

There are 18 factors to consider in the books when opening or closing or changing the status of an overseas post. One of those factors, as may have been the case here considering the presence of OGA, is this:

(9) Expressed interest of U.S. Government agencies (other than the Department) in the maintenance of a post in the locality;

If you’re interested on how the final decision is arrived at, read up on 2 FAM 411.4.

Here are some other interesting parts of the Senate report:

  • U.S. government security personnel who were based in Tripoli had deployed to Benghazi by chartered aircraft after receiving word of the attack, arriving at the Benghazi airport at 1:15 a.m. They were held at the airport for at least three hours while they negotiated with Libyan authorities about logistics. The exact cause of this hours-long delay, and its relationship to the rescue effort, remains unclear and merits further inquiry. Was it simply the result of a difficult Libyan bureaucracy and a chaotic environment or was it part of a plot to keep American help from reaching the Americans under siege in Benghazi?

The host country government failed in its obligation to protect accredited members of the diplomatic corps, the least they can do is answer a few questions as to why security personnel were held at the airport for at least three hours.

A side note here. A second secretary at the Saudi embassy in Bangladesh was killed last March. Five men had just been sentenced to death for the diplomat’s murder. Saudi Arabia is a work destination for many Bangladeshis, so Bangladesh did not foxtrot around the death of a Saudi Arabian diplomat.

  • General Ham did not have complete visibility of the extent and number of government personnel in Benghazi in the event that a NEO was required. 88 If sufficient time had been available for such an evacuation, we are concerned that this limitation could have impeded AFRICOM’s ability to respond and fulfill its mission responsibility.

NEO interoperability between DOD and State has some challenges but we’ll have that for a separate post.

The Senate report further says:

States whose governments do not exercise full control over their sovereign territory, or that have a limited security capability, cannot be counted on to safeguard U.S. diplomatic personnel and facilities. This is usually true, of course, in the aftermath of a revolution or civil war – as was the case in Libya – where the provision of protective services by the host nations is unpredictable at best. In those instances, the Department of State must improve one or more of the other three protectors of mission security within its control: Marine Corps Security Guards, Diplomatic Security agents, or private security contractors.

There is already a move in Congress to increase the number of Marines to almost double its current size (1,200 Marine security guards currently assigned to more than 130 countries).

The State Department is also reportedly asking Congress for an additional $750 million to hire about 150 more security officers.

And the private security contractors could not be far behind.  Wired.com recently had a piece on the potential financial bonanza for security contractors for U.S. embassy security in the post-Benghazi era. The decision whether to continue spending cash on hired guards or to bolster the ranks of State Department employees that protect diplomats themselves will be one that must be tackled by the next secretary of state and soon.

The Senate report also has the following on funding and how they impact priorities:

Resourcing for security is a joint responsibility of the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch. The Department of State’s decisions regarding security at the Benghazi facility were made in the context of its budget and security requirements for diplomatic facilities around the world. Overall, the Department of State’s base requests for security funding have increased by 38 percent since Fiscal Year (FY) 2007, and base budget appropriations have increased by 27 percent in the same time period. Other security funding provided beyond that in supplemental appropriations bills has been nearly entirely for diplomatic facilities in just three countries—Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.63 Less has gone elsewhere and very little is available to the temporary facilities such as the one in Benghazi.

Congress’ inability to appropriate funds in a timely manner has also had consequences for the implementation of security upgrades. RSO Nordstrom stated that Continuing Resolutions had two detrimental effects on efforts to improve security in Benghazi. First, the Department of State would only allow funds to be expended at a rate of 80 percent of the previous year’s appropriations level, so as not to risk a violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act. Second, in the absence of a supplemental appropriations or reprogramming request, security funds for Benghazi had to be taken “out of hide” from funding levels for Libya because Benghazi was not included in previous budget requests.

To the congressional reps and their friends who insist that the Benghazi tragedy has nothing to do with funding, the conclusion is simple: Congress’ inability to do its job has real deadly consequences.

Mistakes were made that’s for sure.  But no one honorable has yet come forward to claim those mistakes as his or her own.

And so we are painfully reminded that success has many parents. But a mistake is an orphan, conceived in a vacuum with neither father, mother or extended relatives present at creation. :cry:

domani spero sig

 

 

 

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Filed under Congress, Contractors, Counting Beans, Defense Department, Diplomatic Attacks, Diplomatic Security, Follow the Money, Foreign Service, FS Funding, Govt Reports/Documents, Hall of Shame, Leaks|Controversies, Politics, Security, State Department, Terrorism, U.S. Missions

Quickie: Former FSO Richard Jackson on Missing the Point on Benghazi

Richard Jackson, former Foreign Service Officer, State Dept. director for Egypt and North Africa and president emeritus of Anatolia College writes in The Hill’s Congress blog about Missing the point on Benghazi:

The questions to ask, beyond finger-pointing and cover-ups, are therefore:

  • How, as a special CIA listening post for radical militias and al Qaida not yet re-designated as a consulate, the large Agency cohort in Benghazi was totally blind-sided by the 9/11 attack?
  • What circumstances could justify Amb. Stevens’ travel into a completely unprotectable situation on 9/11?
  • Given requests for additional security resources from posts throughout the region, including Libya, and worldwide, how under continuing resolutions could the Congress justify cutting from the President’s proposed budget the two major security accounts for the State Department, Embassy Security and the World Security Protection (WSP) program, by significant amounts in each of the past three fiscal years? It should be noted that a third, three-month rotation for a 16-person U.S. Army security team in Libya was turned down in mid-August, just weeks before the tragedy, because of the high cost of reimbursement to the Pentagon.
  • Finally, so that this is not just a rhetorical exercise and that we learn from the loss of four American lives, what will be the impact of this sad episode on the future operations of U.S. embassies and consulates, given that the presence of American diplomats on the ground is more important today than ever and that it would be prohibitive and probably impossible to safeguard our 285 worldwide installations against an Ansar al Sharia-style assault?

Read in full here.

- DS

 

 

 

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Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities/Personnel: Funding, Sequestration, Affordability and Risks

Secrecy News has just posted a November 26, 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service on diplomatic security and notes that “In almost every year since 2007, Congress appropriated less money for diplomatic security than had been requested.  In FY2012, the State Department sought $2.9 billion for security, and Congress enacted $2.6 billion.”

The CRS report itself described the funding as following a “boom and bust” cycle:

“Observers have suggested that funding for embassy security follows a “boom and bust” cycle, in which major attacks are followed by a sudden influx of resources that may be difficult to expend in a well-planned manner. An influx of security-related resources in the 1980s was followed by a lull in the 1990s when diplomatic security funding was greatly reduced prior to the 1998 attacks in Kenya and Tanzania. The subsequent State Department Accountability Review Board suggested that the preceding years of reduced spending for embassy security was a contributing factor to the vulnerability of the targeted embassies.”

If Congress stays true to form, the boom is already starting.  The Hill reports:

The Senate passed an amendment to the defense bill by voice vote Wednesday that would place more Marines at U.S. consulates and embassies around the world… Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced the amendment. He said the amendment was important to preventing more deaths overseas, referring to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012….

McCain said his amendment, 3051, would also ask the Department of Defense to reassess the rules of engagement for Marines stationed at embassies and consulates so they could engage in combat when attacked.

The amendment authorize a 1,000 person increase in the size of the Marine Corps to provide additional protections for U.S. embassies and consulates. More here. While I do think we should revisit our use of force policy at our overseas post, the Democracy Arsenal takes up the other side of this amendment — why there is a push to increase Marine presence instead of increasing Diplomatic Security agents:

“Just to be clear, this is not so say that the Marines do not play an important role in diplomatic security. Clearly they do both in terms of information protection and protection of dignitaries and personnel. However, it is strange that Sen. McCain would advocate so forcefully for increasing the Marines presence with no mention of the forces primarily tasked with the mission, especially since his colleagues have repeatedly decreased funding.”

More from the CRS report:

The United States maintains about 285 diplomatic facilities worldwide.1 Attacks on such facilities, and on U.S. diplomatic personnel, are not isolated instances. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel were killed in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, after armed individuals attacked and burned buildings on the main mission compound and subsequently attacked a second annex site where U.S. personnel had been evacuated.

Five other U.S. ambassadors have died by violent acts in the line of duty, although none since 1979.2 In addition to this total, 38 U.S. diplomats who were not ambassadors have been killed in the past 30 years.3 There were 39 attacks against U.S. embassies and consulates and official U.S. personnel overseas between 1998 and 2008, excluding regular attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.4
[...]
The inability to provide perfect security, especially against the evident threat of mob violence, has focused particular scrutiny on the deployment of diplomatic personnel in high-threat environments. The Department of State currently maintains a presence in locations faced with security conditions that previously would likely have led State to evacuate personnel and close the post.

Under reciprocal treaty obligations, host nations are obligated to provide security for the diplomatic facilities of  sending states. However, instances in which host nations have been unable or not fully committed to fulfilling this responsibility have sometimes left U.S. facilities vulnerable, especially in extraordinary circumstances. U.S. facilities therefore employ a layered approach to security, including not only the measures taken by a host country, but also additional, U.S.-coordinated measures, to include armed Diplomatic Security agents, hardened facilities, U.S.-trained and/or contracted local security guards, and sometimes U.S. Marine Security Guard detachments (whose principal role is securing sensitive information).

The rapid growth in the number of U.S. civilians deployed in high-risk environments of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan spurred significant investment in recent years in the Department of State’s capacity to provide security in dangerous areas through its Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), while simultaneously placing unprecedented burdens on DS’s capability to carry out this mission successfully there and in other challenging locations. With greater focus on these frontline states, funds for other U.S. facilities could be strained.
[...]
As Congress examines whether enough funding has been provided or more is needed for properly securing American personnel, embassies, and information around the world, it will do so in a climate of shrinking budgets; any proposed funding increases are likely to be met with calls for offsetting cuts elsewhere.

Also of near-term concern is the possible effect that the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA, P.L. 112-25) sequestration could have on diplomatic security funding. If across-the-board spending reductions occur as scheduled on January 2, 2013, currently estimated at about 8.2% of funding, security funding could be reduced as well. Those who consider embassy security funding to be insufficient would find the problem exacerbated by sequestration. The combined effects of a sequestration in 2013 and a half year Continuing Resolution that ends in March 2013 could generate concerns about diplomatic security funding in the months and years ahead.

Some foreign policy experts are concerned that, with limited available dollars for foreign affairs overall, war-related costs in frontline states may be drawing funds away from needs in the rest of the 285-plus U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world. With the recent Arab Spring uprisings, for example, U.S. personnel located in those countries may be more vulnerable than those located in the frontline states where the embassies were built and heavily fortified recently. Some observers wonder if the rapidly evolving changes in Arab Spring countries may have contributed to difficulties in achieving and maintaining adequate diplomatic security there. Possibly adding to the difficulty is the unpredictability in the timing of funding bills being passed by Congress.

Fiscal years may not be in sync with new increasing needs or with contracts. Furthermore, when Congress is unable to pass funding bills until well into the new fiscal year, or passes continuing resolutions in place of spending bills for the remainder of the fiscal year, the agency is left to guess what annual funding they can expect and has fewer months to spend the funds once received.

Another, perhaps longer-term related aspect of the funding debate is whether the United States can afford to maintain facilities and adequate security everywhere, especially in nascent democracies that are often unstable and unpredictable. If embassy security is the responsibility of the local government, but that government does not have the capability required to keep American personnel safe, the U.S. government must weigh the security risks of keeping a U.S. presence in such environments.

Continue reading, Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Background and Policy Issues.

domani spero sig

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US Embassy Sudan and Those Critical Pool and Picnic Resources

Every now and then we get tips for blog post ideas, sometimes offline, via email or sometimes via social media as was the case a few days ago:

@tradeaidmonitor
Hope @Diplopundit catches “U.S. State Dept. Sending Critical [Pool & Picnicking] Resources to Sudan” http://www.tradeaidmonitor.com/2012/08/state-dept-resources-sudan.html

Sometimes we catch the toss, sometimes we don’t, primarily because we have some time constraints.  But this one, we thought we’d catch because in a place like our US Embassy in Khartoum, pool and picnic resources are critical resources in our view.  And we’ll tell you why.

Let’s start off with Sudan as the third largest country in Africa.  Slightly less than a quarter the size of the continental United States. It achieved independence on January 1, 1956 from the British, and has been at war with itself for more than three-quarters of its existence.

The USG designated Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993 and the U.S. Embassy operation in Khartoum was suspended in 1996. According to the no longer updated Background Notes in October 1997, the U.S. imposed comprehensive economic, trade, and financial sanctions against the Sudan. In August 1998, in the wake of the East Africa embassy bombings, the U.S. launched cruise missile strikes against Khartoum. The last U.S. Ambassador to the Sudan, Ambassador Tim Carney, departed post prior to this event and no new ambassador has been designated since.

We do have a Special Envoy to Sudan –Ambassador Lyman since 2011; he succeeded Ambassador Gration who was appointed to office in 2009.

The U.S. Embassy is headed by a series of Charge d’Affaires. Joseph D. Stafford, III, a career Foreign Service Officer has been Charge’ d’ affaires in Khartoum since June 2012. The US Embassy reportedly continues to re-evaluate its posture in Sudan, particularly in the wake of the January 1, 2008, killings of a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) officer John Granville and local USAID employee, Abdel Rahman Abbas.

(see How much does a US diplomat’s life worth? About $1,800 US dollars, and look there’s no raging mob…)

The U.S. Mission in Sudan has declared disasters due to the complex emergency on an annual basis since 1987. On October 1, 2009, President Obama renewed the Sudan complex emergency disaster declaration for FY 2010.

Sandstorm Over the Nile
(Photo by US Embassy Khartoum/Picasa)

So let’s just agree that it’s not a very nice, cushy place when its dry. And it’s not a very nice place when it’s wet.

In fact, it’s one of those places where family members of embassy personnel under age 21 are not allowed to reside.  State Department employees in Sudan also get a 30% cost of living allowance, a 25% hardship differential and a 25% danger pay differential, and for good reasons.

Cost-of-living allowance (COLA) is granted to an employee officially stationed at a post in a foreign area where the cost of living, exclusive of quarters costs, is substantially higher than in Washington, D.C.

Hardship differential is established for any place when, and only when, the place involves extraordinarily difficult living conditions, excessive physical hardship, or notably unhealthful conditions affecting the majority of employees officially stationed or detailed at that place.  Living costs are not considered in differential determination

Danger pay allowance is designed to provide additional compensation above basic compensation to all U.S. Government civilian employees, including Chiefs of Mission, for service at places in foreign areas where there exist conditions of civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism or wartime conditions which threaten physical harm or imminent danger to the health or well-being of an employee.

So in a country where Al Qaeda has a long history, what do people do to entertain and de-stress themselves?  You can go to a fitness club where the monthly fee for adults is $192.50 (or 352.94 % more than what you’d pay in WashDC) according to numbeo.com. Or you can eat out where the combo meal similar to McDonald’s is $11.14 (except that you’re a real moving target).  Or you can go to the movies for $5.00, certainly cheaper than DC but do you want to be in the dark with people with guns? Probably not.

You can stay home and surf online; 6 Mbps Internet is at $67.50 a month whether it works or not. Or have a roaring pool party. Maybe. And invite even people you can’t stand. In which case you need to shop for party food.  You can shop for chicken breasts which at $8.00/kilogram is actually cheaper in Khartoum than in DC. You can also buy 12 pack eggs at $2.93, and a kilogram of fresh cheese at $16.33. Beer, the 0.5 liter bottle is reportedly $5.00. And there goes your COLA.

Then there’s the haboob, a small one or a big one, it doesn’t matter, it gets into everything. And they don’t have haboob days like snow days back in WashDC, which frankly, isn’t fair.   We terribly missed our undiplomatic diplomat from Facts Are Strictly Optional; you betcha she would have had insightful things to say about these critical resources.

The patio furniture below is similar to those required under the solicitation mentioned above and posted by US Embassy Khartoum at fedbiz. The complete solicitation is here: https://www.fbo.gov/notices/b8deabb7df3866417121ac528cf8a837.

Wave Square 4 Seater Set”Weatherproof, Rust-Free Guaranteed, 5 Year Warranty, Durable, UV Resistant, Powder Coating, Door to Door Free Delivery, All prices include VAT.
Manufactured by Golden Barley Garden Furniture Trading as HomeGarden.co.za, South Africa
(Photo from Golden Barley Garden Furniture Trading) 

Rust-fee, weatherproof, five year warranty – what’s not to like? More to the point, and this is important — you can hose them down after a dust storm, they’re too heavy to fly away in a sandstorm and they are deliverable from South Africa, just 2900 miles from the Sudan instead of some 6,000 miles from the United States.

So frankly, we cannot find it in our hearts to quarrel with these pool and patio furniture. All that dust and sand would probably drive us nuts ala The Shining if we live down there.  And anyways — what use is a pool if you cannot sit down or lounge or have a picnic with people you see every single day at work and at play?

Dear US Embassy Khartoum – we hope you folks enjoy your new pool and patio furniture. The bronze ones look really lovely.

The end.

Domani Spero

 

 

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Filed under Africa, Allowances, Counting Beans, Foreign Service, FS Funding, Govt Reports/Documents, Mental Health, Real Post of the Month, Realities of the FS, State Department, U.S. Missions, USAID

Which region gets the most US foreign aid in the FY2013 request? Go ahead take a guess …

The following figure extracted from the CRS report on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2013 Budget and Appropriations:

Extracted from CRS report

Via the CRS:

Under the FY2013 budget request, aid to Africa would decline by 10% from the current level to $6.4 billion; U.S. aid to the Near East would increase by 12% to $9.0 billion, largely due to support for the Arab Spring; and aid to South Central Asia would increase by 6% to $5.3 billion. Aid to Africa primarily supports HIV/AIDS and other health-related programs while 88% of the aid to South Central Asia is requested, largely for war-related costs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Near East region continues to be dominated by assistance to Israel ($3.1 billion), Iraq ($2.0 billion), Egypt ($1.6 billion), and Jordan ($0.7 billion). The Western Hemisphere’s projected relative decline in FY2013 is attributable to a reduction in funding of ESF and INCLE for Colombia. Europe and Eurasia’s 14% decline is largely due to progress made by many countries in the region and other more pressing global priorities. Aid to East Asia and Pacific remains relatively low and consistent with past years’ levels.

Here are the countries in the Near Eastern Affairs bureau:

Map of Countries in the Near Eastern Affairs Regional Bureau

Domani Spero

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Senator Nelson’s Reasonableness Test: US Should Bill Iraq for US Embassy Security

Last year, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher,
the 12th term Republican congressman from California’s scenic 46th District
and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the
House Foreign Affairs Committee made the news when he called for Iraq to repay a portion of the “mega-dollars” that Washington has spent since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.  Mr. Rohrabacher for the record did not actually say we should ask for a repayment now but once “Iraq becomes a very rich and prosperous country…”

This past week, it was Nebraska’s retiring Democratic Senator Ben Nelson turn at bill collection (TSB has a post on this here) Below is a letter sent by Senator Nelson to Secretaries Panetta and Clinton telling them that the Iraqi government should be responsible for shouldering the cost of US Embassy security in Iraq:

Dear Mr. Secretary and Madam Secretary:

As you know, the United States concluded its military mission in Iraq in 2011. With that end, the U.S. Department of State now assumes responsibility for the civilian mission, which I understand will be heavily reliant on private contractors for security. I support ensuring the success of our efforts in Iraq, but am concerned about continuing to provide assistance to Iraq’s government, with the total cost being borne by the United States.

As a nation, our government continues to look for ways to reduce spending and find efficiencies within the U.S. Department of Defense. Therefore, I believe it is completely reasonable and in line with our agreements with other nations for the Government of Iraq to pay for the security of our remaining State Department personnel.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in November 2011, General Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke about the costs of retaining an American presence in Iraq. He noted that “in any nation in which [the United States is] present diplomatically, the first responsibility for security is the host nation.” Thus, if Iraq is unable to provide security for U.S. personnel, then the Iraqi government should pay for the cost of doing so – rather than our nation’s taxpayers. Therefore, I encourage your departments to enter into an agreement with the Iraqi government to underwrite the costs associated with our continued diplomatic presence there.

During that same hearing, I also asked General Dempsey whether it was possible to enter into an agreement with the Iraqi government for cost-sharing in order to continue providing for the security training of Iraqi troops and every other mission we might accept to help the country secure, stabilize and self-govern. General Dempsey responded that such agreements are possible and that there is always a negotiation on the cost and who will bear it.

I want to ensure that the burden of such operations is placed primarily on Iraq, in line with those agreements we share with other nations when we conduct multilateral or bilateral exercises around the world. The Iraqi government is more than capable of sharing or underwriting costs associated with a U.S. advise-and-assist presence, as the Iraqi economy continues to grow and government revenues are beginning to increase to that of pre-war levels.

While I understand there are many challenges facing the Government of Iraq, it is important for the United States to make it clear that we expect the new government to be responsible for shouldering the cost of security in their nation. I would, therefore, greatly appreciate learning from the Administration what agreements are being made with the Government of Iraq for further missions and how the cost of those missions will be covered. Thank you both for your consideration in this matter. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

E. Benjamin Nelson
United States Senator

It is true that the host country is responsible for providing protection to diplomatic personnel and missions, as established by the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Article 22(2) says that “The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.”

One could argue that Syria did not lived up to its responsibility to prevent “impairment of its dignity” when it allowed a mob to attack our embassy in Syria in July last year. But other times, the local police protecting diplomatic and consular premises can pay dearly with their lives. During the February 2003 attack of the US Consulate in Karachi, for instance, the gunmen killed two police officers and wounded five
other policemen in front of the consulate.  The 2008 American Embassy attack in Yemen resulted in 19 deaths and 16 injuries including six Yemeni policemen. 

Iraq is responsible for the protection of the US Mission in Iraq, just
as the United States is responsible for the protection of all diplomatic
premises within the United States. But while the host country is expected to provide the outermost security of diplomatic missions, it cannot be expected to provide guard services for the embassy compound. 

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, of course, is like no other diplomatic mission in the world.  According to Stratfor’s assessment of diplomatic security after the troops withdrawal,  there are some 16,000 personnel, 5,000 of whom are security contractors working inside our heavily fortified embassy and consulates in Iraq.  The remaining 11,000 include diplomats, intelligence officers and analysts, defense attaches, military liaison personnel and aid and development personnel.

If the Government of Iraq decides that it should have a corresponding number of personnel – 16,000 Iraqis –  attached to its embassy in Washington, D.C., how would that work?  Congress would be up in arms!

But perhaps the more tricky part is Article 11 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which says that “1) In the absence of specific agreement as to the size of the mission, the receiving State may require that the size of a mission be kept within limits considered by it to be reasonable and normal, having regard to circumstances and conditions in the receiving State and to the needs of the particular mission; 2) The receiving State may equally, within similar bounds and on a nondiscriminatory basis, refuse to accept officials of a particular category.”

With that number of personnel, there probably is a specific agreement in place. But let’s just say that there is none and Senator Nelson gets his way and bill Iraq for the cost of diplomatic security in Iraq.  The Iraqi Government may just decide that 16,000 diplomatic, security and support personnel at U.S. Mission Iraq is a tad too much. Due to ongoing security challenges in the country, it may just decide that a, say 150-member US staff is all it could support. Which would actually save the US Government money, and would allow the State Department to reallocate its tight resources to other areas not considered the center of the bureaucratic universe.

 

 
 
 

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Slash Non-Fiction: There Goes Diplomacy 3.0 But They Sure Ramps It Up in Iraq

Via WaPo’s Walter Pincus on the State Dept. reeling from budget cuts

The Senate committee on Sept. 21 approved $44.6 billion for the core State, Foreign Operations budget for next year, which was $6 billion below the original request and $3.5 billion below the current level. The House subcommittee approved $39.5 billion, slashing the administration’s request by $11.2 billion, or 22 percent.

In describing the cut, the Republican draft report on the bill said it preserves national security priorities while making “necessary reductions in spending.”

Among the largest House subcommittee reductions was a nearly 20 percent cut in the funds that pay for Foreign Service officers and the civilians who support them. In justifying this action, the subcommittee report said it eliminated funds sought for 184 new staff because since 2008, some 1,622 Foreign Service officers and 1,001 civilians had been hired above attrition.
[...]
The House panel took an even bigger cut from the personnel budget for the Agency for International Development (AID), which saw its fiscal 2012 request dropped from $1.5 billion to $900 million. The report notes that 820 new Foreign Service officers have been added to AID since 2008.

Read in full here.

Diplomacy 3.0 is the State Department’s ambitious multi-year hiring program that recognizes
diplomacy as one of the three essential pillars of U.S. foreign policy:
diplomacy, development, and defense.  But since most in Congress only recognizes the third pillar of U.S. foreign policy, I was just waiting for the other two shoes to fall.

And now there they are.

Tell me again — how are we going to have a US Consulate Basra with 1200 employees  or a US Consulate Erbil with 1400 staffers the way this is going? (which would make these two diplomatic posts larger than most embassies anywhere in the world).  With less money available, State maybe forced to shuffle the deck, which probably means post-closures in other parts of the world not called Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Expect a new mothership cable to ALL POSTS urging posts and mission personnel to do more with less given this newest budget constraints. Unless you’re in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, of course. But fear not, the way this is going, there will come a time when you’ll me able to do everything with nothing.  Except on a diplomatic reception.

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis reporting recently had this update on the State Department’s ramped up presence in Iraq:

The ongoing expansion of the diplomatic facilities—including two smaller
outposts in Mosul and Kirkuk—is deeply controversial in Washington,
where many lawmakers have questioned whether it makes sense for the U.S.
to devote such an enormous percentage of the State Department’s total
budget to one country.

A Jan. 31 report from the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, for
instance, estimated that the State Department will spend $25-$30 billion
in Iraq over the next five years. The panel said that U.S. diplomatic
operations in Iraq in fiscal year 2012 will spike to at least $3
billion, roughly a quarter of the State Department’s global operations
budget. Other State initiatives here – like the large and growing Office
of Security Cooperation—will push the fiscal 2012 numbers even higher.

It’s far from clear that Congress is willing to spend that kind of
money on Iraq, given the war’s deep unpopularity at home. Lawmakers
slashed State’s fiscal year 2011 budget request by almost 20 percent, to
$2.1 billion from the $2.6 billion originally requested. Democratic
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont told The Huffington Post earlier this
month that he doesn’t “know why [Iraq] has to be one of our highest
priorities.”

“I think we’ve reached the point in Iraq where whatever we’re
spending money on, we’re throwing good money after bad,” he told the Web
site.

The Senator had a point, no sense throwing good money after bad.  Most especially if we don’t have a lot of money, good or bad.  Anyways, perhaps Congress should write that in the appropriation bill — the money for the State Department that must not/not be spent on Iraq. Of course, that’s like the prohibition clause of no permanent bases in Iraq, Afghanistan  and elsewhere that we regularly see in those bills.

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Foreign Affairs Group Urges Expansion of Foreign Service, a Week Later, House Appropriations Committee Slashes State Dept/USAID Funding

The Foreign Affairs Council is a non-partisan umbrella group of eleven organizations concerned about U.S. diplomatic readiness. It recently released its fifth biennial assessment of the stewardship of the Secretary of State as a leader and manager.  The report which was released a week ago includes a notation that says “not all signatories agree with everything contained in this report, although they unanimously concur with all conclusions and recommendations.”  Excerpts below:

An increase of 1,069 State positions during the tenure of Secretary of State Colin Powell (2001-2005) was more than absorbed by the civilian surges in Iraq and Afghanistan plus substantial increases in consular officers (more intensive scrutiny of visa applications to protect our frontiers) and in security officers (to protect others being deployed). Inaction on staffing during the tenure of Secretary Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009) left the foreign affairs agencies with huge deficits in the human resources needed to do what was asked of them in the post-9/11 international landscape. Secretary Rice did propose a robust budget for FY 2009 asking for about 1,000 new positions for State and 500 for USAID and obtained OMB approval for these increases. However, given that FY 2009 was a “lame duck” period for the Bush administration, it did not appear at the time that the budget request would prosper in the Congress and, in any case, would not be acted upon until well after Rice’s departure.
[...]
The FY 2009 appropriations bill added 992 new Foreign Service positions at State and 300 positions at USAID.
[...]
…[S]oon after taking office the Administration submitted a FY 2010 budget request that succeeded in adding 764 Foreign Service positions at State and 350 positions at USAID.
[...]
The FY 2009 and FY 2010 staffing increases that achieved a 17 percent expansion of the Foreign Service were a remarkable accomplishment for Secretary Clinton, President Obama and Congress. Yet, with most of the new employees being sent out just to fill existing vacant positions, Foreign Service staffing levels still fell far short of that needed to fully restore America’s diplomatic and development capacity.
[...]
[T]he Administration’s FY 2011 budget request (forwarded to Congress in February 2010) sought 410 new Foreign Service positions at State and 200 at USAID. One year later, with the FY 2011 budget still pending before Congress (and opposed by the Republican majority in the House), the Administration submitted its FY 2012 budget request seeking an additional 150 Foreign Service positions at State and 165 at USAID. Thus, as of May 2011, the combined FY 2011 and FY 2012 unmet Foreign Service staffing requests totaled 560 at State and 365 at USAID.
[...]
Unfortunately, when Congress belatedly passed the FY 2011 budget in April 2011, it did not include funds to hire additional personnel above attrition. Furthermore, as this FAC report goes to press, Congress appears poised to reject the Administration’s FY 2012 request to strengthen staffing at the State Department and USAID.

Resources for Staffing and Training

1. Secretary Clinton should pursue her budget proposal to strengthen diplomacy and development assistance by securing funding for an additional 1,250 Foreign Service positions at the State Department and 650 at USAID by FY 2014.

2. To achieve the above recommendation the Secretary should make completion of Development 3.0 the first priority. Small reductions in the various assistance program accounts would fund the personnel increases now pending without damaging the development effort.

3. The Secretary should use a portion of the new positions to complete the staffing of a Foreign Service training complement equal to 15 percent of core staffing in order to provide the professional education and training needed to raise the overall level of performance of the State Department and USAID.

The report is available here but seems to have slipped into a dark hole inside the beltway. Too dark to read there.

On Jul 26, the House Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2012 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill:

The bill includes a total of $39.6 billion in regular discretionary funding, which is $8.6 billion or 18% below last year’s level. Included in these reductions are cuts back to the fiscal year 2008 levels or below for certain operations and assistance accounts. The bill also includes $7.6 billion designated as Global War on Terror funding, which is $1.1 billion below the President’s request.
[...]
State Department Operations and Related Agencies – The bill contains a total of $11.9 billion in discretionary funding for operational costs of the State Department and related agencies – a decrease of $3.9 billion below last year’s level and a $3.1 billion below the President’s request. This includes funding for programs such as diplomatic and consular affairs, embassy security and operations, assessed contributions to international organizations, and international broadcasting. The bill also eliminates temporary pay raises for overseas officers.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Operations – The bill contains $1.04 billion for USAID – a reduction of $488 million from last year’s level and $705 million below the President’s request. The bill halts new hiring at USAID and stops expansion of facilities overseas associated with that hiring.

Global War on Terror – The bill includes Global War on Terror (GWOT) funding for efforts and activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, GWOT funds will support security forces and police previously funded by the Department of Defense. GWOT funds will also support civilian programs in support of the military’s counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan.

For the subcommittee draft text of the FY 2012 State and Foreign Operations Bill, please visit: http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/FY12-SFOPS-07-25_xml.pdf.

This is a Republican-sponsored bill.  GOP members hold seven of the 11 seats on the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee. On July 27, the bill was reported to the Full Committee on voice vote.  The Full Committee markup is scheduled for August 3rd.

There are again talks about the elimination of “locality pay” and even the “F” word. Locality pay and furloughs sounds familiar; didn’t we had these talks just months ago? But this will be a much larger drawn-out battle not just on staffing the Foreign Service but funding for diplomacy and foreign aid in 2012. Even if the State bill is “only one and a quarter percent of the overall budget.”  Most foreign aid recipients do not vote; but of course, countries receiving US aid have their own lobbyists and presumably they will be working “all hands” and earning their pay in the months ahead.

The Cable’s Josh Rogin reports that SFRC’s Senator Kerry has also unveiled his bill on July 27 (apparently with no participation from Senator Lugar; not a good sign) that would fully fund the State Department and USAID operations at the level requested by the White House.  Josh notes that “nobody knows if those funds will be set aside for international affairs when the appropriators weigh in. And the ongoing negotiations over the debt ceiling could change the financial picture for State and USAID as well.”

The text of Senator Kerry’s bill is here, with an expanded summary here, and a fact sheet on the bill here.

So the duel is officially on.

If there is a compromise (oh dat dirty, dirty word), it will presumably be between the 18% mark. Senator Kerry will not get his full funding, and the GOP will not get its full 18% cuts. It is also conceivable that the State/USAID funding could become casualties in the “we’re going to be the next banana republic debt ceiling” negotiations.

CNN reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already warned members of the House of Representatives that she “will recommend personally” that President Barack Obama veto a bill that would severely restrict State Department operations, international organizations and foreign assistance.

But what good is that warning when the debt ceiling catastrophe and its attendant side effects are heading our way like a Chinese bullet train?

2012! It’s sooner than you think. Well now, where is John Cusack when you need him?

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Filed under 67, Budget, Congress, Foreign Service, FS Funding, SFRC, State Department