– Domani Spero
– Domani Spero
According to State/OIG, after several media reports were written about the use of confidentiality agreements that limit the ability of contractor employees to report fraud, waste, or abuse to Inspectors General or other oversight entities, it sent a letter in August 2014 requesting information from the thirty companies which have the highest dollar amount of contracts with the Department of State. The list does not indicate their rank in any particular order:
The EEOC’s FY 2011 Annual Report on the Federal Work Force Part II includes the workforce composition profiles for the General Schedule (GS) workforce at the State Department and USAID. We have been unable to locate the Foreign Service profile and are still looking. Below is a snapshot of the Women in Management at both agencies. Most notable here is the 0% first level and senior level management for USAID in FY2011. “This represents a decrease of 186 women in senior management positions since FY 2010.” What happened to them?
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– Domani Spero
On September 2, President Obama arrived in Tallinn, Estonia. From September 4-5, he will be in Wales for the NATO Summit. There will be 60 world leaders, 70 foreign ministers, 70 defence ministers and 28 NATO member countries invited to the UK summit.
According to the CRS, the formal summit agenda is expected to focus on three main issues:
• Enhancing allied readiness and strengthening collective defense and military capabilities, including through increased troop rotations and military exercises in Central and Eastern Europe;
• Marking the conclusion of NATO’s decade-long mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014 and launching a planned follow-on training mission; and
• Enhancing NATO’s support of partner countries outside the alliance, including through a new “Defense Capacity Building Initiative.”
Apparently, also a key discussion that must be had during the summit is the defense spending of member states. Below via the CRS:
A key question underlying summit deliberations on collective defense will be whether the allies are willing to devote the resources necessary to meet their stated commitments. As such, a primary objective of NATO leaders and U.S. and UK officials, among others, is to secure allied pledges to reverse the ongoing downward trend in allied defense spending.
In 2013, total defense spending by NATO European allies as a percentage of GDP was about 1.6%; just four NATO allies (Estonia, Greece, the UK, and the United States) met the alliance’s goal of spending 2% of GDP on defense (see Appendix for more allied defense spending figures). Since 2001, the U.S. share of total allied defense spending has grown from 63% to 72%.13 Many analysts and U.S. officials have long asserted that defense spending in many European countries is not only too low; it is also inefficient, with disproportionately high personnel costs coming at the expense of much-needed research, development, and procurement. In 2013, only four allies (France, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States) met a NATO guideline to devote 20% of defense expenditures to the purchase of major equipment, considered a key indicator of the pace of military modernization.
Follow the NATO Summit Wales 2014 via GOV.UK here.
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Via CRS (pdf):
Figure 2 illustrates that immigration over the last few decades of the 20th century was not as dominated by three or four countries as it was earlier in the century. Although Europe was home to the countries sending the most immigrants during the early 20th century (e.g., Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary, and the United Kingdom), Mexico has been a top sending country for most of the 20th century—largely after 1970—and into the 21st century. Other top sending countries from FY2001 through FY2010 were the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Colombia, and Cuba (Western Hemisphere); and the Philippines, India, China, South Korea, and Vietnam (Asia). These data suggest that the per-country ceilings established in 1965 had some effect. As Figure 2 illustrates, immigrants from only three or four countries made up more than half of all LPRs prior to 1960. By the last two decades of the 20th century, immigrants from seven to eight countries comprised about half of all LPRs, and this pattern has continued into the 21st century.
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– 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.
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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– Domani Spero
Well, that was quick. Yesterday, there was this Tweet of the Day: US Embassy London to Get Nap Rooms?. Barely 24 hours later, the State Department slapped down the nap room idea at Embassy London or any of our diplomatic missions. The State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said that the agency is not considering establishing nap rooms “at this time.” Below is an excerpt from the DPB:
QUESTION: This is a slightly whimsical question –
MS. HARF: Uh-oh.
QUESTION: — but I see a tweet suggesting that the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom has –
MS. HARF: You’re asking about nap rooms, aren’t you?
QUESTION: Yes. Is there anything to that?
MS. HARF: I was going to make a joke, but I’m not. Actually, I might still.
QUESTION: Do you have guidance on this?
MS. HARF: Yeah, I have guidance.
MS. HARF: And I wrote at the top: Our diplomats are tireless advocates for our foreign policy. It’s pretty good, right? Nap room, tireless, no? Okay, fine. No one liked my joke.
QUESTION: I liked it.
MS. HARF: Thank you, Elise. So yes, I do have guidance on this. In a private talk yesterday, U.S. employees at the Embassy in London – Arianna Huffington touted the productivity benefits of getting more sleep – something we can probably all attest to – and urged the ambassador to follow the Huffington Post example of installing nap rooms. The ambassador graciously and diplomatically said he would look into it. While we are not considering establishing nap rooms at Embassy London or any of our diplomatic missions at this time, we obviously think that work-life balance is important, and someday I will attempt to find it.
While they were at it, the Secretary arrived in Poland. Attending a meeting in Warsaw, the Secretary was spotted taking what appears to be a snooze. Was this a nano-nap, a micro-nap, a mini-nap or a power nap?
— Brian Rie$ (@moneyries) June 3, 2014
JK’s rapid response:
.@moneyries just a really long blink!
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) June 3, 2014
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– Domani Spero Follow @Diplopundit
Via SIGAR – Snapshot of Top Ten Recipients of USAID Funds in Afghanistan Reconstruction (2002-2013):
Our analysis of USAID data indicated that the top ten implementing partners in total awards accounted for about $7.7 billion, or 58 percent of total obligations. The remaining 42 percent of obligations were awarded to a total of 193 implementers who averaged $29 million in total awards. The World Bank was the top overall recipient of USAID funds in Afghanistan, with total awards equal to approximately $1.75 billion. USAID provided $1.74 billion to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which is administered by the World Bank, and awarded the Bank a $2 million grant for a project supporting business environment reform in Afghanistan. International Relief and Development, Inc. (IRD) received the second highest amount of total rewards at approximately $1.1 billion. Table 2 shows the top ten recipients by total obligation as reported by USAID. Figure 3 demonstrates the percentage of total USAID reconstruction awards received by each of the top ten recipients.
International Relief and Development, Inc. (IRD), number #2 on the list above is the subject of a recent WaPo investigation on Big budgets, little oversight in war zones. Quick notes from the report:
According to WaPo, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko had opened an investigation into allegations of “significant waste and mismanagement” and “kickbacks and bribery by IRD senior employees over a road project, which wound up costing $317 million.
We understand that SIGAR is also investigating IRD for attempting to “use conﬁdentiality agreements as a way of prohibiting its employees from making critical statements about IRD to “funding agencies” or “officials of any
Some of the people who might know the most about what has happened with IRD-run programs — former company employees — say they have been barred from speaking about their experiences. Before leaving IRD, they said, they were asked to sign confidentiality agreements.
The agreements warn employees that they could be sued for making any “derogatory, disparaging, negative, critical or defamatory statements” about IRD to anyone, including “funding agencies” or “officials of any government.” Lawyers who reviewed the agreements at the request of The Post said it appeared that they could violate federal protections afforded to whistleblowers under the False Claims Act.
In a letter to IRD, SIGAR Sopko writes that “IRD’s policy of prohibiting employees ﬁom informing government ofﬁcials of critical information appears to violate the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733, federal whistleblower statutes, and the Federal Acquisition Regulation. … The threat of retaliation for reporting problems to oversight agencies is all too real. I am simply not willing to tolerate an attempt to institutionalize employee intimidation. Therefore, I am initiating an inquiry into these allegations.”
SIGAR had also asked USAID to consider inserting a provision in all future contracts, cooperative agreements, and grant agreements for Afghanistan reconstruction that forbids the recipients of federal funds from using conﬁdentiality agreements that prohibit their employees from talking to U.S. government ofﬁcials.
Meanwhile at USAID/OIG — a “well-placed government source” told devex.com that the agency’s watchdog has been conducting an investigation into IRD for “months.” Devex.com reports that Bill Pierce, who serves as a spokesperson for IRD, told Devex that he was not aware of an OIG investigation that had been going on for months.
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– Domani Spero
We identified seven project sectors for Department of State reconstruction awards in Afghanistan. The project sectors include mine removal, governance and rule-of-law, support to cultural activities and civil society, education, humanitarian aid, human rights, and economic development. The governance and rule-of-law project sector had the highest amount of total awards with $3.5 billion, of the $4.0 billion in total awards. Governance and rule-of-law projects include rule-of-law activities such as counternarcotics programs and justice sector reform, peacekeeping initiatives, and government outreach programs. Land mine removal programs had the second-largest proportion of total awards with $150.7 million. Table 1 includes the total awards for each identified project sector as well as the percentage of total awards.
Read more here (pdf).
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