“It’s amazing there hasn’t been a mutiny in the CA training at FSI this year given the behavior of some of the leadership. There’s a broad consensus that the way they treat officers in training is right out of Full Metal Jacket. Disparaging, disrespectful, amateurish, and completely undermining of moral[e]. Not to mention doing nothing to advance the goal of training competent, empowered consular officers. If that’s what CA thinks is what 1CA means I imagine there will be a lot of Consular officers who will be seeking conal rectification….”
Last month, the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute issued Solicitation #SFSIAQ14Q3002 for a contractor to provide professional training on effective congressional testimony and briefing skills. The requirement solicitation also includes a requirement for Simulated Congressional Hearing Sessions.
Below is an excerpt from the solicitation posted on fedbiz:
The purpose of this project is to obtain the services of a contractor to deliver interactive, professional training seminars for senior-level officials on effective congressional testimony and briefing skills. There will be one primary product, a two-day course entitled “PT-302 – Communicating with Congress: Briefing and Testifying.” This course targets government professionals at the GS-14/FS-02 level or higher, who will be testifying before Congress or briefing members or staffers. We will offer this course between three to four times per year. There is a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 15 participants per class.
Secondly, LMS [Leadership Management School] will seek the services of a contractor to deliver training on strategies for building effective relationships with members of Congress and their staffers to participants of the Ambassadorial Seminar (PT-120) and other senior-level courses. The Ambassadorial Seminar is offered to Ambassadors-designate (including both career Foreign Service Officers and political appointees) and their spouses. This seminar normally runs two weeks and includes up to, but not limited to, 14 participants.
Lastly, contractor shall submit additional proposals to deliver hour-long, one-on-one simulated congressional hearing sessions with feedback for individuals as preparation for anticipated congressional testimony. These individuals may or may not be graduates of the Ambassadorial seminar, or they may be or may not be other, senior-ranking government officials.
C.4.1. Communicating With Congress: Briefing and Testifying (PT-302)
Provide professional services to design and deliver PT-302, Communicating with Congress: Briefing and Testifying, for senior ranking officers drawn from the Foreign Service, Civil Service, and military. It is expected that the first year will include significant course design work, but that option years will not involve major course design.
It shall include the following topics presented by individuals with current or recent Capitol Hill experience. Experience within the past two years is highly desirable.
Training and skill-building in briefing techniques;
Presentations/discussions on congressional committees and the hearing process
Presentations/discussions on tips for leveraging State’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs
Presentations/discussions on building effective relationships with Congress members and staffers.
It shall also include simulated congressional hearings, at which:
Each class member will deliver written and oral briefs/testimony before a panel of experts capable of appropriate questioning and criticism;
All briefings/testimony and responses to questions are video recorded;
Experts critique the individual briefing/testimony and responses to questions.
C.4.2. Ambassadorial Seminar (PT-120)
Provide professional services to design and deliver a three-hour training segment on strategies for building effective relationships with members of Congress and their staffers to participants of the Ambassadorial Seminar (PT-120) and other senior-level courses.
This shall be delivered via 1-2 presenters with ample time for questions and answers. If contractor provides two presenters, one presenter shall have current or recent experience on Capitol Hill as a member or staffer (experience within the past two years highly desirable), and the second presenter shall have recent senior-level executive branch service with personal experience in developing successful relationships on Capitol Hill, to include effective congressional testimony and briefing experience (experience within the past three years highly desirable). If contractor provides only one presenter, this presenter shall have both current or recent experience on Capitol Hill as a member or staff, and recent senior-level executive branch service with personal experience in developing successful relationships with Capitol Hill.
C.4.3. Simulated Congressional Hearing Sessions
Provide professional services to deliver hour-long, one-on-one simulated congressional hearing sessions with feedback for individuals as preparation for anticipated congressional testimony. These individuals may or may not be graduates of the Ambassadorial seminar, or they may be or may not be other, senior-ranking government officials.
The solicitation requires that the contractor/s’ professional qualifications include experience delivering training in a federal government context with senior executive participants; professional experience in working with Congressional staffers and members; current or recent Capitol Hill professional experience. Experience within the past two years is also highly desirable. For presenters in the three-hour and one-hour sessions, qualifications also include prior service as a senior executive in a federal agency with personal experience briefing and testifying to Congress. But the government also wants contractors with “knowledge of and experience using adult learning principles in the facilitation and delivery of a course” as well as “expertise in experiential learning methodologies and techniques.”
This should help avoid future incidents of trampling through the salad bowl during a confirmation hearing and save us from covering our eyes.
The State Department has established a mandatory requirement that specified U.S. executive branch personnel under chief-of-mission authority and on assignments or short-term TDY complete the Foreign Affairs Counter Threat (FACT) security training before arrival in a high-threat environment.
Who falls under chief-of-mission authority?
Chiefs of mission are the principal officers in charge of U.S. diplomatic missions and certain U.S. offices abroad that the Secretary of State designates as diplomatic in nature. Usually, the U.S. ambassador to a foreign country is the chief of mission in that country. According to the law, the chief of mission’s authority encompasses all employees of U.S. executive branch agencies, excluding personnel under the command of a U.S. area military commander and Voice of America correspondents on official assignment (22 U.S.C. § 3927). According to the President’s letter of instruction to chiefs of mission, members of the staff of an international organization are also excluded from chief
-of-mission authority. The President’s letter of instruction further states that the chief of mission’s security responsibility extends to all government personnel on official duty abroad other than those under the protection of a U.S. area military commander or on the staff of an international organization.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released its report which examines (1) State and USAID personnel’s compliance with the FACT training requirement and (2) State’s and USAID’s oversight of their personnel’s compliance. GAO also reviewed agencies’ policy guidance; analyzed State and USAID personnel data from March 2013 and training data for 2008 through 2013; reviewed agency documents; and interviewed agency officials in Washington, D.C., and at various overseas locations.
High Threat Countries: 9 to 18
The June 2013 State memorandum identifying the nine additional countries noted that personnel deploying to three additional countries will also be required to complete FACT training but are reportedly exempt from the requirement until further notice. State Diplomatic Security officials informed the GAO that these countries were granted temporary exceptions based on the estimated student training capacity at the facility where FACT training is currently conducted. We know from the report that the number of countries that now requires FACT training increased from 9 to 18, but they are not identified in the GAO report.
“Lower Priority” Security Training for Eligible Family Members
One section of the report notes that according to State officials, of the 22 noncompliant individuals in one country, 18 were State personnel’s employed eligible family members who were required to take the training; State officials explained that these individuals were not aware of the requirement at the time. The officials noted that enrollment of family members in the course is given lower priority than enrollment of direct-hire U.S. government employees but that space is typically available.
Typically, family members shipped to high-threat posts are those who have found employment at post. So they are not just there accompanying their employed spouses for the fun of it, they’re at post to perform the specific jobs they’re hired for. Why the State Department continue to give them “lower priority” in security training is perplexing. You know, the family members employed at post will be riding exactly the same boat the direct-hire government employees will be riding in.
Working Group Reviews
This report includes the State Department’s response to the GAO. A working group under “M” reportedly is mandated to “discover where improvements can be made in notification, enrollment and tracking regarding FACT training.” The group is also “reviewing the conditions under which eligible family members can and should be required to complete FACT training as well as the requirements related to personnel on temporary duty assignment.”
Using data from multiple sources, GAO determined that 675 of 708 Department of State (State) personnel and all 143 U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) personnel on assignments longer than 6 months (assigned personnel) in the designated high-threat countries on March 31, 2013, were in compliance with the Foreign Affairs Counter Threat (FACT) training requirement. GAO found that the remaining 33 State assigned personnel on such assignments had not complied with the mandatory requirement. For State and USAID personnel on temporary duty of 6 months or less (short-term TDY personnel), GAO was unable to assess compliance because of gaps in State’s data. State does not systematically maintain data on the universe of U.S. personnel on short-term TDY status to designated high-threat countries who were required to complete FACT training. This is because State lacks a mechanism for identifying those who are subject to the training requirement. These data gaps prevent State or an independent reviewer from assessing compliance with the FACT training requirement among short-term TDY personnel. According to Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government , program managers need operating information to determine whether they are meeting compliance requirements.
State’s guidance and management oversight of personnel’s compliance with the FACT training requirement have weaknesses that limit State’s ability to ensure that personnel are prepared for service in designated high-threat countries. These weaknesses include the following:
State’s policy and guidance related to FACT training—including its Foreign Affairs Manual , eCountry Clearance instructions for short-term TDY personnel, and guidance on the required frequency of FACT training—are outdated, inconsistent, or unclear. For example, although State informed other agencies of June 2013 policy changes to the FACT training requirement, State had not yet updated its Foreign Affairs Manual to reflect those changes as of January 2014. The changes included an increase in the number of high-threat countries requiring FACT training from 9 to 18.
State and USAID do not consistently verify that U.S. personnel complete FACT training before arriving in designated high-threat countries. For example, State does not verify compliance for 4 of the 9 countries for which it required FACT training before June 2013.
State does not monitor or evaluate overall levels of compliance with the FACT training requirement.
State’s Foreign Affairs Manual notes that it is the responsibility of employees to ensure their own compliance with the FACT training requirement. However, the manual and Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government also note that management is responsible for putting in place adequate controls to help ensure that agency directives are carried out.
The GAO notes that the gaps in State oversight may increase the risk that personnel assigned to high-threat countries do not complete FACT training, potentially placing their own and others’ safety in jeopardy.
U.S. government personnel evacuate a building through a smoky scenario September 9, 2013, at the Diplomatic Security (DS) Interim Training Facility in Summit Point, West Virginia. All government personnel serving at U.S. embassies or consulates in high-threat regions of the world must undergo DS’s Foreign Affairs Counter Threat training before their deployment. (U.S. Department of State photo)
Anyhow, we thought we’d check what else Ambassador Bleich is doing. Don’t you think this photo below is just pretty wild? That’s Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich who posted that “the cage of death is actually pretty fun.” Compared to his Facebook page, this looks almost peaceful, despite that gigantic snout.
Ambassador Bleich in a face-to-face croc encounter from the “Cage of Death” at Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin, Australia (photo via Amb Bleich/FB)
The encounter with the croc kind occurred in Darwin, in the Northern Territory of Australia earlier this week during a trip to welcome the arrival of Lima Company 3rd Regiment, 3rd Marine battalion from Hawaii for training in country.
Quick excerpt from Ambassador Bleich’s FB post:
I spent the past several days in the Northern Territory preparing for the next rotation of U.S. Marines to arrive in Darwin to train with their Australian mates. Each time, I come back to Darwin, I’m reminded of the genuine kindness and hospitality of Territorians. Part of the Marines’ reason for training in Darwin is the ability of our combined forces to practice expeditionary exercises in a large uninhabited training area. But a big part of the attraction is about the people. Our Marines feel truly welcome in Darwin. […] By the time I welcomed the Marines onto the tarmac in Darwin last night, I was able to give them three pieces of practical advice: 1) don’t step in any water deeper than your ankle; 2) never pass up a conversation with a Darwinian; and 3) the “cage of death” is actually pretty fun. (See photos!) Welcome Lima Company 3rd Regiment, 3rd Marine. We’re all glad you’re here.
Read in full here. Sky News covered the military rotation here: http://goo.gl/Orz8g and says that the 200 Marines on training in Darwin is the second rotation in a five year program. Next year there will be 1100 Marines and eventually 2500 on six month rotations.
Anyway, Mr. McAfee has now been arrested in Guate, was refused asylum and will reportedly be sent back to Belize where authorities were looking to question him about the shooting death of American expatriate Greg Faull.
And he’s blogging even in jail! About this being a “groundbreaking” activity and about speaking to a Duty Officer at the US Embassy in Guatemala.
Blogging from jail Date: December 6, 2012 at 5:24 am- by John McAfee- Comment(s): 84
I am in jail in Guatemala. Vastly superior to Belize jails. I asked for a computer and one magically appeared. The coffee is also excellent. Only time will tell what will happen. No one has a crystal ball. However, I would be truly shocked if I did not conduct the press conference tomorrow as I had originally planned. Stay tuned. I believe, by the way, that blogging from a jail cell might be a groundbreaking activity.
The American Embassy Guatemala Date: December 6, 2012 at 6:11 am- by John McAfee- Comment(s): 30
I just spoke with the duty officer at the Embassy who said there is nothing that they can do. I asked to be returned to the States, and again … nothing they can do. So I will wait and see. P.S. Anybody have friends in the State Department?
Late afternoon of December 6, Mr. McAfee made a plea to his supporters to email or tweet the President of Guatemala to “beg him to allow the court system to proceed, to determine my status in Guatemala, and please support the political asylum that I am asking for.”
Shortly after that, reports says he was taken to a hospital. But it was not a heart attack, just high stress. ABC News who has a reporter in Guate writes that John McAfee has been returned to an immigration detention cell in Guatemala after being rushed to a Guatemala City hospital via ambulance and that he may soon be deported back to Belize.
We can’t remember a case of a US citizen arrested overseas who is, in the words of one journalist covering the State Department, “a walking television show.” And this one has a Twitter and blog account and is actively using them. ABC News details the reported heart attack:
McAfee, 67 […] was reportedly found prostrate on the floor of his cell and unresponsive. He was wheeled into the hospital on a gurney. Photographers followed in pursuit right into the emergency room, but as emergency workers eased McAfee’s limp body from the gurney and onto a bed and began to remove his suit, he suddenly spoke up, saying, “Please, not in front of the press.”
Please don’t laugh, this is actually quite sad.
* * *
If you are the American Citizen Services Officer in Guate or Belize, our thoughts are also with you. We’ve never seen any training material or murder boards for a walking/talking teevee show. But you’ll do fine, take a deep breath and swim, don’t sink.
If you are a Consular Officer somewhere in the Western Hemisphere, get ready; if he gets out of Guate, he may show up at your window. If you follow him on Twitter, he might give a heads up.
If you are the Bureau of Consular Affairs, this is potentially, as Mr. McAfee says, “groundbreaking.” How should your Consular Officers deal with a detained citizen blogging/tweeting from jail? This is the first one, but this may not be the last. Is it time to update your ConGen training on the Republic of Z?
Given the continuing number of casualties from the ‘green-on-blue’ attacks in Afghanistan and the recent directive that all Coalition troops carry a loaded weapon at all times, we find this photo of Afghan police trainees with their rubber AK-47 assault rifles more than interesting.
The Threat Matrix blog reportsthat Taliban leader Mullah Omar claims that the Taliban “cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year.” He urges government officials and security personnel to defect and join the Taliban as it is their religious duty to do so, and then warns that “the day is not far away that the invading enemy will flee Afghanistan.”
Obviously Mullah Omar is glossing over the fact about 2024. But this guy is more crafty than we thought. He probably learned somewhere that our politicians who hold the purse strings for all spending hate the idea of the US “fleeing” Afghanistan. Raising the specter of “fleeing” troops would help make sure that Congress will continue funding this nutty war, and in the process, the Taliban get their cut to fund their fight of a lifetime. A win-win situation except for the dead and the broken soldiers.
And so here we are with rubber assault rifles.
Two Afghan Uniform Police recruits practice aiming their rubber AK-47 assault rifles during a handcuff training exercise at Forward Operating Base Shank, Logar province, Afghanistan, July 5, 2012. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Austin Berner/Released)
The State Department’s OIG recently released its Evaluation of the Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) Program for Countries Under the Bureaus of Near Eastern Affairs and South and Central Asian Affairs (Report Number AUD/MERO-12-29, April 2012).
How much and where it went?
From FYs 2002 through 2010, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Antiterrorism Assistance (DS/T/ATA) and the Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT) have been provided nearly $1.4 billion for ATA programs worldwide, with approximately 65 percent of that assistance ($873.3 million) going to programs in North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia.
In FY 2011, the ATA program’s budget request was $205 million, with approximately $125 million designated for the 22 North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia countries.
In FY 2010 (or FY2009?), the ATA program expended approximately $62 million trained nearly 2,700 participants from countries in North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia at a cost of approximately $1,800 per student per day of training.
The average training course lasted 13 days and was attended by 21 students, which equates to approximately $23,000 per student per class, or $1,800 per student per day of training.
The OIG report did not say where the training sessions were held but seriously — how do you rack up $1800 a day for training per trainee? Oops, sorry, how quickly we forget. That’s almost as bad as the GSA scandal which cost federal taxpayers nearly $2750 per person.
Something about objectives, indicators and lots of strategeries:
OIG found that for 20 of the 22 countries, CT and DS/T/ATA did not develop specific or measurable strategic or performance objectives in the Country Assistance Plans.
OIG found that for eight of the 22 countries, CT provided broad strategic objectives that were vague or included an inordinate number of goals.
OIG found that nearly all of the performance indicators and targets used to define success or failure of a country program were ambiguous, were not measurable, or lacked meaning.
Let’s have some examples:
Lebanon: The strategic objectives for Lebanon directed the ATA program to help modernize and professionalize security forces “through basic and advanced training and equipment and operation upgrades.”
India: The strategic objectives for India directed the program to emphasize critical incident response; post-incident investigation; human rights; border security; international threat finance; extradition and prosecution; and the protection of critical infrastructure, including port, rail, and airport security.
Bahrain and Morocco: A performance objective for both Bahrain and Morocco is to enhance the country’s “capability in investigating, and responding to terrorism.”
Nepal: The two program objectives for Nepal are “to enhance the capabilities of Nepalese police to utilize ATA training” and to “improve capabilities of the Nepalese police to counter and respond to terrorism.”
And the Success Measurement Award goes to ATA Bangladesh where one performance indicator for measuring the success of the increasing protection capabilities for Bangladeshi leaders was “regular updates from U.S. Embassy, ATA program visits, and feedback from Bangladesh’s law enforcement community on enhanced institutional management and procedures developed through ATA training to protect national leaders.”
If that’s a measure of success, we’d hate to see what failure is like.
So, cmon- is this program effective?
“Since 1983, DS/T/ATA has provided ATA program training to participants from North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. However, DS/T/ATA could not determine the program’s effectiveness because it had not developed specific, measurable, and outcome-oriented program objectives or implemented a mechanism for program evaluation. In addition, DS/T/ATA and CT were not consulting with DRL when selecting partner countries or when determining the assistance to be provided to those countries because DS/T/ATA and CT officials stated they were unaware of the requirement. As a result, the Department has no assurance that the ATA program is achieving its intended statutory purposes or that the overall or individual programs are successful. Further, DS/T/ATA has no basis for determining when partner countries are capable of sustaining their own ATA program without U.S. support.”
Bottom line answer is – since 1983
Who the heck knows?
But you’d be pleased to know that this has not kept State from pouring more money into a program that has not been proven to be effective since it has no idea how to measure its effectiveness.
Why don’t we just add the disbursement of funds as an indicator of success and make it easy on everyone?
So we were watching Brooking’s Michael O’Hanlon on teevee one night talking about Afghanistan. These network folks should really invite our blog pal, El Snarkistani to talk about our pretend 51st state, because he talks more sense. But we were not disappointed because El Snarkistani later blogged about. Excerpt below:
Here is what we know: Afghans are wealthier, healthier and better educated than ever before. Unquestionably, Afghan security forces are bigger and better. Despite the occasional spectacular attack, Kabul is relatively safe, accounting for less than 1 percent of violent episodes nationwide, thanks largely to the efforts of these troops. The security situation in the more dangerous south is also much improved, after two years of efforts by foreign and Afghan forces. The north and west are at least no longer deteriorating and collectively account for less than 10 percent of violence nationwide.
And now I know all I need to know about O’Hanlon/Livingston.
Allow me to retort, and I’m only going to limit myself to one line in that paragraph, as much as it physically pains me to do so.
Unquestionably, Afghan security forces are bigger and better.
That’s a great word: unquestionably. That means you have “facts” that are likely “irrefutable” which is another big word for “we are experts,” and can therefore “do math.”
That last shot across the bow will make sense shortly.
I’m not going to debate the quantity of ANSF. The force is definitely bigger: every year, there are more of them.
Then he went down the bottom of that dark bucket and looked at the bigger and better Afghan security forces. It turns out that “after nearly 10 years of ISAF intervention, and nearly two years of concerted effort by NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan (NTM-A) personnel, no unit at any level had achieved an “independent rating.” And he got the numbers and can do unfuzzy maths, too.
“So they changed the definition,” El Snarkistani writes.
They changed the definition of … Holy Mother of God and All Her Wacky Nephews!
Prior to the spring campaign, IJC reviewed the definition of an Independent unit and concluded that the definition was too restrictive and would be difficult for any ANSF element to attain. As a result, IJC rewrote the definition of an Independent unit to reflect the reality that most ANSF force enablers will likely require long-term coalition assistance.
In a war that offers relatively few metrics by which to measure success, being run by an organization that shifts those metrics randomly to fit their message, it’s unusual to find solid numbers to demonstrate anything. In this case, it’s simple math.
The interwebs is hard.
I’m off to break the news to my wife: in honor of the genius that walks among us mere mortals, we’re naming our first child “O’Hanlon.” And he shall be great. And able to do the maths.
O’Hanlon El Snarkistani, tee-hee! You really should read El Snarkistani’s stuff here and reader comment round 2 is here.
This reminds us of the large staffing gap at the State Department once, must have been during the tenure of Warren Christopher in the last century. (Yeah, I’m ancient, but no Botox!) Anyway, since it became a really bad problem, somebody decided to solve it surgically and quickly — by eliminating all the positions with a dash of a pen. So, no more staffing gap problem although the work still had to be done.
Eliminating the gap and redefinition are just a couple of tricks in your creative problem solving toolbox. In some places, I bet that creative problem solving can get you a Superior Honor Award or if you are really, really lucky, even a Presidential Rank Award.
“What’s frustrating is how expected this all is. The Brookings Institution—still billed as the “left-wing” think tank by conservative media—is just as much a corporatized centrist disappointment as every other major Washington institution. It’s in the imperialism business: selling it, cheerleading it and then excusing it. (Just look at that donor list flush with arms contractors.)”
Now that’s enough to ruin your midnight snacks, isn’t it?
FSI’s Transition Center and the Leadership and Management School have put together this short course intended to help U.S Government families and members of household prepare for a crisis overseas. It covers preparations to be done prior to departure for post, and upon arrival at post. It also describes the responsibilities of post personnel who have roles during crisis response and have audio clips from recent evacuees.
The online course includes five modules, a summary and review questions in each module. I find the review quiz pretty tame with softball questions but it may still be useful to take them. (Example: You’re going to Kingston, Jamaica, an island with a warm climate, should you pack sweaters and a warm coat?)
Planning Ahead Overview
You and the Mission
Evacuations: What They Mean for You
Planning Ahead: Your Personal Plan
At the conclusion of the brief course, there is a useful template for creating a Personal Crisis Preparedness Plan (see pdf below). There is also an option to print out the materials. Make sure you check out the “Resources” tab at the bottom of the screen.