Category Archives: US Embassy Baghdad

Monday Inbox: US Embassy Baghdad’s Conrad Turner Recites a Russian Poem, And ….

– Domani Spero

Updated on 3/24 at 11:24 pm PST: The YouTube description now indicates that this is “One of four videos celebrating international poetry during the visit to Iraq of poets from the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop.”

The video below was published by U.S. Embassy Baghdad on March 4, 2014 on YouTube. The video includes the English and Arabic text translation of a Russian poem.  The speaker is the embassy’s Public Affairs Counselor in Baghdad reciting a poem by Russian poet Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin in Baghdad. The embassy’s AIO also recited a poem last February; can’t say whose work he is reciting here, can you?

Oh, please don’t get us wrong, we love poetry.  We love Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese and  Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Underwear“and Keats, and Yeats, and Billy Collins, too.  But somebody from that building sent us an email asking if this is “really clever use of PD time and money?” So we went and look.  The YouTube post is 1:40 min in length, has 256 views, and does not include any context as to why our U.S. diplomat in Baghdad is reciting a Russian poem. What’s the purpose why this video is up, anyways? Was this part of a larger event? Nothing on the embassy’s website indicate that it is.  Was he just feeling it?  We can’t say, no explainer with the vid.  This could, of course, be part of celebrating poetry month, but the National Poetry Month in the U.S. has been celebrated in April since 1996.

In related news, according to iraqbodycount.org, the March civilian casualties in Iraq is currently at 749; the year-to-date count is 2,755 deaths.

Well, what do you think –  is this “really clever use of PD time and money?” or is this Reality Detachment, a chapter in Peter Van Buren’s future novel?

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Filed under Digital Diplomacy, Foreign Service, FSOs, Iraq, Peter Van Buren, Public Diplomacy, Social Media, U.S. Missions, US Embassy Baghdad

Congress Extends Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa Program, Authorizes 2500 Visas After 1/1/2014

– Domani Spero

We have previously blogged about the special immigrant visa programs in Iraq and Afghanistan in this blog. (See Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program for Iraqi Nationals to End Sept 30, Or How to Save One Interpreter At a TimeIraqi Special Immigrant Visa Program: Potential Termination on September 30, 2013Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program To End on December 31, 2013). On December 26, 2013, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2014.  The NDAA authorizes the issuance of 2,500 special immigrant visas after January 1, 2014 to qualified Iraqi applicants.  The new authorization does not have an end date and will conclude when 2500 visa numbers have been exhausted.

Below is the announcement from US Embassy Iraq:

The Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program benefiting individuals who have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government has been extended through passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2014.  The NDAA authorizes the issuance of 2,500 immigrant visas after January 1, 2014 to qualified principal applicants.  The NDAA does not include a date by which these visas must be issued, so consular officers have the authority to issue visas under this program until all 2,500 numbers have been used worldwide.  The Iraqi SIV program will end after all visas have been issued.

Under this legislation, the one-year period during which principal applicants must have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq begins on or after March 20, 2003, and ends on or before September 30, 2013.  The legislation includes a requirement that the principal applicant must apply for Chief of Mission approval no later than September 30, 2014.

Those applicants with cases pending do not need to re-file.  If your petition has been approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), we encourage you to provide all requested documents to the National Visa Center (NVC) immediately so that your visa interview can be scheduled promptly.

We recognize that many who have been employed or worked on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq, and their families, face real threats as a result of their U.S. government affiliation. We take these threats, and the concerns of those who work with us, very seriously and we are committed to providing them with the benefits for which they are legally eligible.

The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for U.S. affiliated Iraqis remains an option, as the eligibility criteria are very similar to those of the SIV program.  For more information on USRAP, please visit http://iraq.usembassy.gov/refugeesidpaffairs.html.

Read more here: http://iraq.usembassy.gov/siv-special.html

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Filed under Congress, Consular Work, Defense Department, State Department, U.S. Missions, US Embassy Baghdad, Visas

Baghdad Nights by Raymond Maxwell

✪ By Domani Spero

We have previously hosted Raymond Maxwell’s poem in this blog (see Raymond Maxwell: Former Deputy Asst Secretary Removed Over Benghazi Pens a Poem).  That was quite a riot.

What do you think about when you’re taking mortar rounds?

“Baghdad Nights” which originally appeared in FB and published here with Mr. Maxwell’s permission will not be quite so controversial but it stands out as a poem of stoic calm amidst the chaos of war.

We particularly like its auditory images which gives the poem a sense of place but also a sense of that specific moment in time.  A poem of faith or in a fatalistic sense of whatever will be, will be. A total acceptance of what is unknowable.  An inner freedom from fear in the face of a disorderly and dangerous external world.

According to his LinkdIn profile, Mr. Maxwell served in foreign service assignments in Guinea-Bissau, the U.K., Angola, Ghana, Egypt, Iraq and Syria.  In a previous 12-year career with the U.S. Navy, he “served division officer tours (auxiliary engineering and weapons systems) aboard the guided missile destroyer, USS Luce DDG-38 and enlisted engineering tours as a machinist’s mate on nuclear-powered submarines the USS Hammerhead SSN-663 and the USS Michigan SSBN-727 (B).”

 

Photo by US Embassy Baghdad

Baghdad Nights

© By Raymond Maxwell

Baghdad nights

It was a long-assed day.
We had dinner at the DFAC
and returned to the office.
Finally knocked off around 9pm.

The mandatory protective vest
weighs heavy on my already tired shoulders –
while the strap connecting the two sides
cuts into my waist as I try to balance
the weight on my already tired hips -

I lumber on to my tin-foil hootch
in Embassy Estates on the
the Republican Palace grounds…

It is late.  I take a shower and
turn on Fox News,
the only station that works.
“In California today, Senator Clinton says
President Johnson was more important
than Dr. King to getting the Civil Rights Bill
passed.”  Aw shit.  White House better stay white.

I fall asleep while reading “Certain to Win,”
one of those Army War College texts
from the Strategic Studies Masters program
I was falling further and further behind in
with each passing Baghdad day.

2am.  The witching hour.
Time for target practice.
I’m awakened by the sound
of the Duck and Cover alarm.
The concrete reinforced shelter is 100 meters
away from my tin-foil hootch –
100 meters as the crow flies…

Nope.  I’ll sit this one out – and pray –

Bong!  Bong!  Bong!  Bong! The alarm
sounds.  I hear people stumbling,
some drunkenly staggering –
to the safety of the shelter.

I shelter in place and
start my usual prayer
(I skip a lot of drills these days):

The Lord is my Shepherd,
I shall not want.
He maketh me ….

SWOOOOOOSH!

A mortar round flies over
the tin foil roof
of my tin foil hootch –

….lie down in green pastures.
He leadeth me
beside the Still Waters….–

THUMP.

The round hits the nearby ground.
Maybe it is another dud.
I continue my prayer:

….He restoreth my soul —

KABOOOOOM!

It was not a dud.
But I pinch myself and
I am not dead.

I finish my prayer:

And I will dwell in the House of the Lord,
forever.

Back to sleep.
Tomorrow is another Baghdad day.

🔥

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Filed under Foreign Service, FSOs, Iraq, Literature, Poetry, US Embassy Baghdad, War

US Mission Iraq: Twelve Things You Might Not Know About the Largest Embassy in the World

— By Domani Spero

State/OIG recently released its inspection report of U.S. Embassy Baghdad and its constituent posts  in Erbil and Basrah.  Here are a few things that you may not know about our largest embassy in the world.

Photo by state.gov/ds

Photo by state.gov/ds

#1.  Staffing Numbers:  Planned Reduction at over 50%

“The embassy is taking steps to reduce the mission’s headcount from over 11,500 in January 2013 to 5,500 by January 2014.”  

We’ll have to revisit this early next year to gauge how successful is that effort.

#2.  Housing: Social Workers Mediate Roommate Conflicts

“Housing remains the single largest morale issue, and the embassy employs two social workers to mediate roommate conflicts associated with a housing shortage that requires, at least temporarily, housing as many as four employees in apartments designed for one person. [...] The roommate policy will continue as sites close and more personnel consolidate on the embassy compound in the 619 apartments.”  

Apparently, only employees ranked FS-01 or GS-15 and above occupy private quarters.  And two social workers will not be enough if you have to mediate roommate conflicts every new rotation cycle of 12 months.

#3.  Estimated Cost of Protective Security Movement for FY2013: $49.8 Million

“Embassy employees traveling outside the international zone in Baghdad require protective security escorts. The security office’s protective security teams averaged 370 movements per month in the first 5 months of FY 2013 for a total of 1,846 movements. FY 2013’s total estimated cost for protective security movements is approximately $49.8 million.”

#4.   Third-Country Nationals: Hiring TCNs Cheaper But Not Cheap

“Third country nationals, originally recruited from embassies worldwide as temporary experts, comprise 24 percent of the non-U.S. direct-hire staff in Baghdad and fill most of the embassy’s senior non-U.S. positions. The embassy employs 56 third country national employees at a cost of about $10 million annually . [...] Support costs for third country national contractors and direct-hire staff, such as lodging, meals, and rest and recuperation travel, average $68,000 per person per year in addition to salaries, which often exceed locally employed staff salaries because of supplemental benefits packages.”

Some problems with hiring TCNs: with TCNs rotating as temp. experts, there may not be enough interest in growing Iraqi FSNs into a cadre of local experts; with American supervisors rotating every 12 months, who trains the Iraqi FSNs for more responsible roles?  Problems with local recruitment:  Mission does not have a pipeline of applicants; security vetting process has an overall average rejection rate of 47%. Almost half the applicants cannot work for the mission due to counterintel issues.

#5.  Iraq’s Service Recognition Package: No Longer The Most Attractive

“Last year, the Department filled about 92 percent of Iraq positions with volunteers. The Department is in the process of reducing selected employee benefits to reflect improvements in security and living conditions….The Department expects in coming months to offer service recognition package benefits to other missions, such as Libya and Yemen, which could be more attractive than the package for Iraq.” 

#6.  Embassy’s Airline — Embassy Air at $128.2 million in 2013

“Based in Amman, Jordan, Embassy Air carried 19,306 passengers to destinations around Iraq during a recent 6- month period. Embassy Air is the mission’s most secure lifeline to the outside world and the only means of medical evacuation countrywide. The combined cost of Afghanistan-Iraq air operations stands at $128.2 million this year.”

#7.  Embassy Hospitals: How Many by 2014?

“The Department is rapidly reducing the scope of its contracted medical services, estimated at $85 million for FY 2013, as activities at OSC-I locations around the country close by the end of the year. The embassy operates 11 hospitals and clinics throughout the country under contract with Comprehensive Health Services Middle East. Operations include four diplomatic field hospitals geared to trauma and mass casualty stabilization and clinics that deliver primary care, evacuation stabilization, and laboratory services.”

#8.  Largest IVP in the World

US Mission Iraq “manages the largest International Visitor Leadership Program in the world with 149 participants in FY 2012.”

#9.  Arabic Speakers: Only Three Can Conduct Interviews Unassisted 

“Consular Management The section’s effectiveness is hampered by a dearth of Arabic-language speakers, limited cultural insight, and an insufficient number of useful local contacts, largely due to the limited role the five Iraqi employees play in the overall operation. Fewer than half the consular employees—both U.S. and non-U.S. direct hires—speak Arabic and only three of the Arabic- speaking officers can conduct the full range of interviews unassisted.”  

This shortage of expertise is not confined to language.  Elsewhere in the report, the inspectors note that many Washington-based employees have more historical knowledge than some employees working in Iraq today.

#10.  Diplomatic Compounds:  Larger Than Normal

“The embassy and Consulate General Basrah occupy more than 100 acres each, while the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center site totals 350 acres. A typical new embassy compound sits on approximately 10 acres.”

So that’s ten times larger than normal. But then, no one ever said the U.S. Mission in Iraq was ever normal.

#11. Bleeding Green Bucks: Over $270 Million Down the Drain

At “[t]he Erbil Diplomatic Support Center, the Department canceled ongoing construction in February 2013, after expenditures of approximately $85 million, with the decision to cease Department operations at the location by July 2013. In September 2012, with the reduction of the Police Development Program, the U.S. Government turned over the unfinished Baghdad Police Academy to the Government of Iraq after investing an estimated $108 million in construction. In addition, the Department contributed $48 million in Police Development Program funds to the construction of the Basrah consulate general, because the Police Development Program intended to be a tenant in that facility. During the inspection, in preparation for turnover to the Government of Iraq, mission operations drew down at Embassy Annex Prosperity, where a $32 million construction project was halted. The final phase of the Prosperity site closure requires construction of a new $11.5 million heavy vehicle maintenance facility on the embassy compound.”

So that’s over $270 million down the drain for lack of appropriate planning, and $11.5M more for new construction, which may or may not be needed in a year or two.

#12.  Iraq Tax With No End in Sight Will Strain Diplomatic Facilities Worldwide

“Funding levels from multiple sources in support of Mission Iraq operations have been so substantial that the mission has not been subject to normal fiscal constraints, nor has it evaluated process and program priorities rigorously. The Department allotted $3.23 billion for Mission Iraq operations in FY 2012. The mission also oversaw $1.33 billion in foreign assistance in that same time frame.  Inevitably, the contingency funding that is a remnant of Iraq’s status as a war zone, and enabled so much of the mission’s growth and security programs, will dwindle. Even with the Department’s increased focus on protecting personnel and facilities in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack, the mission is considering ways to reduce its operational and security budgets, although the sheer size and scope of the physical plant, both in Baghdad and at the consulates,will require significant funding for years to come.”

So the reduction of USG footprint in Iraq does not mean the end of the Iraq tax on staffing, but going forward, you may now add resource allocation demands.  The OIG inspectors believe that as US Mission Iraq operates in a “traditional diplomatic environment” its maintenance and repair costs will come out of the regular budget.  The Vatican-size embassy even with “rightsizing” at 5,500 staff will still be the largest embassy in the world. Security and movement protection will still remain expensive. And as contingency funds end, and as US Mission Iraq starts to get funding from State’s regular budget, it will “strain  support for diplomatic facilities worldwide.”

Oh, there is no mention in this report of the alleged “underground drug ring” operating near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad; or a drug ring which allegedly supplied State Department security contractors with drugs.

This report only mentions “drug” in one instance: “The Department has approved continuing annual assistance for anti-corruption, the justice sector, drug demand reduction and police, with $23 million requested for FY 2014.” 

That’s expensive but not nearly as exciting news.  Now, let’s go invade another country so we can do this all over again.

(ú_ú)

-05/31/13   Inspection of Embassy Baghdad and Constituent Posts, Iraq (ISP-I-13-25A)  [617 Kb]  Posted online on June 3, 2013

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Filed under Foreign Affairs, Govt Reports/Documents, Iraq, Legacy, Realities of the FS, State Department, U.S. Missions, US Embassy Baghdad

US Mission Iraq: Shrinking to 5,500 Personnel by End of Year, Never Mind the Missing Details

On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, we were greeted with news about a wave of bombings in Iraq which killed 65 people and wounded over 200.

Then CNN came out with this piece on Iraq war for oil.

And retired FSO Peter Van Buren went on Fox News to talk about $15 million a day spent on  projects in Iraq (did you think he was going away?).  We heard from a nosy source that a former US ambassador to Iraq was reportedly on the phone to offer a, what do you call it — a counter-point, during the segment but the line went dead as a door nail when informed that Mr. Van Buren was the guest. Them phone signals can get occasionally wacky, must be that dry western climate.

Oh, and Mr. Rumsfeld made a serious tweet (can you hear Tehran celebrating the 10th anniversary with a roar?).

Screen Shot 2013-03-20

He got grandly pummeled over in Twitterland. Except that if he did not care what people think ten years ago, would he really care what folks think today? Of course, he is now an octogenarian on Twitter. Hopefully, he’s occupied enough not to plan on liberating any more countries between now and going forward.

Another news doing the rounds is the reported shrinking of US Mission Iraq – from a Gigantosaurus of embassies (projected at 17,000 in 2011 by Ambassador Jeffrey during a SFRC hearing) to hopefully something like a smaller, more agile Postosuchus.

Via the Middle East Online

The US mission in Iraq — the biggest in the world — will slash its numbers by two-thirds by the end of this year from its peak figure of over 16,000, the American ambassador to Baghdad said.

Overall staffing levels at the US’s embassy in Baghdad and its consulates in the southern port city of Basra, the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil and the disputed northern city of Kirkuk, will drop to around 5,500, including contractors, by the end of the year.

“A year ago, we were well above 16,000, now we’re at 10,500,” Ambassador Stephen Beecroft told reporters. “By the end of this year, we’ll be at 5,500, including contractors.”

As a prospective 5,500-person mission, it would probably still be one of the largest embassies in the world, if not still the largest (anyone knows what is the personnel-complement of US Mission Afghanistan?).

We’ve asked the Press Office of the US Embassy in Baghdad how many career Foreign Service personnel will be expected in Baghdad and constituent posts by end of year and what they are planning to do with all that space that will soon be vacated. We forgot to ask but we also are curious on what they’ll do with the Air Embassy planes (and pilots) and district embassy hospitals and equipment (embassy auction?).  Or how many ambassadorial rank senior officers they will have by end of the year.

Unfortunately, we haven’t got any response to our inquiry. Obviously the folks at the embassy’s Public Affairs shop are professionals who always respond to inquiries from the public even from the pajama-wearing sector who wants to know what’s going on.  Unless, of course, they are overwhelmed with drafting their performance evaluations (we understand it’s EER time).  It is also  entirely possible they were not read in on what they actually are doing by end of this year.  That is, besides the simple math announced on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the invasion.  Poor sods.

sig4

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Ambassadors, Counting Beans, Follow the Money, Foreign Service, Huh? News, Iraq, Peter Van Buren, Public Diplomacy, State Department, U.S. Missions, Uncategorized, US Embassy Baghdad

US Mission Iraq: Get ready for BLISS… no, not perfect happiness — just Baghdad Life Support Services

Bliss is an emotional state that is characterized by perfect happiness (feelings of enjoyment, pleasure, and satisfaction).

The State Dept announced last month that it intends to solicit replacement services that are currently being provided by KBR under the LOGCAP Program and services provided by DLA. The replacement services will be called Baghdad Life Support Services or BLISS for short.

Bliss in Iraq? Holy molly guacamole, who would come up with a name like that?

The selected contractor will be required to provide life support services to persons and organizations that are determined to be performing missions or functions in support of the Chief of Mission, including: COM personnel, selected civilian agencies, military units, and authorized contractors who directly support the COM.

Current life support for these sites is provided by the U.S. Army Materiel Command’s “LOGCAP IV” (Logistic Civil Augmentation Program), Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), and Army Sustainment Command (ASC) Green Equipment Maintenance contract. These contracts are due to end in December 2013. The State Dept’s intent is to award this contract prior to May 1, 2013 and transition to a new DoS contract no later than September 30, 2013.

According to supplemental documents, following the award, the incumbent will require a minimum of 60 days to demobilize. The transition off of the DLA supply chain contract for food will be addressed in the formal RFP.

Background: The mission of the United States Embassy in Baghdad is to represent the United States of America to the Government of Iraq (GOI). The U.S. Ambassador (Chief of Mission (COM)) is the President’s representation to the GOI. The Embassy is located in the International Zone (IZ) in Baghdad. The compound consists of 104 acres and is the largest U.S. Embassy in the world. The Embassy requires life, logistics, operations and maintenance services to support the Embassy, other locations within Baghdad and five or more diplomatic posts and facilities currently located in the provinces of Basrah, Diyala, Erbil, Ninewa and Tamim. This list may be modified during the life of this contract.

The Draft RFP Release dated November 16, and issued for information purposes only listed the following life support services requirements that may include services in the following areas to be specified under each individual task orders:

• Postal Services
• Food Services, to include, procurement of food and supplies, storage, preparation, serving, cleaning of facility
• Waste Management
• Laundry Services
• Fuel Services, to include Procurement and Delivery
• Recreation Services
• Airfield Services to include, air crash and rescue
• Transportation Services
• Warehouse Operations
• Supplemental Staffing and Maintenance Services to Regional Security Office (RSO)

A quick overview on the expected requirement on food services alone is mind boggling for an embassy operation (extracted from draft doc posted at fedbiz):

Baghdad Embassy Compound:

The main dining facility cafeteria area on the Embassy Compound is a 3,000 square meter facility that currently has a feeding and seating capacity of roughly 2,500 personnel. This area does not include the various refrigerated vans and containers used for storage of frozen, chilled and dry storage of food, or supplies. [...] Additional feeding capacity projects are being contemplated to accommodate personnel surges. The maximum occupancy on the BEC is 2600, while Camp Condor houses 1129 and has its own dining facility.

Local Nationals (LNs) are only entitled to lunch meals, not breakfast or dinner. The largest feeding requirement occurs during lunch time during week days as LN direct hire personnel are entitled to eat lunch meals. Three snack bar operations located on the Embassy compound (1 within Annex 1, 1 in Annex 2, and 1 in the Chancery) alleviate the feeding demand during the lunch meal at the cafeterias. Two of the snack bar operations serve only cold sandwiches and hot soup. The Annex 1 snack bar is equipped with a grill that provides a hot entre lunch item 5 days a week: Sunday through Thursday.

Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center (BDSC):

This is a 350-acre State Department-managed facility located next to the Baghdad International Airport (not within the IZ). BDSC houses 41 individual agencies or groups, totaling approximately 1600 personnel. The BDSC dining facility is a 2244 square meter facility that serves 1800* residents and transient personnel three meals per day. A grab-in-go (soup and sandwich bar) is open 14 hours daily (0830 – 2230). The dining area is 1182 m2, kitchen 531 m2 (warehouse 531 m2, which is connected to the kitchen) and serving lines 55 linear meter.

Erbil Diplomatic Support Center (EDSC):

This is a 2760-acre compound with a an office building, gym, warehouse, motor vehicle center, 800-plus containerized housing units, a fire station and other facilities. The EDSC DFAC is a 915 square meter facility that serves 790 residents three meals per day.

U.S. Consulate General Basrah:

Located on 53 acres, with the Consulate General building occupying 119 acres and the Air Hub occupying 34 acres. The Basrah dining facility currently serves 790 residents three meals per day.

For those four posts alone, and those are not all the posts we have in country, the USG need to serve 17,640 meals day!  But they gotta eat.  We’re looking at the plan for local sourcing next but we’ll post that separately.

domani spero sig

 

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Filed under Food, Govt Reports/Documents, Iraq, State Department, Transition, U.S. Missions, US Embassy Baghdad

Photo of the Day: President O with Ambassador to Iraq Robert Beecroft

Via WH/Flickr

President Barack Obama meets with Robert Beecroft, his nominee as the new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, in the Oval Office, Sept. 21, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
NOTE: Ambassador Beecroft was confirmed on September 22, 2012.

 

 

 

 

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Obama Nominates Robert Stephen Beecroft as Next Ambassador to Iraq

The NYT is reporting that President Obama announced today his intent to nominate Ambassador Robert Stephen Beecroft as the next US Ambassador to Iraq following the withdrawal of his first choice, Brett McGurk in June 2012.

Ambassador Beecroft has been Chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Baghdad since the departure of Ambassador James Jeffrey on June 1, 2012.

The 2011 Human Rights Awards. From left: Christian Marchant of U.S. Embassy Hanoi, Ambassador Steve Beecroft of U.S. Embassy Amman, Under Secretary William Burns, Assistant Secretary Michael H. Posner, Julia Nunez on behalf of Damas de Blanco, and Holly Lindquist Thomas of U.S. Embassy Tashkent.

Below is a quick bio from US Embassy Baghdad:

Robert Stephen Beecroft, a career member of the Foreign Service, joined Embassy Baghdad as Deputy Chief of Mission on July 14, 2011.  Prior to that, Mr. Beecroft served as Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  He became Chargé d’affaires upon the departure of Ambassador James Jeffrey on June 1, 2012.

Mr. Beecroft’s previous assignments include service in Washington as Executive Assistant to two Secretaries of State and Special Assistant to a Deputy Secretary of State.  He has also held assignments in Department of State’s Executive Secretariat and Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.  Overseas he has served at the U.S. embassies in Amman, Riyadh, and Damascus.  He is a recipient of the Department of State’s Meritorious, Superior, and Distinguished Honor Awards.

Before joining the Foreign Service, Mr. Beecroft practiced law in the San Francisco office of an international law firm.  He holds a B.A. from Brigham Young University and a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Ambassador Beecroft graduated from BYU in 1983 and the University of California at Berkeley Law School in 1988. He practiced law in San Francisco for several years before joining the Foreign Service in 1994.

The August 2008 coverage of his appointment as US Ambassador to Jordan by Church News of the Church of Latter-Day Saints has additional personal details here.  The Church News also covered Ambassador Beecroft’s Diplomacy for Human Rights Award on April 21, 2011 at the State Department here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Snapshot: US Mission Iraq Staffing as of July 2012

The following numbers and info from the July 30 SIGIR report:

As of early July, according to DoS, 15,007 personnel were supporting the U.S. Mission in Iraq:

  •  1,235 U.S. government civilian employees (includes full-time and temporary government employees and personal-services contractors)
  •  13,772 contractor personnel (U.S., Iraqi, and third-country nationals), 5,737 of whom were providing security services

In a change from its past reporting practice, DoS said that it obtained this quarter’s data on the number and role of contractors from the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker (SPOT) database maintained by DoD. SIGIR also obtained data from the SPOT database that showed 12,477 employees of U.S.-funded contractors and grantees were working in Iraq as of July 2, 2012—1,295 fewer contractor personnel than reported by the Embassy. The data may have been accessed on different dates, but SIGIR does not know if that would completely account for the difference in reported number of contractor personnel.

Reconstruction Staff Down to 6, But Wait –

According to DoS, only 6 personnel—the number of staff in the Iraq Strategic Partnership Office—support “reconstruction activities.” DoS estimated that 67 contractors also support reconstruction programs. However, in its tally of reconstruction personnel, DoS excludes the entire staff of the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I), which manages Iraq Security Forces Fund (ISFF) projects and the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programs; DoS Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) personnel working on the Police Development Program (PDP); and personnel working on U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs.96 DoS contends that it excludes these individuals because they work on “traditional assistance programs (assistance programs that are found in embassies worldwide).” However, SIGIR takes the position that Economic Support Fund (ESF) and FMS, for example, are reconstruction programs in Iraq—a position supported in a March 31, 2011, letter by the Chairmen of the House Committees on Oversight and Government Reform and Foreign Affairs to the Secretary of State.

Less Expensive Staffing/Life-Support Options

DoS is working to reduce direct-hire staffing by 25%–30% by the end of 2013. Moreover, the Embassy is continuing to hire more Iraqis to fill direct-hire positions, reporting that 240 of the planned 400 were on board, as of June 28.

With regard to life-support contractors, DoS’s goal is for 50% of all life-support contractors to be Iraqis. As of late June, Iraqis made up about 24% of life-support contractors.

US Consulate Kirkuk Closes Today, Maybe

The U.S. Consulate in Kirkuk—which has been operational, though not providing most traditional consular services, for about one year—has been scheduled to close by the end of July 2012. The consulate, which had been colocated with the OSC-I site on the grounds of an Iraqi Air Force base, will transfer most of its personnel to the Erbil Diplomatic Support Center (EDSC). To accommodate this move, the EDSC is preparing additional containerized housing-units that will serve as living quarters and office space for those personnel relocated from Kirkuk. About 30 private-security  contractors will move from Kirkuk to Erbil as part of this plan. U.S. facilities in Kirkuk had been subject to regular indirect fire attacks since they opened. OSC-I will close its Kirkuk site by the end of September.

That’s a “maybe” because nowhere in US Mission Baghdad’s website or social media digs is there an announcement or an indication that the consulate in Kirkuk is about to close.  In fact, the embassy’s lengthy job vacancy list, still has the following:

Jobs/Vacancies in Consulate General Kirkuk:
Political Assistant, FSN-8; FP-6* (PDF 93kb) Closing Date: Open until filled

An FSN-8 at $40,102 USD per year. Not bad for a local rate in a country where the average annual income is $3,500.  But Iraqis may still not want their neighbors to know where they work. The job was originally published in February and republished in May.

Domani Spero

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Filed under Contractors, Foreign Service, FSOs, Govt Reports/Documents, Iraq, Leadership and Management, Snapshots, Staffing the FS, U.S. Missions, US Embassy Baghdad

US Mission Iraq/INL: Sexing-up Them “Engagement” Numbers in Iraq?

Here is part of the SIGIR report that talks about the number of meetings (on the Iraqi side) and engagements (on the US Embassy Iraq/INL side) during the first three month period of 2012.

In late December 2011, Principal Deputy Minister of Interior al-Asadi ordered the formation of a committee within the MOI to coordinate with INL and manage MOI’s involvement with the PDP [Police Development Program]. The committee reported that MOI officials held 80 meetings with INL advisors from January 1 to April 1, 2012. (INL reported that it held 517 engagements with MOI personnel during the same three-month period.) In addition, the MOI committee noted that it had rejected 55 meeting requests by INL during the first three months of 2012. The committee characterized 52 meetings with INL as “beneficial,” 21 as “semi-beneficial,” 1 as “non-beneficial,” and did not assess the other 6. The MOI committee also concluded.

Let’s just say that there are no weekends at US Mission Iraq.

517 engagements
÷  90 days
—————————
=  5.744444 engagements a day for a three-month duration

Given that no one can just pick up and go in Iraq, and that it is deemed unsafe to travel without any security details over there, how does five meetings/engagements a day from just one part of US Mission Iraq even works?

What are included in these 517 engagements — meetings via emails? Appointments by telephones? Pigeon posts?  Two cans and a string? What counts?

Unfortunately, the SIGIR report did not explain what the meaning of “engagement” really is from the INL perspective. Or how many resulted in face-to-face or face-to-screen-meetings.

Well, whatever it is, the 517 “engagements” did not seem to help much.

According to SIGIR, as of July 2012, the number of INL in-country advisors was reduced to 36: 18 in Baghdad and 18 in Erbil, down from the 85 advisors supporting the program in January 2012.

Of course, in the glass is full perspective, one could argue that without that 517 “engagements”, the number of in-country advisors could have been down from 85 advisors to 6 or zero. The fact that we’re left with 36 should be considered a programmatic success or something.

SIGIR’s analysis of DoS’s FY 2013 budget request, however, shows that the Police Development Program support costs would go up to 94% of program funding and the per advisor costs would double to about $4.2 million per year.

In short, 36 advisors will still cost US taxpayers $151.2 million a year.

Before you get mad, just remember that we already have a $204.8 million savings from the 49 advisors who were cut off from the program.

This monopoly game is addicting and so exciting! Can we please buy a new school in my district with that money?

Domani Spero

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Filed under Contractors, Diplomatic Security, Functional Bureaus, Govt Reports/Documents, Huh? News, Iraq, Legacy, State Department, US Embassy Baghdad