Category Archives: USAID

Cuban Twitter: Short Message Service for Displaced People in the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan?

– Domani Spero

The month of April started off with a bang for USAID!  We saw the Twitter Cubano story first, and then there’s USAID’s reportedly $1billion a year “DARPA-like” innovation lab.  Also SIGAR John Sopko accused USAID of cover up in Afghanistan. And no, USAID Administrator is not going to New Delhi as the next US Ambassador to India. We were seriously intrigued by  the ZunZuneo story, the secret Cuban Twitter reported by the Associated Press. Can you blame us?

 

We thought the Associated Press did a great investigative piece. Sorry, we are not convinced that this was ‘breathlessly written.’

In July 2010, Joe McSpedon, a U.S. government official, flew to Barcelona to put the final touches on a secret plan to build a social media project aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government.

McSpedon and his team of high-tech contractors had come in from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Washington and Denver. Their mission: to launch a messaging network that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans. To hide the network from the Cuban government, they would set up a byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account, and recruit unsuspecting executives who would not be told of the company’s ties to the U.S. government.

McSpedon didn’t work for the CIA. This was a program paid for and run by the U.S. Agency for International Development, best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid.

For a look on how much the U.S. Government spent on Cuban Democracy between 1996-2011, see a snapshot of the funding here.

In an interview with Popular Science, USAID’s Administrator, Rajiv Shah, who led USAID through the program, defended it.

“One of the areas we work in is in the area of rights protection and accountability,” Shah said. The highest-level official named in the AP documents is a mid-level manager named Joe McSpedon.

But Shah—despite the fact that the program was unknown to the public—said the idea that ZunZuneo was a covert operation is “inaccurate,” and pointed out that there are other USAID programs that require secrecy, such as protecting the identities of humanitarian workers in Syria. “These projects are notified to Congress and the subject of a thorough accountability report,” he said.

 

The AP story mentions two USAID connected companies: Creative Associates International as contractor and Denver-based Mobile Accord Inc. as one of the subcontractors.

According to Denver Business Journal, Mobile Accord is the parent organization of the mGive business, which helps nonprofits raise donation via text message, and of the GeoPoll business handling opinion surveys in developing nations.

The Guardian reports that the money that Creative Associates spent on ZunZuneo was “publicly earmarked for an unspecified project in Pakistan, government data show. But there is no indication of where the funds were actually spent.”

So we went digging over at USASpending.gov. The first contract we located is a State Department contract with Mobile Accord in the amount of $969,000 and signed on September 18, 2009.  The contract description says: “Short Message Service Support to Be Provided to Displaced People in the Northwest Frontier of PAKISTAN.”

Screen Shot 2014-04-04

 

The second contract also with Mobile Accord in the amount of $720,000 was signed in July 8, 2010:

Screen Shot 2014-04-04

So if Twitter Cubano was not a “covert”operation, what’s this over $1.6 million contract between the State Department and Mobile Accord for the Northwest Frontier Pakistan about?  The folks who prepared this data for USASpending.gov did not really intend to be inaccurate with this public information, right?  They just inadvetently spelled ‘Cuba’ as ‘Northwest Frontier Pakistan.’

And this is the official version of  ‘truth in reporting”as public service? What you don’t know can’t harm you?

If this money actually went to Twitter Cubano, and was hidden in plain sight, how are we to believe the accuracy of the data we see on the USASpending website?

Where else do we have similar projects for democracy promotion and/or regime change if possible, do you know?

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
About these ads

1 Comment

Filed under Budget, Congress, Counting Beans, Follow the Money, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Assistance, Foreign Policy, Govt Reports/Documents, Huh? News, Pakistan, Social Media, State Department, Technology and Work, USAID

Snapshot: Cuba Democracy Funding to State and USAID – FY1996-2011

– Domani Spero

The Associated Press recently produced an investigative piece on ZunZuneo, a Twitter Cubano reportedly aimed at undermining the socialist government in Cuba that was managed by USAID.

The official government response cited a GAO report from 2013 which make no mention of ZunZeneo. The report, however, provides a snapshot of how much we have spent on the Cuba Democracy project from 1996-2011. Ay mucho dinero:

In fiscal years 1996 through 2011, Congress appropriated $205 million for Cuba democracy assistance, appropriating 87 percent of these funds since 2004. Increased funding for Cuba democracy assistance was recommended by the interagency Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which was established by President George W. Bush in 2003.13 Program funding, which peaked in 2008 with appropriations totaling $44.4 million, has ranged between $15 and $20 million per year during fiscal years 2009 through 2012. For fiscal year 2013, USAID and State reduced their combined funding request to $15 million, citing operational challenges to assistance efforts in Cuba.14

In fiscal years 1996 through 2011, $138.2 million of Cuba democracy funds were allocated to USAID and $52.3 million were allocated to State. (see GAO report pdf).

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-03

* * *

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under Budget, Congress, Counting Beans, Follow the Money, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Govt Reports/Documents, Snapshots, State Department, U.S. Missions, USAID

GAO: State Dept Management of Security Training May Increase Risk to U.S. Personnel

– Domani Spero

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.”

Excerpt below from the public version of a February 2014 report:

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.

* * *

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under Americans Abroad, Foreign Service, FSOs, Org Culture, Realities of the FS, Security, Spouses/Partners, Staffing the FS, State Department, Terrorism, Training, Trends, U.S. Missions, USAID

State/OIG Employees Received CIGIE Awards for Exceptional Performance

– Domani Spero

The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency’s (CIGIE) 16th Annual Inspector General Community awards were presented in Washington, DC, at the Constitution Center Auditorium on November 15, 2013. We’ve seen this news from last year, but we were waiting for a photo to put up with it; one was recently made available online:

Photo via state.gov/oig

Anna Gershman, Assistant IG/Investigations, accepts the award on behalf of Karen Pacheco from CIGIE Chair Phyllis Fong (right) and Lynne McFarland, Vice Chair (left). Photo via state.gov/oig

The following Department of State OIG employees received CIGIE awards for their exceptional work and performance:

In recognition of exceptional work in conducting an audit of the Worldwide Protective Services Contract for Baghdad Movement Security that contributed to improved efficiency and contract management and identified about $362 million in cost savings. (see audit report here).

    • Yvonne Athanasaw, Office of Audits
    • Amy Lowenstein, Office of Audits
    • Kelly Moon, Office of Audits
    • Jim Pollard, Office of Audits
    • Lloyd Taylor, Office of Audits

In recognition of exceptional performance in establishing a highly effective Suspension and Debarment Program within the OIG and the Department of State, which resulted in successfully safeguarding U.S. Government interests.

    • Karin Pacheco, Office of Investigations

 

Congratulations!

A few years ago, Senator Clair McCaskill complained about the State Department’s poor record of contractor debarment: “The State Department is the second largest Department responsible for contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan behind the Department of Defense. During a four year period, from 2005 through 2008, the State Department awarded contracts to 89,593 companies and debarred only one company. In 2005, 2006 and 2008, the State Department did not debar a single company or individual” (see pdf).

In 2012, Federal Times reported that contractor suspensions (banning a company from receiving new contracts for up to 18 months), at the State Department increased from none in 2009 to 19 halfway into fiscal 2012.  At USAID, which apparently scarcely used suspension and debarment in the past, took 63 suspension or debarment actions in 2011.

This is a positive development. The next step is for the list of suspended and debarred contractors to be made publicly available online.

* * *

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under Awards, State Department, USAID

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

|| >    We’re running our crowdfunding project from January 1 to February 15, 2014. If you want to keep us around, see Help Diplopundit Continue the Chase—Crowdfunding for 2014 via RocketHub  <||


– 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.

* * *

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under Afghanistan, Bills, Congress, Follow the Money, FS Funding, Govt Reports/Documents, New Embassy Compound, State Department, U.S. Missions, USAID

State/OIG Semi-Annual Report to Congress (Apri 1-September 30, 2013)

– Domani Spero

State/OIG submitted its last semi-annual report to Congress signed by Harold Geisel in September. Steve A. Linick took charge of the OIG on September 30, 2013.  The report was not published online until late December.

Via State/OIG

Via State/OIG

Under Oversight Review, State/OIG tells Congress it is conducting an in-depth review of Diplomatic Security’s investigative process.  This is in connection with last year’s allegations that several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. (See CBS News: Possible State Dept Cover-Ups on Sex, Drugs, Hookers — Why the “Missing Firewall” Was a Big Deal):

The Office of Investigations (INV) is conducting an independent oversight review of certain investigations conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Office of Investigations and Counterintelligence, Special Investigations Division (DS/ICI/SID). This is an in-depth review of the DS/ICI/SID investigations to assess the adequacy of the investigative process.

State/OIG also informs Congress that it audited seven posts under the purview of AF that had threat levels ranging from medium to critical. The audit was conducted “to determine to what extent the selected embassies in Africa complied with current physical security standards, and whether management officials at these posts used available authorities to effectively implement the posts’ security programs.” The audit identified physical security deficiencies at Embassy N’Djamena, Chad; Embassy Monrovia, Liberia; Embassy Nouakchott, Mauritania and Embassy Dakar, Senegal.  A brief summary of the audit is posted here but the reports are not publicly available.

The semi-annual report includes an item about the non-compliance of the local guard contractor for Embassy Lilongwe, Malawi, who was required to pay local guards $100 per month supplemental pay in addition to the guards’ regular wages and benefits, based on a provision in the contract. OIG estimated that the amount invoiced by the contractor and not paid to the local guards as of June 2013 could be as much as $1,489,200.

Other items of note:

  • OIG conducted an investigation after receiving allegations of improper activities being committed by a major contractor that provides survey services to the Department and other agencies. The investigation determined that the contractor provided false pricing information to the Department during negotiations for a 5-year, sole source contract worth $25,000,000. OIG led a multi-agency investigation which resulted in the contractor agreeing to pay a $10.5-million civil settlement for improperly inflating Department and U.S. Mint contract prices and engaging in prohibited employment negotiations with a Federal Emergency Management Agency official.
  • OIG conducted a joint investigation with the OIG for USAID into allegations that two foreign real estate companies paid bribes to two LE staff members at the local embassy in order secure U.S. Embassy lease agreements. During the investigation, the company presidents admitted to paying the bribes and both employees were terminated from employment at the embassy. On May 9, 2013, the Office of the Procurement Executive issued six contracting debarments for a period of 3 years in connection with the case, two for each former employee, two for the two firms, and two for the presidents of each firm.
  • OIG conducted an investigation of an assistant regional security officer who submitted a false reimbursement voucher in connection with an extended hotel stay. The investigation determined that the officer knowingly submitted two fraudulent vouchers for reimbursement to the Department and received $14,630.83 to which he was not entitled. On March 11, 2012, The Department of Justice declined criminal prosecution of the officer. On March 28, 2012, the Bureau of Resource Management initiated a collection action against the officer for the full amount of the false claims, and on April 23, 2013, the Bureau of Human Resources issued a 10 day suspension to the officer.

See more Semiannual Report to the Congress April 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013  [1990 Kb]  | Posted on December 30, 2013.

* * *

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Congress, Contractors, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, State Department, U.S. Missions, USAID

Derek Brown’s Photographs From India — Old Delhi, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, and Kutch

– By Domani Spero

We most recently blogged about Derek Brown’s photos from India in early 2013 ( See NYT’s India Ink Features Awesome Photographer and USAID EFM). This blog has also featured his 2010 photo exhibit in DC, a photo from the East Africa Bombing Memorial, and photos from Pakistan during his FSO’s assignment there. His photos are in Facebook but we are thrilled to see his photos of Old Delhi, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, and Kutch, in a new Tumblr.

Below is a boat in Kutch, in the Gujarat state of western India. Apparently, Kutch literally means “something which intermittently becomes wet and dry.”  Thanks, Derek, for letting us use this photo!

Check out more gorgeous photos from India, vivid, brimming with life, leaping off the frames at http://derekbrowntravels.tumblr.com.

2013 © Derek Brown. Used with permission

2013 Photo © Derek Brown. Used with permission
(Click on image to view more photos)

* * *

Leave a comment

Filed under Foreign Service, Photo of the Day, Spouses/Partners, USAID

Snapshot: U.S. Government Humanitarian Assistance to the Philippines

Via USAID – @theOFDA as of November 18, 2013:

Screen Shot 2013-11-20

* * *

Leave a comment

Filed under Countries 'n Regions, Defense Department, Disasters, Foreign Assistance, Snapshots, State Department, USAID

Philippine Super Typhoon Disaster – USG Assistance, Welfare/Whereabouts, Donation Information

– Domani Spero

Via the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):  “Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) made its first landfall in the early morning of 8 November in Guiuan, Eastern Samar province with maximum sustained winds of 235 km/h and wind gusts at 275 km/h. Haiyan made subsequent landfalls in Tolosa south of Tacloban City, Leyte province, Daanbantayan and Bantayan Island, Cebu province, Conception, Iloilo province and Busuanga, Palawan province. Communication and power lines are down in the most affected areas. Access has been limited due to damaged roads, fallen trees and debris which continue to hamper the humanitarian relief operations. On 9 November, the Government accepted the UN offer of international assistance. The Humanitarian Country Team and the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team were deployed to Tacloban City and Iloilo City to support rapid needs assessment, support coordination and re-establish communication networks.”

Screen Shot 2013-11-11

Image from OCHA

The Philippines is a country with over 7,000 islands, and a population of over 98 million. The fear that the number of casualties will grow as affected areas are able to re-establish communication with the mainland is justified.

According to the State Department there are an estimated four million Americans of Philippine ancestry in the United States, and more than 300,000 U.S. citizens residing in the Philippines.  An estimated 600,000 Americans also visit the Philippines each year. As of FY2012, our bilateral trade with the Philippines fast-growing economy was $17 billion.  Until early 1990s, the Philippines hosted U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay and Clark Air Base in the Luzon island.

On November 11, Secretary Kerry released the following statement (excerpt):

As we commemorate Veterans Day here at home, the State Department is working with Team Rubicon to deploy a team of incredible, courageous American veterans to the Philippines and all the areas damaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Just as they did after Hurricane Sandy, these veterans will be using the skills they learned in uniform to help others recover from this terrible storm.

The State Department also is cooperating with the Philippines Typhoon Disaster Relief Fund established by The mGive Foundation, a U.S. nonprofit organization, to coordinate donations via mobile phones to benefit victims of the typhoon.

I want to assure the people of the Philippines and the many Americans of Filipino heritage that we are working as hard as possible to provide essential assistance to help the Philippine people and their government recover from this tragedy.

On the same day, the Pentagon announced that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has ordered the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) and other U.S. Navy ships to make best speed for the Republic of the Philippines. They are expected to be on station within 48-72 hours. These ships and aircraft will be able to provide humanitarian assistance, supplies, and medical care in support of the ongoing efforts in the Philippines.

The aircraft carrier, which carries 5,000 Sailors and more than 80 aircraft, is currently in Hong Kong for a port visit. The crew is being recalled early from shore leave and the ship is expected to be underway later this evening.

In company with the carrier will be the cruisers USS Antietam (CG 54) and USS Cowpens (CG 63), and the destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89). The supply ship USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE-10) is already underway and will rendezvous with the group as they get closer. USS Lassen (DDG 82) got underway yesterday for the region. Embarked on board USS George Washington, is Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW-5).

CVW-5 is a collection of aircraft designed to perform various functions including disaster relief and includes the “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 flying the MH-60S Seahawk; and the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 77 flying the MH-60R Seahawk.

Active links added above.  Also on November 11, USAID announced a $20 million humanitarian assistance to the Philippines:

In response to the storm, the United States Government announced today $20 million in humanitarian assistance, including emergency food aid and critical relief supplies–like shelter materials and hygiene kits–for disaster-affected areas. These supplies will not only provide life-saving care in the immediate aftermath of the storm, but will also help prevent illness and death from waterborne and communicable diseases. A shipment is already on its way with enough plastic sheeting, soap, toothbrushes, toilet paper, and sanitary supplies to help 10,000 families. Another shipment of the same size will follow closely behind. We are also sending 55 metric tons of food, including highly nutritious bars and paste–containing a day’s worth of calories–to nourish approximately 20,000 children and 15,000 adults for roughly 4 to 5 days.

To read more about the USG assistance, click here.

Welfare and Whereabouts of U.S. Citizens in the Philippines

If you are concerned about the welfare or whereabouts of an American citizen in the Philippines, here are some useful contact numbers:

If you are in the United States, you may call the Department of State’s Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) toll-free hotline at (888) 407-4747 during the hours 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (EST) Monday through Friday.  The Department of State has activated the Typhoon Haiyan Response Call Center to handle inquiries about US citizens who may be present in the Philippines. You may contact the Call Center at 888-407-4747 if calling from within the U.S. or 202-501-4444 if calling from any other location.

At all other times, call the duty officer twenty-four hours a day at 202-647-4000.

Google has also put together a Google Crisis Response Yolanda  including a Person Finder and mapping urgent needs by category via MicroMappers:

Screen Shot 2013-11-12

Donation Information (per state.gov)

U.S. wireless subscribers can text AID to 80108 to give a $10 donation to the mGive Philippines Typhoon Disaster Relief Fund.

Donations will be collected from the U.S. wireless carriers by the mGive Foundation, a 501c3 public charity that empowers text donation campaigns across 60 U.S. wireless carriers–providing access to 99 percent of all mobile phone users. Donations made to mGive will be distributed to relief organizations supporting Philippine Typhoon response and recovery. For more information visit, www.mgive.org.

The $10 donation will go to The mGive Foundation’s Philippines Typhoon Disaster Relief Fund. Charges will appear on the donor’s wireless bill or be deducted from the prepaid balance. All purchases must be authorized by account holder. Donors must be 18 years of age or have parental permission to participate.

* * *

Leave a comment

Filed under Americans Abroad, Consular Work, Countries 'n Regions, Defense Department, Disasters, Foreign Assistance, Google Stuff, John F. Kerry, State Department, U.S. Missions, USAID

Deputy SecState for Management & Resources Nominee Heather A. Higginbottom’s Top Priorities

– Domani Spero

From 2009-2010, Jacob J. Lew was the State Department’s Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and oversaw the civilian surge in Afghanistan. From 2011-2013, Thomas R. Nides was D/MR and delivered State’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).  Most recently, President Obama announced the nomination of Heather Higginbottom, the new Counselor in the Office of the Secretary of State to be the third Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.

Today, Ms. Higginbottom went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) for her confirmation hearing. She indicated in her written statement that she will oversee the second Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), “which will identify important policy shifts, areas for innovation, and management reforms required to address the challenges that we face today and in the future.” If confirmed, she also promised to “bring new focus to innovation at the State Department and USAID. Innovation in what we do, as well as the way we work, is critical to deliver on our foreign policy and development priorities.”

Below is a list of Ms. Higginbottom’s top priorities for the State Department (extracted from prepared statement):

  • First, my top priority will be ensuring that our people and posts are safe and secure. President Obama has made it clear that we need our diplomats fully engaged wherever our vital national interests are at stake – from Colombia to Indonesia, and Kenya to Yemen.   That is why, if confirmed, I will work to make certain that our processes, organization, and culture keep pace with the rapidly evolving threats facing our diplomats and development professionals.
  • Second, if confirmed, I will work to better prioritize the resources and programs of State and USAID. I will see to it that our limited resources are going where we need them most and being used responsibly and effectively.  This is especially important as we continue our efforts to right-size our presence and engagement in key places like Afghanistan and Iraq. In particular, I will work to align resources with policy as we carry out the planned transition in Afghanistan.
  • My third area of focus will be management, reform, and innovation. We must do a better job of aligning our planning, budget, and management functions with our foreign policy and national security priorities.  I will also work to ensure that the remarkable men and women at State and USAID have the training, tools and skills they need to succeed.
  • My fourth area of focus will be better targeting and coordinating our development efforts. These investments aren’t just the right thing to do – they are also the smart thing to do, because helping to promote stability and creating opportunities for future trade and shared growth is in America’s interest.  I will make certain that our key development initiatives like global health and food security deliver results and are sustainable. We must align our business model and investments to have maximum impact.
  • Finally, if confirmed, I will build on the great work that has been done to strengthen the State Department’s economic impact. At his own confirmation hearing earlier this year, Secretary Kerry said that today “foreign policy is economic policy.” More than ever, our prosperity at home depends on our engagement abroad – opening markets, expanding exports, and attracting foreign investment. If confirmed, I will work to help our embassies and consulates abroad do even more to fight for American companies and promote foreign investment that leads to jobs and opportunity here at home.

Read her full statement here.

👀

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Congress, Hearings, Leadership and Management, Nominations, SFRC, State Department, USAID