Commission on Wartime Contracting Holds First Hearing

The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan (CWC) will have its initial hearing today at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC. The hearing will coincide with the public release of SIGIR’s “Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience” report on five years of investigating waste, fraud, and abuse in the reconstruction effort in Iraq. Special Inspector General Stuart Bowen will discuss his new SIGIR report, the Commissioners will then hear from a panel of three witnesses representing the inspector-general functions of the Departments of Defense and State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. All three agencies are involved in wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Excerpts from the SIGIR report:
Of the many lessons to be drawn from Iraq reconstruction, the most compelling speak to the need to develop an agreed-upon doctrine and structure for contingency relief and reconstruction operations to guide the use of military and economic power so that the United States is ready when it next must intervene in a failed or failing state.

Its most significant hard learned lessons include the following items on the interagency system and on human resources issues in contingency relief and reconstruction operations. The 378-page report is available on PDF file here.

On executive authority:

The role of executive authority—and the lack thereof—over interagency coordination lies at the heart of the failures in the Iraq reconstruction program. The question of who was in charge, both in Washington and in Baghdad, was fiercely contested throughout the reconstruction effort. Was the CPA Administrator the President’s envoy or an employee of the Secretary of Defense? Was the ambassador to Iraq the President’s personal representative, with authority over all U.S. personnel and resources, or merely the chief State Department official? Do personnel on detail report through their agency chain of command or to the heads of embassy sections? To what extent can the “lines-of-operation” coordinators designated by the ambassador and the commanding general task agencies under their purview for support? The lack of unity of command in Iraq meant that unity of effort was seldom achieved. Too often, programs were designed to meet agency goals, rather than U.S. national interests. Stronger integration was needed not only between the military and civilian agencies but also among the civilian agencies themselves. With weak interagency cooperation an endemic feature of the U.S. national security system, reform efforts should press for structures that will promote the development of a unifying strategy with clearly delineated agency responsibilities and adequate authority to enforce its execution.

On staffing issues:

Despite the crucial need for diplomatic skills and development expertise in contingency relief and reconstruction operations, as well as for area experts fluent in local culture and politics, the civilian agencies that provide them proved unable to staff the number of positions needed in Iraq. The Iraq reconstruction experience illustrates the extent to which civilian agencies do not have the capacity to project power abroad. Cuts at USAID have halved the number of permanent government employees at that agency, severely attenuating its technical competence and managerial facility. To remedy this weakness, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has called for a “dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security.” The Congress and the President should consider a long-term strategy for building technical and area expertise in the government’s civilian diplomatic and development agencies and creating mechanisms for deploying such capabilities abroad in times of crisis and peace.


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Dragging Foggy Bottom to Court

On December 2 last year, Judicial Watch announced its opinion about Hillary’s eligibility to serve in a cabinet position: “There’s no getting around the Constitution’s Ineligibility Clause, so Hillary Clinton is prohibited from serving in the Cabinet until at least 2013, when her current term expires,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Barack Obama should select someone who is eligible for the position of Secretary of State and save the country from a constitutional battle over Hillary Clinton’s confirmation. No public official who has taken the oath to support and defend the Constitution should support this appointment. And aside from the constitutional issue, Hillary Clinton’s long track record of corruption makes her a terrible choice to serve as the nation’s top diplomat.”


On December 10, 110th Congress passed S.J. Res.46 “Ensuring that the compensation and other emoluments attached to the office of Secretary of State are those which were in effect on January 1, 2007.”


Judicial Watch,
an organization which describes itself as “a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law,” has now filed a lawsuit against newly sworn-in Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on behalf of U.S. Foreign Service Officer and State Department employee David C. Rodearmel, (Rodearmel v. Clinton, et al., (District of Columbia)). The lawsuit maintains that Mrs. Clinton is constitutionally ineligible to serve as Secretary of State and that Mr. Rodearmel cannot be forced to serve under the former U.S. Senator, as it would violate the oath he took as a Foreign Service Officer in 1991 to “support and defend” and “bear true faith and allegiance” to the Constitution of the United States.


Mr. Rodearmel
, a Foreign Service Officer since 1991 currently holding an FS-02 rank explains:

“This is not a partisan, political or personal issue. I have faithfully served under six prior Secretaries of State of both parties, and under eight Presidents since first taking the oath to uphold the Constitution as a young Army officer cadet. During a prior assignment as State Department representative on the faculty of a U.S. service academy, we taught our cadets: “Officers serve the Nation for one and only one purpose: to support and defend the Constitution.” As a commissioned State Department Foreign Service Officer, a retired Army Reserve Judge Advocate Officer, and as a lawyer, I consider it my Constitutional duty to bring this case to the courts.”

Count I of the complaint includes item 22: “Plaintiff is suffering and will continue to suffer significant, irreparable harm by reason of Defendant Clinton’s unconstitutional appointment and continuance in office as U.S. Secretary of State.”

I should note that Judicial Watch reportedly filed no less than 18 lawsuits against the Clinton Administration and has its own Hillary Watch page. It has also been accused in the past of “abusing — the use of civil lawsuits as a political weapon against the [past] administration.”

I wonder if the organization is going to take Interior’s Ken Salazar to court, too? And Senator Gregg, if he becomes the newly minted Secretary of Commerce?

More info here on Judicial Watch. Wait – it looks like Judicial Watch has its very own lawsuits to deal with. Founder Larry Klayman (who reportedly sued his own mother) in a legal tussle with current JW president, Tom Fitton and others, now has a new purpose – “Saving Judicial Watch (Cleaning Up Corruption From Within My “Own” Organization)” and — they slugged it out in courts in 2006. Apparently, that is still ongoing.

Wow!

In any case, Rodearmel v. Clinton, et al. should soon land in a three judge panel’s lap for expeditious disposition (S.J. Res.46). As to appeals, the SCOTUS will “accept jurisdiction over the appeal, advance the appeal on the docket, and expedite the appeal.”

Should be done by President’s Day, ‘ya think?


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Insider Quote: Fixated on Iraq

The singular focus on the war on terror and the battle for a new Iraq after Saddam has created a U.S. Foreign Service that is so weighted toward one country that the U.S. has largely abandoned the role it needs to play on the world stage. Having built the largest embassy in the world in Baghdad, and staffed that monstrous entity, the Bush foreign policy fixated on Iraq. And the Foreign Service grudgingly went along with it, allowing embassies in many other nations to go understaffed.


Michael Varga
Foreign Service Officer (1985 to 1996)

U.S. should shape its policy for world, not just Iraq
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Friday, January 30, 2009