Retired Military Analysts: DOD’s IG Withdraws Report Findings

On April 2008 the New York Times published an article entitled, “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand.” The article documented a DoD public affairs outreach program that focused on retired military analyst (RMAs) who provided media commentary concerning DoD programs. The article suggested that this outreach program and the DoD “information apparatus” were used to provide the RMAs with information “to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.” Moreover, the article reported that such activities gave those analysts who had ties to military contractors an unfair opportunity to enhance their business interests.

DOD’s Inspector General January 14 report says that “to address the issues and congressional concerns, we reviewed over 12,000 pages of documents and interviewed over 30 witnesses—RMAs, DoD Public Affairs personnel, officials who provided DoD outreach briefings, and media representatives.”

The January 14, 2009 IG report states that 1) We determined that those activities were conducted in accordance with DoD policies and regulations; 2) We found insufficient basis to conclude that OASD(PA) conceived of or undertook a disciplined effort to assemble a contingent of influential RMAs who could be depended on to comment favorably on DoD programs; and 3)
With regard to RMAs who had ties to military contractors, extensive searches found no instance where such RMAs used information or contacts obtained as a result of the OASD(PA) outreach program to achieve a competitive advantage for their company.

It also concludes that no further investigation is warranted, “We examined publicly available contracting information involving RMA-affiliated companies to identify any pattern of contract award or contract type that might indicate an irregularity. We did not isolate such a pattern and concluded that further investigative work into this matter was not warranted.”

Move along, nothing to it, end of story. Nope.

On May 5, 2009, the Inspector General’s Office of the Department of Defense, the same office that issued that January 14 report, released a statement withdrawing the findings of that specific report, citing data inaccuracies and for not meeting “accepted quality standards for an Inspector General work product.” To quote, below (italics mine):

“We are withdrawing the subject report. Shortly after publishing the report on January 14, 2009, we became aware of inaccuracies in the data concerning retired military analyst (RMA) relationships with Defense contractors that appeared in Appendix K and elsewhere in the report. The discovery of those inaccuracies caused us to conduct an independent internal review of the report and its supporting documentation. The internal review concluded that the report did not meet accepted quality standards for an Inspector General work product. It found that the methodology used to examine RMA relationships with Defense contractors (searches of publ ic websites) would not reasonably yield evidence needed to address the issue of whether the outreach program conveyed some financial advantage to RMAs who participated. Additionally, the review noted that report findings relied, in part, on a body of testimonial evidence that was insufficient or inconclusive. In particular, former senior DoD officials who devised and managed the outreach program refused our requests for an interview. Our judgmental sample of RMAs interviewed was too small (7 out of 70 RMAs) to allow that testimonial evidence to be used to support conclusions. As a result, no conclusion can be reached in the affirmative or negative regarding the relationship of the Retired Military Analysts and potential competitive advantage.”

This notice also says that because the RMA outreach program has been terminated and responsible senior officials are no longer employed by DOD, the IG determined that additional investigative work will not be undertaken to reissue the report.

Aw, wow … did somebody got away with psyoping the homeland? And IG staffers got punked by somebody in the upper branch of the DOD tree? And they went ahead and released that report anyway? So here we are, some three months later and they had to pull down the report so “you do not continue to rely on its conclusion.”

Um, may have something to it or nothing to it, we don’t know … I guess we just move along…holy mooo

Related Post:

27,000 for PR – Who’s Driving This Thing?

Related Items:

» Behind Analysts, the Pentagon’s Hidden Hand (NYT)
» How the Pentagon Spread Its Message (NYT/Multimedia)

» DODIG: Examination of Allegations Involving DoD Public Affairs Outreach Program January 14, 2009 Report Number IE-2009-004 (85pp, 11MB)

» DODIG Memo: Inspector General of the Department of Defense Report No. IE-2009-004, {“Examination of Allegations Involving DoD Office of Public Affairs Outreach Program,” January 14, 2009}

Confirmed: Ivo Daalder, Johnnie Carson and Luis de Baca

That was quick! On May 5th, the SFRC endorsed these nominees and yesterday, the full Senate confirmed the following State Department nominations:

Ivo H. Daalder
, of Virginia, to be United States Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.

Also see:
Officially In: General Eikenberry to Kabul and Other Nominees
SFRC Hearings: Nominations of Burk, Daalder
WH announcement here, Brookings bio here)

Johnnie Carson, of Illinois, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (African

Also see:
Officially In: Johnnie Carson to the AF Bureau,
SFRC Hearings: Nominations of Carson, de Baca

Luis C. de Baca, of Virginia, to be Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, with rank of Ambassador at Large.

Also see:
More State Department Nominations
SFRC Hearings: Nominations of Carson, de Baca

Congressional Record

CONFIRMATIONS — (Senate – May 06, 2009)
[Page: S5248] GPO’s PDF

US Passport Issuance: Closing the Door to Fraud?

GAO’s Jess Ford and State’s DAS Sprague on Hill’s Witness List

From 2000-2009, the GAO has written about 30 reports on visas and passports as they relate to border and homeland security. The earliest one I could locate that directly addressed passport issues is GAO-05-477 dated May 20, 2005 (State Department: Improvements Needed to Strengthen U.S. Passport Fraud Detection Efforts). In this report the GAO recommended that “the Secretary of State consider ways to improve interagency information sharing, establish a centralized and up-to-date fraud prevention library, consider augmenting fraud prevention staffing, assess the extent to which interoffice workload transfers may hinder fraud prevention, and strengthen fraud prevention training and oversight. There was a follow-up report on June 29, 2005 (GAO-05-853T: State Department: Improvements Needed to Strengthen U.S. Passport Fraud Detection Efforts) and a few more reports since then.

I am not at all surprised that Jess T. Ford, the Director of International Affairs and Trade at the GAO sounded a bit cautious during the recent
hearing on passport vulnerabilities, saying that:

“State officials have known about vulnerabilities in the passport issuance process for many years but have failed to effectively address these vulnerabilities. Although State has proposed reasonable oversight measures for passport acceptance facilities in response to our prior recommendations, it is too early to determine whether these measures will be effective.”

The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Brenda S. Sprague appeared at the same hearing
saying that “We take seriously our responsibility to protect U.S. borders and the integrity of the U.S. passport through vigilant adjudication.”

She reported on the response taken by State to address the most recent GAO report and also on the creation of an Adjudication Policy and Process Review Working Group in mid-March to help further identify necessary improvements. This Working Group consists of five subgroups, which are:

• Restructuring of Adjudication Process and Oversight – This subgroup is reviewing the current adjudication program and working on recommendations to restructure our processes. Additionally, the subgroup is working on recommendations for a new adjudicative managerial oversight program.

• Adjudication Requirements and Standards – This subgroup is developing standardized desk and counter adjudication procedures. Additionally, it is developing standardized procedures for Passport Specialists regarding the use of the Social Security Number (SSN) and other commercial databases.

• Post-Issuance Audit – This subgroup is developing a statistically valid audit process for previously issued passports. The results from this audit will be used for future training purposes.

• Training Initiatives – This subgroup is identifying enhancements for fraud training for all Passport Specialists, Supervisors, and Fraud Prevention Managers (FPMs). It is reviewing the curriculum of the National Training Program (NTP), which we use for training our new employees, to ensure that it appropriately and thoroughly addresses the document verification requirements used by Passport Specialists. Also, the subgroup is identifying and recommending standard requirements for on-the-job training for new hires once they complete NTP and begin working with “live” (unapproved) applications. Additionally, it is developing standardized fraud awareness training for our courthouse and post office acceptance facilities.

• Technology – This subgroup is identifying technical and procedural vulnerabilities to the integrity of the passport process. Additionally, it is working on recommendations for improvement to our automated systems through access to additional databases.

Sprague also revealed that “prior to the GAO undercover test, CA officials had held ongoing meetings with federal and state government agencies regarding access to information and databases for citizenship and identity verification. As a result of the GAO’s recent recommendation, I also sent a letter to all State Registrars asking for their assistance in providing the Department access to their birth and death records for verification purposes. We plan to vigorously continue this effort.”

Look — as far back as 2005, interagency data sharing has been pointed out as the big elephant in the room. Fast-forward to 2009 and an effective strategy on data sharing with 1) SSA, 2) State Registrars, 3) other federal agencies is still MIA. You think perhaps State need to send more than letters to get these folks attention?

Who has the authority to rope all these various fed and state agencies together and make them quit dragging their feet on this interagency process? I realized that interagency cooperation can be a slow process — but c’mon, four years down and slowwhere to go? We can do better than this post 9/11, can’t we?

You can read Mr. Ford’s full testimony
here and Ms. Sprague’s here.

Related Posts:

Related Item:

Judiciary Committee: Webcast and Testimony Page

Hi-Def Smackdown: Foreign Policy Film Festival

from wikimedia commons

Stephen M. Walt
, the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations at Harvard University who blogs at Foreign Policy started with the question, “If Foreign Policy had a film festival, what movies should we show?”

Excluding pure war movies, spy capers, documentaries, and overt propaganda films, he went on to list his personal top ten list. His list includes Independence Day and Casablanca. Have you seen these movies?

It did not take long for Daniel W. Drezner, professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University who also blogs at Foreign Policy to come up with his own top list, writing:

“Someone once said that the only proper way to critique a film is by making another film. Following that logic, I think the only way to critique Steve’s list is to make my own. Using Steve’s criteria, the overlap between our top ten list is pretty small: Dr. Strangelove and Casablanca.”

Then he went on and listed eight other films that “I think are essential watching for international relations junkies.” See his post here.

Last week, Fred Kaplan who writes the “War Stories” column for Slate and reviews films for Home Theater jumped into the fray with his post, Hillary Clinton, Watch These Movies! He writes, “Off the top of my head, here are 25 that neither Walt nor Drezner mention—and that, to my mind, beat all of theirs.” See Kaplan’s list here.

Yesterday, Dan Drezner responded with a post, Fred-o, you broke my heart, askingwhat act of hubris could make Kaplan claim that any film on his top-25 list is better than Dr. Strangelove?”

And the foreign policy high-def movie smackdown is off and running! Oh! I love watching a spirited competition!

You think FSI might want to put together a course over in Arlington for new students to view and discuss these films? Maybe? Um, don’t hold your breath.

You might be better off organizing your own foreign policy film festival at post for brain candy and professional development. No offense to consular folks who works really hard, but entry level officers who work the visa line sometimes have second thoughts about their new career when they spend their first 2-4 years doing visa work. Why not have a film festival while you work your way to that front row seat in world affairs? If your boss assumes that a foreign policy film festival is just blundering into statecraft and nothing to do with professional development, you may paraphrase Captain Renault’s quote: We musn’t underestimate “American blundering”. I was with them when they “blundered” into Berlin in 1918.