H.R. 2410: Lessons Learned Center, Coming Soon?

TITLE III– Subtitle A of H.R. 2410 provides for the establishment of a Lessons Learned Center for the State Department and USAID under “M’ but makes no specific provision as to staff composition of the Center or its funding:


(a) Establishment- The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is authorized to establish in the Department of State and under the authority of the Undersecretary for Management a Lessons Learned Center (referred to in this section as the ‘LLC’) which will serve as a central organization for collection, analysis, archiving, and dissemination of observations, best practices, and lessons learned by, from, and to Foreign Service officers and support personnel in the Department of State and USAID.

(b) Purpose- The purpose of the LLC is to increase, enhance, and sustain the ability of the Department of State and USAID to effectively carry out their missions by devising a system for the collection, analysis, archiving, and dissemination of lessons learned, improving information sharing and learning capacity, and enabling, encouraging, and rewarding critical, innovative analysis.

(c) Report- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on the status of efforts to establish the LLC. The report shall include recommendations–

(1) concerning the regulation and structure of the LLC, including–
(A) how to encourage service in the LLC;
(B) how to provide for the necessary academic freedom to provide innovative, critical analysis;
(C) how to ensure that the staffing of the LLC is a mix of senior and junior staff of the Foreign Service and civil service in the Department of State and USAID;
(D) the anticipated expenditures associated with the establishment of the LLC under subsection (a); and
(E) physical structure of the LLC; and

(2) for any legislation necessary to establish the LLC.

(d) Definitions- In this section:

(1) ACADEMIC FREEDOM- The term ‘academic freedom’ means the capability, capacity, and authorization to produce analysis and evaluation without concern for retaliation or other negative impact on the observer’s career.

(2) LESSONS LEARNED- The term ‘lessons learned’ means information resulting from evaluation or observation of negotiations, operations, exercises, training events, or other processes and experiences, particularly any corrective measures or innovative techniques, that produced an improved performance or increased capability.

If this passes, I think it would be the first time that after action reviews would be institutionalized at the State Department and where lessons learned would be purposely derived from each significant event — whether it be on evacuations, hostage taking, bombings, mass casualty (as in tsunami and earthquake incidents) and other not so nice stuff that happens.

This would not be easy in an institution known for its risk aversion. But with a significant number of employees retiring in the next 5-10 years, it is prudent to capture all these lessons learned and share the knowledge with the next generation of employees. We need to harvest lessons learned from PRT operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan so missteps and mistakes can be mitigated next time; we need to understand what work and what did not work in standing up a regional embassy operation in a war zone; what can be done to prepare for the next mass casualty? I’m sure the embassy folks in Thailand who worked tirelessly during the tsunami have a few things to teach when it comes to updating mission preparedness; the embassy folks in Nicosia who did one of the largest civilian evacuation in recent history must have a thing or two to add when evacuating a large group of people.

I would not be surprised if there were cables that went out addressing lessons learned after these significant events, but I am hoping that the LLC (with an online presence) would serve as a depository for these lessons as well as encouraged the participation of people to share and contribute their experience. Knowledge sharing is the future; it is everybody’s business because you never know when you might be put in a position of swimming in a deluge, or being in a post-bomb scenario, or dealing with the aftermath of a mass casualty. I really hope this makes it through the final version of this bill. And I hope they put some teeth into this with accompanying provisions for funding and staffing.

here to read the details in H.R. 2410

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SFRC Hearings: Nancy Powell, Christopher Dell, Patricia Butenis


111th Congress
First Session

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Time: Immediately following the
2:15 p.m. business meeting
Place: 419 Dirksen Senate Building
Presiding: Senator Shaheen


The Honorable Nancy J. Powell
to be Director General of the Foreign Service

The Honorable Christopher William Dell
to be Ambassador to the Republic of Kosovo

The Honorable Patricia A. Butenis
to be Ambassador to the Democratic Socialist
Republic of Sri Lanka, and to serve concurrently
and without additional compensation as
Ambassador to the Republic of Maldives

To view the video of the confirmation hearings, click on the heading “NOMINATIONS” on this page and the Committee Channel should pop up (note that video starts at approximately 29:01). Links to testimonies/opening statements will be added as soon as they are available online were added on June 17.

Updated 6/17/2009