President Signs Omnibus Spending Bill

H.R. 3288, which provides FY 2010 appropriations for the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, and other agencies, was signed by President Obama on December 16.

Related Item:
Bills Signed by the President today, 12/16/09

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Omnibus Bill FY2010: State Gets 745 new positions, USAID 300

Prism: Richard Armitage Interview

Richard L. Armitage portrait from U.S.Image via Wikipedia

Richard L. Armitage was the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005. He tendered his resignation on November 16, 2004, the day after Secretary Powell announced his resignation as Secretary of State. He left post on February 22, 2005.

In the first issue of Prism, published by the National Defense University Press for the Center for Complex Operations (COO), Mr. Armitage gave an interview on Iraq, the 3Ds, military and civilian cultures and a whole lot more. Some highlights from the interview:

“They were victims of their own prejudices…”

I was surprised initially with the speed at which we were going into Iraq, and I never understood it. I was not opposed to attacking Iraq—I was opposed to the timing. I just couldn’t see it. I was surprised at the low number of forces—which Secretary [Colin] Powell was able to get doubled—but still far too few.
And we got rushed into this timing by the military, who kept talking about the heat—that if it got to April and May, it would get too hot and we couldn’t operate. And I remember thinking and arguing—and it wasn’t just me, but Marc Grossman and others— saying, “Wait a minute, we own the night. We don’t have to fight in the daytime. We’re all-seeing at night—let’s do it! Don’t let the heat be the thing that gets us into war!” So it wasn’t that we were marginalized. We were allowed our voice, but no one wanted to hear it. They were victims of their own prejudices and their own ideology.

“All government property in sight.”

The culture of the military is to make chicken salad out of chicken poop. The culture of the military is, “Yessir, three bags full sir. I’ll get it done.”The culture of the military is embraced as far as I’m concerned in the most positive way by the first general order of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps (different from the Army), which cautions a sentry to take charge of all government property on this post, and that includes people. And that’s frankly how Powell and I viewed the State Department—all government property at post. So that’s their going-in position, whether they’re a private or a colonel. The going-in position for USAID, State, Commerce, or Energy is not to take charge of all government property in sight, but to take charge of “mine.” I like to say that this is my little cubicle and I keep it clean, and if there is a light next door that’s not there or not on, if you are in the military you are going to go fix it. At least you are supposed to. All government property in sight. You’re doing not just your cubicle, whereas the civilians will just take care of their cubicle or space. When I or Secretary Powell would ever swear in an ambassador, we would tell him he could not be totally responsible for the development of our relationship between the United States and country X. But he would be held 100 percent accountable for the development of all personnel under his command—as officers and as citizens and people. If they have personal problems, they’re his. If they have lapses in their behavior, it’s his problem. He doesn’t overlook it, he works with them, he cautions them, he counsels them, and he does whatever it takes. And this is more the culture of the military.

“They’re not armed”

[W]e were at the State Department—we weren’t seized with the mission; we don’t have enough folks. USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] isn’t the USAID you joined because it has been whittled away so much. So we have to relearn the lessons. It was not in any way a lack of courage among the civilian agencies; in fact, when I give speeches, I’ll say that these fellows—men and women—are out in all these exotic-sounding places—they’re not in canapé lines in London and Paris; they’re in Mazur and Kandahar and other places right alongside the men and women in uniform. Not a bit of difference, except one: they’re not armed.

“The Dr. Rice years were terrible…”

Yes, it is. I’ve been very heartened the last 3 ½ years that I’ve been out here, the number of people—many of whom I don’t even know—that worked for Powell and me, and to be frank with you, what they’ve said is, “The Dr. Rice years were terrible. The Powell years were wonderful. But don’t worry. We’re remembering what you said about taking care of your people. We’re remembering what you said about leadership.” So that fills me with enthusiasm, and the answer to your question is yes, it can happen. But it has to be inculcated. Unfortunately, I don’t think Ms. Clinton is from that mindset. She’s very good as Secretary of State, she’ll study her brief, but this takes effort from the bottom up. One has to be inculcated with this.

Read the whole interview here.

About the journal: PRISM
is a quarterly national security journal tailored to serve policy-makers, scholars and practitioners working to enhance U.S. Government competency in complex operations by exploring whole-of-community approaches among U.S. Government agencies, academic institutions, international governments and militaries, non-governmental organizations and other participants in the complex operations space.

The first issue also includes feature articles by Senator Richard G. Lugar (Stabilization and Reconstruction: A Long Beginning) and Ambassador John E. Herbst (Addressing the Problem of Failed States: A New Instrument). It also has a From the Field section where USAID Afghanistan Director William M. Frej and David Hatch write about A New Approach to the Delivery of U.S. Assistance to Afghanistan. Frankly, I had a hard time wading through this “new approach” after reading through the OIG reports on USAID programs in Afghanistan. But feel free to check it out.

The journal’s submission guidelines include this tip: “Answer the So what? question. Asking an individual to read 3,000 to 5,000 words is asking a lot. After that reader is finished, he must be edified by what he has read and prepared to operationalize it in some way.”

Related Item:
Prism | Submission Guidelines | PDF

Insider Quote: Crash! Boom! Bang!

Crash! Boom! Bang! album coverImage via Wikipedia

“The U.S. Government requires employees going to certain “high threat” areas to take a course that we affectionately call “Crash/Bang.” So far this week has been the coolest week of my career. I got to “crash” cars, “bang” guns, drive an armored suburban, drive an up-armored hummer, see things blow up, skid cars around, and generally do all kinds of awesome stuff. I cannot believe I get paid to do this!”

By Holly
from FS Blog: Holly in the Foreign Service

Idle Curiosity Singes 9th Victim

Curiousity singed the catImage by SarahR89 via Flickr

announced that a ninth individual pleaded guilty on December 9 to illegally accessing numerous confidential passport application files. Debra Sue Brown, 47, of Oxon Hill, Md., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola in the District of Columbia to a one-count criminal information charging her with unauthorized computer access. Brown is scheduled to be sentenced on Mar. 23, 2010. Details below from the press release:

According to court documents, Brown has worked full-time for the State Department since Sept. 1995 as a file clerk and a file assistant in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. In pleading guilty, Brown admitted that she had access to official State Department computer databases in the regular course of her job, including the Passport Information Electronic Records System (PIERS), which contains all imaged passport applications dating back to 1994. The imaged passport applications on PIERS contain, among other things, a photograph of the passport applicant as well as certain personal information including the applicant’s full name, date and place of birth, current address, telephone numbers, parent information, spouse’s name and emergency contact information. These confidential files are protected by the Privacy Act of 1974, and access by State Department employees is strictly limited to official government duties.

Brown admitted that between Mar. 25, 2005, and Feb. 7, 2008, she logged onto the PIERS database and repeatedly searched for and viewed the passport applications of more than 60 celebrities and their families, actors, comedians, professional athletes, musicians, other individuals identified in the press, and personal friends and acquaintances. Brown admitted that she had no official government reason to access and view these passport applications, but that her sole purpose in accessing and viewing these passport applications was idle curiosity.

Brown is the ninth current or former State Department employee or contractor to plead guilty in this continuing investigation.

  • On Sept. 22, 2008, Lawrence C. Yontz, a former Foreign Service Officer and intelligence analyst, pleaded guilty to unlawfully accessing nearly 200 confidential passport files. Yontz was sentenced on Dec. 19, 2008, to 12 months of probation and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service.

  • On Jan. 14, 2009, Dwayne F. Cross, a former administrative assistant and contract specialist, pleaded guilty to unlawfully accessing more than 150 confidential passport files. Cross was sentenced on March 23, 2009, to 12 months of probation and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.

  • On Jan. 27, 2009, Gerald R. Lueders, a former Foreign Service Officer, watch officer and recruitment coordinator, pleaded guilty to unlawfully accessing more than 50 confidential passport files. Lueders was sentenced on July 8, 2009, to 12 months of probation and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

  • On July 10, 2009, William A. Celey, a file assistant, pleaded guilty to unlawfully accessing more than 75 confidential passport files. Celey was sentenced on Oct. 23, 2009, to 12 months of probation and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service.

  • On Aug. 17, 2009, Kevin M. Young, a contact representative, pleaded guilty to unlawfully accessing more than 125 confidential passport files. Young was sentenced on Dec. 9, 2009, to 12 months of probation and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.

  • On Aug. 26, 2009, Karal Busch, a former citizens services specialist, pleaded guilty to unlawfully accessing more than 65 confidential passport files. Busch is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 15, 2009. (Yesterday, DOJ announced Busch was sentenced to 24 months of probation for illegally accessing more than 65 confidential passport application files. Karal Busch, 28, of District Heights, Md., was also ordered by U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay in the District of Columbia to perform 25 hours of community service. Busch pleaded guilty on Aug. 26, 2009, to a one-count criminal information charging her with unauthorized computer access.)

  • On Oct. 27, 2009, Yvette M. Burrison, a passport specialist, pleaded guilty to unlawfully accessing nearly 100 confidential passport files. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled for Burrison.

  • On Nov. 9, 2009, Susan Holloman, a file assistant, pleaded guilty to unlawfully accessing 70 confidential passport files. Holloman is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 21, 2010.

These cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Armando O. Bonilla of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The cases are being investigated by the State Department Office of Inspector General.

Harassment of US Diplomats in Pakistan?

Jane Perletz and Eric Schmitt this week wrote on the reported harassment of U.S. diplomats in Pakistan (Pakistan Reported to Be Harassing U.S. Diplomats | NYT | December 16, 2009). Quick excerpts below:

Parts of the Pakistani military and intelligence services are mounting what American officials here describe as a campaign to harass American diplomats, fraying relations at a critical moment when the Obama administration is demanding more help to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The problems affected military attachés, C.I.A. officers, development experts, junior level diplomats and others, a senior American diplomat said. As a result, some American aid programs to Pakistan, which President Obama has called a critical ally, are “grinding to a halt,” the diplomat said.

American helicopters used by Pakistan to fight militants can no longer be serviced because visas for 14 American mechanics have not been approved, the diplomat said. Reimbursements to Pakistan of nearly $1 billion a year for counterterrorism have been suspended because the last of the American Embassy’s five accountants left the country this week after his visa expired.
At least 135 American diplomats have been refused extensions on their visas, the senior American diplomat said, leaving some sections of the embassy operating at 60 percent of capacity.

One of the most harmful consequences, the diplomat said, is the scaling back of helicopter missions by the Frontier Corps paramilitary troops fighting the Taliban because of a lack of trained American mechanics.

Read the whole thing here.

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