Christmas Day Attack: Failure at the “Last Tactical Mile”

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has a hearing today on “Intelligence Reform: The Lessons and Implications of the Christmas Day Attack.The three witnesses are: Dennis C. Blair, Director of National Intelligence, Michael E. Leiter, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and Janet A. Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security.  Blair and Leiter had a joint statement for the record. No prepared statement from Secretary Napolitano has been posted online. Excerpts below from the Blair/Leiter statement:  

As I have noted, despite our successes in identifying the overall themes that described the plot we failed to make the final connections—the “last tactical mile”—linking Abdulmutallab’s identity to the plot. We had the information that came from his father that he was concerned about his son going to Yemen, coming under the influence of unknown religious extremists, and that he was not going to return home. We also had other streams of information coming from intelligence channels that provided pieces of the story. We had a partial name, an indication of a Nigerian, but there was nothing that brought it all together—nor did we do so in our analysis.
But without making excuses for what we did not do, I think it critical that we at least note the context in which this failure occurred: Each day NCTC receives literally thousands of pieces of intelligence information from around the world, reviews literally thousands of different names, and places more than 350 people a day on the watchlist—virtually all based on far more damning information than that associated with Mr. Abdulutallab prior to Christmas Day. Although we must and will do better, we must also recognize that not all of the pieces rise above the noise level.
We established the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the government’s hub for all strategic level counterterrorism intelligence assessments, which draws on collected terrorist intelligence from agencies across the U.S. Government with access to more than 30 different networks carrying more than 80 unique data repositories to produce integrated analysis on terrorist plots against U.S. interests at home and abroad.
The Intelligence Community is an adaptive, learning organization. We can and must outthink, outwork, and defeat the enemy’s new ideas. Our Intelligence Community is now more collaborative than ever before, knows how to operate as a team, and can adjust to conditions on the ground. We can and will do better, but I cannot guarantee that we can stop all attacks indefinitely. The integrated Intelligence Community as directed in the Intelligence Reform Act is essential; the basic elements of the system are sound; but we must be more flexible and anticipatory.
The hearing is on right now, catch it here.  This is not the end of the story. Part II of the hearing is scheduled for January 26th at the Dirksen Senate Office Building (room 342).  No word yet on the expected witnesses.
Related Item:

Snapshot: USTC/Blackwater/Xe in Afghanistan

2,730 missions | 0 casualties | 0 incidents with deadly force

This is the personal security contractor that everybody loves to hate. State’s Inspector General’s Office conducted a performance audit of the U.S. Training Center (a Xe company) contract in Afghanistan last year and had some good things to say:     
“In 2008, USTC conducted 2,730 personal protection missions in support of staff from the Department of State, including the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, USAID, and various Congressional delegations (see Table). In 2008, 257 (9.4 percent) of the missions were performed for USAID. During the entire time USTC has operated in Afghanistan, no one under USTC’s protection has been injured or killed, and there have been no incidents involving the use of deadly force. OIG observed personal protection missions and interviewed various representatives from the Department of State and USAID who regularly use USTC’s personal protective services. The representatives reported that USTC employees are professional, make them feel secure, and are respectful to both officials under chief of mission authority and their Afghan counterparts.”
Staff composition as of April 8, 2009
USTC staff consists of a project manager, personal security specialists, administrative and support employees, and interpreters, as well as local guards who are third-country nationals. As of April 2009, there was one project manager, 75 personal security specialists, 18 administrative and support personnel, 20 local guard force personnel, and five interpreters (94 Americans, 20 Columbians, and five Afghan interpreters).
On the need for a dedicated Contracting Officer’s Representative to Embassy Kabul to provide proper oversight of contractor activities, the OIG reports:
Despite its overall satisfactory contract management, DS could improve its performance in two areas, both of which have been mentioned in previous OIG reports. First, two Assistant Regional Security Officers at Embassy Kabul are currently acting as Contracting Officer’s Representatives (COR). These officers’ many other duties may prevent them from providing adequate oversight of the USTC contract, particularly as personal protective service needs increase in Afghanistan. Second, the current acting CORs do not review or verify the personnel rosters (muster sheets) before they are sent to USTC and then DS in Washington, DC.
The OIG report concludes that “USTC personal protective services have been effective in ensuring the safety of chief of mission personnel in Afghanistan’s volatile security environment. Additionally, OIG found USTC has effective control over government-furnished equipment. Nevertheless, OIG has identified several areas in which contractor performance could be improved.”  The audit provides a 6-item recommendation. You can read it here.

Actually not just OIG.  Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann, our former Ambassador to Afghanistan (2005-2007)  last December also had this to say at a congressional hearing:  I would like to pay special tribute to the brave and hard working personnel, RSOs and ARSOs, who have protected me and my missions in dangerous times. I would also like to acknowledge my respect for the men of DynCorp and Blackwater who ran my personal protection details in Iraq and Afghanistan. They performed with courage, judgment and restraint and one lost his leg in the process. Whatever opprobrium now attaches to others I owe all those gallant men—State Department and contractor employees–my gratitude and I am glad to have a public forum in which to express it.”

Related Item:
OIG Report No. MERO-A-09-08, Performance Audit of the USTC Contract for Personal Protective Services in Afghanistan – Aug. 2009 | PDF

Haiti Consular Assistance: By the Numbers

The Consular Bureau with Michele Bond (DAS for Overseas Citizen Services) and David Donahue (DAS for Visa Services) conducted a briefing on January 18 on consular services provided to American citizens (amcits) during the Haiti disaster. The work is ongoing; the numbers below a snapshot of what have been accomplished so far and most certainly will change in the future. Numbers are compiled from the January 18 briefing and from the Spokesman’s briefing on January 19.    
40,000-45,000 | Estimated Number of American Citizens in Haiti
2 | Number of Task Force in Washington
2 |Number of Call Centers Set-up
300,000 | Number of calls received
9,000 |Number of cases opened in crisis database
3,500 | Number of people accounted for in crisis database
2,900 | Number of American Citizen (Amcits) evacuated (1/18)
4,500 | Number of American Citizen (Amcits) evacuated (updated 1/19)
44 | Number of flights
525 | Number of Amcits in Embassy Compound
136 | Number of Amcits at Haiti Airport
24 | Number of Amcit deaths (private Americans 1/18)
27 | Number of Amcit deaths (private Americans updated 1/19)
24 | Number of immigrant visas for orphan children
$23 million | Contribution raised thru Text “Haiti” to 90999 (1/19)
72 | Number of individuals rescued (1/19)
3 | Number of email addresses set up
American Citizen Welfare/Whereabouts:
American Citizen W/W in Haiti:
Adoption Inquiry:
Other Foreign Service Numbers:
80 | Number of non-essential/family members evacuated
8 | Total Number of Amcits wounded (official personnel)
4 | Number of Amcits seriously wounded (official personnel)
1 | Number of Amcit death (official personnel)
25 | Number of Consular Officers (augment) sent to Haiti
?? | Number of Local Staff at AmEmbassy Haiti
?? | Number of Local Staff Unaccounted for at AmEmbassy Haiti   
Our thoughts and prayers to our folks at the US Embassy in Port-Au-Prince. Take care of yourselves; this is not going to be over quickly.

Ryan Crocker on the Foreign Service

“The Foreign Service still largely tends to be from the coasts, not a lot from inland America […]. It’s because people don’t know about the Foreign Service or how to get involved. […] I would like for young men and women to know that Foreign Service is an option … One of the greatest modern officers in the Foreign Service was a graduate from UI […]. “Go to hard places and do hard things. At the end of the day, life is about what challenges you stepped up to. Whether it’s the Western Expansion or World War II, we have always stepped up and that’s what makes us great.”

Ryan Crocker
Former US Ambassador to Iraq
Dean, Bush School of Government and Public Service
Texas A&M University.
From US ambassador visits UI
The Argonaut | University of Idaho

Quickie: PaP Airport Go from 30 to 120 flights a day

82nd Airborne Soldiers at Port-au-Prince airportImage by The U.S. Army via Flickr

All on a single runway, 24/7

SOUTHCOM Cdr, Gen. Fraser, discusses air operations into Port au Prince Airport in his latest blog entry. Excerpt below:

The HFOCC began coordinating all air traffic into and out of Haiti, a monumental task. Before 12 January, the Port-au-Prince airport handled no more than 30 flights a day. Since then, the airport capacity has increased four-fold – on average, 120 flights a day are flying in and out of Haiti; all on a single runway, 24/7.

This is a tightly choreographed operation with no margin for delay. Airplanes must arrive and depart on time, unload passengers and humanitarian supplies and load evacuees on schedule. My top priority – and I am sure the top priority of the entire donor community – is the organized, safe and speedy delivery of critical aid to the Haitian people. The Government of Haiti, in coordination with the U.S. Government and the United Nations’ Mission in Haiti, establishes aircraft landing priorities according to the priority of the aircraft’s cargo, such as medical supplies, food and equipment. Based on these priorities, aircraft are given a small window of time in which to land, off-load their cargo and depart. Aircraft that have requested and received time slots to land and off-load their cargo in advance are not turned away from the airport; every aircraft which requests a slot is assigned one.

Read Gen. Fraser’s blog post here.

Like Mark Thompson writes, “Sometimes it takes a catastrophe to demonstrate just how much more the U.S. military is able to do than simply kill the enemy. Only the U.S. can initially control flights into and out of the Port-au-Prince airport from aboard a nearby Coast Guard cutter, while waiting for an Air Force special-ops team to set up shop at the airport and step up operations to 24/7. Only U.S. warships have the capability to generate up to 400,000 gallons of fresh water a day from seawater.” Read more here.