SFRC Hearing: Mari Carmen Aponte

Presiding: Senator Menendez
Date: Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Time: 10:00 A.M.
Building: 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Mari Carmen Aponte, of the District of Columbia
to be Ambassador to the Republic of El Salvador
View the hearing and read the prepared testimony of the nominee here.  
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Would you be surprised if this nomination is “deminted” in the SFRC or the Senate?  The Daily Caller reported on March 13, 2010 that “the Puerto Rican-born Aponte was a White House fellow under Jimmy Carter before spending the next 20 years as a lawyer and activist representing Hispanic-American interest groups in Washington. Her nomination originally was slated to be considered by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday but was pushed to Wednesday, March 16 at the request of GOP lawmakers.”
The Daily Caller also quoted Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina): “Serious concerns about this nominee arose when she was nominated for a different position during the Clinton administration. I have asked the committee for additional time to review these matters. So far we have not received all of the information we have requested.”  
Related Post:
(Photo: Mari Carmen Aponte (US GOV) via The Daily Caller

Join the Conversation – Global Pulse 2010 is on March 29-31

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is sponsoring Global Pulse 2010, a 3-day, online collaboration event, that will bring together individual socially-engaged participants and organizations from around the world.

Global Pulse 2010 is an online “virtual” event. Registration is free and participants can join from any computer with internet access. The event will be live, over the span of 3 days, and is hosted online using IBM’s award-winning Innovation Jam TM solution. “Similar to the collaborative spirit of musical ‘jamming,’ participants gather online to collaborate on ideas around real societal issues, build on each other’s contributions, find shared solutions — or simply connect. The Web 2.0 platform provides for a meaningful brainstorming environment where groups of individuals ranging from a few hundred — to hundreds of thousands — can join in. Based on the concept of crowdsourcing (also knows as “wisdom of crowds”), the Jam platform is especially adept at bringing communities together to discuss social issues.”
Global Pulse 2010 will launch on Monday, March 29th and concludes on Wednesday, March 31st.  Sign up here to join the conversation.
According to its website, the event will take the pulse of as many as 20,000 participants on key issues facing communities around the world. Global Pulse 2010 will connect participants who are champions for the same social issues to build new, or strengthen existing relationships, and inform U.S. foreign assistance and diplomatic strategies on major themes and ideas that emerge across the span of the event.
Individual discussions will take place within forums and will focus on ten designated topics as follows:
Developing Global Citizens of the 21st Century
Making equality a reality
What everyone should learn to succeed in the 21st century
Explore new ways to promote partnerships between societies, citizens, community organizations, and businesses as a means of creating sustainable solutions to shared development priorities
Understanding rights, increasing citizens participation and expanding accountability
Connecting and empowering individuals and communities to take charge over their own health and well-being
Find new ways to advance entrepreneurship, job creation, and economic opportunity
Discover new ways to support societies and build capacity by leveraging science and technology
Exchange lessons learned on how to address global climate change
Identifying the “grand challenges” of the next decade.  Each topic area will have recognized leaders in the related field of interest facilitating the conversations. And what is truly unique about this forum is that it gives people with innovative ideas the chance to voice their opinion, learn from one another, and speak directly with those who have the desire and resources to take action.

Read more about Global Pulse 2010 here.

Cost Comparison of State Dept Employees vs. Contractors

For Security Services in Iraq
The Government Accountability Office has recently released a 20-page report, “Warfighter Support: A Cost Comparison of Using State Department Employees versus Contractors for Security Services in Iraq. Excerpt below:
For this engagement, congressional interest specifically focused on determining the costs to the Department of Defense and the State Department of using private security contractors for security services versus using federal employees to provide the same services. However, DOD was unable to provide us with the information necessary to address our engagement objective. Although DOD provided some data on military personnel costs,4 DOD officials told us they could not provide other data necessary to complete a cost comparison. Therefore, we focused our review on the comparison of the State Department’s costs to use private security contractors—to perform both personal and static security functions—as opposed to using State Department employees to perform those same functions.
To address our objective, we reviewed the task orders and contract which provided security in Iraq and that were current when we began our review—four task orders of the Worldwide Personal Protective Services (WPPS) II contracts and one contract for Baghdad embassy security
These assumptions included (1) the State Department would have to recruit, hire, and train new employees who would all be U.S. citizens; (2) the employees would serve 1 year in Iraq and then return to the United States; and (3) the State Department would use the same number of employees the contractors use to provide security. We focused our analysis on the major quantifiable cost components such as salary, benefits, overseas costs, training, recruitment, background screenings, and support.
Results in Brief
Our comparison of likely State Department costs versus contractor costs for four task orders and one contract awarded by the State Department for security services in Iraq showed that for three of the task orders and the contract, the cost of using State Department employees would be greater than using contractors, while the State Department’s estimated cost to use federal employees was less for the other task order.
For example, using State Department employees to provide static security for the embassy in Baghdad would have cost the department approximately $858 million for 1 year compared to the approximately $78 million charged by the contractor for the same time period. In contrast, our cost comparison of the task order for providing personal security for State Department employees while in the Baghdad region—which required personnel that have security clearances—showed that for this task order, the State Department’s estimated annual cost would have been about $240 million, whereas the contractor charged approximately $380 million for 1 year. However, because the State Department does not currently have a sufficient number of trained personnel to provide security in Iraq, the department would need to recruit, hire, and train additional employees at an additional cost of $162 million. Contract requirements are a major factor in determining whether contractors or government personnel are less expensive—especially factors such as whether personnel need security clearances. However, there are other factors that may play a role in the decision of whether to perform security services with federal employees or
Overall, the difference between the contractors’ cost and the estimated State Department cost ranged from about $3 million for one task order to over $785 million for the contract. […] Although the State Department had not performed a cost comparison for security services, for our cost comparison, the State Department said it would use 100 percent U.S. citizen employees and would use the same number of personnel the contractor provided to perform the services as a start point for the comparison. However, because the State Department lacks a sufficient number of personnel to provide security in Iraq it would need to hire thousands of new security personnel. Furthermore, under State’s rotation policy, U.S. citizen employees typically only serve 1 year in Iraq and then are reassigned to a position in the United States. As such, in order to provide more than 1 year of deployed security services, State Department officials stated they would need to hire additional employees to meet a one-to-one ratio of stateside and deployed employees, which will double some of State’s estimated costs to provide security services. These additional employees would need to be hired about 1 year prior to being deployed to allow sufficient time for completing the State Department’s training program for Foreign Service agents, which is approximately 1 year.
Read more below: