DS Agent Arrested After Wife Reports Assault

Brain structures involved in dealing with stre...Image via Wikipedia

HeraldNet reported June 25 that a federal agent was arrested for assault in the Snohomish County of Washington State. Excerpt:

The man was arrested June 17 for investigation of second-degree assault. Deputies seized 15 guns from the home, including his duty weapon, according to a police affidavit filed in Everett District Court.

He told investigators that he is an agent with the U.S. Department of State in Seattle. His wife told authorities that he is a diplomatic security officer.

Sheriff’s deputies were summoned to the couple’s house after the woman reported that she’d been assaulted during an argument.

Two children were home at the time of the incident, according to the report.

The woman told police that she and her husband were arguing when she slapped him across the face. She said he picked her up and threw her on the ground and then slammed her head against the floor several times before letting her go.

She said he discouraged her from calling 911, saying that if she summoned police, he would be fired from his job.

The woman complained of blurred vision and head pain. She was taken to Valley General Hospital and later transported to Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett where she was treated for a head injury and bruising to her face.
[…]
A court commissioner on Monday ordered him to stay away from his wife and children. The woman told the commissioner that since her husband returned from deployment to Afghanistan, he has been quick to anger.

She told police she believes he may be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Read the whole thing here.

The report did say that “No charges have been filed against the 42-year-old man. The case is under review by the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office.” Email: prosecuting.attorney@co.snohomish.wa.us.

It looks like under Washington State laws, assault in the second degree is considered a class B felony, which means a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and $20,000 fine.

Also, folks in the State of Washington can get in trouble for interference with the reporting of domestic violence (RCW 9A.36.150). The wife was reportedly “discouraged” from calling 911. Not the same as “preventing” or “attempting to prevent” as enumerated below, but might still play out badly in court if this case gets there:

(b) Prevents or attempts to prevent the victim of or a witness to that domestic violence crime from calling a 911 emergency communication system, obtaining medical assistance, or making a report to any law enforcement official.

Beyond the possible immediate problems with the local court, the unnamed agent in this report could also be in trouble with his employer under the following regulations.

FAM 4370 which catalogs the List of Offenses Subject to Disciplinary Action in the Foreign Service is careful to point out the guidelines set in 3 FAM 4130:

3 FAM 4130 sets forth guidelines for deciding an applicant’s suitability for the Foreign Service and for taking disciplinary action against a Foreign Service employee. As explained in 3 FAM 4130, the attainment of foreign policy objectives requires the maintenance of the highest standards of conduct by employees of the Foreign Service. Because of the uniqueness of the Foreign Service, employees are considered to be on duty 24 hours a day and must observe especially high standards of conduct during and after working hours and when on leave or travel status. Accordingly the commission after work hours of many of the offenses listed here under “Conduct on the Job” would still be punishable if affecting the ability of the individual or the agency to carry out its responsibilities or mission. No action against a Foreign Service employee should be considered without a careful review of 3 FAM 4130.

So we went and looked up 3 FAM 4130 – the Standards for Appointment and Continued Employment. You may read it in full here. It does not include “domestic violence” but specifically mentions “spousal abuse” as an example of “Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct.”

3 FAM 4139.14 Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct
(TL:PER-303; 11-08-1995)
(Uniform State/USAID/USIA)
(Applies to Foreign Service Employees)

Notoriously disgraceful conduct is that conduct which, were it to become widely known, would embarrass, discredit, or subject to opprobrium the perpetrator, the Foreign Service, and the United States. Examples of such conduct include but are not limited to the frequenting of prostitutes, engaging in public or promiscuous sexual relations, spousal abuse, neglect or abuse of children, manufacturing or distributing pornography, entering into debts the employee could not pay, or making use of one’s position or immunity to profit or to provide favor to another (see also 5 CFR, Part 2635) or to create the impression of gaining or giving improper favor. Disqualification of a candidate or discipline of an employee, including separation for cause, is warranted when the potential for opprobrium or contempt should the conduct become public knowledge could be reasonably expected to affect adversely the person’s ability to perform his or her own job or the agency’s ability to carry out its responsibilities. Evaluators must be carefully to avoid letting personal disapproval of such conduct influence their decisions.

The unnamed DS wife told the court that her husband had been to Afghanistan and also told police she believes he may be suffering from PTSD.

In a related note, the June 2010 issue of State Magazine, Ed Warner has an article entitled Unaccompanied Support | Department provides tangible, intangible benefits and I quote in part:

“The buzzword associated with some tours at unaccompanied posts is post-traumatic stress disorder, but Yun [MED Director Dr. Thomas Yun] said its incidence is low. That’s because PTSD is associated with being in life-threatening danger or witnessing someone in such danger, explained David Panakkal, acting director of MED’s Deployment Stress Management Program. Panakkal said health units at AIP posts [Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan] monitor for stress-related ailments on arrival, during and at the conclusion of the employee’s tour. While an employee can be medically evacuated if the emotional problem is big enough, he said problems can arise long after the employee returns home.”

This is not totally off topic, but isn’t it surprising to hear the MED Director quoted about PTSD’s “incidence” as “low” without citing any statistics?  The State Department does not do post-deployment screenings as recommended by the GAO, so who is monitoring the employees after they return home?  I am actually curious how anyone could tell the “incident is low” is they are not tracking/evaluating employees after service in unaccompanied posts and the warzones?

[W]hile DOD requires medical screening of civilians before and following deployment, State requires screenings only before deployment. Prior GAO work found that documenting the medical condition of deployed personnel before and following deployment was critical to identifying conditions that may have resulted from deployment. GAO recommended, among other things, that State establish post-deployment screening requirements and that DOD establish procedures to ensure its post-deployment screening requirements are completed. While DOD and State agreed, DOD has developed guidance establishing procedures for post-deployment screenings; but, as of April 2010, State had not provided documentation that it established such requirements.

Finally, it is perhaps telling that the unnamed wife called 911 despite being warned that the husband/agent “would be fired from his job.”

KiroTV also has this news item posted in its website with additional details including allegations of prior shoving and kicking as well as a restraining order now taken against the agent which requires him to be at least 100 yards away from his wife.

Updated: 7/1/2010:
An astute Diplopundit reader just sent a quick addition, which I was not even aware of.  Under what’s called the Lautenberg Amendment (officially called the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban (“Gun Ban for Individuals Convicted of a Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence”, Pub.L. 104-208,[1] 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9)[2]), an amendment to the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997 enacted by the 104th United States Congress in 1996), this agent could be in deep kimchi with his guns alone:

“The act bans shipment, transport, ownership and use of guns or ammunition by individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, or who are under a restraining (protection) order for domestic abuse.”

The agent in the news has not been charged or convicted of domestic violence, but since kirotv reports that there is a current restraining order against him, does that mean he can no longer use/carry/own even his officially issued weapon (or own any of the 15 guns seized from his home)?

Wonder if Diplomatic Security is investigating?

 


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Insider Quote: How size and speed disparity works in Afghanistan….

AgFair tasting Tomato Paste May 20, 09Image by USAID Afghanistan via Flickr

Before the McChrystal flap unfolded, the U.S. Ambassador to Kabul, Karl W. Eikenberry gave a speech at the Command and General Staff College Graduation Ceremony in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on June 11. Below is an excerpt:

Like our soldiers, our diplomats are focused first on preventing wars, but when we must, we fight the same war as you do, but we use different tools, and fight on a different scale.

As for size, you’ve probably heard Secretary Gates’ comment that the military has more uniformed band members than the State Department has Foreign Service Officers.  The entire Department of State numbers under 40,000.  The number of Foreign Service Officers – our line personnel, if you will – is only 8,000.   With those 8,000, State staffs not only our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, but hundreds of embassies and consulates around the world.

Here’s an illustration of how that size and speed disparity works in Afghanistan.  When ISAF wants to work on developing an approach to a complicated policy or operational issue – to take a real world example, finding a way to ban the ammonium nitrate-based fertilizer used in the vast majority of IEDs in Afghanistan – ISAF can easily mobilize 50 staff officers to form an Operational Planning Team.

I am fortunate to be Ambassador at the only U.S. Embassy in the world with a full-time staff of State Department planners.  I have, on a good day, five of them – plus an Army SAMS planner, a graduate of this fine institution whom General McChrystal assigned to me in one more instance of close civ-mil cooperation.  I could afford to deploy one or two Embassy planners to that counter-IED OPT. 

Read the whole thing here.


Related Link:

Blog | Michael Hastings at Rolling Stone


President Obama Accepts General McChrystal’s Resignation

General David Petraeus nominated as new commander of US forces in Afghanistan

CNN reported that President Hamid Karzai has vocally expressed his support for General McChrystal and called him the “best” commander for the war in Afghanistan.  But, the Afghans apparently are puzzled about the McChrystal controversy and are asking what’s the fuss about.

Chain of command and respect for civilian authority may be hard to understand in a country that seems to be in perpetual war.

Below is President Obama’s Statement on General McChrystal and Afghanistan.  The transcript is here.

“[W]ar is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president.”
….
“The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”
….
“It is also true that our democracy depends upon institutions that are stronger than individuals. That includes strict adherence to the military chain of command, and respect for civilian control over that chain of command. And that’s why, as Commander-in-Chief, I believe this decision is necessary to hold ourselves accountable to standards that are at the core of our democracy.”


US Embassy Addis Ababa: a Parade of Seven Chargés d’Affaires and a Quiver of Carrots but No Sticks

carrots mosaicImage by m kasahara via Flickr

Here is the last of the peeled onion.  The OIG report on US Embassy Addis Ababa in Ethiopia says that “Executive direction at Embassy Addis Ababa is good for a front office in prolonged transition, with seven chiefs or acting chiefs of mission, five deputy chiefs of mission (DCM), and several office management specialists since July 2009. This situation reflects, in part, questionable personnel decisions by the previous leadership in the Bureau of African Affairs (AF) that also have impacted negatively on the political/economic section.”

The OIG report explains:

Embassy Addis Ababa’s executive direction is good but in prolonged transition, a circumstance dating from the summer of 2009 when a highly successful Ambassador and most other ranking Department officers departed. Gone in short order were the entire front office, including the DCM and two office management specialists, as well as the officers responsible for political/economic, regional security, management, consular, and public affairs – and in some instances their deputies as well. Several entry-level officers found themselves effectively in charge, as all layers above – the unit and section chiefs as well as the Ambassador and DCM – had left. For one ten-day period, which coincided with a cabinet-level visit, a middle-grade offi cer served simultaneously as chargé d’affaires/acting DCM, political/economic section chief, and acting public affairs officer, information officer, and cultural officer. By all accounts, he performed well.
[,…]
The parade of chargés d’affaires and acting DCMs, inherently a “value-subtracted” situation given the learning curve for each incumbent, could have been dispensed with and/or shortened – and some $100,000 in temporary duty costs saved – had the Department simply extended the previous DCM to serve as chargé d’affaires ad interim. For reasons of its own, the previous AF leadership declined to do this, despite the outgoing Ambassador’s recommendation. Similarly, AF chose not to extend the political/economic chief, the embassy’s best source of programmatic continuity.
[…]
Since the Ambassador departed in July of 2009, six chargés d’affaires have served at Embassy Addis Ababa. Among these are two retired former ambassadors. One left upon reaching the mandated annual salary cap; the other was present during the OIG team’s inspection but slated to leave in about a month. The DCM, who arrived in September 2009, has also served five times as Embassy Addis Ababa’s chargé d’affaires. Also briefly at the helm was the incoming political/economic affairs section chief who, along with the new public affairs officer, has been acting DCM.  Office management specialists have left frequently, too. During the OIG team’s inspection, the DCM’s office management specialist – after just 5 months in Addis Ababa – left for a non-hardship assignment and was replaced by a temporary-duty office management specialist from another embassy. At present, the Ambassador’s office management specialist is on loan from the regional security office.
[…]
During the OIG team’s visit, there was just one fulltime permanent office management specialist for the nearly 40 Department officers at Embassy Addis Ababa. Another Washington staffing decision by the previous AF front office has sidelined an employee widely viewed as the mission’s best strategic thinker to out-of-cone employment as information offi cer within the public affairs section.

Seven chargés in 11 months has got to be painful for the staff. You can check out the previous leadership at the State Department’s AF Bureau here. We must note that the current top bureau chief, Ambassador Johnnie Carson did not come on board until May of last year. So scroll upward on this list of Assistant Secretaries for the Bureau of African Affairs.

The OIG report continues:

“While transfers are part and parcel of diplomatic service, the Addis Ababa personnel situation appears to be far from the norm. The OIG team believes that Embassy Addis Ababa, with over 1,100 American and local employees, is too large and too important a mission, with too many moving parts, to have a front office in such flux.”

In any case, about that “dingy, scattered embassy complex” — have you ever worked at the Dungeon or had to wear plugs during a power out? No? Then you’re more lucky than these folks:

“Stress from the construction of the new embassy and utter neglect – for cost-conscious reasons – of the dingy, scattered embassy complex is palpable. To weather these shabby facilities, staff resort to humor. Offices are nicknamed for their distinctive problems. Several sections work out of The Swamp where a major flood left a huge area stripped of rugs and, in some instances, even flooring. Others have The Dungeon, a dank airless room. One section chief occupies The Generator, a room adjacent to the embassy’s generator where one must wear earplugs whenever city power cuts out. Another officer enjoys The Closet – yes, a converted closet; another has The Bowling Alley, a 30 by 4 foot room with a pipe running its length. The Marine security guard detachment lives in The Stable, once home to horses.”

On the proliferation of  planning documents:

“Embassy Addis Ababa, for example, does the Mission Strategic Plan, an operational plan for the embassy prepared by USAID, a country operational plan for PEPFAR, a performance plan and review for USAID, a malaria operational plan for the antimalaria initiative (first funded in late 2006), a plan for the international education initiative, and others. The OIG team views with misgivings the proliferation of planning documents that consume valuable staff time better spent in the field doing actual assistance work, in many instances. The goal of these reports, after all, is not just to publicize the issues under scrutiny but to provide platforms for action.”

Referral cases, asylum seekers, Fulbright grantees heart the USA:

“Two recent validation studies showed that nine percent of referred visa cases – including numerous Embassy Addis Ababa local employees and families – failed to return from the United States. Five percent of those receiving student visas never attended classes. The section is planning a study of B1/B2 (business and tourist) visa issuances, and will report the results when compiled. This report is expected to find significant asylum claims from members of the Ethiopian middle class who applied for and received nonimmigrant visas. While no apparent fraud was involved, the public affairs section has found that nearly half of its Fulbright scholars and other grantees sent to the United States do not return to Ethiopia.”
[…]
“The failure of many Ethiopian exchange grant recipients to return has induced the public affairs section and the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, over time, to significantly reduce exchange programs to the United States. The public affairs section is enlarging in-country programs and wants to increase the number of U.S. scholars in Ethiopia on various Fulbright programs, in part to compensate for the reduction in Ethiopians’ studying and/or visiting the United States. The educational infrastructure of Ethiopia can absorb additional American grantees. The public affairs section has asked the bureau for increased funding for American exchange grantees.”

A quiver of carrots but no sticks:

Outside the embassy, the frequent leadership changes have taken a toll. Ethiopian Government officials understandably would welcome more continuity in high-level embassy contacts before committing undue time to building relationships. Office management specialists, new to the job, find it diffi cult to finesse the Ethiopian bureaucracy. The DCM, however, has effectively worked with the host government to facilitate the many in-bound shipments related to the construction of the new embassy compound – a high hurdle in that the Government of Ethiopia is extremely bureaucratic and sensitive to implied infringements of its sovereignty.

Embassy Addis Ababa has an unusual operating dilemma in terms of policy guidance and planning. The interim front office lacks chief of mission instructions and full authority. It is somewhat underpowered in terms of dealing with other agencies within the mission, including a dozen or so Department of Defense elements, some not entirely under chief of mission authority and/or prone to resist the chargé’s authority almost to the point of insubordination. The OIG team was repeatedly told that the mission, at all levels, receives considerable informal communication from a senior official in AF who was previously ambassador in Addis Ababa. At other times, the mission appears to be fashioning policy guidance from public statements or informal emails from individual Washington agencies. Ironically, Embassy Addis Ababa faces the unusual situation wherein it has a quiver of carrots but no sticks as it seeks to rein in a government whose political direction may be putting U.S. strategic interests at risk.

The end.



Related Items:

OIG Report No. ISP-I-10-51A, Embassy Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 2010

Related Posts:

 

 


Will New Embassy Addis Ababa go on staggered lunches from 9am-3pm?

Lunch at NyalaImage by faria! via Flickr

I’m not trying to be funny. Really.  See — the New Embassy Compound (NEC) in Addis Ababa is set to open later this year. It will be sub-Saharan Africa‘s largest with room for 568 mission employees. But its cafeteria apparently only fits 80 hungry folks.  Unless OBO do something, the embassy presumably will have to cope with staggered lunch hours. For the cafeteria to feed most of the working folks at the embassy, it has to have at least 7 lunch hour seatings.  Perhaps start serving lunch at 9 am and ending at 3 pm? Or they can have strict half hour lunches starting at 11:00 and ending at 2:00? What? But they all have to eat ….    

Below is an excerpt from the OIG report:

The new embassy in Addis Ababa, with space for 568 employees, will be sub-Saharan Africa’s largest. Although the facility was originally designed for 472 employees, the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations enlarged it to accommodate 96 additional employees after the project was awarded. The mission had not anticipated the exceptionally rapid growth in USAID, CDC, and military and law enforcement operations when the original planning numbers were created. The new embassy project director has coordinated with each agency that will occupy the building to assign spaces and to accommodate new requirements. Space remains tight, particularly in the controlled access area, with pressure to fit in additional USAU and military positions.
[…]
The new embassy’s cafeteria has seating room for only 80 people, a serious issue in an embassy with 568 employees and no restaurants nearby. The cafeteria was sized far too small for the original 427 occupants of the building, even before an additional 96 positions were added to the building plan. The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations has offered no solutions to this problem, leaving it to the embassy to cope.
[…]
Embassy Addis Ababa’s 2011 Mission Strategic Plan requests only one additional U.S. direct-hire position, an information systems officer. In addition, although not reflected in the strategic plan, USAID expects to request NSDD-38 approval for 15-30 U.S. employees and 30-50 locally employed staff to manage and support the President’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative. USAID Washington hopes to assign at least ten development leadership initiative positions (akin to the Depart- ment’s entry-level officer positions) to the USAID mission in Addis Ababa, including positions in contracting and finance. None of these positions has been approved via the required NSDD-38 process, nor is there space in the new embassy building for this level of growth.
[…]
The embassy does not currently require all agencies to use the NSDD-38 process to request permission to add U.S. personal service contract employees to their staff. These personnel, however, consume the same embassy resources as a U.S. direct-hire employee, including office space, housing, and other ICASS services. They also fall under chief of mission authority for security and other purposes. If the mission does not request NSDD-38 approval for U.S. personal services contractors, agencies can add positions without regard to the effect that they will have on overall mission resources.

Related Item:
OIG Report No. ISP-I-10-51A, Embassy Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 2010


OIG recommends precondition for continued TDY of Media Information Support Team (MIST) in Addis Ababa

In the mistImage via Wikipedia

Here we continue peeling off the 91-page onion provided us by the Office of the Inspector General on US Embassy Addis Ababa.  

In 2009, AFRICOM released a Fact Sheet on MIST:

Military Information Support Teams (MISTs) are funded by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCCOM) and support Department of State and U.S. Embassies by augmenting or broadening existing public diplomacy efforts. The MIST’s partnerships with their respective U.S. Embassy Country Teams have demonstrated their ability to successfully provide advice and assistance to partner nations in the development of information activities. Synchronized with embassy goals and objectives and with Country Team oversight, the teams articulate USG messages by informing, clarifying and persuading foreign audiences. MISTs primarily work in coordination with partner nation agencies in support of U.S. and partner nation’s objectives, policies, interests and U.S. Africa Command Theater Security Cooperation objectives.

Sounds good on paper. Not to mention the funding they get which dwarfs PD funding at the embassy level.

The most recent OIG report on US Embassy Addis talks about DOD’s Media Information Support Teams (MIST) in Ethiopia:    

Reflecting the increased U.S. military presence in the Horn of Africa, Embassy Addis Ababa currently has a four-person Department of Defense media information support team. Members of the team are not covered under the National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 38 process and are in Addis Ababa under a long-term but purportedly temporary arrangement. They report locally to the Defense attaché and ultimately to their command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Office space for the team has become contentious in that there is no room for them as temporary employees in the already overly subscribed-for new embassy compound, and their current quarters are slated for destruction. The team appears to have limited understanding of chief of mission authorities and would benefit from tighter oversight and integration into the mission. For example, they believe that only the chief of mission can instruct them and thus that there is no need for approval of their projects by the public affairs officer. Without at least informal coordination with the public affairs officer, however, the OIG team believes that the military information support team will continue not to fully factor into their proposals and activities the sociocultural context of Ethiopia. The OIG team left an informal recommendation that the chargé d’affaires meet with the military information support team to discuss better coordination with the public affairs section, as a precondition for continued temporary duty in Ethiopia. Further, the Ambassador could insist that the team take direction from the public affairs officer, who would submit formal input for their annual performance reviews. This practice has worked well at other missions with a military information support team.

A further OIG team concern is that the military information support team spends significant time and resources in identifying and developing projects – and leading local contacts to assume they will be awarded a contract – before vetting proposals with relevant mission elements. With such sunk costs, other embassy offices generally pass these projects on with only minor edits rather than a serious review. A better practice would be to coordinate the projects with the public affairs and political/economic sections earlier on.

“Limited understanding” of chief of mission (COM) authority, of course, can spell big trouble for the country effort. Ambassador Charles Ray (formerly to Cambodia) has an informative piece (with real examples) and some interesting questions on Defining Lines of Authority in a 2009 issue of the Armed Forces Journal:

During nearly 47 years of combined military and civilian service, I have noted that conflicts over who is in charge arise from two main causes: lack of understanding by both military and civilian about each other’s cultures, and lack of clearly stated lines of authority in nontraditional situations.
[…]
Military units, particularly those deployed abroad for short-term missions like NEOs, cannot be expected to be sensitive to or even aware of the foreign policy situation. But then, that is why the president has vested authority for coordination in the COM.

In 2008, Ambassador Robert Gribbin (formerly to Rwanda and Central African Republic) also wrote in American Diplomacy about COM authority:

“[T]he ambassador has absolute authority over personnel and operations in his or her country of assignment. We should think about and treat non-resident AFRICOM personnel exactly as we considered previous command elements. Visitors need country clearances. JCET (exercises), IMET and ACOTA (training), FMS (sales), TSCTP (anti-terrorism), and other programs, training, and exercises are subject to ambassadorial approval. Only CJTFHOA (Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa) forces — 1500 troops stationed at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti — fall under the operational command of a CoCom (formerly called a CINC), which is currently CENTCOM (as the shift to AFRICOM control has yet to be effected). In accordance with existing practice such combat elements enjoy a separate chain of command, even though their in-country, non-combat activities — drilling wells in Djibouti for example — remain subject to ambassadorial oversight. Since aside from CJTFHOA, AFRICOM does not anticipate stationing additional combat personnel on the continent, i.e., no other bases, exceptions to chief of mission authority should not occur elsewhere.

In addition to misinterpretation of lines of authority and cultural disconnect, we have to recognize the elephant in the room — funding inequities.  I don’t know how much MIST has for Addis Ababa but the OIG report indicates that the embassy’s actual FY 2009 budget for public diplomacy was $529,100 (with public diplomacy representation at $6,800). However much it is, you can be sure that the MIST money is more than the embassy’s PD budget (see page 39).  Just an example, in Somalia, the Embassy reportedly had $30,000 to spend on public diplomacy while the MIST team had $600,000.  Let’s think about that for a moment. Over there, DOD gets to spend 20 times more than the Embassy on public diplomacy efforts.  Tell me again, that money has nothing to do with the bad equation.

Related Item: 
OIG Report No. ISP-I-10-51A, Embassy Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 2010


Quickie: The Runaway General’s PR, Bombs

,President Barack Obama meets with Army Lt. Gen...Image via Wikipedia

Michael Hastings’ article is doing the rounds inside the beltway right now. In case you’ve missed it, that’s the one in Rolling Stone entitled, The Runaway General ….”Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”

You can understand why this would be an interesting and perhaps even painful read in civilian and military circles.  SFRC’s John Kerry has spoken and has thrown his public support to General M. urging that folks stay cool and calm and think about the mission.

Quick excerpts below:

On being sharper and ballsier than anyone else:

“The general prides himself on being sharper and ballsier than anyone else, but his brashness comes with a price: Although McChrystal has been in charge of the war for only a year, in that short time he has managed to piss off almost everyone with a stake in the conflict. Last fall, during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave in London, McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as “shortsighted,” saying it would lead to a state of “Chaos-istan.” The remarks earned him a smackdown from the president himself, who summoned the general to a terse private meeting aboard Air Force One. The message to McChrystal seemed clear: Shut the fuck up, and keep a lower profile.”

About Joe:

“Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. “I never know what’s going to pop out until I’m up there, that’s the problem,” he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.”

“Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal says with a laugh. “Who’s that?”

“Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?”


About the General’s Team America:

“The general’s staff is a handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs. There’s a former head of British Special Forces, two Navy Seals, an Afghan Special Forces commando, a lawyer, two fighter pilots and at least two dozen combat veterans and counterinsurgency experts. They jokingly refer to themselves as Team America, taking the name from the South Park-esque sendup of military cluelessness, and they pride themselves on their can-do attitude and their disdain for authority.”

About HRC and AfPak’s Holbrooke:

“Only Hillary Clinton receives good reviews from McChrystal’s inner circle. “Hillary had Stan’s back during the strategic review,” says an adviser. “She said, ‘If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.’ ”

“McChrystal reserves special skepticism for Holbrooke, the official in charge of reintegrating the Taliban. “The Boss says he’s like a wounded animal,” says a member of the general’s team. “Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous. He’s a brilliant guy, but he just comes in, pulls on a lever, whatever he can grasp onto. But this is COIN, and you can’t just have someone yanking on shit.”

“At one point on his trip to Paris, McChrystal checks his BlackBerry. “Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke,” he groans. “I don’t even want to open it.” He clicks on the message and reads the salutation out loud, then stuffs the BlackBerry back in his pocket, not bothering to conceal his annoyance.”

“Make sure you don’t get any of that on your leg,” an aide jokes, referring to the e-mail.”


About US Embassy Kabul’s Ambassador Eikenberry:

“The relationship was further strained in January, when a classified cable that Eikenberry wrote was leaked to The New York Times. The cable was as scathing as it was prescient. The ambassador offered a brutal critique of McChrystal’s strategy, dismissed President Hamid Karzai as “not an adequate strategic partner,” and cast doubt on whether the counterinsurgency plan would be “sufficient” to deal with Al Qaeda. “We will become more deeply engaged here with no way to extricate ourselves,” Eikenberry warned, “short of allowing the country to descend again into lawlessness and chaos.”

McChrystal and his team were blindsided by the cable. “I like Karl, I’ve known him for years, but they’d never said anything like that to us before,” says McChrystal, who adds that he felt “betrayed” by the leak. “Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, ‘I told you so.’ ”


On the usurpation of diplomatic policy and shoring up
Karzai’s credibility:

“The most striking example of McChrystal’s usurpation of diplomatic policy is his handling of Karzai. It is McChrystal, not diplomats like Eikenberry or Holbrooke, who enjoys the best relationship with the man America is relying on to lead Afghanistan. The doctrine of counterinsurgency requires a credible government, and since Karzai is not considered credible by his own people, McChrystal has worked hard to make him so. Over the past few months, he has accompanied the president on more than 10 trips around the country, standing beside him at political meetings, or shuras, in Kandahar. In February, the day before the doomed offensive in Marja, McChrystal even drove over to the president’s palace to get him to sign off on what would be the largest military operation of the year. Karzai’s staff, however, insisted that the president was sleeping off a cold and could not be disturbed. After several hours of haggling, McChrystal finally enlisted the aid of Afghanistan’s defense minister, who persuaded Karzai’s people to wake the president from his nap.”


What if Eikenberry not McChrystal is right?

“This is one of the central flaws with McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy: The need to build a credible government puts us at the mercy of whatever tin-pot leader we’ve backed – a danger that Eikenberry explicitly warned about in his cable. Even Team McChrystal privately acknowledges that Karzai is a less-than-ideal partner. “He’s been locked up in his palace the past year,” laments one of the general’s top advisers. At times, Karzai himself has actively undermined McChrystal’s desire to put him in charge. During a recent visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Karzai met three U.S. soldiers who had been wounded in Uruzgan province. “General,” he called out to McChrystal, “I didn’t even know we were fighting in Uruzgan!”


Quotable Quotes:

McChrystal steps away from the circle, observing his team. “All these men,” he tells me. “I’d die for them. And they’d die for me.”

“The entire COIN strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people,” says Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel and leading critic of counterinsurgency who attended West Point with McChrystal. “The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense.

“It’s not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win,” says Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville, who serves as chief of operations for McChrystal. “This is going to end in an argument.”

Hastings end word:
“So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war. There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word “victory” when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge.”

Read the whole article The Runaway General ….Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.

As you might imagine — Secretary Gates over at the Pentagon is not happy
. General McChrystal’s PR man has now resigned. The General has also reportedly apologized for his WH criticisms and WaPo is asking if Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal is someone the president can afford to fire? With the U.S. war in Afghanistan in its ninth year and with U.S. forces scheduled to draw down in July 2011, the president may be stuck with General Stan and our tin-pot leader in Kabul.

But I do think this is a firing offense. Our top general in a war cannot be seen as publicly showing disrespect to our civilian authorities.  If President Obama fires General McChrystal, he would not be the first brilliant general fired in the middle of a war.  Of course, there is the mission to think about, as Senator Kerry has urged. But then again, we’ve been pouring money into Afghanistan, with the Taliban presumably funding their side with our money. Not just from cuts in a 2.2 billion haulage contract reported recently, but also from protection rackets in which Afghan subcontractors are paying protection money to local Taliban leaders to prevent their projects and employees from being targeted.

As General Mayville said in the article, “This is going to end in an argument.” I’d rather that this Afghan argument end sooner than later. 

 


Best Invention Since Sliced Bread Caused Near Embassy Collapse in Addis

Ethiopia, Mursi womanImage by * hiro008 via Flickr

I’ve written previously about that new innovative service at State called eServices here. Well, there’s a really “hilarious” part from a recent OIG report that talks about it.

The team (presumably from the mothership) had one week to install and train US Embassy Addis Ababa on eServices.  It was able to train 200 out of the 1200 potential users but provided no systems integration support. It did provide some “inaccurate or incomplete” training materials (aka: useless materials) according to the report. Along the way, it just happened to disabled all other service requests systems — never mind that more than half the mission did not know how to use this grand innovative systems just installed.  Oops, almost forgot, also calculated badly the bandwidth demands of these programs in a host country with a “creaky” information system. 

Below is an excerpt of the most recent OIG inspection report of the US Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:  

The embassy had not prepared for the eServices installation before the arrival of a Collaborative Management Initiative team in June 2009. The team, in fact, arrived just prior to a wholesale turnover in the management section and at the same time the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations’ Office of Safety, Health and Environment team was in Addis Ababa to install the DriveCam program.

Although the embassy was clearly unprepared for such a shift in operations, the team installed the entire eServices suite of programs and disabled other service request systems. The team had scheduled only a week at the embassy to install the new system and train service providers and users. The team provided no systems integration support to help the embassy adapt their processes to the new tool. The team provided generic e-Services training materials, some of which were inaccurate or incomplete, and did not address how the tool is used in Embassy Addis Ababa. Only 200 of the potential 1,200 users were trained. Summer turnover for the mission exceeded 50 percent and new arrivals did not know how to use e-Services. In an embassy already beset with management challenges, this one caused a near collapse. Both the eService and DriveCam programs needed significant bandwidth to run— something in short supply in Ethiopia where the government-controlled information systems are creaky at best.

The OIG team found that most e-Services components are not working well. It will be months before they are useful to customers, service providers, and managers. Customers have access to the program and its instructions, which on the surface appear to be intuitive and user friendly, but in reality often leave users unclear on how to navigate the user interface to request a particular service. In many cases, eServices does not effectively convert customer requests to meaningful orders that can be filled by service providers. Service providers noted that e-Services often complicated their jobs and required them to create work-arounds. The e-Services’ objective to match the embassy’s operating results with ICASS service standards is far from reality. All of this has far reaching implications in a management control context—the management office finds it difficult to deliver timely and quality services and customers are often left frustrated and unhappy.

Recommendation 27: The Under Secretary for Management’s Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing and Innovation, in coordination with Embassy Addis Ababa and the Foreign Service Institute, should create an effective system of customer service and support within the eServices framework. (Action: M/PRI, in coordination with Embassy Addis Ababa and FSI)

One might argue that the install team did the job; the team did install the new system of innovation in one corner of Africa.  Yep, and that they did.

Ahnd so we’ll end here with another bureaucratic love story and one more frustrated ending. Frankly, a few more reports like this could soon make eServices synonymous with outnovation.  A word not yet in the dictionary, but will get there eventually with some help.

Related Item:
OIG Report No. ISP-I-10-51A, Embassy Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 2010

Related Post:
eServices: The Best Invention Since Sliced Bread! | March 10, 2010


10 Afghans Still AWOL but Gibbs is on the job!

NCIS - Leroy Jethro GibbsImage via Wikipedia

I don’t know if you’ve seen this news bit.  San Antonio News reported the other day that seventeen Afghan military officers and enlistees have gone AWOL from a Lackland AFB language school over the past 18 months.  Excerpt below:

The troops, enrolled in the Defense Language Institute English Language Center, were among 21 foreign military service personnel to go absent without leave since 2009, with one — an Iraqi — reappearing in Houston, where he sought political asylum.
[…]
Gary Emery, chief spokesman for the 37th Training Wing at Lackland, said he didn’t know. He said 16 Afghans went AWOL in 2009 and one vanished this year.

Some likely had finished their Lackland courses and were on their way to training elsewhere when they disappeared, Emery said.
[…]
Disappearances like the ones at the DLI haven’t been uncommon. But Emery noted that around 3,400 international students attended the Lackland school last year, including 228 from Afghanistan. Of those, the 16 Afghans went AWOL along with the Iraqi and one from Djibouti. Two from Tunisia have gone missing this year along with another from Guinea-Bissau in West Africa.

Asked why the Air Force hadn’t revealed that Afghan troops had gone AWOL, Emery said the disappearances occurred gradually. “I don’t know if I consider that particularly newsworthy,” he said, adding, “it hasn’t been all at once.”

Continue reading Afghans at language school go AWOL. The names of the Afghan nationals who went AWOL are listed here.

FoxNews also reported that the Afghan officers and enlisted men have security badges that give them access to secure U.S. defense installations, according to the lookout bulletin, “Afghan Military Deserters in CONUS [Continental U.S.],” written by Naval Criminal Investigative Service in Dallas and obtained by FoxNews.com.

The Be-On-the-Lookout (BOLO) bulletin was distributed to local and federal law enforcement officials on Wednesday night.

On June 18, FoxNews has a follow up report saying that 10 of 17 Afghan military deserters who walked away from a training program on a U.S. Air Force base in Texas remain at large, but that seven of the men have been accounted for. Excerpt:

The 17 deserters went AWOL from Lackland Air Force Base, where foreign military officers who are training to become pilots are taught English, according to a “Be-on-the-Lookout” (BOLO) bulletin issued on Wednesday.

Sources said that as of November 2009, one of  the deserters was in Canada, one is now a lawful permanent resident in the U.S., one has left the country and another four are in federal custody and in removal proceedings. The other 10 remain unaccounted for.

Never mind that the “disappearances occurred gradually” but how can we bring in military folks like this for training and then allow them to simply disappear?  They must receive pay and allowances for undergoing such trainings.  Who keep tabs on them and their allowances?  And when their training concludes, aren’t they supposed to hand back their security badges? 

Even with a BOLO issued, officials seem to be understating the issue. “I don’t know if I consider that particularly newsworthy,” the spokesman said regarding the staggered disappearance of the Afghan trainees.  The fact that they disappeared and cannot not be located is not newsworthy?  Holy mother of goat!  And if they started disappearing in 2009, how come we’re just hearing about this now? It is, of course, possible that these guys just do not want to return to a war zone but that they are unaccounted for is a still a gap in the national security blanket. Sure they are friendlies, and have been vetted, but what if ….  if, you know …
     
The IFs are enough to make you stay awake nights, right?  Except that NCIS is on it.  And of course, we all know that Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs always get the job done. 

Pardon me?

What do you mean that’s not real life?