Quickie: Reconstruction Chief Quits, Putting ‘Civilian Surge’ in Doubt

Ambassador Herbst heads to NDU’s Center for Complex Operations.
Via Spencer Ackerman of Danger Room: Reconstruction Chief Quits, Putting ‘Civilian Surge’ in Doubt:

Most observers of Afghanistan say the war doesn’t have a prayer if the U.S. can’t send a cadre of civilian experts — diplomats, engineers, farmers — to rebuild Afghanistan. But on Friday, the diplomat in charge of building that force quietly resigned. Uh oh.

John E. Herbst, a 31-year veteran diplomat, has been the State Department’s coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization since 2006. Set up by the Bush administration in 2004, his office, known as S/CRS, sought to create precisely that legion of civilian reconstruction experts to send abroad when crisis strikes. Danger Room has learned that despite building the so-called Civilian Response Corps up from a handful of diplomats, Friday was Herbst’s last day on the job.

Ambassador Robert Geert Loftis, who helped negotiate the 2008 accord to get U.S. troops out of Iraq, started yesterday as S/CRS’s acting coordinator; State’s website just announced the leadership change today.
Herbst dealt with a lot of challenges as S/CRS’s second chief. Although the Bush administration created the office in 2004, Congress didn’t really fund it until 2008, hobbling its goal of creating a standing interagency crew of governance, agriculture and building experts ready to operate overseas.

Since then, Herbst pulled together what’s become an $800 million effort that claims around 1100 federal civilian employees. But in reality, only about 300 of them can deploy at any given time, fewer than two U.S. Army companies. And while the corps has sent civilians to Afghanistan, Congo and Sudan, the State Department’s powerful regional bureaus, special envoys and embassies have largely sidestepped it.

Take Afghanistan. In the Obama administration’s much-hyped “civilian surge,” corps members have helped the U.S. embassy and the military write a key planning document last year. But Herbst has complained that it’s been otherwise ignored. American diplomacy and development work in conflict areas remains largely a military job. In Afghanistan, U.S. infantrymen politic with local potentates on reconstruction projects. The Army is thinking about bolstering troops’ negotiation skills on the expectation that the civilian diplomats will stay at home.

Herbst has eyed the exits for awhile. In July, the National Defense University named him its next director of its Center for Complex Operations. But the future of his now-vacated office and the corps he built is less secure. The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, expected as soon as next month, will likely recommend a structural facelift for both.

Ambassador Herbst writes, “After a long and rewarding career, I have decided to retire from the Foreign Service, and move on to other challenges. In parting, I wanted to take a look at the beginning of the Office and discuss what a difference we have made in just a few short years.”
Read his reflection as S/CRS Coordinator — A Look Back: Ambassador Herbst Retires, Reflects on Four Years as Coordinator


State Dept’s Helo Fleet Shaping Up with 11 Additional S-61™

A British Sikorsky S-61 helicopter takes off f...Image via WikipediaOn Sept. 20, Sikorsky Aerospace Services announced that the U.S. State Department has ordered 11 additional upgraded S-61™ utility helicopters for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sikorsky Aerospace Services (SAS) is the aftermarket division of Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX).

Earlier this year, the State Department entered into a five-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract for up to 110 upgraded S-61 aircraft for passenger and cargo transport missions in support of its worldwide operations. Under the IDIQ agreement, the first four aircraft purchased in February are currently in completion and are scheduled for deployment in Afghanistan this fall.
“Increasing the U.S. State Department’s current fleet to 15 S-61 aircraft marks a significant milestone for the Sikorsky S-61 program,” added Anthony Serksnas, director, S-61 Programs.

The S-61 helicopter is known as an industry workhorse, and for more than 50 years has reliably and safely performed missions for U.S. and foreign allied militaries. The upgraded S-61 helicopter incorporates key components including composite main rotor blades (CMRB), a state-of-the-art glass cockpit and modular wiring harness – all of which dramatically improve aircraft supportability. Additional features have been incorporated to reduce pilot fatigue and maintenance requirements for increased safety.

An open IDIQ purchase agreement serves as the contracting vehicle for any U.S. Government agency to purchase upgraded S-61 aircraft. The first delivery of the 11 upgraded S-61 helicopters for Iraq and Afghanistan is scheduled to occur in mid-2011.

Read the announcement here.

Related post:

State Dept’s New Helo Fleet: Up to 110 S-61 Sikorskys for Worldwide Operation | February 23, 2010





Officially In: Paige Alexander to USAID/EUR

Loading an 18-wheeler full of USAID wool blank...Image by simminch via FlickrOn September 23, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Paige Alexander to be USAID’s Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia. The WH released the following brief bio:

Paige Alexander is currently the Senior Vice President at IREX, an international nonprofit development organization that supports educators, journalists and community leaders in over 100 countries.  Prior to joining IREX in 2001, Ms. Alexander served for eight years in a number of positions with the US Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, including as acting Deputy Assistant Administrator.  Alexander’s other notable positions include serving as Associate Director of Project Liberty at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government; and as a Consultant to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the C.S. Mott Foundation and the Open Society Institute in Prague. Ms. Alexander currently serves on the Boards of the Basic Education Coalition and the Project on Middle East Democracy.

Ms. Alexander holds a B.A. from Tulane University.

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Officially In: Fulp, Nickels, Shaheen and Wicker to UNGA-65th Session

The United Nations General Assembly building.Image via WikipediaPresident Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key administration posts:

  • Carol Fulp, Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-fifth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations
  • Greg Nickels, Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-fifth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations
  • Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-fifth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (U.S. Senator from the State of New Hampshire)
  • Senator Roger Wicker, Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-fifth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (U.S. Senator from the State of Mississippi)

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President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts