State Dept’s Transition to a Civilian-Led Mission in Iraq, Whassup?

The Office of the Inspector General will release today its performance evaluation of the Department of State Planning for the Transition to a Civilian-led Mission in Iraq (Report Number MERO-I-11-08, May 2011). It does not look good.

Four months to go and a lot of large items are still on the to-do list.

Why we’d stay in Iraq with 17,000 civilian personnel in 15 sites across the country with questionable support from the Hill after our military withdraw, under current fiscal reality is foolish. But it looks like we’re doing this, this ambitious Future of Iraq Project II and I fear that the results will be just as costly. And I’m not just talking dollars.


By October 1, 2011, the Department will assume full responsibility for the U.S. presence in Iraq, as DOD withdraws its remaining 50,000 troops by December  2011, according to the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement.1 This withdrawal will require the Department to provide security, life support, transportation, and other logistical support currently provided by the U.S. military in Baghdad, at consulates in Basra and Erbil, at embassy branch offices in Kirkuk and Mosul, and at other sites throughout Iraq.

The transition from a military to a civilian-led mission in Iraq is an unprecedented undertaking, highly complex in nature and scope, with extensive requirements for staff, budgets, and organization—all taking place in an operating environment that is still violent and unpredictable.

The OIG inspectors, bless their hearts, know how to give brownie points:

The Department of State (Department) and Embassy Baghdad have put in place planning and management mechanisms to effectively transition to a civilian-led presence in Iraq. However, several key decisions have not been made, some plans cannot be finalized, and progress is slipping in a number of areas. The lack of senior level Department participation dedicated to the transition process, which has been a weakness, may be alleviated by the Secretary of State’s appointment of an Iraq Transition Coordinator.

The report enumerates the many challenges of a civilian-led mission:

Establishing a viable diplomatic mission in Iraq without Department of Defense (DOD) support and funding will require considerable resources. However, challenges to transition planning make it difficult to develop firm or detailed budget estimates. The Department faces many challenges in transitioning to a civilian-led effort in Iraq, including:

  • Transfer of police training from DOD to the Department is generally on schedule, but plans for the size and scope of the mission have had to be revised and land use agreements have not been confirmed. Protective security for contractor personnel working for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) will be provided by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS). INL and DS are working on a protective security plan, which they intend to conclude soon.
  • Establishment of an Office of Security Cooperation (OSC) is behind schedule,and full mission capability is unlikely by October 2011.
  • Construction of four planned provincial posts has been delayed by the inability to decide on scope, size, and land use; and uncertain future funding. In addition to cost, security and safety concerns at the current facilities in Erbil make that location particularly problematic.
  • To meet air transportation requirements, the Department will need to procure additional aircraft, obtain agreements on flight plans and land use,construct or renovate air facilities, and maintain aircraft. (see separate post)
  • Losses in protective security capability for U.S. Government personnel caused by the military’s withdrawal will need to be mitigated through closer working relationships with the GOI, as well as access to DOD security-related information and equipment. In addition, there are still weaknesses in Iraqi military specialty units.
  • Fully staffed medical facilities may not be in place by the end of the year and will be costly to establish and sustain.[REDACTED] (see separate post)
  • Embassy housing is nearing full capacity, and it may be difficult to absorb the expected influx of personnel. In addition, necessary generator maintenance will decrease available electric power at the same time as demand increases.

FY2011 Iraq Request: 2.7 Billion; FY2012: 6.3 Billion

Establishing a viable diplomatic mission in Iraq without the considerable support and resources of DOD will almost certainly require years of effort and the investment of significant resources. However, difficulties in making final decisions and completing plans have hindered the ability to derive firm, detailed budget figures for completing the transition and sustaining operations. The administration requested $2.7 billion for Iraq in FY 2011 and has requested $6.3 billion in FY 2012.

Future American Consulate in Erbil

The embassy plans to construct temporary facilities by upgrading three provincial reconstruction team (PRT) structures and the regional reconstruction team (RRT) facilities in Erbil. Locating a future consulate in Erbil will be costly, and the security and building safety of the current facilities are problematic. Colocating a temporary consulate at a contingency operations site (COS) near the Erbil airport, which has existing DOD infrastructure, may be a viable alternative.[REDACTED]

Note that the Erbil province covers an area of 5,570 square miles in the north of Iraq, with an estimated population in 2001 of 1.13 million. It is largely populated by Kurds with Assyrian, Arab and Turkoman minorities. From 1974 onwards, the province of Arbil formed part of the Kurdish Autonomous Region of northern Iraq.

Going to Iraq? Bring Your Tent. And Hand Fan!

Embassy Baghdad is nearing its full housing capacity with nearly 4,000 beds, but will need to accommodate an influx of civilian personnel, which is currently planned to increase to around 8,000 by the end of 2011. The embassy is negotiating with the GOI to obtain more property currently occupied by the U.S. military, but there are no contingency plans if these property leases are delayed or denied. Further, OIG finds NEA’s proposed accommodation solutions neither optimal nor sustainable in the long term. In addition, the electric power generation system is already operating at full capacity using all generators full time. These generators will have to undergo maintenance sooner than planned, which will decrease the amount of electricity when demand is increasing.
NEA officials told the OIG team that creative ways would be found to accommodate and provide life support for more civilian personnel, including “hot bunking” (creating shifts for use of sleeping rooms), adding more containerized housing units, or requiring private contractors to find accommodations off of the embassy compound in nearby neighborhoods. OIG agrees with the embassy that none of these options is optimal or sustainable in the long run.

Ready or Not: 5,405 Projects Valued at $15.2B Transferred to Iraq

Embassy officials cited the difficult security environment and poor contractor performance as the major hindrances to project completion. In addition, embassy officials noted the challenge of getting local and provincial governments and GOI ministries to readily assume responsibility for some transferred projects. Despite these challenges, embassy officials noted that, to date, they have been able to transfer 5,405 projects valued at $15.2 billion to local and provincial governments or GOI ministries. Current projections call for completing and transferring the final, remaining 83 projects between the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012.

US Mission Iraq: 17,000 personnel; 15 sites

The Department’s current plan for Iraq calls for approximately 17,000 personnel under chief of mission authority at 15 sites throughout the country. The goal is to have political, economic, and security personnel throughout the country, especially in key areas, such as Mosul and Kirkuk, to engage daily with their Iraqi counterparts, help defuse crises, and develop long-term solutions to problems. This ambitious diplomatic plan is constrained by competing budget priorities and pressures to restrict overall federal spending.

The OIG report concludes:

Establishing a viable diplomatic mission to maintain Iraq as a strategic partner will almost certainly require years of effort and the investment of considerable resources. The Department has requested $6.3 billion in FY 2012 for its programs and activities in Iraq, but recent congressional debate foretells a tightening fiscal situation that may require hard choices in the years ahead. Managing the transition in Iraq is an unprecedented effort as is the Department’s transformation into an expeditionary organization working in an overseas contingency operational environment.

Do you fell like playing the Awful Mess Mystery album, like now?