Cover Your Eyes – Congressman Rohrabacher Wants Iraq to Repay US for Our Nutsy and Klutzy Iraq Invasion & Reconstruction!

Dana RohrabacherImage by Gage Skidmore via FlickrDo you know who held a gun to our heads to invade Iraq? The Iraqis!

Do you know who forced us to do reconstruction in the billions over there? The Iraqis, who else?!

The simplistic way of looking at this is — we went into the Iraqi Barn, trashed it, paid for it and dear god, we are still paying for it!

After eight years of this — logic dictates that the Iraqis should now pay for it. And that’s exactly what one of our long-term elected reps is talking about, during a visit over there, no less.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, 12th term Republican congressman from California’s scenic 46th District and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – wants the Iraqi Barn to repay the US Treasury for the mega-dollars the US spent on our nutsy and klutzy invasion and reconstruction of that poor country.

We liberated them remember?  And turned them into a democracy, did we not? So isn’t it only fair that we should get some sort of repayment for that?

Hold on to your brains, this is going to be a rough ride!

Via AFP:

A US congressman called on Friday for Iraq to repay a portion of the “mega-dollars” that Washington has spent since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, at a news conference in Baghdad.
“Once Iraq becomes a very rich and prosperous country… we would hope that some consideration be given to repaying the United States some of the mega-dollars that we have spent here in the last eight years,” Rohrabacher told journalists at the US embassy in Baghdad.

“We were hoping that there would be a consideration of a payback because the United States right now is in close to a very serious economic crisis and we could certainly use some people to care about our situation as we have cared about theirs.”

He said he raised the issue in a meeting with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Rohrabacher, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the US House of Representatives, declined to give specifics on how much should be paid back, or over what timeframe.

Yawrg! Heeeeelp! I just lost my brain ….!

Mr. Rohrabacher had previously announced that he plans to hold a hearing to investigate the April 8th massacre of Iranian civilians at Camp Ashraf in Eastern Iraq and “what role the U.S. State Department may have played in a cover up of the crime.” 

Of course, while he’s at it, investigating the “cover-up” that is, he must have also thought why not kill two birds with one big rock and deliver the” repay us for invading you” collection receipt.

Why, it’s the most thoughtful thing to do, I don’t know why no one thought of this before. If you’ll excuse me, I need to go and put a brown bag over my head now.

AFSA’s 2011 Constructive Dissent Awards – No Winner for Entry-Level Diplomats

Image via WikipediaAFSA’s constructive dissent awards publicly recognize individuals who have demonstrated the intellectual courage to challenge the system from within, to question the status quo and take a stand, no matter the sensitivity of the issue or the consequences of their actions. According to the FS union, the issue does not have to be related to foreign policy. It can relate to a management issue, consular policy, or, in the case of the newest award, the willingness of a Foreign Service Specialist “to take an unpopular stand, to go out on a limb, or to stick his/her neck out in a way that involves some risk.”

“Within the foreign affairs agency system, the term “constructive dissent” is used to describe cables passed through the official dissent channel which object to or proscribe amendments to official U.S. foreign policy or regarding conditions of work. Recent examples of such dissent include a USAID officer at AFRICOM who protested the military’s approach to sexual and gender-based violence treatment in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a security engineering officer who persuaded the State Department to issue commissioning certificates for FS specialists. Excluded from AFSA’s definiton of constructive dissent are objections raised outside the system, i.e. airing policy disagreements in the media or blogs.”

The winners via AFSA:  

This year’s winner of the F. Allen “Tex” Harris Award for constructive dissent by a Foreign Service Specialist is Maurizio Visani, an FS-3 Department of State Information Program Officer serving in Consulate General Surabaya.  By performing a security assessment, he enabled consular agents in Bali to obtain OpenNet access, thereby enabling them to provide sound technical solutions to protect American Personally Identifiable Information (PII) more securely.   It was through his initiative that Bali became the first consular agency to receive OpenNet access.

The winner of the 2011 William R. Rivkin Award for constructive dissent by a mid-level Foreign Service officer is Joel Ehrendreich, an FS-1 Department of State political officer in Singapore.  While serving in Tokyo in 2005 he was asked to decline an invitation, on behalf of the embassy, from the mayor of Hiroshima to send a representative of the U.S. government to attend the annual Peace Memorial Ceremony.  He recommended changing the policy and accepting the invitation.  It took five years, with Joel resubmitting his dissent each year, to change this policy, but in 2010 Ambassador John V. Roos attended the ceremony, a gesture that has helped to strengthen bilateral relations.

The Christian A. Herter Award, for constructive dissent by a Senior Foreign Service officer, this year goes to Dr. James W. Bayuk. The nominating officer for Dr. Bayuk describes him as a medical officer who, “seeks to improve the medical services offered to his colleagues wherever he serves.”  Over the course of his career, he has proposed several institutional changes to improve both the efficiency and quality of medical services. Some of his proposals have been controversial, and not all have been implemented.  He has challenged prevailing wisdom in several areas related to the provision of services, and has called for greater transparency in the selection of key leadership positions in the Office of Medical Services.  In those cases where he has been successful, the results have been tangible. In 2006, he was awarded the Department’s Award for Innovative Use of Technology for his work on linking post-specific medical information to the Overseas Briefing Center. 

The AFSA Awards and Plaques Committee selected the Harris and Herter Award winners.  (There was no winner this year of the W. Averell Harriman Award for constructive dissent by an entry-level Foreign Service officer.)   Committee members include: Retired Ambassador John Limbert, chairman; active-duty Foreign Service employees Francisco Zamora, John Naland, Ernesto Pizarro and Eva Groening; and retired FS employees Janice Bay, John Long, Ambassador Edward Peck and Dick Thompson.

The William R. Rivkin Award winner was selected by a panel including the children of the late Ambassador William R. Rivkin — Julia Wheeler, Laura Ledford, Ambassador Charles Rivkin and the Honorable Robert Rivkin – joined by retired Ambassador Thomas Boyatt, who worked with Ambassador Rivkin; the Honorable Newton N. Minow; Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and former Representative Jim Leach, R-Iowa.

I should note that this is the third time since 2007 where there is no winner for the W. Averell Harriman Award for constructive dissent by an entry-level Foreign Service officer. 

I am disappointed — but of course, it’s not my career on the line.

I have to wonder out loud why the elephants in the room are conspicuously absent as constructive dissent subjects – subjects related to policies and management practices in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan (AIP); policies related to personnel security in Mexico undergoing a full blown drug war, though of course, we don’t call it a war; policies related to post drawdowns/evacuations, how soon, how fast, how much politics get into the what, when and how; the quality of pre-deployment training for personnel heading off to AIP posts I heard is crash bang but also shit bang.  And the soc-med policy, of course …

Good luck for next year!


Iraq Transition: Horrible Deadline, Rough Schedule, But — The Army Is Leaving! Really. Really?

giant AspirinGiant Aspirin – Have One
Image by duncan via Flickr
I do not think replacing DOD’s gigantic footprint in Iraq with a smaller footprint by the Department of State (smaller compared to DOD but the largest in State’s universe) would transform that country into a democracy that our then leaders imagined in la-la land.

That said, what I think obviously, does not make a difference in the scheme of things. Our Iraq project is a runaway train that has ran out of brake fluid; and who will put a stop to it?

The notion out there that we should pour more resources into that country even as we withdraw our troops so that the deaths we suffered in that foreign land would not be in vain is understandable.   But it also borders on emotional blackmail and is code blue depressing.  If the dead could speak up, would they really tell us — if you love me, go off some more people over there? Would they? If the answer is “yes” — this is going to be a war with no end, because as more deaths are avenged, more deaths will occur …. and we’ll be in Iraq for 20 years more, 50 years, who knows — a hundred years? There will be no basing rights, of course, so we’ll be doing this on one-year TDYs for the next several decades.

But combat is over; we’ll be doing our reconstruction there! Of course, we are; the real question is — why are we doing it there instead of here? And let’s not kid ourselves. The body bags will not stop coming home just because combat operation is over.

How many more of our young men and women must pay the price because we are too stupid to recognize when to stop?

But like  I said, what I think obviously, does not make a difference in the scheme of things. I expect that the State Department will take over the Iraq headache as planned whether the giant aspirin is handy or not.

Not much I can do about this; but blogging about this, I sure can do. I figure good preparation is half the battle. If the civilians must now take over this mission, I’d like to know that State has won that part of the battle, or has it?

U/S Patrick Kennedy during his appearance at the Commission on Wartime Contracting last June 6 states that “a medical contract was awarded to Medical Support Services – Iraq on May 15, 2011 for $132 million for five years.”

But according to FedBiz the medical support services contact (Number:SAQMMA11D0073) in the amount of $61,427,699.00 has been awarded to CHS Middle East LLC, a company based in Reston, Virginia on May 19, 2011.

So I went digging for the contract solicitation for the med services at FedBiz. I wanted to know what work can we expect from this medical support contract in Iraq. I have seen the statement of work posted online and will post that separately because the following distracted me.

During the pre-solicitation period,  the Defense and State Departments did answer some questions about the work required from the prospective bidders.  I’ve highlighted some of the questions and answers below extracted from materials publicly posted in FedBiz. This will give you an idea what the bidders were interested in and what the medical services might look like after contractors take over the function:

Third Country Nationals in Their Minds

Q: “Any U.S. citizen prime or subcontractor employee who will deploy to Iraq in conjunction with this contract, regardless of purpose of visit or duration of stay, must have a favorable investigation, no older than 2 years, resulting in issuance of a Final Secret or Top Secret personnel security clearance from Defense Security Service (DSS) or must have a favorable Moderate Risk Public Trust (MRPT) investigation conducted by the Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Only employees with current clearances or whose MRPT’s are favorably adjudicated will be allowed to travel to Iraq.”  Will the Government accept non-US citizen Third Country Nationals as employees on this contract?

A: If they can be cleared and will be acceptable to the Government of Iraq.  

Q: H.1.1 lists countries from which no person may work on the contract in any capacity.  Does the tem “any capacity” preclude the contractor from assigning work to any person from these countries who have the legal right to work in the U.S. performing “back office” (e.g., Accounting & Finance, Human Resources)?  Does this clause only prohibit the contractor from assigning work in Iraq to persons from these countries?

A: The Government of Iraq is setting restriction regarding country of origin.  This requirement restates that requirement/restriction.  To the extent that we can determine the intent of the GOI, working in Iraq means any employee or person performing more than 30 days in Iraq.  Experience shows that interpretation is often performed by the individual by the inspector on site on the given day.  Therefore, until more specific definition is provided. it would be wise for the contractor to not incur cost to provide an employee that may not be acceptable to the GOI.

At this point, I must note that the private security contractors and static guards at our posts in Iraq are already made up of U.S. citizens and a host of third country nationals. We probably should not be surprised if the health units turn up with a medical crew made up of third country nationals.

The Fitness Question with a Troubling Answer

Then there is that fitness question and the troubling answer. I don’t know how often military personnel must now do a drug test; at one point, it was twice a year, they all pee in a cup and get checked. The USG seems to be saying, we don’t care, it’s up to you. Remember the contractors here will be working for the health units and the diplomatic support hospitals; there will be drugs/controlled substance/pharmaceuticals.

Q: “The Contractor shall provide technically competent Health Care Providers (HCPs) that are “medically and dentally fit” in the time frame stated in the task order award notice.”  Will candidates be undergoing a Pre-Medical screening?  Does the Pre-Medical screening include a drug test? If so, who will pay the cost and are the requirements similar to those deploying to the CRC at Ft. Benning, GA?

A: (We are not familiar with the CRC at Ft. Benning.)  Contractor is responsible for providing personnel who are medically fit and able to perform their duties.  If they are unable to perform due to drug impairment, either because they are not physically and mentally competent or because they are unable to receive and maintain an MRPT clearance, they will be found unacceptable.  

If you’re thinking about DOD residual support, there will be NONE

Q: Will the military have no residual support in Iraq to provide for service members?  Evacuation of service members?  And only until December 2011?

A: USF-I will provide support, in some areas only, until the end of 2011.  Where support is not available, active duty military will be deemed to fall under the DoS eligible population and will be supported by the Contractor. Beyond 12-2011, all military will fall under the Chief of Mission authority as applicable to eligibility.

How about medical malpractice insurance?

Q: The cited clause does not contain the minimum malpractice insurance required.  Will the government specify the minimum amount of malpractice insurance?

A: The RFP has been amended to include the following:  a) Malpractice Insurance—for non-surgeon doctors, nurse practitioners, and physicians assistants, $1 million/ $3 million (per occurrence/total).  

There will be blood…will there be blood?

Q: For these blood and blood products, will the Government also provide transportation support through the TOC?

A: The contractor will be responsible for procuring blood and blood products from Qatar; Transportation to Baghdad will be made available from Kuwait and Amman via Embassy supported flights.  Within Iraq, Embassy Air Operations will support further movement.

I’m sorry I can’t help myself — must point out that the Q&A include an item indicating that 84 binders are NOT/NOT required for the proposal:

Q: Please confirm that the Government’s intent is for offerors to submit a total of 12 binders for each of the five Task Order Proposals. The total number of binders each offeror would be submitting is 84. Would the Government change the requirement to have all task order Technical Proposals in a single binder and task order Price Proposals in a single binder? The total number of binders would be reduced to 30.

A: No, it was not the Government’s intent to require 84 binders.  The language has been clarified, both in L.10 and in the attachments.  

I must note that this Q&A is dated months ago. Recent news report seems to indicate that Iraq will request our troops to stay past December 2011.

I have posted previously about Embassy Baghdad General Hospital based on the OIG report which reviewed the embassy’s transition preparation. I will have a related post to follow on this subject.