Details: Costs to Deploy One Person to Afghanistan for One Year

Excerpted from SIGAR Audit-11-17 and State OIG AUD/SI-11-45 Civilian Uplift

It typically costs the U.S. government between $425,926 and $570,998 to deploy a civilian employee to Afghanistan for a 1 year tour. Costs vary due to differences in salary, travel expenses, and whether an employee works in the Embassy or in field locations. This estimated range does not include agencies’ headquarters support costs for Afghanistan positions, 15 days of transitional leave or home leave if the employee will be deployed for another year-long tour in Afghanistan, and any other expenses that the deploying agency may incur in the process of transitioning the employees back to their previous jobs within the government, if applicable.

We constructed the total cost range estimate for deploying one position to Afghanistan based on the following expenses:

Salaries: Civilian employees deployed to Afghanistan are compensated for their work either by the U.S. government Civil Service General Schedule (GS)26 or the Foreign Service (FS) schedule. U.S. agencies told us that they prefer to deploy civilians with considerable background experience to Afghanistan. Therefore, agencies typically deploy civilians at the higher end of the U.S. government pay scale (GS 14 and FS 1). In budget planning, State uses the amount of $110,000 as base salary for either the civil service or the foreign service positions, and USAID uses the amount of $122,733 as base salary for their Afghanistan positions in general.

Danger Pay: Danger pay is additional compensation above basic salary for service at designated danger pay posts where civil insurrection, terrorism, or war conditions threaten physical harm or imminent danger to all U.S. government civilian employees. The U.S. government sets the danger pay level for Afghanistan at 35 percent of base salary (based on a standard 40 hour workweek) prorated for the number of days while deployed in Afghanistan. Danger pay compensation begins on the day of arrival in Afghanistan (the employee must be in country for 4 hours or more to qualify) and ceases on the day of departure for both permanent or temporary employees deployed to Afghanistan.
or the Foreign Service (FS) schedule.

Post Differential: Post differential is additional hardship pay over basic salary for employees deployed to serve at foreign areas where conditions or the environment differ substantially from conditions or the environment in the continental United States and warrant additional compensation as a recruitment and retention incentive. State provides post differential for civilian employees deployed to Afghanistan at the maximum level of 35 percent of base salary. All civilian employees assigned for a 1 year tour, detailed, or on temporary duty to Afghanistan must spend 42 consecutive days at post before the post differential is activated; the differential is retroactive to the day the employee arrived at post.

Sunday Differential: The U.S. government provides full-time civilian employees in Afghanistan with additional compensation for hours of work on Sunday, as it is the start of the regular workweek at the U.S. Mission in Afghanistan. Sunday premium pay is equal to 25 percent of the employee’s rate of basic salary for each of the 8 hours of Sunday work, which means 5 percent of base salary.

Overtime: The U.S. Office of Personnel Management defines overtime pay as pay for hours of work officially ordered or approved in excess of 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in an administrative workweek. Civilian employees in Afghanistan are entitled to overtime compensation depending on their position and level of appointment. USAID sets its personnel overtime at the rate of 25 percent of base salary. State sets overtime at 20 percent of base salary. USDA follows U.S.Mission policy and allows for civilians working in Kabul to work 35 hours of overtime per pay period and for civilians working in the field in Afghanistan to work 45 hours of overtime per pay period. The overtime compensation rate is an employee’s base salary and an additional percentage based on the employee’s GS level.

Special Differential: A special differential is additional compensation for substantial amounts of extra work expected to be performed by Foreign Service direct hire generalists and is paid in lieu of overtime pay. State sets this differential at 20 percent of base salary for foreign service direct hire generalists. The dollar amount that State uses for budget planning is $22,000.

Separate Maintenance Allowance: The U.S. government provides this  allowance to assist a Foreign Service employee in meeting the additional expenses of supporting family members located outside the employee’s foreign post of assignment. The U.S. government applies this allowance to Foreign Service employees working in Afghanistan. The maximum amount used to plan a position’s budget in Afghanistan is $17,300 for State and $12,516 for USAID. A special differential is additional compensation for substantial amounts of extra work expected to be performed by Foreign Service direct hire generalists and is paid in lieu of overtime pay. State sets this differential at 20 percent of base salary for foreign service direct hire generalists. The dollar amount that State uses for budget planning is $22,000.

Deployment Travel: The U.S. government pays for civilian employee travel to Afghanistan, primarily including airfare, hotel, meals and shipment of household effects. State estimates this cost at $25,000; USAID estimates it at $48,983.

Mandatory Afghanistan Training: State requires all civilian employees deployed to Afghanistan to attend Foreign Affairs Counter Threat training (at the cost of $3,895) and Afghanistan Familiarization training (at the cost of $960). Civilian personnel deployed to locations outside of the U.S. mission in Kabul receive extra training, including the Afghanistan Provincial Reconstruction Team Orientation (at the cost of $960) and the Interagency Integrated Civilian-Military Training Exercise for Afghanistan (at the cost of $5,880). Some individual departments and agencies require additional specialized training for their employees deployed to Afghanistan; for example, Department of Justice civilian employees attend specialized training for their job assignments in Afghanistan.

Rest and Recuperation (R&R) and Regional Rest Breaks (RRB): The U.S. government provides civilians deployed to Afghanistan designated rest breaks after they have spent a certain number of days in country. For R&R, the government pays travel costs for employees to return home for 22 days, including travel time. For RRB, the government pays to transport employees to regional locations for quick breaks, including 5 days of paid administrative leave and no more than a total of 7 days, including travel time. There are two options for taking these types of leave during a 1-year deployment: three R&Rs or two R&Rs and three RRBs. State estimates $21,000 per year for the cost of these breaks, while USAID estimates $5,785.

International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS): ICASS is the principal means by which the U.S. government provides and shares the cost of common administrative support at its diplomatic and consular missions overseas. U.S. government agencies operating in Afghanistan pay ICASS charges for each of their civilian employees to benefit from services provided by the U.S. Mission in Afghanistan, such as motor pool operations and vehicle maintenance, travel services, mail and messenger services, and reception and telephone system services. ICASS fees range from $100,000 to $150,000 per person.

Residential Housing for Uplift Personnel: State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations provides housing for the uplift personnel in Afghanistan. In fiscal years 2009 and 2010, the Near East Asia and South and Central Asian Affairs Bureaus provided Overseas Building Operations (OBO) $41,616,000 to accommodate uplift personnel in Afghanistan. State budgets $45,000 for housing (non ICASS housing and infrastructure costs) for a single position in Afghanistan.

DOD Life Support in the Field: U.S. Force-Afghanistan provides security for uplift personnel located in the field in Afghanistan. DOD charges State $3,044 each month (or $101.47 per day) for each civilian deployed to a DOD-controlled provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan.

Capital Security Cost Sharing (CSCS): The U.S. agencies that establish a civilian presence at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Afghanistan pay fees, on a per person basis, to State to provide new, safe, secure, functional diplomatic and consular facilities and to replace vulnerable facilities currently occupied by the mission. The CSCS program charges the departments and agencies for each authorized or existing position in the U.S. diplomatic facilities and for each projected position above current authorized positions in new Embassy compounds. State estimates the CSCS costs for a Controlled Access Area (where sensitive information is processed) at $22,657, Non-Controlled Access Area (where sensitive information is not processed) at $8,803, and for
Non-Office Areas, such as housing, at $1,626.

Field Life Support Kits: The U.S. government issues kits to civilians deployed to work at field locations in Afghanistan, which include key life support supplies, such as satellite phones and protective equipment. State estimates the cost of these kits as $15,000.



How to Cover Your Ass When Handling the State Dept "Clearance" Mailbox

In the NYT profile of Mr. Van Buren, the writer notes: “As the Foreign Service requires, Mr. Van Buren submitted his manuscript for review in September 2010, shortly after he returned from Iraq. The rules state that the review must be completed within 30 days. When he heard nothing, he took that as assent.”

A State Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to NYT also said that “publishing without awaiting the required review amounted to a violation.” 

I bet that official did not have time to read the darn FAM 4170.

As you can imagine this just cracks me up.  And makes me dammit, tantrumy (like stormy and such).

Given the reactions from the State Department, it seems to me that this manuscript dived into the cracks, head first, and the agency realized it too late. In short, no one may have actually read this manuscript before it went to press. But instead of somebody owning up to the snafu (it was after all submitted for clearance), the organization is going after the author. Why didn’t they fire the guy who messed up in clearing this book? If he/she did his/her job — who knows what could have happened?  This case could have ended up litigated in court. And you know how long court cases travel through that system. Entirely possible that by the time the court decides on the case, we would already have been out of Iraq  and the book would have been OBE as they say; as in overtaken by events = no buzz.

But here’s what I think happened with that controversial 30-day clearance process. You are welcome to take this with a dash of salt since obviously I did not do the monitoring of that mailbox in the Big House:

Step 1: Employee sends request for clearance to the “Clearances” mailbox. Manuscript attached.

Step 2: “Clearances” mailbox acknowledged receipt of manuscript

Step 3: 30-days later, employee sends follow up inquiry about requested clearance per timeline specified in the FAM

Step 4: “Clearance” mailbox mails out the following response:

Dear You:

Your email inquiry referred to “I replied to your message.” I just want to clarify that Jane Doe who works at “Clearances” mailbox was the one who replied to you in that message and she has been ill.  I and other colleagues are covering the “Clearances” mailbox in Ms. Doe’s absence in addition to our regular jobs.

Such being the case, we will have to begin from the beginning with this clearance request of yours, or forego review/clearance due to our delay in responding to you.  I recommend doing the former, not the latter. Also please note that the 30 day review period = business days and does not include weekends or holidays.

Step 5
: Employee ignores the recommendation and publishes the book … [A recommendation by its definition is not an order but an advice that the recipient is free to ignore, see?].

Step 6: BAM! Just like that. Days before the book lands in bookstores, the Front Office SCREAMS: How did that manuscript get clearance?

Step 7: What happened? Do you know what happened? I don’t know, do you? What happened? She doesn’t know. He doesn’t know. Does anybody know? Somebody please tell me WHAT HAPPENED! Nobody knows what happened? Well, for sure that man is evil for publishing that book! Get your pitchforks!

Okay, okay … evil and pitchforks are all made up. Pardon my active imagination; I was born this way.

And that dear readers is how a manuscript submitted for clearance can fall into those famous cracks.  Can our friends over at Public Affairs confirm or deny more or less if this was how it went down with Peter Van Buren’s book? What, I don’t have friends left there anymore?  Okay…so, really — which one of the very Special Assistants at the Front Office dropped this ball?

Accountability Jane – they don’t make them like they used to anymore.

While I was writing this down I remember Harrison Ford in Clear and Present Danger. Remember that scene between Jack Ryan and Ritter?

Jack Ryan: If I go down you’re coming with me.

Ritter: Wrong again. I have an *autographed get-out-of-jail-free card*! “The President of the United States authorizes Deputy Director of the CIA Robert Ritter to conduct ‘Operation Reciprocity’ including all necessary funding and support. This action is deemed important to the national security of the United States etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.” You don’t *have* one of these, do you Jack?

You will note that in our brief imagined response above, the most important component is CYA. Yes, as in Cover Your Ass even on a paper trail.  It wasn’t me.

That’s an institutionalized part of bureaucratic life. In fact, there ought to be a Cover Your Ass Lessons Learned Center. Except that Congress would never go for that. 

Anywho – I’d like to know who dropped the ball on this … c’mon fess up.

And stop squeezing the guy about a three-year old taxi receipt in Peru, and elsewhere. If you keep at it, he may have to send you a thank you note and Godiva chocolates for helping him break into Amazon’s Top 50 books. Pardon me?  Um, he is already in the Top 100. Can you imagine what happens if he actually gets fired? Um, hello bestseller?

While I’m on the subject of this book, Mr. Van Buren will do his only Washington DC area book signing today, October 11, at 6:30 pm, at the Washington flagship Barnes and Noble store, 555 12th St NW.  I understand that the first three in line buying a book will receive a special “Classified” carry bag.*

When pressed about the carry bag, the author emphasized that “*No
actual classified material was used or injured in the production of
this bag.” Also that “offer is void where patrolled by drones or tigers.”

Alrighty then, that settles it. See you there?!