US Embassy Bangkok’s Irrestibly Charming Happy 2013 Greeting

Below is US Embassy Thailand’s charming and totally cute video greeting for the new year. With Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, and her DCM Judith B. Cefkin joined by various sections of the embassy, other embassy officers (watch out for the embassy spokesperson), the U.S. Marines, the chauffeurs, the cafeteria staff (with their ladles), USCG Chiang Mai and USAID, the video notes that 2013 celebrates 180 years of friendship between the United States and the Kingdom of Thailand.  Don’t miss the bloopers!

Music: Ruen Rerng Ta-lerng Sok by Soontaraporn
[Lyrics below]

วันนี้วันดี ปีใหม่
Today is the New Year’s Day
(Wannee wan dee pee mai)

ท้องฟ้าแจ่มใสพาใจสุขสันต์
The blue sky makes us joyous
(Thong fah fam sai pah jai sook san)

ยิ้มให้กันในวันปีใหม่
Give each other a smile to welcome the New Year
(Yim hai gun nai wan pee mai)

โกรธเคืองเรื่องใดจงอภัยให้กัน
And forgive each other, don’t hold any grudges
(Grode kueng rueng dai chong ah pai hai gun)

หมดสิ้นกันที ปีเก่า
Enough with the old year
(Mode sin gun tee pee khao)

เรื่องทุกข์เรื่องเศร้าอย่าเขลาคิดมัน
Stop thinking about all the sadness and sorrow
(Rueng took rueng sao yah klao kid mun)

ตั้งต้นชีวิตกันใหม่
Let’s start anew together
(Tang ton chee wit gun mai)

ให้มันสดใสสุขไปทั่วกัน
With days full of happiness
(Hai mun sod sai sook pai tua gun)

เฮ เฮ เฮเฮ้เฮเฮเห่ สุขไปทั่วกัน
Hey hey hey hey…. Happiness is all around
(Hey hey hey… Sook pai tua gun)

รื่นเริง เถลิงศกใหม่
Let’s celebrate the New Year!
(Ruen rerng ta lerng sok mai)

ช่า รื่นเริง เถลิงศกใหม่
Cha! Let’s celebrate the New Year!
(Cha! Ruen rerng ta lerng sok mai)

รวมจิตร่วมใจ ทำบุญร่วมกัน
Put our minds together and do some good
(Ruam chit Ruam chai thum boon ruam gun)

ทำบุญกันตามประเพณี
Honor our tradition and make merits
(Tham boon gun tam pra pay nee)

กุศลราศรีบรรเจิดเฉิดฉัน
And the best will come our way
(Ku son ra see bun cherd ched chan)

พี่น้อง ร่วมชาติเดียวกัน
Our brothers and sisters
(Pee nong ruam chad diew gun)

พี่น้อง ร่วมชาติเดียวกัน
Our brothers and sisters
(Pee nong ruam chad diew gun)

ขอให้สุขสันต์ ทั่วกัน เอย
We wish you all a Happy New Year.
(Kor hai sook san tua gun ei)

นอย ทิงนองนอย น้อยหน่อยนอยน้อย หน่อยทิงนองนอย
La la la la la la ….
(Noi noi noi noi noi…)

You guys are spectacular! Cha! Ruen rerng ta lerng sok mai! And may 2013 be a better year for us all!

domani spero sig

 

 

 

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Taking a Holiday Break

I’m taking off for the next several days, traveling west to see family and friends. Hope to have something new for you next year.

Wishing you all a wonderful Holiday Season with loved ones and friends and a New Year of good health and happiness.  I leave you with a few holiday greetings from our posts in Finland, Estonia and what might be our all time fave, from Poland.  US Embassy Warsaw’s holiday vid is now at 178,001 views!

Ambassador and Mrs. Bruce Oreck for the US Embassy Helsinki in Finland

xmas 2012_finland

Ambassador Jeffrey Levine at the USEmbassy Tallinn Holiday Tree Lighting

xmas 2012_estonia

US Embassy Warsaw with Ambassador Mull and embassy staff

xmas 2012 warsaw

Take care, everyone,

domani spero sig

President Obama Nominates John Kerry as 68th Secretary of State

“We do not want to concertina-wire America off from the world”

–  Senator John Kerry

kerry bio-collage

President Obama:

….I’m looking ahead to my second term. And I am very proud to announce my choice for America’s next secretary of state, John Kerry. In a sense, John’s entire life has prepared him for this role. As the son of a Foreign Service officer, he has a deep respect for the men and women of the State Department — the role they play in advancing our interests and values, the risks that they undertake and the sacrifices that they make, along with their families.

Having served with valor in Vietnam, he understands that we have a responsibility to use American power wisely, especially our military power. And he knows from personal experience that when we send our troops into harm’s way, we must give them the sound strategy, a clear mission, and the resources that they need to get the job done.

Click here for a transcript of President Obama’s remarks as he nominates Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to the Cabinet position of Secretary of State, replacing Hillary Clinton (via WaPo).

CBS News:  Obama taps John Kerry to be Secretary of State

CNN: Obama nominates John Kerry to be secretary of state

WaPo: President Obama has nominated John Kerry for secretary of state

USA Today: John Kerry will face significant challenges

NBC News: Obama taps Kerry for Secretary of State

State Department: Hillary Clinton’s Statement on Kerry Nomination.

 

domani spero sig

 

 

How long will the State Dept’s bureaucratic firewall hold at the bureau level?

4 State Department Resignations Follow Benghazi Report – a headline repeated with some variation since Wednesday.

The bureaucratic casualties as of December 20:  One assistant secretary, and reportedly two of his deputies, and a fourth one who was third level down from his bureau’s assistant secretary.

Only one, the assistant secretary submitted his resignation. The other three apparently were put on  “administrative leave” pending further action. Hey! What does “further action” means?  Does that mean reassignment?  Retirement? Or just go disappear until the press gets tired of this thing?  Does that mean the higher ups who dodged the bullet are still looking up what FAM cite to slap them with? Why? Oh, because the Foreign Affairs Manual is the official rules book. Anything not on it, is not considered to have real teeth.  So, obviously, if you want to line them up on a career firing squad, you better get the FAM citation right. Or Legal would have a fit. And that’ll be a ton of paperwork and what with the holidays next week …

Who the foxtrot wants to be stuck at the office doing that sort of stuff!?

Anyway, one was reportedly preparing to retire, anyway.

Too bad his office was not on the 7th floor.

In any case, if he’s been in with XX years of service, he will get a Certificate of Appreciation personally signed by the Secretary of State. Woohoo!

One presumably did not know what was coming; blithely posting on social media about the NYT story on the ARB report the night it was released.

No one called to say we’re releasing this report tonight and there’s no breach or whatever, but that you might stay home tomorrow because the buzzards will be circling the Truman building?

Nothing like that?

According to Dead Men Working, “one will be sorely missed by DS, which would have benefited greatly from his continued service.”

Career execution is a fairly common practice in public organizations, but since they’re often done in private with few details, there is always talk about inability to discuss such personnel matters.  And since there are few breadcrumbs and even fewer witnesses, no can can definitely say who fired the coup de grâce. (thanks N., you may eat another xmas cookie).

We find the “fixin” the blame ‘er accountability at the bureau level quite disturbing but also laughable.  We are tempted to start calling this the “Accountability for Mid Level Officials Review Board” as suggested below.

More of that from the National Review, below an excerpt from Elliot Abrams:

Does the new report on the State Department’s failures in Benghazi really deliver “accountability?” No: In fact it actually sacrifices a few career officials and protects the higher-ups.

While the report has been called scathing and tough, it does not fix any real responsibility on top officials: the secretary of state, the two deputy secretaries of state, or the assistant secretary for the Near East. The Diplomatic Security bureau takes a lot of hits, but I don’t see in it any serious discussion of the roles played by the under secretary for management, who supervises that bureau, nor of the “Seventh Floor” — the very top officials of the department.
[…]
It is even odder that Secretary Clinton, who once said “I take responsibility. . . . I take this very personally,” also gets off without criticism. It’s not that absolving her or her top deputies is necessarily wrong, but where it leads is bound to affect morale in the department. Look at these events from the perspective of career officials at the office director or deputy assistant secretary level, and what just happened? People like you were just ruined, while people up the chain got off scot free. Being on the Seventh Floor appears to grant immunity. I’m sure that’s what is being said around the water coolers at State, and from what I can see they are not wrong. Pickering led what was called an “Accountability Review Board.” A better name might have been “Accountability for Mid Level Officials Review Board.”

As we’ve noted here, the NEA bureau has been headed by Elizabeth Jones in an acting capacity since June 2012. Don’t know her, never meet her. State always expect that its officers hit the ground running whether in Foggy Bottom or in Burkina Faso.  If we cut her some slack, that’s from our belief, rightly or wrongly, that one needs at least 3-6 months to do an effective transition. We wrote previously that “If she is nudged out when she was on the job barely three months when Benghazi happened, we might think that the pressured shakeup is for purposes of appearances.”

We’ll, it now looks like she’ll be spared but State has now reached down to the third level down at the NEA bureau to find someone “accountable.” And this has nothing to do with appearances and managing perception.

Also the Cable cites the Q&A during the hearing between D/S Bill Burns and Senator Rubio:

When pressed by Rubio over whether the March and July cable requesting more security had reached the upper echelons of the State Department, Burns said they had.

“Well, they certainly would have been reviewed up through assistant secretary level, and it may be that some of my colleagues on the 7th floor saw them as well.” Burns said. “There were certainly memos that came up to the 7th floor that talked about the deteriorating security situation in eastern Libya, yes, sir.”
[…]
Maxwell, according to several State Department sources, had been slated to retire in September but was asked to stay on as DAS for the Maghreb after the attack. Maxwell might have been in a position to directly receive the requests for more security in Benghazi, giving him a direct connection to the security failures, those sources speculated. Those details are confined to the classified version of the ARB report. But State Department officials insist that he would not have been able make any decisions about such matters with consulting with Jones, who would have had the final say.

“Either they have some kind of documentary evidence that puts Maxwell in a bad light specifically, or this could be the Foreign Service elite protecting itself. Maxwell is not a member of the elite, but Jones is,” one senior foreign policy hand who has worked in the State Department said.

So the three future scenarios we’re looking at next:

  1. That the four resignations will temper the noise and hold the firewall at the bureau level.
  2. That the four resignations will increase the noise, add more questions, breach the bureau firewall and one or more of the Under Secretaries will roll.
  3. That with the holiday week coming, people will be riveted by last minute shopping, and will be so Benghazid-out to care.

The next time you guys (those still in the building) attend your mandatory leadership and management training, ask your facilitators how to survive organizational life when your leadership is in crisis. When lower-ranked officials are pressured to take the blame while higher ups in the food chain skate, we don’t call it true leadership.

Also, note that we’re not suggesting that all these bureau officials forced to leave made no errors in judgment.  We don’t know.  But to expect us to believe that these folks alone in a highly structured organization committed a firing offense and that their upper bosses knew nothing about whatever it was they did  … why, that’s a bunch of somethings, dahrlings!

domani spero sig

US Embassy Warsaw Rocks with All I Want For Christmas Is You

The video below is from US Embassy Warsaw with Ambassador to Poland Stephen Mull (at the 0:07 mark) and all the American and Polish staff at the United States Embassy in Poland in Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You.

You guys made us smile today, thank you. Sending you wishes for a happy and safe holidays across the miles!

domani spero sig

 

 

These bureaus don’t exist in a vacuum? Oh, but they do – since …

…. the day before yesterday!

More from the ARB briefing with Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen:

MS. NULAND: Let’s go to New York Times. Michael Gordon, please.

QUESTION: Ambassador Pickering, your report was extremely critical of the performance of some individuals in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the NEA, the Middle East Bureau. And – but these bureaus don’t exist in a vacuum; they’re part of an hierarchical organization known as the Department of State, and each has a chain of command. The NEA reports up the policy chain, and Diplomatic Security, I presume, reports up the management chain, their Under Secretaries, and indeed deputy secretaries, and the Secretary herself, who oversees these bureaus. What is the highest level at the Department of State where you fix responsibility for what happened in Benghazi?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: We fixed it at the Assistant Secretary level, which is in our view the appropriate place to look, where the decision-making in fact takes place, where, if you like, the rubber hits the road. And one of the interesting things about the statutory basis for the Review Board was that it clearly was biased against the idea that one could automatically hold, as one often does, the leader of a particular department or agency responsible without pinpointing the place where the failures took place and where the lessons that we derived from that ought to be important to fixing the problem. And so fixing the problem and finding the locus of the difficulties was the major task we had to undertake.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: And I would add to that, Michael, that, I mean, certainly that was a concern that we had as we initiated the review and we just found. And as someone who’s run large organizations, and the Secretary of State has been very clear about taking responsibility here, it was, from my perspective, not reasonable in terms of her having a specific level of knowledge that was very specifically resident in her staff, and over time, certainly didn’t bring that to her attention.

NYT’s Michael Gordon who later filed this report writes:

The report did not criticize more senior officials, including Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary for management, who has vigorously defended the State Department’s decision-making on Benghazi to Congress.
[…]
At the same time, the report that Mr. Pickering oversaw suggested that there was a culture of “husbanding resources” at senior levels of the State Department that contributed to the security deficiencies in Benghazi. Without identifying Mr. Kennedy or other senior officials, the report said that attitude “had the effect of conditioning a few State Department managers to favor restricting the use of resources as a general orientation.”

We are deeply bothered by that “We fixed it at the Assistant Secretary level” response.

The State Department is a traditional organization with a top-down hierarchy.  For as long as we’ve been studying it, it has never been a flat one, unless you’re talking about the base of a pyramid.  There are chains of command like any bureaucracy.  You can get in trouble for driving outside your lane.

Are we to believe that the decision to have a presence in Benghazi was done at the DS and NEA bureaus?

That the decision to have a light footprint in Benghazi was done at the DS or NEA bureau?

That the policy at embassies worldwide to hire a local guard force was fixed at DS alone?

That the practice of filling Benghazi with short TDY staff rotations was decided by DS or NEA but not DGHR?

That the allocation of 4-5 Regional Security Officers (RSOs) to Benghazi, as opposed to 200 assigned to US Mission Iraq was a DS bureau decision?

That the DS or the NEA bureau negotiated with the CIA on whatever security agreement there was in Benghazi?
C’mon folks, for us to believe that is like suspending disbelief as we do when we watch HBO’s Homeland.

The Cable’s Josh Rogin @joshrogin tweeted:

Assistant Secretaries are just high up enough to take the fall but not quite high up enough to do anything to defend themselves #Benghazi

Well, that’s not right.  We recognize that bureaucratic life isn’t fair, but this bothers us a great deal.

domani spero sig

 

 

AP’s Matt Lee Asks Tom Pickering About the ARB’s Supposed to be Never-Again Moment

Via the State Department’s ARB Benghazi Briefing with Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen:

MS. NULAND: … Let’s start with Matt Lee from AP, please.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for doing this briefing. The report, to a layman, seems to indicate either rank incompetence or a complete lack of understanding of the situation on the ground in Benghazi. And my question is: Why is such poor performance like that from senior leaders in these two bureaus that you mention, why is not a breach of or a dereliction of duty? Why is it not grounds for disciplinary action?

And then secondly, after the 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the ARB report – the ARB that was formed then came out with a series of recommendations, and many of your recommendations today, the broader ones, are very similar. Those bombings in East Africa were supposed to have been a never-again moment. What happened between then and now that this could possibly have happened?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Without accepting your characterization of the problem, it is very clear that under the law and in connection with the State Department regulatory practice, one has to find willful misconduct or similar kinds of action in order to find breach of duty. And indeed, one of our recommendations is – there is such a large gap between willful misconduct, which leads, obviously, to conclusions about discipline, letters of reprimand, separation, the removal of an individual temporarily from duty, that we believe that gap ought to be filled. But we found, perhaps, close to – as we say in the report – breach, but there were performance inadequacies. And those are the ones that we believe ought to be taken up, and we made recommendations to the Secretary in that regard.

Thank you for asking the question, Matt Lee.

On a side note — Ambassador Pickering was the 17th Undersecretary for Political Affairs who was the #3 ranking official at the State Department (1997-2000) when the East Africa Embassy Bombings occurred in 1998.  He was one of those interviewed by the Crowe Commission; that Board concluded that “no employee of the U.S. government” had “breached his or her responsibility.” No one was pressured to leave after that incident as far as we can recall. More on that here from Ambassador Bushnell who similarly requested additional resources for US Embassy Nairobi prior to the bombing.

ARB Benghazi’s report released yesterday says that “the Board did not find that any individual U.S. Government employee engaged in misconduct or willfully ignored his or her responsibilities, and, therefore did not find reasonable cause to believe that an individual breached his or her duty so as to be the subject of a recommendation for disciplinary action.”

And yet — as of 10:17 pm PST, four State Department officials no higher than an deputy assistant secretary (DAS) have so far been snared by the ARB report (one AS and three DASes).  Only one of those who were reportedly pressured to step down is big enough fish to make a splash on the State Department organizational chart.  A statement from the State Department via NPR:

“The ARB identified the performance of four officials, three in the Bureau of the Diplomatic Security and one in the Bureau of Near East Asia Affairs,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement. “The Secretary has accepted Eric Boswell’s decision to resign as Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, effective immediately. The other three individuals have been relieved of their current duties. All four individuals have been placed on administrative leave pending further action.”

So — now, if the ARB report did in fact identify these officials, why was that considered “classified” and omitted from the publicly available report?

Did the ARB only identified four officials or are there more?

How many deputy assistant secretaries is the State Department prepared to pitch under the bus to ensure that the bureaucratic firewall holds at the bureau level?

Don’t get us wrong.  Four people were dead, a few more wounded. We want to see who is accountable. The ARB report and the State Department’s response is sending lots of static.  We understand that one of those leaving is preparing to retire anyway …. so … what’s going on guys?

domani spero sig

 

 

Accountability Review Board Fallout: Who Will be Nudged to Leave, Resign, Retire? Go Draw a Straw

Various news outlet described the Accountability Review Board’s unclassified report in the following terms:

NYT: Panel Assails Role of State Department in Benghazi Attack

ABC News: Benghazi Review Finds ‘Systemic Failure’

USA Today: Benghazi review slams State Department on security

Also that the ARB has “harsh” criticisms, “faults” State and on and on …
Well, did we expect that it would be otherwise when four people died and some more wounded?

We blogged in the early morning about the unclassified report released last night (see Accountability Review Board Singles Out DS/NEA Bureaus But Cites No Breach of Duty).

We were going through the recommendations when we just saw the news that heads are starting to well, as the cliché goes, roll.

While the ARB report did not fault any one person, CBS News is reporting that Eric Boswell, the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security at the State Department, has resigned.

An official  speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss personnel matters publicly told  the AP that Eric Boswell, as well as Charlene Lamb, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs responsible for embassy security, “stepped down under pressure after the release of the report.” The third official with the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs also reportedly stepped down but was not identified.

We kinda expected this. But the bureaucratic casualties appear to be firewalled for the moment at the bureau level.  The DS bureau is under the Undersecretary for Management, encumbered by popular Hill witness, Patrick Kennedy.  The NEA Bureau is under the Undersecretary for Political Affairs, encumbered by political appointee, Wendy Sherman who assumed office in September 2011.

The ARB on DS and NEA bureaus:

“The DS Bureau showed a lack of proactive senior leadership with respect to Benghazi, failing to ensure that the priority security needs of a high risk, high threat post were met. At the same time, with attention in late 2011 shifting to growing crises in Egypt and Syria, the NEA Bureau’s front office showed a lack of ownership of Benghazi’s security issues, and a tendency to rely totally on DS for the latter. The Board also found that Embassy Tripoli leadership, saddled with their own staffing and security challenges, did not single out a special need for increased security for Benghazi.”

And this:

“Throughout the crisis, the Acting NEA Assistant Secretary provided crucial leadership guidance to Embassy Tripoli’s DCM, and Embassy Tripoli’s RSO offered valuable counsel to the DS agents in Benghazi.”

A note on the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs: Since June 2012, the bureau has been headed by Elizabeth Jones in an acting capacity.  She was previously Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The NEA bureau was headed by Jeffrey Feltman from August 2009 to June 2012 when he retired from the Foreign Service.  He is currently the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. If she is nudged out when she was on the job barely three months when Benghazi happened, we might think that the pressured shakeup is for purposes of appearances.

Update: AP is now reporting that Raymond Maxwell, the deputy assistant secretary of state who oversees the Maghreb nations of Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco is the NEA official who reportedly resigned.  That’s like one of the number #3s in the bureau. Not the Assistant Secretary, not the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary but one of NEA’s seven officials below PDAS.  So if Eric Boswell retired from DS last month, somebody, anybody at the DS Front Office would have been pressured to stepped down, too?

Folks, we do not like the look of this bureaucratic firewall. The NEA resignation if true looks contrived and the artificiality offends us.  What decisions regarding Benghazi did Mr. Maxwell actually do, that the NEA Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and their bosses at “P” and beyond did not sign off?  Did the seven NEA officials below PDAS had to draw a straw on who should step down? Inquiring minds would like to know.

domani spero sig

 

 

 

Accountability Review Board Singles Out DS/NEA Bureaus But Cites No Breach of Duty

The unclassified portion of the much-awaited report from the Accountability Review Board (ARB) on the Benghazi Attacks was finally released earlier last night.

The ARB members were selected by Secretary Clinton and one member from the intelligence community (IC) was selected by the Director for National Intelligence, James Clapper.  Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering was appointed Chairman, with Admiral Michael Mullen as Vice Chairman. Additional members were Catherine Bertini, Richard Shinnick, and Hugh Turner, who represented the IC.

The terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11-12, 2012, resulted in the deaths of four U.S. government personnel, Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty; seriously wounded two other U.S. personnel and injured three Libyan contract guards; and resulted in the destruction and abandonment of the U.S. Special Mission compound and Annex.

The report also provides a timeline of the attacks on September 11-12 but says that  “All times are best estimates based on existing data  and should be considered approximate” (see page 18).

The ARB report listed five findings and issued 24 recommendations in six core areas: Overarching Security Considerations; Staffing High Risk, High Threat Posts; Training and Awareness; Security and Fire Safety Equipment; Intelligence and Threat Analysis; and Personnel Accountability.

The ARB findings, briefly — extracted from the published report:

1. The attacks were security related, involving arson, small arms and machine gun fire, and the use of RPGs, grenades, and mortars against U.S. personnel at two separate facilities – the SMC and the Annex – and en route between them. Responsibility for the tragic loss of life, injuries, and damage to U.S. facilities and property rests solely and completely with the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks. The Board concluded that there was no protest prior to the attacks, which were unanticipated in their scale and intensity.

2. Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department (the “Department”) resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.

  • Security in Benghazi was not recognized and implemented as a “shared responsibility” by the bureaus in Washington charged with supporting the post, resulting in stove-piped discussions and decisions on policy and security. That said, Embassy Tripoli did not demonstrate strong and sustained advocacy with Washington for increased security for Special Mission Benghazi.
  • The short-term, transitory nature of Special Mission Benghazi’s staffing, with talented and committed, but relatively inexperienced, American personnel often on temporary assignments of 40 days or less, resulted in diminished institutional knowledge, continuity, and mission capacity.
  • Overall, the number of Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) security staff in Benghazi on the day of the attack and in the months and weeks leading up to it was inadequate, despite repeated requests from Special Mission Benghazi and Embassy Tripoli for additional staffing. Board members found a pervasive realization among personnel who served in Benghazi that the Special Mission was not a high priority for Washington when it came to security-related requests, especially those relating to staffing. (italics added)
  • Special Mission Benghazi’s uncertain future after 2012 and its “non-status” as a temporary, residential facility made allocation of resources for security and personnel more difficult, and left responsibility to meet security standards to the working-level in the field, with very limited resources.
  • Communication, cooperation, and coordination among Washington, Tripoli, and Benghazi functioned collegially at the working-level but were constrained by a lack of transparency, responsiveness, and leadership at the senior levels. Among various Department bureaus and personnel in the field, there appeared to be very real confusion over who, ultimately, was responsible and empowered to make decisions based on both policy and security considerations.
  • It bears emphasizing, however, that the Board found the work done by these often junior DS agents to be exemplary. But given the threat environment and with very little operational oversight from more experienced, senior colleagues, combined with an under-resourced security platform, these agents were not well served by their leadership in Washington. (italics added)
  • The lack of Arabic-language skills among most American personnel assigned to Benghazi and the lack of a dedicated LES interpreter and sufficient local staff also served as a barrier to effective communication and situational awareness at the Special Mission.

3. Notwithstanding the proper implementation of security systems and procedures and remarkable heroism shown by American personnel, those systems themselves and the Libyan response fell short in the face of a series of attacks that began with the sudden penetration of the Special Mission compound by dozens of armed attackers.

4. The Board found that intelligence provided no immediate, specific tactical warning of the September 11 attacks. Known gaps existed in the intelligence community’s understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known to exist.

5. The Board found that certain senior State Department officials within two bureaus in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of proactive leadership and management ability appropriate for the State Department’s senior ranks in their responses to security concerns posed by Special Mission Benghazi, given the deteriorating threat environment and the lack of reliable host government protection. However, the Board did not find that any individual U.S. Government employee engaged in misconduct or willfully ignored his or her responsibilities, and, therefore did not find reasonable cause to believe that an individual breached his or her duty so as to be the subject of a recommendation for disciplinary action.

Related to Finding #5 is recommendation #23 which says:

23.The Board recognizes that poor performance does not ordinarily constitute a breach of duty that would serve as a basis for disciplinary action but is instead addressed through the performance management system. However, the Board is of the view that findings of unsatisfactory leadership performance by senior officials in relation to the security incident under review should be a potential basis for discipline recommendations by future ARBs, and would recommend a revision of Department regulations or amendment to the relevant statute to this end.

East Africa Embassy Bombings ARBs v. Benghazi ARB: Similarities and Differences

1) How many people were interviewed?

The East Africa Embassy Bombings ARBs interviewed 110 State Department employees identified by name, title, office and are listed in this report.  Various foreign national employees in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam were also interviewed although they were not individually identified.

The Benghazi ARB report says the Board “interviewed over 100 individuals, reviewed thousands of pages of documents, and viewed hours of video footage.” Not a single one of the interviewees was identified or listed in the publicly available report. We cannot tell if local guards or Libyan witnesses were among those interviewed.

2) Employee Accountability

The ARBs East Africa Embassy Bombings “did not find reasonable cause to believe that any employee of the United States Government or member of the uniformed services was culpable of dereliction of his or her duties in connection with the August 7 bombings.”

The ARB Benghazi “did not find that any individual U.S. Government employee engaged in misconduct or willfully ignored his or her responsibilities, and, therefore did not find reasonable cause to believe that an individual breached his or her duty so as to be the subject of a recommendation for disciplinary action.”

3) Congress

The ARB East Africa cited the “collective failure of the US government over the past decade to provide adequate resources to reduce the vulnerability of US diplomatic missions to terrorist attacks in most countries around the world.” It assigned responsibility to several Administrations, their agencies, including the Department of State, NSC, OMB and the US Congress.

The ARB Benghazi specifically cites deficiencies in two State Department bureaus: Diplomatic Security (DS) and Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) but says:

[I]t is imperative for the State Department to be mission-driven, rather than resource-constrained – particularly when being present in increasingly risky areas of the world is integral to U.S. national security. The recommendations in this report attempt to grapple with these issues and err on the side of increased attention to prioritization and to fuller support for people and facilities engaged in working in high risk, high threat areas. The solution requires a more serious and sustained commitment from Congress to support State Department needs, which, in total, constitute a small percentage both of the full national budget and that spent for national security. One overall conclusion in this report is that Congress must do its part to meet this challenge and provide necessary resources to the State Department to address security risks and meet mission imperatives.

4) Other Government Agency

Neither the ARB East Africa nor the ARB Benghazi made mention of OGA employees, contractors, or presence of any sort. Presumably those are included in the classified portion for understandable reasons but it creates a gap in our understanding of what happened in Benghazi. The report concludes the process of assigning accountability but not sure we learned anything new here that we have not heard before in the last three months via news reports.

We will try and have a separate post on the ARB recommendations.

domani spero sig

Related item:

ARB Benghazi – Unclassified

Related articles

 

 

US Mission Iraq: Get ready for BLISS… no, not perfect happiness — just Baghdad Life Support Services

Bliss is an emotional state that is characterized by perfect happiness (feelings of enjoyment, pleasure, and satisfaction).

The State Dept announced last month that it intends to solicit replacement services that are currently being provided by KBR under the LOGCAP Program and services provided by DLA. The replacement services will be called Baghdad Life Support Services or BLISS for short.

Bliss in Iraq? Holy molly guacamole, who would come up with a name like that?

The selected contractor will be required to provide life support services to persons and organizations that are determined to be performing missions or functions in support of the Chief of Mission, including: COM personnel, selected civilian agencies, military units, and authorized contractors who directly support the COM.

Current life support for these sites is provided by the U.S. Army Materiel Command’s “LOGCAP IV” (Logistic Civil Augmentation Program), Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), and Army Sustainment Command (ASC) Green Equipment Maintenance contract. These contracts are due to end in December 2013. The State Dept’s intent is to award this contract prior to May 1, 2013 and transition to a new DoS contract no later than September 30, 2013.

According to supplemental documents, following the award, the incumbent will require a minimum of 60 days to demobilize. The transition off of the DLA supply chain contract for food will be addressed in the formal RFP.

Background: The mission of the United States Embassy in Baghdad is to represent the United States of America to the Government of Iraq (GOI). The U.S. Ambassador (Chief of Mission (COM)) is the President’s representation to the GOI. The Embassy is located in the International Zone (IZ) in Baghdad. The compound consists of 104 acres and is the largest U.S. Embassy in the world. The Embassy requires life, logistics, operations and maintenance services to support the Embassy, other locations within Baghdad and five or more diplomatic posts and facilities currently located in the provinces of Basrah, Diyala, Erbil, Ninewa and Tamim. This list may be modified during the life of this contract.

The Draft RFP Release dated November 16, and issued for information purposes only listed the following life support services requirements that may include services in the following areas to be specified under each individual task orders:

• Postal Services
• Food Services, to include, procurement of food and supplies, storage, preparation, serving, cleaning of facility
• Waste Management
• Laundry Services
• Fuel Services, to include Procurement and Delivery
• Recreation Services
• Airfield Services to include, air crash and rescue
• Transportation Services
• Warehouse Operations
• Supplemental Staffing and Maintenance Services to Regional Security Office (RSO)

A quick overview on the expected requirement on food services alone is mind boggling for an embassy operation (extracted from draft doc posted at fedbiz):

Baghdad Embassy Compound:

The main dining facility cafeteria area on the Embassy Compound is a 3,000 square meter facility that currently has a feeding and seating capacity of roughly 2,500 personnel. This area does not include the various refrigerated vans and containers used for storage of frozen, chilled and dry storage of food, or supplies. […] Additional feeding capacity projects are being contemplated to accommodate personnel surges. The maximum occupancy on the BEC is 2600, while Camp Condor houses 1129 and has its own dining facility.

Local Nationals (LNs) are only entitled to lunch meals, not breakfast or dinner. The largest feeding requirement occurs during lunch time during week days as LN direct hire personnel are entitled to eat lunch meals. Three snack bar operations located on the Embassy compound (1 within Annex 1, 1 in Annex 2, and 1 in the Chancery) alleviate the feeding demand during the lunch meal at the cafeterias. Two of the snack bar operations serve only cold sandwiches and hot soup. The Annex 1 snack bar is equipped with a grill that provides a hot entre lunch item 5 days a week: Sunday through Thursday.

Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center (BDSC):

This is a 350-acre State Department-managed facility located next to the Baghdad International Airport (not within the IZ). BDSC houses 41 individual agencies or groups, totaling approximately 1600 personnel. The BDSC dining facility is a 2244 square meter facility that serves 1800* residents and transient personnel three meals per day. A grab-in-go (soup and sandwich bar) is open 14 hours daily (0830 – 2230). The dining area is 1182 m2, kitchen 531 m2 (warehouse 531 m2, which is connected to the kitchen) and serving lines 55 linear meter.

Erbil Diplomatic Support Center (EDSC):

This is a 2760-acre compound with a an office building, gym, warehouse, motor vehicle center, 800-plus containerized housing units, a fire station and other facilities. The EDSC DFAC is a 915 square meter facility that serves 790 residents three meals per day.

U.S. Consulate General Basrah:

Located on 53 acres, with the Consulate General building occupying 119 acres and the Air Hub occupying 34 acres. The Basrah dining facility currently serves 790 residents three meals per day.

For those four posts alone, and those are not all the posts we have in country, the USG need to serve 17,640 meals day!  But they gotta eat.  We’re looking at the plan for local sourcing next but we’ll post that separately.

domani spero sig