GAO: FASTC Fort Pickett Fully Meets Requirements, FLETC Glynco, Not Really

Posted: 3:25 am EDT
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We have previously written about the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) project that has been snared in a tug of war in Congress.

On September 9, the Government Accountability Office finally released its review of the project. Concerned by the considerable variation in the cost estimates for FASTC and FLETC, members of Congress requested that GAO provide further information on both the requirements and costs of DS training. GAO examined (1) key site requirements critical to the provision of DS training and the extent to which the FASTC and FLETC proposals meet these requirements and (2) the estimated capital and recurring costs of these proposals and the extent to which the capital cost estimates conform to leading practices for reliable cost estimates. The GAO report was publicly released on September 16.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16

via GAO

See Figure 3: Key Events in Plans to Consolidate Bureau of Diplomatic Security Training (pdf)

Excerpt below:

State has been in the process of looking for a site suitable for its DS training facility for more than a decade. In 2011, State and the General Services Administration (GSA) identified Fort Pickett near Blackstone, Virginia, as the preferred site for the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC). The initial 2012 master plan for FASTC would have consolidated hard- and soft-skills training at Fort Pickett for an estimated cost of $925 million. In March 2013, State reduced the scope of FASTC to exclude facilities for soft-skills training and life support functions, such as dormitories and a cafeteria, ultimately decreasing the estimated cost of the current proposal to $413 million. Also in 2013, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directed State to work with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to assess the viability of using the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia, to accommodate DS’s training. In November 2013, FLETC submitted a business case to OMB indicating that it could meet DS’s requirements, including soft-skills training, for an estimated cost of $272 million. Following this assessment, DS, FLETC, and OMB could not agree on a path forward.

In April 2014, the administration reaffirmed the selection of Fort Pickett for FASTC, and State and GSA began implementing their plan to construct FASTC. State and GSA have obligated about $71 million to date toward FASTC at Fort Pickett.2 In May 2015, GSA purchased land and, in June 2015, awarded a contract for the initial phase of construction of FASTC.
[…]
[W]e analyzed four of DS’s requirements that we determined were critical in the selection of a site for DS’s training facility and found that Fort Pickett fully met all four while FLETC did not fully meet any.7 First, building FASTC at Fort Pickett would enable DS to consolidate at one location 10 of the 12 widely scattered hard-skills training venues it is currently using.8 FLETC can accommodate many of these venues on its Glynco campus but would have to conduct some exercises at a Marine Corps training facility about 30 miles away. Second, we found that Fort Pickett is available for nighttime training, which DS conducts on about 190 days per year, while at FLETC there may be some limitations on nighttime training. We also determined that the Fort Pickett site held advantages in terms of proximity to Washington, D.C., and exclusivity of use, both of which were requirements highlighted in reports stemming from the Benghazi ARB.

We found that neither the FASTC nor the FLETC estimate for capital costs fully meets best practices. The FASTC estimate fully or substantially meets three of the four characteristics—comprehensive, well documented, and accurate—and partially meets one characteristic of reliable cost estimates— credible; the FLETC estimate partially or minimally meets all four characteristics.10 FLETC officials noted that their estimate was prepared in a short period of time based on incomplete information regarding State’s requirements; more complete information would have enabled them to develop a more comprehensive estimate. See enclosure V for more detail on our assessment. Our assessment of the reliability of these cost estimates focused on the processes used to develop the estimates rather than estimates themselves, enabling us to make a more direct comparison of their reliability.

In addition to capital costs for acquisition and construction of a DS training center, the government will incur costs of sending students to training. These recurring student costs include travel, lodging, meals and incidental expenses, and compensation for time spent traveling. We projected these costs over 10, 25, and 50 years in three different scenarios for both the FASTC and FLETC proposals. We estimate that the costs of sending students to FASTC over 10 years will be $43 million to $121 million less, in net present value, than sending students to FLETC.11 The difference in student costs between FASTC and FLETC increases over time, from between $122 million and $323 million less for FASTC after 25 years, to between $309 and $736 million after 50 years. See enclosure III for further details on the assumptions used in each of these scenarios.

Click on 672362 to read the full report (38 pages – pdf).

Maybe this is the end of it and the project at Fort Pickett can finally go forward?  It is likely that there will be at least one more hearing on this, one congressional committee (was that HOGR?) promised a hearings once the GAO report is completed.

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US Embassy Burkina Faso Orders Staff to Shelter in Place Amidst Coup Attempt

Posted: 2:06 am EDT
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A Travel Alert was issued for Burkina Faso in early September (see Travel Alert Burkina Faso (September 3, 2015). On September 16, the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou issued a “shelter in place” order for its staff amidst what appeared to be a military coup attempt less than a year after the former president, Blaise Compaoré was driven out of power.

On Wednesday, September 16 the U.S. Embassy received reports that military elements are holding the President, Prime Minister, and other Cabinet Members hostage.  Civil society organizations are calling for demonstrators to gather at the Place de la Nation (also known as the Place de la Revolution) and at the Presidential Palace.  Road blocks near the Presidential Palace have been established.  Gunshots have been fired in various locations in Ouagadougou. Embassy employees have been instructed to shelter in place until further notice.  

Likewise, we urge U.S. citizens in Ouagadougou to shelter in place.  U.S. citizens are urged to remain vigilant and to utilize appropriate personal security practices.  The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.  The U.S. Embassy urges all U.S. citizens to maintain situational awareness and exercise good judgment.  Be alert and remain aware of your surroundings.  Stay informed and abreast of local media reports.

The Embassy also released the following statement:

Recent Actions By Elements of the Presidential Guard in Burkina Faso

“The United States is deeply concerned about the unfolding events in Burkina Faso. We call for the immediate release of President Kafando, Prime Minister Zida, and all other officials being held.

The United States strongly condemns any attempt to seize power through extra-constitutional means or resolve internal political disagreements using force.

We call for an immediate end to violence, urge the military personnel involved to return to their primary mission, and reaffirm our steadfast support for the civilian transitional government to continue its work of preparing for free, fair, and credible elections on October 11.”

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D/Secretary Blinken Swears-in Glyn Davies as U.S. Ambassador to Thailand

Posted: 2:02 am EDT
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Certificate of Competency via State/HR – Davies, Glyn T. – Kingdon of Thailand – April 2015

The White House released the following bio when it announced the nomination on April 13, 2015:

Glyn Townsend Davies, a career member of the Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is currently a Senior Advisor in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State, a position he has held since 2014.  Prior to that, he was Special Representative for North Korea Policy from 2012 to 2014.  From 2009 to 2012, he served as the United States Representative to the Vienna Office of the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Mr. Davies served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2006 to 2009.  Mr. Davies was a Senior Advisor at the Foreign Service Institute’s Leadership and Management School from 2005 to 2006, Acting Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in 2005, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs from 2004 to 2005, and Political Director for the U.S. Presidency of the G-8 from 2003 to 2004.  From 1999 to 2003, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in London, United Kingdom.  Mr. Davies was Executive Secretary of the National Security Council staff from 1997 to 1999, State Department Deputy Spokesman and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs from 1995 to 1997, and Director of the State Department Operations Center from 1992 to 1994.  His earlier assignments include posts in Australia, France, and Zaire.

Mr. Davies received a B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University and an M.S. from the National Defense University.

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