@StateDept’s “New Camp Sullivan” in Afghanistan Four Years On: A Lovely $103.2 Million Flat Dirt

Help Fund the Blog |  Countdown:  6 Days to Go

______________________________________

 

 

State/OIG’s Office of Evaluation and Special Projects has released its Evaluation of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Aegis Construction Contract at Camp Eggers in Afghanistan (PDF). Well, nothing good to read in this report, but the flat dirt is lovely, and makes us want to pull our hair out in  frustration. We bring you some GIFs to make us all feel better.

Camp Eggers Afghanistan, Photo by State/OIG

Things of note excerpted from the IG report:
The Department awarded Task Order 10 in July 2011 to Aegis (GardaWorld)  to provide and manage an armed and unarmed guard force known as the Kabul Embassy Security Force (KESF) for Embassy Kabul and other U.S. diplomatic facilities within Kabul, Afghanistan. On September 30, 2014, the Department modified Task Order 10 held by Aegis to allow for the renovation of Camp Eggers in its entirety and to erect a new facility known as the “New Camp Sullivan.” […]Modification 43 was issued to Aegis under a firm fixed price for the design-build of the Camp Eggers construction project. The task order modification was valued at about $173.2 million with an estimated completion date of March 31, 2016.
[…] An Aegis official told OIG he did not believe the company had undertaken any construction projects other than building a shooting range at Camp Sullivan. An OBO official noted that Aegis lacked the “institutional expertise” to build to OBO standards, and several Department officials told OIG that they had doubts about Aegis’s ability to carry out major construction work.

 

On January 10, 2014, AQM awarded a contract to the management consulting firm, Markon, on behalf of DS to perform professional engineering services.[..] Markon […] warned the Department in August 2014—a month before the task order was modified—that the project would not likely be finished on time or on budget. The Department nonetheless chose to move forward with this fundamentally unsuitable construction mechanism because of what it viewed as exigent need and a lack of alternatives.

 

Multiple Department officials, as well as an Aegis official, told OIG that they viewed the initial 18-month project timeline as unreasonable. An official from AQM expressed skepticism that such an extensive project could ever be completed so quickly in a construction environment as logistically complex as Afghanistan.[…]The renovation of Camp Eggers entailed extensive demolition and redevelopment, including [snip] the construction of new facilities. The “New Camp Sullivan” facility was intended to become a self-supporting, multi-use facility, which included life support for up to 900 personnel (expandable to house up to 1,500 personnel) all within a secure perimeter.

 

Aegis, through its subcontractor, CWI, purchased materials costing approximately $19.4 million for Camp Eggers. However, roughly 23 percent of these materials ($4.5 million) were obtained without submitting proper documentation or receiving proper Department approval.[…]The materials had to be stored due to numerous project delays, which prevented CWI from using the materials as they were delivered. The storage continued throughout the life of the contract until all of the materials were disposed of by May 2018. Over the life of the task order, the Department wasted about $22 million on materials that were never used and then paid to store them

 

Although Aegis continuously missed project milestones and failed to adhere to contract requirements, the Department still did not take meaningful corrective action against Aegis beyond issuing LOCs. As noted, these were primarily issued by DS. The Department also held a number of meetings with Aegis personnel to discuss the lack of progress made on the project, but no further corrective action was taken.

 

The Department reached a settlement with Aegis in March 2019 whereby the Department agreed to pay Aegis a total of $94.6 million. Based on this figure, in addition to three separate contracts with Markon Solutions, Incorporated for professional engineering and design review services, OIG identified a total of $103.2 million in questioned costs related to the Camp Eggers project.[…] the “New Camp Sullivan” remained flat dirt after more than four years of effort. The Department estimated that approximately 10 percent of the construction work was completed, and the 100 percent design—the final design—remained unfinished.

After the termination of the Camp Eggers project, the Department transferred materials stored in Kabul to fill other U.S. Government needs in the area. Regarding the materials in Dubai, Red Sea Housing Services Company FZE (Red Sea), the company with whom the Department ordered CHUs, reached a final termination settlement valued at about $2.5 million with Aegis and the Department under which Red Sea would keep all the materials and equipment they procured on behalf of the Department. The remaining materials in Sterling, VA were disposed of through the General Services Administration’s excess property program and some were scrapped.

Via reactiongif.com

 

OIG’s conclusion: [T]he Department’s sense of urgency, the selection of a non-construction contractor, the assignment of officials inexperienced in construction to oversee the project, and the failure to hold the contractor accountable for particular instances of poor performance led to the expenditure of more than $100 million without any discernible benefit to the Department or the people it intended to protect. OIG also notes that, more generally, this project illustrates many of the broader concerns that arise when the Department pursues construction projects in contingency or otherwise challenging environments. The Camp Eggers project again highlights the importance of making well-informed, thoughtful choices regarding the most appropriate contract vehicle; careful, consistent oversight; and development of a process for construction work in contingency zones that is sufficiently nimble to address urgent security needs but also considers the resources and capabilities of all relevant Department bureaus.
Advertisements

U.S. Sends Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien to A$AP Rocky’s Assault Trial in Sweden

Help Fund the Blog |  Countdown:  6 Days to Go

______________________________________

 

According to the State Department, when an American is arrested or detained abroad, the State Department—through its Embassies and Consulates—ensures that U.S. consular officers are there to assist. They help see that Americans are treated humanely and in accordance with local law, are given the opportunity for a lawyer, and can correspond with family back home.
Per its Foreign Affairs Manual, the Department expects consular officers to be “particularly active in, and to fully engage in” the protection of the welfare of the arrestee; ensure that the arrestee is being treated fairly and is afforded all due process under local law, provide needed consular services such as EMDA or administer a trust fund in a timely and efficient manner; track the process of the case through the host country’s legal system; and to keep the Department, family members, congressional representatives and others full informed on all aspects of the case, consistent with Privacy Act.

 

Consular assistance to Americans arrested or detained overseas includes the following:
State Department/U.S. Embassies Can:
  • Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English
  • Contact family, friends, or employers of the detained U.S. citizen (with their written permission)
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly and provide reading materials and vitamin supplements, where appropriate
  • Ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care
  • Provide a general overview of the local criminal justice process
  • Upon request, ensure that prison officials permit visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of the detainee’s choice
  • Establish an OCS Trust, if necessary, so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens
State Department, U.S. Embassies Cannot:
  • Get U.S. citizens out of jail
  • State to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent
  • Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees
Reports note that POTUS sent the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien to Sweden for the A$AP Rocky trial.  “The president asked me to come here and support these American citizens,” O’Brien told the New York Times. “I’ll be here until they come home.” (via). How often is he going to do this for other American citizens?
Nowhere in the Foreign Affairs Manual is there any mention of the role the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs play in cases of U.S. citizens incarcerated abroad or while they are on trial. In most of the normal world, it is understood that American citizens are subject to the local laws and regulations while visiting or living in the particular countries they are in. In this particular case, Time says that “Sweden does not have a bail system, which is why the rapper was detained with no way to get out even before he was formally charged.” Also see our old post below about the non-portability of American rights.

Non-Portability of American Rights

In any case, we don’t understand why the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs is involved with this case.  Does the U.S. Government considers A$AP Rocky on trial for assault in Sweden, a hostage? Are we to understand that Americans incarcerated and detained overseas are now considered hostages to bring back as soon as possible? And if that’s not the case, and if this is an exception, what are the grounds for the Trump Administration to make this type of exception?
Is the Special Envoy’s role now includes affecting the release of all American citizens from foreign incarceration/detention?
How does a regular American citizen’s family petition for the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs to be involved in their cases overseas?
Any guidance sent to consular officers doing ACS work? When is the State Department updating the Foreign Affairs Manual?
Also the next time U.S. diplomats overseas talk to their local counterparts about judicial independence and the rule of law, should they expect a push back with this case as Exhibit A?

 

#

Susan Pompeo wants you to know she’s making happiness, security of diplomatic families her mission

Help Fund the Blog |  Countdown:  6 Days to Go

______________________________________

 

On July 6, 2019, just days after the July 1st CNN report  on a whistleblower claiming Secretary Pompeo’s security picks up Chinese food, and the dog, Sherman, apparently from the groomer, the Washington Times has a rollicking coverage of Susan Pompeo.
‘Do you feel safe?’ Susan Pompeo makes happiness, security of diplomatic families her mission” blares the headline. She’s not a government employee, so the  chances of getting her on the podium to speak about this mission is not high, but the next time reporters get a chance to er … grill her, please ask her where she was when State Department employees were terrified while trying to find an accommodation for their special needs children and their education while overseas.
Where was Mrs. Pompeo when the medical provider at State was deemed to lack a “fundamental lack of compassion”  and lack of understanding and empathy for Foreign Service personnel and families?
Where was Mrs. Pompeo when a senior official of her husband’s agency appears to believe that individuals and families with any sort of special need should not serve overseas, should curtail or break assignments, should stay indefinitely in the United States, or even leave the Foreign Service altogether?
Employees and family members already facing physical, mental and educational challenges, also had to face fear of retribution given the reported hostile and adversarial relationship fostered by a bureau tasked with taking care of employees and families.
Despite reported mistreatment, Foreign Service families have not publicly pushed back, and anything reported are only on background, for fear that their actions could result in the denial of financial support for needed services for special needs children  or fear that it would put in jeopardy clearances for themselves and their dependents. Without appropriate clearances, employees would not be able to work overseas or may have to contend with family separation for members with limited clearances.
If taking care of diplomatic families has become her mission, we’re curious where was Mrs. Pompeo when this issue was causing so much pain, fear, and distractions among FS families? (Also see Under Secretary Bulatao on Enhancing Support for Employees with Children with Special Needs 
As an aside – we should note that following the furor over her travel with Secretary Pompeo during the January 2019 government shutdown, CNN reported that the secretary described his wife’s trip as a “working trip”  — apparently telling reporters she joined him to try to help the department “be better.” “So she meets with the medical officers. She’ll tour housing. She will write up her thoughts and comments after that. And I wish I had time to do each of those things myself, but she is a force multiplier,” Secretary Pompeo said according to CNN.
If she did a trip report for that January trip, it has so far remained a secret.  By March 2019, as she became increasingly visible flying around with Secretary Pompeo, the official word coming out of Foggy Bottom is that the secretary “reimburses the United States government for all appropriate expenses, including Mrs. Pompeo’s travel, in accordance with the law.”
Oh, by the way, we think employees at a small post — with leaks in a new embassy compound building roofs in Paramaribo and suffering from exposure to mold — needs help. The health hazard was identified in March 2017!  And the problem still had not been resolved.  Imagine that. We’re guessing that they are not terribly happy nor feeling heath-safe over there.

#

Former Condi Rice Advisor Carrie Beth Cabelka to be Asst Secretary For Administration

Help Fund the Blog |  Countdown:  6 Days to Go

______________________________________

 

On July 22, 2019, the WH announced the appointment of  Carrie Beth Cabelka, of Michigan, to be an Assistant Secretary of State for Administration. The WH released the following brief bio:

Carrie Beth Cabelka currently serves as the White House Liaison to the Department of State.  She previously served as White House Liaison and Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 2007 to 2009, and White House Liaison at the Office of Personnel Management from 2003 to 2007.  Ms. Cabelka began her career working for Senator Spencer Abraham of Michigan, followed by roles in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel and the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration.  While in the private sector, Ms. Cabelka oversaw multimillion-dollar contracts for the Department of Defense, managing public awareness campaigns on health issues that impact service members, veterans and their families, including a special focus on the prevention, treatment, and recovery from traumatic brain injury.  Ms. Cabelka earned a B.A. from Miami University (Ohio).

According to history.state.gov, the Department of State created the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Administration during a general reorganization in December 1944, after Congress authorized an increase in the number of Assistant Secretaries in the Department from four to six (Dec 8, 1944; P.L. 78-472; 58 Stat. 798). The reorganization was the first to designate substantive designations for specific Assistant Secretary positions.

Bureau of Administration Offices

If confirmed, Ms. Cabelka would replace Nicole Nason who was appointed as “A” in December 2017  and apparently served until March 2019 (see Trump to Nominate Ex-NHTSA Admin Nicole R. Nason to be Asst Secretary For Administration). 
Previous appointees to this position include career diplomats William A. Eaton (2001–2005), Patrick Francis Kennedy (1993–2001), and Joyce A. Barr (2011–2017).

#

@StateDept Appoints Ambassador Atul Keshap as EAP’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary

Help Fund the Blog |  Countdown:  6 Days to Go

______________________________________

 

 

The principal officers of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs are listed here.

Via state.gov:

Ambassador Atul Keshap is a career senior Foreign Service Officer currently serving as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Across his 25 year career as an American diplomat, Ambassador Keshap has served at postings in India, Morocco, and Guinea, and as United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives.  He has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, as U.S. Senior Official for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, and as an Office Director in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs and in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
Ambassador Keshap has negotiated or advanced bilateral and multilateral initiatives at senior levels with counterparts from the European Union, United Nations, Japan, United Kingdom, France, India, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, Mexico, Russia, China, Indonesia, Egypt, Morocco, and several other countries in Africa, the Arab world, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
Prior to his current assignment, Ambassador Keshap served at the Department of Defense as the National Defense University’s Vice Chancellor for the College of International Security Affairs.  Earlier in his career, he served as Director for North Africa and Middle East regional affairs on the National Security Council staff in the Executive Office of the President of the United States.
In 2018, Ambassador Keshap received one of the State Department’s highest honors, the Distinguished Honor Award, from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in recognition of his leadership in advancing U.S. interests in the Indian Ocean region.  He is also the recipient of numerous individual Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards.

#