@StateDept’s Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC): Status Update

Posted: 1:20 am ET
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The State Department recently posted a video update of its Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) at Fort Pickett in Virginia.

FASTC will provide hard-skills security training to State Department personnel and the foreign affairs community.  In 2015, GSA purchased property and secured land use agreements for approximately 1,400 acres of publicly held land. On February 25, 2016, construction began for the FASTC project.  According to the State Department, the Master Construction Schedule for the FASTC construction is being completed through three construction contracts. Contractors began construction activities on February 25, 2016 and overall project substantial completion is anticipated for July 2019.

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click here for video update

The FASTC Site Plan below shows the general areas where the hard-skills training venues are currently being built for Contract 01 and Contract 02.  According to state.gov, AECOM of Virginia Beach, VA has provided Construction Management as Agent and Commissioning Services since the Design Phase for the FASTC Ft. Pickett, VA site and is responsible for the numerous comprehensive facets of the construction process, including ongoing site communication, safety, security, and circulation of deliveries and construction vehicles on site.

CONTRACT 1: 2015 – April 2017

Jan. 2017 – Build out of Live Fire Shoot House interior
Feb. 2017 – Rappel Tower wood and rock wall installation
Mar. 2017 – Permanent power to all venues

  • Mock-Urban Tactical Training Area
  • Rappel Tower
  • Smoke House
  • Static Training Device Pad
  • Tactical Maze as well as Interior of the High Bay, Classroom and Breakroom
  • Explosives Demonstration Range
  • Viewing Shelter and Storage Building
  • Live Fire Shoot House as well as Interiors

CONTRACT 2: 2016 – September 2018

Jan. 2017 – Tree clearing and grading continues
Feb. 2017 – Ductbank complete and A01 Foundations begun
Mar. 2017 – Slab on Grade placement at A01, tree clearing finishes

  • A01 (Administrative Office Building 01) and T01 (Training Classroom Building 01)
  • Vehicle Maintenance Shop
  • Ring Road Bridge C-300 and C-307
  • Central Ammo and Explosives Storage
  • High-Speed Driving Track
  • High-Speed Track
  • High-Speed Driving Track Bridge
  • Tank Trail
  • Post-Blast Training Range

CONTRACT 3: 2017 – July 2019

August 2017 – Award
July 2019 – Estimated substantial completion

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Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) Gets Some Love From Congress

Posted: 12:53 am EDT
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A section of the ‘‘Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016’’ which became Public Law No: 114-113 on December 18, 2015 includes an item on funds available for the contentious Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) project.

(E) Funds appropriated under this heading in this Act that are designated for Worldwide Security Protection shall continue to be made available for support of security-related training at sites in existence prior to the enactment of this Act: Provided, That in addition to such funds, up to $99,113,000 of the funds made available under this heading in this Act may be obligated for a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) only after the Secretary of State—

(i) submits to the appropriate congressional committees a comprehensive analysis of a minimum of three different locations for FASTC assessing the feasibility and comparing the costs and benefits of delivering training at each such location; and

(ii) notifies the appropriate congressional committees at least 15 days in advance of such obligation: Provided, That such notification shall also include a justification for any decision made by the Department of State to obligate funds for FASTC.

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FASTC Fort Pickett v. FLETC Glynco: GA Senator to Hold Hearing on Diplomatic Security Training Center

Posted: 2:09  pm EDT
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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its review of the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) project (see this) last month.  This project has been  a subject of contention in Congress; the VA delegation is supportive, of course, of its site location in Fort Pickett, Virginia and the Georgia and Texas representatives are pushing for the site to be built in the FLETC facility in Glynco, Georgia. The FASTC project has been on a long battle to get done since 2011, see the details and updates here, but it really has been on the planning stage for more than a decade.

Tomorrow, October 8, Senator David Perdue, Jr. , the junior Senator from Georgia and the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee that oversees budget and operations for the State Department will chair another hearing on the FASTC project. The witnesses include representatives from DS, GAO and FLETC:

Screen Shot 2015-10-07

We expect that the prepared statements and a video of the hearing will be posted here when available.

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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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FASTC Hard Skills Training Center: “Who owes who favors?”

Posted: 12:19 am EDT
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On September 9, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (HOGR) held a hearing to examine the efforts to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel and assets in northern Mexico and along the U.S.-Mexican border (see HOGR Hearing: Violence on the Border, Keeping U.S. Personnel Safe).  There were questions about danger pay, security, local guard pay, planned facilities, hardship posts, staffing and yes, a congressman did suggest that we close our consulates in Mexico.

During the hearing, one congressman also showed up to beat up DS A/S Gregory Starr about the FASTC hard skills training center set to be built at Fort Pickett. The congressman from Georgia, Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (GA-1)wanted to know why the OMB has not released its report on this politically contentious project that has been going on for years.  Um… probably because it’s not Diplomatic Security’s report to release? What the congressman from Georgia probably really want to ask is why the heck is the State Department building a training facility  in Fort Pickett, VA, didn’t everybody know that FLETC in Glynco, GA is the best facility there is?  We did not see the representatives from the VA delegation, probably because this was a hearing related to border posts.  Not sure, the congressman was really interested in the answers to the questions he asked. He told Mr. Starr to “go back and compare the two sites.” We wonder how many times Diplomatic Security has to go back and compare these two sites. Until all the congressional delegates are happy with it?  Did he ask other questions about the border posts? Must have missed that.

The Skeptical Bureaucrat recently did a piece on the FASTC:

To review the situation, the administration wishes to construct a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) that would consolidate ‘hard skills’ training by the State Department and its partners at Fort Pickett in southside Virginia. Some members of Congress are trying to stop the project, ostensibly on grounds of economic efficiency, and would require the State Department to use the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Georgia for hard skills training. Both sides are currently awaiting the public release of a General Accountability Organization (GAO) report that evaluates the business case for building FASTC at Fort Pickett.

This week the Progress-Index, a local newspaper in the Fort Pickett area, interviewed and quoted a senior Diplomatic Security Service official for an article about the political impasse over FASTC. Well, hum, that’s interesting. I presume the senior official had gotten official clearance to make those remarks. I further presume that State gets to review the expected GAO report before it goes public. Putting 2 + 2 together, I wonder whether DS is signalling with the interview that it knows the GAO will support building FASTC at Fort Pickett?

Here’s the article, Report could speed up diplomatic training center at Fort Pickett:

State Department officials are hoping a soon-to-be released report will help end wrangling in Congress that has delayed construction on a diplomatic security training center at a National Guard base in Virginia.

Construction on the first phase of the facility at Fort Pickett, just over the Dinwiddie County border, was set to begin Aug. 1 with a completion date set for 2019. State Department officials have put that work on hold while they respond to Congressional requests for information.

The State Department stands by its selection of Fort Pickett, saying its proximity to Washington, D.C., and rural location would allow it to conduct around-the-clock military-style training. The site is also within driving distance of Marine bases in Virginia and North Carolina that State Department personnel train with, as well as Navy special warfare forces that are stationed in Virginia Beach.

Stephen Dietz, executive director of the State Department’s bureau of diplomatic security, said the Marines have told him that they can’t afford to travel to Georgia for State Department training. He said the cost estimates for the southeastern Georgia site [FLETC} only have to do with construction, and don’t include operation, maintenance or travel costs for State Department, military or intelligence agency personnel. 

Read TSB’s  Possible Tip-Off About FASTC Hard Skills Training Center at Fort Pickett?

The report cited by TSB also has a quotable quote from Mayor Billy Coleburn of Blackstone, Virginia who has been looking forward to as many as 10,000 people coming through for State Department training each year:

“If you’re banking your hopes on common sense and consensus in Washington, D.C., you stay up late at night worrying,” said Mayor Billy Coleburn. “Who owes who favors? Who gets browbeaten behind the scenes. Those are things we can only imagine — what happens in smoke-filled rooms in Washington, D.C?”

We can’t imagine those things. Nope.

What we’ve learned from this hearing is that Congress is really worried about the security of U.S. diplomatic personnel overseas. Until it’s not.

So far, it has not been able to get its act together on a project that’s the center of a long standing tug-of-war between politicians. For sure, there will be another hearing. And another. And another.

It certainly is interesting to watch these congressional hearings where our elected reps demonstrate their deep understanding of the issues bubbling with barely hidden agendas. Can we please start sending these folks to Crash and Bang training?  Also, Channel 9 has Survivor Matamoros Nuevo Laredo, all 9 square miles of the city you’re allowed to go  is also accessible on Channel 9, any volunteers?

Anybody out there know what’s happening to the GAO report?

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A Look at the DOS Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) in Fort Pickett and Nottoway County

Posted: 12:50 am EDT
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Below is excerpted from the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) in Fort Pickett and Nottoway County.

In April 2014, the earlier DOS selection of the proposed site for FASTC at Fort Pickett and Nottoway County was reaffirmed at a reduced scope of requirements. The project would proceed as a hard skills only facility, including driving tracks, mock urban environment, explosives training, and firearms training. The reduced scope included the elimination of the dormitories and dining facilities, reducing the size of certain training venues, and the removal of soft skills training. According to the EIS, an extensive site search process evaluated more than 70 potential sites in proximity to the Washington, D.C. area including federal facilities, military bases and private properties.

Fort Pickett was established in 1942 as a World War II training camp. Fort Pickett has been primarily used to provide training facilities, maneuver training areas including live fire artillery ranges, installation operations, and mobilization support for U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard units, as well as all branches of the U.S. military. Fort Pickett encompasses approximately 45,148 acres, of which 45,008 were identified as no longer required by the U.S. Army by the 1995 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. The remaining 140 acres were identified as a U.S. Army Reserve enclave. VaARNG has operational control over approximately 42,000 acres of Fort Pickett through a 1997 facility land use agreement. Fort Pickett is currently used as a Maneuver Training Center. Approximately 2,950 acres were not needed for military uses and were deeded to Nottoway County in 2000 for use in the economic development activities of the LRA (Schnabel Engineering 2010).

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click image for larger view

 

As recently as several days ago, the hill.com covered this project’s struggle in Congress, Two years after Benghazi, State battles lawmakers over training site for agents.

According to the State Department, the FASTC would fill a critical need, identified in the 2008 report to the U.S. Congress and re-affirmed by two independent panels in 2013, for a consolidated security training facility.

Below is a quick chronology of the project:

  • July 2011 -Selected Fort Pickett and began Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Master Planning efforts
  • October 2012 –Released Draft EIS for full scope FASTC
  • December 2012 –Completed Master Plan for full scope FASTC
  • February 2013 –DOS decision to reduce scope of FASTC to hard skills only
  • Early 2013 –Project activities placed on hold while additional due diligence conducted
  • April 2014 –Administration decision to move forward at Fort Pickett

Here are the components of the FASTC as excerpted from the Final EIS:

High Speed Driving Track Area

The High Speed Driving Track Area would be used for driver training in various conditions including normal driving, emergency driving, and flooded conditions. Training would consist of 810 drive track operations per day with cars traveling up to 100 miles per hour and would include approximately 600 simulator (flash bang pyrotechnics) operations annually. The following facilities along with associated surface parking would comprise this area:

D02 High Speed Anti-Terrorism Driving Course – 550-acre facility consisting of three separate tracks, two lanes wide, ranging in length from 1.6 to 2 miles long. The tracks would be closed loops with a variety of turns and elevation changes to replicate different driving conditions. The course would include skid pads and ram pads.

D02a, b, c Classroom Buildings – Each of the three High Speed Driving Tracks would include a 30- person classroom building, support facilities, and a 15-space parking area for staff. Classrooms would be located close to the tracks and include covered bleacher seating.

Off-Road/Unimproved Driving Track Area

The off-road/unimproved driving tracks would be used for training drivers in off-road and unimproved road conditions. Driver training would consist of 24 operations per day (7 a.m. to 10 p.m.) plus 8 operations during the nighttime hours (10 p.m. to 7 a.m.). The Off-Road/Unimproved Driving Track Area would consist of unpaved tracks through forested areas and classroom buildings, including: an Unimproved Road Driving Course, an Off-Road Driving Course and two classrooms.

Mock Urban Training Environment

The Mock Urban Training Environment area would consist of three distinct, but interrelated, simulated urban training environments that would provide scenarios for students training for protecting humans transitioning between vehicles and buildings in a setting similar to a typical high-density urban environment. The three areas, Mock Urban Driving Course (D03), Explosives Simulation Alley (E04), and Mock Urban Tactical Training Area (T02), would be designed to function separately or together for maximum flexibility with the courses.

This will include a Mock Embassy, a compound of buildings that would be modeled on the U.S. Army’s Military Operations on Urban Terrain facilities. Buildings would model banks, restaurants, theaters, and residences. Also included is a Smoke House, a three-story, fabricated building configured as a training facility specifically fabricated and configured for training non-firefighting personnel on procedures for safe escape and evacuation of a building, as well as limited entry, search, and rescue training for law enforcement and rescue personnel. Students will practice different exercises to gain confidence in methods of escapement from a burning building.

Explosives Training Environment

The Explosives Training Environment would consist of an Explosives Demonstration Range (E02), Post-Blast Training Range (E03), and Explosives Breaching Range (E05).

Firearms Training Environment

Students would train in the Firearms Training Environment in the use of firearms including pistols, rifles, machine guns, and shotguns. Total estimated activity at all the firing ranges would be more than 6 million rounds annually, normally between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. Firing range buildings would be designed to ensure acceptable noise levels in adjacent areas inside and outside of the buildings.

Service Area

The Service Area would consist of support facilities for centralized delivery, storage, and maintenance needs related to internal infrastructure and operations throughout FASTC.

Driver Training Maintenance Area

The Driver Training Maintenance Area would provide centralized vehicle storage and maintenance facilities supporting all of the driver training activities for FASTC.

Ammunition Supply Point

The Ammunition Supply Point (ASP) would provide storage for ammunition and explosives used at the Explosives Training Environment, Firearms Training Environment, High Speed Driving Tracks, and Mock Urban Training Environment.

Proposed Timeframe for Development of FASTC

Due to the substantial size of the entire project, FASTC would be designed in five separate packages and constructed in three to five phases, depending on funding, over a five-year period. Package 1 would include venues essential to commence operation of the FASTC training program and construction would begin in the summer of 2015, prior to the expiration of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding in September 2015. Package 1 would consist of construction activities that completely avoid impacts to regulated wetland areas and could be constructed prior to completion of the ongoing wetland permitting process. Training venues would begin to operate in 2016 with approximately 10% of training operations underway. Construction of Packages 2 and 3 are estimated to begin in the fall/winter of 2015/2016 and Packages 4 and 5 are estimated to begin in the fall/winter of 2016/2017. By 2018, all training venues fundamental to the FASTC training program would be in place, and 90% of the training program would be operational. By 2020, 100% of training would be operational. Phasing schedules continue to evolve and would ultimately depend on timeframes for design and appropriated funding from Congress, but they are estimated in this Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for purposes of analysis.

Proposed FASTC Student and Staff

During the first year of training operations in 2016, average attendance at the facility would be approximately 60 students daily, and approximately 1,000 students would be trained annually. Sixty percent of the training would occur between May and September. The number of students would increase as FASTC becomes fully operational. Between 2018 and 2020, at full operation, average daily attendance would increase to 600 students, and approximately 9,200 students would be trained annually. The average training duration would be approximately 14 days.

Concurrent with the increase in the number of students, the number of staff would also be anticipated to increase over the five-year construction period. Beginning in 2016, the transfer of the Security and Law Enforcement Training Division with limited administrative support and tactical training support from other facilities would occur. With anticipated movement attrition in present staff levels, plus the need for additional facility support staff, DOS estimates that approximately 21 already filled positions would be relocated in 2016. Approximately 12 positions, including information technology specialists, contract  and finance specialists, budget officers, program officers, and security would be filled locally. Service contractors would provide buildings, roads and grounds maintenance, housekeeping, and repair.

Between 2017 and 2020, an additional 191 staff would relocate and 115 employees would be hired for a total staff of 339. Some transferred employees would include administrative and technical support, and instructional systems management staff. Other employees, such as physical fitness, information technology, instructors, and maintenance would be hired locally.

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Spending Agreement FY2017 – Notable Elements For @StateDept and Foreign Ops Funding

Posted: 2:48 am ET
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In March, we blogged about the proposed funding cuts by the Trump Administration on the FY2017 budget. The fiscal year ends on September 30, 2017 (see Trump Seeks Further Funding Cuts From @StateDept/@USAID, This Time From 2017 Budget). WaPo reports that  an agreement was reached last night for a spending package to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year. “The House and Senate are expected to vote on the package early this week. The bipartisan agreement includes $12.5 billion in new military spending and $1.5 billion more for border security, a major priority for Republican leaders in Congress.”

Below are some of the notable elements included in the bill. We have not compared this with the Trump wish list for cuts in FY17 but we note that Trump’s proposal included reduction in Educational and Cultural Exchanges and in this spending agreement the Committees on Appropriations specifically recognize the unique role of educational and cultural exchanges, and provided additional funding for certain educational and cultural exchange programs. Power of the purse. Excerpted from DIVISION J – STATEFOPs SOM OCR FY17:

Diplomatic and Consular Programs: The Act provides $6,147,254,000 for Diplomatie and Consular Programs in this title, and an additional $2,410,386,000 in title VIII under this heading is designated for OCO/GWOT pursuant to BBEDCA. Within the total provided under this heading in this title, up to $1,899,479,000 is for Worldwide Security Protection (WSP) and may remain available until expended; and $4,247,775,000 is for operations, ofwhich $637,166,000 may remain available until September 30, 2018. Not later than September 1, 2017, the Secretary of State is directed to report to the Committees on Appropriations on projected amounts available for operations beyond fiscal year 2017 by category and bureau. Title VIII ofthis Act includes funds for embassy operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq and other areas of unrest.

No funding for new, non-security positions:  Act does not include funding for any new, non-security positions, unless specifically noted herein. The Secretary of State may fill existing positions that become vacant due to attrition, as needed. If the Secretary intends to create and fill new positions, 15 days prior to posting such positions or filling such positions with internai candidates the Secretary shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations a reprogramming request which shall inelude for each new position: a justification; a description of the job duties; the estimated fiscal years 20 17 and 2018 costs; and the funding sources to be used for such costs, including funds to be reallocated from savings due to the elimination of other positions, contract services, and other reductions or cost saving measures.

The agreement includes sufficient funds to support the authorized positions for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in fiscal year 2017.

Training Requirements: The Secretary of State shall ensure that all security-cleared employees comply with training requirements for the classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying of national security information in accordance with Executive Order 13526: Classified National Security Information, as appropriate.

What’s with this? The Secretary of State is directed to identify the embassies or consulates that did not regularly utilize the Department of State’s model visa denialletter in fiscal year 2016, and include such information in the report required by the House report under the heading Border Security Program, Visa processing and training.

FASTC Reporting Requirement: Not later than 45 days after enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations a progress report on the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center project. Such report shall be updated and submitted to such Committees semi-annually until completion ofthe project. The report shall include the requirements described under this heading in the House and Senate reports.

Holocaust Issues: The Secretary of State is directed to implement directives under this heading in the House report and the Introduction to the Senate report concerning atrocity prevention, including continued support for the Atrocities Prevention Board and the Office of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues.

Anti-Semitism: The Secretary of State is directed to fill the position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism authorized by Public Law 108-332 in a timely manner.

Trafficking in Persons: The agreement includes $12,500,000 for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons for support of activities and directives described in the House and Senate reports.

Workforce Diversity: The Secretary of State is directed to continue the workforce diversity initiatives described under this heading in the House and Senate reports.

Public Diplomacy: The agreement includes sufficient funds to support public diplomacy programs at not less than the fiscal year 2016 level. In addition, the Secretary of State is directed to inelude projected funding levels for public diplomacy in the operating plan required by section 7076(a) ofthis Act.

WHTI Surcharge: Section 7034(k)(1) ofthis Act extends for one year the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative surcharge authority, which is the same extension of authority included in prior fiscal years.

OCP: Section 7034(k)(4) of this Act continues the Foreign Service overseas pay comparability authority, but, as in prior fiscal years, prohibits implementation of the third phase ofthe authority.

Discrimination/Abuse Prevention: The Secretary of State is directed to implement the recommendations in the Senate report regarding prevention of discrimination and abuse under this heading and the Operating Expenses heading.

Additional Funds for Educational and Cultural Exchanges: Committees on Appropriations recognize the unique role of educational and cultural exchanges for advancing American leadership and ideals abroad. Department of State funded exchanges are an important instrument of United States foreign policy and diplomacy efforts, and promote United States security interests. To that end, the agreement includes additional funding for certain educational and cultural exchange programs.  Funds made available for the Citizen Exchange Program that are above the fiscal year 2016 program plan are intended for the purposes described under this heading in the House and Senate reports.

Embassy Security, Construction, Maintenance, and NEC Vietnam: The Act provides $1,117,859,000 for Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance in this title, ofwhich $358,698,000 is for Worldwide Security Upgrades (WSU) and $759,161,000 is for other construction, operations, and maintenance. An additional $1,238,800,000 is provided in title VIII under this heading that is designated for OCO/GWOT pursuant to BBEDCA, ofwhich $1,228,000,000 is available for WSU.

Not later than 45 days after enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall report to the Committees on Appropriations on plans to construct a New Embassy Compound in Vietnam, including options for the purchase of appropriate land for such construction.

 USAID: The Act provides $1,204,609,000 for Operating Expenses in this title, ofwhich

$180,691,000 may remain available until September 30, 2018, and an additional $152,080,000 in title VIII under this heading is designated for OCO/GWOT pursuant to BBEDCA.

The USAID Administrator shall ensure that all security-cleared employees comply with training requirements for the classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying of national security information in accordance with Executive Order 13526: Classified National Security Information, as appropriate.

The agreement includes $250,000 under this heading to train USAID personnel in genocide and mass atrocity prevention.

The USAID Administrator is directed to consult with the appropriate congressional committees prior to any decision to begin discussions with a foreign government regarding the closure of a USAID Mission.

Section 7081. Consular and Border Security Programs (new): The Act establishes in the Treasury a Consular and Border Security Programs account into which authorized border security program fees shall be deposited for the authorized purposesofsuchprogram. Subsection(c)doesnotincludetheexpandedauthoritycontained in the Appendix, Budget ofthe United States Govemment, Fiscal Year 2017.

Section 7083. Afghan Allies (new): The Act provides for an additional 2,500 visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program. The Secretary of State shall ensure that such visas are only issued to individuals who meet the strict qualifications ofthe program for assisting the United States Govemment in Afghanistan, and that vetting processes remain rigorous and thorough.

The Act includes funds for various countries.

Israel: The Act makes available $75,000,000 under Foreign Military Financing Program for Israel from the Security Assistance Appropriations Act, 2017 (division Bof Public Law 114-254), which is in addition to funds made available under such heading in title IV ofthis Act. The total amount provided under Foreign Military Financing Program for assistance for Israel in fiscal year 2017 is $3,175,000,000.

Burma (where no one has yet been nominated to be chief of mission): The Act provides responsibility for democracy and human rights programs in Burma to the United States Chief of Mission in Burma, in consultation with the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Department of State. Such responsibility shall include final approval for the specific uses of funds regardless of the bureau or agency managing such funds. […]Not later than 45 days after the enactment of this Act and prior to the initial obligation of funds made available for assistance for Burma, the Secretary of State shall submit a report detailing steps taken by the Government of Burma to address human rights abuses committed by the armed forces ofBurma against ethnic minorities, including the use of rape as a weapon of war.

People ‘s Republic of China: The Secretary of State and USAID Administrator are directed to provide no assistance to the central Govemment ofthe People’s Republic of China under Global Health Programs, Development Assistance, and Economie Support Fund, except for assistance to detect, prevent, and treat infectious diseases.

Philippines (whose President has been invited to the White House): Extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, particularly those committed in the conduct ofthe anti-drug campaign, call into question the commitment ofthe central Government ofthe Philippines to human rights, due process and the rule of law. The Secretary of State shall inform the Committees on Appropriations in a timely manner of the United States policy toward the Philippines, including the response to such killings.  The report required in subsection (f) shall include an assessment of the following information: (1) the status of diplomatie relations between the United States and the Philippines, and significant changes in the policy ofthe Government ofthe Philippines on matters of of national interest to the Govemment ofthe United States; (2) the degree to which the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) benefits from United States assistance, armaments, equipment, systems, and training; (3) the impact ofUnited States assistance on AFP modemization, maritime domain awareness, and operational capabilities ofthe Philippines Coast Guard, including to maintain an effective presence in Philippine territorial waters; (4) the impact of United States assistance on economie growth in the Philippines, including through United States-Philippines Partnership for Growth programs; (5) the importance of United States markets for Philippine exports, such as computer components, automobile parts, electrical machinery, and textiles; (6) the importance of United States foreign direct investment in the Philippines, and the influence of the United States as an investor and market for the Philippine business process outsourcing industry; (7) the economie benefit of annual remittances to the Philippines from the United States; (8) the adherence of the Govemment ofthe Philippines to the rule of law, including due process, particularly in efforts to counter illicit narcotics; (9) efforts by the Govemment ofthe Philippines to credibly investigate and prosecute individuals or organizations responsible for inciting, directing, or carrying out extra-judicial killings in the Philippines; and (10) the threat of Islamist terrorist groups in Mindanao and elsewhere in the southem region of the Philippines, and the impact of the United States military in supporting counterterrorism efforts. The Secretary of State shall also comply with the reporting requirement in the Senate report under Foreign Military Financing Program with respect to certain actions by the Govemment of the Philippines.

Countering Russian Influence Fund: The Act provides not less than $100,000,000 for the Countering Russian Influence Fund (CRIF). Funds should be made available to civil society and other organizations that seek to mitigate the expansion of such influence and aggression, including through public awareness campaigns and exchange activities. The Secretary of State and the USAID Administrator, as appropriate, shall ensure that CRIF programs are coordinated among Federal agencies and program implementers, and that information and lessons-learned are shared. The Secretary of State shall make public!y available the report required by subsection (c)(4), except that such report may include a classified annex.

We’re still reading, more here:

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NEA and SPP Language Divisions Moving Out of the Foreign Service Institute?

Posted: 12:47 am EDT
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The Foreign Service Institute is located at the George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center (NFATC) in Arlington, Virginia.  An expansion of facilities on FSI’s 72-acre campus in 2010 added 100 classrooms. About 2,000 students are on campus daily.

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It looks like that expansion is not enough.  There is apparently a lot of rumors circulating that the SPP and NEA language divisions will be moving out of SA-42 (FSI) to “a new space somewhere along the Orange line.”  We understand that this topic has lighted up the Secretary’s Sounding Board, never mind that JK is traveling.

This rumored move, if true, would reportedly affect 1) the Division of Near East Central, and South Asian Languages (FSI/SLS/NEA) which directs, designs and conducts proficiency-based language training for Arabic, Near Eastern, Turkic, Central and South Asian languages; and 2) the Division of Slavic, Pashto, and Persian Languages (FSI/SLS/SPP) which directs, designs, and conducts proficiency-based language training for all Slavic languages including Bosnian, Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian, Czech, Macedonian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, and Ukrainian, Pashto and Persian languages including Dari, Tajiki, and Farsi.

People are apparently not happy about this rumored move. Some are posting questions on the Board, and hoping to find some clarity on what to expect next. Here are some of the employees’ concerns over the future of language training at FSI:

  • Looking for transparency:  “Given the massive number of employees this change will impact, both students and instructors, can we get a little transparency on what’s going on?”  One commenter writes that many find it “odd that language studies, arguably the priority purpose of FSI, would see such a huge change with little to no public discussion or outreach from FSI.”
  • Long-term vs. short-term: Why was the decision made to move long-term language studies (9-12 months in length in many cases) instead of short-term and intermittent courses (leadership, regional training, stability operations, area studies, world languages, etc.)?
  • Co-location: Will the new facilities be co-located with language division administration? This is a big deal in the event that a student has to make changes with class assignment).
  • Transportation/Commute/Parking : How will people commute to the new facilities? Is there a bus? Is there equally priced parking available nearby? Concerns that transportation issue affect not just students but also many of the language instructors and staff who live quite far from FSI and even further from Rosslyn, where there is a shuttle.
  • Language Lab/Tools: Are the language learning tools available at the new facilities? Language labs are a big part of reaching proficiency standards, will students have to go back to FSI in order to access labs?
  • Daycare: For personnel with kids, employees are interested whether they will have access to daycare. When transferring or rotating assignments, Foreign Service personnel with young kids rely heavily on the availability of reliable and accessible childcare at FSI. “The provision of childcare has always helped alleviate some of the stresses associated with the rigors of intensively learning a new language.” Depending on the new location, there is also the potential for disruption in the Oakwood housing program.
  • Town Hall: One requested a town hall meeting with the FSI administration for current and future students in the languages affected “so people can ask questions and get more information as they begin to plan for language training.”

 

We should note that both the NEA and SPP language divisions are part of FSI’s School of Language Studies (SLS). The School of Language Studies (SLS), with 684 staff members, 3 overseas schools, and 11 regional language programs, offers training and testing in more than 70 languages.   According to the OIG, SLS is the largest of FSI’s schools, with a base budget of $33.5 million in FY 2012 and a total budget of $46.7 million, which includes $5.5 million in reimbursements from other agencies.

In December 2012, SLS had 684 staff members: 374 direct-hire employees and 310 full-time equivalent contractors. SLS is managed by a dean and two associate deans and is composed of a testing division, five language divisions, a Curriculum and Staff Development division, and an administrative section. SLS trains employees of the Department, USAID, and other agencies in 70 languages ranging from Spanish to super hard languages such as Korean.

In any case, there is a slow train for consolidation humming in the State Department. One of Diplomatic Security’s arguments for building the FASTC in Virginia instead of Georgia is so all the training programs can be in one location.  Just recently, the IRM training located in Warrenton, VA had also been moved to the FSI campus. If the NEA/SPP move is true, is this SLS’ initial move at dispersing its divisions?

If true, the question then becomes “why”?

The most recent OIG inspection of FSI is dated March 2013. That report notes that “SLS needs organizational and programmatic changes to strengthen pedagogy, coordination, and strategic planning. Outside review of a portion of recorded language test samples and other steps are required to address the inherent conflict of interest of SLS instructors serving as testers.” The report made 79 recommendations and 23 informal recommendations, however, we could not locate one specifically related to NEA/SPP, or the school’s expansion or spin off location outside of FSI.

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Elected Officials Applaud Land Purchase For State Dept Fort Picket Training Facility

Posted: 12:32 am EDT
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On May 28, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), issued a subpoena (pdf) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to compel it to provide the Committee with all analyses, documents, and communications related to the State Department’s plan to construct a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) in Virginia (see Uh-oh Dept: Royce Issues Subpoena to OMB Over Diplomatic Security Training Facility Documents).

On June 1, five elected officials announced the land purchase for the FASTC facility at Fort Pickett.

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with U.S. Reps. Randy Forbes and Robert Hurt announced that land has been purchased and construction will begin on a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) at Fort Pickett in Nottoway County, Virginia.

Last week, the Director of the U.S. General Services Administration signed a Record of Decision (ROD), which identified Fort Pickett as the site to construct and operate the FASTC.  This decision was made following a month-long review period of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which considered potential environmental impacts of the site, as well as FASTC’s operations and training needs, and comments from the public.

The ROD and land purchase are major milestones in efforts to provide a facility dedicated to training foreign affairs personnel in security, lifesaving, and emergency techniques necessary for operating in today’s dangerous overseas environments. Building the FASTC at Fort Pickett will enable training collaboration and interagency partnerships between civilian, military, and intelligence agencies in the Washington D.C. area.

The Senate’s Virginia delegation is pleased; here is Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA):

“This is good news for the State Department and for Virginia,” said Sen. Warner.“The jobs and economic activity created by this project will be welcomed by this community, and the facility will have an important role in training those security officers who protect American diplomats around the world.”

“Today we are one step closer to breaking ground on a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center at Fort Pickett that will play a key role in keeping our diplomatic personnel safe around the world,” said Sen. Kaine. “Nearly three years after the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, a permanent facility to properly train our diplomatic personnel for service in an increasingly dangerous world is long overdue.”

House Armed Services subcommittee chairman Randy Forbes from Virginia’s 4th District says:

“Today marks another major step forward for a project that is not only important to Virginia, but also critical to the men and women who serve our country abroad,” said Rep. Forbes, Chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. “Attacks against American missions in Yemen, Afghanistan, and the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya in 2012 serve as powerful reminders of the evolving threats our Diplomatic Corps face on a daily basis.  The construction of this dedicated training facility is essential to ensure that every American supporting our mission overseas is able to successfully promote U.S. interests and return safely home.”

Representative Robert Hurt from Virginia’s 5th District says:

“This is another positive step in bringing this critical, long overdue project to Fort Pickett,” said Rep. Hurt. “We will continue to work together to ensure our American diplomatic personnel have the best security training possible, and I am pleased that once again, that we are one step closer to groundbreaking at Fort Pickett, which has been identified as the site that offers the best resources for this training and the best long-term value for the taxpayer.”

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe also praised the announcement:

“I am very pleased that the Record of Decision has been signed by the GSA. This is a big step in moving forward on construction of the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Security Training Center,” said Gov. McAuliffe.  “The GSA and DOS have done their due diligence and have undertaken an extensive process in search for the best possible and most cost effective site for the FASTC. It is no surprise that Virginia emerged as the right home for this important project, which will be an enormous economic driver for the region and our Commonwealth, creating as many as 1,000 jobs.  My team and I were pleased to be a part of the effort that brought the FASTC to Virginia and we will continue to work with the congressional delegation, the various federal agencies and Nottoway County to bring this important project to fruition.”

The announcement notes that the Administration announced the selection of Fort Pickett after a multi-year exhaustive search as the best site to meet the State Department’s operational requirements and take advantage of synergies with the intelligence agencies and military facilities nearby in the Washington D.C. area. Also that Warner, Kaine, Forbes, and Hurt have long-supported the establishment of a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center at Fort Pickett.

We just hope this project does not get stuck in Congress indefinitely while elected representatives continue to squabble over its location.

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Uh-oh Dept: Royce Issues Subpoena to OMB Over Diplomatic Security Training Facility Documents

Posted: 3:01 am EDT
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On May 28, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), issued a subpoena (pdf) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  The subpoena compels OMB to provide the Committee with critical information he said HFAC has sought for nearly a year concerning the State Department’s plan to construct a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FAST-C) in Virginia.

Subpoena to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) | HFAC

Subpoena to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) | HFAC

Via HFAC:

The State Department plans to construct the FAST-C facility in Virginia at a cost of $413 million.  However, the project’s initial estimate of $950 million suggests the likelihood of considerable cost escalation over the construction period.  At either amount, the State Department proposal appears far more costly than the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) proposal to expand its Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia to provide State Department diplomatic security training, as is currently taking place.

Chairman Royce said:  “In an increasingly dangerous world, the security of U.S. diplomats abroad is paramount.  We must ensure that our diplomats receive improved security training, and a big part of providing that training effectively is making the most of our limited resources.  That is why for nearly a year, I’ve been asking OMB to provide the Committee with its analysis, which according to OMB officials’ statements to Committee staff, recommended using an existing facility — a course that the Administration has apparently chosen to ignore.  I’d like to know the factors considered in this important decision.”

In late 2013, OMB examined the two proposals to determine whether State’s request for funding for FAST-C was justified.  Chairman Royce encouraged OMB to determine which proposal best addresses the State Department’s vital training needs in a fiscally responsible way.  He also requested that the Government Accountability Office perform an independent analysis of the proposals in September 2014.

The Committee is aware that OMB analysts had completed a written analysis recommending that the State Department pursue its diplomatic security training at the DHS’s FLETC facility.

On May 19, 2014, Chairman Royce requested that then-OMB Director Sylvia Burwell provide the Committee with a copy of OMB’s analysis.  On May 1, 2015, Chairman Royce reiterated his request to current OMB-Director Shaun Donovan, expanding it to include all “documents and communications” pertaining to the FASTC and FLETC facilities during OMB’s review period.  OMB has given no indication it will comply fully with these requests.

Chairman Royce said: “I am disappointed that OMB hasn’t provided the Committee its analysis so that the Congress can make informed and responsible policy decisions in this critical area.  The internal documents underlying this analysis should tell us how and why OMB arrived at its decision.  In light of OMB’s continued refusal, I am left with no choice but to issue this subpoena.”

 

Related items:

  • Chairman Royce’s January 9, 2014 letter to then-OMB Director Sylvia M. Burwell encouraging an independent OMB analysis is available here.
  • Royce’s May 19, 2014 letter requesting OMB’s analysis is available here.
  • Royce’s May 1, 2015 letter threatening to compel production of the analysis is available here.
  • In September 2014, Chairman Royce, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency Chairman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) requested an independent Government Accountability Office review of the State and DHS proposals. That review is ongoing.

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