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Posted:9:11 pm ET
Updated 4:22 pm PT
On April 28, U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced committee passage of the bipartisan U.S. Department of State Authorization Act of 2017. In 2015, the committee approved a State Department authorization bill for the first time in five years. A State Department authorization bill has not been signed into law since 2002.
Senators Corker and Cardin released a statement on the bill’s passage, below is an excerpt:
“Assuring the American people that their taxpayer dollars are used efficiently in advancing U.S. interests has been one of my top priorities as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” said Senator Corker. “We made a commitment to conduct a review of State Department programs and practices on an annual basis, and for the second consecutive year, I am pleased the committee approved a bipartisan authorization bill to fulfill our oversight responsibilities. This legislation requires the U.S. to use its leverage at the United Nations to end impunity over the horrific cases of abuse by peacekeepers. It also supports a stronger, more dynamic workforce and makes the issuance of passports and visas operate more like a business. I look forward to working with Senator Cardin and our committee colleagues to pass the bill through the full Senate this year.”
“It’s essential to provide the authorities for the State Department so it can strategically and effectively carry out America’s foreign policy, and I believe we’ve taken an important step in that direction today,” Senator Cardin said. “We fought hard to prioritize the Department’s essential requests while also improving some accountability measures. In a world of increasing challenges and opportunities, the men and women of the United States diplomatic corps work tirelessly day in and day out to keep America safe, improve global health, empower women, protect vulnerable populations, and engage with our allies and adversaries alike through our bilateral relationships and multilateral organizations. I thank Chairman Corker and the Committee’s Members for working in a bipartisan fashion to bring this bill to the Senate floor and look forward to its passage.”
The SFRC also released a summary of the key provisions; we hope to have a follow up post for the interesting bits:
We should note that a similar bill was introduced last year. “S.1635 – Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, Fiscal Year 2016″ was the first authorization bill passed by the SFRC in 5 years. At that time, our source on the Hill informed us that the State Authorization bill was offered as an amendment when the NDAA was debated in the Senate but it was not voted on and the NDAA passed on June 18 without it (That would be H.R. 1735 which passed 215 (71-25)
The State Authorization bill was not brought to the floor for a stand alone vote, and as far as we know, Senators Corker/Cardin were not able to attach it to another piece of legislation last year. So the bill died and went to the cemetery for dead bills. The State Department authorization bill for FY2016 was actually wrapped in the deal that made the Roberta Jacobson confirmation possible; it was also passed by the Senate on April 28. (Thanks A!) The FY2017 bill is currently pending in the Senate.
have to wait and see what happens this year.
Posted: 1:25 am EDT
The U.S. Department of State recently awarded multiple indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity type contracts (IDIQ) to multiple U.S. firms providing security services. The fedbiz announcement says that contract types for individual task orders will vary and selected in accordance with FAR 16.104.
This IDIQ will satisfy anticipated and unanticipated armed personal protective, static guard and team based emergency response security services requirements worldwide. The IDIQ focuses primarily on DOS requirements in high threat areas. The anticipated period of performance is one year with four one-year option periods (to be exercised at the sole discretion of the Government) and the maximum ceiling amount on this IDIQ contract is expected to be $10.2 billion dollars.
The contract SAQMMA15R0282 was awarded to the following contractors on February 12, 2016 but posted on FedBiz on Feb 24, 2016 :
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First, the State Department told the court that the Clinton emails won’t be released until next year.
— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) May 19, 2015
But US District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras rejected the proposal and ordered to State Department to get on with it on a rolling basis.
— VICE News (@vicenews) May 19, 2015
And then — oh, look!
— NYT Politics (@nytpolitics) May 19, 2015
According to NYT, here’s what happened:
In the five-minute session with reporters, Mrs. Clinton also addressed questions about her exclusive use of a personal email address while at the State Department, saying she wanted the department to release the emails she had sent and received from her private account sooner rather than the estimated release in January 2016.
“They belong to the State Department, so the State Department has to go through its process,” Mrs. Clinton said. “But as much as they can expedite the process, that’s what I’m asking them to do.”
Because Mrs. Clinton exclusively used a personal email account while at the State Department, much of her correspondence has been shielded from federal records requests, creating a firestorm from Republicans investigating her handling of the 2012 attack on the United States mission in Benghazi, Libya.
By printing emails, Hillary Clinton forced the State Department to spend 5 weeks putting them back in digital form http://t.co/6Z2yTGc8hT
— Byron Tau (@ByronTau) May 21, 2015
Someday, somebody will helpfully calculate the labor cost of 12 employees doing this for 5 weeks; something that could have been avoided if the responsible people were doing their jobs responsibly in the first place.
In any case, Congress has now threatened to benghazimazi the State Department funding, not all of it, just some, of course. Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for State and foreign aid told The Hill that funding could be withheld from the agency’s programs and efforts “unless it relates to our own national security or our allies.” According to The Hill, GOP sources said divisions such as Legislative Affairs and Public Affairs and the Office of the Secretary could be affected. Whether this would be a tame who will blink first contest or a real pissing contest, remains to be seen.
— The Hill (@thehill) May 20, 2015
Also, on May 21st, this happened:
— NYT Politics (@nytpolitics) May 21, 2015
About 350 pages of the Clinton emails obtained by The New York Times and now available online, represent about a third of the roughly 850 pages of emails from Secretary Clinton’s personal account that have been turned over to the Select Committee on Benghazi. The emails seemed to be all Sid, Sid, Sid, but there are also emails from the former Ambassadors to Libya, Chris Stevens (p.116, p.138, p.341) and Gene Cretz (p.70, p.346), former A/S for NEA Jeff Feltman (p.68, p.71), Cheryl Mills, State Department management go-to guy, Pat Kennedy (p.330), among others. Click here to read it or download the pdf file here.
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— Domani Spero
The U.S. Ambassador to London Matthew Barzun used his new Tumblr to dispel possible misconceptions concerning the construction of the U.S. Embassy in London following reports of funding prohibitions under the FY2014 Omnibus:
I noticed a few news outlets this week reporting that funding for the construction of our new Embassy building may be removed. As this might cause concern among those excited and invested in the redevelopment of Nine Elms, I wanted to put minds at rest.
The new building project is being funded entirely by the proceeds of the sale of other U.S. Government properties in London, not through appropriated funds. This has always been the plan. The proposed Omnibus Spending Bill does not provide any new, additional, restrictions to that plan.
So, construction continues and each month we get closer to the opening day. In the meantime, every six months, the State Department will report to Congress on progress. Our shared future, in a new part of this great city, continues.
The above item is posted here: http://matthewbarzun.tumblr.com.
We should note that the State Department signed a conditional agreement with the real estate developer Ballymore to acquire a site in the Nine Elms Opportunity Area in Wandsworth for the construction of a new embassy back in oh, October 2008. That initial agreement was conditioned on the approval of the United States Congress and local planning authorities. In November 2009, the Department entered into an agreement to sell the Chancery in London, located in Grosvenor Square. The sale is to Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company headquartered in Doha, Qatar. Then Ambassador Robert Tuttle, President George W. Bush appointee from 2005-2009, led the search for a new site. The 2009 sale agreement with the Qatari company was signed by President Obama’s first appointee to London, Ambassador Louis B. Susman. In November 2013, President Obama’s second appointee to London, Ambassador Barzun presided the groundbreaking ceremony of the new U.S. Embassy in the Nine Elms neighborhood in London.
While the sale of the U.S. Embassy property in Grosvenor Square was widely reported, the selling price was not widely known. The London Evening Standard in 2009 reported that the embassy building was sold to Qatari Diar — the property development arm of the Qatari royal family — for an estimated £500 million (The report also noted that the 225,000 sq ft building could be worth as much as £1 billion when developed). According to news report quoting Adam Namm, then acting director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (now current ambassador to Ecuador), the new embassy in London estimated to cost $1-billion would be “in the ballpark of the most expensive embassies we have built.”
The FY2014 Omnibus was signed into law by President Obama on January 17, 2014. The only reference to the U.S. Embassy in London that we could locate is under Sec. 7004 under Diplomatic Facilities (p.1148):
(e)(1) The limitation and reporting requirement regarding the New London Embassy contained in section 7004(f) of division I of Public Law 112–74 shall remain in effect during fiscal year 2014.
We dug up PL 112-74 to take a look. Here’s what it says:
(f)(1) None of the funds appropriated under the heading ‘‘Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance’’ in this Act and in prior Acts making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs, made available through Federal agency Capital Security Cost Sharing contributions and reimbursements, or generated from the proceeds of real property sales, other than from real property sales located in London, United Kingdom, may be made available for site acquisition and mitigation, planning, design or construction of the New London Embassy.
(2) Within 60 days of enactment of this Act and every 6 months thereafter until completion of the New London Embassy, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations a report on the project: Provided, That such report shall include revenue and cost projections, cost containment efforts, project schedule and actual project status, the impact of currency exchange rate fluctuations on project revenue and costs, and options for modifying the scope of the project in the event that proceeds of real property sales in London fall below the total cost of the project.
So no appropriated funds and the funding prohibition in the proposed omnibus does not appear to be in the final version signed by the president. The reporting requirement remains the same at 60 days and every six months thereafter until the embassy is completed in 2017.
Now — if the cost of building a new one in London is about $1 billion and Congress did not and will not make any appropriation for its construction, then that sale price must have cost more than the estimated £500 million. Just an aside — the US Embassy in Iraq, the most expensive embassy we have built to completion todate was started in 2005 and was completed in 2008 at a total cost of $592 million. VOA reported cost of more than $600million, USAToday reported total cost of $700million and in June 2012, WaPo’s Walter Pincus reported cost at $700 million plus $115 million to upgrade.
In any case, two things can happen here: 1) total sale price covers all construction cost and new embassy debuts in 2017; 2) total sale price covers all construction cost of the new embassy but not potential technical/design adjustments or potential cost overruns. If #2 happens, Congress will, at least, have a 6-month notice. If Congress decides to pay expenses in excess of funds from sale, it has two more fy appropriation cycle to make funds available. Or not. If that happens, the State Department will have to look for other sources of funding. It sits on an annual visa collection fees of over $3 billion, by the way, but that will need congressional approval. Also Winfield House is on 12 acres of grounds in Regent’s Park, so there’s that. The mansion reportedly only cost US taxpayers $1.00 when the USG bought it from American heiress Barbara Hutton after World War II. Of course, the mansion which serves as the ambassador’s residence is in the Secretary of State’s Register of Culturally Significant Property, so there’s that, too. Lots of ifs but that’s all potentially in the future, which should be far and away and uncomplicated unless you’re Doctor Who.
No, as far as we know … no, they’re not planning to auction you to pay for the new embassy. But the groundbreaking just occurred a couple of months ago, so there’s a long ways to go.
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— Domani Spero
On January 13, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, House Appropriations Ranking Member Nita Lowey, and Senate Appropriations Ranking Member Richard Shelby announced the release of the fiscal year 2014 consolidated appropriations bill. The bill provides $1.012 trillion for the operation of the federal government and avoids a government shutdown. The Omnibus contains all 12 regular appropriations bills for fiscal year 2014, with no area of the government functioning under a Continuing Resolution. Below is a quick summary of the FY 2014 Omnibus – State and Foreign Operations Appropriations:
The State and Foreign Operations portion of the fiscal year 2014 Omnibus contains funding to support American interests, diplomatic operations, and humanitarian assistance abroad. In total, the legislation provides $49 billion in discretionary funding – $4.3 billion less than the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.
Within the total, the bill provides full funding for embassy security – plus additional funds for upgrades of temporary missions, such as Benghazi – to prevent and protect against future terrorist attacks, unrest, and other acts of violence.
The bill also provides funding to support security and stability in the Middle East – including for our key allies such as Israel and Jordan and the frontline states of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. For Afghanistan, the bill provides the resources needed for diplomats and development experts to operate safely, but scales back assistance programs to a more sustainable level as U.S. armed forces drawdown during 2014. In addition, contingency funding is included for other areas of conflict and emerging crises, such as Syria and Africa.
In addition, the bill prioritizes global health, humanitarian, and democracy promotion programs – while reducing funding in other lower-priority areas – to advance American interests around the globe and to fulfill the nation’s moral obligation to those in dire need.
State Department Operations and Related Agencies – The bill contains a total of $15.7 billion in base and contingency funding for operational costs of the State Department and related agencies – a decrease of $2.4 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and $1 billion less than the request. Within this total, the legislation provides $5.4 billion – $25 million above the amount requested – for embassy security costs relating to the protection of personnel and facilities.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Operations – The bill contains $1.3 billion for USAID operations, a reduction of $215 million from the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. Within this total, $91 million is provided for contingency funding for USAID operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and for the USAID Inspector General to conduct appropriate and rigorous oversight of U.S. taxpayer dollars in those countries.
Funding Prohibitions – The bill seeks to promote good government and rein in unnecessary spending by prohibiting or eliminating funding for a variety of projects and activities. Some include:
International Security Assistance – The bill provides a total of $8.5 billion in base and contingency funding for international security assistance. This includes funds for international narcotics control, anti-terrorism programs, nonproliferation programs, peacekeeping operations, and other critical international security and stabilization efforts. It also provides funds to support ongoing counter-narcotics and law enforcement efforts in Mexico, Colombia, and Central America.
Israel: In addition, the legislation provides security assistance to key allies, including fully funding the $3.1 billion commitment to the United States-Israel Memorandum of Understanding.
Egypt: Allows requested funds to be provided to Egypt if certain conditions are met – including maintaining the strategic relationship with the United States, upholding the peace treaty with Israel, and meeting milestones Egyptians have set for their political transition.
Palestinian Authority: The legislation stops economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority if the Palestinians obtain membership to the United Nations or UN agencies without an agreement with Israel. In addition, the bill puts new restrictions on aid if the Palestinians pursue actions against Israel at the International Criminal Court. New language is included to ensure that the Palestinian Authority is taking action to counter incitement of violence.
Afghanistan: Withholds funds for the Government of Afghanistan until certain conditions are met, including having a signed Bilateral Security Agreement and safeguards being in place to ensure that U.S. assistance is not taxed. It also withholds a portion of funds until proper security is in place for implementers of USAID and State Department programs. In addition, the legislation strengthens requirements on the rights of Afghan women and girls and combatting corruption.
According to WaPo, the measure includes $85.2 billion for military operations in Afghanistan, a $2 billion cut from fiscal 2013 due in part to ongoing troop reductions. But the agreement also withholds money for the Afghan government “until certain conditions are met,” including a decision to sign a new bilateral security agreement (via).
The bill reportedly also authorizes a 1 percent pay increase for civilian federal workers and U.S. military personnel.
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The Senate Committee On Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs on December 30, 2012 issued its Benghazi report, Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi.
The report says that the State Department’s Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy noted in a briefing for the Committee, that Libya and Benghazi were “flashing red” around the time of the attack.
The follow-up query and the response must have fallen off the, well, what else, the cliff!
The “flashing red” went kaboom !!!
… and four men were dead.
Here is one of the findings:
“Despite the inability of the Libyan government to fulfill its duties to secure the facility, the increasingly dangerous threat assessments, and a particularly vulnerable facility, the Department of State officials did not conclude the facility in Benghazi should be closed or temporarily shut down. That was a grevious mistake.”
The Senate report refers to the Benghazi post as the “Temporary Mission Facility in Benghazi.” The ARB refers to the Benghazi post as the “The U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi” or the “U.S. Special Mission compound (SMC) and Annex.”
According to the ARB, the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, established in November 2011, was the successor to Chris Stevens’ “highly successful endeavor as Special Envoy to the rebel-led government that eventually toppled Muammar Qaddafi in fall 2011.”
2 FAM 411.1 dictates that the assistant secretary for the requesting regional bureau prepares a written proposal requesting authorization to open, close, or change the status of a Foreign Service post.
Presumably, the request to open the SMC in Benghazi originated from State’s NEA bureau, which has jurisdiction over Libya.
According to 2 FAM 400, the final decision to open, close, or change the status of a consular post, consular agency, branch, or special office is made by the Under Secretary for Management. The same person who noted the “flashing red.”
There are 18 factors to consider in the books when opening or closing or changing the status of an overseas post. One of those factors, as may have been the case here considering the presence of OGA, is this:
(9) Expressed interest of U.S. Government agencies (other than the Department) in the maintenance of a post in the locality;
If you’re interested on how the final decision is arrived at, read up on 2 FAM 411.4.
Here are some other interesting parts of the Senate report:
The host country government failed in its obligation to protect accredited members of the diplomatic corps, the least they can do is answer a few questions as to why security personnel were held at the airport for at least three hours.
A side note here. A second secretary at the Saudi embassy in Bangladesh was killed last March. Five men had just been sentenced to death for the diplomat’s murder. Saudi Arabia is a work destination for many Bangladeshis, so Bangladesh did not foxtrot around the death of a Saudi Arabian diplomat.
NEO interoperability between DOD and State has some challenges but we’ll have that for a separate post.
The Senate report further says:
States whose governments do not exercise full control over their sovereign territory, or that have a limited security capability, cannot be counted on to safeguard U.S. diplomatic personnel and facilities. This is usually true, of course, in the aftermath of a revolution or civil war – as was the case in Libya – where the provision of protective services by the host nations is unpredictable at best. In those instances, the Department of State must improve one or more of the other three protectors of mission security within its control: Marine Corps Security Guards, Diplomatic Security agents, or private security contractors.
There is already a move in Congress to increase the number of Marines to almost double its current size (1,200 Marine security guards currently assigned to more than 130 countries).
The State Department is also reportedly asking Congress for an additional $750 million to hire about 150 more security officers.
And the private security contractors could not be far behind. Wired.com recently had a piece on the potential financial bonanza for security contractors for U.S. embassy security in the post-Benghazi era. The decision whether to continue spending cash on hired guards or to bolster the ranks of State Department employees that protect diplomats themselves will be one that must be tackled by the next secretary of state and soon.
The Senate report also has the following on funding and how they impact priorities:
Resourcing for security is a joint responsibility of the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch. The Department of State’s decisions regarding security at the Benghazi facility were made in the context of its budget and security requirements for diplomatic facilities around the world. Overall, the Department of State’s base requests for security funding have increased by 38 percent since Fiscal Year (FY) 2007, and base budget appropriations have increased by 27 percent in the same time period. Other security funding provided beyond that in supplemental appropriations bills has been nearly entirely for diplomatic facilities in just three countries—Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.63 Less has gone elsewhere and very little is available to the temporary facilities such as the one in Benghazi.
Congress’ inability to appropriate funds in a timely manner has also had consequences for the implementation of security upgrades. RSO Nordstrom stated that Continuing Resolutions had two detrimental effects on efforts to improve security in Benghazi. First, the Department of State would only allow funds to be expended at a rate of 80 percent of the previous year’s appropriations level, so as not to risk a violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act. Second, in the absence of a supplemental appropriations or reprogramming request, security funds for Benghazi had to be taken “out of hide” from funding levels for Libya because Benghazi was not included in previous budget requests.
To the congressional reps and their friends who insist that the Benghazi tragedy has nothing to do with funding, the conclusion is simple: Congress’ inability to do its job has real deadly consequences.
Mistakes were made that’s for sure. But no one honorable has yet come forward to claim those mistakes as his or her own.
And so we are painfully reminded that success has many parents. But a mistake is an orphan, conceived in a vacuum with neither father, mother or extended relatives present at creation. 😥
Richard Jackson, former Foreign Service Officer, State Dept. director for Egypt and North Africa and president emeritus of Anatolia College writes in The Hill’s Congress blog about Missing the point on Benghazi:
The questions to ask, beyond finger-pointing and cover-ups, are therefore:
Read in full here.
Secrecy News has just posted a November 26, 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service on diplomatic security and notes that “In almost every year since 2007, Congress appropriated less money for diplomatic security than had been requested. In FY2012, the State Department sought $2.9 billion for security, and Congress enacted $2.6 billion.”
The CRS report itself described the funding as following a “boom and bust” cycle:
“Observers have suggested that funding for embassy security follows a “boom and bust” cycle, in which major attacks are followed by a sudden influx of resources that may be difficult to expend in a well-planned manner. An influx of security-related resources in the 1980s was followed by a lull in the 1990s when diplomatic security funding was greatly reduced prior to the 1998 attacks in Kenya and Tanzania. The subsequent State Department Accountability Review Board suggested that the preceding years of reduced spending for embassy security was a contributing factor to the vulnerability of the targeted embassies.”
If Congress stays true to form, the boom is already starting. The Hill reports:
The Senate passed an amendment to the defense bill by voice vote Wednesday that would place more Marines at U.S. consulates and embassies around the world… Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced the amendment. He said the amendment was important to preventing more deaths overseas, referring to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012….
McCain said his amendment, 3051, would also ask the Department of Defense to reassess the rules of engagement for Marines stationed at embassies and consulates so they could engage in combat when attacked.
The amendment authorize a 1,000 person increase in the size of the Marine Corps to provide additional protections for U.S. embassies and consulates. More here. While I do think we should revisit our use of force policy at our overseas post, the Democracy Arsenal takes up the other side of this amendment — why there is a push to increase Marine presence instead of increasing Diplomatic Security agents:
“Just to be clear, this is not so say that the Marines do not play an important role in diplomatic security. Clearly they do both in terms of information protection and protection of dignitaries and personnel. However, it is strange that Sen. McCain would advocate so forcefully for increasing the Marines presence with no mention of the forces primarily tasked with the mission, especially since his colleagues have repeatedly decreased funding.”
More from the CRS report:
The United States maintains about 285 diplomatic facilities worldwide.1 Attacks on such facilities, and on U.S. diplomatic personnel, are not isolated instances. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel were killed in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, after armed individuals attacked and burned buildings on the main mission compound and subsequently attacked a second annex site where U.S. personnel had been evacuated.
Five other U.S. ambassadors have died by violent acts in the line of duty, although none since 1979.2 In addition to this total, 38 U.S. diplomats who were not ambassadors have been killed in the past 30 years.3 There were 39 attacks against U.S. embassies and consulates and official U.S. personnel overseas between 1998 and 2008, excluding regular attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.4
The inability to provide perfect security, especially against the evident threat of mob violence, has focused particular scrutiny on the deployment of diplomatic personnel in high-threat environments. The Department of State currently maintains a presence in locations faced with security conditions that previously would likely have led State to evacuate personnel and close the post.
Under reciprocal treaty obligations, host nations are obligated to provide security for the diplomatic facilities of sending states. However, instances in which host nations have been unable or not fully committed to fulfilling this responsibility have sometimes left U.S. facilities vulnerable, especially in extraordinary circumstances. U.S. facilities therefore employ a layered approach to security, including not only the measures taken by a host country, but also additional, U.S.-coordinated measures, to include armed Diplomatic Security agents, hardened facilities, U.S.-trained and/or contracted local security guards, and sometimes U.S. Marine Security Guard detachments (whose principal role is securing sensitive information).
The rapid growth in the number of U.S. civilians deployed in high-risk environments of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan spurred significant investment in recent years in the Department of State’s capacity to provide security in dangerous areas through its Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), while simultaneously placing unprecedented burdens on DS’s capability to carry out this mission successfully there and in other challenging locations. With greater focus on these frontline states, funds for other U.S. facilities could be strained.
As Congress examines whether enough funding has been provided or more is needed for properly securing American personnel, embassies, and information around the world, it will do so in a climate of shrinking budgets; any proposed funding increases are likely to be met with calls for offsetting cuts elsewhere.
Also of near-term concern is the possible effect that the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA, P.L. 112-25) sequestration could have on diplomatic security funding. If across-the-board spending reductions occur as scheduled on January 2, 2013, currently estimated at about 8.2% of funding, security funding could be reduced as well. Those who consider embassy security funding to be insufficient would find the problem exacerbated by sequestration. The combined effects of a sequestration in 2013 and a half year Continuing Resolution that ends in March 2013 could generate concerns about diplomatic security funding in the months and years ahead.
Some foreign policy experts are concerned that, with limited available dollars for foreign affairs overall, war-related costs in frontline states may be drawing funds away from needs in the rest of the 285-plus U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world. With the recent Arab Spring uprisings, for example, U.S. personnel located in those countries may be more vulnerable than those located in the frontline states where the embassies were built and heavily fortified recently. Some observers wonder if the rapidly evolving changes in Arab Spring countries may have contributed to difficulties in achieving and maintaining adequate diplomatic security there. Possibly adding to the difficulty is the unpredictability in the timing of funding bills being passed by Congress.
Fiscal years may not be in sync with new increasing needs or with contracts. Furthermore, when Congress is unable to pass funding bills until well into the new fiscal year, or passes continuing resolutions in place of spending bills for the remainder of the fiscal year, the agency is left to guess what annual funding they can expect and has fewer months to spend the funds once received.
Another, perhaps longer-term related aspect of the funding debate is whether the United States can afford to maintain facilities and adequate security everywhere, especially in nascent democracies that are often unstable and unpredictable. If embassy security is the responsibility of the local government, but that government does not have the capability required to keep American personnel safe, the U.S. government must weigh the security risks of keeping a U.S. presence in such environments.
Every now and then we get tips for blog post ideas, sometimes offline, via email or sometimes via social media as was the case a few days ago:
Hope @Diplopundit catches “U.S. State Dept. Sending Critical [Pool & Picnicking] Resources to Sudan” http://www.tradeaidmonitor.com/2012/08/state-dept-resources-sudan.html …
Sometimes we catch the toss, sometimes we don’t, primarily because we have some time constraints. But this one, we thought we’d catch because in a place like our US Embassy in Khartoum, pool and picnic resources are critical resources in our view. And we’ll tell you why.
Let’s start off with Sudan as the third largest country in Africa. Slightly less than a quarter the size of the continental United States. It achieved independence on January 1, 1956 from the British, and has been at war with itself for more than three-quarters of its existence.
The USG designated Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993 and the U.S. Embassy operation in Khartoum was suspended in 1996. According to the no longer updated Background Notes in October 1997, the U.S. imposed comprehensive economic, trade, and financial sanctions against the Sudan. In August 1998, in the wake of the East Africa embassy bombings, the U.S. launched cruise missile strikes against Khartoum. The last U.S. Ambassador to the Sudan, Ambassador Tim Carney, departed post prior to this event and no new ambassador has been designated since.
We do have a Special Envoy to Sudan —Ambassador Lyman since 2011; he succeeded Ambassador Gration who was appointed to office in 2009.
The U.S. Embassy is headed by a series of Charge d’Affaires. Joseph D. Stafford, III, a career Foreign Service Officer has been Charge’ d’ affaires in Khartoum since June 2012. The US Embassy reportedly continues to re-evaluate its posture in Sudan, particularly in the wake of the January 1, 2008, killings of a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) officer John Granville and local USAID employee, Abdel Rahman Abbas.
The U.S. Mission in Sudan has declared disasters due to the complex emergency on an annual basis since 1987. On October 1, 2009, President Obama renewed the Sudan complex emergency disaster declaration for FY 2010.
So let’s just agree that it’s not a very nice, cushy place when its dry. And it’s not a very nice place when it’s wet.
In fact, it’s one of those places where family members of embassy personnel under age 21 are not allowed to reside. State Department employees in Sudan also get a 30% cost of living allowance, a 25% hardship differential and a 25% danger pay differential, and for good reasons.
Cost-of-living allowance (COLA) is granted to an employee officially stationed at a post in a foreign area where the cost of living, exclusive of quarters costs, is substantially higher than in Washington, D.C.
Hardship differential is established for any place when, and only when, the place involves extraordinarily difficult living conditions, excessive physical hardship, or notably unhealthful conditions affecting the majority of employees officially stationed or detailed at that place. Living costs are not considered in differential determination
Danger pay allowance is designed to provide additional compensation above basic compensation to all U.S. Government civilian employees, including Chiefs of Mission, for service at places in foreign areas where there exist conditions of civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism or wartime conditions which threaten physical harm or imminent danger to the health or well-being of an employee.
So in a country where Al Qaeda has a long history, what do people do to entertain and de-stress themselves? You can go to a fitness club where the monthly fee for adults is $192.50 (or 352.94 % more than what you’d pay in WashDC) according to numbeo.com. Or you can eat out where the combo meal similar to McDonald’s is $11.14 (except that you’re a real moving target). Or you can go to the movies for $5.00, certainly cheaper than DC but do you want to be in the dark with people with guns? Probably not.
You can stay home and surf online; 6 Mbps Internet is at $67.50 a month whether it works or not. Or have a roaring pool party. Maybe. And invite even people you can’t stand. In which case you need to shop for party food. You can shop for chicken breasts which at $8.00/kilogram is actually cheaper in Khartoum than in DC. You can also buy 12 pack eggs at $2.93, and a kilogram of fresh cheese at $16.33. Beer, the 0.5 liter bottle is reportedly $5.00. And there goes your COLA.
Then there’s the haboob, a small one or a big one, it doesn’t matter, it gets into everything. And they don’t have haboob days like snow days back in WashDC, which frankly, isn’t fair. We terribly missed our undiplomatic diplomat from Facts Are Strictly Optional; you betcha she would have had insightful things to say about these critical resources.
The patio furniture below is similar to those required under the solicitation mentioned above and posted by US Embassy Khartoum at fedbiz. The complete solicitation is here: https://www.fbo.gov/notices/b8deabb7df3866417121ac528cf8a837.
Rust-fee, weatherproof, five year warranty – what’s not to like? More to the point, and this is important — you can hose them down after a dust storm, they’re too heavy to fly away in a sandstorm and they are deliverable from South Africa, just 2900 miles from the Sudan instead of some 6,000 miles from the United States.
So frankly, we cannot find it in our hearts to quarrel with these pool and patio furniture. All that dust and sand would probably drive us nuts ala The Shining if we live down there. And anyways — what use is a pool if you cannot sit down or lounge or have a picnic with people you see every single day at work and at play?
Dear US Embassy Khartoum – we hope you folks enjoy your new pool and patio furniture. The bronze ones look really lovely.