Snapshot: Ops Center, the State Department’s 911 Help Line

Posted: 3:09 am EDT
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Below is a snapshot of the Ops Center extracted from State Mag:

In 1961, Ops started 24/7 operations as the Department’s communications and crisis management center. The Watch runs 3 shifts per day (24/7). It has 45 Watchstanders (34 Foreign Service, 11 Civil Service officers) CMS: 14 Person Team (5 FS, 9 CS officers). The Ops Center also includes a military advisor, two Diplomatic Security Watch liaison officers, a management officer, an innovation officer and a staff assistant.

On a typical day, officers facilitate communication between Department officers, posts overseas and interagency partners, track and alert Department officers and interagency partners on breaking developments, build four daily briefs for Seventh-floor leadership, distribute senior leaders’ briefing material in advance of high-level interagency meetings and manage and prepare posts for crises wherever they may occur.

Watch officers must be prepared to brief the Secretary, Department principals and other officials on current world events at a moment’s notice and do so succinctly and accurately. They also prepare written products for the Secretary and other Department principals, including breaking news alerts, daily overnight and afternoon briefs, and situation and spot reports on world events.
“It’s not surprising that when the fighting in Tripoli began in July 2014 and the embassy came under indirect fire, my first call was to the Ops Center,” said U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones, a former Watch officer and senior Watch officer. “We maintained an open line (literally) during our 19-hour trek across the desert, mountains and oases of western Libya into Tunis, until we arrived at the C-17 awaiting us at Gabès Air Force Base.”

 

 

Extracted file available as pdf to read/download here: https://cldup.com/r-7BJR-pgh.pdf

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Democrats vs Republicans at Benghazi Committee: Pew, Pew, Pew, Tzing! Lather, Rinse, Repeat!

Posted: 6:52 pm EDT
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On October 7, Chairman Gowdy wrote a 13-page letter to Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Benghazi Committee (see pdf).  On October 18, Rep. Cummings responded with a 2-page letter stating that the alleged classified information in a Blumenthal email dated March 18, 2011, was not in fact classified, and was redacted by Gowdy himself.  That email is available to read here (pdf); note the absence of redaction codes.  On October 18,  responded to ’ letter on whether that Libya source was classified info in his letter here (pdf).

The Democrats charged that the Select Committee “has never held a single hearing with anyone from the Department of Defense in 17 months, and the Select Committee has conducted nearly ten times as many interviews of State Department employees than Defense Department employees (39 compared to 4).” 

The report says that the Committee has conducted a total of 54 transcribed interviews and depositions to date. Previous congressional committees and the independent Accountability Review Board (ARB) had already spoken to 23 of these individuals. The actual number of “new” interviews is 31 according to the Democrats contradicting the “50 interviews” apparently cited by Mr. Gowdy.

Going by the report, below is a list of 31 people interviewed by the Committee. We note that that are no DOD or CIA folks included here, only State Department people:

  • 1: State Department Chief of Staff State Department Chief of Staff from 2009 until February 1, 2013
  • 2: Senior Watch Officer in the Diplomatic Security Command Center from 2011 to 2013
  • 3: Principal Officer who served in Benghazi in the fall of 2012
  • 4: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the summer and fall of 2012
  • 5: Principal Officer who served in Benghazi in the summer and fall of 2012
  • 6: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the summer of 2012
  • 7: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the spring and summer of 2012
  • 8: Principal Officer who served in Benghazi in the spring and summer of 2012
  • 9:  diplomatic security agent who served in Benghazi in the spring of 2012
  • 10: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the spring of 2012
  • 11: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the winter and spring of 2012
  • 12: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the winter of 2012
  • 13: Principal Officer who served in Benghazi in the fall and winter of 2011-2012
  • 14: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the fall and winter of 2011
  • 15: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the fall of 2011
  • 16: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the spring of 2011
  • 17: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the spring of 2011
  • 18: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the spring of 2011
  • 19: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the spring of 2011
  • 20: Post Management Officer for Libya from 2011 through June 2012
  • 21: Communications Officer for the State Department Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from the fall of 2008 to the present
  • 22: U.S. Ambassador to Libya from December 2008 until May 2012
  • 23: U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations from July 2010 until July 2013
  • 24: U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya from 2009 until June 15, 2012
  • 25: Deputy to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations from July 2011 until September 2014
  • 26: Contracting Officer in the State Department Office of Acquisitions starting in May of 2012
  • 27: Executive Secretariat Director of Information Resources Management who served from spring of 2008 until November of 2012
  • 28: Chief of the Records and Archives Management Division from fall of 2014 to the present
  • 29: Spokesperson in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from 2011 through 2013
  • 30: A speechwriter for Secretary Clinton
  • 31: A speechwriter for Secretary Clinton

Here’s one thrown over by WaPo’s Pinocchios:

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Here’s one who was a student in Cairo in 2011:

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Here’s one who wasn’t at the State Department anymore at the time of the incident:

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Here’s one who says “I don’t know of anything.”

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Boy! Who wrote these questions? A secretary of state “ordering” a secretary of defense?  What universe is that?

Who signed off on the April 2012 cable “denying security resources to Libya?” Can these congressional folks really be this ignorant? Every cable that goes out must have clearance. They all include the name or names of draftee/s and the names of the clearing and approving officials. How could a DS agent in Benghazi know if the secretary of state in WashDC “personally” signed off on any cable? And are these folks really ignorant of the hierarchical structure of the State Department? Or are they purposely ignorant because reality is not sexy enough to blow up?

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New hearings, please, on the topic of what can be done so politicians grow a conscience instead of playing offense/defense when they search for the “truth” — the kind where we don’t have to wrap the word “truth” in air quotes.

The former deputy director of the CIA writes that “The State Department facility in Benghazi has been widely mischaracterized as a US consulate. In fact it was a Temporary Mission Facility (TMF), a presence that was not continuously staffed by senior personnel and that was never given formal diplomatic status by the Libyan government. The CIA base—because it was physically separate from the TMF—was simply called “the Annex.” [….] CIA does not provide physical security for State Department operations. Why so few improvements were made at the TMF, why so few State Department security officers were protecting the US ambassador, Chris Stevens, why they allowed him to travel there on the anniversary of 9/11, and why they allowed him to spend the night in Benghazi are unclear. I would like to know the conversations that took place between Stevens and his security team when the ambassador decided to go visit Benghazi on 9/11/12. These were all critical errors.

Well, the temporary mission did not issue visas, nor had a consular officer tasked with providing citizen services. The State Department must have had another mission, what was it?  To lend cover to the “Annex”? If there was no State Department temporary mission in Benghazi, would the CIA have had an outpost there? How many people from the CIA did this Committee talked to? What the frack were they thinking when they interviewed UN personnel and speechwriters but not interview the spooks?

Or could it be that State was there for a very simple reason — the need for a reporting outpost? Click here (pdf) for the Action Memo from the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau (NEA) to the Under Secretary for Management (M) requesting approval for the continued operation of the U.S. presence in Benghazi through the end of calendar year 2012. That’s why there was a “tent” and not a fortress.  The memo was approved in December 2011.

Also see the email chain in this document collection (pdf) on Diplomatic Security coverage and the “Banghazi Plan;” RSO Eric Nordstrom’s emails are clear enough, the status of Benghazi post was undefined and Diplomatic Security did not want to devout resources to it.  NEA wanted to be there, why?  DS did not want to put resources there, why? The email from Shawn P. Crowley, the Principal Officer in Benghazi from January-March 2012 is also instructive.  Plenty of lessons there, but folks are not seriously looking, why?

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You’ve Seen the Boooooks, Now Get Ready For the Benghazi Movies!

Posted: 3:24  am EDT
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We’ve stopped counting the number of Benghazi reports coming out of Congress a long time ago just as we’ve stopped counting the number of Benghazi books populating Amazon, B&N, Ebay,  and even Walmart. But now comes the movies. We’re starting the counting game again.  Maybe we’ll hire junior to do the reviews.

In September 2013, Deadline reported that Thunder Road had acquired The Embassy House to use as the basis for a feature movie. Oh, wait, that’s the book that was withdrawn by the publisher following the CBS News-Lara Logan blowup. But who knows? Maybe there will still be a movie called Not the Embassy House, because Benghazi, after all, was not an embassy. We have no intention of reading the book, but a retired FSO who wrote about it here has something shareable:

In an explanatory note, the author wrote that he used the terms “Embassy,” “Consulate” and “Diplomatic Mission” – replete with capital letters – interchangeably throughout. Moreover, wrote the author, “My understanding is that when the ambassador visits, it becomes the embassy.” Say what?

Noooooo ….

Did you just scream inside your head?  Yeah, me, too.  Anyway, the Hollywood Reporter said that HBO has optioned the book, Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi, with Jerry Weintraub on board to executive produce.  Under Fire is authored by former DSS Agent and Stratfor VP Fred Burton, and Samuel M. Katz.

In February 2015, Variety reported that Relativity Media has teamed with producer Dana Brunetti (produced Fifty Shades, Moneyball, Captain Phillips) for an untitled movie about two Americans who were killed during the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. Special Mission Compound in Benghazi.  According to the report, the studio “bought the life rights of CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, the fomer U.S. Navy SEALs who rescued 30 Americans in the attacks at the CIA Annex in Benghazi.”

This past March, Deadline reported that Alcon Entertainment has acquired rights to the spec script Zero Footprint which tells the story of the 18-month “off book” operation that ended with the fatal 2012 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi. “The Alcon project is told through the eyes of the ex-Special Forces operator who undertook the mission — a real military hero — who must remain nameless for security reasons.”

So maybe 3-4 movies currently in the works.  Maybe more?  The first one that’ll hit the screen, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is based on Mitchell Zuckoff’s nonfiction book.  Trailer below.  The movie by Michael Bay, known for directing big-budget action films like  Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Transformers was filmed in Malta and Morocco and is set to hit theaters in January 2016. 

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Near, far, wherever you are, Benghazi will go on and on … oh, but do you want to buy a Benghazi thong?

USAID’s Arab Spring Challenges in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen: The State Department, It’s No.2 Challenge

Posted: 12:10 am EDT
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USAID’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a survey (pdf) to identify the challenges USAID faced during the early transition period (December 2010-June 2014) in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen. USAID/OIG identified and interviewed 31 key USAID officials from various parts of the organization who have worked on activities in these countries.It also administered a questionnaire to supplement the information gathered from the interviews. Together, 70 employees from USAID were either interviewed or responded to the questionnaire. It notes that the while the survey collected the perspectives of a number of USAID employees, it is not statistically representative of each office or USAID as a whole.

The highest addressee on this report is USAID/Middle East Bureau Assistant Administrator, Paige Alexander. It includes no State Department official nor congressional entities.

Below is an excerpt:

In 2013 OIG conducted a performance audit of USAID/Egypt’s economic growth project1 and found that the changes of the Arab Spring severely affected the project’s progress. Approximately midway through implementation, the project had not made significant progress in seven of the ten tasks in the original plan mainly because of changes in the Egyptian Government’s counterparts and priorities. To adapt to the environment, the project adjusted its plan and identified three new areas of work to focus on. In another audit that year,2 OIG found similar challenges at USAID/Yemen when one of that mission’s main projects had to adjust its approach after the Arab Spring started (page 16).

Beyond project delays, we found a host of other challenges common to all four countries that revolve around three broad categories:

  1. Security
  2. Increased influence from the State Department
  3. Host-countryreadiness

1. Security.

One of the most commonly cited challenges was the difficulty of operating in a volatile environment. Security dictated many aspects of USAID’s operations after the Arab Spring started, and it was not uncommon for activities to be delayed or cancelled because of security issues.
[…]
In addition to access, security also disrupted operations because employees were evacuated from the different countries. U.S. direct-hire employees at USAID/Egypt were evacuated twice in 3 years. In USAID/Yemen, employees were evacuated twice in 3 years for periods of up to 6 months.3 In our survey, 76 percent of the respondents agreed that evacuations made managing projects more difficult.
[…]
Because of the precarious security situations, strict limits were placed on the number of U.S. direct hires who were allowed to be in each country. Employees said the Agency did not have enough staff to support the number of activities. This problem was particularly pronounced in Tunisia and Libya, where for extended periods, USAID had only one permanent employee in each country

2. Increased Influence From State Department.

According to our survey results, the majority of respondents (87 percent) believed that since the Arab Spring the State Department has increased its influence over USAID programs (Figure 3). While USAID did not have activities in Libya and Tunisia before the Arab Spring, staff working in these countries afterward discussed situations in which the State Department had significant influence over USAID’s work. A respondent from Tunisia wrote, “Everything has been driven by an embassy that does not seem to feel USAID is anything other than an implementer of whatever they want to do.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 6.56.05 PM

While there is broad interagency guidance on State’s role in politically sensitive environments, the specifics of how USAID should adapt its operations were not entirely clear to Agency employees and presented a number of challenges to USAID’s operations. In Yemen, the department’s influence seemed to be less of an issue (page 17), but for the remaining countries, it was a major concern. As one survey respondent from Egypt wrote:

[State’s control] makes long-term planning incredibly difficult and severely constrains USAID’s ability to design and execute technically sound development projects. A path forward is agreed, steps taken to design activities and select implementation mechanisms, and then we are abruptly asked to change the approach.

State’s involvement introduced a new layer of review and slowed down operations. USAID employees needed to dedicate additional time to build consensus and gain approval from people outside the Agency.

USAID employees also described challenges occurring when State employees, unfamiliar with the Agency and its different types of procurement, made requests that were difficult to accommodate under USAID procedures. One respondent wrote that State “think[s] programs can be stopped and started at will and that we can intervene and direct partners in a manner that goes far beyond the substantial involvement we are allowed as project managers.”

Beyond operational challenges, many people we interviewed expressed frustration over the State Department’s increased role, particularly when State’s direction diverted USAID programming from planned development priorities and goals. This was an especially contentious issue at USAID/Egypt (page 7).

This difference in perspectives caused some to question State’s expertise in development assistance, particularly in transitional situations. A USAID official explained that countries in turmoil presented unique challenges and dynamics, and embassies may not have experts in this area. Others said USAID was taking direction from State advisers who were often political appointees without backgrounds in development.
[…]
State was not the sole source of pressure; employees said other federal entities such as the National Security Council and even the White House had increased their scrutiny of USAID since the start of the Arab Spring. As a result, mission officials had to deal with new levels of bureaucracy and were responding constantly to different requests and demands from outside the Agency.

3. Host-Country Readiness.

In each of the four countries, employees reported problems stemming from award recipients’ ability to implement assistance programs. According to one employee, local capacity in Libya was a major problem because the country did not have a strong workforce. Moreover, local implementers had not developed the necessary technical capacity because development assistance was not a priority in Libya under Muammar Qadhafi’s closed, oil-rich regime. Activities in Tunisia and Yemen encountered similar issues because neither have had long histories of receiving foreign development assistance. In Egypt, employees reported that some of the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working on the mission’s democracy and governance program also lacked sufficient capacity.

On Egypt:  More than 85 percent of the employees surveyed who worked on activities related to USAID/Egypt agreed that the State Department had increased its influence over USAID programs since the start of the Arab Spring (Figure 5). A number of respondents said State steered Agency programs to address political rather than development needs. This dynamic had a profound effect on the mission’s ability to follow USAID’s guidance on designing and implementing developmentally sound projects. […] Some mission officials questioned the value of adhering to USAID’s project design procedures when the State Department had already decided a project’s fate. […] In this example, State’s desire to award education scholarships to women in Egypt was difficult to justify because university enrollment data showed that higher education enrollment and graduation rates for women are slightly higher than for men.  […] With so many differing voices and perspectives, USAID employees said they were not getting clear, consistent guidance. They described the situation as having “too many cooks in the kitchen.” One survey respondent wrote:

State (or White House) has had a very difficult time making decisions on USAID programming for Egypt . . . so USAID has been paralyzed and sent through twists and turns. State/White House difficulties in decisions may be expected given the fluid situation, but there has been excessive indecision, and mixed signals to USAID.

On Tunisia: The State Department placed strict restrictions on the number of USAID employees allowed to be in-country. As a result, most Agency activities were managed from Washington, D.C. … [O]ne survey respondent wrote, “I have been working on Tunisia for nearly 3 years now, and have designed programs to be carried out there, but I’ve never been. I don’t feel like I have been able to do my job to the best of my ability without that understanding of the situation on the ground.”

On Libya: The attacks in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, had a profound impact on USAID operations in Libya. According to one interviewee, after the attacks USAID did not want to attract too much political attention and put a number of Agency activities in Libya on hold. The period of inactivity lasted from September 2012 to September 2013. It was not until October 2013, after Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was abducted, that the U.S. Government refocused attention on Libya and funding for activities picked up again.

Before the attacks, USAID had five employees in the country; afterward, only one was allowed to remain. Although his main priority then was to manage USAID/OTI projects in Libya, he also was asked to oversee four to five additional activities managed out of Washington—a stretch for any employee. As one survey respondent wrote, “The lack of people in the field in Libya (small footprint) means that DC overwhelms the field. People in the field are worked ragged.”

On Yemen: USAID/Yemen did not suffer from the challenges of unclear strategy that other USAID missions did in the region; 70 percent of respondents who worked on activities in Yemen believed that the Agency had a clear strategy for its post-Arab Spring activities (Figure 12). This is a stark contrast to responses related to USAID/Egypt, where only 22 percent believed that USAID had a clear strategy. …[O]ur survey also found a strong working relationship between USAID/Yemen and the State Department; the two often agreed on what needed to be done. […] Some respondents said the collaborative atmosphere was due to individual personalities and strong working relationships between USAID and State officials. One employee said because employees of both organizations lived and worked together in the close quarters, communication flowed freely as perspectives could be exchanged easily. …[O]ne senior USAID/Yemen official said, some of what needed to be done was so obvious that it was difficult for the two agencies not to agree.

Lessons Learned

The report offers 15 lessons learned including the development of a USAID transition plan at the country level, even if it may change. USAID/OIG says that by having a short-term transition plan, the Agency “would have a better platform to articulate its strategy, particularly when it disagrees with the decisions of other federal entities.”It also lists the following:

  • Resist the urge to implement large development projects that require the support of host governments immediately after a transition.
  • Prepare mission-level plans with Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs)—locally hired USAID employees who are not U.S. citizens—in case U.S. direct hires are evacuated. Evacuation of U.S. staff can be abrupt with only a few hours’ notice. People we interviewed recommended that U.S. staff develop plans with the mission’s FSN staff ahead of time, outlining roles, responsibilities, and modes of operation to prevent a standstill in operations in the event of an evacuation.
  • Get things in writing. When working in environments where USAID is getting input and instructions from organizations that are not familiar with Agency procedures, decisions made outside of USAID may be documented poorly. In such circumstances, it is important to remember to get things in writing.
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Congressional Service Reports and Briefs — September 2014

— Domani Spero
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Note that most of the docs below via state.gov are in pdf format:

-09/25/14   The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy  [440 Kb]
-09/24/14   Japan – U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress  [716 Kb]
-09/24/14   The “Khorasan Group” in Syria – CRS Insights  [55 Kb]
-09/24/14   Unaccompanied Alien Children: Demographics in Brief  [307 Kb]
-09/22/14   Climate Summit 2014: Warm-Up for 2015 – CRS Insights  [60 Kb]
-09/19/14   American Foreign Fighters and the Islamic State: Broad Challenges for Federal Law Enforcement – CRS Insights  [57 Kb]
-09/18/14   Energy Policy: 113th Congress Issues  [242 Kb]
-09/18/14   Russia’s Compliance with the INF Treaty – CRS Insights  [55 Kb]
-09/17/14   Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance  [670 Kb]
-09/17/14   Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response  [880 Kb]
-09/16/14   Proposed Train and Equip Authorities for Syria: In Brief  [288 Kb]
-09/16/14   The U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA): Provisions and Implementation  [589 Kb]
-09/15/14   Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2014  [484 Kb]
-09/15/14   Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights  [499 Kb]
-09/15/14   Man Without a Country? Expatriation of U.S. Citizen “Foreign Fighters”  [58 Kb]
-09/12/14   Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs  [340 Kb]
-09/10/14   Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response  [647 Kb]
-09/10/14   Diplomatic and Embassy Security Funding Before and After the Benghazi Attacks [413 Kb]
-09/10/14   The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy  [562 Kb]
-09/10/14   U.S. Foreign Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: Recent Trends and FY2015 Appropriations  [368 Kb]
-09/09/14   Considerations for Possible Authorization for Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State – CRS Insights  [56 Kb]
-09/09/14   U.S. Military Action Against the Islamic State: Answers to Frequently Asked Legal Questions  [355 Kb]
-09/08/14   Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response  [633 Kb]
-09/08/14   Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy  [737 Kb]
-09/05/14   China’s Leaders Quash Hong Kong’s Hopes for Democratic Election Reforms – CRS Insights  [57 Kb]
-09/05/14   Defense Surplus Equipment Disposal, Including the Law Enforcement 1033 Program [272 Kb]
-09/05/14   Protection of Trade Secrets: Overview of Current Law and Legislation  [433 Kb]
-09/05/14   U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues  [512 Kb]
-09/04/14   Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy  [365 Kb]
-09/03/14   Pakistan Political Unrest: In Brief  [250 Kb]

 

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State Dept Seeks Security Protective Specialists: 45K+, Limited Non-Career Appointments

— Domani Spero
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Via usajobs.gov:

On October 6, the State Department opened the application period for Security Protective Specialists (SPS).

The Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) is seeking highly qualified and motivated men and women with extensive experience in protective security operations to serve in the Foreign Service at certain U.S. embassies, consulates and regional offices abroad.

This workforce will be deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and North and South Sudan and other high threat posts to supplement DS Special Agents in the supervision of contractor personnel and the provision of personal protection for Department employees. As members of a diplomatic team, Security Protective Specialists not only help to accomplish the mission of the Department of State, but also represent the United States to the people of other nations.

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All assignments will be at the needs of the service. After the initial tour, SPSs may be transferred to other high threat posts overseas for two consecutive 2-year tours of duty.

There is no provision for election of post of assignment.

A limited, non-career appointment to the Foreign Service involves uncommon commitments and occasional hardships along with unique rewards and opportunities. A decision to accept such an appointment must involve unusual motivation and a firm dedication to public service. The overseas posts to which SPSs will be assigned may expose the employee to harsh climates, health hazards, and other discomforts and where American-style amenities may be unavailable. Assignments to Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, are particularly challenging and may result in bodily injury and/or death. However, a limited appointment to the Foreign Service offers special rewards, including the pride and satisfaction of representing the United States and protecting U. S. interests at home and abroad.

Job Details:

Security Protective Specialists must perform duties in the field that are physically demanding. SPSs must be willing and able to meet these physical demands in high-stress, life and death situations. The SPS’s life and the lives of others may depend upon his/her physical capabilities and conditioning. Candidates must pass a thorough medical examination to include Supplemental Physical Qualification Standards. A qualified candidate may not have a medical condition which, particularly in light of the fact that medical treatment facilities may be lacking or nonexistent in certain overseas environments, would constitute a direct threat to the health or safety of the individual or others, or would prevent the individual from performing the duties of the job.

Security Protective Specialists are required to perform protective security assignments with physical demands that may include, but are not limited to, intermittent and prolonged periods of running, walking, standing, sitting, squatting, kneeling, climbing stairs, quickly entering and exiting various vehicles, enduring inclement weather which may include excessive heat, as well as carrying and using firearms.

Security Protective Specialists perform other functions that may require jumping, dodging, lying prone, as well as wrestling, restraining and subduing attackers, or detainees. SPSs must be able, if necessary, to conduct security inspections that may require crawling under vehicles and other low clearances or in tight spaces such as attics and crawl spaces.

Sometimes it may be necessary for a SPS to assist with installing or maintaining security countermeasures, which might involve lifting heavy objects and working on ladders or rooftops. SPSs must be skilled at driving and maneuvering a motor vehicle defensively or evasively in a variety of situations and at various speeds.

Security Protective Specialist candidates are expected to already possess many of the skills discussed in previous paragraphs but all will receive identical training to insure consistency. This training will include firearms training, defensive tactics, restraining an attacker and specialized driving techniques. SPS candidates must be able to participate in and complete all aspects of their training.

Candidates must be willing and able to travel extensively throughout the world. Traveling and assignments abroad may involve working in remote areas where traditional comforts and medical facilities are limited. SPSs may be required to travel to locations of civil unrest where conditions are potentially hostile and where performance of duties is conducted under hazardous circumstances.

No felony convictions:

Applicants for the Security Protective Specialist position must not have been convicted of any felony charge. In accordance with the Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act, a person convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence may not possess a firearm. Applicants must be able to certify that they have not been convicted of any such violation and that they are not otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms.

The job page includes a new section on reasonable accommodation (most probably steaming from the recent EEOC ruling):

The Department of State provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities. Applicants requiring reasonable accommodations for any part of the application or hiring process should so advise the Department at ReasonableAccommodations@state.gov within one week of receiving their invitation. Decisions for granting reasonable accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis.

Read the entire announcement here.

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State Department on PTSD Workers’ Comp Claims: How Well Is This Working?

— Domani Spero
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We received a note recently from a reader who is deeply concerned about his/her State Department friend diagnosed with PTSD from an assignment in a war-torncountry. The condition is allegedly aggravated by the lack of understanding on the part of the officer’s superiors who “pressured” the employee to return to another “very stressful/high pressure work duties.”

“My friend was not shot, raped, tortured or maimed by explosive devices. No single, well-defined, event happened. That said, s/he/it now lives a life far more constrained by physiological barriers due to time spent in dangerous climes.”

That got us looking at what resources are available to State Department employees suffering from PTSD.  We found the following information on state.gov.

Employees working in high threat environments such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen may develop symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of their performance of duty.

PTSD may be basis for a workers’ compensation claim under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). The FECA is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). If an OWCP claim is accepted, benefits may include payment of medical expenses and disability compensation for wage loss.

When an employee develops any mental health symptoms, including symptoms of PTSD, he/she is encouraged to make a confidential appointment with a counselor in the Office of Medical Services (MED)’s Employee Consultation Services (ECS) office. If the initial evaluation indicates symptoms suggestive of PTSD, ECS will refer the employee to MED’s Deployment Stress Management Program (DSMP) for further evaluation. A psychiatrist designated by DSMP will document the initial symptoms for the OWCP claim form (CA-2) and CA-20 (Attending Physician’s Statement). If the employee requires assistance in completing the OWCP claims package, HR’s Office of Casualty Assistance (OCA) will help the employee gather the required documentation, complete the necessary paperwork, and submit the claims package.

OWCP has advised the Department that PTSD claims will be handled expeditiously. PTSD claims from Department employees have been successfully adjudicated by OWCP in the past. The Office of Employee Relations (HR/ER) will remain the point of contact with OWCP. HR/ER will provide consultation, advice and guidance on the OWCP process and on issues regarding the employee’s use of leave (annual, sick, and use of FMLA), disability accommodation options, and benefits. HR/ER will manage the employee’s claim after OWCP receives it and continue in its liaison role with OWCP to meet the employee’s needs.

Some PTSD patients may require treatment by a specialist outside of the Department of State. For such cases, MED/DSMP may refer the employee to an outside provider. MED will cover the initial cost of treatment until OWCP accepts the claim, submitted by the employee through HR, and OWCP will reimburse MED once the claim is accepted. If OWCP does not accept the case as work-related, the employee should submit the medical bills to his/her insurance carrier to reimburse MED for the initial treatment costs. Subsequent treatment costs will be the responsibility of the employee’s health insurance provider.

Throughout this process, the Office of Casualty Assistance (OCA) will assist the employee and his/her family as they adjust to the employee’s medical condition and explore various options affecting their career with the Department. OCA’s role is to assist the employee with paperwork and coordinate with other Department offices as appropriate.

Workers’ Comp Resources: (* = Intranet Website)

DoL Workers’ Compensation Program Website
OWCP Forms: CA-2 CA-2a CA-20 (pdf)
DoL’s Publication CA-801

DoS Office of Casualty Assistance (OCA)* Tel: 202-736-4302
DoS Office of Employee Relations (HR/ER)*

Email: HRWorkersCompensation@state.gov

 

Frankly, the Office of Casualty Assistance (OCA) has not been terribly impressive. So we’d like to know how responsive is OCA at State when it comes to offering assistance to employees with PTSD who had to deal with worker’s comp?

And how well is DOL’s Workers’ Comp program working if you have PTSD?

We must add that while PTSD is typically associated with assignments to high threat environments such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen, Foreign Service employees and family members are assigned to over 280 posts around the world.  Some of these assignment are to war-torn countries in Africa that are not priority staffing posts like AIP or are in critical crime posts such as some cities in Mexico, the DRC, and several posts in the Western Hemisphere (looking at Honduras, Guate and El Salvador). Studies show that crime events are also associated with high rates of PTSD.   The focus on PTSD and employees in high threat environments in the state.gov information above excludes a long list of critical crime posts and appears to discount, by omission, crime-related PTSD and post-traumatic experience in posts not located in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen.

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Former State Dept DAS Raymond Maxwell Alleges Benghazi Document Scrub Pre-ARB Investigation

Domani Spero
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

Today via  Sharyl Attkisson of the Daily Signal:

As the House Select Committee on Benghazi prepares for its first hearing this week, a former State Department diplomat is coming forward with a startling allegation: Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to “separate” damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, the after-hours session took place over a weekend in a basement operations-type center at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C.
[…]
When he arrived, Maxwell says he observed boxes and stacks of documents. He says a State Department office director, whom Maxwell described as close to Clinton’s top advisers, was there. Though the office director technically worked for him, Maxwell says he wasn’t consulted about her weekend assignment.

“She told me, ‘Ray, we are to go through these stacks and pull out anything that might put anybody in the [Near Eastern Affairs] front office or the seventh floor in a bad light,’” says Maxwell. He says “seventh floor” was State Department shorthand for then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisors.

“I asked her, ‘But isn’t that unethical?’ She responded, ‘Ray, those are our orders.’ ”

Continue reading, Benghazi Bombshell: Clinton State Department Official Reveals Details of Alleged Document Review. 

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A quick note: We’ve previously written about Raymond Maxwell in this blog; the latest was this oneThe Cautionary Tale of Raymond Maxwell: When the Bureaucracy Bites, Who Gets The Blame?  Last year, we also posted, with his permission,  his poem “Invitation“ in this blog.  (see Raymond Maxwell: Former Deputy Asst Secretary Removed Over Benghazi Pens a Poem

In Ms. Attkisson’s report, Mr. Maxwell criticizes the ARB for failing to interview key people at the White House, State Department and the CIA, including Secretary Clinton.  We actually see no point in the ARB interviewing Secretary Clinton, given that she tasked the ARB to do the investigation and that the report is submitted to her. The regs as it exist right now does not even require that the Secretary submits the actual report to Congress, only that the Secretary of State “report to the Congress on any program recommendations and the actions taken on them.”

12 FAM 036.3: The Secretary will, not later than 90 days after the receipt of a Board’s program recommendations, submit a report to the Congress on each such recommendation and the action taken or intended to be taken with respect to that recommendation.

So we’re not hung up on the fact that she was not interviewed  But who gets the actual ARB report is probably one more thing that Congress really do need to fix in the regs.

Mr. Maxwell also named other officials who allegedly were never interviewed by the ARB: 1) Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, who managed department resources in Libya; 2) Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro; and 3) White House National Security Council Director for Libya Ben Fishman.

ARB Benghazi in its public report never identified all the people it interviewed in the conduct of its investigation. ABB Kenya/Tanzania did that and the list is online.   We still cannot understand why those names in the Benghazi investigation are not public. What kind of accountability is it when we can’t even tell who the ARB investigators talked to? Redact the names of the CIA people if needed, but the names of those interviewed should be public unless there is a compelling security reason not to do so. There is an opportunity here for the State Department to declassify that part of ARB Benghazi’s report.

At the heart of this latest bombshell on Benghazi is that the weekend document session, according to Mr. Maxwell, was reportedly held “in the basement of the State Department’s Foggy Bottom headquarters in a room underneath the “jogger’s entrance.”

This would be the 21st Street entrance; and the room is underneath the jogger’s entrance [insert room number for prospective Foggy Bottom visitors].  We understand that FOIA has had offices there in the past but that most of the FOIA offices moved to SA-2.  Apparently, the only office the A organization chart shows to be in the Harry S. Truman basement are B2A61 the Facilities Managment Office and B258 the Office of General Services Management.  But which office is called the Emergency Management Operations Center?  Some media sites are already calling this the “boiler room operation.”

We have generally been disappointed with the Benghazi investigations.  The fact that it has become a political football to throw back and forth with all the offense and defense attendant of the game makes us cringe; even more so, every “new” book  or revelation gave us a sad.

But we think this one is a most serious allegation and cannot be swatted away by a  State Department spokesman simply calling the implication that documents were withheld “totally without merit.”  A State Department spokesman also told Ms. Attkisson that “it would have been impossible for anybody outside the Accountability Review Board (ARB) to control the flow of information because the board cultivated so many sources.” So, hypothetically, if folks scrubbed through the documents as alleged, then an instruction went down to IT to removed those docs from the system — that could not really happen, could it?

If this is not true, if no document scrub happened in the basement of the State Department as alleged by a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, then we’d like the agency spokesman to say so clearly and call out Mr. Maxwell on this.   Security access records should also indicate if these five individuals were at the State Department that weekend, when this alleged “review” took place.

So, let’s hear it people. But. Without the word salad, please.

In any case, now that this allegation is out in the open, the individuals named or positions cited in the Attkisson report are presumably candidates for an appearance before the Benghazi Select Committee:

1)  two officials, close confidants of Secretary Clinton (Congressman Chaffetz said that he was told then-Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan were there and overseeing the operation)

2) one office director (??? from NEA bureau)

3) one intern (??? about to become the second most famous intern in Wash, D.C.)

4) State Department ombudsman (Office of the Ombudsman – Ombudsman Shireen Dodson)

One entity not included in the report but potentially a candidate for an appearance in the Select Committee is the Office of the Inspector General. In September 2013, State/OIG under the then acting OIG issued a report on the “process by which Accountability Review Boards (ARB/Board) are established, staffed, supported, and conducted as well as the measures to track implementation of ARB recommendations.”

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Dawn of Libya militia holds pool party at U.S. Embassy Libya Annex; they’ll cut the grass, too?

— Domani Spero
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

Updated on 8/31/14 at 2302 PST:  AP and Reuters have an update on this here including additional photos of the rooms in the annex that appear to be in the condition they were left behind; the pantry appears to still have food items, the kitchen and gym did not look looted and the compound did not show signs of the reported “storming.”

Updated on 9/1/14 at 9:26pm PST: ABC News has additional photos of the annex here. Plus this: “Another commander said the group had asked cleaners to come spruce up the grounds and that U.S. staff were welcome to reside in the embassy while it was under Dawn of Libya control.”

* * *

A commander of the Dawn of Libya militia, an Islamist-allied group in control of Tripoli has told an AP reporter that it has “secured” a U.S. Embassy residential compound in the capital city.  The AP report says that a walk-through in the compound shows some broken windows, but that “it appeared most of the equipment there remained untouched. The journalist saw treadmills, food, televisions and computers still inside.”

On July 26, the State Department suspended all embassy operations in Libya and evacuated all its staff overland to Tunisia (see State Dept Suspends All Embassy Operations in Libya, Relocates Staff Under Armed Escorts).  The U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones is currently based at the U.S. Embassy in Malta.

 

Meanwhile, at the pool party at Embassy Tripoli’s compound residential annex:

 

And because Ambassador Jones is now reachable via Twitter, she was asked about it:

 

We don’t know what that means.  Who told these guys to “safeguard” a U.S. diplomatic property?  Did they bring their own whiskey to the pool party?

The good news is —  the Dawn of Libya militia apparently wrestled the compound from a rivaled militia and neither group set the compound on fire.  The bad news is “securing” the compound was apparently done to avenge U.S. airstrikes. If true, just “securing” the compound, a sip of whiskey and having a dip in the pool may not be enough.

The other good news , of course, if the U.S. needs to, DOD knows where  exactly to send its Predator drones and Navy F-18 fighter jets.

Not that we want the Pentagon to do that for many reasons.  Perhaps the uninvited guests can be persuaded to cut the grass, too, while they’re there?

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Congressional Research Service Reports (CRS) and Briefs – Published July 2014

— Domani Spero
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

In FY2012, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) had an appropriation of $106.79 million available for expenditure.  U.S. taxpayers fund the CRS, a “think tank” that provides reports and briefs to members of Congress on a variety of topics. However,there is no easily accessible depository for all these reports and U.S. citizens who want them have to request the reports from their member of congress.

On its annual report for FY2012, CRS indicated that it prepared 534 new reports, and 2,702 report updates.  Some CRS reports are available through the Federation of American Scientists, the University of North Texas, and Open CRS. Also check out CRS on Open Congress; it includes links on the discussion of direct public access of these CRS reports. The reports made publicly available through the State Department are available below. We will routinely republish them here. Note that some documents are web-accessible but most are in pdf formats.

 

Subject CRS Reports – July 2014
Afghanistan -07/28/14   Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance  [674 Kb]

-07/11/14   Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy  [1068 Kb]

Africa -07/24/14   African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA): Background and Reauthorization  [444 Kb]

-07/23/14   U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit: Frequently Asked Questions and Background  [571 Kb]

Arctic -07/02/14   Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress  [1469 Kb]
China -07/29/14   U.S. – China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress  [846 Kb]

-07/15/14   China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities – Background and Issues for Congress  [4546 Kb]

-07/10/14   China – U.S. Trade Issues  [581 Kb]

– 07/09/14   China’s Economic Rise: History, Trends, Challenges, and Implications for the United States  [644 Kb]

Gaza/Palestinians -07/03/14   U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians  [451 Kb]

-07/18/14   Israel and Hamas: Another Round of Conflict – CRS Insights  [288 Kb]

Israel -07/22/14   Israel: Background and U.S. Relations  [1264 Kb]

-07/18/14   Israel and Hamas: Another Round of Conflict – CRS Insights  [288 Kb]

Iran -07/25/14   Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses  [827 Kb]
Iraq -07/24/14   Conflict in Syria and Iraq: Implications for Religious Minorities – CRS Insights  [62 Kb]

-07/15/14   The Kurds and Possible Iraqi Kurdish Independence – CRS Insights  [170 Kb]

-07/15/14   Use of Force Considerations in Iraq – CRS Insights  [59 Kb]

-07/03/14   Iraq Crisis and U.S. Policy  [762 Kb] -07/02/14   Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights  [495 Kb]

Libya -07/28/14   Responding to Libya’s Political and Security Crises: Policy Choices for the United States – CRS Insights  [62 Kb]
Mexico -07/01/14   U.S.-Mexico Economic Relations: Trends, Issues, and Implications  [498 Kb]
Russia 07/29/14   U.S. – Russia Economic Relations – CRS Insights  [125 Kb]

-07/28/14   Russia Sanctions: Options – CRS Insights  [60 Kb]

-07/18/14   U.S. Sanctions on Russia in Response to Events in Ukraine – CRS Insights  [60 Kb]

Syria -07/24/14   Conflict in Syria and Iraq: Implications for Religious Minorities – CRS Insights  [62 Kb]
Ukraine -07/18/14   U.S. Sanctions on Russia in Response to Events in Ukraine – CRS Insights  [60 Kb]

-07/08/14   Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy  [367 Kb]

Arms Control -07/21/14   Arms Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and Agreements  [661 Kb]
Economy -07/25/14   Stealing Trade Secrets and Economic Espionage: An Abridged Overview of 18 U.S.C. 1831 and 1832  [231 Kb]

-07/17/14   International Monetary Fund: Background and Issues for Congress  [523 Kb]

-07/01/14   Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve: Current Policy and Conditions  [339 Kb]

Elections -07/24/14   The 2014 European Parliament Elections: Outcomes and Implications – CRS Insights  [62 Kb]

-07/14/14   Membership of the 113th Congress: A Profile  [286 Kb]

-07/01/14   The Voting Rights Act of 1965: Background and Overview  [398 Kb]

Immigration -07/28/14   Unaccompanied Alien Children: An Overview  [338 Kb]

-07/18/14   Unaccompanied Alien Children – Legal Issues: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions  [407 Kb]

-07/16/14   Unaccompanied Alien Children: A Processing Flow Chart – CRS Insights  [207 Kb]

-07/03/14   Unaccompanied Alien Children: Potential Factors Contributing to Recent Immigration  [501 Kb]

Missile Attack -07/28/14   Possible Missile Attack on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 – CRS Insights  [61 Kb]

-07/28/14   Protecting Civilian Flights from Missiles – CRS Insights  [61 Kb]

Technology -07/23/14   Deploying 5G (Fifth Generation) Wireless Technology: Is the United States on Track?  [58 Kb]

-07/02/14   Access to Broadband Networks: The Net Neutrality Debate  [332 Kb]

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