Is @StateDept Actively Discouraging US Embassies From Requesting Mandatory Evacuations For Staff? #CentralAsia? #Worldwide?

Updated: March 24, 12:54 am PDT

Updated: March 24, 2020 10:47 pm PDT

Updated March 26, 12:07 am PDT

SSDO Special Briefing, March 24, 2020

QUESTION:  [… ] And then secondly, I’m sure you’ve seen these reports that there are numerous embassies, or at least several embassies, where people are basically clamoring for order departure status, and that they are being discouraged from that.  Can you address that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Oh, no.  All help is appreciated.  On the second part of your question, Matt, so our embassies overseas have their emergency teams meet regularly to discuss the situation at post, and they have a process and procedure in place where they can really evaluate the transportation system, the healthcare system, and not just the status of COVID in the country.  And when they reach a certain point where they feel like, okay, maybe time to request authorized ordered departure, they submit a request to the undersecretary of management, and those are coming in regularly, and the undersecretary reviews them and then makes decisions on what to approve.  At this point, I think one of the biggest issues is the travel restrictions that countries are instituting around the world.

MODERATOR ONE:  If I could just add on to that, those decisions are made against a robust set of criteria and decisions made based to – based on a consistent set of principles, all which are geared towards maximizing the safety for our employees.

On March 19, we received an email from a post in Central Asia with the subject line: “Abandoned in Central Asia.” We learned that “after weeks of internal debate with Main State” authorized (voluntary) departure was finally approved for their Embassy on March 17. Apparently, last week, the Embassy’s Emergency Action Committee (EAC) also agreed that it was time to go OD”, that is, go on ordered departure, a mandatory evacuation from post except for emergency staffers. Note that the OD was not for suspension of operations.

Ordered Departures: Talking Ambassadors “out of it”

Sender A said that the Embassy’s EAC recommended “OD on Wednesday (March 18)” and then something happened. The South Central Asia (SCA) top bureau official reportedly “talked the AMB out of it.”  As to the rationale for this development, we were told that embassy employees were not informed. 
“We just know that on Sunday [March 15] EACs at two posts said they wanted OD” and by Monday, March 16, the respective chiefs of mission “had refused based on input” from the top bureau official, according to Sender A. 
So curious minds would like to know if these OD requests have actually been refused or if ambassadors were under pressure not to formally request it so the bureau will not have to refuse it in writing? Anyone know?
The frustrated employee writes: U.S. diplomats are now stuck in countries where U.S. citizens are specifically advised not to use local medical facilities and the Embassies only have small medical units for minor issues. Even if they’re needed, there are zero local hospital beds available. Best case, it sounds like multiple OIG complaints waiting to happen. But when did the administration’s image at home become more important than people’s lives? How much Swagger will SecState have when his people start dying?”

A Snapshot on Medical Facilities

We thought we’d checked the information on medical facilities for several countries in the region. For example, Turkmenistan is a Level 3 Reconsider Travel country. The State Department’s Travel Advisory says:
Medical protocols in Turkmenistan are not consistent with U.S. standards and some travelers have been required to undergo medical testing unrelated to COVID-19 including but not limited to HIV testing.  Consider declining any medical procedures including testing unrelated to COVID-19. Due to the possibility of quarantine of unknown length, carry additional supplies of necessary medication in carry-on luggage.”
According to Diplomatic Security’s 2020 Crime and Safety Report on Uzbekistan:
The country’s “health care system is not adequate to meet the needs of many serious emergencies. There is a lack of basic supplies and limited modern equipment. Emergency medicine is very basic. Some medication sold in local pharmacies may be counterfeit. Elderly travelers and those with pre-existing health problems may be at particular risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Most resident U.S. citizens travel to North America or Western Europe for their medical needs.”
Tajikistan’s “inadequate public healthcare infrastructure has given rise to private medical facilities offering varying degrees of quality care in some specialties. Also:
“Medical first responders (ambulance crews) do not meet Western standards, and are not widely available, likely poorly equipped, and often poorly trained.”
On Kyrgyzstan: Medical care is often inadequate in the country.
 “There is a shortage of basic medical supplies. Health care resources are limited and often below U.S. standards. Doctors and medical industry staff rarely speak English, and prices for treatment are not fixed. Use a translator or Russian/Kyrgyz speaking friend or family member to assist with medical treatment. U.S. citizens often travel outside of Kyrgyzstan for medical treatment, including most routine procedures.”
In Kazakhstan, medical care options are limited and well below U.S. standards.
“U.S. citizens often depart Kazakhstan for medical treatment, including many routine procedures. Serious long-term care is not a viable option in Nur-Sultan.”

An Ambassador’s Town Hall Meeting

Last Friday, a U.S. Ambassador at a post in South Central Asia held a town hall for embassy employees; held outdoors on the steps of the Embassy, we were told. 
The U.S. Ambassador, citing what he was told by the top SCA bureau official, informed embassy employees the following (provided to us in direct quotes by Sender A):
  • “Ambassador, you need to understand the United States is the red zone, it is not the safe haven that you think it is.”
  • “The U.S. has the highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita in the world.”
  • “It has not peaked in the United States, incidents are rising rapidly, it is out of control.”
  • “The ability to get a test for COVID-19 even with symptoms or comorbidities is extremely difficult.”
  • “The healthcare infrastructure of the United States is not capable of helping.”
This ambassador reportedly further told embassy employees that “500,000 Americans are overseas seeking assistance for getting home.” And that “We are taking down the American economy to fight this enemy.”

(March 25 Special Briefing with CA PDAS Ian Brownlee: “Our posts around the world have received requests for assistance with getting back to the United States from over 50,000 U.S. citizens and we’re committed to bring home as many Americans as we possibly can.”  Wowow!

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@StateDept to Outsource Embassy Life Support, Logistics, Maintenance Services Thru DiPSS

Posted: 3:33 am ET
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It’s called the Diplomatic Platform Support Services (DiPSS).  On January 10, the State Department’s Office of Acquisition Management (AQM) published a notice for the combined synopsis and solicitation for Diplomatic Platform Support Services. The special focus is on the Middle East and South Central Asia regions but the contract also aims to provide “flexibility to support DoS posts and other U.S. Government activities operating throughout the world.”

The contract requires the Contractor to “support DoS activities and programs that may require DiPSS services in locations outside of the physical boundaries of Embassies and Consulates.”  The types of projects under this contract may include, but are not limited to: “food service, maintenance/repair of facilities, full spectrum operations of man camps, sewage and plumbing operations of facilities, leasing properties, refurbishing properties to include upgrading to meet high security requirements, laboratories, dining facilities and related structures, travel services for personnel, to include medical, limited security as deemed necessary by DoS, and insurance.”

Note that the State Department has already done this to our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But it looks like DiPSS could be anywhere in the world as the requirement is for operation & maintenance services at various government installations located “in any country where the U.S. Department of State has a presence.”

 

On April 23, the State Department extended the date for submission of offers from May 5, 2017 to June 15, 2017.

Below is the announcement:

The solicitation may result in multiple awards of an Indefinite Delivery-Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) type contract in the third quarter of fiscal year 2017. Task orders will be awarded as any type of cost arrangement authorized under FAR Part 16 as appropriate.

The scope of work requires the Contractor to provide Program Management, Procurement of Critical Items, Life Support Services, Logistics Services, Operation and Maintenance Services, Construction and Renovation Projects to U.S. Department of State facilities, and other U.S. Government facilities overseas. The work to be acquired under this solicitation is for logistical service, life & mission support services, and all other operation & maintenance services at various government installations located in any country where the U.S. Department of State has a presence, with a focus on high threat contingency environments. Types of projects may include, but are not limited to: food service, maintenance/repair of facilities, full spectrum operations of man camps, sewage and plumbing operations of facilities, leasing properties, refurbishing properties to include upgrading to meet high security requirements, laboratories, dining facilities and related structures, travel services for personnel, to include insurance.

This acquisition is set aside for small business. The NAICS number applicable to this solicitation is 561210. The Small Business Administration small business size standard is $38.5 million.

The basic contract period of performance will be for 12 months. Each contract contains nine (9) 12-month options for a maximum period of performance of ten years for each contract. The estimated maximum dollar value for all contracts combined, including the base year and all options, is $5,000,000,000. The estimated maximum value may be divided up among contract awardees. The minimum guarantee for a contract is $10,000, which will be paid during the performance period of the contract. Contractors are not guaranteed work in excess of the minimum guarantee.

The Contracting Officer or his properly authorized representative, who will issue written task orders to the contractors, will determine the actual amount of work to be performed and the time of such performance. The only work authorized under the contract is work ordered by the Government through issuance of a task order. The Government makes no representation as to the number of task orders or actual amount of work to be ordered. Each task order issued under an IDIQ contract may have a performance period of up to five years. Task orders will range between $5,000,000 dollars and $50,000,000 dollars on average with the ability to be awarded for as low as $25,000 Task orders may fall below or above this limit; however, contractors are not obligated to accept such task orders under the general terms of the contract.

Overview:

The U.S. Department of State (“DoS,” “State,” or “the Department”) require Diplomatic Platform Support Services (DiPSS) to provide a full range of services for Life Support Services, Logistics Services (LSS&L), and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) services to DoS and other U.S. Government agencies under Chief of Mission Authority and, under special circumstances, non-Chief of Mission activities across the globe. DoS anticipate a large portion of the contract work will focus on locations in the Middle East and South Central Asia contingency environments; however, DiPSS will be available to other Bureaus, Posts, Missions, and potentially agencies operating in other areas.

Minimum and maximum quantities:

The Government, through issuance of Task Order(s) or otherwise, shall pay a one-time minimum of $10,000.00 (inclusive of all direct costs, indirect costs, and profit/fee) within the contract’s period of performance (base period of one year plus nine option periods consisting of one year each).

The combined maximum quantity for the all contracts’ over the potential ten year period of performance (base period of one year plus nine option periods consisting of one year each) shall be any quantity or combination of supplies and services not exceeding $5,000,000,000.00 (inclusive of all direct costs, indirect costs, and profit/fee).

Background:

The DoS operates approximately 250 posts worldwide at any given time; this number changes as global situations dictate. […] Some posts are located in areas that are considered to have a high threat level; including areas with Department of Defense designated contingency operations.

Over the last five years, the AQM awarded 29 acquisition instruments (contracts, purchase orders, blanket purchase agreements, etc.) for Life Support Services & Logistics (LSS&L) and Operations & Maintenance (O&M) services in Middle East and South Central Asia. Several of the acquisition instruments have been relatively narrowly scoped, country or post-specific contracts.
[…]
The DiPSS contract will create opportunities for DoS to augment U.S. Government staff in situations overseas where demand for services exceeds U.S. Mission capacity to support, as well as capture significant savings; achieve economies of scale and promote efficiencies in back-office operations.

The objectives for the DiPSS contract include:

  1. Acquire LSS&L and O&M service and performance outcomes under broad global contracts supporting diplomatic platforms, with a special focus on the Middle East and South Central Asia regions but provide flexibility to support DoS posts and other U.S. Government activities operating throughout the world.
  2. Remove duplicative and unnecessary variations in U.S. Government requirements and inefficient processes to realize cost savings.
  3. Develop a group of highly reliable LSS&L and O&M Contractors, capable of supporting current and future needs of DoS and U.S. Government agencies and offices overseas.

Scope:

The Contractor shall provide the services identified in section C.2 for DoS and/or other U. S. Government agencies operating from diplomatic platforms falling under Chief of Mission (COM) authority or other U.S. Government facilities, as authorized by the DoS. The Contractor must support DoS activities and programs that may require DiPSS services in locations outside of the physical boundaries of Embassies and Consulates.

The Contractor must provide all personnel, equipment, tools, materials, supplies, transportation, supervision, and other services necessary to accomplish the requirements of this IDIQ contract and requirements of Task Orders awarded under this contract.

The work to be acquired under this DIPSS contract is for logistical service, life & mission support services, and all other operation & maintenance services at various government installations located in any country where the U.S. Department of State has a presence, with a focus on high threat contingency environments. Types of projects may include, but are not limited to: food service, maintenance/repair of facilities, full spectrum operations of man camps, sewage and plumbing operations of facilities, leasing properties, refurbishing properties to include upgrading to meet high security requirements, laboratories, dining facilities and related structures, travel services for personnel, to include medical, limited security as deemed necessary by DoS, and insurance.

Here is an item on Safeguarding Information:

The Contractor and its employees shall exercise the utmost discretion in regard to all matters relating to their duties and functions. They shall not communicate to any person any information known to them by reason of their performance of services under this contract which has not been made public, except in the necessary performance of their duties or upon written authorization of the Contracting Officer. All documents and records (including photographs) generated during the performance of work under this contract shall be for the sole use of and become the exclusive property of the U.S. Government. Furthermore, no article, book, pamphlet, recording, broadcast, speech, television appearance, film or photograph concerning any aspect of work performed un- der this contract shall be published or disseminated through any media without the prior written authorization of the Contracting Officer. These obligations do not cease upon the expiration or termination of this contract. The Contractor shall include the substance of this provision in all contracts of employment and in all subcontracts hereunder.

On Recruitment of Third Country Nationals:

On contracts exceeding $150,000 where performance will require the recruitment of non-professional third country nationals, the offeror is required to submit a Recruitment Plan as part of the proposal.

 

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Political Violence Against Americans in 2015: Highest in Near East Asia, Lowest in the Western Hemisphere

Posted: 1:55 am ET
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The Political Violence Against Americans publication is produced annually by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Directorate of Threat Investigations and Analysis (DS/TIA) to provide a comprehensive picture of the spectrum of politically motivated threats and violence that American citizens and interests encounter worldwide. This report includes incidents of violence involving U.S. citizens and facilities with the exception of incidents against American military personnel serving in combat positions.

Of the 61 incidents that involved U.S. citizens and interests, 19 are believed to have resulted from intentionally targeting Americans while 42 are incidents where Americans or American interests were not targeted due to nationality.

The highest targets occurred in Near East Asia (NEA), followed by Africa (AF), and South Central Asia (SCA). In NEA, the most number of attacks were directed at private U.S. entities; in AF, the most number of attacks were directed at U.S. Government (USG) entities while in SCA, they were directed at the U.S. military.  The top three most common types of attack are 1) “armed attacks” followed by 2) “stray round,” and 3) “bomb” tied with “attack with vehicle.”

The region with the lowest number of attacks is the Western Hemisphere (WHA) with one incident of vandalism directed at the USG. The second region with the lowest number of attacks is East Asia Pacific (EAP) with three incidents (attempted murder, bomb, violent demonstration) all directed at the USG.

Via state.gov/ds

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