Deputy SecState for Management & Resources Nominee Heather A. Higginbottom’s Top Priorities

— Domani Spero

From 2009-2010, Jacob J. Lew was the State Department’s Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and oversaw the civilian surge in Afghanistan. From 2011-2013, Thomas R. Nides was D/MR and delivered State’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).  Most recently, President Obama announced the nomination of Heather Higginbottom, the new Counselor in the Office of the Secretary of State to be the third Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.

Today, Ms. Higginbottom went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) for her confirmation hearing. She indicated in her written statement that she will oversee the second Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), “which will identify important policy shifts, areas for innovation, and management reforms required to address the challenges that we face today and in the future.” If confirmed, she also promised to “bring new focus to innovation at the State Department and USAID. Innovation in what we do, as well as the way we work, is critical to deliver on our foreign policy and development priorities.”

Below is a list of Ms. Higginbottom’s top priorities for the State Department (extracted from prepared statement):

  • First, my top priority will be ensuring that our people and posts are safe and secure. President Obama has made it clear that we need our diplomats fully engaged wherever our vital national interests are at stake – from Colombia to Indonesia, and Kenya to Yemen.   That is why, if confirmed, I will work to make certain that our processes, organization, and culture keep pace with the rapidly evolving threats facing our diplomats and development professionals.
  • Second, if confirmed, I will work to better prioritize the resources and programs of State and USAID. I will see to it that our limited resources are going where we need them most and being used responsibly and effectively.  This is especially important as we continue our efforts to right-size our presence and engagement in key places like Afghanistan and Iraq. In particular, I will work to align resources with policy as we carry out the planned transition in Afghanistan.
  • My third area of focus will be management, reform, and innovation. We must do a better job of aligning our planning, budget, and management functions with our foreign policy and national security priorities.  I will also work to ensure that the remarkable men and women at State and USAID have the training, tools and skills they need to succeed.
  • My fourth area of focus will be better targeting and coordinating our development efforts. These investments aren’t just the right thing to do – they are also the smart thing to do, because helping to promote stability and creating opportunities for future trade and shared growth is in America’s interest.  I will make certain that our key development initiatives like global health and food security deliver results and are sustainable. We must align our business model and investments to have maximum impact.
  • Finally, if confirmed, I will build on the great work that has been done to strengthen the State Department’s economic impact. At his own confirmation hearing earlier this year, Secretary Kerry said that today “foreign policy is economic policy.” More than ever, our prosperity at home depends on our engagement abroad – opening markets, expanding exports, and attracting foreign investment. If confirmed, I will work to help our embassies and consulates abroad do even more to fight for American companies and promote foreign investment that leads to jobs and opportunity here at home.

Read her full statement here.

👀

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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State/OIG Releases Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process

— By Domani Spero

The State Department’s Office of the Inspector General released its Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process.  [See Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process (ISP-I-13-44A)  [491 Kb]  Posted on September 25, 2013].  The inspection took place in Washington, DC, between April 15 and August 13, 2013. The names of the inspectors have been redacted per [FOIA Exemption (b) (6)]  which “exempts from disclosure records or information which if disclosed would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” (Argh!!!)

The OIG report in short form says “The Accountability Review Board process operates as intended—independently and without bias—to identify vulnerabilities in the Department of State’s security programs.”

Among its key judgments are 1) the implementation of Accountability Review Board recommendations works best when the Secretary of State and other Department of State principals take full ownership and oversight of the implementation process; 2) per Benghazi ARB recommendation to enable future Boards to recommend that the Department of State take disciplinary action in cases of unsatisfactory leadership performance related to a security incident, State “plans to revise the Foreign Affairs Manual and request that Congress amend the applicable statute to incorporate this change.”

According to the report, the OIG team interviewed the four secretaries who held office between 1998 and 2012. “All stated that the ARB process was an effective tool that could provide the Department with important lessons for enhancing the security and safety of U.S. diplomatic facilities and employees. The interviews revealed that the secretaries had engaged actively in the ARB process and had taken the ARB and the resulting recommendations with utmost seriousness.”

The report does not include the names of the interviewees but the four SecState would have been Madeleine Albright (1997-2001), Colin Powell (2001-2005), Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009), and Hillary Rodham Clinton (2009-2013)

The very same report notes that the “OIG team was not able to identify an institutionalized process by which the Secretary or Deputy Secretary engaged beyond the drafting and submission of the Secretary’s legislated report to Congress.”

Two former secretaries “raised questions as to whether the process is sufficiently robust for handling investigations of major, complex incidents, especially those in which the interests and actions of several agencies were involved.”

The report further noted that all four former secretaries described the inherent tug of war between risks and rewards as the Department conducts its business in dangerous places around the world:

Typically, the strong preference among those responsible for advancing U.S. policy objectives is to keep posts open whenever possible, even in dangerous places, while those officials responsible for security give priority to the risks and the possibilities for harm. Within the Department, these sometimes contradictory positions tend to be represented respectively by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and the Under Secretary of State for Management. For that reason, two former secretaries were strongly of the view that responsibility for reconciling these perspectives should be vested at the deputy secretary level. Indeed, one former Secretary told the OIG team that this concern was at the heart of the original proposal to create a second deputy secretary position, one that would have as a principal responsibility overseeing and reconciling these competing interests of policy and security on a daily basis.

The second deputy secretary position was first filled in 2009 during Secretary Clinton’s tenure.  The State Department describes the position as the Chief Operating Officer of the Department, but the official title is Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (D/MR).   The position “serves as principal adviser to the Secretary on overall supervision and direction of resource allocation and management activities of the Department.” The job summary posted online makes no special mention of this position as the arbiter when the competing interests between policy and security comes to the fore.

From 2009-2010, Jacob J. Lew was D/MR and oversaw the civilian surge in Afghanistan. From 2011-2013, Thomas R. Nides was D/MR and delivered State’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).  Most recently, President Obama announced the nomination of Heather Higginbottom, the new Counselor in the Office of the Secretary of State to be the third Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.

We hope to do a follow-up post on the ARB Permanent Coordinating Committee and how come no ARB was convened following the attack at the US Embassy in Tunis in September 2012 despite “significant destruction of property.”

 (O_O)

House Oversight Committee Subpoenas Benghazi-Related Documents To/From Ten State Dept Officials

On May 28, 2013, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced the issuance of a subpoena for  “documents and communications referring or relating to the Benghazi talking points” from ten current and former State Department officials.

Ah, yes – the irresistible talking points.

The letter and subpoena sets a deadline of Friday, June 7, 2013, for Secretary Kerry to provide all documents and communications referring or relating to the Benghazi talking points, to or from the following current and former State Department personnel:

  1. William Burns, Deputy Secretary of State;
  2. Elizabeth Dibble, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs;
  3. Beth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs;
  4. Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management;
  5. Cheryl Mills, Counselor and Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (departed post)
  6. Thomas Nides, Deputy Secretary for Management (departed post)
  7. Victoria Nuland, Spokesperson (nominee for Assistant Secretary of EUR)
  8. Philippe Reines, Deputy Assistant Secretary (departed post)
  9. Jake Sullivan, Director of Policy Planning (departed post, currently VPOTUS National Security Advisor)
  10. David Adams, Assistant Secretary for State for Legislative Affairs (departed post)

 

Click here to read Chairman Issa’s letter to Secretary Kerry.

Stock up on popcorn folks.  “Talking Points” will not have a season finale for the foreseeable future.

 

— DS

 

 

 

 

 

Clinton Recovering, Top Deputies Burns and Nides Expected to Testify Dec.20

The news reports on whether or not Secretary Clinton will testify at the HFAC and SFRC on December 20 as previously announced continued over the weekend with its twists and turns.

The scheduled date was announced a week before last week.

Spokesperson Toria Nuland on December 13 suggested that the ARB report on which Secretary Clinton’s testimony will be based might not be ready on time.

On December 14, the Acting Deputy Spokesman said that “The committees have announced the secretary will be on the Hill next Thursday, and so that’s the plan. […] We’ve been cooperating with Congress extensively and will continue to do so.”

Less than 24 hours later, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines released a media statement on December 15 saying that “Secretary Clinton became dehydrated and fainted, sustaining a concussion. She has been recovering at home and will continue to be monitored regularly by her doctors. At their recommendation, she will continue to work from home next week, staying in regular contact with department and other officials.”

On December 15, Senator Kerry’s spokeswoman said that the senator “insisted that given her condition, she could not and should not appear” as planned.

Also on December 15, 3:22 pm EST, The Hill reported that Secretary Clinton’s deputies Thomas Nides and Bill Burns will now will testify in her place.

Deputy Secretary William J. Burns serves as the principal deputy, adviser, and alter ego to the Secretary of State; also serves as Acting Secretary of State when called upon.  Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Thomas R. Nides serves as Chief Operating Officer of the Department. He also serves as principal adviser to the Secretary on overall supervision and direction of resource allocation and management activities of the Department. The Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources assists in carrying out the Secretary’s authority and responsibility for the overall direction, coordination and supervision of operational programs of the State Department, including foreign aid and civilian response programs.

As far as we are aware, this is the first time somebody higher than the under secretary of management is representing the State Department on the Benghazi hearings.

If Nides/Burns are expected to testify on the Secretary’s response to the ARB report on Thursday, that means the Pickering/Mullen appearance could not be later than Wednesday. That gives us this weekend, and Monday or Tuesday as the completion date for the ARB report. And probably 48 hours for the State Department to formulate the Secretary’s report to the Congress on each such recommendation and the action taken or intended to be taken with respect to the ARB recommendations.

Not a lot of time.  Whoever is writing/editing the Secretary’s report will have little sleep until this is done.

Obviously, a decision can be made to have Secretary Clinton testify the week after Christmas week, or as soon as Congress returns early next year, when she has fully recovered.  She’s got 90 days to submit her report to the Congress anyway.  And if they could wait this long, this could wait a couple or so more weeks … we wouldn’t mind waiting.

Except that with the two deputies now up for the hearings, we can’t really expect that she will be called again in the near future to testify about the exact same thing, can we?

domani spero sig

 

 

 

State Dept May Dump Multi-Billion Dollar Iraqi Police Program; Noooooooo! Not So Says Embassy Baghdad

So on Sunday, NYT’s Tim Arango reported from Baghdad that the U.S. May Scrap Costly Efforts to Train Iraqi Police. Quick excerpt:

BAGHDAD — In the face of spiraling costs and Iraqi officials who say they never wanted it in the first place, the State Department has slashed — and may jettison entirely by the end of the year — a multibillion-dollar police training program that was to have been the centerpiece of a hugely expanded civilian mission here.

What was originally envisioned as a training cadre of about 350 American law enforcement officers was quickly scaled back to 190 and then to 100. The latest restructuring calls for 50 advisers, but most experts and even some State Department officials say even they may be withdrawn by the end of this year.

The training effort, which began in October and has already cost $500 million, was conceived of as the largest component of a mission billed as the most ambitious American aid effort since the Marshall Plan.

Actually, according to SIGIR’s estimate, as of October 2011, the United States has spent about $8 billion to staff, train, and equip Iraq’s police forces.

On cross-cultural police mistraining or where in heaven’s name did we find these instructors?

A lesson given by an American police instructor to a class of Iraqi trainees neatly encapsulated the program’s failings. There are two clues that could indicate someone is planning a suicide attack, the instructor said: a large bank withdrawal and heavy drinking.

The problem with that advice, which was recounted by Ginger Cruz, the former deputy inspector general at the American Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, was that few Iraqis have bank accounts and an extremist Sunni Muslim bent on carrying out a suicide attack is likely to consider drinking a cardinal sin.

Last month many of the Iraqi police officials who had been participating in the training suddenly refused to attend the seminars and PowerPoint presentations given by the Americans, saying they saw little benefit from the sessions.
[…]
The largest of the construction projects, an upgrade at the Baghdad Police College that included installing protective covering over double-wide residence trailers (to shield against mortar attacks) and new dining and laundry facilities and seminar rooms, was recently abandoned, unfinished, after an expenditure of more than $100 million. The remaining police advisers will instead work out of the American Embassy compound, where they will have limited ability to interact with Iraqi police officials.

Read in full here.

That Iraqi police officials see little benefit from these training sessions should not be news to anyone. Last year, Iraq’s Senior Deputy Minister of Interior Adnan al Asadi told SIGIR: “What tangible benefit is there to my ministry of 650,000 people who are in the midst of massive security challenges on the streets of Iraq? Very little.”

Frankly, we can understand his point. There are bombings here and there, there’s an arrest warrant for the country’s vice president for terrorism charges, and we are training them on human resources and online recruitment, potential training venues in the United States, two-hour seminars on the “mediums of communication and how they are used to better communicate,” English language, GoCase Management Software for Commission of Integrity (but lead COI programmer was killed in spring 2011), and so on and so forth.

And there is the fact that Iraq has not made the financial contribution toward the cost of the Police Development Program (PDP) as required by US law and policy. SIGIR has pointed out that Iraq is certainly able to make such a contribution, and its failure to do so raises genuine concerns about its commitment to the program.

In last year’s appearance at the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, United States House of Representatives, Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., the Inspector General of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction had this to say:

“While the U.S. government views the PDP as about a billion dollar capacity-development program, the Iraqis view it as 115 English-speaking police advisors (25 of whom will be stationed in the stable Kurdistan Region) providing diverse training and support. With those advisors come burdens, including requests from the U.S. Embassy for land use agreements, for visas for third country national security guards, for weapons permits for armed security teams, and the like. The land use issue is significant. The primary PDP location in Baghdad is at Forward Operating Base Shield, which is right in the middle of an unstable area of Baghdad that houses the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Oil, and the Baghdad Police College. The Iraqis expressed concern that the placement of American advisors in that location may attract attacks that could affect nearby facilities.” [SIGIR 11-003T].

Police Development Program Sites in Iraq
Image via SIGIR
(click image for larger view)

We should not forget that Thomas R. Nides, deputy secretary of state for management and resources, in a February briefing with reporters in Washington said: “We have stood up a robust police-training program, which is doing a terrific job working with the local police in training and developing a program, which I think will pay enormous dividends.”

We can’t say if anyone has actually been able to sketch fully what those “enormous dividends” are like.

In any case, Sunday is a working day at the US Embassy in Baghdad, and yesterday, it released a Tarzan statement in response to the NYT report, which can be described as “a victory cry of the bull ape” sort of statement — “Police Development Program is a Vital Part of the U.S.- Iraqi Relationship”

Despite a New York Times report to the contrary, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the Department of State have no plans to shut down the Police Development Program (PDP) in Iraq that began in October 2011.  According to U.S. Embassy Spokesman Michael McClellan, “The Iraqi Government and the State Department regularly review the size and scope of our law enforcement assistance efforts to ensure that these  programs best meet the needs of Iraq’s security forces.“

As part of its review of staffing and space issues in early 2012, and in close consultation with the Iraqi Government, the Embassy and the Department of State decided to return the Baghdad Police College Annex to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and relocate U.S.-funded advisors to the Embassy compound by the end of 2012.

Read the full statement here.

We are seriously wondering if 1) anyone actually believe any part of that statement; and 2) if the US Embassy in Baghdad bothered to read SIGIR’s audit of the Iraq Police Development Program: Opportunities for Improved Program Accountability and Budget Transparency from October 2011

The audit, which according to SIGIR, was initially was impaired by the State Department’s lack of cooperation, and resulted in limited access to key officials/documents slammed the State Department’s handling of the Iraqi training program:

  • DoS does not have a current assessment of Iraqi police forces’ capabilities upon which to base its program.
  • While DoS has further defined the program since the option was adopted, it has not developed specific goals on what is to be accomplished, intermediate and longer-term milestones, metrics to assess progress and accomplishments, and or means to ensure transparency and accountability for program costs and performance.
  • Without specific goals, objectives, and performance measures, the PDP could become a “bottomless pit” for U.S. dollars intended for mentoring, advising, and training the Iraqi police forces. Meetings held with Iraqi police officials and training courses provided could simply become “accomplishments,” without any indicators of changes in the management and functioning of the Iraqi police forces that can be attributed to this costly program.

So for this quarter, here is the Police Development Program advisors’ bottomless accomplishments, with more coming next quarter:

  • 399 engagements with Baghdad-based advisors—up 105% from last quarter’s 195
  •  95 engagements with Erbil-based advisors—down 41% from last quarter’s 160
  •  23 engagements with Basrah-based advisors—down 34% from last quarter’s 35

As for indicators of changes, there are a few striking ones:

  • U.S. advisors/trainers will now be officially working at the embassy compound.
  • U.S. advisors/trainers will be working at the embassy compound, sans Iraqi trainees now allergic to PowerPoint presentations
  • And U.S. advisors/trainers will be working at the embassy compound, period.

Tarzaaaaaaaaaaaaan!

Domani Spero