@StateDept Summer Rotation Brings New Faces to the U.S. Mission in Iraq

Posted: 2:48 am ET
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The 2016 summer rotation brought in new faces at the U.S. Mission in Iraq.  On September 1, the U.S. ambassador designate Douglas Silliman arrived in Baghdad. As far as we can tell from social media posts, he has yet to present his credentials to the GOI. His new DCM, Stephanie Williams preceded him in Baghdad by a month. Ambassador Ken Gross, the U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan from 2009-2012 is now the Consul General in Erbil. In August, Win Dayton also assumed responsibilities as principal officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah.  At the US Consulate in Kirkuk, Roy Perrin assumed office as principal officer.  Mr. Perrin is also the current Deputy Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil. Below are brief bios:

Douglas A. Silliman | Ambassador

He arrived in Baghdad on September 1, 2016. He served as Ambassador to Kuwait from 2014 until July 2016. In 2013-2014, he served as a Senior Advisor in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in the Department of State in Washington, D.C., working on Iraq issues and the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. He was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq from 2012 to 2013 and Minister Counselor for Political Affairs in Baghdad from 2011 to 2012. He was the Deputy Chief of Mission in Ankara, Turkey from 2008 to 2011. He joined the Department of State in 1984 and is a career member of Senior Foreign Service.

Ambassador Silliman earlier served as Director and Deputy Director of the State Department’s Office of Southern European Affairs, as Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, and as the Regional Officer for the Middle East in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Ambassador Silliman worked as political officer in Islamabad, Pakistan, in the Office of Soviet Union Affairs, as Lebanon Desk officer, and as Staff Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. He began his career as a visa officer in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and a political officer in Tunis, Tunisia.

Ambassador Silliman received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science summa cum laude from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He earned a Master of Arts in International Relations from the George Washington University in Washington, DC.

He has received numerous awards from the Department of State, including the Secretary’s Award for Public Outreach in 2007 and senior performance awards. The American Foreign Service Association gave Ambassador Silliman its Sinclaire Language Award in 1993 and the W. Averill Harriman Award for outstanding junior officer in 1988. He speaks Arabic and French.

Stephanie Williams | Deputy Chief of Mission

Ms. Williams has been the Deputy Chief of Mission since August 2016.  She is a senior member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister Counselor. She has served as: Deputy Chief of Mission in Amman and Manama, as well as the Director of Maghreb Affairs, the Deputy Director of the Egypt and Levant Affairs Office and the Jordan Desk Officer at the Department of State. Other overseas assignments include serving as the Political Section Head in Abu Dhabi, Consular and Political Officer in Kuwait, and Assistant General Services Officer in Islamabad. She has studied Arabic at Georgetown University, FSI Tunis and the University of Bahrain and attended the National War College.

Ken Gross | U.S. Consul General Erbil

Ken Gross, the Consul General in Erbil, is a career member of the U.S. Department of State’s Senior Foreign Service. Mr. Gross previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan from 2009-2012. He has had two previous overseas postings in Iraq, including as Principal Officer at the Regional Embassy Office in Basrah, and he returned to Iraq as director of the Office of Provincial Affairs, the office overseeing Provincial Reconstruction Teams.

He has previously served as a Career Development Officer for senior-level officers in the Human Resources Bureau and as director of the Middle East Partnership Initiative Office in the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau.

Mr. Gross also served as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Tajikistan from 2002- 2004. His other overseas postings include Haiti, Malaysia, Nepal, and Germany. In the Department of State, Mr. Gross worked in the Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs as an aviation negotiator, in the Bureau of European Affairs as desk officer for Austria, and in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research as a current intelligence analyst.

Mr. Gross joined the Foreign Service in 1987. He received a B.A. from Auburn University, a J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law, and a M.S. in National Security Strategy from the National War College. He speaks Tajiki, German, and French.

Win Dayton | U.S.Consul General Basrah

On August 1, 2016 Mr. Win Dayton assumed responsibilities as U.S. Consul General at the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah. Mr. Win Dayton is a career member of the State Department’s Senior Foreign Service.

Prior to his current assignment, Mr. Dayton served most recently in Washington with the Foreign Service Board of Examiners and as Director of the State Department’s Counter-ISIL Coalition Working Group. His overseas service includes assignments to the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, where he served as Deputy Principal Officer, as well as to the U.S. Embassies in Harare, Bangkok, Tegucigalpa and Dublin.

Domestically, Mr. Dayton has served as Director of Overseas Operations in the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, and as Director of the Office of Transportation Policy in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. Mr. Dayton also served domestic tours in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research and in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs.

Mr. Dayton is a graduate of the National Security Executive Leadership Seminar and is the recipient of several State Department Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards.

Prior to joining the Foreign Service in 1989, Mr. Dayton was an attorney in Dallas, Texas, for five years, and worked on Capitol Hill for a year. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia and a Bachelor of Arts with honors in Political Science from Amherst College.

Roy Perrin | U.S. Consulate Kirkuk

A career Foreign Service Officer, Mr. Perrin is currently the Deputy Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil, Iraq and Consul of the United States for Kirkuk, Iraq.  He recently served several months as the Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. at the Embassy of the United States in San José, Costa Rica, where he was also the Embassy’s Counselor for Political, Economic and Narcotics Affairs.

Mr. Perrin was previously posted to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China as an economic officer and as the State Department’s Labor Officer.  He also served for an extended period as acting Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu, China. Mr. Perrin has also worked as an economic officer and vice-counsel at the U.S. Embassies in Caracas, Venezuela and Bangkok, Thailand, and in Washington, D.C. he served in the State Department’s Operations Center Crisis Management office.

Mr. Perrin received a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and worked as a mechanical engineer at the former Avondale Shipyards in Avondale, Louisiana. He then entered law school at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Tulane Maritime Law Journal. After earning a J.D. from Tulane Law School with honors, Mr. Perrin practiced law in San Francisco, California and New Orleans, Louisiana, specializing in the defense of corporations in class action and product liability litigation. He entered the Foreign Service in 1999.

Mr. Perrin is the recipient of several State Department individual Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards, the American Foreign Service Association’s 2002 Achievement Award, and the joint State and Labor Department 2011 Award for Excellence in Labor Diplomacy. His foreign languages include Spanish, Thai, and Chinese.

 

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State Dept Seeks Potential New Contractors for $234M Medical Service Support Iraq (MSSI) II Contract

Posted: 5:58 pm EDT
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The State Department is seeking information for the availability of a new medical service provider for U.S. Mission Iraq.  There is an incumbent contractor,  CHS Middle East, LLC of Cape Canaveral, Florida. The total estimated contract value for the incumbent contractor is approximately $234M. According to the fedbiz announcement, the health units and diplomatic support hospitals will need to be mission capable by summer 2016. Below is an excerpt from the announcement:

Government is requesting information regarding the availability and feasibility of attracting new medical service providers to support the requirements of the U.S. Mission Iraq as described in this RFI. This notice is issued solely for information and planning purposes and does not constitute a Request for Proposal (RFP) or a commitment on the part of the Government to conduct a solicitation for the below-listed services in the future.
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The DOS has a follow-on requirement for a Contractor to provide medical service support to U.S. Government (USG) personnel, USG third party contractors and authorized foreign nationals in Iraq. These medical services will be provided at USG facilities and include but are not limited to the following: general medical, surgical, orthopedic, gynecologic, dental, behavioral health, public health, urgent and emergency care and mortuary affairs. In order to fulfill these requirements the Contractor is responsible for providing trained and certified health care professionals (e.g., physicians, nurse practitioners, surgeons, emergency medical technicians, etc…) and the administrative services and staff to equip and operate the USG contractor-operated health care facilities in Iraq.

The Contractor is responsible for performing random and non-random drug testing for other third party contractors operating in support of the DOS in Iraq. Additionally, because other third party contractors require Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) in country, the Contractor is responsible for the medic validation and verification to ensure the verification of maintenance of credentials for EMTs.

Supported population is between 3500-5800

While the primary place of performance is throughout the country of Iraq, the Contractor may be tasked with providing temporary medical service support to other USG facilities located in the Near East Region (i.e., North Africa and the Middle East).

The BDSC Large Diplomatic Support Hospital not only provides primary care to personnel at BDSC, but also may serve as the secondary and trauma care center for the patient population within U.S. Mission Iraq (4300 – 5800 personnel). These services include evacuation management and mortuary affairs.

The Contractor shall provide on-site primary, urgent and initial emergency care for general medical, surgical, orthopedic, gynecologic, and mental health conditions; triage, stabilize and evacuate patients to the next level of medical care; and keep up to two patients in the Health Unit (HU) for up to 24 hours until stabilized or medically evacuated. Staffing shall be continuous and uninterrupted; coverage for illness and vacations shall be the responsibility of the Contractor.

The Contractor is responsible for providing routine care during regular working hours and on an emergency basis after normal working hours based on Chief of Mission (COM) requirements. Medical Service Support Iraq (MSSI) II; Solicitation SAQMMA-15-SS-MSSI .

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US Mission Iraq: Twelve Things You Might Not Know About the Largest Embassy in the World

— By Domani Spero

State/OIG recently released its inspection report of U.S. Embassy Baghdad and its constituent posts  in Erbil and Basrah.  Here are a few things that you may not know about our largest embassy in the world.

Photo by state.gov/ds

Photo by state.gov/ds

#1.  Staffing Numbers:  Planned Reduction at over 50%

“The embassy is taking steps to reduce the mission’s headcount from over 11,500 in January 2013 to 5,500 by January 2014.”  

We’ll have to revisit this early next year to gauge how successful is that effort.

#2.  Housing: Social Workers Mediate Roommate Conflicts

“Housing remains the single largest morale issue, and the embassy employs two social workers to mediate roommate conflicts associated with a housing shortage that requires, at least temporarily, housing as many as four employees in apartments designed for one person. […] The roommate policy will continue as sites close and more personnel consolidate on the embassy compound in the 619 apartments.”  

Apparently, only employees ranked FS-01 or GS-15 and above occupy private quarters.  And two social workers will not be enough if you have to mediate roommate conflicts every new rotation cycle of 12 months.

#3.  Estimated Cost of Protective Security Movement for FY2013: $49.8 Million

“Embassy employees traveling outside the international zone in Baghdad require protective security escorts. The security office’s protective security teams averaged 370 movements per month in the first 5 months of FY 2013 for a total of 1,846 movements. FY 2013’s total estimated cost for protective security movements is approximately $49.8 million.”

#4.   Third-Country Nationals: Hiring TCNs Cheaper But Not Cheap

“Third country nationals, originally recruited from embassies worldwide as temporary experts, comprise 24 percent of the non-U.S. direct-hire staff in Baghdad and fill most of the embassy’s senior non-U.S. positions. The embassy employs 56 third country national employees at a cost of about $10 million annually . […] Support costs for third country national contractors and direct-hire staff, such as lodging, meals, and rest and recuperation travel, average $68,000 per person per year in addition to salaries, which often exceed locally employed staff salaries because of supplemental benefits packages.”

Some problems with hiring TCNs: with TCNs rotating as temp. experts, there may not be enough interest in growing Iraqi FSNs into a cadre of local experts; with American supervisors rotating every 12 months, who trains the Iraqi FSNs for more responsible roles?  Problems with local recruitment:  Mission does not have a pipeline of applicants; security vetting process has an overall average rejection rate of 47%. Almost half the applicants cannot work for the mission due to counterintel issues.

#5.  Iraq’s Service Recognition Package: No Longer The Most Attractive

“Last year, the Department filled about 92 percent of Iraq positions with volunteers. The Department is in the process of reducing selected employee benefits to reflect improvements in security and living conditions….The Department expects in coming months to offer service recognition package benefits to other missions, such as Libya and Yemen, which could be more attractive than the package for Iraq.” 

#6.  Embassy’s Airline — Embassy Air at $128.2 million in 2013

“Based in Amman, Jordan, Embassy Air carried 19,306 passengers to destinations around Iraq during a recent 6- month period. Embassy Air is the mission’s most secure lifeline to the outside world and the only means of medical evacuation countrywide. The combined cost of Afghanistan-Iraq air operations stands at $128.2 million this year.”

#7.  Embassy Hospitals: How Many by 2014?

“The Department is rapidly reducing the scope of its contracted medical services, estimated at $85 million for FY 2013, as activities at OSC-I locations around the country close by the end of the year. The embassy operates 11 hospitals and clinics throughout the country under contract with Comprehensive Health Services Middle East. Operations include four diplomatic field hospitals geared to trauma and mass casualty stabilization and clinics that deliver primary care, evacuation stabilization, and laboratory services.”

#8.  Largest IVP in the World

US Mission Iraq “manages the largest International Visitor Leadership Program in the world with 149 participants in FY 2012.”

#9.  Arabic Speakers: Only Three Can Conduct Interviews Unassisted 

“Consular Management The section’s effectiveness is hampered by a dearth of Arabic-language speakers, limited cultural insight, and an insufficient number of useful local contacts, largely due to the limited role the five Iraqi employees play in the overall operation. Fewer than half the consular employees—both U.S. and non-U.S. direct hires—speak Arabic and only three of the Arabic- speaking officers can conduct the full range of interviews unassisted.”  

This shortage of expertise is not confined to language.  Elsewhere in the report, the inspectors note that many Washington-based employees have more historical knowledge than some employees working in Iraq today.

#10.  Diplomatic Compounds:  Larger Than Normal

“The embassy and Consulate General Basrah occupy more than 100 acres each, while the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center site totals 350 acres. A typical new embassy compound sits on approximately 10 acres.”

So that’s ten times larger than normal. But then, no one ever said the U.S. Mission in Iraq was ever normal.

#11. Bleeding Green Bucks: Over $270 Million Down the Drain

At “[t]he Erbil Diplomatic Support Center, the Department canceled ongoing construction in February 2013, after expenditures of approximately $85 million, with the decision to cease Department operations at the location by July 2013. In September 2012, with the reduction of the Police Development Program, the U.S. Government turned over the unfinished Baghdad Police Academy to the Government of Iraq after investing an estimated $108 million in construction. In addition, the Department contributed $48 million in Police Development Program funds to the construction of the Basrah consulate general, because the Police Development Program intended to be a tenant in that facility. During the inspection, in preparation for turnover to the Government of Iraq, mission operations drew down at Embassy Annex Prosperity, where a $32 million construction project was halted. The final phase of the Prosperity site closure requires construction of a new $11.5 million heavy vehicle maintenance facility on the embassy compound.”

So that’s over $270 million down the drain for lack of appropriate planning, and $11.5M more for new construction, which may or may not be needed in a year or two.

#12.  Iraq Tax With No End in Sight Will Strain Diplomatic Facilities Worldwide

“Funding levels from multiple sources in support of Mission Iraq operations have been so substantial that the mission has not been subject to normal fiscal constraints, nor has it evaluated process and program priorities rigorously. The Department allotted $3.23 billion for Mission Iraq operations in FY 2012. The mission also oversaw $1.33 billion in foreign assistance in that same time frame.  Inevitably, the contingency funding that is a remnant of Iraq’s status as a war zone, and enabled so much of the mission’s growth and security programs, will dwindle. Even with the Department’s increased focus on protecting personnel and facilities in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack, the mission is considering ways to reduce its operational and security budgets, although the sheer size and scope of the physical plant, both in Baghdad and at the consulates,will require significant funding for years to come.”

So the reduction of USG footprint in Iraq does not mean the end of the Iraq tax on staffing, but going forward, you may now add resource allocation demands.  The OIG inspectors believe that as US Mission Iraq operates in a “traditional diplomatic environment” its maintenance and repair costs will come out of the regular budget.  The Vatican-size embassy even with “rightsizing” at 5,500 staff will still be the largest embassy in the world. Security and movement protection will still remain expensive. And as contingency funds end, and as US Mission Iraq starts to get funding from State’s regular budget, it will “strain  support for diplomatic facilities worldwide.”

Oh, there is no mention in this report of the alleged “underground drug ring” operating near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad; or a drug ring which allegedly supplied State Department security contractors with drugs.

This report only mentions “drug” in one instance: “The Department has approved continuing annual assistance for anti-corruption, the justice sector, drug demand reduction and police, with $23 million requested for FY 2014.” 

That’s expensive but not nearly as exciting news.  Now, let’s go invade another country so we can do this all over again.

(ú_ú)

-05/31/13   Inspection of Embassy Baghdad and Constituent Posts, Iraq (ISP-I-13-25A)  [617 Kb]  Posted online on June 3, 2013

US Mission Iraq: Shrinking to 5,500 Personnel by End of Year, Never Mind the Missing Details

On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, we were greeted with news about a wave of bombings in Iraq which killed 65 people and wounded over 200.

Then CNN came out with this piece on Iraq war for oil.

And retired FSO Peter Van Buren went on Fox News to talk about $15 million a day spent on  projects in Iraq (did you think he was going away?).  We heard from a nosy source that a former US ambassador to Iraq was reportedly on the phone to offer a, what do you call it — a counter-point, during the segment but the line went dead as a door nail when informed that Mr. Van Buren was the guest. Them phone signals can get occasionally wacky, must be that dry western climate.

Oh, and Mr. Rumsfeld made a serious tweet (can you hear Tehran celebrating the 10th anniversary with a roar?).

Screen Shot 2013-03-20

He got grandly pummeled over in Twitterland. Except that if he did not care what people think ten years ago, would he really care what folks think today? Of course, he is now an octogenarian on Twitter. Hopefully, he’s occupied enough not to plan on liberating any more countries between now and going forward.

Another news doing the rounds is the reported shrinking of US Mission Iraq – from a Gigantosaurus of embassies (projected at 17,000 in 2011 by Ambassador Jeffrey during a SFRC hearing) to hopefully something like a smaller, more agile Postosuchus.

Via the Middle East Online

The US mission in Iraq — the biggest in the world — will slash its numbers by two-thirds by the end of this year from its peak figure of over 16,000, the American ambassador to Baghdad said.

Overall staffing levels at the US’s embassy in Baghdad and its consulates in the southern port city of Basra, the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil and the disputed northern city of Kirkuk, will drop to around 5,500, including contractors, by the end of the year.

“A year ago, we were well above 16,000, now we’re at 10,500,” Ambassador Stephen Beecroft told reporters. “By the end of this year, we’ll be at 5,500, including contractors.”

As a prospective 5,500-person mission, it would probably still be one of the largest embassies in the world, if not still the largest (anyone knows what is the personnel-complement of US Mission Afghanistan?).

We’ve asked the Press Office of the US Embassy in Baghdad how many career Foreign Service personnel will be expected in Baghdad and constituent posts by end of year and what they are planning to do with all that space that will soon be vacated. We forgot to ask but we also are curious on what they’ll do with the Air Embassy planes (and pilots) and district embassy hospitals and equipment (embassy auction?).  Or how many ambassadorial rank senior officers they will have by end of the year.

Unfortunately, we haven’t got any response to our inquiry. Obviously the folks at the embassy’s Public Affairs shop are professionals who always respond to inquiries from the public even from the pajama-wearing sector who wants to know what’s going on.  Unless, of course, they are overwhelmed with drafting their performance evaluations (we understand it’s EER time).  It is also  entirely possible they were not read in on what they actually are doing by end of this year.  That is, besides the simple math announced on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the invasion.  Poor sods.

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Snapshot: US Mission Iraq Staffing as of July 2012

The following numbers and info from the July 30 SIGIR report:

As of early July, according to DoS, 15,007 personnel were supporting the U.S. Mission in Iraq:

  •  1,235 U.S. government civilian employees (includes full-time and temporary government employees and personal-services contractors)
  •  13,772 contractor personnel (U.S., Iraqi, and third-country nationals), 5,737 of whom were providing security services

In a change from its past reporting practice, DoS said that it obtained this quarter’s data on the number and role of contractors from the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker (SPOT) database maintained by DoD. SIGIR also obtained data from the SPOT database that showed 12,477 employees of U.S.-funded contractors and grantees were working in Iraq as of July 2, 2012—1,295 fewer contractor personnel than reported by the Embassy. The data may have been accessed on different dates, but SIGIR does not know if that would completely account for the difference in reported number of contractor personnel.

Reconstruction Staff Down to 6, But Wait —

According to DoS, only 6 personnel—the number of staff in the Iraq Strategic Partnership Office—support “reconstruction activities.” DoS estimated that 67 contractors also support reconstruction programs. However, in its tally of reconstruction personnel, DoS excludes the entire staff of the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I), which manages Iraq Security Forces Fund (ISFF) projects and the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programs; DoS Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) personnel working on the Police Development Program (PDP); and personnel working on U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs.96 DoS contends that it excludes these individuals because they work on “traditional assistance programs (assistance programs that are found in embassies worldwide).” However, SIGIR takes the position that Economic Support Fund (ESF) and FMS, for example, are reconstruction programs in Iraq—a position supported in a March 31, 2011, letter by the Chairmen of the House Committees on Oversight and Government Reform and Foreign Affairs to the Secretary of State.

Less Expensive Staffing/Life-Support Options

DoS is working to reduce direct-hire staffing by 25%–30% by the end of 2013. Moreover, the Embassy is continuing to hire more Iraqis to fill direct-hire positions, reporting that 240 of the planned 400 were on board, as of June 28.

With regard to life-support contractors, DoS’s goal is for 50% of all life-support contractors to be Iraqis. As of late June, Iraqis made up about 24% of life-support contractors.

US Consulate Kirkuk Closes Today, Maybe

The U.S. Consulate in Kirkuk—which has been operational, though not providing most traditional consular services, for about one year—has been scheduled to close by the end of July 2012. The consulate, which had been colocated with the OSC-I site on the grounds of an Iraqi Air Force base, will transfer most of its personnel to the Erbil Diplomatic Support Center (EDSC). To accommodate this move, the EDSC is preparing additional containerized housing-units that will serve as living quarters and office space for those personnel relocated from Kirkuk. About 30 private-security  contractors will move from Kirkuk to Erbil as part of this plan. U.S. facilities in Kirkuk had been subject to regular indirect fire attacks since they opened. OSC-I will close its Kirkuk site by the end of September.

That’s a “maybe” because nowhere in US Mission Baghdad’s website or social media digs is there an announcement or an indication that the consulate in Kirkuk is about to close.  In fact, the embassy’s lengthy job vacancy list, still has the following:

Jobs/Vacancies in Consulate General Kirkuk:
Political Assistant, FSN-8; FP-6* (PDF 93kb) Closing Date: Open until filled

An FSN-8 at $40,102 USD per year. Not bad for a local rate in a country where the average annual income is $3,500.  But Iraqis may still not want their neighbors to know where they work. The job was originally published in February and republished in May.

Domani Spero

Insider Quote: AIP Fatigue and a Little Hostility

The following is an extract from an interview conducted by the U.S. Institute of Peace for its lessons learned project from the PRTs in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The previous years, USIP did similar interviews as part of its oral history project. The interviewee, a State Department Foreign Service Officer, was the team leader of PRT Wasit, Iraq, from March 2010 to March 2011. The interview notes say “He understood the PRT mission to be one of serving as a mini-consulate while pursuing capacity building in governance, rule of law and agricultural development. He was the last team leader as the PRT was closing out soon after his departure.”

Q. In closing let ask you if there any other comments you want to make? Any ideas that you want to share about your experience with the PRT, how it worked and how it could have been made more effective or how other PRTs in other countries could be made more effective?

Senior Agricultural Advisor for the Wasit, Iraq Provincial Reconstruction Team George Stickels from Arlington, Va., surveys a field in the Al Abara village in the Badra District of Wasit, Iraq to see where a center pivot irrigation system should be placed into the field to help in the growing of crops, Nov. 20, 2010. The Wasit PRT and 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment are in Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn.
(Photo by Spc. Charles Willingham via dvidshub.net)

A. What a great management/leadership experience! [But] our system is bad when it comes to vetting people for assignments like this. I think that old adage about playing nicely with others is particularly important in a high pressure, kind of “out there” assignment like a PRT. It’s not a place to send screw-ups, it’s not a place to send people looking to rehabilitate bad careers. I think it’s important to be choosy even when there are assignments where you are maybe a little desperate about “will I get this job filled?” So I think that is important, I think the people who can deal with the pressure, who have got a good sense of humor, who are versatile, who like working with the military, who can function well in a environment where State is a tiny minority, all of that is important and I think that improves the effectiveness of your PRT.

I don’t know whether this is what you are after, but I thought the financial incentives were quite good and certainly worthwhile. I thought the system did a horrendously poor job of taking care of many of us with follow on assignments. I’m very happy with my follow on, ultimately, but I spent an inordinate amount of time during my tour chasing a follow on assignment. I mean time that was robbed from me focusing on PRT-related stuff. That is not something specific to Iraq tours; I think that speaks more to the general breakdown in our assignments process.

A more general observation, not PRT specific – I think we are at a real crossroads in these sorts of assignments. I think there are those of us — a third or a quarter of the Foreign Service — who have done them. And I think there are a lot of people who haven’t, don’t want to, don’t want to be reminded that there are those of us out there who’ve done them, don’t feel like they should be disadvantaged in any way because they haven’t done them, or don’t want to do them. I sense there is a what I like to call AIP (Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan) fatigue out there and even a little hostility towards those of us who have done these assignments. I’m not necessarily advocating — because I know there are some people who aren’t that good at doing these assignments and I don’t want to advocate that we should all be given our absolute priority assignments and our top two choice assignments and instant promotion—but I think this is a stated top priority goal of the Secretary of State and reiterated by the DG (Director General) and that is not always reflected in the way the system reacted to those of us who’ve done these assignments.

— Foreign Service Officer (Interview #152)
Team Leader of PRT Wasit, Iraq (2010-2011)
Excerpt from Iraq/Afghanistan Provincial Reconstruction Teams: Lessons Learned, USIP
Interview date: April 15, 2011

We certainly can understand the AIP fatigue but have you heard about that “little hostility” he’s talking about?  You’d think that if there is some kind of hostility or resentment, it would come from those who have been pressed for more than one tours to Afghanistan, Iraq or Pakistan, instead of the other way around.  All assignments are voluntary, of course, even those who are left with no other option on their lists but Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan. Or the reverse hostility is for getting first dibs on assignments (AIP assignments have its own cycle), getting priority/onward assignments, breaking current assignments to relocate to any AIP posts, etc.etc.?

Are there really folks who “don’t feel like they should be disadvantaged in any way because they haven’t done” the war zone tours?

Domani Spero

Snapshot: US Mission Iraq Staffing – As of April 2012

Below is the most updated published report on US Mission Iraq staffing via SIGIR’s Quarterly Report to Congress dated April 2012:

The number of personnel supporting the U.S.Mission in Iraq declined this quarter from almost 14,000 to 12,755—89% of whom are contractors. As of April 3, DoS reported that there were 1,369 U.S. government civilian employees under Chief of Mission authority, down 8% from last quarter (1,490). DoS estimated that approximately 11,386 contractors (U.S., local national, and third country national) were supporting Mission Iraq as of early April, down more than 7% from last quarter (12,300). Of these contractors, DoS estimated that about 2,950 provided security-related services for DoS sites, down more than 22% from last quarter (3,800).

The Department of Defense (DoD) Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker (SPOT) database, however, showed that, as of April 1, 2012, 16,973 employees of U.S.-funded contractors and grantees supported DoD, DoS, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other U.S. agencies in Iraq; and the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I) reported that 3,577 private security contractors were operating in Iraq supporting both DoS and OSC-I sites, as of April 17.

According to U.S. Embassy-Baghdad, only 6 U.S. government employees—those serving in the Iraq Strategic Partnership Office (ISPO)—work on reconstruction programs, as well as 48  contractors (down from 56 reported last quarter). These totals do not include U.S. government employees and contractors of all nationalities who support the Police Development Program (PDP), which is staff ed by least 86 U.S. advisors and several hundred contract workers. Nor does it count any employees or contractors supporting USAID, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), or other federal agencies in Iraq.

There’s a lot more in the report here but we can only take this continuing Iraq project in small bites or we’ll choke to death in frustration.

Domani Spero