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Heritage Reportedly to Recommend Full Merge of State/USAID, New Cone, Elimination of “J”, and More

Posted: 2:08 pm  PT

 

James M. Roberts is a research fellow for Economic Freedom and Growth in the Center for Free Markets and Regulatory Reform at The Heritage Foundation. His bio says that he previously served as a foreign service officer at the State Department for 25 years and worked closely with USAID. As a Foreign Service Officer, he completed tours of duty at U.S. embassies in Mexico, Portugal, France, Panama and Haiti.  In an op-ed published on TheHill today, he writes that The Heritage Foundation will soon publish “a detailed background report with extensive analysis of the current dysfunctional state of U.S. government foreign assistance programs and detailed recommendations on how to fix them.” The op-ed includes highlights from that forthcoming report.

Excerpt via TheHill:

13 recommendations to reform U.S. foreign aid:

1. Eliminate duplicative foreign aid programs, improve coordination of remaining programs, end congressional “earmarks,” and terminate programs that do not work.

2. Replace USAID with a new “United States Health and Humanitarian Assistance Agency” (USHHAA) to manage all health and humanitarian assistance programs.

3. Fully integrate USHHAA into the State Department, with the USHHAA administrator reporting to the secretary of state as the under secretary of state for foreign assistance.

4. Merge State and USAID administrative functions in Washington and in the field. Put USAID’s Foreign Service Officers into a new “Assistance Cone” at State and consider more far-reaching reforms of the Foreign Service to give the U.S. government more flexibility to respond to future challenges.

5. Move all development assistance to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an independent agency that stresses the primary importance of the rule of law, effective governance, and recipient country accountability.

6. Transfer USAID’s Development Assistance account to the MCC and add the under secretary of state for foreign assistance to the MCC Board of Directors to better coordinate all U.S. foreign assistance.

7. Eliminate the under secretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights, and eliminate or move its offices, bureaus, and responsibilities to other parts of the State Department or to USHHAA.

8. Eliminate the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and transfer policy responsibilities to the regional bureaus and the refugee assistance responsibilities to USHHAA.

9. Ensure that all other U.S. foreign aid programs at agencies as diverse as Justice, Interior, or Agriculture are coordinate and consult with the under secretary of state for foreign assistance. Technical or specialized assistance, such as responding to pandemics, should be led by the experts but coordination is critical to ensuring effective broader application of U.S. government resources.

10. End the role of the Department of Agriculture in food assistance by terminating the P.L. 480 program, with its inefficient shipping and purchase requirements. Give USHHAA full authority over all U.S. food assistance.

11. Eliminate outdated agencies such as the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the United States Trade and Development Agency, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. These agencies were established in a world where private investment in developing countries was scarce. This is no longer the case. The focus should be to encourage developing countries to access these resources based on their policies, not send the message that government subsidies are necessary for development.

12. Re-designate the State Department’s Economic Support Fund account as the “Policy Goal Implementation Fund” with the express purpose of generating goodwill and support for U.S. foreign policy and security objectives, including promoting resilient, democratic, prosperous and secure societies around the world.

13. Better coordinate military and security assistance under the joint authority of the Departments of Defense and State.

Read the full piece here.

Other commentaries by Roberts include Why Trump’s Budget Proposal for the State Department Makes SenseTrump Wants to Shut Down OPIC. Will His Nominee Do It?Congress Should Support the Trump Administration’s Proposal to Close Down OPIC, and more here.

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SFRC Clears Mark Green’s Nomination to USAID as Talks About State/USAID Merger Get Louder

Once a year, we ask for your support to keep this blog going. We’re running our fundraising campaign until Saturday, July 15.  Help Us Get to Year 10!

Posted: 4:51 pm PT

 

On July 12, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee finally cleared Mark Green’s nomination to be USAID Administrator. Also see Trump to Nominate Former Ambassador Mark Green as USAID Administrator (May 11, 2017);  Expected USAID Pick Ex-GOP Rep Mark Green Lost in the Trump Jungle.

Ambassador Green appeared before the Senate panel on June 15. Click here for the hearing video and his prepared testimony.

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AND NOW THIS —

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FY2018 Trump Budget Word Cloud: Cuts, Reduction, Elimination

Posted: 10:23 am PT

 

President Trump’s FY2018 federal budget was rolled out today. Here’s the first of the highlights as we’re combing through the document.

Via FY2018 Budget Proposal

Request For Diplomatic Engagement

The FY 2018 Request for Diplomatic Engagement is $12.3 billion in discretionary enduring and OCO appropriations, $4.7 billion in fee-based spending, and $159 million in mandatory funding for the Foreign Service Retirement Disability Fund. The FY 2018 Request focuses on key Presidential and Departmental priorities including defeating ISIS and other terrorist groups; strengthening our borders; enabling our allies and partners to defend shared interests; ensuring operational and personnel safety at posts; strengthening cybersecurity; and ensuring accountability and efficiency with taxpayer resources.

Reduction of State’s on-board employment by nearly 2,000 through FY18

The Department is implementing the principles outlined in the Administration’s plan for reforming the Federal government and reducing the Federal civilian workforce. This includes a detailed review of State and USAID’s core missions, personnel, programs, and operations. The results and recommendations of this reform process will be released no later than February 2018. In the meantime, the Department is responsibly reducing its Foreign Service and Civil Service workforce through ongoing attrition and anticipated targeted (FY 2018) buyouts, which are projected to reduce State’s on-board employment by nearly 2,000 through September 2018.

Reduction of Funds for the UN

The FY 2018 Request proposes to reduce funding for the UN and affiliated agencies as well as other international programs and organizations that do not substantially advance U.S. foreign policy interests, fail to demonstrate effectiveness and transparency, and/or for which the funding burden is not fairly shared amongst members. The FY 2018 Request sets the expectation that these organizations rein in costs, and that the funding burden be shared more fairly among member states.

Facility Upgrades in Somalia, Turkey, Afghanistan

The Department appreciates Congressional support for security investments in the Security Assistance Appropriations Act, 2017 (SAAA), which provided a combined $1.7 billion for Diplomatic and Consular Programs – Worldwide Security Protection (WSP) and Embassy Security Construction and Maintenance (ESCM). These resources are enhancing security protection and facilities for civilian personnel on the front lines against ISIS and other terrorist organizations. As the WSP funding supports expanded Diplomatic Security operations through FY 2018, those funds are largely non-recurred in this request. Within ESCM, $0.6 billion of the SAAA is being applied towards State’s share of the FY 2018 Capital Security Cost-Sharing and Maintenance Cost-Sharing program, including facility upgrades for Somalia, Turkey, and Afghanistan. This reduces the level of new FY 2018 ESCM appropriations needed to sustain the $2.2 billion interagency level recommended by the Benghazi Accountability Review Board.

Elimination of Funds for East West Center and Asia Foundation

As part of the Administration’s plans to move the Nation towards fiscal responsibility and to redefine the proper role of the Federal Government, the budget proposes to eliminate earmarked appropriations for the East-West Center (EWC) and The Asia Foundation (TAF). Elimination of line-item Federal funding will not terminate these organizations, due to their non-profit status, and they remain eligible to apply and compete for federal grant funding opportunities, as well as receive private sector contributions.

Cuts Direct Funding in Half for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) 

The request cuts direct funding in half for the Educational and Cultural Exchange Programs from the FY 2017 Estimate. In a fiscally constrained environment, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) will focus its support on core global programs such as Fulbright and the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).

New “Consular and Border Security Programs” (CBSP) Account

The FY 2018 President’s Budget proposes creation of a new fund in which to deposit the receipts from retained consular fees. The new fund, known as the “Consular and Border Security Programs” (CBSP) account, will consist of the fees listed under the Bureau of Consular Affairs, and will support the provision of consular services, with expedited passport fees continuing to support the Department’s information technology programs. The CBSP chapter will continue to include the H and L Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee, but as the CBSP’s only collection scored as mandatory, the H and L fee will continue to be collected in a standalone account outside of the new CBSP account.

Diplomatic and Consular Programs – Enduring

The Department’s FY 2018 Request for D&CP Ongoing Operations is $3.9 billion and includes $3.5 billion for Program Operations and $452 million for PD. The request is -$283 million below the FY 2017 estimate of $4.2 billion, and includes $42 million for the American pay raise, -$97 million to absorb all other current-services adjustments, such as overseas and domestic price inflation, base adjustments, GSA rent and Locally Employed (LE) staff wage increases, and -$325 million in program changes.

The Department has begun engaging its entire workforce with a listening tour to provide the Secretary with input for a broader reorganization proposal to be released in 2018. The Department has begun to reshape its workforce and will reduce staffing levels through attrition and anticipated targeted buyouts. By the end of FY 2018, the Department anticipates reducing its workforce by approximately 8 percent. The D&CP request for American Salaries funding reflects this projected attrition, as adjusted for the American pay raise. However, this Request generally does not show reductions in bureaus’ authorized position levels, as Department’s strategic workforce analysis is still underway. Detailed information regarding personnel adjustments will be provided once the comprehensive plan to reorganize the Department is finalized.

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U.S. Senate Confirms Seven Foreign Service Lists (347 Nominees From State/USAID/Agriculture)

Posted: 2:14 am ET

 

On May 18, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nominations in seven Foreign Service lists with 347 nominees from the State Department, USAID and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Click on the hyperlinks to view the names in congress.gov:

2017-05-18 PN116 Foreign Service | Nomination for Alexander Dickie IV, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on March 21, 2017.

2017-05-18 PN353 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Joel Justin Agalsoff, and ending Iva Ziza, which 201 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 25, 2017.

2017-05-18 PN354-1 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Edward Francis Acevedo, and ending Benjamin D. Zinner, which 96 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 25, 2017.

2017-05-18 PN355-1 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jim Nelson Barnhart, Jr., and ending Anne N. Williams, which 19 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 25, 2017.

 

2017-05-18 PN356 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jeanne F. Bailey, and ending Robert Henry Hanson, which 9 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 25, 2017.

2017-05-18 PN357-1 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jeffery S. Austin, and ending Jeffrey G. Willnow, which 20 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 25, 2017.

2017-05-18 PN358-1 Foreign Service | Nomination for Scott S. Sindelar, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 25, 2017.

 

 

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Trump Administration Plans @StateDept-@USAID Merger and Deep Program Cuts

Posted: 2:49 am ET

 

The FP exclusive says that the Trump administration is planning to merge USAID into the State Department, and imposed deep cuts on USAID programs.  Apparently, senior USAID officials have “told staff that the agency is attempting to cope with the steep cuts by prioritizing its field offices abroad over its offices in Washington. Nonetheless, the agency still anticipates that the budget proposal will necessitate eliminating 30 to 35 of its field missions while cutting its regional bureaus by roughly 65 percent. USAID currently operates in about 100 countries.” Also this:

“That will end the technical expertise of USAID, and in my view, it will be an unmitigated disaster for the longer term,” said Andrew Natsios, the former USAID Administrator under President George W. Bush. “I predict we will pay the price. We will pay the price for the poorly thought out and ill-considered organization changes that we’re making, and cuts in spending as well.”

The article talks about reorganization but does not talk about a reduction in force, which we think is inevitable if this budget is approved.  If this administration slashes in half or eliminate entire USAID programs, what is there left to do for staffers?  In the 1990’s when State and USAID went through similar cuts, USAID lost about 2,000 jobs. By 1996, WaPo reported that USAID’s overall work force “has been reduced from 11,500 to 8,700 and is heading down to 8,000.” The number did not include a breakdown but we are presuming that this overall number included local employees overseas. See The Last Time @StateDept Had a 27% Budget Cut, Congress Killed ACDA and USIA.

A white paper submitted to the then Obama-Biden Transition in 2008 noted the staffing woes with USAID:

The number of employees at USAID has dropped from 4,300 in 1975, to 3,600 in 1985, to 3,000 in 1995. As of September 2007, USAID was staffed with 2,417 direct hire staff (1,324 foreign service officers and 1,093 civil servants) and 908 staff with limited appointments (628 personal services contractors and 280 Pasas, Rasas, and others). In addition, the agency employed 4,557 Foreign Service nationals at missions overseas. While staffing levels have declined, program responsibility has increased from approximately $8 billion in 1995 to approximately $13 billion in 2007 (in 2005 dollars). USAID has set a target of a contracting officer managing a range of $10-14 million per year, but the current level is at an average of $57 million.

There are inadequate numbers of experienced career officers; as a result, management oversight of programs is at risk. Fifty percent of Foreign Service officers were hired in the last 7 years. One hundred percent of Senior Foreign Service officers will be eligible to retire in 2009. Of 12 Career Ministers, six will reach the mandatory retirement age of 65 in 2010. Mid-career Foreign Service officers in their mid-40s have less than 12 years of service. Until 2007, 70-80 members of the Foreign Service would leave the service annually, 85% for retirement; that rate has fallen to 45-55%. Of 122 new hires in 2007, only 10% were experienced mid-career hires.
[…]
DOD maintains a 10% float (for training and placing staff in other agencies and organizations). AID has float of 1⁄2 of a percent, little training, and is unable to take opportunities for placing staff in other agencies and organizations.

In 2016, the USAID workforce composition is as follows:

[T]he Agency’s mission was supported by 3,893 U.S. direct hire employees, of which 1,896 are Foreign Service Officers and 253 are Foreign Service Limited, and 1,744 are in the Civil Service. Additional support came from 4,600 Foreign Service Nationals, and 1,104 other non-direct hire employees (not counting institutional support contractors). Of these employees, 3,163 are based in Washington, D.C., and 6,434 are deployed overseas. These totals include employees from the Office of Inspector General.*

Folding USAID into State would most likely require congressional approval, but the work to get there is most probably already underway.  When USIA was folded into State, a new PD cone was created; does this mean a Development cone will soon be added to the Foreign Service career tracks?  Will the USAID development professionals move to State or will they find they find their way elsewhere?  The already stressful transfer season this summer just got tons harder.

Also see Former Director of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) Jeremy Konyndyk Twitter thread below on why this is such a short-sighted idea.

FY18 Budget Control Levels via Adam Griffiths, Foreign Policy:

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Hopeless But Optimistic: Journeying through America’s Endless War in #Afghanistan (Excerpt)

Posted: 2:24 am ET

 

Douglas Wissing previously wrote a book entitled, Funding the Enemy: How US Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban.  He’s back with a new book, Hopeless but Optimistic: Journeying through America’s Endless War in Afghanistan. Kirkus Review calls it “a scathing dispatch” with “pungent, embittered, eye-opening observations of a conflict involving lessons still unlearned.”

As he gets into Kabul to embed with the military, the author notes “a USAID (United States Agency for International Development) billboard proclaiming women’s rights in English and Dari that few Afghan females can read, because almost 90 percent of them are still illiterate after more than a decade and $100 billion spent on grotesquely mismanaged US aid programs.”

That Ring Road?  Wissing writes, “During his frantic reelection push after the botched Iraq invasion, President George W. Bush decided that refurbishing the Ring Road on a yeehaw schedule in 2003 would show Afghans how things were done the American way. Well, it did. The highway is infamous for its poor construction and extravagant price.”

It’s that kind of book. It reminds us of Peter Van Buren’s We Meant Well book on Iraq.

A couple of notes, Chapter 35 titled Embassy includes a nugget about Embassy Kabul refusing to allow the author to meet with SIGAR John Sopko who was also at post, without a minder. Sopko, according to Wissing was furious, demanding a private meeting without embassy handlers but “the diplomats won’t budge.”

Chapter 36 talks about Loss.  A cynical USAID financial officer earlier told the author that “given the amount of money the United States was pushing on the Afghan insiders who were “bankers,” he didn’t blame them for stealing it.” This is in relation to the Bank of Kabul scandal that involved an almost $900 million Ponzi scheme of fraudulent loans. The chapter also talks about Anne Smedinghoff and four other Americans, including three soldiers and an interpreter lost during a suicide attack in Qalat. The author previously meet Smedinghoff during a visit to the embassy compound in Kabul where the latter acted as his minder, assigned to escort him for an interview with a Justice Department official who was working the Afghan Threat Finance Cell (ATFC).

The author told us that he find audiences in the U.S. are often surprised to learn that Afghanistan remains our largest foreign military engagement–$44 billion requested for FY 2017 (vs $5 billion for Syria) “to add to the trillion dollars already wasted.” He also notes that around 10,000 US troops are still there, along with up to 26,000 defense contractors.

We’re posting an excerpt of the book courtesy of Amazon Kindle/Preview:

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Around the Foreign Service: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays 2016 (Videos)

Posted: 1:41 am ET

 

US Embassy Tokyo, Japan

It looks like we have our first viral embassy holiday video at over 3.5 million views in the last two days. Ambassador Kennedy and U.S. Mission Japan staff in Tokyo, Sapporo, Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Naha got into the holiday spirit and showed off their dance moves. Below is their rendition of the “Koi Dance” (Love Dance) from one of the most popular TV shows in Japan this season.

Here is a bonus clip with Santa going down the chimney:

 USAID

US Embassy Warsaw; USCG Krakow, Poland

US Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

US Embassy Manila, Philippines

 

US Embassy Prague, The Czech Republic

US Embassy Seoul, South Korea

US Embassy Ottawa, Canada

US Embassy Oslo, Norway

“It’s Ambassador Heins’ first Christmas in Norway, but will he find julestemning? In this year’s Embassy holiday video, the Ambassador, Tone Damli and Ole Torp drive around Oslo singing Christmas carols and practice Norwegian in their quest to find true holiday spirit.”

 US Embassy Zagreb, Croatia

US Embassy Zagreb also launched their celebration of the holiday season with their new Mannequin Challenge video.

US Embassy Quito, Ecuador

USCG Toronto, Canada

U.S. Consulate General Toronto’s multilingual and diverse team wishes Happy Holidays on this Mannequin Challenge video in 19 languages.

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#HurricaneMatthew Closes US Embassies in Haiti, Jamaica, and The Bahamas; USAID Activates DART

Posted: 1:44 am ET

 

Due to Hurricane Matthew, the State Department has authorized the voluntary evacuation of authorized family members of U.S. government employees from the The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Haiti. A Travel Alert for Cuba recommends that U.S. citizens defer travel to eastern Cuba.

Alert October 3, 2016 Cuba Travel Alert
Warning October 2, 2016 Haiti Travel Warning
Warning October 1, 2016 Jamaica Travel Warning
Warning October 1, 2016 The Bahamas Travel Warning

 

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Contractors Settle False Claims Allegations Related to USAID Food Aid Storage/Redelivery For $1.075M

Posted: 3:55 am ET

Via USDOJ:

Jacintoport International LLC and Seaboard Marine Ltd Agree to Settle False Claims Allegations Related to Delivery of Humanitarian Food Aid

The Justice Department announced today that Jacintoport International LLC (Jacintoport) and Seaboard Marine Ltd. (Seaboard Marine) have agreed to pay $1.075 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that the companies violated the False Claims Act in connection with a warehousing and logistics contract for the storage and redelivery of humanitarian food aid. Jacintoport is a cargo handling and stevedoring firm headquartered in Houston, Texas, and Seaboard Marine, an affiliate of Jacintoport, is an ocean transportation company headquartered in Miami, Florida.

In its lawsuit, the United States alleged that Jacintoport executed in 2007 a warehousing and logistics contract with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the storage and redelivery of emergency humanitarian food aid. This contract contained explicit caps on the rates Jacintoport could charge ocean carriers to load humanitarian food aid onto ships (referred to as “stevedoring” charges) bound for crisis areas around the world. The complaint alleges that beginning around January 2008 and continuing through at least October 2009, Jacintoport, under the supervision and control of Seaboard, charged ocean carriers more for stevedoring than permitted to load over 50,000 tons of humanitarian food aid. These inflated stevedoring charges were subsequently lumped into other costs for delivering humanitarian food aid and passed on to the United States.

“USAID’s humanitarian food aid program provides critical assistance to starving people all over the world,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Justice Department will hold accountable those who seek to abuse this important program.” ‪

“It is unacceptable for companies that do business with the federal government to inflate their costs,” said U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips for the District of Columbia. “This settlement demonstrates our determination to protect the taxpayers’ dollars – and humanitarian programs – from abuse.”

The allegations resolved by this settlement were initially brought in a lawsuit filed under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by John Raggio, a shipping contractor who allegedly received an invoice from Jacintoport that contained the excessive stevedoring charge. Under the Act’s qui tam provisions, a private citizen, known as a “relator,” can sue on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery. The United States is permitted to intervene in the lawsuit, as it did here. Raggio will receive $215,000. Earlier today, the government requested that the case be dismissed.

This matter was handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, with assistance from the USAID Office of the Inspector General. The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability. The case is United States ex. rel. Raggio v. Jacintoport International, LLC, et al. Case No. 1:10-cv-01908 (D.D.C.).

 

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Snapshot: Top Recipients of U.S. Assistance — FY1995, FY2005, FY2015

Posted: 1:35 am ET

Via CRS:

In FY2015, the United States provided some form of bilateral foreign assistance to about 144 countries. The following identifies the top 15 recipients of U.S. foreign assistance for FY1995, FY2005 and FY2015. Assistance, although provided to many nations, is concentrated heavily in certain countries, reflecting the priorities and interests of United States foreign policy at the time (via – PDF)

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