On November 28, the Secretary of State told the world that “Saudi Arabia has invested billions to relive suffering in Yemen.” Pretty soon, Saudi Arabia’s spokesman would not have a job anymore.
The Guardian reported that in 2017, the Yemen appeal for $2.5bn was only 73% funded, but that the needs have intensified in a country battered since 2015 by a Saudi-led military offensive aimed at repelling Iran-backed Houthi rebels who control the capital. In April this year, during a UN donor conference for people affected by war in Yemen – labelled as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” – has received pledges of more than $2bn, close to half of which is promised by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two key protagonists in the conflict, according to the same report. Click here for the OCHA page for pledges and paid contributions for Yemen.
On October 24, 2017, U.S. Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller re-issued a disaster declaration for the ongoing complex emergency in Yemen for FY 2018 due to “continued humanitarian needs resulting from the complex emergency and the impact of the country’s political and economic crises on vulnerable populations.” USAID’s November 9, 2018 Factsheet on Yemen Disaster Assistance indicates that the United States humanitarian funding for the Yemen response in FY2018 is $566,273,269 (includes funding through the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), the Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP), and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (State/PRM)). Secretary Pompeo’s tweet on November 28 says that the United States is providing an “additional” $131 million in food assistance to Yemen.
According to the CRS, since March 2015, the U.S.-trained Saudi military has used U.S.-origin weaponry, U.S. logistical assistance, and shared intelligence in support of military operations in Yemen. Excerpt:
In May 2017, President Trump signaled a continuation and deepening of bilateral defense cooperation, announcing completed and proposed defense sales during his visit to Riyadh with a potential value of more than $110 billion. The sales include cases that the Obama Administration had proposed and notified to Congress, cases developed under the Obama Administration on which Congress had been preliminarily consulted, and new sales that remain under development.
The United States’ role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition’s military operations in Yemen has evolved over time. 65 At present, it consists of some intelligence sharing, aerial refueling, and the deployment of advisers to Saudi Arabia for border security and anti-ballistic missile purposes.66 In his latest biannual War Powers letters to Congress on the deployment of U.S. forces abroad in combat operations (P.L. 93-148), President Trump informed Congress about ongoing U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen and stated that U.S. forces in noncombat roles were providing “military advice and limited information, logistics, and other support to regional forces combatting the Houthi insurgency.”
So, on one hand, we’re supporting the side that’s indiscriminately bombing hospitals, school buses and children, and on the other hand, we’re spending millions of dollars for food and humanitarian assistance to help those who are bombed and starved. Also, our Secretary of Swagger did not just announced the additional millions in food assistance but also cited “our generous example” in “galvanizing humanitarian assistance.” When is this going up on Instagram, people?
By the way, the most recent USAID/OFDA official said “no amount of aid money can prevent this famine” and that absent massive political pressure on the Saudi, this is just “window dressing.”
Related item: Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF) | Updated September 21, 2018 (Congressional Research Service).
Iran’s regime has no interest in easing Yemeni suffering; the mullahs don’t even care for ordinary Iranians. Saudi Arabia has invested billions to relieve suffering in #Yemen. Iran has invested zero.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 28, 2018
Through our generous example, the U.S. has galvanized humanitarian assistance to ease Yemeni people’s suffering. Today we’re announcing nearly $131 million in additional food assistance in #Yemen, bringing total humanitarian aid to more than $697 million over the past 14 months.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 28, 2018
The idea that Saudi Arabia cares about ordinary Yemenis and is seeking to “relieve suffering” in Yemen is ludicrous. The fact that Pompeo has to use such talking points shows how weak the case for US support of this war is. https://t.co/FsEJ7fS99p
— Amy Hawthorne (@awhawth) November 29, 2018
Mr. Secretary, Iran is not bombing Yemen. Saudi Arabia is, using munitions from US defense contractors, precipitating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. https://t.co/3GTChdmZGv This happened on your watch. What will you do about it? cc @statedeptspox pic.twitter.com/2nJFDkXDWw
— Alex Howard (@digiphile) November 28, 2018
Pompeo today to Senators on Yemen: "I know many of you
think it’s time to pack up and abandon the role we’ve been playing since the previous
administration. I’m here to tell you why that’s a bad call."
Five & change hours later, 63 Senators voted to rebuke him.
— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) November 28, 2018
As the guy who used to oversee that very aid, let me say explicitly: no amount of aid money can prevent this famine. Without massive political pressure on the Saudis, this is just window dressing. https://t.co/gj01ePZaOn
— Jeremy Konyndyk (@JeremyKonyndyk) November 28, 2018
Every day, 130 children under 5 were dying from extreme hunger & disease in #Yemen at the end of last year.
Nearly 50,000 children during the course of a year.
— UN Humanitarian (@UNOCHA) October 23, 2018
"Desperate. Devastated. Financially, mentally, morally. Completely devastated." pic.twitter.com/0GZYlHa7RX
— VICE News (@vicenews) November 25, 2018
Responding to Sec. of State Pompeo’s op-ed today in the WSJ, Yemen’s Houthi-backed foreign minister launched a scathing appeal to the US to not use Yemen to fight a proxy war with Saudi Arabia.
They “are trying to fight Iran in our territory. Why don’t they go to Iran?" pic.twitter.com/dTDcZ0kcyl
— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) November 28, 2018
— Sharon Hudson-Dean (@CGSydney) October 31, 2018
— U.S. Embassy London (@USAinUK) October 31, 2018
— US Embassy Podgorica (@USEmbassyMNE) October 31, 2018
— USConsulateHalifax (@usconshalifax) October 31, 2018
— US Embassy Canberra (@USAembassyinOZ) November 1, 2018
— M.E.Countryman (@mecountryman) October 30, 2018
ALSO IN FRIGHTFUL NEWS: The United States could deploy 7,000 armed troops to the US-Mexican border a week before Election Day. It could go up to 15,000, roughly what we have in Afghanistan and three times what the United States deployed to Iraq. Since Mexico refused to fund that wall, the President of the United States now says “”We have to have a wall of people”. Presumably, our friends to the south are not going to pay for this “wall of people” either, so U.S. taxpayers are already saddled with this tab. And since the deployment to the border number will likely kept growing the next few days, the Pentagon probably should ask how deep is this “wall of people” the Commander-in-Chief is talking about.
Meanwhile in Yemen, people have been dying the last three years. Now 14 million people face starvation as the U.S. government continue its military support of Saudi Arabia’s war (see Secretary Pompeo Saves $2Billion Weapons Sales From Jeopardy). USG is now seeking a cease-fire over there. Why now? Is it because half of Yemen’s population is on the brink of famine? Or is it because the world is finally paying attention to US-support of the war in Yemen after the Khashoggi murder? Former USNATO Ambassador Robert Hunter writes that “blanket U.S. support for the Saudi air campaign means that it cannot escape its own share of responsibility.”
Also back in 2010, a State/OIG report estimated that the Yemeni-American community in that country was about 55,000. There were no USG-organized evacuations when war broke out. For those covering Yemen, please ask the Secretary of State his department’s estimate on how many Yemeni-Americans were killed in this war.
JUST IN: Pentagon has identified about 7,000 troops who could be deployed to border with Mexico: official https://t.co/fF5qrITIlB
— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) October 31, 2018
Our cover story this week: Saudi Arabia thought a bombing campaign would quickly crush its enemies in Yemen. But three years later, the Houthis refuse to give up, even as 14 million people face starvation. https://t.co/cgNfeRB1bQ pic.twitter.com/dZoabriGfQ
— NYT Magazine (@NYTmag) October 31, 2018
Mike Pompeo made decision after being warned that a cutoff could jeopardize $2 billion in weapons sales to America’s Gulf allies https://t.co/dbIJZrdyPs
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) September 20, 2018
'Mike Pompeo is said to have recently decided to continue America’s increasingly controversial involvement, after being told if it stopped it could threaten $2bn of sales of US-manufactured weapons to Washington’s allies in the Gulf.' https://t.co/8YxhE0d1sP
— Borzou Daragahi 🖊🗒 (@borzou) September 20, 2018
#Yemen : Pompeo Certifies to Congress that Saudi & UAE taking actions to reduce casualties in Yemen.
Pompeo, Coats, Mattis headed to Congress to brief on subject. Statement: pic.twitter.com/8UGCZMYevZ
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) September 12, 2018
AND NOW THIS, the English version though the original one requires no translation:
Comics mocks the US Secretary of State "Pompeo" statement in which he claimed that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are using the necessary measures to avoid targeting civilians in #Yemen #كريكاتير_شهاب_قاسم pic.twitter.com/KVP25Y0eDi
— كريكاتير شهاب قاسم (@shehab_yemeni) September 19, 2018
Posted: 1:22 am ET
The State Department suspended its embassy operations at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen and American staff were relocated out of the country in February 2015. Embassy Sanaa had previously announced the suspension of all consular services until further notice on February 8, 2015.
A January 10 Travel Advisory is a Level 4 Do Not Travel citing terrorism, civil unrest, health, and armed conflict. “Terrorist groups continue to plot and conduct attacks in Yemen. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities.” The Advisory notes that the U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Yemen.
On February 11, Reuters reported that the U.S. Government has laid off 360 local staff in Yemen. Ambassador Matthew Tueller has reportedly written to to the LE staff saying that “new US State Department regulations about suspended embassies meant he could no longer keep them on.” A State Department official confirmed the lay-offs to Reuters, saying: “We are extremely grateful for the service of each and every one of these individuals and hope to work with them at some point in the future when we can safely resume operations in Yemen.”
— Ahram Online (@ahramonline) February 11, 2018
U.S. lays off local staff three years after closing Yemen embassy in Sanaa https://t.co/blCbq2jgRq
— Diplopundit (@Diplopundit) February 19, 2018
Posted: 12:17 am ET
President Trump issued E.O. 13780 on March 6 (Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States). It revoked the January 27 order, and reissued the ban for the same six countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, with Iraq excepted (see Trump Revokes Travel Ban EO, Reissues New Executive Order For Six Muslim Countries Minus Iraq).
As we’ve pointed out previously here, there’s something in EO 13780 that did not get as much attention as the travel ban. Section 2 (a) and (b) of the E.O. requires the review of immigration-related information sharing by foreign governments.
Sec. 2. Temporary Suspension of Entry for Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern During Review Period. (a) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall conduct a worldwide review to identify whether, and if so what, additional information will be needed from each foreign country to adjudicate an application by a national of that country for a visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual is not a security or public-safety threat. The Secretary of Homeland Security may conclude that certain information is needed from particular countries even if it is not needed from every country.
(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall submit to the President a report on the results of the worldwide review described in subsection (a) of this section, including the Secretary of Homeland Security’s determination of the information needed from each country for adjudications and a list of countries that do not provide adequate information, within 20 days of the effective date of this order. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide a copy of the report to the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Director of National Intelligence.
The report required under Section 2(b) was reportedly submitted in mid-July to the President. The State Department subsequently sent a guidance cable to all posts worldwide to help foreign governments understand the requirements and how they can start meeting them. We understand that posts were told to request a response from their host government counterparts to enable them to respond to the State Department by July 21.
On September 24, President Trump announced new security measures that establish minimum requirements for international cooperation to support U.S. visa and immigration vetting and new visa restrictions for eight countries. The announcement cites Section 2 of Executive Order 13780 — “if foreign countries do not meet the United States Government’s traveler vetting and information sharing requirements, their nationals may not be allowed to enter the United States or may face other travel restrictions, with certain exceptions.” Below are the country-specific restrictions per Fact Sheet: Proclamation on Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats:
Country-Specific Travel Restrictions:
- The United States maintained, modified, or eased restriction on 5 of 6 countries currently designated by Executive Order 13780. Those countries are Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia.
- The United States lifted restrictions on 1 of 6 countries currently designated by Executive Order 13780: Sudan.
- The United States added restrictions and/or additional vetting on 3 additional countries found to not meet baseline requirements, but that were not included in Executive Order 13780. These countries are: Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela.
- The country specific restrictions are as follows:
Chad – Although it is an important partner, especially in the fight against terrorists, the government in Chad does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information, and several terrorist groups are active within Chad or in the surrounding region, including elements of Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa, and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Chad, as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, is suspended.
Iran – The government in Iran regularly fails to cooperate with the United States Government in identifying security risks; is the source of significant terrorist threats; is state sponsor of terrorism; and fails to receive its nationals subject to final orders of removal from the United States. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Iran as immigrants and as nonimmigrants is suspended, except that entry by nationals of Iran under valid student (F and M) and exchange visitor (J) visas is not suspended, although such individuals will be subject to enhanced screening and vetting requirements.
Libya – Although it is an important partner, especially in the area of counterterrorism, the government in Libya faces significant challenges in sharing several types of information, including public-safety and terrorism-related information; has significant inadequacies in its identity-management protocols; has been assessed to be not fully cooperative with respect to receiving its nationals subject to final orders of removal from the United States; and has a substantial terrorist presence within its territory. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Libya, as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, is suspended.
North Korea – The government in North Korea does not cooperate with the United States Government in any respect and fails to satisfy all information-sharing requirements. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of North Korea as immigrants and nonimmigrants is suspended.
Somalia – Although it satisfies minimum U.S. information-sharing requirements, the government in Somalia still has significant identity-management deficiencies; is recognized as a terrorist safe haven; remains a destination for individuals attempting to join terrorist groups that threaten the national security of the United States; and struggles to govern its territory and to limit terrorists’ freedom of movement, access to resources, and capacity to operate. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Somalia as immigrants is suspended, and nonimmigrants traveling to the United States will be subject to enhanced screening and vetting requirements.
Syria – The government in Syria regularly fails to cooperate with the U.S. Government in identifying security risks; is the source of significant terrorist threats; has been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism; has significant inadequacies in identity-management protocols; and fails to share public-safety and terrorism information. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Syria as immigrants and nonimmigrants is suspended.
Venezuela – The government in Venezuela is uncooperative in verifying whether its citizens pose national security or public-safety threats; fails to share public-safety and terrorism-related information adequately; and has been assessed to be not fully cooperative with respect to receiving its nationals subject to final orders of removal from the United States. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate family members as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas is suspended.
Yemen – Although it is an important partner, especially in the fight against terrorism, the government in Yemen faces significant identity-management challenges, which are amplified by the notable terrorist presence within its territory; fails to satisfy critical identity-management requirements; and does not share public-safety and terrorism-related information adequately. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Yemen as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, is suspended.
IRAQ: The Secretary of Homeland Security also assesses Iraq as inadequate according to the baseline criteria, but has determined that entry restrictions and limitations under a Presidential proclamation are not warranted because of the close cooperative relationship between the United States and the democratically elected government of Iraq, the strong United States diplomatic presence in Iraq, the significant presence of United States forces in Iraq, and Iraq’s commitment to combating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The Secretary recommends, however, that nationals of Iraq who seek to enter the United States be subject to additional scrutiny to determine if they pose risks to the national security or public safety of the United States.
The FAQ notes that these restrictions and limitations took effect at 3:30 p.m. eastern daylight time on September 24, 2017, for foreign nationals “who were subject to the suspension of entry under section 2 of E.O. 13780, and who lack a credible claim of a bonda fide relationship with a person or entity of the United States.” The restrictions and limitations take effect at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on October 18, 2017, for all other foreign nationals subject to the suspension of entry under section 2 of E.O. 13780, and for nationals of Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela.
- Current Visa Sanctions: Cambodia, Guinea, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Plus The Gambia #INA243(d) September 22, 2017
- @StateDept Suspends Its Visa Interview Waiver Program (IWP) Under E.O. 13780 #Brazil #Argentina
- @StateDept Notifies Foreign Countries of New Information Sharing Standards Required For U.S. Travel
- Trump Revokes Travel Ban EO, Reissues New Executive Order For Six Muslim Countries Minus Iraq | March 2017
- White House Issues Clean-Up Memo For Trump Ban to Exempt Green Card Holders Feb 2017
- Trump EO Results in Provisional Revocations of Valid Visas, Chaos For Dual Nationals Feb 2017
- Trump EO Also Suspends Visa Interview Waivers – Expect Long Visa Wait Times, Again Jan 2017
- Trump EO: Executive Authority to Exclude Aliens and the Long Battle Ahead Jan 2017
- Trump Bars US Entry of Refugees, and Citizens, Green Card Holders From Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen Jan 2017
- Trump Travel Ban: Rudy Tells the “Whole Story”, Plus Reactions and Fall Out Jan 2017
- Trump EO: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, 1.27.2017
Posted: 2:47 am ET
On March 15, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program, the FBI announced a reward of up to $5 million for information on the murder of U.S. citizen Joel Wesley Shrum in Ta’izz, Yemen in 2012. The RFJ announcement notes that at the time of his death, Shrum worked at the International Training and Development Center as an administrator and English teacher. He was living in Yemen with his wife and two young children. Below is the FBI announcement:
The FBI Washington Field Office, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program, announced today a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of any individual who committed, conspired to commit, or aided or abetted in the commission of, the murder of U.S. citizen Joel Wesley Shrum.
On March 18, 2012, Joel Wesley Shrum, 29, was driving to his place of employment in Ta’izz, Yemen when two gunmen armed with AK-47s approached Shrum’s vehicle on a motorcycle and fired on the vehicle. Shrum was pronounced dead on the scene. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the murder. The U.S. State Department designated AQAP as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2010. At the time of his death, Shrum worked at the International Training and Development Center as an administrator and English teacher. He was living in Yemen with his wife and two young children.
Individuals with information concerning the shooting of Joel Shrum are asked to contact the FBI or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate or submit a tip on the FBI’s website by visiting tips.fbi.gov. Tips can remain confidential. Additional information regarding Joel Shrum, including a seeking information poster with his picture, is available on the FBI’s website at http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info or on the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program website at www.rewardsforjustice.net.
Posted: 12:50 am ET
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first official trip as SecState is to Bonn, Germany from February 15-17 to participate in the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
According to a SAO, Secretary Tillerson will have “a couple of key themes from his meetings will be to reassure everyone of our continued commitment to transatlantic relations and to our commitments – transatlantic commitments in NATO and otherwise, and to urge solidarity with Europeans on Ukraine and on Russia, on the Minsk, and to push Russia to honor its commitments, both in Ukraine and elsewhere.”
He will also have a bilateral meeting with the Saudi foreign minister and a second meeting with a gathering of six of the key players (U.S., UK, the Emiratis, the Saudis, the UN, and the Omanis) to discuss Yemen.
In related news, career ambassador Kristie Kenney, one of the three remaining top senior officials at the State Department was reportedly let go this week. Ambassador Kenney was appointed Counselor to the Secretary of State in February 2016 (see Secretary Kerry Appoints Kristie Kenney as State Department Counselor). We do not as yet know if this is a resignation, or a retirement from the Foreign Service. With her departure, only one Senate-confirmed official remains at the top ranks of the State Department (Tom Shannon (P)). Career diplomat Bruce Wharton who previously served as Ambassador to Zimbabwe also remains as Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R).
Seven of the nine senior State Department positions are now vacant. It looks like all under secretary positions, with the exception of “P” and “R” are vacant with no officials designated in an acting capacity. For the Under Secretary for Management, we understand that one John W. Hutchison, a member of the Trump Transition is “Acting M” for 120 days.
Posted: 2:09 am ET
On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order suspending the entry of refugees to the United States for FY2017 for 120 days. The E.O also proclaimed the entry of certain aliens as “detrimental to the interests of the United States” and declared the suspension of their entry into the United States for 90 days. The aliens referred to are from countries cited under Section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C.1187(a)(12) according to the executive order. These are the same countries cited under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen.
We’ve seen folks on social media get confused about this. So let’s try this. There are 38 countries designated as Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries; citizens or nationals of these 38 countries are currently eligible to travel to the United States without a visa. However, if either of the following is true, travelers will no longer be eligible to travel to the U.S. without a visa. Instead, individuals in the following categories will have to apply for a visa using the regular appointment process at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
- Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
- Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.
The Trump EO banning entry and issuance of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas for 90 days uses these same seven countries. Note that citizens from these seven countries have not been banned from visa applications or entry to the United States previously. Citizens from 38 visa waiver countries who previously traveled to these seven Muslim-majority countries were not allowed to use the waiver and must submit for an interview with a consular officer at an embassy or consulate overseas.
Since it appears that DOD Secretary Mattis and DHS Secretary Kelly were out of the loop on this, would it be totally shocking if no input was asked from the State Department? No? Interagency cooperation is just the White House now? On the day President Trump was preparing to sign this EO, our embassies and consular posts worldwide were still issuing visas; all official, and valid but no longer acceptable at ports of entry as soon as the executive order took effect.
Here’s Rudddddddy with a backgrounder.
Reaction round-up below:
Posted: 2:14 am ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]
USAID/OIG reported on its Top Management Challenges for FY2017. The following is an excerpt on one of its challenges, reconciling interagency priorities with examples from the Arab Spring and operations in Pakistan:
Contingency operations and other efforts require coordination with multiple U.S. Government agencies, yet USAID’s development priorities do not always align with other agencies’ priorities, making it difficult for USAID to achieve its core development mission. In particular, coordination with the State Department, which leads multiagency operations that respond to political and security crises, has presented challenges to USAID’s project planning and execution. Despite broad interagency guidance on State’s role in politically sensitive environments, USAID employees are sometimes unclear as to how to manage additional layers of review, respond to changing priorities, and balance short-term and long-term priorities. Lack of knowledge about other agencies’ processes exacerbates these challenges.
To identify the challenges USAID faced during the early part of the protest movement that came to be known as the Arab Spring (December 2010-June 2014), we surveyed 70 USAID employees working on programs for Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen.1 According to USAID staff, the State Department’s influence over USAID programs increased after the Arab Spring began, creating additional challenges. For example, a USAID employee in Egypt noted that State’s control “severely constrains USAID’s ability to design and execute technically sound development projects,” stating that agreed-upon steps to design activities and select implementation mechanisms abruptly change. USAID staff pointed out that State’s added layer of review slowed operations, and USAID employees had to dedicate additional time to building consensus and gaining external parties’ approval. USAID employees also said State officials, unfamiliar with the Agency and its different types of procurement, made requests that were difficult to accommodate under USAID procedures.
In a more recent audit in Pakistan, we also found challenges in reconciling short-term political goals with long-term development goals.
Our audit of the $7.5 billion aid package authorized under the Enhanced Partnership for Pakistan Act (EPPA) found that USAID’s programs there have not achieved intended development objectives, in part because of competing priorities between State and USAID. The State Department has the lead role for assistance activities in Pakistan, making it responsible for budget and project decisions.2 At the outset, USAID/Pakistan followed State’s initial strategy, which lacked long-term development outcomes and goals. In 2013, USAID/Pakistan implemented a formal strategy that linked activities to a long-term development goal but lacked indicators to measure progress. The strategy also focused on repairing and upgrading Pakistan’s energy infrastructure—mirroring State’s focus on energy as key to long-term growth—but not on other priority areas, such as health, education, and economic growth. According to USAID staff, implementing a development strategy under State Department control was challenging.
As a result of our EPPA audit, we made recommendations to improve USAID’s development implementation in an interagency environment, including that USAID revise its policies to (1) clearly define USAID’s roles and responsibilities for designing and implementing development when it is subject to State Department control and (2) provide alternate development strategies when a country development cooperation strategy3 or a transitional country strategy is not an option. We also recommended that the Agency institute an interagency forum where USAID can better present its development per- spective in countries where the State Department takes the lead. In response, USAID’s Administrator has engaged the State Department leadership to discuss solutions, including better reconciling interests at the beginning of planning and programming, so that USAID and State leadership can help staff pursue both agencies’ objectives simultaneously.
USAID/OIG notes that USAID has begun actions to address OIG’s recommendations to address this challenge. However, until corrective actions are fully implemented and realized, reconciling interagency priorities to advance inter- national development will remain a top management challenge.
USAID/OIG indicates that it interviewed 31 USAID officials who worked on activities in these countries, and administered a questionnaire. In all, 70 employees from USAID either had interviews or responded to the questionnaire.
Related OIG items:
- “Competing Priorities Have Complicated USAID/Pakistan’s Efforts to Achieve Long-Term Development Under EPPA” (G-391-16-003-P), September 8, 2016
- “Most Serious Management and Performance Challenges for the U.S. Agency for International Development,” October 15, 2015
- “Survey of USAID’s Arab Spring Challenges in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen” (8-000-15-001-S), April 30, 2015