Friday, January 8, 2010

US Embassaurus Baghdad Plans to Go Double Whopper

Windows7 Whopper - Burger King JapanImage by avlxyz via Flickr

No End in Sight for the Iraq Tax ...

The Cable’s
Josh Rogin had an exclusive interview with Robert S. Ford, the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Baghdad. Ambassador Ford (former ambassador to Algeria) on supersizing the embassy, quote: "If Congress gives us the money we are asking for, this embassy is going to be twice the size it is now. It's not going down, it's getting bigger.”  

Rogin writes that the Obama administration has prepared a budget request for a program that would vastly increase the number of people working on police training when the military draws down. That request, if granted, could increase the overall U.S. diplomatic presence in Baghdad from around 1,400 to more than 3,000 total personnel, including contractors.

"My biggest problem here is figuring out where are these people going to live, how are we going to get the security for them, how are we going to get food for them, and how are we going to get their mail delivered," he said.

Rogin points out that our Baghdad embassy is already the largest in the world and “bursting at the seams with people and equipment.”

The report also says that the new police training will focus more on "middle management," to include human resources, operational planning, and building institutional capacity, "rather than showing a new recruit how to wear a uniform and how to shoot a gun."

Read the whole thing here.

Funding for US Embassy Iraq
Extracted from OIG/MERO August 2009 Report

An August 2009 report from the OIG’s MERO Office on Embassy Baghdad’s transition planning for reduced US military in Iraq says  that the embassy’s mission strategic plan indicates a gradual reduction in PRTs from 16 teams in August 2010 to six teams by December 2011.  Wow! But there is also this:
Department budget officials are identifying costs associated with the U.S. military drawdown as requirements are identified, and they believe sufficient funds have been budgeted through FY 2011 to meet projected embassy operational requirements as currently defined. However, OIG has identified several areas in which the military drawdown may result in additional costs. These areas include requirements for: (1) enhanced security around the new embassy compound; (2) convoy security for fuel, food, and other supplies; (3) commercial air travel as an alternative to military transport; and (4) private sector design, contract preparation, and contract oversight to replace U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ support services.
Embassy Baghdad stated that there are two program areas that will greatly impact the embassy platform in 2011 and beyond: (1) a Department program to take over training Iraqi police from the U.S. military, and (2) the possible stand-up of an Office of Military Cooperation under chief of mission authority to assume some of the support and assistance now provided by U.S. military units. Embassy Baghdad noted that neither of these two programs has yet been defined in terms of scope, numbers of personnel and their deployment to different Iraqi sites, or the duration of their missions or support needs.

How could budget officials say in mid-2009 that sufficient funds have been budgeted through FY 2011 when the embassy did not yet know at that time how many additional personnel were needed for the police program?

Since Ambassador Ford is now talking about a staffing increase from “around 1,400 to more than 3,000 total personnel,” I’m presuming they have now identified personnel requirements for the Iraqi Police training program that the Department will take over from DOD. 
Ah yes, no good deed will go unpunished.  And just when I started to believe that the new hiring authority will begin to close the staffing gaps especially at the mid-levels – sigh!

The largest bump in recent years that the Foreign Service got in terms of staffing happened during Secretary Powell’s Diplomatic Readiness Initiative (DRI). That bump was quickly swallowed by a dinosaur with an almost bottomless appetite.  The State Department had recently received authority to hire 724 new officers. But with the surge in Afghanistan and a still hungry embassaurus in Baghdad, can you really expect a break in staffing gaps in diplomatic missions not located in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan?  What -- or Yemen?.

You may need to start bringing your own pencil to work, before long. The estimated funding for US Embassy Baghdad in FY2010 was $1.865B.  If its request for over 1600 additional personnel is approved, the estimated funding of $1.875B for FY2011 will most certainly skyrocket.   

With these kind of numbers, would talk on directed  assignments be too far behind?.    

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