Tuesday, November 15, 2011

State Dept Seeks Aviation Advisor for Iraq Rescues 58 Days Before Liftoff?

Via Danger Room's Spencer Ackerman:

The State Department has already requisitioned an army, part of the roughly 5,000 private security contractors State is hiring to protect diplomats stationed in Iraq. Now, State is hiring someone to provide a little help from the air: an “Aviation Advisor” responsible for “Search and Rescue (SAR), medical evacuations (ME), transporting Quick Reaction Forces (QRF) to respond to incidents, and provid[ing] air transportation for Chief of Mission personnel.” It’s not a familiar job for the diplomatic corps, which is why State is seeking to bring in someone from the outside.

The State Department put out this notice on Nov. 4. That’s 58 days before the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Fifty-eight days before State has the skies over Iraq to itself.
Air operations are not as simple has hiring skilled pilots to put well-maintained machines in the skies.

The military has long-standing procedures in place for designing and executing aerial missions. An experienced chain of command maintains order, discipline, coordination and success. This is what the military does.

It’s not what the State Department does. Only a relatively few officials go into the U.S. diplomatic corps to oversee security operations.

Inevitably, things will go wrong in these complex air operations. A functioning chain of command exists to minimize those mistakes and mitigate their impact.

The State Department still does not have someone atop that chain, with fewer than 60 days before it finds itself alone in the skies.

Until State can figure out its chain of command for air operations, its employees in Iraq — some 17,000 of them, according to current plans — had better hope they don’t need air support. There’s not much time to put one in place.
Continue reading, U.S. Hiring Mercenary Air Force for Iraq Rescues.

Anyway -- even if you do find the right person for this job in 57 days, how fast can that person get medically cleared, obtain a security clearance, get administratively processed and get a plan together?  A plan is important; of the 75 helicopters downed in Iraq since May 2003, at least 36 were downed by enemy fire (source).

There is, too, the contractor run and led-medical supply chain. If somebody is hurt, and is airlifted to one of the embassy district hospitals in Iraq, is the embassy blood program even in place and functioning as the military's? 

I have posted previously about Embassy Air Iraq here, and the Embassy Baghdad General Hospital here.  I've also posted about the transition and the medical support functions here, here, here and here.

In one of those posts about hospitals, a reader commented that it's strange that the subject wasn't mentioned in the Afghanistan-Iraq-Pakistan bidding cables for foreign service officers.

Somebody who writes as NewtonCM2 said "It wasn't mentioned in the AIP bidding cables because it's not true. There will be continuous, full medical coverage through the entire military to State transition. The OIG got this one wrong."

As far as I know, the OIG never corrected that report on the Iraq transition.

I hope that the State Dept is advising its contractors and employees bidding on Iraq jobs that its air operation in the country responsible for search and rescue, medevac, etc, etc. is still up on the air.  So they have the option to pack their broomsticks. 

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