Thus far there is just one "witness" scheduled to testify Wednesday (2/5/14) at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, which is titled "Al-Qaeda’s Resurgence in Iraq: A Threat to U.S. Interests."
Mr. Brett McGurk, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, apparently is going to help sort out the situation for this critical committee.
Upon reading the hearing title, unconsciously I released a barely audible “Uh-oh,” wondering where such a hearing might lead us.
While it is too early to make assumptions about the direction of U.S. policy on Iraq, I could not help but wonder if there are people in the federal government who might seek to step up U.S. involvement there.
Even though it is unlikely the Obama administration will re-deploy troops, you can bet that billions in awards to private contractors will (continue to) flow, if not magnify.
Committee Chairman Royce’s statement on the hearing:
Al-Qaeda controls more territory today than it ever has before, and much of that is in western Iraq where it has recently captured significant cities. These terrorists continue to exploit sectarian conflicts that the Iraqi government has failed to resolve, and Iraq is now on the verge of civil war. Our hearing will examine al-Qaeda's resurgence in Iraq and its threat to regional and global security.
That reminds me: I’ve been meaning to finally buy a copy of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People by Peter Van Buren. Why? Check out Van Buren’s blog description of the book:
From a State Department insider, the first book recounting our misguided efforts to rebuild Iraq—a shocking and rollicking true-life cross between Catch-22, Dispatches and The Ugly American.
Charged with rebuilding Iraq, would you spend taxpayer money on a sports mural in Baghdad’s most dangerous neighborhood to promote reconciliation through art? How about an isolated milk factory that cannot get its milk to market? Or a pastry class training women to open cafés on bombed-out streets without water or electricity?
The committee hearing is slated for 10 a.m. in 2172 Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. Interested citizens also may catch it via webcast.
No, this is not a goodbye.
As you may have noticed, activity here at U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor has been at a minimum, but fear not -- I continue to investigate federal spending, particularly foreign aid-related ventures, and I intend to continue sheeding light on otherwise un- or under-reported taxpayer-funded endeavors.
But doing so while simulataneously working as an educator and as a freelance writer sure makes it difficult to give this blog the attention it deserves.
As my personal priority must be to support my family, I have sold some of my best articles to WND.com, which -- since the very month the Monitor emerged some three years ago -- has recognized the value of the reporting via this site. Indeed, WND Founder Joseph Farah was so impressed with one of the first Monitor articles that he bought exclusive rights to it for 48 hours.
I have since sold many dozens of articles to WND, which I am indeed allowed to reprint here two days after publication; however, with competiting demands with which to contend, the Monitor -- temporarily -- has taken a back seat to other priorities.
I look forward to resuming a more consistent publication schedule here at the Monitor.
To many other conservatives (and liberals as well), the Obama administration's refusal to cut off foreign aid to Egypt initially was surprising if not insulting. How dare the president and his many Democratic and Republican supporters on this issue fail to take immediate action! Despite deposed Egyptian President Morsi's shortcomings, he was democratically elected, wasn't he? No wonder the Egyptians are rebelling.
Rather than reiterate the well-reasoned positions that conservative writers Andrew C. McCarthy and Thomas Sowell have taken on the situation, U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor urges readers to deeply explore the very convincing and eye-opening commentaries from these men.
Things are not what they seem in Egypt. Those who support the "democratically elected" Morsi do not share the American concept of democracy and freedom. Islamist radicals are attempting to retake the government, and it very well may be in U.S. national interests to steer far clear of this turmoil.
While congressional and White House debate over foreign aid in general and U.S. assistance to Egypt specifically is necessary (is there really a debate at the moment?), let's not be naive about what is happening in Egypt.
See Andrew McCarthy's "Egypt’s One Chance for Democracy-- Only capable armed forces can check the violent proclivities of Islamic supremacism" as well as "Reality versus mirages in Egypt -- Thomas Sowell drubs conservatives wanting to cut off aid to military force."
While readers are at it, also consider the following Monitor articles as critical and reliable resources in the debate over foreign aid to the region:
U.S. Modernization of Egyptian Air Force Continues as Planned (by Steve Peacock for Patriot Update)
Today I was tracked down by Denver radio talk-show host Peter Boyles (710KNUS), who took note of my reporting primarily via WND on the issues of drones -- unmanned aerial systems -- and other forms of electronic surveillance. We spoke for nearly 20 minutes about some of the following articles, while Mr. Boyles also allowed me to briefly pitch my website U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor and talk about my background as a Capitol Hill reporter covering the final years of the Clinton Administration through the start of the George W. Bush Administration.
Many thanks to Mr. Boyles for this amazing opportunity. He expressed a strong desire to have me return as a guest on his show, to which I am very much looking forward. -- S.P.
Posted at 04:56 PM in Commentary, Congress, FBI, Homeland Security, Intelligence/Spying, Law Enforcement/Police Issues, Military, National Defense, NOAA, NSA, PatriotUpdate.com, Privacy-Surveillance, U.S. Dept. of Commerce, U.S. Dept. of Defense, U.S. Navy, White House, WND | Permalink | Comments (0)
The extrication of U.S. Special Forces injured in African military ventures soon will provide contractors with an additional revenue stream, now that the Obama administration plans to keep such vendors on stand-by, 24/7, for cross-continent airborne mobilization.
While the Pentagon’s reliance on private vendors to support international military operations is nothing new, plans to station such providers specific to such a large swath of Africa does deviate from prior procurement actions.
The Trans-Sahara Short Take-Off and Landing Airlift Support initiative will rely on outside assistance in the event that soldiers of U.S. Special Operations Command-Africa sustain traumatic medical emergencies, thereby requiring urgent transportation out of hostile zones.
Indeed, SOCOM-Africa places such urgency on its anticipated use of such Casualty Evacuation, or CASEVAC, services that, at a minimum, contractors must be capable of launching an airborne response with only a three hour notice.
The selected vendor likewise must possess the ability to be placed on heightened response and “be airborne within one hour of notification,” according a revised Performance Work Statement released April 16 that U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor located via routine database research.
Despite this urgency, the vendor securing that contract largely will engage in cargo- and personnel airlift activities, plus a limited number of air-drop missions.
The “most likely” locations for such operations are Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia, according to the U.S. Transportation Command solicitation.
Kenya, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Uganda also fall within the Primary Operating Area, or POA, of this endeavor, the USTRANSCOM document says.
SOCOM-Africa will enable this expedited response-capability by stationing the contractor in Burkina Faso, a landlocked West African nation, it says.
A search of prior Tactical Combat Casualty Care and CASEVAC solicitations available via the FedBizOpps system shows that USSOCOM and other Department of Defense units typically and primarily seek only training and equipment.
Rather than soliciting continent-wide provision of emergency medical and flight assistance, those contracting actions generally have sought assistance to enable combatant commands to provide themselves with such medical assistance.
One USSOCOM contracting action representative of the government’s acquisition of CASEVAC “kits” and trauma-management training, for example, described a critical need for Special Operations combat forces to obtain new techniques and technology in support of “ongoing operations worldwide.”
Another Special Ops solicitation from late last year revealed a $40 million, two-year contract extension awarded to Tribalco, LLC, a Bethesda, Maryland-based maker of CASEVAC and other “soldier-survival” equipment.
USTRANSCOM did not disclose an estimated cost of the Africa-centric CASEVAC procurement.
In other U.S. military procurement actions specific to Africa:
This article originally appeared via WND April 28. Under prior agreement, rights have reverted back to the author, Steve Peacock.
Posted at 06:49 PM in Africa, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Commentary, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Mauritania, Military, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, North Africa, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, U.S. Navy, U.S. Special Forces, White House, WND | Permalink | Comments (0)
Over a month ago U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor broke the story on U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's pricey trip to Paris, during which time taxpayers shelled out $585,000 and $322,000, respectively, for hotel rooms, limos, and other vehicles. VPOTUS Biden and his staff spent those taxpayer funds during his one-day Parisian journey to meet French President Francois Hollande.
CNN this past week reported on the trip -- using the same documents that the Monitor had discovered via painstaking database research -- and tooted its own horn on international TV as if that were its own discovery.
CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer talked about this "amazing, amazing discovery" (of theirs) and how shocked they were to have found these rare documents. Blitzer asked CNN White House Correspondent Brianna Keilar about her unparalleled reporting skills in uncovering this rarity, and they both speculated that the government perhaps did not mean to upload the documents to the federal database.
From the broadcast:
“We’re getting an extremely, extremely rare glimpse at how much it costs when Vice President Joe Biden goes traveling,” Blitzer proclaimed. “Brianna we’ve covered a lot of presidential and vice presidential trips, but this is pretty amazing.”
“It kind of makes you wonder if this information was put out accidentally,” Keilar later says. “I did a search myself of the past 365 days where obviously the president and vice president have gone on other foreign trips and I could find no contracts in addition for any of those visits.”
Couldn't find any contracts, eh?
I went back into FedBizOpps to see if the White House or State Department has sanitized the site of any traces of such documents (similar to what was done to the controversial USAID/Kenya Strategic Communications Plan 2012-2013 I had reported on).
I figured that maybe she may have missed, for example, the documents I previously found specific to President Obama's and Biden's million-dollar stay in Colombia (the scandalous one when Secret Service agents were caught hanging out with hookers). In that instance I was smarter about my research, and had uploaded those contracting documents to the Monitor website rather than linking from my page to the government site (which I had done, not so coincidentally, to prevent other media from stealing my story!)
A quick search today of FedBizOpps reveals that Keilar was less than forthcoming about her supposed "research." The Colombia documents are indeed still publicly available. Here they are:
I would link to additional, existing procurement data, but I have other more productive things to do instead -- such as performing some good old-fashioned reporting without ripping off some professional blogger-journalist and claiming it's my own work. -- Steve Peacock
Many thanks to Andrew C. McCarthy of National Review Online for using U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor today as a supplemental resource in his article "Shhh, Don't Tell Anyone Hamas Won."
McCarthy, it should be noted, is not your average columnist. Indeed, check out his bio:
Andrew C. McCarthy was a top federal prosecutor involved in some of the most significant cases in recent history. Decorated with the Justice Department’s highest honors, he retired from government in 2003, after helping launch the 9/11 investigation. He is one of America’s most persuasive voices on national security issues and author of the bestsellers Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad and The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America. Currently, he is a contributing editor at National Review and a columnist for Pajamas Media.
I am honored that Mr. McCarthy has recognized the value of U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor, and look forward to reading Spring Fever and his other works.
Many thanks to Joel M. Skousen's World Affairs Brief for highlighting my recent PatriotUpdate.com article "U.S. Cost of U.N. 'Rule of Law' Project: $500 million." As Skousen's brief is a subscription-based service, I am delighted that he saw fit to deem that piece worthy of mention to his readers, who no doubt want their money's worth.
For those who have not yet read that article, I had discovered, through routine database research, that the U.S. Agency for International Development will pay contractors up to a half-billion dollars to train other nation's to comply with United Nations-sanctioned "rule of law" guidelines (click through the link above for the full Patriot Update article).
There's nothing inherently wrong with encouraging governments to treat their citizens fairly and to be held accountable to their people; however,foisting this additional financial burden upon U.S. taxpayers -- compunded by the laughable notion that our government is some sort of Beacon on the Hill for the masses to follow -- is hypocritical if not downright laughable. Now that the sequestration process is unfolding, the White House and Congress should take a closer look at such projects when they start claiming that there's no place left for budget cuts.