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.
The number of people identified by the Obama administration as potential terrorists surged in the past two years, and the FBI now is preparing for another spike as it plans to intensify its scrutiny of foreign visitors and U.S. citizens, WND has discovered.
The federal government will hire up to 116 full-time private-contractor personnel to help amass and screen data on persons whose movements or activities are brought to the attention of the Terrorist Screening Center, an FBI-administered interagency unit...
Continued via WND.com...
My latest from WND. -- S.P.
Supporters of Barack Obama tout his dedication to the responsibilities of the presidency by noting that he had taken 96 days of vacation at the point in his term that President George W. Bush had taken a reported 335.
But they admit that 51 of Bush’s trips were to his Texas ranch, while records show that Obama’s destinations have ranged from exotic European and African locales to pricey digs to Hawaii, where he’s sometimes traveled separately from his family, effectively doubling transportation costs for taxpayers.
The records released are partial, meaning no firm travel-expense total can be assembled. But individual cases are revealing.
Continued at WND.com...
Posted at 11:58 AM in Africa, Asia, Colombia, Corruption and Waste, Denmark, England, Europe, Far East, Finance, France, Germany, Government Reform, India, Indonesia, Japan, Media, Mexico, Middle East, Senegal, South Africa, South America/Caribbean, Tanzania, Taxes, Television, Transportation, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. State Dept., White House, WND | Permalink | Comments (0)
The lines between U.S. military and humanitarian actions have become increasingly blurred under the Obama administration, which globally will deploy advisers to further merge what historically were separate defense and foreign-aid functions.
The reformation began under President George W. Bush but is reaching new heights under Obama.
The Military Liaison Team, or MLT, at the U.S. Agency for International Development will leverage the new advisers to coordinate efforts between USAID and all Department of Defense agencies, according to planning documents that U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor discovered via routine database research.
These Humanitarian Assistance Adviser/Military, or HAA/M, adviser posts will serve as a “critical liaison function between USAID and the DoD military establishment.” USAID on Sept. 27 began publicly recruiting candidates to fill multiple HAA/M slots both domestically and worldwide.
The goal of the liaison function will be to “represent the humanitarian sector perspective and expertise” in situations in which parties such as USAID and DOD – as well as the United Nations, NGOs and “private voluntary organizations” – jointly respond to international crises.
HAA/M candidates must have “professional experience planning for or responding to” chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive events, the Personal Services Contracting notice emphasizes.
The agency’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, or OFDA, initially will deploy the HAA/Ms to DOD Combatant Command facilities where there already exists “an OFDA operational need to work with the military independent of future country specific disasters.”
Those locations include Stuttgart, Germany – current home of the U.S. Africa Command – as well as Honolulu and Miami.
OFDA’s strategic plan also is weighing potential HAA/M assignments in Washington, D.C.; Bangkok, Thailand; San Jose, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan; and Manama, Bahrain, the document says.
OFDA is the primary USAID unit tasked with providing “emergency non-food humanitarian assistance.”
The three-division office is part of the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, or DCHA.
OFDA separately is recruiting for a HAA/M position that the office has planned for U.S. Special Operations Command, or USSOCOM, headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla.
“Due to their existing presence in countries around the world, special operations forces (SOF) can be the first U.S. military forces in country following natural disasters or complex emergencies,” the solicitation says.
Because of SOF’s unique global responsibilities, “OFDA is increasingly liaising and engaging with those units to ensure staff awareness of [U.S. government] roles before, during, and following an international disaster response operation.”
Indeed, the Bush administration centered its efforts at USSOCOM when the White House first sought to create some parallel USAID and DOD functions.
That initiative countered the traditional U.S. government perspective on USAID’s distinct humanitarian role.
The John F. Kennedy administration created USAID as a unit intentionally detached from “political and military functions that plagued its predecessor organizations,” according to the agency’s official history. As a consequence of this separation, USAID more ably could offer “direct support to the developing nations of the world.”
Under Bush, however, USAID’s DCMA unit in 2005 created the Office of Military Affairs, subsequently hiring senior advisers to initiate and expand its relationship with DOD.
USAID started this process by hiring senior development advisers to USSOCOM and to the U.S. European Command, respectively.
Soon after, it sought to install a Washington, D.C.-based senior military adviser to “create, foster and formalize a network of working relationships between USAID and the U.S. military, with a focus on leaders throughout the Pentagon.”
The creation of the more recent HAA/M adviser positions will attempt to elevate these relationships to a higher level, while also taking steps to ensure that the lines are not completed blurred when it comes to military and humanitarian functions.
Among the core duties of the advisers will be to “deploy with DOD forces in humanitarian emergencies” and to “assist OFDA management in defining a strategy for military coordination.”
Despite the coordination, the adviser also will be tasked with drawing at least some distinction between DOD and USAID responsibilities.
The establishment of these boundaries is evidenced by additional duties called for in the solicitation. Among them is the stated need to “coordinate with the humanitarian community to achieve the best use of military assets by reducing redundant or counterproductive military activities.”
The HAA/M adviser likewise must determine “whether OFDA participation in DoD humanitarian activities is necessary and useful.”
This article originally was published via WND on Oct. 1, 2013. Under agreement with the publisher, rights have reverted back to the author, Steve Peacock.
The Obama administration is seeking additional U.S. taxpayer funds to provide more health services to Kenyans through a massive assistance program that has already grown so “rapidly and exponentially” the U.S. government now needs help from outside contractors to oversee it.
A Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm known for its work with the United Nations Development Program, the European Union and the World Bank has been hired by the administration to monitor, analyze and improve the foreign-assistance program, known as the Evaluation Services and Program Support endeavor.
The U.S. Agency for International Development has awarded a contract potentially worth $23 million to International Business & Technical Consultants, Inc., or IBTCI, which will provide such services when called upon.
The new arrangement allows USAID/Kenya’s Office of Population and Health Programs, or OPH, and USAID/East Africa’s Regional Health and HIV/AIDS Office, or RHH, to issue separate work orders to the consulting firm on an indefinite quantity, indefinite delivery basis.
The initiative emphasizes “Kenya is a priority country for The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and receives significant funding to address HIV/AIDS and related problems. Similarly, resources available from the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) assure continued funding for malaria programs.”
Despite this consistent flow of funding, Kenya wants more.
USAID says key target groups among the Kenyan population have reached plateaus or have seen declines in measurements of Kenyans’ health.
Kenya consequently intends to “seek additional funding to balance the current program to increase coverage for family planning, maternal, neonatal, and child health, nutrition/food security, and safe water and hygiene.”
USAID/East Africa similarly will enlist the consulting firm’s assistance in contributing to “the re-design of new, evidence-based follow-on projects and programs” in Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
This agency unit likewise is working “in close collaboration” with U.S. government counterparts at the Centers for Disease Control and the departments of Defense and State “to accelerate the scale-up of proven high-impact and low-cost public health programming.”
Although USAID admittedly cannot adequately manage the voluminous initiatives it has launched in Kenya, cost-wise overall aid dropped from a high of $830 million in 2009 to $460 million in 2013.
Despite the administration’s emphasis on Kenyan health programs, there is another component to the initiative: the implementation of Kenya’s new constitution, which requires greater decentralization of the national government and expansion of the county governmental system.
While the overarching goal “is to focus on the establishment of a sustainable national health system for all Kenyans,” it also must maintain “strong linkages” to other governmental and societal sectors “that impact health but have conventionally been perceived as outside of the control of the health sector.”
U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor has reported over the past year on various components of Obama’s Kenyan assistance scheme.
Those exclusive Monitor reports (some which originally appeared via WND.com and were reprinted here by the author) led USAID to eliminate public access to a critical planning document governing a U.S. propaganda initiative known as the USAID/Kenya Strategic Communications Plan 2012-2013.
Publicly available documents revealing the Obama administration’s unwieldy portfolio of Kenyan projects – which includes a formal plan to manipulate Kenyan and global media – were removed from a federal contracting database, the Monitor discovered.
The agency likewise revamped one of its solicitations for industry proposals, modifying the project to make it an East African rather than a Kenyan-only endeavor.
However, the Monitor discovered the government merely repackaged and re-released it, expanding the potential geographic reach of the initiative while limiting it to health-related projects.
USAID also plans to spend up to $50 million to strengthen Kenya’s county governments, as the Monitor previously reported.
Though the effort could help redistribute political power across the African republic, whose national government is viewed as one of the most notoriously corrupt in the world, the administration acknowledged the process may inadvertently create 47 equally corrupt county systems.
The Monitor reported Obama also is embarking upon a nationwide reading project that aims to improve the skills of children in tens of thousands of Kenyan schools.
The administration furthermore launched new peace initiatives in and around Kenya, despite acknowledging that chronic cattle rustling and other cultural practices – such as killing rivals “to prove their manhood or impress young women” – might impede progress.
USAID separately will pump hundreds of millions into contractor coffers to help improve business for farmers in and around Kenya.
This article originally was published via WND.com, and has been reprinted by the author under agreement with WND.Follow @tradeaidmonitor
Posted at 05:10 PM in Africa, Burundi, CDC, Central African Republic, Congo, Djibouti, European Union, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, U.S. Dept. of Defense, U.S. State Dept., Uganda, United Nations, USAID, White House, WND, World Bank, Zambia | Permalink | Comments (0)
U.S. and Chinese criminal justice officials are gearing up for their next annual gathering in Washington, D.C, where the U.S. Department of State is preparing to hold the 11th meeting of the China-U.S. Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation (JLG).
The JLG is one of 54 U.S. government policy groups that address U.S.-China relations, a "misaligned institutional structure that has been created haphazardly over time rather than consciously designed," according to Heritage Foundation scholar Derek Scissors.
These groups have the potential to improve diplomacy between the two nations, but at the time of his 2011 policy backgrounder "Tools to Build the U.S.–China Economic Relationship" Dr. Scissors claimed that the process was "wasteful and ineffective."
State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs is coordinating the procurement of multiple hotel-meeting rooms and a banquet hall for 80 participants during the two-day event.
Last year the JLG met in Guangzhou, China to discuss, according to State, "the pressing transnational criminal threats that affect both countries."
"The talks resulted in commitments to target chemical precursors to illicit drugs and cooperate on combating firearms smuggling and Internet child pornography," State said last December. Illegal wildlife smuggling also was addressed.
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)
USAID's Global Health Supply Chain Program is seeking contractor help in modernizing how the agency manages and secures its health-specific supply system.
The half-billion cap on procuring technical assistance, or TA, is for "supply chain management and commodity security" in foreign assistance recipient-nations. Currently the agency is seeking comments on its draft Performance Work Statement (PWS) and has not yet issued a request for proposals.
"Since 2005, USAID has procured and delivered more than 4,300 different products valued at
$2.4 billion and has provided more than $500 million in supply chain technical assistance in
more than 50 countries," according to the PWS.
Such endeavors, the PWS asserts, support the Bureau of Global Health’s vision of “a world
where people lead healthy, productive lives and where mothers and children survive and
Three offices within the bureau as well as the Office of Health Systems (OHS) are tasked with procuring "health commodities and technical assistance for USAID programs and Presidential initiatives globally": the Office of Health, Infectious Diseases, and Nutrition (HIDN); the Office of HIV/AIDS (OHA); and the Office of Population and Reproductive Health (PRH).Follow @tradeaidmonitor
The "Grit & Grace Radio Show" has invited me to discuss my recent reporting on foreign aid to the Middle East/North Africa. Hosts Jennifer Meadows and Josh Bernstein will grill me in response to several recent articles I had written for WND and have since re-posted (under agreement with WND) here at U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor (see "Have U.S. 'Investments' in Mideast Paid Off?" and "Feds Plan to Give Egypt Armed-to-the-Teeth Ships.")
The "Grit & Grace Radio Show," which is affiliated with ConservativeDailyNews.com, airs Tuesday and Thursday nights 8-10 p.m. (CST)/9-11 p.m. (EST). I'll notify Monitor readers when the specific show containing my interview is made available online.