• Feeling Insecure? Better Spend More

    October 4, 2011

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State, Iraq, Military

    Walter Pincus, in today’s Washington Post, asks the money question: with severe congressional cuts in State’s fiscal 2012 spending request, shouldn’t the administration take a “tougher look at what those programs accomplish?”

    In State’s $59 billion overall request, a $1.6 billion is for security costs, much of that draining into the pockets of private security contractors in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. In Iraq, for example, the number of Americans in Basra will actually increase significantly in the months ahead as the State Department dramatically expands its consulate. Officials say the consulate will employ more than 1,200 people, making it larger than most embassies. The bulk of its employees will be security contractors. Ka-ching!

    Questioning whether assistance programs in rural Afghan areas can succeed when they require “the presence of heavily armed security contractors,” the Senate panel’s report urged State and the U.S. Agency for International Development to reduce such programs “to only what can be effectively managed, monitored, and sustained.”

    “In the current budget environment, such high security costs are not sustainable,” the Senate Appropriations Committee concluded.

    That said, there is no stopping State when security spending is concerned.

    A notice in today’s Federal Register informs us of a “Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC).” It seems that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security intends to build a large training center at the former Fort Pickett in Virginia. The center is expected to train 8,000-10,000 students per year and include both hard skills training, such as driving tracks, firing ranges, mock urban environmental, and explosives ranges; soft skills training, such as classrooms, simulation labs, and a fitness center; and support facilities such as administrative offices, dormitories, a dining hall, and emergency response facilities.

    The Registry entry only announces the environmental impact statement, and so no dollar figures for what this training center will cost are included.

    Pincus, in his Washington Post article, concludes “The Pentagon, faced with the prospect of deep reductions, is reviewing the services’ roles and missions, many of which have not been reviewed for years. The State Department and foreign assistance programs need the same review.”

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