Today's Washington Post has a story [here] about a new memorandum of understanding between State and Defense that will improve interagency coordination on State's protective detail movements in Iraq. The Washington Times has slightly more detailed coverage [here]. And, of course, the State Department spokesman discussed the agreement at yesterday's press conference.
This should settle a low-grade but long-standing dispute between the two agencies. Here are some key quotes from the WAPO story:
The agreement, which has not been published, places a military official for the first time in the tactical operations center of the embassy's security office, according to Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte. The military will receive "prior notification" of all diplomatic convoy movements and will give commanders in the field the option of stopping them, he said. "
The commanders "are in charge of the battle space," Negroponte said in a recent interview. "If they say don't go there, we won't go there." Although diplomatic movement information was shared with the military in the past, "it was harder to get and it wasn't as well distributed as it is now. We were sending over plans of these movements to the [military] headquarters . . . but it wasn't getting to the different elements" in the field, he said.
And here's my bureaucratic interpretation of the above: the fact that Ambassador Negroponte himself - State's #2 official - is discussing something that should be a mere administrative matter, is a big indicator of how important the security contractor issue has become. Also, I'm wondering why there has been no quote from a spokesman for General Petraeus. Possibly Amb. Negroponte was putting a positive media spin on an agreement that Defense is not 100% happy with?