|Photo from State.gov|
To review the situation, the administration wishes to construct a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) that would consolidate 'hard skills' training by the State Department and its partners at Fort Pickett in southside Virginia. Some members of Congress are trying to stop the project, ostensibly on grounds of economic efficiency, and would require the State Department to use the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Georgia for hard skills training. Both sides are currently awaiting the public release of a General Accountability Organization (GAO) report that evaluates the business case for building FASTC at Fort Pickett.
This week the Progress-Index, a local newspaper in the Fort Pickett area, interviewed and quoted a senior Diplomatic Security Service official for an article about the political impasse over FASTC. Well, hum, that's interesting. I presume the senior official had gotten official clearance to make those remarks. I further presume that State gets to review the expected GAO report before it goes public. Putting 2 + 2 together, I wonder whether DS is signalling with the interview that it knows the GAO will support building FASTC at Fort Pickett?
Here's the article, Report could speed up diplomatic training center at Fort Pickett:
State Department officials are hoping a soon-to-be released report will help end wrangling in Congress that has delayed construction on a diplomatic security training center at a National Guard base in Virginia.
Construction on the first phase of the facility at Fort Pickett, just over the Dinwiddie County border, was set to begin Aug. 1 with a completion date set for 2019. State Department officials have put that work on hold while they respond to Congressional requests for information.
-- snip --
Soon after the State Department finalized its selection of Fort Pickett last spring, some members of Congress cried foul. The Georgia site has been championed by members of Congress there, but also by Republican U.S. Rep. Ed Royce of California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
-- snip --
The State Department stands by its selection of Fort Pickett, saying its proximity to Washington, D.C., and rural location would allow it to conduct around-the-clock military-style training. The site is also within driving distance of Marine bases in Virginia and North Carolina that State Department personnel train with, as well as Navy special warfare forces that are stationed in Virginia Beach.
Stephen Dietz, executive director of the State Department's bureau of diplomatic security, said the Marines have told him that they can't afford to travel to Georgia for State Department training. He said the cost estimates for the southeastern Georgia site [FLETC} only have to do with construction, and don't include operation, maintenance or travel costs for State Department, military or intelligence agency personnel.
"If we were forced to go someplace else and train without our partners, there's no doubt in my mind we would be placing security at greater risk overseas because we did not train with the people we go to fight with," he said.
The article ends with this advice from the Mayor of Blackstone, Virginia, the town outside Fort Pickett:
"If you're banking your hopes on common sense and consensus in Washington, D.C., you stay up late at night worrying," said Mayor Billy Coleburn. "Who owes who favors? Who gets browbeaten behind the scenes. Those are things we can only imagine — what happens in smoke-filled rooms in Washington, D.C?"
100 percent correct, Mister Mayor. What, indeed, happens there? It could be that somebody knows what happened concerning the GAO and Fort Pickett, and maybe he just told us.