Monday, September 28, 2009

Gen. McChrystal: Talked with Obama Only Once "Since I've Been Here"

Anyone else notice this exchange, which occurred at the very end of the 60 Minutes interview with General McChrystal?

Asked how often he talks to the president, McChrystal said, "I've talked to the president since I've been here once on a VTC [video teleconference]."

"You talked to him once in 70 days?" [David] Martin asked.

"That's correct," McChrystal replied.

Of course, General McChrystal talks frequently to the Pentagon and presumably to Defense Secretary Gates, and there is such a thing as the chain of command. But still, I'm shocked that President Obama hasn't thought it worth his time to have a direct talk now and then with the guy in charge in Afghanistan.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fortress Embassies, Round 2,649

Consumer Notice: This post is certified 100% free of Matters of Official Concern that are not referenced from publicly available sources of information.

Outgoing Ambassador Victor Ashe departed the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw last week, and he took the occasion to make some farewell remarks on the well-worn subject of Fortress Embassies:

I will now share some personal observations which reflect only my own views which were shaped by 16 years as a Mayor who took the City Design Institute course led by Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.

In the course of my five years as Ambassador, I have observed American embassies being built around the world at a rapid pace with new post – September 11, 2001 security requirements. While some locations certainly require substantially enhanced security provisions (such as a four-sided 100 foot setbacks), others do not have such needs.

The cost to the taxpayers if these standards are implemented worldwide will be huge. The design of many of these buildings quite often create a fortress-like atmosphere and the impression given to host nations can be less than friendly; not the warm, welcoming impression we should offer as Americans. Many of these new embassies and consulates are located far outside the hub of activity in the center of the city, making it difficult for employees and visitors to the Embassy to get there due to lack of public transportation.

In the early 1960s, the American government demolished a beautiful historic Residence here in Warsaw to build our current structure, which many regard as an eyesore. On either side of our current building stand the truly historic structures occupied by the Swiss Embassy to the south and the Bulgarian Embassy to the North. Our architecture has not set a good example in the historic neighborhood where we are.

Given different security situations in virtually every nation, wide flexibility in construction design and location is needed as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach. As such, different sites and designs can be adopted at less cost and with greater architectural warmth. Where possible and when consistent with the security environment, we should avoid locating American residences in gated communities, as it reduces interaction with citizens of the host nation.

We need to review our current building policy from the standpoint of cost, security, location and architectural design.

Ambassador Ashe is only the latest in a long line of concerned observers to complain about the physical security requirements for new U.S. embassies, and about the current State Department practice of standardized embassy design (which are two different things). An excellent compendium of complaints can be found here in the testimony of Dr. Jane Loeffler, our most distinguished critic of Fortress Embassies. No one has hated them longer or better.

With all due respect for Ambassador Ashe, however, he is ill-informed about those security requirements.

First, they were not significantly altered after September 11, 2001, but are basically unchanged from when they were created way back in 1985. It was the Standard Embassy Design (SED) approach to construction that was newly created in 2001, and not in reaction to 9/11 but rather to the East Africa embassy bombings of 1999. It is the SED approach, and not necessarily the security requirements, that drives the State Department to do many of those things Ambassador Ashe criticizes.

Second, the rising threat of transnational terrorism means that some of those security requirements, such as the requirement that new embassies resist bomb blast, logically must be applied equally to every new embassy regardless of its location. There are no locations that do not "require substantially enhanced security provisions," at least in so far as transnational terrorism threats go. That lesson was driven in by the East Africa bombings.

And third, some of those security requirements are not merely dictates of Diplomatic Security, or even State Department regulations, but are public law. This includes the requirement for 30 meters of setback distance between office buildings and surrounding streets. Those requirements cannot be changed by a policy review, but only by persuading Congress to change the law.

As for the one-size-fits-all criticism of new embassies, well, there actually are a few different sizes of SEDs - large, medium, small, and so forth - but that criticism is fair enough. To the extent that standardized architectural design conflicts with rational risk management, I share the criticism. The person who hired me for my first job at the State Department said it best; as he handed me a thick binder of the security requirements that were starting to be codified during the first year of the Inman program, he said "these are the standards, but, of course, standards must be applied by reasoning human beings."

I always took it for granted that security standards have an invisible stamp on them that says: "nothing in this document requires you to do anything stupid." My personal test of reasonableness is that I should be able to make a convincing case for whatever security measure I'm supporting without having to even refer to the standards. On the (pretty rare) occasion when I can't do that, then I figure the standards might not be fully applicable to that situation.

Moreover, a considerable amount of risk management takes place before the SED process begins. Ambassador Ashe need not worry that SEDs will be implemented without any regard for local conditions, because, as I can see from this publicly available source of information, Congress has mandated that the State Department continuously assess local threats and vulnerabilities and pick only the highest-risk embassies for replacement:

By law, the department is authorized to spend security capital appropriations only among the top 80 [most vulnerable] posts. Congress requires an annual report by February first, showing all posts requiring replacement for security reasons. That report, consisting of approximately 150 posts, includes the top 80 posts. These top 80 posts form the universe of posts included in the Security Capital portion of the [Long Range Office Building Plan].

Each summer, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) reviews the vulnerability of all chancery and consulate buildings, considering security factors such as perimeter protection, setback, and parking; structural and safety factors such as seismic and façade construction; and the assigned threat levels. The result of the review is a rank ordering of the posts, which is provided to the regional bureaus ... The new list of 80 is sent to the Secretary for approval and, in turn, to the Congress as required by law.

Finally, the SEDs did not come down from a mountaintop carved on a tablet, and they can be changed much more easily than any of the key security standards. Recently, the American Institute of Architects published a report recommending all sorts of changes to current U.S. embassy construction practices with the intention of reversing some of the present standardization. I wish them good luck with that, particularly with the recommendations about replacing prescriptive standards with performance-based ones.

The more our standards and standardized designs are applied by reasoning human beings, the better.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Spanish Word for Wetback is "Mojado"

I see that many news outlets have picked up a recent Pew Research Center finding that most Mexicans see a better life in El Norte:

Most believe life is better in the United States. Close to six-in-ten (57%) say that people who move from Mexico enjoy a better life in the U.S. ... A substantial minority of Mexicans say that if they had the means and opportunity to go live in the U.S. they would do so, and more than half of those who would migrate if they had the chance say they would do so without authorization.

Mexicans are famously willing to come north with or without a visa. That isn't news. I really wish Pew had asked Mexicans how willing they would be to allow poor Guatemalans to cross the Mexican border in search of a better life there. Not very willing, I'll bet, considering that Mexico deports more Guatemalans than the U.S. does Mexicans.

Evidently, tolerance for illegal immigration disappears when the zapato is on the other foot.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Closing Gitmo: Closer to the Deadline, Further From Reality

The Washington Post reported today that the Obama administration has relieved White House Counsel Gregory Craig of responsibility for carrying out the President's commitment to close Gitmo by January 22, 2010. This strikes me as rearranging the deck chairs on the political Titanic that is the administration's self-imposed deadline.

From White House Regroups on Guantanamo:

Even before the inauguration, President Obama's top advisers settled on a course of action they were counseled against: announcing that they would close the facility within one year. Today, officials are acknowledging that they will be hard-pressed to meet that goal.

The White House has faltered in part because of the legal, political and diplomatic complexities involved in determining what to do with more than 200 terrorism suspects at the prison. But senior advisers privately acknowledge not devising a concrete plan for where to move the detainees and mishandling Congress.

To address these setbacks, the administration has shifted its leadership team on the issue. White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig, who initially guided the effort to close the prison and who was an advocate of setting the deadline, is no longer in charge of the project, two senior administration officials said this week.

-- snip --

To empty the prison, the administration will need to find facilities to house 50 to 60 prisoners who cannot be released and who cannot be tried because of legal impediments, according to an administration official. The administration must also win congressional funding for the closure process, find host countries for detainees cleared for release, and transfer dozens of inmates to federal and military courts for prosecution.

Craig's explanation is priceless:

"I thought there was, in fact, and I may have been wrong, a broad consensus about the importance to our national security objectives to close Guantanamo and how keeping Guantanamo open actually did damage to our national security objectives."

He thinks he may have been wrong about that "broad consensus?" Only may?

Let's see. Congress has denied the administration any funding to transfer, release or incarcerate any of the Guantanamo detainees in the United States. A Gallup poll found that by better than a 2-to-1 margin the public opposes closing Gitmo. Senior Democratic officeholders, such as the Senate Majority Leader, have spoken out in the strongest terms against bringing any Gitmo detainees to the United States. And other countries are not exactly lining up to receive our 'releasable' detainees.

Mr. Craig should have realized long ago that a consensus for closing Gitmo doesn't exist much outside of the Obama White House. He needs to get out more often.

Friday, September 18, 2009

"No Plan B" for Gitmo Detainees

Foreign Policy Journal's blog has noted with sympathy yesterday's BBC interview with Ambassador Daniel Fried, the unlucky fellow in charge of resettling our Gitmo detainees somewhere, anywhere, outside of the United States. Poor Ambassador Fried has to unload the 226 detainees who remain in Gitmo not later than January 22, 2010, in order to meet the Obama administration's self-imposed deadline for closing the detention center. He's been making progress, having found new homes for about eight detainees in the last six months.

Ambassador Fried, who refuses to criticize the U.S. Congress, couldn't avoid remarking to the BBC that his job is made harder by the utter refusal of U.S. politicians to take in any "cleared detainees," i.e., those whom the administration has ruled may be released provided someone can find a jurisdiction that will accept them.

Mr Fried's tough job has not been helped by the decision of Congress to block the transfer of any cleared detainees from Guantanamo to the US mainland.

He says he will not criticise Congress, but told me: "It is fair to say, as just an objective statement, that the US could resettle more detainees [worldwide], had we been willing to take in some."

He's not kidding that Congress is unwilling. The Senate has voted 90-6 to forbid the transfer of any Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States, and the House has been equally recalcitrant.

Still not criticizing anyone, Fried continued:

"But I also have to state that parliamentarians in Europe and the US have raised questions about security - and we have to respect those opinions." [See those opinions here]

So, without cooperation from those parlimentarians, how will Ambassador Fried be able to meet the January deadline? He really can't say.

"President Obama's timetable is what we've got, we don't have Plan Bs."

Maybe it's time to think up a Plan B. I'll start: let's return them to their home countries whether they want to go or not.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Rampant Self-Censorship" by Foreign Service Officers

The Washington Times has a story today about what one U.S. diplomat calls "rampant self-censorship" in reporting.

U.S. embassies are discouraging or suppressing negative reports to Washington about U.S. allies, sometimes depriving officials of information they need to make good policy decisions, current and former diplomats say.

One diplomat told The Washington Times that he has decided to resign in part because of frustration with "rampant self-censorship" by Foreign Service officers and their superiors that has gone so far as to ban "bad news" cables from countries that are friendly with the United States.

-- snip --

More than a dozen diplomats serving in Washington and abroad told The Times that they agreed with most of the officer's critique, and that the censorship has continued to a lesser extent in the Obama administration. All asked not to be named to avoid retribution.

Read the whole story here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

U.S. Embassy Guard Contracts: Can We Stay Ahead of the Stupidity Curve?

The most sensible remarks I've seen so far on the snowballing scandal of U.S. Embassy Kabul's mismanaged guard force contract come from Tim Lynch, a former U.S. Marine who worked for the original guard contractor that took over from the U.S. Marine contingent which protected the embassy compound until 2005.

"Babatim" at Free Range International ("outside the wire, inside the loop") has many pertinent things to say about the business of U.S. embassy guard contracting, the management of expat security contractors, and the deficiencies of Camp Sullivan. A few quotes from his post on Animal House: The Real Story will give you the flavor.

On guard stupidity:

The main reason why managing these contracts is so difficult is that it is impossible to stay ahead of the stupidity curve your men will generate. There is no way to anticipate it because some of these guys do the most unbelievably stupid things sober; add alcohol and the potential for Darwin Award level stupidity goes up exponentially ... Your average young enlisted Marine has the ability to do stupid things too but they fall into an easily anticipated set of behaviors which savvy leadership can recognize and at times circumvent. Not true with contractors.

On corporate cupidity:

The problem with the current guard force is that they are on a shit contract. Ignore the money value published in the papers – that number is for five years executed at full value which is impossible to do. Armor Group North America is losing big money on that job and they are about to lose a lot more. [TSB note: Wackenhut Inc., the corporate successor to ArmorGroup North America, has testified they are losing $1 million per month by fully performing on the underbid contract they inherited.] I was asked by a few companies to consult on their bids for it back in 2006 and my answer was always the same – don’t bid because if you win you’ll lose money.

On lousy living conditions:

The pay thing is a problem which can be worked through with good on the ground leadership and incentives ... the real problem is with the living conditions and job requirements of the guard force. There is no space on [Camp Sullivan] for the men to do anything outside of their crammed barracks and they have little ability to get off camp. When you are designing camps to house hundreds of guards for years at a time you have to pay attention to their morale recreation and welfare needs ... If you do not think through what they are going to do off duty as thoroughly as their on duty tasks than you are set up to fail.

And on the need for adult supervision:

The Bridge contract [TSB note: the bridge contract was a stopgap measure to fill in the period between the cancellation of the original guard contract and the award of the next contract] had a bar which prevented excessive drinking or rowdiness due to peer level monitoring which worked for us due to the number of very talented older guys who were not inclined to tolerate too much drunken stupidity ... We did have to explain to the 3rd Para vets that anything involving nakedness and other men's rear ends was considered homosexual behavior by definition and therefore prohibited under the terms of our contract ... I guess nobody had that talk with the current crew on this contract.

The bottom line is that an awful mess was created when the irresistible force of U.S. Federal Acquisition Regulations, which require contract award to the lowest technically-qualified offeror, met the immovable object of security contractor greed in the high threat environment of Kabul.

Babatim has a suggestion for cleaning up the mess:

There is only [one] way to fix the Embassy contract and that is to cut the number of guards in half, make them all Americans and pull them into the embassy where they can work and live along side the other Americans.

That solution could work. At least, it's a lot more practical than the idea of having the U.S. military provide embassy perimeter guard services.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Animal House at ISAF

Not all the heavy drinking in Afghanistan goes on at the U.S. embassy's local guard force quarters, Camp Sullivan. Quite a lot of it happens at the headquarters of ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force. Or anyway it did, until General McChrystal, the U.S. commander of that mellow multinational coalition, cracked down on the boozing after he had trouble finding sober staff officers in the wake of last Friday's disastrous air strike on two hijacked fuel trucks.

As the UK Times On Line reports:

After a Nato airstrike killed as many as 125 people last week, General Stanley McChrystal was keen to get the situation under control — fast.

When he tried to contact his underlings to find out what had happened, however, he found, to his fury, that many of them were either drunk or too hungover to respond.

Complaining in his daily Commander’s Update that too many people had been “partying it up”, General McChrystal, head of International Forces in Afghanistan (Isaf), banned alcohol at his headquarters yesterday, admonishing staff for not having “their heads in the right place” on Friday morning — a few hours after the deadly attack.

-- snip --

American soldiers, who have one of the strictest work ethics, joke that Isaf stands for “I Saw Americans Fighting”.

US troops are banned from drinking and British troops are allowed to drink only at official functions with special permission. Soldiers from the rest of the 42-nation alliance are governed by divergent national guidelines on alcohol consumption.

The Isaf headquarters is only half a mile square but it has at least seven bars that serve tax-free beer and wine — including a Tora Bora sports bar complete with flat-screen televisions and football memorabilia, the Gravel Pit, which has a snooker table, a German beer hall, the 37 Club and a Nordic Palace.

-- snip --

The military airport KAIA was dubbed Kaia-napa, after the Cyprus resort, because there are so many bars; the main French garrison in Kabul has at least five bars with ales on tap. The Spanish and Italian troops stationed in the west are known within Nato for drinking wine at lunchtime.

At the main German base in Mazar-e-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, there is a purpose-built nightclub known as the Beach Club Bar where hundreds of camp-bound troops party every Thursday. In a leaked report, German officers branded their troops there “useless cake-eaters,” before a parliamentary report revealed that 3,500 troops had consumed about 1.7 million pints of beer and 90,000 bottles of wine in a year.

There are cultural norms to consider when working in multinational entities such as ISAF. 'When in Rome,' and all that. Still, 487 beers and 25 bottles of wine per German troop per year? People who are partying that much really don't have their minds on business.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Downloadable Audio Version of HR3200

If you haven't attempted to read HR3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, AKA the health care bill, I can't blame you. Who wants to read a 1,000-pages of legislative mumbo-jumbo?

But now you can listen to HR3200 at Hear the Bill.

I've never tried audio books, but I think I'll at least audio-browse this one.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Line Forms Behind the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight

No doubt, a whole slew of congressional committees and subcommittees will eventually pile on to that U.S. Embassy Kabul local guard force scandal. It pushes so many different buttons - government oversight, contracting, foreign affairs, overseas security, sexual harassment, even military affairs if you buy the premise that guarding U.S. embassies is a proper function of the military (I do not buy the premise) - that it has something for everyone.

It looks like the first committee out of the gate is the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, the same one that already held hearings on the State Department's contract with ArmorGroup North America (AGNA) back in June, 2009. Here's the letter the subcommittee Chair sent to Under Secretary for Management Kennedy yesterday.

Speaking of gates, this scandal needs a good '___Gate' name to get it truly spun up into a media circus. Yesterday's letter to SecState Clinton provides plenty of raw material to work with, like this:

Numerous emails, photographs, and videos portray a Lord of the Flies environment. One email from a current guard describes scenes in which guards and supervisors are "peeing on people, eating potato chips out of [buttock] cracks, vodka shots out of [buttock] cracks (there is video of that one), broken doors after drunken [sic] brawls, threats and intimidation from those leaders participating in this activity…." (Attachment 2) Photograph after photograph shows guards—including supervisors—at parties in various stages of nudity, sometimes fondling each other.

I suppose that "Drunken-Groping-Naked-Gurkha-BrokenEnglish-Urinating-AbsentPost-UnderEquipped-Overworked-NeligentlySupervised-CongressMisleading-CornerCuttingContractor-Gate" is too long, but I'll keep working on it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

POGO Alleges Mismanagement of U.S. Embassy Kabul's Local Guards

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has sent a ten-page letter to SecState Hillary Clinton alleging severe failures of contract management and guard force supervision at U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan.

Here's the letter in a nutshell:

After extensive interviews with eyewitnesses, and examination of documents, photographs, videos, and emails, POGO believes that the management of the [local guard force] contract to protect the U.S. Embassy Kabul is grossly deficient, posing a significant threat to the security of the Embassy and its personnel—and thereby to the diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.

The letter documents those allegations pretty persuasively. POGO describes what it calls a "Lord of the Flies" environment that governs the mancamp where the local guard force, two-thirds of them Nepalese Gurkhas, are housed. Lord of the Flies with nearly unlimited guns and ammo is a bad combination.

Next Meeting of the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation

It's that time again.

The Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation will meet in open session from 1:30 p.m. through 2:30 p.m. on Monday, September 14, 2009, in the Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, D.C., in Conference Room 1107, to discuss declassification and transfer of Department of State records to the National Archives and Records Administration and the status of the Foreign Relations series.

The public is invited to attend the open session. See the press release for details.

"Who Doesn't Belong in This Picture?"

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly fielded a question yesterday about the strange lack of high-level U.S. representation at today's commemoration of the invasion of Poland, the act that started World War II:

QUESTION: Yes, a different subject. In – tomorrow, there will be an anniversary of World War II beginning. And some Polish politicians expressed their disappointment – including Lech Walesa, the former president of Poland – their disappointment about the level of U.S. presentation at the anniversary in Gdansk. Does it indicate – I mean the level of the presentation, does it indicate a certain chill in the relations between United States and its major ally in Eastern Europe?

MR. KELLY: The short answer to that, Peter, is no. And I know that there are very deep and extensive ties between the U.S. and Poland. We are bound by not only ethnic and cultural ties, but also by our membership in NATO. We appreciate the tremendous sacrifice that the people of Poland made in World War II.

I think President Obama today formally announced the presidential delegation going to Gdansk to attend the 70th anniversary observance ceremony on September 1st. It’s going to be led by General Jim Jones, who is the National Security Advisor to the President. And there will be some other members of the delegation, including at least one congressman, the senior director for Europe in the National Security Council, Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, and of course, the U.S. Ambassador to Poland.

QUESTION: But the Poles expected the Secretary of State or Vice President to be there.

MR. KELLY: Well, this is a – it’s a very senior delegation led by the National Security Advisor. I don’t think it indicates any kind of indication of the lessening of our relationship with Poland.

Incidentally, the "congressman" Kelly mentioned as being part of the U.S. delegation is actually a congresswoman, Representative Marcy Kaptur, who represents Northern Ohio's heavily Polish-American Ninth Congressional District.

President Obama was there in spirit only; he sent these written remarks. SecState Hillary Clinton wasn't there in any sense.

Helle Dale, senior fellow for public diplomacy at the Heritage Foundation, notes in today's Washington Times that the Poles were lucky to get even General Jones. The administration originally planned to send William Perry, a "former person" who was the U.S. Defense Secretary from 1994 to 1997 and has no public profile of any kind today.

A few quotes from Dale's commentary:

What is the good will of a loyal allied country worth to the Obama administration? We are talking about a European nation that has stood by the United States in solidarity as few have since Sept. 11, 2001 -- one with 2,000 troops in Afghanistan and a possible willingness to step up to commit more troops at a time when others want to pull out.

The answer, very unfortunately, seems to be that relations with trusted allies are taken for granted in Washington these days. On diplomacy with Europe, the Obama administration has a terrible tin ear. Nowhere was this more evident than in the shabby treatment accorded Poland, which the administration has sought to remedy.

The Polish 70th anniversary commemorations of the beginning of World War II take place in Gdansk today. This unfortunately involves the latest in a long series of U.S. snubs felt keenly in Poland. On Sept. 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, resulting in six years of war in Europe, the Holocaust and the deaths of 20 million people. The leaders of Russia, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and other countries will attend the ceremony, presided over by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. The head of the United States government -- unbelievably -- will be absent.

The Polish government sent out the invitation three months ago to the White House, but an answer was received only on Wednesday, a mere five days before the ceremony. Repeated attempts over the summer by the Poles to contact the White House and the State Department met with a long period of silence. One White House aide actually replied that everyone was on vacation until after Labor Day, which caused a Polish official to say he apologized that Adolf Hitler had invaded his country on Sept. 1.

The initial answer from the White House almost defied belief. The head of the official U.S. delegation was not to be a member of the Obama administration but former Clinton Defense Secretary William J. Perry. Over the weekend, a change was announced, and the U.S. delegation is to be headed by National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones. Gen. Jones will head the U.S. delegation, rather than President Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. or Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Gen. Jones will stand alongside Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Anyone want to play "who doesn't belong in this picture?"

New UN Security Chief Lays Down a Marker

The United Nation's Department of Safety and Security (DSS) has a new Undersecretary, one who until recently was the Director of the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). How great is that? He can re-use his old DSS logo caps and coffee mugs!

The new boss was interviewed by the UN correspondent of the Washington Times. Here are some quotes from the WT article:

At least 20 U.N. outposts in dangerous corners of the world suffer from inadequate security despite rising threats to the organization, the U.N. director of security says.

Gregory B. Starr, a former State Department security specialist named as U.N. security coordinator a little more than three months ago, cited U.N. offices in Iraq and Afghanistan for particular concern.

He also classified outposts in Somalia, Sudan's Darfur region, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon as dangerous spots for U.N. international and local staff.

Mr. Starr spent much of his first three months on the job assessing the needs of U.N. bureaus in Africa, Asia and even New York City. Having completed an initial review, he told The Washington Times that he was especially concerned with security conditions in at least 20 U.N. sites.

He offered his assessment to The Washington Times a year and a half after a deadly car bomb leveled the U.N. headquarters in Algeria.

The Dec. 11, 2007, attack in the capital city of Algiers killed 22 people, including 17 U.N. staffers. A local insurgent group claiming to be affiliated with al Qaeda took responsibility for the blast.

-- snip --

The Algiers bombing was the second major assault on U.N. property this decade.
In August 2003, Iraqi insurgents drove a truckload of explosives onto a small road behind the U.N. compound in Baghdad. The attack killed 22 people, including Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top U.N. official in Iraq.

The UN has never had a comparative assessment of vulnerabilities before now, even though that's the only way to rationally prioritize your security needs and develop a budget. If I interpret this interview correctly, U/S Starr is putting the UN on the path toward a risk-based protection program, just like the one he implemented in his previous position at the other DSS.