- Top federal judge uses pizza to explain complex Obamacare situation
- Obama, Biden overhaul job training programs
- Drought-plagued Californians turn to paint to keep lawns green
- ISIL now forcing Iraqi shopkeepers to veil mannequins in Mosul
- 11 parents of Nigeria’s abducted girls die
- Genetic mapping triggers new hope on schizophrenia
- Turkish P.M. Erdogan won’t speak to Obama, but he’ll take calls from Biden
- Israel’s ambassador praises Obama, slams Human Rights Watch report
- Md. parents accused of locking up autistic twin sons
- Dancing Kim Jong-un video sparks North Korea fury
Sensitive security vetting at U.S. Embassy in Iraq is turned over to troubled State Department
Move made despite series of scandals
Question of the Day
Battered by scandals surrounding security failures in Benghazi and allegations of criminal activity by diplomats, the State Department is taking over the sensitive process by which background checks are given to locals hired to work at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the largest and most expensive diplomatic post in the world.
The process is presently handled by a private security company contracted to the Pentagon. But a recently circulated contract solicitation indicates that the firm conducting the vetting — and the budget for the process — is being shifted to the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
“Due to the large number of personnel assigned to and supporting the U.S. mission in Iraq, [Diplomatic Security] requires the services of a contractor to assist with the vetting and badging of American citizens, third country nationals, and local nationals,” states the contract solicitation, posted this month on FedBizOpps.gov.
The identity of the firm handling the task is blacked out in the solicitation, which says the new contractor will “assist with various steps of the background and suitability investigation process, check applicants through U.S. government databases, and obtain biometrics data of individuals applying for access to the embassy.”
The State Department had no official comment, but officials speaking on background downplayed the development, saying the shift is part of the yearslong transition from military to civilian control over U.S. operations in Iraq.
Prior to the late-2011 withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad “utilized security resources from both the departments of State and Defense (DoD),” one State Department official said via email. “The vetting capabilities described in the FedBizOpps solicitation are one such capability.”
“The DoD-sourced vetting services contract that previously provided this capability has run its course,” the official said. “DoD no longer has a requirement for such services in Iraq, and the Department of State does. This is why we have begun the solicitation/procurement process to fulfill this operational requirement.”
Another State Department official echoed those comments.
“Obviously, this is something that’s still needed in Iraq and so the State Department has decided they would pick up this contract,” the official said. “There’s no reason for DoD to spend this money when they no longer have a combat command there in Iraq.”
The State Department has been criticized by its internal watchdog agency for not moving fast enough to take control of tasks formerly managed and financed by the U.S. military in Iraq and for failing to rein in rampant spending on contractors.
The State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad “are behind schedule in implementing a plan to oversee more than $5 billion in contracts,” says a “sensitive but unclassified” report by the State Department’s office of inspector general.
The report, posted June 3 on the inspector general’s website, suggests the Pentagon’s management of the overall vetting process may have been inefficient, putting more pressure on the State Department to improve the system while moving quickly to fill large gaps in the embassy workforce.
The Baghdad facility — often dubbed by news reports as “The Fortress” — is America’s largest overseas diplomatic post and cost roughly three-quarters of a billion dollars to build during the late 2000s.
As of February, the embassy had authorization for 469 local employee positions, but 187 are vacant, according to the inspector general’s report.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.
His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.
Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...
- Israel's ambassador praises Obama, slams Human Rights Watch report
- U.S. scrambles as violence escalates in Israel-Hamas conflict
- MH17: Fear of ground-to-air missile strike becomes nightmare reality in Ukraine
- U.S., China to participate in unprecedented joint ground force exercise
- Bergdahl returned to active duty
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
U.S. appetite for drugs begets violence migrants are fleeing
- Obamacare dealt massive setback by federal appeals court
- IRS seeks help destroying another 3,200 computer hard drives
- Rep. Jared Polis' anti-fracking crusade riles Colorado
- Jewish woman booted from JetBlue flight over fight with Palestinian
- Hamas terrorists wear Israeli army uniforms to ambush soldiers in Gaza
- LYONS: Small-arms treaty, big Second Amendment threat
- YOUNG: A sinking presidency, deeper after November?
- Obama family set to buy $4.25M desert home in California: report
- PRUDEN: A deadly enemy within exacerbating immigration crisis
- MERRY: Handicaps in Hillary's way
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq