Briefing on Progress Made in Civilian Hiring in Afghanistan

Special Briefing
Jacob J. Lew
Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources 
Washington, DC
October 26, 2009

MR. CROWLEY: Well, good morning. Welcome to the Department of State. There has been obviously a great deal of focus here in Washington as the President and his senior team reviews our – not our strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, but making sure that we are implementing the strategy in an appropriate way and that ultimately, we have the resources required to achieve our overall objectives in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


So we thought in light of this, without talking about the review directly, but it would be a good time to have Deputy Secretary Jack Lew come down and just remind you about the ramp that we are steadily constructing based on the decisions the President made in March of this year for a significant rise in the civilian resources that we are applying to the challenge in the region.


So, Jack.


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Thank you, P.J., and thank you all for being here this morning. I want to start just with a few remarks, then I’ll be happy to take any questions that you have. Our civilian experts who are deploying in Afghanistan are a critical component of the President’s strategy to defeat al-Qaida and deny it safe haven and return. Since March, following the President’s strategic review, our assistance strategy has really concentrated on the main goals of the Riedel report – improving Afghan governance, providing security, justice, jobs and services, and giving the Afghan people a meaningful alternative as much as possible to the Taliban’s recruiting.


I just want to underscore promoting governance and economic development are essential civilian components to a coordinated civilian-military counterinsurgency plan. And the core civilian assistance mission won’t change. The key to our strategy is to get the right people in the right place at the right time. And I’m really proud of the top-quality people that we are enlisting to move to Afghanistan, where they’re going to be living and working in very difficult conditions, often living beside their military colleagues. These are lawyers, agronomists, diplomats, development specialists, and others.


Having been there about a month ago, I can tell you that the morale is very high. The people that I’ve had the pleasure to meet seem extraordinarily prepared for the difficult assignments that they’re undertaking. And I think it’s important to remember that there’s a good deal of bravery in taking assignments in very difficult places.


If I could just walk through the numbers as we start, when we took office in January 2009, there were 320 civilians on the ground in Afghanistan – I believe, yes – through the miracle of the slide that’s behind me. Today, we have 603. We also have 282 candidates who are currently in process. This goes from the early stages of the recruiting process all the way to the training and ready-for-deployment stage.


We’re actively recruiting an additional 89 positions, both within the federal government and from outside experts. One thing I would like to underscore is that the recruiting process is really an individual person-by-person recruiting process. We – for each position, there’s a defined set of skills, and we’re recruiting individuals that have the skills for the job that they’re going to be asked to undertake. There were criticisms of earlier civilian deployments where people were deployed without the skills that they needed. It’s been a critical underpinning of this effort that we send people who are properly trained.


We’re on track to have almost all of the authorized 974 positions filled by the end of the year with a few flowing into the beginning of the year. I would like to just remind everyone that the schedule that was announced in March during the – at the time of the Riedel report was that all the civilians would be in place by March 2010. That deadline was accelerated to the end of this year, and we’re on track with the accelerated schedule.


I know that many of you are aware that Ambassador Eikenberry has additional requests which we’ve been working with the Embassy on. We’ve added to the number over the months we’ve been working on it for the positions where there was an immediate need, and to the extent that there are additional needs that go into 2010, this is obviously a number that we could adjust.


Let me talk for a couple of minutes about what our civilians are doing in Afghanistan. Our civilians are working at 52 locations across Afghanistan. In some cases, they’re moving into the areas that have just been cleared with the military as the clearing process is underway. Behind me, there’s a map which shows where the military presence in Afghanistan is, the ISAF military presence, and I think now we’ll be able to show you with the yellow dots where the civilians are.


So you can see that there’s a very heavy correlation of where the civilians are going to where the military clear, hold, and build operations are. The arc there in the south and the east shows you what the strategic decision in March was, that we should concentrate the U.S. efforts, both civilian and military, along the south and the east in a coordinated strategy. The number of just under a thousand – I want to make a few points.


First of all, we’re tripling the number of civilians who are in place. We started at 320. We’re going to be at just under a thousand. Secondly, there’s a high degree of leverage when we put civilians out. You don’t put civilians out in groups of 50 or a hundred. They go in groups of two to 10 to 15. They’re surrounded by locally employed staff, by Afghan nationals who are working in a civilian capacity, and by NGO staff who are working in a civilian capacity. There’s roughly a 10-to-1 ratio so that when we deploy a thousand civilians, there’s an effort of roughly 10,000 civilians that’s the total force in place.


To go to a local area, in Helmand, where the clearing operations over the summer were quite aggressive, the civilian deployment was moving with the military into place. We had – there were about two civilians in Helmand before. There were 20 when the military went in. Civilians can only go into an environment that’s secure, so – that you couldn’t have sent the civilians in before. Those 20 civilians are surrounded by an enormous range of activities.


When I was in Afghanistan, I met with Governor Mongel in Helmand, who could point to all of the activities that the civilians were responsible for, from their work building an airstrip so that farmers would have a way of getting their crops out of Helmand since the roads are difficult to navigate, to supporting the food zone program which is distributing seeds and making legal crops possible again, to governance work where there is the introduction of sub-national governance in places that have not known it before.


I want to underscore that these are important steps, but they’re steps. They’re steps that will have to be replicated in many places, and after they’re replicated in many places, they’ll have to start taking on a dynamic of their own where Afghans are able to move forward without U.S. civilians as well. There is a plan to have six pilot districts where – in Nawa and Nad Ali in Helmand, Baraki Barak in Logar, Sayed Abad in Wardak, Khogiani in Nangarhar, and Sarkani in Kunar.


We’re going to be demonstrating district development working groups. That will ramp up to 20 in the plan. And the goal is that once we’ve demonstrated the capacity of these district teams to make a difference by concentrating the resources, helping bring the support that we’re putting into the country from the national to the sub-national level, that it will generate the ability for other areas to replicate and do this on their own.


The budget, just in terms of the top line, increased from $2.2 to $2.8 billion as a result of the strategic review. I want to kind of remind everyone that the supplemental came at the end of Fiscal 2009. The funds for 2010 have not yet been appropriated. So we’re going to see two funding streams meet, and there will be roughly $6 billion in the pipeline when the funding streams meet when you take into account unexpended balances from prior years.


In terms of managing the assistance program in country, it’s a program that’s now being managed by Ambassador Tony Wayne, which is taking into account all U.S. Government programs in Afghanistan and managing them holistically.


Let me just conclude by saying this is not just a U.S. Department of State and USAID effort. It’s really a whole-of-government effort. We have strong participation from our partners in many departments, including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Justice, the Treasury Department, Department of Transportation and others.


And I think given the news of the past couple of days where there were two serious accidents, incidents, in the air and there appear to be casualties among civilians associated with the law enforcement community, it’s a real reminder that the danger of this mission is always present. It’s sometimes just a question of accidents, and obviously there’s risks that come from the violent circumstances in the area. There are security arrangements in place that provide the maximum protection possible for our civilians to have mobility, but it is always a challenging and difficult environment.


And with that, why don’t I stop and take any questions that you have.


QUESTION: You mentioned in the budget – you said there’s 6 billion in the pipeline. What is that for? What does that cover? And then you said there was – it was 2.8 billion. Could you just explain –


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: What I said, it increased from 2.2 --




DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: -- in 2009 to 2.8 in 2010. So those are the annual appropriations. And it’s for the whole range of programs that we’re undertaking. I could go through the numbers with you or get back to you afterwards with some of the sub-breaks, but it supports the agriculture programs, the rule of law programs, the governance programs, and our presence, our physical presence on the ground. It’s typically the case with foreign assistance programs that there is some carryover from prior years, so there are really three streams that meet: the old money and the new money. What’s a little bit unusual is that with the supplemental appropriation coming very late in the fiscal year, the funds were only really available in July. And with the appropriation for 2010 hopefully happening in the coming weeks, it’s subject to the process that Congress is completing, you’re going to see these streams meeting all at once.


QUESTION: So the 6 billion is old and new?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Yeah, it’s old and new.


QUESTION: And hopeful –




QUESTION: And money that you’ll hope you –


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Well, we know there’s going to be an appropriation for 2010. We don’t know the exact number, but we’re hoping that the number is in the $2.8 billion range, and we understand that it will be a substantial appropriation. So it’s an estimate when I said roughly six. Until Congress acts, I can’t know the precise number. But there’s quite a substantial amount of funding for the civilian programs that’s available for programming in the current fiscal year.


QUESTION: How much do you expect the current plan to be affected by the review that’s now underway?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Well, the review that’s underway obviously is going to affect the – could affect the deployment of the military. And I’d say that to the extent that the decision changes in any way the areas that are covered, that’s the place where it could most significantly – and I don’t mean to prejudge the outcome, but if it’s --


QUESTION: Please do. (Laughter.)


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Well, I think you know that I won’t. (Laughter.) To the extent that there’s a thickening of presence in an area, that doesn't necessarily mean that you would increase the civilian presence in the area. To the extent that there are new areas that are being covered by the military, that could raise either a redeployment of civilians or a need for additional civilians. And we have to wait until those decisions are made to --


QUESTION: Fair enough. But I mean, you don’t expect any radical change to the numbers –




QUESTION: -- that you’ve just given us in terms of people?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Not – I would not --


QUESTION: Either up or down.


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: I would not expect radical changes. We are working with the Embassy on some additional requests that they have for personnel in the – as Ambassador Eikenberry has been getting himself established, he’s made some requests. We’ve actually flowed some of them in. This 974 number reflects some of his additional requests. And we’re continuing to go through them to identify what positions are needed, both where there are specialties that need to be covered and also what positions are needed for management efficiency to try to run the program 12 months a year on a steady basis.


QUESTION: Can I flip that around and say how much of the decision in terms of how many troops are needed do you think would be reflected in what you’re trying to do? I mean, Secretary Clinton has spoken a lot about the need for the civilian personnel and the civilian effort to be well-protected enough to be able to get the job done, so do you have the protection that you need now to cover all of these additional personnel?


And then also, if you can just expand a little bit on what kind of additional requests Ambassador Eikenberry – like what specific areas does he think that need to be supplemented at the Embassy?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: So on the question of security, mobility is a challenge in Afghanistan and we have a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. military so that for all U.S. citizens who are assigned to U.S. provisional reconstruction teams, the U.S. military will provide for mobility. So for the vast majority of our civilians who are deployed outside of Kabul – and that is a good number of them – we’re going to have when we’re fully deployed 388 civilians outside of Kabul. The U.S. military will be providing mobility.


We do have some civilians who are based at provisional reconstruction teams that are not U.S.-run, so for example, in Helmand, the British are the military presence in Helmand. That’s a case-by-case arrangement that we have to make depending on whether they provide military mobility or whether they provide civilian mobility. In every case, our civilians are being provided with the necessary mobility. In many cases, it requires helicopter transport or armored vehicles. It’s not, for the most part, just hopping into your own car. But there are some places where there’s a lower security risk and much lower profile transportation is possible. The goal is to use the lowest level of profile that a situation requires, but to provide the maximum level of protection that our civilians need to travel safely. And it’s a delicate balance.


And my observation was that they are getting out, they’re getting out for real. The mobility between places that are safe is much more difficult than the mobility within places that have been secured. So you can go into Lashkar Gah and have some flexibility to move around within Lashkar Gah, but to go from there to another place, another town, is more challenging because that’s where the roads are more dangerous.


So I think one has to look at this in terms of are they getting out of – there’s been a suggestion that all the Americans who are going are behind the wire. That’s by no means the case. We’re going to have 388 people who are assigned to working out in the field. Even our civilians in Kabul are getting out more and more. Ambassador Eikenberry has really worked hard to try to come up with a security protocol that allows Embassy personnel to have more contact with local Afghans. Obviously, there are many people in the Embassy compound who are doing work that doesn't require it as much as others. But where contact with Afghans is critical – you can’t provide agricultural advice unless you’re meeting with the Afghans that you’re advising, and the same goes for these other areas.


QUESTION: But do you think that these decisions that are being made for additional resources, military resources – is that being taken into account? Or you already have all the protection you need?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Well, I think that at the most senior levels and on down, there’s a very high level of commitment in the U.S. military to providing the mobility that’s necessary for civilians to get this critical work done. I think that they face challenges just like we do in this environment, and there are always choices of what a helicopter will be used for and what a convoy will be used for. They are very much focused on making sure that civilians can get where they need to go, and we’re having an ongoing conversation as we are in different areas as to what the right balance is. The goal is for civilians to be as close to unconstrained as possible in an environment where it’s inherently not unconstrained because you can’t just wander around.


QUESTION: Okay. And then the Eikenberry?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Oh, yeah. There are a couple dozen agriculture experts who are in this number that we’re looking at that were part of the request that came from Ambassador Eikenberry. And we very much want to make sure that we’re able to position agricultural specialists in all the areas where they’re needed. There are more technical internal positions that we’re working with him on in terms of administering programs, and he has some concerns about how to manage the kind of difficult schedules that people have where people are in and out of country at different times. So the requests come in different baskets.


I think we’re at a place now where all of the specialties that they’ve identified specifically that need to be filled are in the list. As they identify more specialties where additional personnel are needed, we’re adding them. All of us have a certain amount of humility about the number we came up with in March. Ambassador Eikenberry has been working since he became ambassador to work out a specific plan so that it’s not just numbers of people, it’s individuals and places with specific tasks. We’re not recruiting until we have the specialties listed so that it reflects what the needs on the ground are. If we need a law enforcement expert, we’re not going to be sending an agronomist, and vice versa.


QUESTION: When you mentioned 300 – when the deployment is complete – 388 of these civilians will be outside of Kabul, how many are outside of Kabul right now?




QUESTION: And is that – the fact that that’s a clear minority, is that hampering the ability to make progress? Because it seems like some of these really difficult areas militarily are really outside of Kabul.


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Well, I don’t think it is. I think in the conversations I’ve had with military commanders both in Washington and on the ground, the sense I have is that the civilians are with them when they need to be there as they go in. There’s a very strong focus in counterinsurgency that the civilians shouldn’t come in behind, sort of weeks after the military. So in each of the cases where there’s a yellow dot there, we’re getting people there as they need to be there. It may be that they come and the first two or three come and then another five come afterwards, but we’re getting civilians there so that as the military has – is completing its clearing operations, civilians are moving in beside them.


So my sense is – and all the reports I’ve gotten support this – that the civilians are getting to where they need to be. There are some things that are in the field that have to wait for one reason or another. We’re working with the Government of Afghanistan to open consulates in Mazar-e-Sharif and in Herat. Until we open those consulates, we’re not going to be sending the staff out to post, so that’s a group that is – we’ve got the people identified, but they can’t be deployed until they’re there.


There are a lot of places where the military has not gone in yet, and we’re not going to deploy the civilians ahead of the military. Our concern was to get people there when they need to be there, but not to get them to Kabul to be waiting to be deployed to the field for weeks before the military was ready for them. So I think that as we reach the end of the year, we’ve got a lot of people in training now, we’ve got a lot of people who are in the final stages of preparation. We’re assured by the – our military partners that they want the civilians to come in November, December and January. This is not just a kind of springtime deployment. And as they arrive, they will be deployed as needed.


QUESTION: And the yellow dots, are they places where civilians actually are right now, or where they are and also will be? In other words, are there actually people in all those yellow dots or is that the plan?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: They’re – each of the yellow dots are where civilians will be. The overwhelming majority, there’s a presence of civilians. There are a few where civilians are not yet. And I could separately – I mean, I – there are very few places where there are no civilians.


QUESTION: How much is General McChrystal involved in helping you formulate the civilian side of it? I mean, you alluded a moment ago that in counterinsurgency, there’s thinking that you want to get the civilians in quickly, not weeks later. Is that something that McChrystal is also pushing? I just want to get a flavor for – to what extent you talked to him and how much he’s involved.


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Well, I met with General McChrystal when I was in Afghanistan last month, and Ambassador Eikenberry is in constant contact with him. My sense is that the level of civilian-military coordination is as high as it can be. I mean, if you just look at the pattern of where those yellow dots and where the blue dots are, there’s nothing accidental about any of that. There – it’s built into a civilian-military plan. In a sense, this map is the summary of the civilian-military plan.


If the plan changes, both the blue and the yellow dots could move – the answer to the question before – but all of the civilians that we’re deploying in the field outside of Kabul are hardwired into the conversations that are going on between the military and the civilian leadership in Afghanistan. We’re getting the requirements from them. We’re not sending the requirements to them.


QUESTION: Is there one thing that you could point to on the civilian side that General McChrystal has been important in pushing, maybe in contrast to McKiernan or something he brought in that very much bears his hallmark?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: The plan has been evolving with the transition between – I think the details have been worked out for the most part in the time that General McChrystal’s been in place. So the – our deployment of civilians very much reflects both his strategy of direct contact with the Afghan people. I think that the focus on local leadership, sub-national government is very strong. And I think it’s shared between Ambassador Eikenberry and General McChrystal, and there’s a very clear sense that it’s not going to provide a lasting impact unless the resources and the people we send can get to the places where they’re needed.


So I think we’ve worked with the Afghan ministries that are able to get resources effectively out into the field, but we also understand that there has to be – the situation on the ground has to be ready to receive them. And I think that’s very consistent with General McChrystal’s military strategy. And I know that the commitment to moving civilians around is one that he’s very – is a very strong commitment that he has, that they need to get out and do this work and be visible from the very beginning of the stabilization effort.


QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? Sort of – I was – you talked about – there was a dissent cable recently that complained that the idea is to move money directly through governments and they’re – not only Afghanistan, but Pakistan. And I wonder if, you know, why then do you need to send a lot more civilians if the goal, ultimately, is just to get money straight into the government? Is there really a necessity for these extra civilian bodies out there?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Well, I think that – I mean, I’m happy to answer the question with regard to Pakistan or Afghanistan or both. But let me take a step back and answer it --




DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: -- in the broadest way first. The idea of getting our foreign assistance as directly to the people who are going to use it as efficiently as possible is central to the way we’re thinking about foreign assistance and development generally. If you look at the policies with regard to our implementing partners, both contract and grantee partners, we are very much consistent with an effort that the President undertook in his first weeks when he focused on the need to take a hard look at how we do outsourcing. It’s very consistent with the way Secretary Clinton has looked at this issue, absent Afghanistan and Pakistan, that we need to remove as much of the overhead, be as efficient as possible, and have the maximum impact.


In Pakistan, the decision that you’re referring to reflected the timing of the renewal of many of the agreements that were in place. There were a number that turned over on October 1st. And we made the decision that to the extent that we wanted to be able to take a look at some of those, both in response to the general policy direction but also the request, in that case, from the Government of Pakistan that we maximize the local impact, we made the decision to do short-term extensions and to be very clear that we wanted the contracts to be maintained in full force, and that during that three or four-month extension period, we would do a review and make a decision about a longer-term direction.


We don’t know until we conclude the case-by-case review of where local capacity exists and where it can be transferred. That’s something that’s going on right now, being led by Ambassador Robin Raphel in Pakistan, working with the USAID mission, the Embassy staff, and our IG resources that are over there.


In terms of Afghanistan, I think that it would be very easy to overstate the capacity of the federal and the local government without our assistance to put some of these plans into place. We don’t need to do all the work, but there is a substantial need for expert counseling and advising on the details of many of these programs. That’s where the leverage comes in. That’s why if we put one civilian or 10 civilians out there, there are 10 other people working around them that make up the whole program.


Not all of the Afghan ministries are equally able to get assistance effectively and efficiently to the field. Not all areas in Afghanistan have the depth of local sub-national government capacity to do it on their own. The reason we have these six pilots is to go in and demonstrate how it can be built up at the local level. As we move to 20, then it will be a much more visible presence.


The goal, ultimately, is to transfer as much responsibility as possible directly to Afghans at the national and the sub-national level, and to reduce the need for a U.S. presence. I think that if you look at it in the context of how we provide foreign assistance and development assistance generally, there is an ongoing need often for expert advice. So I wouldn’t raise the expectation that you do this for six months or 12 months and then there’s no need.


Presuming that it’s a secure enough environment, there is likely to be some ongoing need as there is in most countries where we provide this kind of support. I think the challenge is to build up the local capacity and, to the greatest extent possible, have Afghans taking the leadership, because that’s really when you get the tipping point where there’s change that’s structural and sustainable.




QUESTION: You know, it’s kind of a broader question, but I’m – from what you’re saying, it sounds like it’s kind of a fluid situation in deciding the ultimate number of people that you might have or perceive that you need in the field. And with the military, it’s always, you know, you set the goal and then you say, okay, we need X number of soldiers to carry that out. With your people, with the civilians, it doesn’t seem as clear cut. In other words, setting your goals sounds very tied to individual towns or areas, et cetera. So --


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Well, I actually think that what we have now is a very clear goal. The 974 is the goal. What I’ve been trying to express is that as the plan is implemented and as there are needs for additional experts, we are not saying 974 is the end of it and if you need 10 more agricultural experts, it’s over. We’re open, as the deployment takes effect and is fully implemented on the margins, to be flexible.


I think that one can go overboard in making comparisons between – I mean, civilians come in ones. They don’t come in battalions. So it’s a different concept to assign civilians. We’re really matching people to tasks. So as the Embassy identifies additional tasks, we are open. It’s not an unlimited openness. I mean, obviously, we’re limited by appropriations and available resources. But there is an awful lot of experience that’s been gained even since March. And as we fully deploy the civilians, as we have experience in Helmand, it will inform what the – whether the plans for the other deployments that follow should be adjusted on the margin.


I think that’s just the kind of openness that you need to have in a situation where there is some degree of difference in each of the places you go and some unpredictability in the surroundings. The basics are not changing. The basics are quite solid. It’s built on an agricultural economic development model, on a governance model, that we need to provide the support for those activities to start to take on a head of steam and develop momentum on their own.


QUESTION: Okay. Just --


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: And it’s – so the strategy hasn’t changed.


QUESTION: Okay. So just to make clear, your ultimate – your feeling is that ultimately, you need somewhat less than a thousand to carry out what you perceive is the mission? We’re not --




QUESTION: We’re not looking at all of a sudden, you might need 2,000?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: I have – I mean, I think that the request we have from post at this point, which has been publicly discussed, in the 300 range of additions. So I think that’s kind of the framing of what we’re looking at now, somewhere between where we are and 300 more.




QUESTION: What is happening with respect to the Taliban as well as some of the tribal areas that have been obviously still into the narcotics trade? And do you envision this mostly as a rural type of initiative? And what is the rapport that you currently have with the people? Do they want your particular projects? Do they see that the projects should be changed to fit their – more of their needs? How do you envision this?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: I think as Ambassador Holbrooke has explained from this podium on a couple of occasions, there’s been a dramatic change in the strategy on counternarcotics, and it’s really been aimed at the kind of higher levels of production as opposed to the individual farmer. It flows down to the individual farmer, though, and then the goal is to reduce poppy production, which means that the farmers are going to need to do something else to support their families.


I think the critical aspect of our plan is to work with the Afghan national agricultural ministry and the – with the sub-national governance bodies – to make sure that Afghan farmers have access to legal crops to plant and the ability to get them to market. If I go back to the Helmand example, distributing seeds, growing legal crops, being able to get them out of the town you’re in to sell them to the broader market is all part of there being a meaningful alternative to growing poppy. And I think that the key change in the strategy from before is that it’s very much focused on giving farmers alternatives, and that that’s the way to sustain both a counternarcotics program and a counterinsurgency program where you’re building a positive economic opportunity and option.


It’s going to take some time. It’s not going to happen in one growing season. But there’s already evidence in some pretty difficult environments of both reduced poppy cultivation and increased cultivation of legal crops. I think we have to be aware of the fact that farmers are like people everywhere else; they’re going to grow what they need to grow to feed their families. And this plan is built on the assumption that legal crops are the right way for those farmers to have that opportunity.




QUESTION: Yeah, do you have a sector-wise breakdown of this 974 figure? I mean, which – how many are in agriculture, how many in law enforcement?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: I do have it. The question is do I have it with me. Yeah, I actually don’t have it by people with me; I have by dollars, but that’s confusing. So we can get back to you on that.


QUESTION: You do, I think. (Laughter.)


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: We do. I don’t. (Laughter.) This is by department, which gives you roughly that breakdown. Though in the case of State and USAID, it won’t be that helpful, and that’s where most of the people are. We – our plan calls for 64 people from the Department of Agriculture to be deployed. That is not the total agriculture effort. USAID personnel will also be working in agriculture. What I don’t have broken down in front of me is how many of the USAID people are working in agriculture.


So I think that rather than give you these numbers that will suggest partial effort, we should get back with the numbers breaking out our USAID personnel to add them in. I can do the same thing in terms of the Department of Justice. There are 128 positions in the Department of Justice. So – but there will also be rule of law people out of the USAID. So rather than give you hard numbers now, why don’t we, through P.J., get back with a breakdown by functional area.


QUESTION: And secondly, when you --


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Obviously, the vast majority of the personnel are in State and USAID. So the total increase in State – the total number in State is 423. The total number in USAID is 333. So you’re talking about 756 of the total which are in the – agencies where I don’t have it in front of me broken down functionally.


QUESTION: And secondly, when you flowed these advertisements for these positions in Afghanistan, how many applicants – applications do you normally receive per position? Because the UN is having a tough time in filling up their positions.


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Well, let me go through the different kinds of hiring, because I think it’s actually instructive. For our Foreign Service positions, we’ve been oversubscribed. And I think that it’s really evidence of leadership and mission – the critical nature of the mission. With the appointment of Ambassador Eikenberry, Ambassador Wayne, and Ambassador – the team of ambassadorial leadership in Kabul, that’s very much helped to raise the level of interest in the Foreign Service – in the assignments. And we’ve had a great outpouring of expressions of interest. And as importantly as for the deployment that we’re talking about today, there’s ongoing interest as we look ahead to deployments that are for next summer. So we’re not seeing any softening of interest, and I think it reflects, again, how critical the mission is and that there’s first-rate leadership in Kabul.


We also are using extraordinary authorities both here and – at the State Department and at USAID where there is – because of the nature of the conditions there, there is authorization to hire term employees. Those are the – in some ways, they’re very important recruitments. That’s where we get to define very specifically what we’re looking for, put out a list of criteria in terms of work experience, language, knowledge, technical skills, and that’s the slowest – but in some ways, as I say, one of the most critical parts of the recruitment, because that’s how we’re identifying people with the narrow expertise that’s being asked for.


We’ve had a good response to all of our recruitments in that regard. I don’t have the exact number, but we – it’s substantially more – we have many more people applying than there are positions. And most importantly, we’ve not yet been in the position where we haven’t been able to match people with the right skills set. We haven’t been in the position yet where the – we’ve had to kind of compromise on that.


I think if the expressions of support from other agencies are any measure, it’s not limited to the State Department. The Department of Agriculture identified, relatively quickly, 64 individuals; that’s a lot of people from the Department of Agriculture who go to Afghanistan, the Department of Justice and Treasury similarly. And in USAID where there’s the most positions, because it’s the largest number of positions, it’s where it’s the most challenging, they’re down to the last 85 or so positions that they’re still scoping out to get candidates for.


So we’re doing pretty well in terms of identifying candidates. We’re not seeing that there’s a lack – we’re seeing a great deal of enthusiasm and interest in going to post. I think that it speaks again both to the – how critical the mission is, and that it’s seen as joining a team that’s doing very important work.


QUESTION: Can I just have a quick follow-up on that?




QUESTION: Do you think that the lack of a USAID administrator is hurting you in any significant way?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: USAID is so focused on this mission. I can’t imagine that anyone could be more focused on doing this effectively and successfully. Every one of the senior people at USAID understands the urgency of this. They’re putting the personal energy and leadership into it. Acting Administrator Fulgham and I were in Afghanistan together last month. His country leaders are in the region frequently. And I think that frankly, there is a whole-of-government effort here that is – it really tells the story of how we ought to cooperate. The boundaries between departments is much less important than getting the right people together on task.


And it’s not to say that we’re without challenges. Whenever you’re coordinating across many different systems, it’s challenging. But when you go out there and you meet with people, it’s hard to tell who came from what department. I mean, they’re on a team working together.


MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take three more.


QUESTION: Yeah. In the Iraq reconstruction effort, there was a lot of focus on civilian contractors, whether it was from educational to health to the various projects. How many civilian contractors are involved? How much outsourcing are you having to rely on, or have you just dropped that whole program?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Well, I don’t have a specific number for you. There will be a combination of work that’s done directly by U.S. Government employees and work that’s done through implementing partners. We’re making efforts to move as much of the assistance as possible through local Afghan and, in the case of Pakistan, Pakistani entities, but that doesn't mean that there won’t be a role for NGOs – international NGOs, U.S. NGOs, and contractors. I can’t give you the exact number right now, though.


QUESTION: So you don’t have the exact number of civilian contractors working in Afghanistan? I mean, you would have to know that figure for insurance purposes.


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: I’m not saying it’s not knowable. I’m saying I don’t have it at my fingertips right now.




QUESTION: Could I just go back for a second when you mentioned the requests from Ambassador Eikenberry for about roughly 300 additional people in addition to the 974 – correct?




QUESTION: And did you say that you expect, of that, to provide – I’m sorry, you said 100 or 150?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: No, I didn’t say how many.




DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: I was asked what the maximum was --




DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Are we looking at going from 1,000 to 2,000, and I said just order of magnitude that the positions that we’re looking at with them are this additional request that’s 300.


QUESTION: That’s 300. Okay.


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: So the number would be some subset of that or up to that, given the current request. We haven’t yet made the decision. We’re working closely with the post – with Kabul on that, and I think everyone understands that the first challenge is to complete the deployment of the 974 and then to make sure people are in place and able to have the mobility they need and get the work done. And – but we will continue to – as they identify needs that are immediate, we put them at the top of the list. As they’re longer term, and the things that we can continue to work with them on.


QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. CROWLEY: Last one. Janine.


QUESTION: There was a near revolt in this building about a year and a half ago when the State Department was – Secretary Rice was trying to compel Foreign Service officers to go to these places, and now you’re saying you’re having no trouble at all. Maybe it’s a separate issue, staffing the embassies versus going, but I wonder if you could just quickly compare this to the situation in Iraq, if you happen to know how many civilians are there, and what you’ve learned as you ramp this up from the experience with Iraq.


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: I don’t have the exact numbers. I mean, I think we’re talking about levels of effort that are comparable. So I don’t want to be held to the number of civilians in Iraq. I didn’t work closely on it. I’m working now on the issue of civilian presence after the military withdrawal from Iraq, and they’re totally different numbers.


I don’t want to say it’s easy. This is very hard. I mean, they’re hard assignments. These are hard decisions for people to make to go over, and it’s hard work when they get there. So it’s challenging, and I think we have to be kind of conscious of the fact that it gets harder as you do it year after year, because people who are inclined to take assignments like this have already done it once or twice. So it’s a challenging undertaking.


I think that what I attribute the relative enthusiasm of the Foreign Service in the State Department to sign on for this mission really gets down to its core strategic importance and the leadership both from the Secretary, the Ambassador, Ambassador Holbrooke – the team that’s on it. Look, even the fact that I am managing the recruitment of the 974 people, I mean, I’m told that that wasn’t the way Iraq was handled. It wasn’t at a level – the Deputy Secretary level. There’s a lot of visibility to this, and there’s a lot of sense of calling, that it’s a mission that people, if they’re able to contribute, feel they should try to.


I think that it’s not for everyone. Some people sign up, and by the time they get through training don’t decide it’s for them. Some people go out and come back. But that’s really very few compared to the total. And there’s nothing – there’s no compulsion in this. I mean, we still have the tools that were contemplated then should we ever need them, but --


QUESTION: Meaning forced to serve?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Yeah. The tools exist and everyone who is in the Foreign Service knows that that’s an option that’s available. But I’m very proud of our Foreign Service that it hasn’t been necessary to talk about that. Having been there several times now, I have a great deal of admiration and respect for people who are leaving their families behind, going to places where they’re in harm’s way, and doing work that isn’t always glorious and grand, but it’s important and they have to do it day after day.


QUESTION: For a year? How long do they go, typically?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: We’re signing people on for a minimum of a year commitment, which has really actually played an important factor. In Iraq, many of the deployments were three-month temporary duty assignments. By the time people figured out how to function in the environment, it was time to turn over. We’re trying as many – in as many cases as possible to get people to extend stays. We’re looking at flexible arrangements where we can maybe get 18 months and have it combined with another assignment and the training for the other assignment. The efficiency and effectiveness of people who have been on the ground for a longer period of time is dramatically higher.


I think we’re doing very well in almost all the cases of the 974 positions we’re talking about. We’re talking about full-year assignments. There are some positions where it’s less relevant than others, but the vast, vast majority are full-year assignments or more.


MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.




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PRN: 2009/1063