View Full Version : Few at Commerce Dept Want Iraq Stints

05-09-2007, 08:43 AM
40 out of 39,000 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/08/AR2007050801800_pf.html) employees volunteer interest in going to Iraq.

The call has gone out from on high at the Commerce Department (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/related-topics.html?tid=informline&subject=U.S.+Department+of+Commerce) for a few good men and women.

Heeding President Bush's recent appeal for government civilians to serve stints in Iraq (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/related-topics.html?tid=informline&subject=Iraq) helping with the embattled rebuilding mission, Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/related-topics.html?tid=informline&subject=Carlos+Gutierrez) sent an agency-wide memo last week imploring workers to sign up for a year in Iraq.

"I am asking all Commerce employees to consider supporting this important effort," he wrote.

Gutierrez noted that volunteers would work "under challenging circumstances with access to few amenities." On the bright side, he said, they "may" be eligible for overtime pay -- "35 percent hardship pay and up to 35 percent danger pay differentials."

But it seems that the tepid early response to the secretary's appeal for volunteers may be a reflection of the larger struggle Bush has faced since announcing his strategy to double the number of overworked and often underqualified provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq.

Since Gutierrez sent the memo five days ago to all of the approximately 39,000 employees at Commerce, he has received 40 responses. The department would not say how many -- if any -- of those responses were "yes ..."

05-09-2007, 02:14 PM
Aw hell, I bet about 35K of them couldn't even meet the basic health criteria to go over there even if they wanted to - wide in the bottom, soft in the middle don't ya' know, wheezing and gasping once outside air conditioned offices, budgeting and hoping to have a lawn service mow their lawns, needing massive doses of viagra to keep their marriages in mere survival mode, clogged arteries, big sleep aid prescription bills, quick to call 911 over any and all bumps in the night, that sort of thing....

Old Eagle
05-09-2007, 06:52 PM
Another good reason to force deployable force structure on all government offices.

Or do away with them, as someone suggested for commerce before.

05-09-2007, 06:59 PM
This is going out across many departments. I am all for the idea of decreasing the voluntary aspects of these assignments. Especially with as many good ideas based on nothing more than theory and the " I stayed at a Holiday In express" crowd in the various executive level agencies.

05-09-2007, 07:38 PM
I agree. I don't see how anyone could be effective in their civilian jobs without the experience of going there, whether that be a job in intelligence to commerce, even if for a short period of time like 3-5 months or something...just to at least see it and experience it. I know when I get into this, I hope they send me to wherever the hot zone is going be at that time. I would not only want the experience, I would think I'd NEED it.
Maybe this is my lack of education and training showing, but I don't see how I could give intelligence information or any information for that matter without having been there myself.
I can read stories from the troops, talkto them, read their experiences and whatnot, or I could be book-learned in a culture, but that only gives me an idea. Without seeing it first hand, I know nothing of what they're going through.

Only 40 people volunteered? Heck, leave a position open for me in 6 years from now after I get educated. I'll go.

05-09-2007, 10:42 PM
I told one of my TLA contacts I'd go to Iraq on my Summer break and help out. He looked me up and down really slow and said he respected and liked the Iraqi people to much to inflict me on them.....

06-09-2007, 05:49 PM
Just what is the department of commerce for, anyway? I mean, it isn't as if there was no commerce in our republic before there was a department for it. I doubt they would be much use pencil pushing in Iraq. Any of them have experience entirely unrelated to the job, such as Arabic language skills, or running a power station or water works? That is probably someone who could be of use.

Just sending bureaucrats over to a war zone...well, just because there is some office with nobody behind a desk to receive papers from another desk jockey. I really doubt the Iraqis are suffering much from said bureaucrat's absence.

Those for conscripting the commerce bureaucrats, is this because of any reason other than you just don't like bureaucrats in general and would be tickled to see them sweat? The bureaucrats at the local DMV really irritate me, but I kind of doubt much good would come from dragooning a bunch of them to go to Baghdad to take over the Baghdad DMV. Man, we've made enough enemies over there already, without sending them that crew.

Truth stated plainly, if we are so loaded with commerce bureaucrats that we can spare shipping them to Mesopotamia, well, that seems like more of a justification for eliminating the position altogether, and getting them off the public payroll.

06-09-2007, 06:56 PM
Is there some kind of precedent for sending large numbers of non-military personnel into overseas military combat zones? Those with a high interest in combat environments can join the U.S. military or seek to accompany the forces as a private contractor. Those with a high interest in development work seek employment with international development agencies or nongovernmental organizations.

In a poll, what percentage of members of the Armed Forces do you suppose would be interested in working at the Department of Commerce? And of those, what percentage would be qualified for signifcant DoC positions?

Just playing devil's advocate. I recognize there is a need for non-kinetic specialties in combat environments. But in past conflicts, these specialties have been undertaken by people in uniform while the situation remained dangerous and fluid -- usually by those in some kind of reserve capacity who have civilian experience in the specialty in question. At the current time, these specialties are generally being contracted out. Not a perfect solution, but workable so long as the nation is not mobilized, which it is not.

I just find it difficult to imagine that someone seeking a meaningful career at the Department of Commerce ever once, for a moment, considered the possibility of doing that kind of work in a hostile, foreign environment such as Iraq. Someone interested in working effectively in those environments would have sought a career in a different agency or with an international organization.

Rob Thornton
06-09-2007, 07:25 PM
Maybe that is the solution - all yens with the desire to deploy and receive advancement and a raise based on willingness to serve your nation beyond the desk on this side of the room, all yens who wish to serve back here are free to do so. You sacrifice nothing, but you gain last. Or maybe you only start listing positions that have the qualification that foreign service will be expected at least once as a government servant - maybe you give clear preferance to soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines for entry level positions.

I love choices - even when I don't like either option - its democratic:)

06-09-2007, 09:42 PM
I know some very good FBI agents and Police Officers that went to Iraq, unfortunately most of them got pidgeon holed into the search for WMD and were not allowed to help with police work. THat at least has changed. But there is a major difference between Police types and USDA, and Commerce Workers. You cannot expect nor would you want them in a combat zone.

If we want a corps of combat-reconstructionist, we should create brigades and standing expeditionary reconstruction units, 90% military in nature. The remaining 10% can be federal civilians and contractors. 10% even would be a stretch to fill. Face it those who willingly volunteer for dangerosu duty are a rare breed. Talk to your local recruiter for more info.


Rob Thornton
06-11-2007, 12:29 PM
You know if they really want guys and gals who will deploy, they should adopt a recruiting strategy that goes after military folks. Waive some of the initial entry level requirements in favor of a 1 year internship that gives them a good base, then pay for their education starting about 3 years after that so you have some talent in the pool. Let them pick up on their retirement chart with no penalties, and start them at something reasonable in pay. If a guy or gal is already approaching military retirement then add more, and expect more, if they already meet the entry level requirements- add more & expect more.

The down side to FS & OGAs recruiting from the military is we would compete with them and possibly have to offer more to keep them.

The upside is we get more capabilities in those areas.

We could also look at internships without leaving - something I think is already on the table.

06-11-2007, 03:34 PM
When I first read that 40 volunteered, I thought that was a pretty good number. If you picked up 40 or so from every department and agency, you'd have more than 1,000 civilian folks deploying. The question I have is who are these 40 that volunteered? My understanding from afar (read from the comfort of my ergonomically correct desk chair) is that we need folks that can help Iraqis set up institutions. If you have 40 folks with that kind of expertise heading over, that would be great. However, if you have 40 admin types/lower level worker bees...not so good.

While I don't necessarily disagree with the idea of having certain civilian positions require deployment when necessary, I suspect you could have a very successful volunteer type program if managed properly. The problem is that we are asking for these volunteers several years after the conflict began rather than at the start. For a volunteer type program to work, it needs to be ongoing (during crisis and during non-crisis times). FEMA does this with its Disaster Assistance Employees (DAEs). While not a perfect system, and obviously dealing with vastly different environments, FEMA can deploy thousands of "volunteers" to a disaster in a very short period of time. During Katrina, FEMA deployed more than 10,000 DAEs. If anyone is interested, I can get you more information on FEMA's DAE system (we've shared much of this with S/CRS in the past). The DAE's have areas of expertise and are deployed for that expertise (eg: Public Affairs Officer) and many receive regular training.

When talking about civilian government employees, we often leave out a very large potential source...state and local governments. If you're trying to setup a provincial government, maybe a city administrator type or state government official would have more relevant experience than a fed?

Of course, the underlying problem with either option is resources. Where will the money come from and how are the deployed employees work responsibilities going to be covered in their absence? FEMA uses the Disaster Relief Fund for all disaster related activities (to include paying salaries for DAEs). This model could work very well for civilian support to military ops and I believe this is one of the proposals S/CRS is recommending...though I haven't heard any updates lately.

Take care,

Rob Thornton
06-11-2007, 06:10 PM
Scully, great post.

When talking about civilian government employees, we often leave out a very large potential source...state and local governments. If you're trying to setup a provincial government, maybe a city administrator type or state government official would have more relevant experience than a fed?

You know, that is huge insight! People who deal with federal problems might only see federal problems (we have the same problems in a domestic sense to a degree). I know allot of local LE who have volunteered to go over and their work at the grass roots has been much appreciated - I wonder if it were made known that city administrators/public admin/planners/public works and such at the local level were needed would the response be different?

Set up a training program to bring the abreast of the known challenges and resource them to do their job.

06-15-2007, 02:35 PM
Wake Island
The civilians gave good account.

Civilians in Iraq now pay dearly.

Multiple conscript Forces in our Nations not so distant past have given well and succesfully.

This is not an either or argument there are historical precidents that allow for both government and civilian entities to contribute and yeild suprisingly well for our citizenry which is our nation ---cold, tired, poor, lazy, stupid, strong, and smart, alike. (because weather you believe it or not all of us can be any of them at any given moment)

This is a chapter in a long conflict with visible violent and murky passive enemy forces both external and internal. The freedoms of our citizens, our children and the constitution and laws that define them are at stake.

Potential citizens through out the world may benefit or suffer depending on our actions both personal and as a nation.