- Start-up Challenges for the Project in Baghdad
- Problems Obtaining CAC Cards, Visas, and Badges
- Conversion from Basecamp to DropBox for Document Retention and Distribution
- Project Translators and Interpreters
- Communication between Salt Lake City and Baghdad
- Facilities: Utah House and Project Vehicles
- Deteriorating Security and Increased IDF Attacks and Bombings
- Unavailability of Primary Health Care in the IZ for Project Personnel
- Wrap-up of Project Activities in Salt Lake City
- An Academic Institution as a CLA Grantee
- Challenges with CLA and INL
- English Translations of Iraqi Law Were Inadequate at the Beginning
- Iraq Has No Banking System
The Project encountered significant start-up challenges:
Procedures for obtaining proper clearances and travel authorizations to Iraq were constantly changing, slow, and difficult to negotiate. CLA provided virtually no practical assistance in the start-up phase, particularly with obtaining CAC cards. The Iraqi Embassy was not able to provide proper Iraqi entry visas. American and Iraqi staff with sufficient diplomatic, technical, and substantive expertise and requisite interpersonal skills were hard to locate, recruit, and deploy to Iraq. There were delays in obtaining compensation-level approvals from USDOS which resulted in delays in deploying Project experts to Baghdad.
For these reasons, the Project was not able to establish an efficient presence on the ground in the International Zone until March 2009.
CAC Cards, Visas, and IZ Badges
Although start-up visits to Baghdad took place beginning in October 2008, Project personnel thereafter waited months in Salt Lake City for CAC cards to be issued to them. The CAC-card process changed several times throughout the life of the Project and it was difficult to get practical guidance or useful assistance from USDOS. It was unclear whether USDOS personnel in Washington, D.C. were incompetent or merely unwilling to be of help in getting CAC cards issued in a timely way to Project personnel deploying to Iraq.
Initially, beginning in October 2008, the Project engaged an Iraq-experienced American lawyer as resident Project director in Baghdad. However, because he did not have the technical or diplomatic skills required for the position, his engagement was terminated and he left Baghdad on February 7, 2009.
Andrew Allen, Deputy Chief of Party and the key adviser in Baghdad for judicial independence activities, was ready to deploy in early January 2009 to replace the initial resident Project director, but Mr. Allen was not able to get into Iraq until February 3, 2009.
Similarly, the Project initiated the clearance process for Professor Holbrook, Chief of Party, in early December 2008, but he did not receive authorization for a CAC card until three months later on February 27, 2009. Within a week of receiving his CAC card, Professor Holbrook deployed to Iraq in early March, arriving in Baghdad on March 7, 2009.
In February 2009, the Project had negotiated an agreement with the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, D.C. to provide immediate turnaround of passports and obtain three-month multi-entry visas. In early March 2009, Professors Mallat and Holbrook received their passports and visas back from the Iraqi Embassy the day before their scheduled departure, but discovered that their visas were only for one month and only for a single entry. Upon their arrival at Baghdad International Airport, it was discovered that these visas were useless because they had not been approved by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. Professor Mallat was allowed to enter Iraq only upon the intervention of the Iraqi Water Minister who was a close personal friend. Professor Holbrook was allowed to enter only because he had a CAC card.
In June 2009, the Project hired an Iraqi as a visa adviser as a part-time employee. He was able to obtain one-year residency permits and visas for Project residents and consultants which enabled Project personnel to fly into and out of Baghdad on commercial airlines, which saved significant time that otherwise would have been wasted but paid for from Project funds.
During the third quarter of 2009, Project personnel who were approved for CAC cards but who deployed without receiving them in the United States were no longer able to get CAC cards issued in the International Zone after arriving in Baghdad. Project personnel who were not U.S. residents were no longer eligible to obtain CAC cards.
During the third quarter of 2009, responsibility for Multi-National Forces Iraq (―MNFI‖) badging was transferred from the U.S. military to the GOI; the result was that MNFI badges were not being issued to anyone. There were many more Iraqi-controlled checkpoints in the International Zone and it became virtually impossible to go through these checkpoints without either a CAC card or MNFI badge. Because of these developments, the acting CLA Grant Officer Representative advised the Project that personnel should not deploy to Baghdad without first receiving a CAC card in the United States.
During December 2009, CLA said that the Project should maintain robust programming and a strong in-country presence to the end of the CLA Grant on March 31, 2010. CLA instructed the Project to recruit expatriate or local staff as needed and to extend the lease on Utah House from March 6 to March 31, 2010. The Project‘s efforts to recruit expatriate staff were frustrated specifically by the inability to expedite the issuance of badges (either CAC or MNFI badges) and the logistical difficulties in deploying individuals without badges who required an escort in order to move freely around the IZ. Late in the quarter the Grant Officer Representative informed the Project that personnel should not deploy to Baghdad without first receiving a valid badge.
Conversion from Basecamp to DropBox for Document Retention and Distribution
At the Project‘s inception in the summer of 2008, the IT group at the University of Utah‘s S.J. Quinney College of Law was tasked with identifying a project management system that would facilitate the work of Project members in Baghdad and Salt Lake City. An informal needs assessment identified the desire for a single system that would facilitate tasks related to event scheduling, individual and group-based communications, and document management. It was also imperative that the system be accessible via the web in light of how scattered Team members are geographically.
Basecamp initially was selected based on its ability to provide the needed tools and functionality in a single web-based format. A Basecamp account was created and Team members were assigned usernames and passwords.
Initial feedback about Basecamp was varied. The collaborative features and web-based format worked well early in the Project, but as Team members became focused on document management, many found the Basecamp interface cumbersome and overloaded with unnecessary features. In reality, few features were used in Basecamp other than the documents space and the calendar. Ultimately, the documents space and submission process in Basecamp became unmanageable. Submitting a document required multiple steps and, as the document collection grew, management, identification, and recovery of these documents became increasingly difficult.
As the need for a more efficient system was becoming apparent, a proposal was made by the Project‘s IT group to consider DropBox, a file management system the IT group had been using for other collaborative projects at the College of Law. One significant advantage to using DropBox is that it does not require the user to learn new software. It simply makes folders and their contents visible on computer desktops. Folders are live on a network, secured via encryption, and available only to those who have been invited to share their contents. These shared folders are synchronized and updated by a central server on a continual basis.
Based on the thousands of transactions performed since its introduction in early June 2009, DropBox appears to be working well for Project participants and CLA personnel who have access to appropriate files on DropBox.
Project Translators and Interpreters
The Project hired two Iraqi administrative staff and five Iraqi translators and interpreters. The Project always needed at least four, but sometimes more, Iraqi interpreters, translators, and liaison personnel. The Project‘s written translation capacity (both Arabic-to-English and English-to-Arabic) was increased in country because the documents to be translated were considerable. The Project attempted to use out-of-country translators, but they were not suitable for translating documents with short turn-around times.
Communication between Salt Lake City and Baghdad
Communication between Salt Lake City and Baghdad was a continual challenge due to the nine-hour time difference and workweek differences (the Iraqi workweek is from Sunday through Thursday). The Project installed VOIP telephones in Baghdad for direct communication between Project personnel in Salt Lake City and Baghdad and established a weekly videoconference with a set agenda of reports.
Facilities: Utah House and Project Vehicles
In March 2009, a house in the International Zone was leased from Sabre International for living and working accommodations and a life support contract was negotiated with Sabre for security and dining facilities. During March 2009, Utah House was furnished in a manner that permitted the Project to host workshops of up to 20 participants.
In March 2009, the Project spent $48,000 to purchase two new Mitsubishi SUVs as Project vehicles for movement in the International Zone. These vehicles proved to be invaluable. According to USDOS guidelines and the Grant Officer‘s specific instruction regarding assets valued at more than $5,000, in March 2010, the Project sold the two Project SUVs and sold or otherwise disposed of all other assets acquired under the CLA Grant and applied the sale proceeds to the Grant.
Deteriorating Security and Increased IDF Attacks and Bombings
During the first six months of 2009, Project residents attended security briefings at Sabre and at the U.S. Embassy Baghdad. The Project purchased Personal Protective Equipment (body armor and kevlar helmets) from Sabre for each resident and employee in Utah House. Sabre installed an indirect fire (―IDF‖) attack siren inside the perimeter wall of Utah House to warn of imminent rocket attacks. Sabre also installed blast film on all of the windows in Utah House.
Nevertheless, over the course of the Project, security deteriorated in Baghdad; beginning infrequently in March 2009 and slowly escalating each month thereafter, there were IDF attacks into the International Zone, with some rockets exploding close to Utah House; and there were a number of huge suicide bomb attacks on Iraqi office buildings in Baghdad which adversely affected the Project.
On May 25, 2009, following the deaths, under very different circumstances, of two civilian contractors in the IZ, the Project reviewed with CLA the issue of deteriorating IZ security (resulting from increased IDF attacks, an increased threat of kidnapping, IZ checkpoints no longer manned by U.S. soldiers or contractors, etc.). The Project also consulted with Sabre to get its professional opinion on additional security measures to take. As a result of meetings with Sabre, the Sabre guards at Utah House carried weapons; Sabre installed a more robust front gate and a ―duck-and-cover bunker (i.e., an IDF blast bunker) in the garden of Utah House; and the Sabre guards prevented strangers‘ vehicles from parking close to the Utah House perimeter wall.
By June 30 2009, pursuant to the Status of Forces Agreement, U.S. forces left Iraqi cities. In the second half of 2009, Iraqis took greater control over movement into and within theInternational Zone.
During the last quarter of 2009 the security situation in Baghdad deteriorated and posed logistical challenges in terms of program implementation particularly with respect to access to GOI officials and institutions. CLA provided the Project during the quarter with unofficial recommendations that effectively restricted visits to certain GOI institutions to defined periods of the day. Heightened security measures were put in place, especially in the aftermath of the coordinated and deadly suicide-bomb attacks on the Ministry of Justice and the Baghdad Provincial Council on October 25th and the subsequent attacks on other GOI buildings on December 9th. These attacks (which were just outside the IZ) and the related heightened security measures increased logistical difficulties for the Project in working with Iraqi counterparts. The deteriorating security situation also created complications for the Project‘s local staff in commuting into the IZ to work at Utah House.
The security situation worsened throughout the first quarter of 2010 in the run up to the national elections which were held on March 7th, with rocket attacks into the IZ on a nearly daily basis. Project personnel responded accordingly both in Utah House and while in transit to and from the U.S. Embassy located nearby. Deadly blasts in Baghdad on January 25, 2010, at three major hotels that housed foreign press corps and members of a number of international organizations further contributed to an atmosphere of uncertainty and unease, affecting both productivity and morale of the Project‘s expatriate and Iraqi staff.
Unavailability of Primary Health Care in the IZ for Project Personnel
During the third quarter of 2009, USDOS informed the Project that Project personnel were no longer eligible for primary health care and this benefit was no longer being checked by USDOS on Letters of Authorization (―LOA‖) issued to Project personnel. During the quarter, the Project learned that primary health care services were no longer available in the IZ to Project personnel and that emergency care services were moved to Camp Victory near the BIAP in the Red Zone. One Project expert refused to deploy due to the unavailability of U.S.-provided health care in the IZ. Several Project staff members had to be treated by Iraqi doctors in the otherwise off-limit apartment complex across the street from Utah House.
Wrap-Up of Project Activities in Salt Lake City
On January 15, 2010, the USDOS Grant Officer and the Grant Officer Representative ordered the Project to wind-up its Baghdad operations and move all its activities under the CLA Grant to Salt Lake City by February 28, 2010.With the agreement of the USDOS Grant Officer and the Grant Officer Representative, working sessions were organized at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah during March 25-27, 2010. Bringing together executive and field management, key legal advisors, former-resident experts, and technical support staff, a series of sessions were held which focused on program documentation, the archiving of deliverables and photographs, and report writing. Significant achievements within each Project component were discussed in order to ensure that final deliverables are consistent with CLA Grant objectives. The sessions also centered on the issue of dissemination of Project research according to the Statement of Work to benefit Iraqi institutions and policy makers.
An Academic Institution as a CLA Grantee
The impression that the University had was that an academic institution as a CLA grantee was a first-time experience for CLA-Baghdad. The relationship was challenged by the absence and then change of leadership in CLA and frequent changes in plans and policy. The central role of an academic institution turned out to be very beneficial in Iraq. The University opened doors that might not have otherwise remained closed. It was able to hire international staff who might otherwise not have thought of coming to Baghdad. It also enabled the Project to hire Iraqi professional staff members who would not have worked for another kind of U.S.-funded contractor. It also enabled interactions with Iraqi leaders, lawmakers, lawyers, and law professors in a manner seen as more acceptable by them than directly dealing with the U.S. Embassy Baghdad.
CLA initially was not supportive of the Project‘s use of its Website to make widely available Project-related materials in both English and Arabic. Similarly, CLA was not supportive of the Project‘s plan to publish its research in a wide variety of publications, despite the fact that the Grant specifically states that ―DOS encourages the widest practicable dissemination of research results at any time.
CLA attempted to use Project personnel as de facto members of the CLA office in the U.S. Embassy. CLA several times demanded that the Project hire specific individuals and deploy them to Iraq. In each case, these individuals had serious undisclosed personal or professional deficiencies apparently known to CLA, and these individuals ultimately had to be terminated. CLA also tried to micromanage many of the Project‘s activities and tried to prohibit or restrict other activities. For example, CLA wanted the Project to engage U.S. experts in legislative drafting, and deploy them to Iraq to provide legislative drafting training at the COR, despite the fact that COR leaders believed such training provided by Americans was irrelevant and therefore worthless.
There were two different CLA Grant Representatives in Baghdad assigned to the Project and they had different and sometimes contradictory views of the Project‘s activities and direction. For example, first CLA Grant Representative insisted on a specific format for the Project‘s quarterly reports, whereas the second CLA Grant Representative strongly disliked that format.
The first CLA Grant Representative ordered the Project Electoral Team not to coordinate with UN and Iraqi agencies involved in electoral law reform, whereas the second CLA Grant Representative encouraged such coordination. The first CLA Grant Representative negotiated with the Project about a no-cost extension of the Grant through June 30, 2010, whereas the second CLA Grant Representative refused to consider such an extension. Most importantly, the first CLA Grant Representative directed the Project not to perform Objective #5 of the Grant dealing with anti-corruption public outreach and education, because those activities were being adequately performed by other U.S. contractors in Iraq. Despite repeated requests by the Project to put this directive in writing and correspondingly amend the Grant, CLA failed to do so. The second CLA Grant Representative informed the Project that Objective #5 of the Grant had not been deleted and that it must be performed. Nevertheless, for several months the CLA Grant Representative refused to approve the deployment of Navin Beekary, the Project‘s anti-corruption expert, at a time that was critical to the performance of this activity in Baghdad.
Challenges with CLA and INL
The Project had two grants. The first was from INL and the second and larger one was from CLA. The relations between CLA and INL were not good, there apparently was little or no communication between CLA and INL in the USDOS in Washington, D.C., the culture of each organization was different, the direction that each wanted to take the Project was different, and they disagreed about assignment of Project personnel to the two grants and the allocation of personnel expenses between the grants. This created numerous problems for the Project. For example, in about April 2009 an issue between the University and INL-DC resulted in a change of personnel allocated to the INL budget.
Other than Andrew Allen and Marcus Zimmer, INL-DC refused to approve the salaries of the other Project personnel resident in Baghdad. Professor Holbrook (who was Chief of Party resident in Baghdad from March 7 to the end of May 2009) and U.S. Ambassador (retired) Vincent Battle (who was Deputy Chief of Party from April 2, 2009, and Chief of Party from June 2009 to the end of October 2009) were not paid from the INL budget after that point.
Eventually any attempt at synergy was largely abandoned by the Project and the two grants were effectively run as separate projects.
In response to heightened concerns surrounding the national elections to be held on March 7, 2010, CLA instructed the Project that activities in Iraq under the Grant were finalized as of February 28, 2010, and that all expatriate personnel must depart Iraq by that date. It was agreed that no costs incurred in Iraq, shared or otherwise, would be borne by the CLA Grant after 28 February 2010. Pursuant to contrary instructions from INL, the University‘s activities under the parallel INL grant continued in Iraq until mid-March. Arrangements were made to return Utah House, which was utilized for both Project working and living space, to Sabre International (the Project‘s life support contractor) on 14 March 2010, upon the final departure from Iraq of Project personnel working under the INL grant.
English Translations of Iraqi Law Were Inadequate at the Beginning
Many Project experts did not know Iraqi law in Arabic and had to rely on existing English translations. When the Project began, the English translations that existed were often of poor quality, out of date, and misleading. The translations performed by CLA translators typically were of poor quality and proved to almost useless in analyzing proposed Iraqi legislation. Much of the translation work done by the Project undoubtedly had been done elsewhere, but there was no system for sharing translations among USDOS and UN grantees. Until the Project‘s website was created, no one in Iraq was making English translations publicly available.
Iraq Has No Banking System
Because Iraq has a cash economy with no effective banking system, it is necessary to pay for expenses in Iraq with cash. Similarly, it was not feasible to require Project participants to pay for expenses in Iraq with their own cash and then be reimbursed through the normal University accounting system that sends checks to Project participants or makes automatic deposits into their bank accounts, because Project participants had no way of cashing those checks or accessing their bank accounts to replenish cash while in Iraq.
Therefore, the Project created a pre-approved cash-advance system to pay for Project expenses. The Project‘s Deputy Chiefs of Party were appointed by the University to serve as cashiers to obtain cash advances from Sabre International, the Project‘s life support contractor in the International Zone. The cashiers were authorized to expend cash amounts of less than $1,000 per transaction without informing the Project Manager (or delegate) in Salt Lake City in advance. They were authorized to expend cash amounts from $1,000 up to $5,000 per transaction by informing the Project Manager of the expenditure before it occurred. They were authorized to expend cash amounts in excess of $5,000 per transaction only upon prior written approval from the Project Manager. For the extraordinary expense involved in the purchase of two Project vehicles for $48,000 in cash, the Project got specific prior authorization from both CLA and Project Manager. Similarly, the Project got specific prior authorization of a budget to purchase furniture, furnishings, and supplies for the Project house and office up to a total of $37,200 in cash. The Project created memoranda of the cash advances from Sabre and maintained receipts for cash expenditures. The memoranda and receipts were copied as pdf documents in Iraq and then were emailed to the Project Manager in Salt Lake City at the end of every month.