Wednesday, November 19, 2008

And You Thought Diplomacy Meant Dealing With Foreigners

My job has certainly been keeping me busy lately.  Which is a good thing, I guess.  When I started here, they had me doing a review of all the ongoing projects that were funded by the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, or IRRF.  This is a $50B fund that Congress set up to help rebuild the country.  We've done a lot of projects with that money.  Most of them are done, but we still have quite a few that are ongoing.  Some will continue into 2010.  Anyway, my job was to look at all the projects and identify the ones that were our problem children.  It took me about a month, but now we have a pretty good handle on it.  I update the list periodically and see what's changed.  Usually not much, especially for the problems.

But now that the review is done, my job has morphed into something else.  I'm a liaison between the Embassy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  These are the guys who actually build the projects that we fund.  They have the expertise in engineering and construction and contracting that the State Department doesn't.  My job now is to make sure that what the Embassy wants is communicated to the Corps of Engineers, and also that the Corps is getting the information it needs to do the job.  They are not the same thing.  Basically, I keep looking for the holes in the information flow going both ways and try to fill it.  

It's a rewarding job sometimes, and sometimes it's frustrating.  I work with a lot of strong-willed Type A hard-chargers (the kind of people who would volunteer to go to someplace like Iraq in the first place).  They can get pretty passionate about whatever position it is that they've taken.  And so when I'm trying to find out something from, say, people in the Embassy, I'll get a very energetic well-reasoned well-spun story that contains about half the facts.  Then I'll go over to the Corp's compound and get an equally energetic well-reasoned well-spun story that contains a different set of half the facts.  The two sets usually overlap to some small degree, but often I'll find that they both omit another group of facts that's critical to understanding the full story.

It's kinda like negotiating between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

So while I tear my hair out in frustration sometimes, I can also point to some progress.  We've got some programs moving that had been stalled.  I'm getting answers to both groups about things that have not been answered before.  The end result will be good projects that will make a difference to the Iraqi people.  And I can live with that.


  1. Skip, I work for the Army and definitely understand your position about type A personalities.
    Sounds like you're doing important stuff. Thanks... Gary

  2. sometimes, I feel like were like Russia in WWI, got all these wars, and other actions, etc, a lot going on everywhere, but back on the homefront it's all falling a part