Mayor Cuts Down Man’s 30-Year-Old Tree, He Revenges Him In The Best Possible Way

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BORED PANDA WEBSITE)

Mayor Cuts Down Man’s 30-Year-Old Tree, He Revenges Him In The Best Possible Way

What would you do if the council ordered the death of one of your favorite trees, and then made you pay for it?

That’s what happened to one man in Redondo Beach, California, but although he lost the battle, he most certainly won the war. Because unknown to the council, the man, who’s an arborist, had a perfect way to avenge the death of his 30-year-old pepper tree. What did he do? Scroll down to find out. His story was recently shared online, and it’s since been read over 150k times.

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Credits: GoblinsStoleMyHouse

If anyone is wondering how a giant sequoia looks like, here’s a pic:

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Image credits: Amelia Takacs

Pakistan to work with Kabul, Delhi on water management

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTAN NEWS PAPER ‘DAWN’)

Pakistan to work with Kabul, Delhi on water management

UPDATED ABOUT 15 HOURS AGO

ISLAMABAD: The government is seeking a joint mechanism with India and Afghanistan for joint watershed management and trans-boundary aquifer sharing to minimize the negative impact of development projects of neighbors.

Watershed management relates to the land and water management practices that can help protect and imp­rove the water quality, while aquifer refers to the underground layer of rock or minerals that holds water.

This is part of the National Water Policy, which also seeks to ensure 100pc metering of urban water uses, including drinking and sanitation. The policy finalised by the Centre and the provinces was on the agenda of the Council of Common Interests on Tuesday, but could not be taken up due to the prime minister’s political engagements.

A copy of the policy, seen by Dawn, concedes that the Indus Waters Treaty provided a mechanism for water-sharing with India, but its provisions on hydropower development across the line of control had the potential of threatening Pakistan’s water availability during low-flow periods.

The treaty also does not provide for minimum environmental flows downstream of the international boundary for the Eastern Rivers — whose waters lie with India — exposing the population living downstream to serious hazards.

It said that regional mechanisms involving more than two neighbours shall be explored for a viable solution to Pakistan’s growing vulnerability to hydro-meteorological disasters, owing to trans-border winter releases and stoppages at critical times of monsoon and during rabi and kharif planting seasons.

A mechanism shall also be worked out for sharing of trans-boundary aquifers and joint watershed management, including sharing of real-time water flow information.

A study would also be conducted to analyse the impact of challenges arising out of developments on the western rivers and examine measures to minimise the impact within the framework of the Indus Waters Treaty and international water laws.

The new policy acknowledged that water was a ‘highly under-priced commodity’ and its prevailing cost recovery through cess (known as ‘abiana’) was hardly able to meet a fraction of the operating and maintenance cost of the irrigation infrastructure.

The policy said that full financial sustainability shall be ensured to provide progressively safe drinking water and sanitation facilities. “This shall be facilitated by effective reduction in wastage, theft and reduction of non-revenue water and 100pc metering” while providing safety nets for impoverished communities.

A mechanism would be put in place by all the federal and provincial governments to charge all types of water use in order to ensure the recovery of the cost of repair and maintenance of water infrastructure.

For the first time, policy-makers seem to have recognised that freshwater is a finite resource, which cannot meet the unlimited demand of numerous users and that increasing population is a key factor for the increase in water demand.

The concept of “More Crop Per Drop” will be pursued to ensure food security through a national plan to improve irrigation methods and practices and introduce new varieties of crops of high yields and lower water consumption, resistant to heat stress, drought tolerant, and less prone to insects and pests.

Ground water tables will be managed to ensure that crop growth is not impeded and prevent land salinity or underground saltwater intrusion. It has been feared that continuous ground water extraction through tubewells could soon lead to the extraction of saltwater.

Rural water supply and sanitation services will be charged at affordable rates and it will be mandatory for the relevant agencies to keep the quality of drinking water, urban or rural, above specified standards.

A plan for flood zoning will be implemented to prevent losses to people living along river banks. For this, respective governments to restrict or prohibit permanent settlements in high and medium flood risk areas on the basis of zoning and mapping of the River Indus and its tributaries — Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, Kabul and Swat.

The sources of surface and underground water will be diligently protected from contamination and maintained in a healthy state. Development of hydroelectric power will also be treated as a high priority objective.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2017

 

China’s Silk Road push in Thailand may founder on Mekong River row

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

China’s Silk Road push in Thailand may founder on Mekong River row

A Chinese boat, with a team of geologists, surveys the Mekong River at border between Laos and Thailand April 23, 2017. Picture taken April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
By Brenda Goh and Andrew R.C. Marshall | KHON PI LONG, THAILAND

China’s plan to blast open more of the Mekong River for bigger cargo ships could founder on a remote outcrop of half-submerged rocks that Thai protesters have vowed to protect against Beijing’s economic expansion in Southeast Asia.

Dynamiting the Pi Long rapids and other sections of the Mekong between Thailand and Laos will harm the environment and bring trade advantages only to China, the protesters say.

“This will be the death of the Mekong,” said Niwat Roykaew, chairman of the Rak Chiang Khong Conservation Group, which is campaigning against the project. “You’ll never be able to revive it.”

Niwat said blasting the Mekong will destroy fish breeding grounds, disrupt migrating birds and cause increased water flow that will erode riverside farmland.

Such opposition reflects a wider challenge to China’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” project to build a modern-day Silk Road through Asia to Europe.

Second Harbour Consultants, a subsidiary of state-owned behemoth China Communications Construction Corp (CCCC) (601800.SS) said it was surveying the Mekong for a report that China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand would use to decide whether blasting should go ahead.

It added that it was not tasked with the blasting work, which would need to be tendered.

The company said in an e-mail it had held meetings with local people “to communicate, build confidence and clear doubts.”

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Clearing the Mekong for bigger ships is not officially a part of One Belt, One Road, a project announced in 2013; China blasted sections of the river in Laos several years earlier.

But some Chinese engineers involved in the survey speak of it as a part of the broader plan, and it is consistent with Beijing’s Silk Road objectives.

Even in its Southeast Asian backyard, where it has sympathetic governments and ancient historical ties, China sometimes struggles to convince ordinary people that One Belt One Road will benefit them.

Thailand, Laos and Myanmar have approved the survey work, which is funded by China, but further studies and approvals are needed before blasting.

KEEPING A LOW PROFILE

The Mekong River originates in the Tibetan plateau and cascades through China and five Southeast Asian countries.

China has built a series of dams along its stretch of the river that Thai campaigners say has impacted the water flow and made the regional giant hard to trust.

Chinese flags now flutter from company speedboats, while CCCC Second Harbour has met with Thai protesters three times since December in a bid to avert opposition to their work.

A unit of the conglomerate faced violent protests in January in Sri Lanka, where people objected to plans for an industrial zone in the south.

Chinese engineers on the Mekong said they were worried that Thai protesters would board the rickety cargo ship where they slept, prompting them to moor it on the Laotian side of the Mekong each night.

“We are afraid for our team’s safety,” one engineer told Reuters, declining to be named because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

“We keep a low profile here,” he added. “We want to do this project well and benefit Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, China, these four countries. This is not just for China.”

China wants to remove rocks and sandbanks to allow ships of up to 500 tonnes to sail from its landlocked province of Yunnan to the sleepy Laotian town of Luang Prabang.

That would expedite the shipping of Chinese freight deep into northern Laos, said Paul Chambers, an expert in international relations at Thailand’s Naresuan University.

“Luang Prabang may seem sleepy, but northern Laos … represents a hub of Chinese influence,” he said.

LOCALS REMAIN WARY

Despite reassurances from CCCC Second Harbour, some locals still believed the engineers were marking out areas for blasting, said Niwat, who represented campaigners in meetings with the Chinese company.

His group draped a large white banner reading “Mekong Not For Sale” on the bank overlooking the Pi Long rapids, whose name in Thai means “lost ghosts.”

“At the moment we’re only thinking about the economy and the earning figures without considering the unimaginable value of the eco-system to humanity,” he said.

The military seized power in Thailand in 2014 and banned gatherings of five or more people.

But Narongsak Osotthanakorn, governor of Chiang Rai – the Thai province where the Mekong is currently being surveyed – said people could “protest freely” against the Chinese plan.

Narongsak said the survey was the first stage in a process that would include an environmental study, public hearings and negotiations between China, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.

While he wouldn’t say whether or not he supported blasting, Narongsak said local people had much to gain from increased river trade. “I think no country would be happy to lose the benefits,” he said.

(Editing by Mike Collett-White)

Folks: Please Pray For The People In S.W. Columbia, Northern Ecuador And Northern Peru

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC AND REUTERS NEWS AGENCIES AND GETTY IMAGES)

Colombia landslide: Rescue teams race to reach survivors

Media caption The landslide struck in the early hours of Saturday

Rescuers are digging through mud and debris in the hunt for those missing after devastating mudslides in Colombia left more than 200 dead.

About 1,100 soldiers and police are involved in the relief effort.

Heavy rain flooded the city of Mocoa in the country’s south-west with mud and rocks burying whole neighbourhoods and forcing residents to flee their homes.

An army statement said there were at least 400 injured and 200 still missing in the capital of Putumayo province.

The exact death toll is hard to confirm with the rescue operation is still under way.

Some local media estimate up to 300 people have been killed, while the Colombian Red Cross has a total hovering above 200.

The Red Cross said it was working to help family members contact each other.

Video footage from the city showed residents crying over a list of missing children, along with their ages, pinned to a family welfare centre.

“We have lost a baby, who has gone missing,” one resident told reporters. “A little baby, we can’t find him anywhere.”

Media caption Dimitri O’Donnell: “The biggest hurdle… is trying to get access to Mocoa”

President Juan Manuel Santos declared a state of emergency in the region and flew in to oversee the rescue effort.

“We will do everything possible to help,” he said. “It breaks my heart.”

Lorries and trucks were thrown into the side of buildings by the force of the waterImage copyrightAFP / GETTY IMAGES
Image captionLorries and trucks were thrown into the side of buildings by the force of the water

A senior UN official in Colombia, Martin Santiago, blamed climate change, saying it had caused “tremendous results in terms of intensity, frequency and magnitude of these natural effects” in the region.

Others said deforestation has also played a role. “When the basins are deforested, they break down. It is as if we remove the protection for avoiding landslides,” said Adriana Soto, a Colombian conservationist and former environment minister.

The Colombian Air Force is bringing supplies to the area as the search operation continues.

With no running water in Mocoa, one resident told El Tiempo newspaper that they had been collecting rainwater. Power lines are also out across the area.

Tweet from @JuanManSantos, in Spanish: We guarantee health care in Mocoa. [The air force] moved 19 patients to Neiva, 20 will be evacuated in coming hoursImage copyright [email protected]
Image caption Colombia’s president said he would guarantee assistance to the victims

Photos posted to social media by the air force showed some patients being evacuated by air.

“Our heroes will remain in the tragedy zone until the emergency is over,” the army’s statement said.

Colombia’s director of the National Disaster Risk Management Unit told the AFP news agency that a third of the region’s expected monthly rain fell during one night.

Media caption President Juan Manuel Santos has declared a state of emergency

Although rainfall is abundant in the area, this downpour was unusually heavy and caused rivers to burst their banks.

The overflow then picked up mud and debris, creating a cascade.

Video footage of the aftermath showed currents so strong that abandoned lorries were propelled through the flooded streets.

Soldiers have been deployed to help local familiesImage copyright EPA
Image caption Soldiers have been deployed to help local families

Local resident Mario Usale, 42, told Reuters he was searching for his father-in-law.

“My mother-in-law was also missing, but we found her alive 2km (1.25 miles) away. She has head injuries, but she was conscious,” he said.

Rescuers seek people among the rubble left by mudslides following heavy rains in Mocoa, Putumayo department, southern Colombia on April 1, 2017.Image copyright AFP
Image caption Rescue workers searched among the rubble and fallen trees
A family wait outside their home damaged by mudslides following heavy rains in Mocoa, Putumayo department, southern Colombia on April 1, 2017Image copyright AFP
Image caption The debris totally destroyed many homes and submerged vehicles

Landslides have struck the region several times in recent months.

In November, nine people died in the town of El Tambo, about 140km (90 miles) from Mocoa, during a landslide that followed heavy rain.

A map showing Colombia and the locations of Mocoa, El Tambo, and Medellin - with neighbouring Ecuador and Peru also marked

Less than a month before that, another landslide killed several people near Medellin, almost 500km (300 miles) to the north.

And in neighbouring Peru, more than 90 people have died since the start of the year because of unusually heavy rainfall, which also caused landslides and flash floods.

Related Topics

Mr. Putin Seeks a Meeting With Mr. Trump In Helsinki Finland In May

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

(Are the people of Russia and the people of the U.S. really enemies of each other, no I do not believe so personally. It is the ego’s and the distrust of Nation’s Leaders toward each other, both the Civilian and the Military/Intelligence Leaderships. This is something the Media doesn’t need to be trying to become the ‘news maker’. The world is better off if the U.S. along with all of Europe, Israel and Russia are honestly friendly with each other.)–this opinion by trs.

Putin seeks Trump meeting in Helsinki in May
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 'Arctic: Territory of Dialogue' International Forum in Arkhangelsk, Russia, 30 March 2017Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Putin said he would be “glad” to meet Mr Trump at a summit of the Arctic Council in Helsinki

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he would like to meet US President Donald Trump at an Arctic nations summit in Finland in May.

He again rejected allegations that Russia had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

And he said sanctions against Russia were also hurting the US and Europe.

Mr Trump had voiced hopes for improved relations with Moscow, but he has been dogged by claims of links between his election campaign and Russia.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and both houses of the US Congress are investigating alleged Russian interference in the election.

Russia ‘tried to hijack US election’, Senate hearing told

Mr Putin, speaking at an Arctic forum in Arkhangelsk in northern Russia, said he would be “glad” to meet Mr Trump at a summit of the Arctic Council in Helsinki in May.

“Both side should prepare such events,” he said. “If not, then such a meeting could take place within the framework of the usual meetings, at the G20.”

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, whose country is due to take the rotating leadership of the Arctic Council, said he would be honoured to host such a meeting.

The G20 summit of world powers is set to convene in the northern German city of Hamburg in early July.

Donald Trump (file pic)Image copyright REUTERS
Image caption Mr Trump says claims of collusion between his campaign and Russia are “fake news”

Mr Putin criticised “endless and groundless” allegations that Russia interfered in the US election, and what he termed the use of the “Russian card” in US politics.

“Do we want to completely cut relations?” he asked. “Do we want to bring the situation to what it was during the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960s?

“I very much hope that sometime – the sooner the better – the situation will return to normal. I very much hope that we’ll… improve Russian-American relations, for the good of our people’s, and for the whole world.”

Mr Putin said he would support President Trump in fighting terrorism, and co-operate with the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency.

He added that he was ready to work with the new US presidential administration on fighting Islamic State in Syria.

Earlier this year, Slovenia offered to host a meeting between Mr Putin and Mr Trump. Mr Putin offered thanks, but said it would depend on Washington.

Western nations imposed sanctions on Russia over its annexation of the Crimea and its role in the Ukraine crisis.

Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline Protest Camp Has Been Cleared

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Cannon Ball, North Dakota (CNN) A Standing Rock protest camp near the Dakota Access Pipeline has been cleared a day after a deadline to leave the area expired, authorities said Thursday.

Early Thursday, officials entered the closed Oceti Sakowin camp after the arrest of 10 people following Wednesday’s deadline. At least 23 people holding out in the camp were arrested Thursday, according to the North Dakota Joint Information Center.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Department tweeted that the camp was cleared shortly after 2 p.m.
“You know that our big ask for tomorrow is anyone remaining in the camp, we want to make sure that they know they have an opportunity to voluntarily leave,” Burgum said Wednesday. “Take your belongings, remove anything that may be culturally significant and we’ll help you get on your way if you need to do that.”
The 10 people who were arrested on the highway Wednesday outside the camp had refused commands to leave the area, officials said. Authorities then closed the camp and did not allow vehicles to enter.
The arrests came at the end of a day without any major conflict after police did not enter the camp. About 100 protesters voluntarily left before the 2 p.m. state deadline set by Burgum.
Protesters chanted, waved flags and played drums as they left.

Native Americans march in 2016 to a burial ground site they say was disturbed by pipeline bulldozers.

Two people injured at the camp

At one point on Wednesday, a handful of tents were set ablaze.
Tribe member Kaooplus Enimkla Thunder and Lightning said some of the tents were frozen into the ground and had to be burned to be removed. Other tribe members said the fires are part of a tribal tradition.
Burgum said a 17-year-old girl suffered severe burns and a 7-year-old boy was injured from either an explosion or an out of control blaze in the camp.
Burgum said officials would enter the camp site Thursday around 9 a.m.
“Anybody that’s there is trespassing, so anybody that’s there is breaking the law,” he said. “Anyone who obstructs our ability to do cleanup will be subject to arrest.”

‘We knew this day was going to come’

North Dakota Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Tom Iverson said authorities had given a group of protesters who agreed to be arrested an additional two hours to leave on Wednesday but that group never materialized.
He said law enforcement were then confronted by “agitators” who approached the law enforcement line “provoking them.” Iverson said authorities were patient and gave people multiple warnings to back up and leave the roadway outside the camp entrance. Some people backed off, he said.
“We knew this day was going to come,” Iverson said, referring to the state deadline to close the camp for environmental and safety reasons.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has repeatedly asked protesters to leave.

Last week, Burgum signed the emergency evacuation order of the property to allow private contractors to remove waste from the Oceti Sakowin camp area, which officials say is in a flood plain.
The order said warm temperatures have accelerated snowmelt and increased the risk of flooding, and that those in the flood plain are at risk of personal danger.
Burgum’s order came as the project moved closer to completion after the US Army Corps of Engineers recently granted an easement for the last stretch of the pipeline bitterly opposed by Native Americans and environmentalists.
Oceti Sakowin was the main camp closest to where the pipeline will go underneath the Missouri River. At the peak of protests, the camp’s population climbed to as many as 10,000 people.

Assistance offered to protesters

North Dakota officials had strongly encouraged the remaining protesters to leave the camp.
Officials, including the North Dakota Department of Health, offered to bus protesters to a travel assistance center, where they would be able to receive water and snacks, health assessments, a hotel lodging for a night and bus fare home.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has also repeatedly asked protesters to leave for safety and environmental reasons. The tribe, which sued the US Army Corps of Engineers last July, has said the fight over the pipeline belongs in the court system.

A few protesters have remained at camps near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

Project moving forward

The $3.7 billion pipeline is slated to stretch through four states — from North Dakota into South Dakota, winding through Iowa and ending in southern Illinois. It is expected to move 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day across the Midwest.
The project is completed except for the contested portion under North Dakota’s Lake Oahe, half a mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s reservation.
Tribe members are concerned the pipeline would affect their drinking water supply and place downstream communities at risk of contamination from potential oil spills.
The pipeline moved forward last month after President Donald Trump signed executive actions advancing its approval. Trump’s actions cast aside efforts by former President Barack Obama to block the pipeline’s construction.
The order directed “the acting secretary of the Army to expeditiously review requests for approvals to construct and operate the Dakota Access Pipeline in compliance with the law.”
Soon after, the US Army Corps granted a final easement. The move was enthusiastically greeted two weeks ago by Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline’s developer. The company has said it’s ready to proceed.
But the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its allies claimed then that the easement shouldn’t have been granted without the issuance of an expected environmental impact statement.

Legal action by Earthjustice

Last week, Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization, filed a motion on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe questioning the legality of the Trump administration’s decision to issue the permit, according to Jan Hasselman, Earthjustice’s lead attorney for the tribe.
The motion asks the judge to rule on several unresolved legal questions, including whether the US Army Corps’ actions violate the tribe’s treaty rights.
The tribe has demanded a proper environmental impact statement to identify risks to its treaty rights, including its water supply and sacred places.
Hasselman said the Obama administration found “the Tribe’s treaty rights needed to be acknowledged and protected,” and other locations for the pipeline should be granted by the Army before granting the easement.
Trump’s reversal violated treaty rights, he said.
The tribe has said it plans to argue in court that the impact statement process was wrongfully terminated.

188,000 Evacuated As California’s Massive Oroville Dam Threatens Catastrophic Floods

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

188,000 evacuated as California’s massive Oroville Dam threatens catastrophic floods

February 13 at 4:13 PM

Massive dam threat forces 188,000 to evacuate. Here’s what you need to know.

Authorities ordered an emergency evacuation in Oroville, Calif., after a damaged spillway threatened the area with flooding. Here’s what you need to know about the situation. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

About 188,000 residents near Oroville, Calif., were ordered to evacuate Sunday after a hole in an emergency spillway in the Oroville Dam threatened to flood the surrounding area. Thousands clogged highways leading out of the area headed south, north and west, and arteries major and minor remained jammed as midnight approached on the West Coast — though by early Monday, Lake Oroville’s water level had dropped to a point at which water was no longer spilling over, and the crisis appeared to be stabilizing.

The level in the massive man-made lake reached its peak of 902.59 feet at about 3 a.m. Sunday and dropped to 898 feet by 4 a.m. Monday, according to the Sacramento Bee. Water flows over the emergency spillway at 901 feet.

“The drop in the lake level was early evidence that the Department of Water Resources’ desperate attempt to prevent a catastrophic failure of the dam’s emergency spillway appeared to be paying dividends,” the Bee reported Monday.

Officials doubled the flow of water out of the nearly mile-long primary spillway to 100,000 cubic feet per second, with the hope of lowering the lake level by 50 feet to leave room for upcoming rain. The normal flow is about half as much, but increased flows are common at this time of year, during peak rain season, officials said.

Officials also warned that damaged infrastructure could create further dangers as storms approach in the week ahead. During a midday news conference on Monday, they said they’re continuing to monitor the spillway for erosion. It also remains unclear when residents will be allowed back into their homes. Inmates at the Butte County Jail also have been moved to Alameda County about 170 miles away.

“I recognize that this is displacing a lot of people,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters. “We did this because our primary purpose is to ensure public safety. It was a hard decision to make.”

Dry start to the week, but that will be changing. A series of Pacific frontal systems are lined up and taking aim on the west.

An early morning inspection of the main spillway revealed no additional erosion, the Bee reported, and the Department of Water Resources said water would continue to flow at 100,000 cubic feet per second.

Officials also will have to determine whether the damaged primary spillway will be able to handle high levels of water through the rest of the rainy season, Jay Lund, a civil engineering professor at the University of California at Davis, told the Bee.

Lake Oroville is one of California’s largest man-made lakes, with 3.5 million acre-feet of water and 167 miles of shoreline. And the 770-foot-tall Oroville Dam is the nation’s tallest, about 44 feet higher than the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. The lake is the linchpin of California’s government-run water delivery system, sending water from the Sierra Nevada for agriculture in the Central Valley and for residents and businesses in Southern California.

After a record-setting drought, California has been battered by potentially record-setting rain, with the Northern California region getting 228 percent more than its normal rainfall for this time of year. The average annual rainfall of about 50 inches had already been overtaken with 68 inches in 2017 alone.

Water overflows into Calif. dam’s emergency spillway

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Water started overflowing into the emergency spillway of Lake Oroville’s dam in California on Feb. 11. (The Washington Post)

There was never any danger of the dam collapsing. The problem was with the spillway, which are safety valves designed to release water in a controlled fashion, preventing water from topping over the wall of the colossal dam that retains Lake Oroville.

Earlier this month, unexpected erosion crumbled through the main spillway, sending chunks of concrete flying and creating a large hole. Then sheets of water began spilling over the dam’s emergency spillway for the first time in its nearly 50-year history.

Water from rain and snow rapidly flowed into the lake, causing it to rise to perilous levels, and sending water down the wooded hillside’s emergency spillway, carrying murky debris into the Feather River below.

“Once we have damage to a structure like that, it’s catastrophic,” Bill Croyle, acting director of the state’s Department of Water Resources, said at a news conference late Sunday, in reference to the erosion of the main spillway. “We determined we could not fix the hole. You don’t just throw a little bit of rock in it.”

Anticipating a possible catastrophe for the Lake Oroville area, located about 75 miles north of Sacramento and about 25 miles southeast of Chico, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office ordered evacuations, adding in a news release that it was “NOT a drill.”

But as the reservoir’s water levels lowered, the flows over the emergency spillway ceased late Sunday night.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) issued an emergency order to boost the state’s response to the evacuation efforts and spillway crisis, which Brown called “complex and rapidly changing.” The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent an incident management team to the governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Despite the minimized threats, Honea, the sheriff, said that he would not be lifting the mandatory evacuation order until water resources officials had a better grasp on the anticipated risks.

The evacuation took residents by surprise.

April Torlone, 18, was at work at a Dollar General in Live Oak, Calif., Sunday evening when she received a flood emergency alert on her phone. She hurried home, she said, where she had about 10 minutes to gather some clothes and her late father’s ashes.

Torlone drove with her mother and sister to her grandmother’s house in Sacramento, arriving well after midnight. The roughly 40-mile trip took six hours, she said. Gas stations were packed and stores were running out of food. Along the way, they saw more than 30 people camped out in their cars on the side of the road, many with trunks full of belongings, Torlone said.

“I just hope everyone is safe and finds a place to stay, and that no one’s homes are damaged,” she told The Washington Post. “It’s honestly so sad.”

Shelters, churches, schools and seven Sikh temples opened their doors, and people offered to open their homes to strangers via Twitter messages. Hotels and motels out of harm’s way filled up quickly, creating communities of the suddenly displaced. Beale Air Force Base, east of Marysville, also opened its gates to area residents and said early Monday that it had received approximately 250 evacuees.

The dam itself remained structurally sound, the state Department of Water Resources said, and officials said helicopters would be deployed to drop bags of rocks into the crevice and prevent any further erosion.

Croyle, the acting Department of Water Resources director, said Lake Oroville would need to lower almost 50 feet to reach levels at which the system would normally operate. Croyle said that personnel were unable to access the eroded emergency spillway Sunday to do repair work. Officials aimed to continue to discharge as much water as possible ahead of upcoming storms, without adding too much pressure to the already damaged infrastructure.

“Our goal is to be able to use that infrastructure throughout this wet season,” Croyle said. Forecasts indicate that dry weather will dominate through Tuesday, but a series of Pacific storms are expected to arrive across the region Wednesday into Thursday, bringing up to four inches of rain to parts of the Central Valley, according to the National Weather Service.

Honea called the evacuation order a “critical and difficult decision” and said he recognized it would cause significant dislocations and traffic jams, which it did. Residents of Oroville, a town of 16,000 people, were ordered to head north toward Chico, while other nearby residents drove south toward Sacramento.

“I recognize how tough this situation is on people,” Honea said Sunday night. “I recognize that we’ve had to displace a lot of people.”

The California National Guard will provide eight helicopters to assist with emergency spillway repair, Adjutant General David S. Baldwin said. All 23,000 soldiers and airmen statewide received an alert to be “ready to go if needed,” Baldwin said. The last time such an alert was sent out to the entire California National Guard was the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which erupted after a trial jury acquitted four officers of the Los Angeles Police Department of the use of excessive force in the videotaped arrest and beating of Rodney King.

Officials said 250 law enforcement personnel were being deployed to patrol the evacuated areas.

Travelers reported traffic at a standstill on some routes, especially on Highway 99 between Oroville and Chico.

Nicholas Mertz, a front desk supervisor at Oxford Suites Chico, told The Post that when he started his shift at 3 p.m. on Sunday, the hotel’s 184 rooms were at 54 percent occupancy, but within an hour or two, the rooms reached full capacity. What began as a normal night quickly turned into “hectic craziness, everything all at once,” Mertz said. The hotel’s five phone lines were ringing nonstop, and hundreds of guests came pouring in.

“It’s never happened that fast,” Mertz said. Larger families of five to eight people packed into rooms, without having to pay the usual fees for additional guests, Mertz said, because “in this scenario, it’s whatever you can do.”

Many guests expressed confusion and frustration, while others spoke of their fears: What would happen to the pets they left behind? Would there be looting in the evacuated neighborhoods? Would their homes still be standing when they returned?

“Not only are you just a front desk person you’re kind of like a therapist as well,” Mertz said.

Kyle Dobson, 41, said he was visiting the dam Sunday afternoon from Yuba City, Calif., and noticed that the lake was higher than he had ever seen it. He said he got a call later in the day that Oroville was being evacuated. By the time he got home, Yuba City had also been ordered to evacuate.

Dobson said he and his wife packed about a week’s worth of clothes for themselves and their four young children, and moved pictures and other belongings to the second floor of their two-story home. For now, they are staying put, but if the situation gets worse, they will drive to Sutter, Calif., to stay with family, Dobson said.

“I’ll stay up probably all night, listen to the police scanner and watch the reports come in,” he said. “The river levels — that’s what you’ve got to watch out for.”

Adriana Weidman of Marysville, Calif., said she heard about the evacuation around 5 p.m. Fearing that nearby rivers would overflow, she rushed to pack as much as she could, then got into the car with her husband and two children, she said. By 10 p.m., the family was still sitting in gridlocked traffic on the way to Colfax, Calif., about 45 miles east.

“It’s scary,” Weidman told The Post. “I’m terrified I’m not going to have a home to come home to.”

Out of an “abundance of caution,” inmates were in the process of being evacuated from the Butte County Jail Sunday night, the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook.

“We needed to get people moving quickly in order to protect the public and save lives if the worst case scenario did come to fruition,” Honea said.

The damaged primary spillway caused water flowing downstream to become muddy and brown with debris earlier this week, threatening the lives of millions of baby Chinook salmon in the Feather River Hatchery below. In a rescue operation, officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife successfully moved about 5 million Chinook salmon to a nearby annex, the department said on Facebook.

The other 3 million baby salmon will remain at the main hatchery, where staff and engineers have rigged a system of pumps, pipes and generators and a sediment pond in the hopes of filtering the water enough to support the fish.

Ironically, the state’s five years of drought caused Lake Oroville’s water levels to plunge to a low of 33 percent of capacity, according to the Los Angeles Times. The lake became a poster child for the drought. In a dramatic shift, Northern California witnessed an extraordinarily rainy winter this year that caused waters to rise to their highest levels in decades.

World Bank ‘pauses’ Indus Waters Treaty processes by India, Pakistan to resolve row

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

World Bank ‘pauses’ Indus Waters Treaty processes by India, Pakistan to resolve row

INDIA Updated: Dec 13, 2016 15:31 IST

PTI
India had taken strong exception last month to the World Bank’s decision to set up a Court of Arbitration and appoint a Neutral Expert to go into Pakistan’s complaint against it over Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir.
The World Bank has paused the separate processes initiated by India and Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements.“We are announcing this pause to protect the Indus Waters Treaty and to help India and Pakistan consider alternative approaches to resolving conflicting interests under the Treaty and its application to two hydroelectric power plants,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said.

The pause was announced by Kim in letters to the finance ministers of India and Pakistan. It was also emphasised that the Bank was acting to safeguard the Treaty.

Pausing the process for now, the Bank would hold off from appointing the Chairman for the Court of Arbitration or the Neutral Expert — appointments that had been expected on December 12 as earlier communicated by the Bank.

India had taken strong exception last month to the World Bank’s decision to set up a Court of Arbitration and appoint a Neutral Expert to go into Pakistan’s complaint against it over Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir.

Surprised at the World Bank’s decision to appoint a Neutral Expert, as sought by the Indian government and at the same time establish a Court of Arbitration as wanted by Pakistan, India had said proceeding with both the steps simultaneously was “legally untenable”.

Both processes initiated by the respective countries were advancing at the same time, creating a risk of contradictory outcomes that could potentially endanger the Treaty, the Bank noted.

“This is an opportunity for the two countries to begin to resolve the issue in an amicable manner and in line with the spirit of the treaty rather than pursuing concurrent processes that could make the treaty unworkable over time. I would hope that the two countries will come to an agreement by the end of January,” Kim said.

Two juveniles charged with arson in Tennessee wildfires that left 14 people dead

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST NEWS PAPER)

Two juveniles charged with arson in Tennessee wildfires that left 14 people dead

December 7 at 4:33 PM

What we know about the Tennessee wildfires

Tens of thousands of people have escaped a deadly wildfire in East Tennessee. Here’s a look at the aftermath of the disaster. (Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

Two juveniles have been charged with aggravated arson in connection with the East Tennessee wildfires that killed 14 people last week and left nearly 150 others injured, authorities said Wednesday.

During an investigation involving local, state and federal agents, “information was developed that two juveniles allegedly started the fire,” the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a news release.

Both were taken into custody Wednesday morning and are being held at the Sevier County Juvenile Detention Center.

The suspects are Tennessee residents, District Attorney General Jimmy B. Dunn said at a news conference in Sevierville. No additional information about the youths was made available, including their age and gender.

“I understand that you have a lot of questions,” Dunn told reporters. “However, the law does not allow for the disclosure of additional information at this time.”

He added that additional charges “are being considered” and said the juveniles could be tried as adults.

Two juveniles charged with arson in deadly Tennessee wildfires

Officials say two juveniles are being held on arson charges and additional charges are being considered in connection with the deadly wildfires that broke out last month in Tennessee. (Reuters)

The “Chimney Tops 2” fire was first reported Nov. 23 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, according to the National Park Service. The wildfire exploded on Nov. 28, as massive walls of flames spread down the mountains into Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge with shocking speed, according to those who fled with little more than the clothes on their backs.

The fires that engulfed the two tourist towns outside the park and shut down one of the country’s most popular natural attractions left more than 1,750 structures damaged or destroyed, most of them single-family residences. Additionally, thousands of wooded acres burned in the most-visited national park in the United States.

Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller called the devastation “unfathomable.”

Video shows firefighters driving through Tenn. wildfires

Lt. Steve Coker of the Sevierville Fire Dept. captured video of the wildfires burning in eastern Tennessee as his fire crew moved through the town of Gatlinburg on Nov. 28. (Twitter @alliecoker7)

Although wind gusts exceeding 60 mph caused the disaster to explode in Sevier County, fires had been brewing for months in this region. More than 150,000 acres have been charred in the Southeast by large fires, according to the U.S. Forest Service, and nearly 4,000 firefighters have been called into action to fight blazes that keep popping up.

The wind carried the flames from the nearby Chimney Tops fire across ground parched by a historic drought and into the surrounding towns. The fire moved too fast and too far to contain. “This is a fire for the history books,” Miller said last week. “The likes of this has never been seen here.”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) called the fire the state’s worst in at least a century.

“To the residents of Sevier County: We stand with you and are committed to making sure justice is served in this case,” TBI Director Mark Gwyn said at the news conference Wednesday.

He added: “Our promise is that we will do every effort to help bring closure to those who have lost so much.”

The investigation, Gwyn said, is ongoing.

Gatlinburg, with a population of about 4,000 about 43 miles south of Knoxville, is surrounded on three sides by Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Smokies, part of the Appalachian mountain range, straddle the border between eastern Tennessee and North Carolina.

Considered the gateway town to the Tennessee side of the park, Gatlinburg draws more than 11 million visitors a year, according to tourism officials. It is known for its mountain chalets and ski lodge — drawing honeymooners and other visitors all year-long.

Despite two days of heavy rains earlier this week, there are nearly 800 firefighters still battling the fires on the mountains. The fire is about 64 percent contained, authorities said Wednesday, and parts of the park remain closed.

But downtown Gatlinburg was spared, and property owners, business owners, renters and lease holders were allowed to return to full-time occupancy on Wednesday. The tourist destination is expected to reopen for business on Friday.

Angela Fritz and Peter Holley contributed to this post, which has been updated numerous times.

Pentagon Buries Internal Report Showing 23% Of Their Budget Is Wasted

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post.

Pentagon leaders had requested the study to help make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power. But after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results.

The report, issued in January 2015, identified “a clear path” for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel. Instead, it would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology.

The study was produced last year by the Defense Business Board, a federal advisory panel of corporate executives, and consultants from McKinsey and Company. Based on reams of personnel and cost data, their report revealed for the first time that the Pentagon was spending almost a quarter of its $580 billion budget on overhead and core business operations such as accounting, human resources, logistics and property management.

The data showed that the Defense Department was paying a staggering number of people — 1,014,000 contractors, civilians and uniformed personnel — to fill back-office jobs far from the front lines. That workforce supports 1.3 million troops on active duty, the fewest since 1940.

The cost-cutting study could find a receptive audience with President-elect Donald Trump. He has promised a major military buildup and said he would pay for it by “eliminating government waste and budget gimmicks.”

For the military, the major allure of the study was that it called for reallocating the $125 billion for troops and weapons. Among other options, the savings could have paid a large portion of the bill to rebuild the nation’s aging nuclear arsenal, or the operating expenses for 50 Army brigades.

But some Pentagon leaders said they fretted that by spotlighting so much waste, the study would undermine their repeated public assertions that years of budget austerity had left the armed forces starved of funds. Instead of providing more money, they said, they worried Congress and the White House might decide to cut deeper.

So the plan was killed. The Pentagon imposed secrecy restrictions on the data making up the study, which ensured no one could replicate the findings. A 77-page summary report that had been made public was removed from a Pentagon website.

“They’re all complaining that they don’t have any money. We proposed a way to save a ton of money,” said Robert “Bobby” L. Stein, a private-equity investor from Jacksonville, Fla., who served as chairman of the Defense Business Board.

Stein, a campaign bundler for President Obama, said the study’s data were “indisputable” and that it was “a travesty” for the Pentagon to suppress the results.

“We’re going to be in peril because we’re spending dollars like it doesn’t matter,” he added.

The missed opportunity to streamline the military bureaucracy could soon have large ramifications. Under the 2011 Budget Control Act, the Pentagon will be forced to stomach $113 billion in automatic cuts over four years unless Congress and Trump can agree on a long-term spending deal by October. Playing a key role in negotiations will probably be Trump’s choice for defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis.

The Defense Business Board was ordered to conduct the study by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, the Pentagon’s second-highest-ranking official. At first, Work publicly touted the efficiency drive as a top priority and boasted about his idea to recruit corporate experts to lead the way.

After the board finished its analysis, however, Work changed his position. In an interview with The Post, he did not dispute the board’s findings about the size or scope of the bureaucracy. But he dismissed the $125 billion savings proposal as “unrealistic” and said the business executives had failed to grasp basic obstacles to restructuring the public sector.

“There is this meme that we’re some bloated, giant organization,” he said. “Although there is a little bit of truth in that . . . I think it vastly overstates what’s really going on.”

Work said the board fundamentally misunderstood how difficult it is to eliminate federal civil service jobs — members of Congress, he added, love having them in their districts — or to renegotiate defense contracts.

He said the Pentagon is adopting some of the study’s recommendations on a smaller scale and estimated it will save $30 billion by 2020. Many of the programs he cited, however, have been on the drawing board for years or were unrelated to the Defense Business Board’s research.

Work acknowledged that the push to improve business operations lost steam after then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was replaced by Ashton B. Carter in February 2015. Carter has emphasized other goals, such as strengthening the Pentagon’s partnerships with high-tech firms.

“We will never be as efficient as a commercial organization,” Work said. “We’re the largest bureaucracy in the world. There’s going to be some inherent inefficiencies in that.”

‘Dark matter’

Work, a retired Marine officer, became deputy defense secretary in May 2014. With the military budget under the most pressure since the end of the Cold War, he sought help from the Defense Business Board, an advisory panel known for producing management studies that usually gathered dust.

Work told the board that the outcome of this assignment would be different. In a memo, he directed the board to collect sensitive cost data from the military services and defense agencies that would reveal how much they spent on business operations.

Pentagon officials knew their back-office bureaucracy was overstaffed and overfunded. But nobody had ever gathered and analyzed such a comprehensive set of data before.

Some Defense Business Board members warned that exposing the extent of the problem could have unforeseen consequences.

“You are about to turn on the light in a very dark room,” Kenneth Klepper, the former chief executive of Medco Health Solutions, told Work in the summer of 2014, according to two people familiar with the exchange. “All the crap is going to float to the surface and stink the place up.”

“Do it,” Work replied.

To turn on the light, the Pentagon needed more outside expertise. A team of consultants from McKinsey was hired.

In a confidential August 2014 memo, McKinsey noted that while the Defense Department was “the world’s largest corporate enterprise,” it had never “rigorously measured” the “cost-effectiveness, speed, agility or quality” of its business operations.

Nor did the Pentagon have even a remotely accurate idea of what it was paying for those operations, which McKinsey divided into five categories: human resources; health-care management; supply chain and logistics; acquisition and procurement; and financial-flow management.

McKinsey hazarded a guess: anywhere between $75 billion and $100 billion a year, or between 15 and 20 percent of the Pentagon’s annual expenses. “No one REALLY knows,” the memo added.

The mission would be to analyze, for the first time, dozens of databases that tracked civilian and military personnel, and labor costs for defense contractors. The problem was that the databases were in the grip of the armed forces and a multitude of defense agencies. Many had fought to hide the data from outsiders and bureaucratic rivals, according to documents and interviews.

Information on contractor labor, in particular, was so cloaked in mystery that McKinsey described it as “dark matter.”

Prying it loose would require direct orders from Work. Even then, McKinsey consultants predicted the bureaucracy would resist.

“This is a sensitive exercise conducted with audiences both ‘weary’ and ‘wary’ of efficiency, cost, sequestration and budget drills,” the confidential memo stated. “Elements of the culture are masterful at ‘waiting out studies and sponsors,’ with a ‘this too shall pass’ mindset.”

Overstaffed chow hall

From the outset, access to the data was limited to a handful of people. A $2.9 million consulting contract signed by the Pentagon stipulated that none of the data or analysis could be released to the news media or the public.

Moreover, the contract required McKinsey to report to David Tillotson III, the Pentagon’s acting deputy chief management officer. Anytime the Defense Business Board wanted the consultants to carry out a task, Tillotson would have to approve. His office — not the board — would maintain custody of the data.

“Good news!” Work emailed Tillotson once the contract was signed. “Time to cook.”

In an Oct. 15, 2014, memo, Work ordered the board to move quickly, giving it three months to produce “specific and actionable recommendations.”

In a speech the next month, Work lauded the board for its private-sector expertise. He said he had turned it into “an operational arm” of the Pentagon leadership and predicted the study would deliver transformational results.

In an aside, he revealed that early findings had determined the average administrative job at the Pentagon was costing taxpayers more than $200,000, including salary and benefits.

“And you say, hmmm, we could probably do better than that,” he said.

The initial results did not come as a surprise.

Former defense secretaries William S. Cohen, Robert M. Gates and Chuck Hagel had launched similar efficiency drives in 1997, 2010 and 2013, respectively. But each of the leaders left the Pentagon before their revisions could take root.

“Because we turn over our secretaries and deputy secretaries so often, the bureaucracy just waits things out,” said Dov Zakheim, who served as Pentagon comptroller under President George W. Bush. “You can’t do it at the tail end of an administration. It’s not going to work. Either you leave the starting block with a very clear program, or you’re not going to get it done.”

Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine general and former staff director for the Senate Armed Services Committee, said lawmakers block even modest attempts to downsize the Pentagon’s workforce because they do not want to lose jobs in their districts.

Without backing from Congress, “you can’t even get rid of the guy serving butter in the chow hall in a local district, much less tens of thousands of jobs,” he said.

‘Time to hunt!’

The Defense Business Board assigned five members to conduct the study alongside consultants from McKinsey. Scott Rutherford, senior partner at McKinsey’s Washington office, declined to comment.

The team ran into resistance as several Pentagon offices delayed requests for data, according to emails and memos. Work and Tillotson had to intervene to get the data flowing. At one point, more than 100 people were feeding data from different sectors of the bureaucracy.

Laboring under its tight deadline, the team hashed out an agreement with Pentagon officials over which job classifications to count in their survey. The board added a sixth category of business operations — real property management. That alone covered 192,000 jobs and annual expenses of $22.6 billion.

On Christmas Eve, Klepper emailed Work and Tillotson to thank them for putting their muscle behind the project. Without it, he said, “this would all have been DOA and the naysayers would all have been right.”

He hinted the board would make some eye-catching recommendations and expressed relief its work had not been torpedoed.

“I have to admit, with all the caution, negative reaction and pushback,” Klepper said, “I had a bit of concern at the end of the analysis some form of censorship would stop us from showing the true opportunity.”

Work replied that he could not be happier.

“Time to hunt!” he said in an email, adding that he was “very excited about 2015” and ready to make “some bold moves.”

The year kicked off with promise. On Jan. 21, 2015, the Pentagon announced Stein, the private-equity investor, had been reappointed as the board’s chairman and praised him for his “outstanding service.”

The next day, the full board held its quarterly public meeting to review the results of the study. The report had a dry title, “Transforming DoD’s Core Business Processes for Revolutionary Change,” and was packed with charts and jargon. But it began plainly enough.

“We are spending a lot more money than we thought,” the report stated. It then broke down how the Defense Department was spending $134 billion a year on business operations — about 50 percent more than McKinsey had guessed at the outset.

Almost half of the Pentagon’s back-office personnel — 457,000 full-time employees — were assigned to logistics or supply-chain jobs. That alone exceeded the size of United Parcel Service’s global workforce.

The Pentagon’s purchasing bureaucracy counted 207,000 full-time workers. By itself, that would rank among the top 30 private employers in the United States.

More than 192,000 people worked in property management. About 84,000 people held human-resources jobs.

The study laid out a range of options. At the low end, just by renegotiating service contracts and hiring less-expensive workers, the Pentagon could save $75 billion over five years. At the high end, by adopting more aggressive productivity targets, it could save twice as much.

After a discussion, the full board voted to recommend a middle option: to save $125 billion over five years.

Hordes of contractors

Afterward, board members briefed Work. They were expecting an enthusiastic response, but the deputy defense secretary looked uneasy, according to two people who were present.

He singled out a page in the report. Titled “Warfighter Currency,” it showed how saving $125 billion could be redirected to boost combat power. The money could cover the operational costs for 50 Army brigades, or 3,000 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the Air Force, or 10 aircraft-carrier strike groups for the Navy.

“This is what scares me,” he said, according to the two people present. Work explained he was worried Congress might see it as an invitation to strip $125 billion from the defense budget and spend it somewhere else.

A few weeks later, Carter replaced Hagel as defense secretary. Carter sounded as though he would welcome the kind of revolutionary change the board was urging.

“To win support from our fellow citizens for the resources we need, we must show that we can make better use of every taxpayer dollar,” Carter said in an inaugural message in February 2015. “That means a leaner organization, less overhead, and reforming our business and acquisition practices.”

In briefings that month, uniformed military leaders were receptive at first. They had long groused that the Pentagon wasted money on a layer of defense bureaucracies — known as the Fourth Estate — that were outside the control of the Army, Air Force and Navy. Military officials often felt those agencies performed duplicative services and oversight.

But the McKinsey consultants had also collected data that exposed how the military services themselves were spending princely sums to hire hordes of defense contractors.

For example, the Army employed 199,661 full-time contractors, according to a confidential McKinsey report obtained by The Post. That alone exceeded the combined civil workforce for the Departments of State, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development.

The average cost to the Army for each contractor that year: $189,188, including salary, benefits and other expenses.

The Navy was not much better. It had 197,093 contractors on its payroll. On average, each cost $170,865.

In comparison, the Air Force had 122,470 contractors. Each cost, on average, $186,142.

Taking fire

Meantime, the backlash to the $125 billion savings plan intensified.

On Feb. 6, 2015, board members briefed Frank Kendall III, the Pentagon’s chief weapons-buyer. Kendall’s operations were a major target of the study; he oversaw an empire of purchasing agents and contractors that were constantly under attack from Congress for cost overruns and delays.

Kendall put up a stiff fight. He challenged the board’s data and strenuously objected to the conclusion that his offices were overstaffed.

“Are you trying to tell me we don’t know how to do our job?” he said, according to two participants in the meeting. He said he needed to hire 1,000 more people to work directly under him, not fewer.

“If you don’t believe me, call in an auditor,” replied Klepper, the board’s restructuring expert. “They’ll tell you it’s even worse than this.”

In an interview, Kendall acknowledged he was “very disappointed” by the board’s work, which he criticized as “shallow” and “very low on content.” He said the study had ignored efforts by his agencies to become more efficient, and he accused the board of plucking the $125 billion figure out of thin air.

“It was essentially a ballpark, made-up number,” he said.

Still, Kendall knew that lawmakers might view the study as credible. Alarmed, he said, he went to Work and warned that the findings could “be used as a weapon” against the Pentagon.

“If the impression that’s created is that we’ve got a bunch of money lying around and we’re being lazy and we’re not doing anything to save money, then it’s harder to justify getting budgets that we need,” Kendall said.

More ominously, board members said they started to get the silent treatment from the Pentagon’s highest ranks.

Briefings that had been scheduled for military leaders in the Tank — the secure conference room for the Joint Chiefs of Staff — were canceled. Worse, the board was unable to secure an audience with Carter, the new defense secretary.

Stein, the board chairman, accused Carter of deliberately derailing the plan through inaction. “Unfortunately, Ash — for reasons of his own — stopped this,” he said in an interview.

Peter Cook, a spokesman for Carter, said the Pentagon chief was busy dealing with “a long list of national security challenges.” He added that Work and other senior officials had already “concluded that the report, while well-intentioned, had limited value.”

The fatal blow was struck in April. Just three months after Stein had been reappointed as board chairman, Carter replaced him with Michael Bayer, a business consultant who had previously served on the panel and clashed with Stein. Bayer declined to comment.

A few weeks later, Klepper resigned from the board. The $125 billion savings plan was dead.

In an interview, Tillotson, the Pentagon’s acting deputy chief management officer, called the board’s recommendations too ambitious and aggressive. “They, perhaps, underestimated the degree of difficulty we have in doing something that in the commercial sector would seem to be very easy to do.”

Yet he acknowledged that its overall strategy for scaling back the bureaucracy was sound and that, given more time, it would be possible to realize huge savings.

“If we had a longer timeline, yes, it would be a reasonable approach,” he said. “You might get there eventually.”

Ending the debate

Frustration, however, persisted in some corners over the Pentagon’s unwillingness to tackle the inefficiency and waste documented by the study.

On June 2, 2015, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus delivered a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. He complained that 20 percent of the defense budget went to the Fourth Estate — the defense agencies that provide support to the armed forces — and called it “pure overhead.”

He singled out the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and the Defense Logistics Agency, which together employ about 40,000 people, as egregious examples.

When a reporter in the audience asked whether he thought the agencies should be abolished, Mabus resisted the temptation to say yes.

“Nice try on getting me into deep trouble,” he replied.

But trouble arrived in Mabus’s email the next day.

“Ray, before you publicly trash one of the agencies that reports through me I’d really appreciate a chance to discuss it with you,” wrote Kendall, the Pentagon’s chief weapons-buyer, whose management portfolio included the Defense Logistics Agency.

He said that if Mabus had a complaint, he should raise it directly with their mutual bosses, Carter and Work, and copied the email to both.

In his interview with The Post, Kendall said he was “completely blindsided” by the Navy secretary’s criticism, “so I sent him what I thought under the circumstances was a pretty polite note.”

Mabus did not back down. In an emailed retort to Kendall, he referred to the ill-fated Defense Business Board study.

“I did not say anything yesterday that I have not said both publicly . . . and privately inside this building,” he said. “There have been numerous studies, which I am sure you are aware of, pointing out excessive overhead.”

That prompted a stern intervention from Work.

“Ray, please refrain from taking any more public pot shots,” Work said in an email. “I do not want this spilling over into further public discourse.”

Evelyn Duffy contributed to this report.

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A Sentimental Journey

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ASOCIATIA PENTRU ANTROPOLOGIE URBANA DIN ROMAN

territori del '900

identità luoghi scritture del '900 toscano

brushes and papers

my learning journey

American Saga

My family of original and early settlers from the Old World to the New World to Oklahoma

nerd on the bridge

A Literary Paradox

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