(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.
(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.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF 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.”
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.
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.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)
INDIA Updated: Dec 13, 2016 15:31 IST
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.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST NEWS PAPER)
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.
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.”
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.
(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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)
Global consumer companies, including Unilever, Nestle, Kellogg and Procter & Gamble, have sourced palm oil from Indonesian plantations where labor abuses were uncovered, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
Children as young as eight worked in “hazardous” conditions at palm plantations run by Singapore-based Wilmar International Ltd and its suppliers on the Indonesian islands of Kalimantan and Sumatra, Amnesty said in a report.
Amnesty, which said it interviewed 120 workers, alleges that many of them worked long hours for low pay and without adequate safety equipment. The palm oil from these plantations could be traced to nine multinational companies, it said.
“Despite promising customers that there will be no exploitation in their palm oil supply chains, big brands continue to profit from appalling abuses,” said Meghna Abraham, senior investigator at Amnesty.
The NGO said it chose Wilmar as the focus of its investigation as the company is the world’s largest processor and merchandiser of palm and lauric oils, controlling more than 43 percent of the global palm oil trade.
Other companies operating palm plantations in Indonesia include Golden Agri-Resources Ltd, Indofood Agri Resources Ltd and PT Astra Agro Lestari Tbk.
Even though Indonesia had strong labor laws under which most of the abuses can amount to criminal offences, these laws were poorly enforced by the government, Amnesty said.
Wilmar said it welcomed the NGO’s report, which helps to highlight labor issues within the broader palm oil industry, but added that finding a solution requires collaboration between governments, companies and civil society organizations. (For Wilmar’s full statement, click bit.ly/2fx0q1t)
“We acknowledge that there are ongoing labor issues in the palm oil industry, and these issues could affect any palm company operating in Indonesia,” it said.
“The focus on Wilmar … is often used to draw attention to problems in the wider palm oil industry.”
Wilmar supplies around 10 percent of the total palm oil used in Nestle’s products, the Swiss food giant said in an email. Nestle said it is working with Wilmar to improve the traceability of the commodity.
“Practices such as those identified in Amnesty International’s report have no place in our supply chain,” Nestle said. The company said it would investigate allegations related to its purchase of palm oil along with its suppliers.
Procter & Gamble also said in an email it is working with Wilmar to “ensure they can remedy any potential human rights infringements in their supply chain”.
Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, used in everything from snacks and soaps to cosmetics and biofuels, with the sector employing millions of workers. But plantation operators say it is difficult to have complete oversight of labor conditions.
No company would “consciously” hire underage labor as that is against the law, but some plantation workers get their children to help out, Sumarjono Saragih, an official at the Indonesian Palm Oil Association, told Reuters by telephone.
“If children want to help their parents, companies cannot forbid that.”
Agus Justianto, an official at Indonesia’s environment ministry, said that a company found guilty of labor violations could get its permit revoked, but it is “not in the environment ministry’s domain.”
Indonesia’s manpower ministry did not immediately provide comment.
U.S. snack and breakfast food company Kellogg Co said it is committed to ensuring that its palm oil is obtained from “known and certified sources that are environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable”.
If Kellogg finds or is made aware of any supply chain violations, it would discuss corrective actions with its suppliers, it said. “If the concerns are not adequately addressed, we take action to remove them from our chain.”
Unilever said while significant progress has been made to tackle environmental issues associated with palm cultivation, more needs to be done to address “these deeply concerning social issues” and promised to work with its partners.
(Reporting by Eveline Danubrata and Bernadette Christina Munthe in JAKARTA; Additional reporting by Masayuki Kitano in SINGAPORE; Editing by Tom Hogue and Kenneth Maxwell)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NATIVE NEWS ON LINE)
(THIS ARTICLE IS FROM ‘TASK AND PURPOSE’ WEBSITE)‘Where Evil Resides’: Veterans ‘Deploy’ To Standing Rock To Engage The Enemy — The US Government
“Most civilians who’ve never served in a uniform are gutless worms who’ve never been in a fight in their life,” Wes Clark Jr. declares. “So if we don’t stop it, who will?”
Clark Jr. is one of the most vociferous opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a controversial 1,170-mile project that, if and when it is completed, will shuttle an estimated 470,000 barrels of crude oil every day from North Dakota to Illinois. “It’s immoral, and wrong, and dangerous to us all,” Clark Jr. adds.
He doesn’t fit the traditional tree-hugger mold. He’s not a hippie. Nor is he a member of the Lakota or Dakota tribes, the two Native American group known collectively as the Sioux. He’s a former Army officer and the organizer of an upcoming three-day deployment of U.S. military veterans to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in southern North Dakota, the site of an escalating months-long standoff between law enforcement-backed security contractors and activists that has so far resulted in multiple injuries, more than 500 arrests, and a United Nations investigation of potential human rights abuses.
According to an “operations order” for the planned engagement, posted to social media in mid-November, “First Americans have served in the Unites States Military, defending the soil of our homelands, at a greater percentage than any other group of Americans. There is no other people more deserving of veteran support.”
Clark Jr. is a 47-year-old writer, political commentator, and activist based in California. Joining him in the fight is Michael A. Wood Jr., a Marine Corps veteran and former Baltimore police officer who retired his badge in 2014 to become an advocate for national police reform. Earlier this month, the duo formed Veterans Stand For Standing Rock with the hope of drawing scores of veterans, as well as fire fighters, ex-law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel and others to the battleground for a three-day “deployment” in early December to “prevent progress on the Dakota Access Pipeline and draw national attention to the human rights warriors of the Sioux tribes.” Both men say they’re prepared to take a bullet, rubber or otherwise, for a cause they believe should be of critical importance to any patriotic American.
“… if we’re really going to be those veterans that this country praises, well, then we need to do the things that we actually said we’re going to do…”
“This country is repressing our people,” Wood Jr. says. “If we’re going to be heroes, if we’re really going to be those veterans that this country praises, well, then we need to do the things that we actually said we’re going to do when we took the oath to defend the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation was originally established as part of the Great Sioux Reservation under Article 2 of the Treaty of Fort Laramie of April 29, 1868. In 1877, the U.S. government initiated the still ongoing process of chipping away and dividing the land it had granted to the people of the Lakota and Dakota nations, with significant reductions taking place in 1889 and then again during the 1950s and 1960s, when the Army Corps of Engineers built five large dams along the Missouri River, uprooting villages and sinking 200,000 acres of land below water.
When the Corps of Engineers returned to Standing Rock in 2015, it was to assess whether or not it should approve a path for the Dakota Access Pipeline across the Missouri River, a project that would involve construction on some of the land that had been stripped from the Sioux, who still regard it as sacred — although, that fact seems to have been ignored, maybe even intentionally, in the assessment.
Because the Corps neglected to consult the Standing Rock Sioux, as it was required to do under the National Historic Preservation Act (Section 106), the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Interior, and the American Council on Historic Preservation all criticized the assessment, but the project was eventually approved. The decision was a major victory for Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based parent company of Dakota Access LLC, which estimates the pipeline will bring $156 million in sales and income taxes to state and local governments and create thousands of temporary jobs.
For the Standing Rock Sioux, the Dakota Access project poses two immediate threats. First, the pipeline would run beneath Lake Oahe, the reservoir that provides drinking water to the people of Standing Rock. (An earlier route that avoided native lands was ruled out in part because it posed a danger to drinking water.) Second, according to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the building of the pipeline would destroy the sacred spots and burial grounds that were overlooked in the Corps’ assessment. But as the protests have intensified, and more outsiders, including members of more than 200 Native American tribes from across North America, have become involved, Standing Rock has, for some, come to represent something much bigger than a struggle between a disenfranchised people and a government-backed, billion-dollar corporation. It’s a battle to save humanity from itself.
“Mother Earth’s axis is off and it’s never going back,” says Phyllis Young, a Sioux tribal elder. “And we have to help keep it in balance for as long as we can. I am a mother and a grandmother. Those are my credentials to ensure a future with clean drinking water — a future of human dignity, human rights, and human survival.”
Young grew up on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. She has been present at many of the protests and says she’s seen people brutalized at the hands of the security contractors and law enforcement officials guarding the land where the drilling is set to take place. It was Young who got Clark Jr involved. In late summer, she was in Washington, D.C., lobbying for the military to promote an alternative (and scientifically dubious) clean energy source called low-energy nuclear reaction, when she heard of a military veteran who was a forceful advocate for environmental conservation. Clark Jr. was eager to help. He spent weeks trying to assemble a legal team for the Standing Rock Sioux, and even contacted Independent Diplomat, a nonprofit organization that helps governments navigate complex diplomatic processes. “I pulled all of the levers, and none of them worked,” Clark Jr. recalls. Then, in early November, the plan dawned on him: He’d bring his fellow veterans. Lots of them. And they’d come prepared to put their lives on the line.
“We’re not going out there to get in a fight with anyone,” Clark Jr. says. “They can feel free to beat us up, but we’re 100% nonviolence.”
You may have heard of Clark Jr.’s father. Wesley Clark Sr. retired from the Army in 2000 as a four-star general. His career began in the jungles of Vietnam, where he was shot four times during an enemy ambush near Saigon, and culminated in a posting as Supreme Allied Commander Europe during the Kosovo War. In 2004, he ran for the Democratic Party presidential nomination on platform that criticized the Iraq War and called for measures to combat climate change. Clark Jr., who was born in Florida while Clark Sr. was in Vietnam and grew up on military bases throughout the United States and Europe, seems to have inherited both his father’s commanding spirit and his progressive ideals.
Clark Jr. had just graduated from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service when he joined the Army as a cavalry officer. He served on active duty from 1992–1996 — “nothing dangerous,” he says. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was living in New York City, and after seeing the towers fall, he decided to re-enlist. “I was like, ‘I’m going back in. I’m going to go in there and fuck people up,’” he recalls. It was Clark Sr., the decorated war hero, who convinced him not to. As Clark Jr. recalls, his father foresaw U.S. military intervention in Iraq and warned that as a soldier he would be fighting a war that had nothing to do with defeating al Qaeda. “He was right, but I’ll tell you, I’ve never felt worse about a decision in my life,” Clark Jr. says.
Clark Jr. may never have served in combat, but when he talks about Standing Rock, he sounds like a battle-hardened general. This isn’t his first foray into boots-on-the-ground environmental activism. He’s currently working with an organization called Climate Mobilization, which is focused on “building and supporting a social movement that causes the US federal government to commence WWII-scale climate mobilization.” But he’s perhaps best known as a co-host of the political web series The Young Turks. On the The Young Turks website, Clark Jr. is described as an Army veteran “currently trying to save human civilization from climate change.” The impending confrontation at Standing Rock, he says, will be “the most important event up to this time in human history.”
“We’re not going out there to get in a fight with anyone. They can feel free to beat us up, but we’re 100% nonviolence.”
Vets Standing For Standing Rock was announced via an official sounding letter formatted like a five-paragraph military operation order, breaking down the “opposing forces” — “Morton County Sheriff’s office combined with multiple state police agencies and private security contractors” — “Mission,” “Execution” and “Logistics,” among other things. A packing list virtually mirrors the ones issued to soldiers preparing to deploy to the field (minus the weapons). But there are also parts of the document that read like a revolutionary manifesto. Under the section titled “Friendly Forces,” for example, the op order states, “we are there to put our bodies on the line, no matter the physical cost, in complete nonviolence to provide a clear representation to all Americans of where evil resides.”
The document was accompanied by a link to a GoFundMe campaign that has raised nearly $20,000 of its $100,000 goal since it was created on Nov. 11. The money, Clark Jr. says, will only be used for helping volunteers with transportation costs and then bailing those who are arrested out of jail.
Wood Jr. says the op-order was Clark Jr.’s idea, but the two men agree that organizing like a military unit is the smartest approach, especially because most of the people expected to join them on the ground have served.
“It’s simple and we have clearly defined goals, so people don’t get caught up in the confusion,” says Wood Jr., who served with the Baltimore Police Department for more than a decade. “One of the issues the police are going to face is that our level of planning and coordination is vastly superior to theirs, so they may end up with a problem when it comes to that.”
“We’ll have those people who will recognize that they’re not willing to take a bullet, and those who recognize that they are.”
Here then is the plan: On Dec. 4, Clark Jr. and Wood Jr., along with a group of veterans and other folks in the “bravery business,” as Wood Jr. puts it — 500 total is the goal, but they’re hoping for more — will muster at Standing Rock. The following morning they will join members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, including Young, for a traditional healing ceremony. With an eye toward the media, old military uniforms will be donned so that if the veterans are brutalized by the police, they are brutalized not as ordinary citizens, but as people who once served the government they are protesting against. Then body armor, ear plugs, and gas masks will be issued to those who didn’t bring their own. Bagpipes will play, and traditional Sioux war songs will be sung. The music will continue as everyone marches together to the banks of the Missouri, on the other side of which a line of guards in riot gear will be standing ready with rifles, mace, batons, and dogs. Then, the veterans and their allies — or at least the ones who are brave enough — will lock arms and cross the river in a “massive line” for their “first encounter” with the “opposing forces.” The goal is to make it to the drilling pad and surround it, arm in arm. That will require making it through the line of guards, who have repelled other such attempts with a level of physical force Sioux tribal members and protesters have described as “excessive” — claims that recently prompted a United Nations investigation. Of course, that’s what the body armor and gas masks are for.
“We’ll have those people who will recognize that they’re not willing to take a bullet, and those who recognize that they are,” says Wood Jr. “It’s okay if some of them step back, but Wes and I have no intention of doing so.”
Of course, as most veterans know full well, even the best plans go out the window the moment the shit hits the fan. It seems probable that the group will be met by fierce resistance from those charged with keeping people out of the construction site. Despite a recent decision by the Corps of Engineers to delay further work on the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners is still hoping to complete the project by January. The segment that will cross beneath the Missouri at Standing Rock is the last major piece of the puzzle. Strengthening the resolve of the company’s executives is the fact that Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren donated more than $100,000 to elect Donald Trump, and Trump himself owns stock in the company. “I’m 100% sure that the pipeline will be approved by a Trump administration,” Warren told NBC News on Nov. 12.
Nonetheless, Clark Jr. and Wood Jr. remain undeterred. If anything, the likelihood of approval only makes them more determined. After all, this is war.
“The Joint Chiefs of Staff labeled the climate emergency as the number one security threat to the country, and they’ve been labeling it that for years,” Clark Jr. says. “All you need to do is put an overlay on any map in the world where there’s a water and crisis and you’re going to see massive political violence in that location. And unless we act, we’re going to be dealing with that exact same situation right here in the United States.”
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NATIVE NEWS ON LINE)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MPP BLOG SITE)
On the same night that voters in eight states were approving marijuana policy reform initiatives, Donald Trump was on his way to being elected the next President of the United States. While this divisive election has left some people jubilant and others outraged, many are wondering what a Trump presidency will mean for the future of marijuana policy reform efforts as well as the progress we have made so far.
While it is difficult to tell what will happen in the next administration, MPP is hopeful that the current federal policy of not targeting people and businesses in compliance with state marijuana laws will continue in the next administration.
Some things to consider:
-A clear majority of Americans think marijuana should be legal for adults, according to recent Pew Research Center and Gallup polls. Additionally, a clear majority of Americans think the federal government “should not” enforce federal marijuana laws in states that allow legal adult use, according to a March, 2015, Pewpoll.
-Roughly 21% of the population now live in states where marijuana is legal for adults, and 62% live in states with effective medical marijuana laws.
-More people voted for marijuana initiatives than voted for Trump and other prominent politicians in several states.
-Even if Trump appoints someone who is against marijuana policy reform to head the Department of Justice, it would cost significant resources for federal law enforcement to start targeting state-legal marijuana businesses.
-U.S. Attorneys have significant discretion regarding how they prioritize enforcement of federal laws.
-The political consequences of ripping the marijuana market away from legitimate, tax-paying businesses and handing it right back to dangerous criminals would be severe.
-The number of Members of Congress who represent states with medical or adult-use marijuana laws is about to drastically increase, bringing us closer to Congressional support for ending federal prohibition regardless of the administration’s position.
-During the campaign, Trump made several statements in support of medical marijuana and allowing states to determine their own marijuana policies, even though he does not support regulating marijuana for adult use.
No matter what happens, MPP and our allies will continue to work diligently toward changing both state and federal marijuana laws. Please make sure to contact your lawmakers and ask them to help us end the government’s war on marijuana.
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