My latest from WND. -- S.P.
Supporters of Barack Obama tout his dedication to the responsibilities of the presidency by noting that he had taken 96 days of vacation at the point in his term that President George W. Bush had taken a reported 335.
But they admit that 51 of Bush’s trips were to his Texas ranch, while records show that Obama’s destinations have ranged from exotic European and African locales to pricey digs to Hawaii, where he’s sometimes traveled separately from his family, effectively doubling transportation costs for taxpayers.
The records released are partial, meaning no firm travel-expense total can be assembled. But individual cases are revealing.
Continued at WND.com...
It’s an expenditure of only $100,000 – mere pocket change in the vast labyrinth of federal spending – but the funds are for the creation of a manual to teach people how to get more money from the U.S. government.
And the recipients aren’t even citizens of the United States.
The U.S. Trade & Development Agency, an independent White House agency, is laying the foundation for the government of Mexico to infuse hundreds of billions of dollars into modernizing its roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure.
The Obama administration intends to keep contractors on stand-by to help officials evaluate conditions on the Mexican side of the U.S. border, but U.S. companies are not allowed to apply for the work.
Tracking remittances – funds sent over a distance – from the U.S. to Mexico is one of several possible research and consulting services that Obama through the U.S. Agency for International Development may solicit.
Such a task will not support, for example, tax- or drug-enforcement operations. Instead, it would help determine the extent to which the funds subsequently are “invested into social or community development projects” in Mexico, according to a Request for Quotations that that U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor discovered via routine database research.
Only Mexican organizations – or, at the very least, groups based in Mexico that are majority owned or managed by Mexican citizens – may submit responses to the solicitation, the Scope of Work emphasizes.
USAID/Mexico needs a “local quick-response mechanism” to support projects not already covered under other agency activities, the document says.
Rather than awarding contracts, USAID intends to issue “blanket purchase agreements,” or BPAs, to complement U.S. Mission endeavors in unrelated major programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; boost economic competitiveness; mitigate the impact of crime on communities; and support the government of Mexico’s implementation of constitutional criminal-justice reform.
In addition to remittance tracking, other issues potentially requiring “analyses, assessments, and special studies” include:
Case studies on youth and unemployment, school desertion rates and victim assistance services are among other possible topical areas for which Mexican vendors may be eligible for BPAs.
The project examples are for “illustrative purposes” only, the USAID document says, and BPAs may or may not be granted for such activities.
Though USAID did not disclose an estimated cost of the five-year endeavor, the agency said individual BPAs will not exceed $150,000. The deadline for contractor proposals is Sept. 9.
In other U.S.-Mexico assistance business, the State of Puebla Secretariat of Transportation will leverage a $455,000 grant from the U.S. Trade & Development Agency to conduct a feasibility study of a proposed “intelligent transportation system” project.
USTDA agreed to give the grant to Puebla authorities – who must hire a U.S. contractor – because “Puebla’s demand for public transportation is expected to increase at an even higher rate than its population growth,” the agency said in a solicitation.
The development of bus rapid-transit systems along six of the state’s key corridors “is expected to provide significant benefits to Puebla’s population in terms of improved convenience and safety, shorter travel times, and reduced environmental impacts.”
USTDA earlier this summer separately began evaluating contractor proposals to conduct a “definitional mission,” or DM, on behalf of the Mexican Association of Railroads.
The $50,000 DM will help the agency to decide whether to help fund a variety of other projects that could “support the development of Mexico’s freight rail system, which is a critical component of Mexico’s economy and trade.”
Potential projects include assessments of railroad infrastructure “to accommodate the transportation of various oil and gas products” as well as “environmental technologies for the development of green railroad infrastructure, including green locomotives.”
The Narcotics Affairs Section at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City is soliciting the services of an individual vendor to help oversee counter-narcotics and anti-trafficking contracts.
The deputy contracting officer’s representative will supervise a team of government procurement specialists. The team monitors the performance of contractors hired by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
A similar version of this article originally was published via WND.com on August 14, 2013. Under agreement with WND, rights have reverted back to the author, Steve Peacock.
In terms of global competitiveness, Mexico ranks 58th among 142 nations—and U.S. taxpayers are stepping in to help raise that ranking.
Increased credit access, especially for small and medium-sized businesses, is one of the targeted improvements the Obama Administration is hoping to accomplish through the Mexico Competitiveness Project II, or MCP II.
A $22 million contract that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded to Abt Associates, Inc., will support Mexican-government efforts to help businesses as well as to institute system-wide reforms.
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As the U.S. Department of Homeland Security expands its outsourcing of detention across the nation, potential contractors are being forewarned to abide by the Obama administration’s kinder, gentler approach to detaining illegal aliens.
DHS Immigration & Customs Enforcement most recently embarked upon the outsourcing plan in Georgia, where it will continue to push the administration’s reform agenda to create a civil, rather than penal, processing system.
According to contracting documents that U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor located through routine database research, the Georgia outsourcing endeavor requires providers to offer detainees, among other perks, “abundant natural light throughout the facility [and] ample indoor and outdoor recreation that allows for vigorous aerobic exercise with extended hours of availability.”
ICE recently issued a Request for Information from potential contractors in which the agency intends to assign detention responsibilities to private sector entities that will build new facilities, renovate existing structures or leverage a combination of the two.
The agency acknowledged that some detainees may have a criminal history or suffer from mental illness. In those cases, it would require the contractor to separate such persons into a medium- or maximum-security area.
Other detainees, however, would be accommodated with various services and conditions, such as:
ICE tentatively is looking for space in Georgia to hold about 2,000 male detainees – up to 600 who would be categorized a low-security, 900 as medium-security and 400 designated as a high-security population. Capacity for an additional 100 detainees would be divided between administrative detention and mental health units.
DHS in recent months launched additional searches for contractors offering detention, transportation, and food services in cities such Chicago, Miami and Houston.
The projects come at a time when the push for immigration reform – in varying forms – is heating up both on Capitol Hill and at the White House.
Indeed, in the House Committee on the Judiciary’s first hearing of the 113th Congress, Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., emphasized that the American people and members of Congress “have a lot of questions about how our legal immigration system should work.”
“They have a lot of questions about why our immigration laws have not always been sufficiently enforced.”
Goodlatte pointed out that while reform could greatly affect U.S. citizens, legal residents, and illegal aliens alike, he affirmed the principle that “America is a nation of immigrants. … But we are also a nation of laws.”
In response to that hearing, the immigrant-advocacy group Detention Watch Network reiterated its call to repeal mandatory detention laws.
Emily Tucker, DWN director of policy and advocacy, said in a statement: “While we are excited about the momentum to finally create a path to citizenship for millions of people, immigration reform must include the reform of our wasteful and inhumane detention and deportation system.
“Neither the White House’s nor Senate’s plans respond to years of community outrage about border and interior enforcement programs that have separated families, violated due process rights, and led to serious human rights abuses,” she said.
The DWN statement indicated that the committee reportedly is due to introduced a draft immigration-reform bill this week.
The Heritage Foundation says, “So far there is no actual bill – just a set of “principles” for the promised legislation.”
Jessica Zuckerman, research associate at Heritage, said in an issue brief, “These principles, however, do not adequately address the tough issues that have to be tackled to provide lasting and beneficial fixes that strengthen the U.S. economy, security, and civil society.”
Similarly, she added that the White House recently announced its own set of immigration reform principles, while promising to introduce an “even more comprehensive bill if Congress does not move fast enough.”
Zuckerman warned, however, that “if both initiatives do nothing more than reintroduce confusing, complicated, and contentious bills similar to the failed ‘comprehensive’ bill of 2007, then our nation will be poorly served by these latest efforts.”
A similar version of this article was published via WND on Feb. 15, 2013. Under agreement with WND, rights have reverted back to the author, Steve Peacock.
Continued modernization of the Mexican criminal justice system purportedly will help stem "the drug-fueled violence that has threatened citizens on both sides of the border," according to the Obama Administration. Obama through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) consequently has launched a new program called the Mexico Promoting Justice Project, also known as PROJUST, which will attempt system reform in several Mexican states.
PROJUST will infuse an unspecified level of additional taxpayer dollars to "support comprehensive criminal justice reform that adheres to Mexican and international human rights standards implemented at state and federal levels."
USAID/Mexico seeks to enhance broader U.S. and Mexican government efforts "to mitigate conflict,
reduce impunity, and promote a more transparent and efficient justice system." PROJUST specifically will support the Merida
Initiative, a partnership the two nations launched in 2008 to share
The U.S. Congress appropriated $1.6 billion since the initiative started, according to the U.S. Department of State.
PROJUST is considered to be the "USAID flagship project" that will enable the Obama Administration to achieve the following results:
1) Legislative framework enacted for criminal justice reform; and
2) Strengthened institutional and human capacity to implement criminal justice reform.
USAID anticipates awarding a five-year cost reimbursement completion contract for PROJUST, which is expected to begin around July 2013.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, October 13, will host a hearing titled, “Emerging Threats and Security in the Western Hemisphere: Next Steps for U.S. Policy.” The committee announced that it will examine “current trends and security challenges in Latin America, including drug trafficking, extremism, illicit financing, and the increasing influence of rogue regimes.” It will review U.S. security assistance and policy in Latin America and the Caribbean, and U.S. priorities in the region.
The following witnesses have been called to testify:
1) The Honorable William R. Brownfield, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State;
2) The Honorable Philip S. Goldberg, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, U.S. Department of State;
3) The Honorable Daniel L. Glaser, Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, U.S. Department of Treasury;
4) General Douglas Fraser (Invited), Commander, U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Department of Defense.
The event will be held in room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC, and also will be available via live video through the committee’s website.
The U.S. Trade & Development Agency (USTDA) is weighing whether it should help finance a trio of energy projects in Mexico; however, prior to making those decisions, the agency will award consulting contracts to U.S. vendors to assess the viability of those respective endeavors.
The first initiative is titled the “Zacatecas Wind Power Project Feasibility Study,” whose stated objective is to:
enable the development of a 70 MW wind power generation project in the Municipality of Zacatecas. The Feasibility Study will allow the Grantee to assess available wind power resources, verify the power demand profile, evaluate the financial value of wind power in comparison to existing power supply arrangements, and draft legal documents and agreements.
A $501,000 USTDA-funded grant will be used to pay the selected contractor on behalf of the municipal government of Zacatecas. (Solicitation #2011-51023A)
Separately, USTDA is seeking a contractor to perform the Zacatecas Landfill Gas Pilot Project Feasibility Study, whose goal is to:
enable the development of a 3 MW landfill gas collection and power generation pilot project in the Municipality of Zacatecas. The Feasibility Study will allow the Grantee to assess recoverable landfill gas resources, conduct a preliminary conceptual design, and draft legal documents and agreements.
The municipal government of Zacatecas likewise will reap the benefits of a USTDA-funded grant, in this case via a $278,000 payment to a selected contractor. (Solicitation #2011-51022A).
The third Mexican project that USTDA unveiled is the Baja California Wind Power Project Feasibility Study, whose stated objective is to:
enable the supply of 100 MW of wind power to state government office buildings and facilities in the State of Baja California in Mexico. The Feasibility Study will allow the Grantee to assess available wind power resources, verify the power demand profile, evaluate the financial value of wind power in comparison to existing power supply arrangements, and draft legal documents and agreements.
The firm selected will be paid via a $374,000 USTDA grant on behalf of the state government of Baja California, Mexico, in conjunction with that government’s State Energy Commission. (Solicitation #2011-51021A).
The U.S. government is deploying law enforcement advisors to Mexico to assist that nation in stepping up activities of an anti-crime endeavor known as the Merida Initiative. The U.S. Agency for International (USAID) is recruiting private contractors capable of carrying out the duties of a pair of positions titled: (1) Senior Crime Prevention Advisor/Pillar IV Team Leader (Solicitation #SOL-523-11-000003); and: (2) Senior Rule of Law Advisor/Pillar II Team Leader. (Solicitation #SOL-523-11-000002).
a multi-year program to provide equipment and training to support law enforcement operations and technical assistance for long-term reform and oversight of security agencies. In 2008, Congress approved an initial $400 million for Mexico and $65 million for Central America, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. In 2009, Congress approved $300 million for Mexico and $110 million for Central America, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. In 2010, $450 million for Mexico and $100 million for Central America has been requested from Congress.
Both advisor slots pay in the $84,697–$110,104 range.
FOR ADDITIONAL COVERAGE OF THE U.S. AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, PLEASE VISIT THE MONITOR'S USAID PAGE.
FOR ADDITIONAL COVERAGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE ISSUES, PLEASE VISIT THE MONITOR'S LAW ENFORCEMENT/POLICE PAGE.