Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cuba programs buried under a pile of acronyms

Alphabet soup: U.S. AID organizational chart

After I found out a U.S. contractor had been picked up in Cuba, I suspected his work could be traced back to the Office of Transition Initiatives, which is part of the U.S. Agency for International Development, or AID.
I was off target. Jim Boomgard, president of Development Alternatives Inc., or DAI, said in a statement that the employee's work was related to another AID program, the Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program or CDCPP.
Boomgard said his company was awarded the CDCPP contract in 2008. He did not identify the detained employee, but said the individual was working for a DAI subcontractor.
I don't know the name of that subcontractor and, in fact, DAI pledges in its confidentiality agreement to try to keep that name hidden from public view. The agreement states:
Prospective grantees should be aware that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a U.S. law that provides citizens the right to request information about U.S. Government programs and activities. Should an instance arise in which a FOIA request is submitted to the U.S. Government requesting information about the Program, DAI will use its best efforts to protect the identity and confidentiality of Program grantees and beneficiaries.
It's a familiar story. The government and its contractors disclose a bare minimum of details, hoping that no one will try to force them to tell the public how they are spending our tax dollars.

An AID document posted in 2008 revealed details of the CDCP program. It said:
The USAID Cuba Program is soliciting proposals from organizations under USAID's Instability, Crisis, and Recovery Programs (ICRP) IQC to implement the Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program (CDCPP). The base task order is estimated to cost a maximum of $30 million over three years.
According to the document, consultants could receive up to $5 million, and subcontractors up to $1 million. The program:
is expressly designed to hasten Cuba’s peaceful transition to a democratic society. To realize Cuba’s successful, political, social and economic transition, Cubans will need considerable humanitarian, technical, training and institutional support...
This task order will fund activities, as appropriate, that provide rapid, transitional support services to advance and consolidate rapidly moving political or economic development opportunities on the island. The task order will establish the means for a rapid and effective USAID response in the event of a crisis or conflict and mitigate the potential for instability in Cuba.
The AID office that oversees democracy programs is the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, or DCHA.
Many other offices and government agencies also have interests in Cuba. I don't have a good handle on what all the agencies are doing. I don't understand all that AID is doing, let alone other State Department agencies.
But I know this: The U.S government is awash with money destined for Cuba.
I learned of one program while reading Phil Peters' blog, The Cuban Triangle. The State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor funds this venture. The request for proposals sought contractors for the following jobs:
* Break the information blockade by employing high tech communication devices to facilitate communications between activists on the island, foster a nascent civil society, and improve the dissemination of information to and from the island, especially by increasing the communication of democracy and human rights messages. Low-tech projects that serve the same purposes in a creative manner will also be considered. Award: approximately $1.25 million.

* Strengthen ordinary citizens ability to build effective civil society organizations in a transition environment by providing them material support, including electronic communications devices, and training in skills such as consensus building, conflict reduction, stakeholder consulting, and organizational management. Projects that focus on Afro-Cubans, women and youth will be prioritized. Award: approximately $450,000.

* Inventory current legal obstacles to the holding of democratic elections and propose suggestions for repealing or amending such provisions for use by a Cuban Transition Government. Award: approximately $500,000.

* Develop and place public service announcements on commercial radio stations to promote democracy, human rights and democratic transition in Cuba. Award: approximately $300,000.

* Develop leadership, management and communications skills of women currently active in Cuban civil society. Award: approximately $500,000.
122-page document describing organization of AID

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