June roundup

The U.S. Agency for International Development announced in June that it was looking for an administrative assistant for the Office of Cuban Affairs.
The salary range was expected to be $62,467 to $81,204 for the job, which requires a “secret” security clearance.

Excerpts of the job announcement are below:

The United States Government, represented by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is seeking applications from qualified U.S. citizens to provide personal services for the position of Administrative Assistant in the Office of Cuban Affairs within the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, USAID/Washington…

Continue reading June roundup

May roundup

The family of Alan Gross has settled its lawsuit against Development Alternatives Inc., or DAI, the federal contractor that hired Gross to carry out a democracy project in Cuba.

The settlement was confidential and subject to a nondisclosure agreement. The family’s suit against the federal government remained, but U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg on May 28 dismissed that claim, saying the government “retains immunity for injuries suffered in foreign countries.”

Boasberg wrote: …the Court is in no way condoning what happened to Gross or implying he is to blame. Sympathy with his plight, however, is not a basis on which to circumvent clear precedent concerning the FTCA (Federal Tort Claims Act)… As Gross’s injuries here fall within the foreign-country exception, dismissal is the only warranted course.

Lawyers for Gross and his wife, Judy, appealed the ruling. Continue reading May roundup

April roundup

Two Florida lawmakers protested USAID’s plans to cut its budget for democracy programs in Cuba from $20 million to $15 million.
Sen. Marco Rubio on Wednesday called it “a terrible precedent, a terrible idea” and urged the agency to reconsider.
The planned reduction is “way out of proportion…for a program of this small scale,” Rubio told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 24.
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah defended the cuts, saying:

…on Cuba, again, the goals there are support for civil society and democracy with some small humanitarian efforts. And we have worked closely with our partners. We believe the administration’s budget of $15 million reflects an appropriate investment that they have the capacity to implement.
We recognize and take some faith in the fact that GAO reviewed our approach to implementing this program and very strongly commented on the effective reforms we’ve put in place, to have a clear and compelling implementation strategy for this effort.

Continue reading April roundup

March roundup

A drawing from an Alan Gross memo

New details emerged in the case of Alan Gross in March. A statement filed in federal court showed that Gross:

  • Reported his weight was 144, down 110 pounds from the 254 he says he weighed when he was jailed in December 2009.
  • Continues to dispute the allegations against him and “the validity of my conviction.”
  • Had spent the decade before his arrest working in information and communications technology, setting up and managing about 150 “fixed-earth stations to increase Internet access.” Continue reading March roundup

February roundup

John_Kerry_headshot_with_US_flagIncoming Secretary of State John Kerry vowed earlier this month to boost U.S. engagement abroad as a way to “prevent conflict and prevent failed states.” In a Feb. 15 speech to employees of the U.S. Agency for International Development, he said:

This challenge deserves more focus and more attention, not less. This is not a time for the United States of America to retrench and to retreat.
This is a time to be more engaged.

Kerry, the former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also cited the importance of transparency and accountability. He said he wanted to work with USAID personnel “in the smartest way we can together to get the best return on this investment for the American taxpayer that we can get.”
And he said foreign aid is a “paltry” 1 percent of the federal budget, a “tiny component of what we do overall compared to the military budget, compared to all of our budget.” Continue reading February roundup