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0.1 Percent Of Commerce Department Answers Bush’s Plea To Move To Iraq

By Satyam Khanna  

"0.1 Percent Of Commerce Department Answers Bush’s Plea To Move To Iraq"

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In a January address announcing his escalation plan, President Bush unveiled a broad new plan to recruit U.S. government officials to move to Iraq to aid in reconstruction efforts:

We will double the number of provincial reconstruction teams. These teams bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen the moderates, and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance.

In an effort to carry out Bush’s call, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez sent an email to employees last week:

I am asking all Commerce employees to consider supporting this important effort. The Department of State is seeking highly motivated, action-oriented, resilient people with a strong desire to assist in the Iraqi rebuilding effort. Volunteers must demonstrate willingness and ability to work in a difficult foreign environment under challenging circumstances with access to few amenities.

Gutierrez received a dismal response. Of the 39,000 Commerce employees who received the email five days ago, just 40 people responded, and the department refused to note how many of those were “yes” answers.

The Washington Post noted in February that the administration’s recruitment efforts have been met with “outright refusal to fill certain vital posts” by several other departments. For example, so many State Department employees refused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s call to serve in Iraq that she was forced to request an already overstretched U.S. military to fill their positions.

As the New York Times notes, “The reluctance highlights a problem with the administration’s new strategy for Iraq…when the lack of security on the ground [in Iraq] makes it one of the last places people, particularly those with families, want to go.”

Read Gutierrez’s full email below:

MEMORANDUM FOR ALL COMMERCE EMPLOYEES

From: Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez

Subject: Search for Commerce Employees to Staff Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq

President Bush’s new strategy for Iraq includes the expansion of our civilian presence throughout the country by doubling the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT). Ten new PRTs, supported by U.S. military units, will bring together outstanding civilian experts to complement our military presence, with dynamic programs that promote business development, assist local governments, and help accelerate the transition to Iraqi self-reliance.

I am asking all Commerce employees to consider supporting this important effort. The Department of State is seeking highly motivated, action-oriented, resilient people with a strong desire to assist in the Iraqi rebuilding effort. Volunteers must demonstrate willingness and ability to work in a difficult foreign environment under challenging circumstances with access to few amenities. Prior military or Peace Corps service, or extensive experience living in a developing country is strongly preferred. Volunteers may be eligible for additional pay such as up to 35 percent hardship pay and up to 35 percent danger pay differentials. Postings are for 12-month assignments.

This is truly a unique opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of ordinary Iraqis. Bringing the expertise of Commerce employees to a nation in need, such as Iraq, will promote job creation and growth, thereby helping to keep our troops and our Nation safer. It will also hasten the day when we can stand down, as Iraq stands up.

A list of positions that the Department of State is looking to fill in Iraq is available at http://home.commerce.gov/osec/iraq_job_list.xls. Positions of particular applicability to Commerce employees may include: Business Development Specialists, Banking Advisors, Economists, Microfinance Specialists, Budget and Fiscal Specialists, and Public Administrators. However, this list may not be exhaustive and interested Commerce employees of any background should consider applying.

If you have any questions, please contact Adam Choppin in Commerce’s Iraq Investment and Reconstruction Task Force at [redacted] or [redacted] . Interested Commerce employees should first gain supervisory approval before sending their expressions of interest and resumes. Additional information on this opportunity may be found online at: http://www.careers.state.gov/opportunities/iraq/reconstruction.html.

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