Why every American should know what FEPP means and why Army Generals should not be controlling it

“If, particularly in the past ten years, you have become angry at our U.S. Government’s seemingly inability to manage money and assets, particularly in programs where countries who hate us are benefiting from U.S. mismanagement of assets, reading the rest of this article is going to really upset you“.

I have heard it said that “War is too important a matter to be left to the Generals”.

Who better to direct the engagement of battle than a General leading from the front? No-one. I believe that to be true, but I also believe it is not a General’s place to decide on the matters of war related to its beginnings, or ending nor its scope and breathe. The Generals should fight the war they are ordered to fight at the direction of their civilian leaders. President Truman fired his wildly popular Army General Douglas MacArthur as a result of gross insubordination to the Commander in Chief. For his part General MacArthur, as any good soldier would have, laid down his military sword during a speech when he said, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away“. General MacArthur, even after having splendidly led the entire Pacific Campaign during WWII, understood as a U.S. Military Officer, however famous and regarded, he had crossed the line between military service and civilian control in a democracy that no U.S. soldier dare ever cross for the sake of our Constitution and the preservation of the union as a Republic/Democracy. When that happened the whole world understood it was not our courageous and famous Generals and Admirals who were leading the allied war effort, but the eldest son of a mule trader and farmer who had been a bank clerk and later a World War I Captain who had served in France as a Captain of Battery “D” Field Artillery and who also happen to be sitting then in the White House in Washington DC where his friends sometimes called him Harry, but most of the time Mr. President. Although America lost the active service of a great General then, it won a great test of its strength and determination to adhere to the Democratic virtues of our great republic. All Americans continue to reap the benefits of that test, even today.

President Abraham Lincoln, in a letter of policy and direction to Major General John M. Schofield in May of 1863 said, "Let your military measures be strong enough to repel the invader and keep the peace, and not so strong as to unnecessarily harass and persecute the people”. General Schofield was free to execute his part of the war, but was bound to remain within the President’s directive and parameters. Everyone, particularly the military during that time, clearly understood President Lincoln, not his Generals, was in charge of the Civil War.

In America, unyielding civilian control of our military, all of it, has been one of the hallmarks of our Constitution and has survived throughout our history as a Union of States. Under the U.S. Administration of President George W. Bush the premise of limited, or no military control over policy in war took a drastic change at the advent of our invasion of Iraq in 2003.

That any U.S. Administration would simply follow “lock step” the advice of it’s military Generals, regardless of how much the generals are admired, and even turn over some elements of our foreign policy to them, sounds implausible and even ludicrous, but actually became reality under the U.S. Administration in late 2004, particularly in Iraq where the State Department, in dealing with the Iraqi Government seemed little more than window dressing for the real power and authority in Iraq, the USFI Commanding General in Baghdad. Even the heads of Iraq’s government in Baghdad knew without the Commanding General’s say so, nothing of consequence, militarily or diplomatically happened.

Generals are for fighting wars, not for steering foreign policy, or conducting diplomacy. They devise and execute the tactical operations of war based on the strategic directions and planning of their civilian superiors. All military strategic planning conducted in the U.S. Department of Defense, regardless of its subject matter, must be based on some policy, order or directive from the Civilian Secretary of Defense who reports directly to and gets his orders from the President of the United States. The Secretary of Defense is also subject to the Congress in matters not relative to those things reserved by the Executive Branch. Somehow however, in late 2004 that chain of command, or hierarchy, in practice, changed somewhat.

Since 2004 in Iraq the Department of Defense has financed about 90% of all programs and operations there, even most of the programs being, on the surface, controlled by the U.S. Department of State. In those State Department Programs in Iraq, like the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) for example, it is actually the DoD calling just about all the shots. If ever the Department of State wanted to go in a different direction than desired by the military there, funding could very easily dry up for that specific direction. The Department of State, itself being under funded in Iraq, has actually been put into the untenable position of cowling to the military commander there just to have the funding to carry out its own mission.
So, of course, as it is in most cases in our society, the Golden Rule prevails; “He who has the Gold, Makes the Rules”. Consequently, just about all State Department decisions in Iraq, as in Afghanistan are either agreed to by the DoD, or accepted by the DoD if it is going to happen at all, even decisions not related to the tactical military mission. The PRTs are not a tactical military operation, but you would not know that to see it in operation in Iraq. The PRTs, primarily for reasons of funding, are for all practical purposes controlled by the Military components of that program. Anyone who has ever spent any time at the United States Embassy in Iraq can tell you who the real power there is, so the reader need not take my word for it.

When executing a war, Generals and military planners cannot and should not be overly burdened with where the money to execute the President’s / Secretary of Defense’s orders comes from. Although they are mandated to maintain their own budget within the parameters of funding provided by the Congress, their priority is to simply execute the orders. In the case of Iraq they never had to worry about funding because the money provided to the DoD to execute the Iraq invasion and subsequent nine year war was seemingly endless.
The Administration then had, by all appearances, decided that the U.S. would borrow as much money from the Chinese, Saudis and Russians as would be needed to execute the war; The consequences of which the American people could deal with later. As evident in Iraq, and as most-certainly will be in Afghanistan, when the military mission is accomplished, the military do not care how many non-tactical widgets are left behind, or what “best use” policies should prevail for the thousands of tons of material and equipment that they will no longer need to execute a mission accomplished. In this regard, they are much as water and electricity in that they take the path of least resistance. That alone should justify civilian oversight. Enter the FEPP.

FEPP is the acronym for “Foreign Excess Personal Property” (You can Google it), and should not be confused with the “Federal Excess Personal Property (FEPP)“ program which is exclusively a U.S. operation inside the U.S.A. and which is controlled primarily by federal GSA civilians.
As FEPP applies to Iraq, it is wholly controlled by a few Army Colonels and a General, or two. It is actually misnamed because what it should be called is “The Biggest Unbudgeted and Unreported Foreign Giveaway in History Program“ (TBUAUFGIHP).

If, particularly in the past ten years, you have become angry at our U.S. Government’s seemingly inability to manage money and assets, particularly in programs where countries who hate us are benefiting from U.S. mismanagement of assets, reading the rest of this article is going to really upset you.

The actual value of the unbudgeted FEPP transfers of materials and equipment to the Iraq government, when complete, will probably be measured in the many $Billions of dollars. If you Google “Army FEPP” you may come across some PR articles talking about the Iraq FEPP of trailers, blast walls, tents, fencing, air conditioners, refrigeration units etc.. What you will not read is the FEPP of heavy equipment, thousands of emergency generators ranging from 4KW to 1 MW, tens of thousands SUVs, pickup trucks and cars, some like new and much higher dollar equipment worth returning to America, or transferred to other military missions worldwide.

While cash strapped American cities and municipalities are starving for emergency responder vehicles, fire engines, ambulances, busses, cranes, tractors, emergency generators and other materials, the U.S. Army and GSA are, at NO COST to IRAQ, transferring many thousands of these sorely needed assets to the Iraq Government instead of giving them to the U.S. States, Towns, Cities and Municipalities who otherwise will not have them because of serious fiscal problems plaguing America. Enter the National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property (NASASP).

NASASP actually represents the States interests in acquiring the excess materials and equipment deemed no longer needed by the Federal government (Excess). It is a GSA Managed Program. Since 2006 NASASP’s Overseas Coordinator Mr. Randall Main, has worked tirelessly on behalf of the NASASP and the States to acquire some of the materials and equipment in Iraq that will be either abandoned, or given at no cost to the Iraq Government. Although the U.S. Army has already given away over 300,000 individual FEPP items to the Iraq Government, NASASP, since 2006, has been able to acquire a single 400 KW generator for the States. One generator….. one.
For those of you wondering, NASASP pays all its own shipping costs, not the Army. One generator?

The Iraq government received over 300,000 items from the Army’s excess materials in Iraq while, on the other hand, the States, Cities and rural Towns of the good old USA, also competing for those materials and equipment, have received one 400 KW generator…..Just one.

The Army resistance to working with NASASP has survived congressional inquiries, letters from Governors and all other comers trying to secure some, or any of the equipment and materials, especially the thousands of emergency vehicles and generators for the U.S. States, rural cities and municipalities which will otherwise be given, at no cost, to the Iraq Government. Simply stated, it seems the U.S. Army and State Department have simply and apparently chosen the interest of the usually corrupt Iraq government over that of the U.S. States, rural municipalities, cities and towns. They have apparently decided that the Iraq government, with billions of oil dollars in its New York bank accounts should also benefit from our billions of dollars in excess materials and equipment which is so sorely needed by our own States, municipalities, cities and rural towns. Even the Armed Services Committee, as late as April of 2011, met with NASASP, at NASASP request, to discuss the issue. Apparently the meeting produced some handshakes and patting on the back, but little else. Simply stated, it seems no one really cares. I personally spoke to an Army Colonel, whom I will leave un-named, who was very involved in FEPP transactions in Iraq. He simply told me “These are Army assets purchased with Army money and we will do what we want to do with these assets”. Apparently he forgot that it is actually U.S. Taxpayer money, not “Army money” and what is good for America should always be the dominating consideration in every decision made by the Army. The hard right should never be overtaken by the easy wrong.

What about Congress, the Secretary of Defense and the President? The irony in much of this is the very people from the Armed Serves Committee who have allowed this to continue are the very same people who consider themselves as fiscal conservatives and balanced budget adherents. Yet nothing has been done to stop this wholesale giveaway of sorely needed American property in Iraq. My own North Carolina Republican U.S. Congressman, Walter Jones is a member of the House Committee on Armed Services i.e., Subcommittee on Military Personnel, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Subcommittee on Readiness and Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces. Congressman Jones would be hard pressed to say that he has no knowledge of this issue, yet I actually would expect him to say just that. Even knowing all of the dire needs in his own North Carolina’s small towns and rural areas for this equipment, he also has remained silent on the issue. Congressman Jones, to date, has not lifted a finger to assist NASASP in acquiring any of the FEPP materials and equipment from Iraq either for North Carolina , or any other State.
Congressman Jones had plenty of time to support Americas invasion of Iraq. He had time to support and approve all the funding, over a trillion dollars, that the Administration of President Bush needed to execute the invasion and occupation of Iraq. He took the time to lambaste the French people by coining the now famous phrase “Freedom Fries” to criticize the French for not agreeing to help in our invasion of Iraq. He’s had the time to change his mind about the war (about the same time the war became unpopular in America) and to miss some of the most important votes in Congress, but not a minute for NASASP and their work for the States, cities and rural area of America and yes, North Carolina.
Apparently helping American cities and rural areas to secure the millions of dollars’ worth of emergency generators, first responder vehicles and fire trucks from the Army, at little to no costs, had become a bridge too far for Congressman Jones and just about every other congressman and congresswomen in Washington.
As a North Carolinian myself, it hurts to know how politics really works in Washington and how someone, even as innocuous as Congressman Walter Jones, could be so driven by it.

I very recently spoke with Randall Main from the NASASP and asked him if there had been any forward movement in NASASP’s efforts to acquire some of the equipment and materials before it is all given to the Iraq government. The essence of his reply was “no”. The Army has not budged in their material assistance to NASASP. Yes, there have been a few discussions, but not one more item has been allocated to NASASP by the U.S. Army controlling FEPP in Iraq. For Americans in rural America and small cities and towns it’s still just the one 400KW generator. In the meantime over 300,000 items have been FEPPED (Gifted) to the Iraq Government including about 50,000 SUVs and pickup trucks and every type and size of heavy equipment and emergency vehicles you can describe. In the meantime we continue to buy new materials and equipment for the Iraq Government without counting the FEPP items we have given them against any of their requirements which we (you) will purchase for them.

Why FEPP? What is the intent of FEPP?
The U.S. Constitution expressly provides Congress the power to dispose of U.S. property and prescribe all necessary rules and regulations to do so. Congress provided the U.S. Government the statutory authority to dispose of property in the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949. Section 101 of title 40 authorizes the General Services Administration (GSA) to dispose of surplus real and personal federal government property and in accordance with its statutory authority, GSA delegated disposal authority to DRMS, a subordinate agency of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).
I am sure that Congress never envisioned the type of “disposal” the U.S. Army is conducting in Iraq when they wrote the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949. I also believe that the many congressmen and congresswomen who have never known about FEPP will also agree we have misinterpreted the congress’s intent in writing the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949.

In order to judge the real circumstances of FEPP I believe it is important to understand why the U.S. Army started FEPP in Iraq in the first place, its intended outcome and whether or not the program has accomplished anything tangible for the US interests in Iraq.

In its effort to draw down US Forces, close bases, consolidate force foot print, redeploy to theaters outside of Iraq and to generally execute the U.S. decision to withdraw combat forces from Iraq entirely within a specified timeframe, the U.S. Army and Department of State in Iraq instituted a program which would allow United States Forces Commanders to identify certain U.S. owned materials and equipment, (almost everything nailed down or not), located on enduring bases and forward operating bases (FOBS), for the free and direct transfer to the Iraqi Government, or other entity i.e., Iraq Provincial Governments, NASASP, etc., at no further cost to the United States Government. They called the program the Foreign Excess Personal Property (FEPP). In practice it actually has almost never been a “Free” transfer of materials. Usually (almost always) the U.S. Government has paid for the delivery of the goods transferred to the Iraq Government and even paid for maintenance and operations on some of the items given to the Iraqis; for instance the very large 500KW to 1MW size emergency generators. On many occasions, I am told; we have not only given them these very expensive generators, but we have delivered them, set them up and conducted periodic maintenance on them for the Iraqis. (Maintenance courtesy of KBR LOGCAP funding). Additionally we have conducted extensive maintenance on vehicles in preparation to give them away “as is” to the Iraq government. Also courtesy of KBR LOGCAP/US Taxpayer funding. It should be noted here that NASASP paid all the transfer and preparation costs of shipping the one 400KW generator it received from the FEPP program in Iraq. There is really no evidence that any FEPP transfers to the Government of Iraq has ever benefited any of the Iraq general public, or non-government entities in Iraq.

The United States Government, through its Department of State, Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) throughout Iraq has directly contributed to the Provincial Governments in Iraq in the form of roads, buildings direct assistance to the communities, clinics, governance assistance, cash and other direct help to the suffering and impoverished people and communities in Iraq. One would think the PRTs to be the perfect vehicle to deliver materials and equipment to the provences in Iraq where hte real Iraqi people live. The PRTs have never been included in the “means” of distributing FEPP materials and equipment however.
Although the closest U.S. entities to the actual Provincial Governments in Iraq, no PRT has ever been polled by the U.S. Army, or State Department in Iraq regarding what might be beneficially donated (FEPPed) to the Provincial Governments for their schools, hospitals, old folks homes, first responders, fire stations, community centers, local government buildings etc.. Never. Although the U.S. Government, through its PRTs has been providing direct assistance to the provinces for all the years we have been in Iraq up to now, the U.S. Army managers of FEPP may tell you the U.S. Army and Department of State do not want to cause any conflict with the central government who has already told the U.S. Army that it wants all of the FEPP for itself; so I am told.
Considering our ongoing direct support in the provinces of Iraq without Iraq’s central government approval or oversight, the “Conflict” argument seems unlikely at best and probably contrived.

If executed differently, could FEPP have benefitted the U.S. interest in Iraq? Can it now?
Absence of coordination between the Command elements of the U.S. Army and the Department of State in the transfer of billions of dollars’ worth of materials and equipment to the Iraqi Government, through the FEPP process, has, in my opinion, undermined a major premise of the FEPP and why it exist and has been executed in Iraq since 2005.
Transferring materials to the Iraq Government, as is being executed today under FEPP, is not necessarily helping Iraqis at large, or America’s interest in Iraq as intended and is not exercised in a method which produces any cost avoidance. In essence, we are actually paying the Iraqi government take the materials and equipment through the indirect costs of preparation, shipping, maintenance etc. . (Note: The one 400KW Generator obtained by NASASP, through FEPP in Iraq, had to be prepared for shipment and serviced at NASASP expense).

The United States, through the U.S. State Department Office of Provincial Affairs (OPA)PRTs in Iraq could benefit from their coordinated distribution of many thousands of FEPP items to Iraq schools, Hospitals, Provincial Government offices, Orphanages, Fire Stations, Baghdad University, Basra University, Basra Children’s Hospital etc.. as humanitarian and PRT donations to the provinces where they serve. (At this time no coordinated effort, I am aware of, using FEPP materials and equipment, is being executed to provide materials and equipment directly to provincial governments, schools, hospitals, universities, emergency responders, etc..)
United States Army opportunities to FEPP used vehicles and equipment from Forward Operatiing Bases (FOBs) to the Ministry of Interior (MOI) {The Ministry of Interior represents the Iraq entity with the greatest demand for U.S. non-tactical Materials and equipment} are not being exercised while the United States Government continues to purchase many hundreds of brand new vehicles and equipment for the MOI use. In an apparent lapse in strategic coordination and leadership thousands of new vehicles and certain types of non-tactical equipment continue to be purchased new for the Government of Iraq even though there are likely thousands of FEPP eligible vehicles and certain types of exact equipment in Iraq on FOBS.

Opportunity for meaningful and significant contribution, assistance and good will gestures to the Iraq population at large, and the 18 provincial governments of Iraq (the real power and authority in Iraq), are being lost as a result of the apparent shortsighted method of managing the FEPP.

As currently managed and executed, FEPP may have already become a tool of unnecessary convenience for the U.S. Army as a means of facilitating a rapid re-deployment from Iraq at unnecessary cost and with no apparent, or historical evidence of any benefit, intangible, or otherwise to the United States and all with State department acquiescence.

The sheer magnitude of scope and volume of materials and equipment the U.S. Army J4 (logistics) planners will ultimately transfer to the Iraq government under FEPP is overwhelming. It may include thousands of commercial vehicles (Cars, SUVs, Pickup trucks, Jeeps, etc), spare parts, and heavy equipment, trucks, building materials, emergency portable generators, portable buildings, a number so vast in scope, it is not certain that any measurable evaluation of its total basis of magnitude (BOM) has been determined.

Although for years the Army has had a person in Iraq, on the Army payroll, who’s part time job is supposedly representing NASASP interests in Iraq, the entire NASASP FEPP equipment list consists of the one 400 KW generator.
It’s 2011 now and one 400KW generator has made it from Iraq to the States as a result of FEPP. That should speak volumes to whomever is really interested. The American Civilian Government lost, or stopped exercising its actual authority over the U.S. Army Leadership in Iraq years ago, or no-one’s been watching the store. How sad is that?

Comments

is there any possibility...

...that some of this is either assets being fed to "black" activities or outright payoffs to try to buy some level of peace?

i get the impression that if i could get someone on background to answer the same questions your asking, that might be the response, and that would require us to gauge how much b.s. is present in that response.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965