On August 18th 2021, The National Pulse exclusively reported that President Biden’s State Department had killed off plans for a “Crisis and Contingency Response” bureau which may have had “profound consequences,” according to a stunning new report by Vanity Fair published Monday.
“In July, at Antony Blinken’s State Department, bureaucratic decisions affecting the Afghan withdrawal, one insider said, were ‘slightly more organized than a Choose Your Own Adventure novel’,” the article begins, before detailing how newly minted Crisis and Contingency Response (CCR) bureau director Dr. William Walters had resigned on July 9th of this year.
Crisis and Contingency Response.
As the Taliban took Kabul, The National Pulse reported that a bureau green-lit by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Trump administration had been canceled by Biden’s pick for the role, Anthony Blinken.
Following our reporting, a number of left-wing outfits such as Politifact and Media Matters sought to discredit our reporting.
Now, a new report from Vanity Fair sheds more light on the “turf wars” inside the State Department that led to the rushed and botched evacuation from Afghanistan at departmental and political levels.
The Vanity Fair report also notes that while Biden’s State Department is claiming the CCR never existed, it is also making moves to inform Congress of the bureau’s abolition, as required by U.S. law:
A week later, on August 19, State’s Ned Price would tell reporters, in a sort of semantic jujitsu, that CCR was never actually created, which begs the question: Why have Price’s colleagues at State been preparing to notify Congress of a decision to “abolish” something that never existed?
The academic debate over CCR’s existence, however, obscures a far more elemental issue, which, at this date, remains unresolved: Why did Antony Blinken and his lieutenants rejigger and possibly degrade State’s in-house crisis planning and response capabilities on the eve of ending the longest war in American history?
While publicly refuting the claims that the CCR had been canceled, and simultaneously claiming no competencies were lost in the move, Antony Blinken lauded Dr. Walters’s work in running CCR’s predecessor and his team known as “Op-Med”. In May, while setting up to destroy the Trump-era plans for a formal response unit inside the State Department, Blinken told Vanity Fair the unit was a “lifeline for the Department of State and the American people. Though perhaps lesser known outside of the Department, it’s vital to our operations. That’s because OpMed provides the platform and personnel to save American lives around the world, especially in times of crisis.”
Shortly after, “Blinken approved a recommendation against upgrading OpMed into a bureau. A unit distinguished by its ability to blow through bureaucratic wickets would instead be forced to play ‘Mother May I,’ answering to a series of administrators: a director, an acting undersecretary, and on up to the deputy secretary for management and resources (DMR). To outsiders, this might seem like a low-stakes game of Jenga in reverse. But the move, which blindsided many, appeared to have profound consequences.”
It was at this point Walters chose to step down.
“I am resigning,” he told Blinken, face-to-face, explaining that the destruction of CCR bureau would “marginalize” his team and hinder State’s ability to respond to threats to U.S. citizens abroad.
“Sir, you deserve to have leaders who can get behind the decisions you make. I can’t do that. So I’m leaving,” he said.
One source told Vanity Fair‘s Adam Ciralsky that the State Department was plagued by “pathologic optimism.” Other State Department sources said the problem was hubris.
Eliminating CCR and degrading OpMed, without clearly defined alternatives, was evidence, they said, of meta-ignorance (known in psychology circles as the Dunning-Kruger effect); America’s diplomats, in the view of these insiders, were ignorant of their own ignorance.
So while the Taliban captured city upon city, and Team Biden began plans for the evacuation of U.S. troops, civilians, diplomats, and those eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), his State Department was hindering a potential response.
“Though it was founded during Obama’s second term, OpMed found its footing during the pandemic, much of which coincided with Trump’s frenzied final year in office,” Vanity Fair asserts.
In fact, President Trump explicitly stated in a comment to The National Pulse:
“My Administration prioritized keeping Americans safe, Biden leaves them behind. Canceling this successful Trump Administration program before the withdrawal that would have helped tens of thousands Americans reach home is beyond disgraceful. Our withdrawal was conditions-based and perfect, it would have been flawlessly executed and nobody would have even known we left. The Biden execution and withdrawal is perhaps the greatest embarrassment to our Country in History, both as a military and humanitarian operation.”
By September 2020, Secretary Pompeo had advanced the plans for a dedicated bureau to “synchronize Department capabilities including aviation, logistics, and medical support to disasters abroad, both natural and man-made, including the outbreak of infectious disease.”
Never-Trumpism inside the State Department, coupled with Team Biden’s skepticism of anything Trump-related appear to have been the concoction that brought down the CCR:
The move to make OpMed a bureau continued right up until Trump left office. An Executive Resources Board met and approved establishing the position of CCR coordinator as well as Doc Walters’s promotion to the civil service’s senior executive ranks. An action memo, which Pompeo approved on January 15, describes Walters’s new role as follows, “The CCR coordinator is an assistant secretary-equivalent position responsible for the development, resourcing, deployment, maintenance, and oversight of the Department’s medical, aviation, and logistics support capabilities to address contingency planning and crisis preparedness and response in accordance with applicable laws and Presidential policy in those instances where traditional mechanisms are not available or cannot address the need.
Another source close to Pompeo put it this way, “We needed to have a world-class organization that was ‘fit for purpose.’ What we had been doing previously was playing pickup games. What the secretary recognized is [that] if we’re going to be agile and have the ability to proactively respond…we’ve got to have a unit that could do operational planning and contingency scenarios and have the right capabilities and skill set, all in one, so that we can go to them when the decision is made and they can execute the hell out of it and we we can do it well.” Pompeo, said the source, wanted to eliminate silos and create an outfit with “a clear chain of command on who’s got the operational execution.”
In discussions shortly after the Biden inauguration, Trump-era official Brian Bulatao would even warn his Biden-era counterpart Brian McKeon: “CCR needs to endure… There are those in the building that are going to tell you that it’s not necessary, that it’s redundant because they’re envious of [OpMed’s] capabilities and they want to protect their turf. But they don’t know how to do it [themselves].”
The warning was not heeded, and neither Blinken nor McKeon have yet answered for, let alone resigned because of this decision.
‘Choose Your Own Adventure’.
A call hosted on July 14th 2021 saw Larry Padget, director of the Bureau of Medical Services, break the news that CCR would not be proceeding as planned by the Trump administration.
Tiffany Reeser, a senior policy official, explained: “I think there was an impression, given [Blinken’s] decision, with [McKeon’s] recommendation… that there was going to be a 25-point plan dropped on all of us for how this decision was going to be implemented. That’s not the case. This is, I would say, slightly more organized than a Choose Your Own Adventure novel.”
Manmeet Thind, an OpMed-adjacent attorney, warned: “Now, suddenly, you have more layers of bureaucracy, and as we all know, that’s going to slow response. And at the end of the day, that’s going to affect lives.”
The whole debacle led Texas Congressman Michael McCaul to tell Vanity Fair: “Call it OpMed, or CCR, or whatever you want… the point is the Department had these people, and their experience was a huge asset. We chose not to draw upon them until it was almost too late—after the Taliban had overrun the country, and tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated in a matter of days. We should have started sooner, and we should have used our A-team. The tragedy we’ve seen unfold—people stranded, American lives lost—reflects…disorganization, mismanagement, and, worst of all, utter neglect.”
You can read the whole Vanity Fair article, here.