Washington, DC – In Department of State Grant Management: Limited Oversight of Costs and Impact of International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute Democracy Grants, a recent audit of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor democracy building programs in Iraq, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction criticizes what it considers to be excessive security costs for IRI and the National Democratic Institute’s programs. Given the security environment and the nature of the institutes’ work, IRI does not agree with this assertion.

The security measures IRI takes has allowed the Institute and its staff to help Iraqis achieve notable success. Those successes, outlined in IRI Accomplishments in Iraq 2004-2010, were reported to the State Department as they occurred. In addition, security matters are under constant review by the Institute’s senior management and Board of Directors, and as events today have shown, IRI’s security concerns and the measures it takes to ensure the safety of its staff are not without merit. Today, bombs in downtown Baghdad, according to early reports, killed at least 36 people (Attack targets Baghdad hotel compounds, kills at least 36The Washington Post), and damaged IRI’s nearby office.

The conflict in Iraq is a counterinsurgency, a war over governance: in other words, is the democratically elected government or the insurgency better able to provide security, services and justice for the population? In Iraq, IRI’s expatriate and Iraqi staff was asked to help establish and strengthen the country’s nascent democratic institutions, putting them on the front lines of this political war.

IRI has been specifically targeted by insurgents, receiving credible threats to its office in Baghdad before relocating much of its staff to Erbil in 2006. That same year, U.S. and expatriate staff working in other democracy promotion organizations in Iraq were killed. In October 2009, IRI staff and training participants narrowly escaped injury in an attack next to their Baghdad hotel that caused 200-250 casualties. The threat environment from Iraqi terror groups for IRI in Erbil is less than in Baghdad, but comes with its own risks. As recently as January 2010, for example, neighboring Iran included IRI in a list of foreign organizations accused of conducting a “soft war” against the Islamic regime.

No specific dollar amount was ever given to IRI as the maximum allowable expenditure for security. Within the context of the conflict in Iraq, IRI’s security costs are comparatively in line with, or lower than other entities. For example, a recent Washington Post article examining the State Department’s fiscal year 2010 appropriations bill shows that $675 million (55 percent) will be spent on security at the Baghdad embassy, compared to $540 million for diplomatic operations and supporting logistics (45 percent). An October ABC News article, cites Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki admitting that 75 percent of his government’s budget goes towards security ministries and operations.

When IRI was asked to work in Iraq in 2003, it settled on two broad objectives: significantly advancing the state of Iraq’s democracy without getting staff killed. IRI has accomplished both these objectives in the years since.

Up ArrowTop