19 February 2011


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William R. Cumming

Actually all the major DOE labs in the US are operated by private contractors. In fact I would argue that DOE the Department of Energy is the contractor operated labs.


Actually all the major DOE labs in the US are operated by private contractors. In fact I would argue that DOE the Department of Energy is the contractor operated labs.

The DOE/NNSA labs (primarily Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia, along with various operational facilities in the nuclear weapons complex) are FFRDC's, i.e, Federally-Funded Research and Development Centers. They are government-owned/contractor-operated (GOCOs), and hence quite different from the usual sense of how a "federal contractor" like Blackwater or Halliburton operates.

There are many reasons why this arrangement is in place, ranging from historical precedents through administrative factors all the way up to the oft-forgotten principle that there ought to be civilian oversight and control of the stockpile (which is a big part of why these labs are not run by the DoD).

But the national labs are only a part of the DOE, and a minority part at that. The NNSA defense budget (which funds nuclear weapons programs for the nation) is about a quarter of DOE's budget. Basic scientific R&D (much of it unclassified), energy, and environmental components make up most of the rest.

Much (if not most) federal science and engineering R&D in the U.S. is funded in this manner, i.e., through contractors who are well-suited to support the administration of exploratory research. The National Science Foundation, DARPA, and many other federal R&D agencies allocate work to FFRDC's or to similar non-federal organizations, e.g., consortia of universities, private R&D firms, etc. This arrangement is not peculiar to DOE.

These R&D contractors bear virtually no resemblance to those being mentioned in this thread, e.g., Blackwater. Federal R&D contractors have extremely high levels of management oversight, and possess a remarkably consistent track record of performing leading-edge research at relatively low cost to the taxpayer. Thus one should be careful using the term "federal contractor" in this particular intellectual venue, lest an unwarranted guilt-by-association result.

I've long suspected that this administrative separation arises because the effective management of innovation is something that neither governmental nor purely-commercial organizations seem to be able to do with any degree of consistency (exceptions to this rule do exist, but they are just that: exceptions)



From what I see, Davis is a company man, no more no less.



The 'baggage' had flown the coup before Kerry's wheels landed.

robt willmann

I needed a good laugh today, and got one, as I read for the first time the New York Times (NYT) newspaper article of 21 February 2011, entitled "American Held in Pakistan Worked With C.I.A.", linked to by Jake above.

The lead paragraph--

"The American arrested in Pakistan after shooting two men at a crowded traffic stop was part of a covert, C.I.A.-led team collecting intelligence and conducting surveillance on militant groups deep inside the country, according to American government officials."

Continuing in its role as stenographer for the U.S. government, the NYT wants us to believe that Raymond Davis was doing nothing more than "collecting intelligence" and "conducting surveillance" on "militant groups", which was re-emphasized in the second paragraph that he "carried out scouting" and "other reconnnaissance missions". You know, nothing different than a private investigator does when carrying out scouting and conducting surveillance of a spouse with a boyfriend or girlfriend in a divorce case.

A theory presented by Jim White is that Lahore is not all that far from a Pakistani military base at which missiles, including those that are nuclear capable, may be located, and that Pakistan may have successfully tested a cruise missile recently.


This thought is along the lines of recent comments above that Davis may have been looking at the matter of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

The NYT did confirm that the people in the backup or rescue vehicle had already left Pakistan, the vehicle having raced the wrong way down a one-way street to assist Davis during which it struck and killed a person, and it then immediately raced back to the U.S. Consulate before reaching him.

The lead paragraph of the NYT article claimed that "American government officials" said Davis was "part of a covert, C.I.A.-led team collecting intelligence ...." The article later quotes a CIA spokesman saying the opposite: "Our security personnel around the world act in a support role providing security for American officials. They do not conduct foreign intelligence collection or covert operations."

Davis was only looking at those "militants" from a distance through binoculars and maybe a camera viewfinder, nothing more. But on the other hand, the CIA says, he was not even doing that.

The U.S. government is starting to sound like the old joke about defending a dog bite case: that's not a dog bite, it is a pre-existing condition; and in addition to that, the dog that bit you is not my dog; and in fact, I don't even have a dog!

William R. Cumming

Cieran! Thanks for the partial corrective. Yes DOE labs are GOCO's but that is actually different from FFRDC which are considered to be centers of excellence for certain types of research that private industry could not conduct as rapidly. So yes, Idaho, Pacific N.W., Argonne, Brookhaven are DOE labs in addition to the primary weapons lab. And yes DOE is a major research conduit through its and other FFRDC, which include for example RAND, AEROSPACE, LMI, CNA, IDA.
My point was not that the GOCO weapon labs were exactly like the former Blackwater but that the contractor interlayer exists even in the most sensitive research areas and the oversight and supervision of the layer is a technically complex one. I am not accusing all contractors of being a problem and they should be utilized but in many cases the federal bureacracy oversight is slim to none based on its lack of technical competence, funding, or numbers. Yes this is the design even of efforts to protect the USA and allow it to be protected in futuro. It sometimes works and sometimes does not. Perfection does not exist in any human system of administration including military ops. I am often forgettful that I often assume a level of comprehension of my rather contorted comments on this blog that probably is not facilitated by my brevity or style. Apologies. I am a young man in a hurry at age 68! Which I tried to be also in 34 years in the military and civil service. Sometimes haste makes waste.



I think it would be more accurate to say would anyone trust the operatives of Blackwater (Xe) to snatch Pakistan's nukes. Nothing like a private army having one of its own? I'm sure the management is all trustworthy, just look at the owner's family any their historical campaign contributions and idealogical leanings.

Blackwater is, after all, the same outfit that gave us the debacle at Fallujah. Bush weathered that political storm, Obama is unlikely to do so if a bunch of mercenaries foul up relations with a nuclear armed country whose economy is in as much trouble as others being effected be QE1,2 and soon #3.

Adam L Silverman

Mr. Smith:

The founders were not above using apocalyptic religious language to their advantage in justifying the revolution against Great Britain. King George was often and repeatedly referred to as the anti-Christ. I highly recommend George M. Marsden's work on the subject. Specifically "Fundamentalism and American Culture" and "Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism". I think the intent of your point about disentangling religion from the state and vice versa is absolutely correct and valid.

As to the influence of Muslim architectural and design concepts and elements, there's a great deal written. I'm on TDY right now, which is why I've been scarce on SST recently, but will try to find the citation I'm thinking of as soon as I can and throw it into a comment for you. The Masonic influence on both the great buildings of Europe and on much of DC's architecture is rarely, if ever, questioned. I can say right off the top of my head that a great deal of these elements made their way into the Twin Towers.

William R. Cumming

General Ali! Question?
What is known about the official Pakistani position on employment of drones inside Pakistani territory by the US?
Exactly who in the Pakistani government would be in the approval chain?

FB Ali


The 'public' official position is that they do not approve of US drone strikes inside Pakistan; instead, the US should give them drones and they will use them where necessary.

The 'private' official position (courtesy WikiLeaks) is that they're fine, so long as the US doesn't mind the Pakistan govt saying publicly that these are unilateral acts against the govt's wishes.

Both govt and the military have approved them. My guess is that the latter made it conditional on a certain proportion of the strikes being made on Pakistan Taliban in the tribal areas (who attack Pakistan but not US troops in Afghanistan).

Sidney O. Smith III

Dr. Silverman

Thanks for your response and the reference to Marsden. I look forward to reading more, although, like you, I am bit pressed for time right now.

I would thoroughly enjoy any reference re: Muslim and Arabic influence on architecture and design concept.

My guess is we both have enjoyed ourselves at the Fox theater and, in my case, perhaps too much!



A well connected little birdie tells me that Raymond Davis was part of a unit that was tasked with cultivating assets within the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the holiest of all holies for the Pakistani establishment. The increased focus on the "good" jihadis has been irking Kayani and Pasha for a long time, but attempts to make direct contact with those that could breach the plausible deniability cloak was clearly a red line.

Kayani surely wagers that the aid gravy train wouldn't be touched regardless of CIA or State Dept getting pissed off. After all, the US still needs logistics uninterrupted for Afghanistan.

The bottomline - a nuclear grab team may sound sexy but for Kayani and co the nukes are merely a means to achieve the end of operating a set of deniable proxy forces on either border, in pursuit of Pakistan's goals as the military sees them.

Poor Mr. Davis probably paid the price for getting close to Pakistan's real family jewels - its unofficial army and it's bearded commanders.

William R. Cumming

Thanks General Ali!

FB Ali


Cultivating LeT indeed! That would be as hilarious a proposition as sending a nice plump sheep into the jungle to 'cultivate' a bunch of starving tigers.

These nutjobs have wet dreams every night seeing themselves slitting American throats.


"These nutjobs have wet dreams every night seeing themselves slitting American throats." FB Ali

Daniel Pearl.

"...Pakistan's real family jewels - its unofficial army and it's bearded commanders." JYD

I believe the LeT has been implicated in many terrorist attacks in India. I have read in the past (not certain of the reliability) that the Pakistani military uses LeT and other jihadi groups to wage a proxy war with India. Do these Pakistani jihadi groups pose a threat to the US or is their beef just with India? What would the strategy be for our intelligence agencies to try and penetrate these groups - would we ever get reliable information from these "nutjobs"?


I believe the LeT has been implicated in many terrorist attacks in India.

These are complex matters. Much of the activities in India seem to be related to Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. Maybe also the Daniel Pearl case?

But then they sometimes seem to work together, and may at a certain level all be somehow interrelated:


At one point I found the Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh story almost as interesting as the people behind the project below. Especially since he wrote a diary in an Indian jail and conveniently left it behind ... (odd script, I thought at the time)... But these matters are unfortunately also much too complex for a non-native largely unfamiliar with the main players, the region, the larger social, political and historical context and issues:


Sidney O. Smith III

Charles I, from the land of Diana Krall

Thank you. I enjoy your comments as well.

What’s the old saying from Hamlet? Ah yes, “Analytical assumptions are the thing, where we’ll capture the conscience of the King”. Something like that.

From what I can tell and at least so far, you can rely on the Satmar Rabbis. Unlike Hagee, they will be with you until the end. It is what it is.

And I just don’t see how dropping white phosphorus bombs on innocent Palestinian children will come across well during a time of rising awareness in the Islamic world. To shift to Jungian language -- which perhaps you enjoy -- makes me think that something has constellated “the Creator archetype” that lives in us all.


Didn’t have to be this way. Again, check out the photographs of Major Gant in his article. It tells you all you need to know, imo. Too bad Kagan’s USM ignored him too. And the USM apparently has ignored Brig. Ali as well. Big mistake, imo.

William R. Cumming

Again noting for record that India has a very large Islamic population and the Communist insurgents making splendid progress in seizing a north south corridor in middle of India.


More on Raymond Davis http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/8344078/US-pawn-ensnared-in-Pakistans-power-politics.html Praveen Swami in the Telegraph.


William R. Cumming, the glamor of Pakistan and the blinders of the Two Nation Theory have fallen off India's large Islamic population. The electoral politics in India has moved beyond caste and religion.

As MJ Akbar wrote: The old politics of caste and corruption has been buried in Patna as well by the Nitish avalanche. Its ghost might hover for a while, but if it is dead in Bihar it can't really survive anywhere else.

William R. Cumming

Arun! Hoping you are correct.


US spy with expired visa held in Peshawar

FB Ali

From a report in the the Express Tribune (Pakistan):

The foreign ministry states that there are 851 Americans with diplomatic immunity currently in Pakistan, of whom 297 are not working in a diplomatic capacity. However, sources at the interior ministry put the number of non-diplomats at 414. The majority of these ‘special Americans’ (as the ministry refers to them) are concentrated in Islamabad, with some also residing in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar..........

Most of the ‘special Americans’ are suspected of being operatives of US intelligence agencies who are on covert missions in Pakistan, reporting to the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), according to sources familiar with the situation.....................

Sources say that the intelligence agencies’ reports state that many of the Americans living in these residences are assumed to be US Special Forces – including members of the covert Delta Force of the United States Army – and therefore are considered armed and dangerous.


William R. Cumming

General Ali! Question?

Since the public position of Pakistan as I understand is NO US Armed Forces in Pakistan can we conclude that the US simply does not have the skill and patience to confront this official Pakistani position directly and therefore relies on sympathizers in Pakistani civil and military government to deploy US forces that we (US) see as necessary?
I would argue that this again is an indictment of the competence of the civil and military leadership of the US and puts at risk the lives of these "soldiers" manning the "Thin Red Line" for the US. I am sure all of the above touches on classified information and secrecy. If my conclusions are accurate then it reinforces my view that DAVIS is a test case for those who would have the US domestic involvement in Pakistan curtailed!
And DAVIS could well prove to be an ideal target for that effort. Do you agree?

I also understand a hearing on his claim of diplomatic immunity will take place on the 3rd of March and trial if it takes place would begin on March 17th?

The Twisted Genius

FB Ali,

That report rings true to me. Outside of the SAS, GSG-9 and maybe a few others, Delta does not have a culture of working well with others. Unlike the CIA which seems to prefer bilateral operations.

I doubt the USG would stand idly by if a hundred Mexican special operators were working on our side of the border with diplomatic immunity. I certainly wouldn't stand for the Québécois doing the same in New England. Just kidding... sort of.

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