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IntroductionThe United States, as the world’s only superpower, is active everywhere. In 1975, U.S. permission was given for Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor, and the U.S. continued to provide diplomatic and military support for the occupation until 1999. Since then, the U.S. has supported self-determination and independence here, although American strategic and economic interests still guide global U.S. policy.
This Bulletin reviews some of the ways the United States is involved in East Timor during the transitional period. More specifically, we examine USAID bilateral aid programs and the role of the U.S. military. An in-depth exploration of East Timor’s coffee industry highlights the U.S.-funded NCBA project. Other articles include a report from the World Social Forum in Brazil, an introduction to Popular Education, and brief items on recent events. Although La’o Hamutuk receives grants from foundations and some small countries’ governments, we do not accept support from the United States government or any other institution (UN, major donors, World Bank, etc.) with significant involvement in East Timor. If we did, our ability to monitor their activities objectively could be compromised.
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United States Government Aid to East TimorThe United States is one of the largest donors to East Timor. Many of East Timor’s NGOs, media, local communities and small businesses have received gifts from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the government agency which manages and distributes these grants. This article will discuss where and why the U.S. targets its contributions, how East Timorese recipients are handled differently from international agencies, and how much East Timor’s people are helped by this aid.
La’o Hamutuk has asked many donor countries and grant recipients for information in the course of our investigations. USAID gave us extensive documentation of their list of grantees and projects, as well as some reports submitted by grantees. Although they have sometimes been slow, and they didn’t give us everything we asked for, USAID provided a lot of information, especially about the OTI-administered grants.
Why the U.S. gives foreign aidThe United States is the most powerful nation in the world, and one of the richest, but it is stingy when it comes to foreign aid. The United States gives away only 1/1000 of its gross domestic product, the least of the 22 wealthiest nations, and one-fourth of those nations’ average, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Nevertheless, because the U.S. economy is so large, this is around $10 billion per year, second only to Japan. Much U.S. aid goes to buy goods from the United States and to pay the salaries of American staff and consultants. According to the Reality of Aid 2000 (Earthscan Publications), 71.6% of U.S. bilateral aid worldwide in 2000 was tied to purchases from the United States.
In 1961, the U.S. Congress established USAID to "promote the foreign, security and general welfare of the United States by assisting peoples of the world in their efforts toward economic development and internal and external security." Although foreign aid can benefit people in recipient countries, it is primarily intended to advance U.S. interests.
The United States portrays itself as a global leader for freedom and democracy. But it also has global economic interests, such as "free trade" which gives multinational corporations and investors unrestricted access to global markets and resources. The U.S. uses political, military and economic tools, including foreign aid, to achieve its foreign policy goals.
Since 1999, the U.S. Congress has designated $25 million per year as foreign aid for East Timor. This is large for the size of this country — around 50 times more per capita than Washington gives Indonesia. But it is miniscule compared with the more than $1 billion U.S. companies made selling weapons to Indonesia during Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor.
The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) – a grassroots NGO in the United States – and others have lobbied Congress for a decade to support human and political rights for the people of East Timor. In response, Congress gradually reduced U.S. support for Indonesia’s military, and pushed President Clinton to finally support East Timor’s self-determination. Another result of this continuing advocacy is a core group of Congresspeople who care about East Timor – and these "Friends of East Timor" have been able, so far, to ensure significant U.S. economic support for East Timor.
Who gets the money?The U.S. has different funding priorities in East Timor than other donors. Although the U.S. supports some basic services (including education, health, and infrastructure), their main priorities are export products, elections and governance, justice, media and local development.
Other articles in this Bulletin detail the two recipients of the largest U.S. contributions in East Timor. The U.S. Support Group East Timor (USGET), a military presence, is described on page 8. USGET is financed from U.S. Department of Defense (Pentagon) money, separate from the foreign aid budget. The largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid ($13 million since 1999) here is the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), whose involvement in the coffee industry is discussed on page 12.
The U.S. has made other payments for East Timor. Because it has the world’s largest economy, the U.S. is assessed the most dues for UN peacekeeping missions, so it has paid around $200 million for UNTAET, nearly a quarter of UNTAET’s budget. During the emergency situation in late 1999 and early 2000, the U.S. donated $36 million in surplus food and other materials as well as tens of millions more through multilateral agencies. The U.S. has allocated $1 million over the past two years for East Timorese students, diplomats, and others to study in or visit the United States. It also contributed $8.5 million to the Consolidated Fund for East Timor (CFET), managed by East Timor’s government. The remainder of this article describes other U.S. assistance to East Timor, and the funds and amounts listed above (except NCBA and CFET) are not included in Graph 1 below.
Graph 1: Recipients of Non-emergency U.S. Bilateral Aid in East Timor
The graph shows the total amount received by each type of organization from USAID since September 1999. The three black bars on the left represent contributions to NCBA, the Trust Fund for East Timor (TFET, managed by the World Bank) and the Consolidated Fund for East Timor. (For more on these funds, see La’o Hamutuk Bulletin Vol. 3, No.1.) These three contributions are not discussed further in this article.
The next two (cross-hatched) bars represent targeted donations to particular government departments or programs. The next (white) bar, $12.7 million to international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and agencies is broken down in Table 1. These are almost all cash grants, and the larger projects are discussed later in this article.
A few of the organizations listed (especially The Asia Foundation and Freedom House) sub-grant to East Timorese NGOs, but most provide services, such as training by international experts, foreign consultants, or educational materials. The two IOM-managed programs are described below..
Unfortunately, only a fraction of the dollars granted to international NGOs for work in East Timor stays in the country – most goes to pay foreign staff or consultants (who save or send most of their salaries outside East Timor), or to import equipment and supplies. Neither USAID nor the grantees would give La’o Hamutuk information about how much of the money pays East Timorese staff or is spent within this country.
As Table 1 shows, many of USAID’s projects relate to elections, media and the judicial system – areas crucial to democracy. The United States prioritizes these areas for aid worldwide, encouraging political leaders, journalists, activists and attorneys to adopt the U.S. view of the democratic process, and to feel grateful for U.S. support. The U.S. recognizes these people as among the most influential in any society, especially one emerging into self-government.
These funding priorities are also reflected in the $3.7 million in support USAID has given to East Timorese NGOs, media, cooperatives, businesses and communities. Those who got the most are listed in Table 2. In contrast with the cash grants to large international organizations, nearly all of these grants are in-kind. That is, USAID purchases computers, trucks, motorcycles, tools, office supplies, construction or other materials to help the recipient carry out the purposes of the grant. In exceptional cases, cash can be given for specific expenses (such as monthly salaries or consultants’ fees). USAID says that small and local groups have not demonstrated the financial management capacity required by the U.S. government, and that in-kind support frees grantees from burdensome paperwork and procedures. However, it also creates the perception that USAID doesn’t trust East Timorese recipients to handle money.
USAID has prioritized several sectors in East Timor, which are shown in Graph 2 and discussed in more detail below.
Graph 2: Distribution of USAID non-emergency funding to East Timor by issue area 1999-present
Short-term Economic Recovery $7,100,000USAID has funded several programs for local employment and small-scale infrastructure repair, thereby stabilizing local communities following the devastation of 1999. These programs began in early 2000 and will end in May 2002. Most of the individual projects are small, such as reconstructing one building; repairing a road; constructing water supply, a sports facility or irrigation for one village; or material support for a local cooperative or business. Although in a few earlier programs local workers were paid, the later model was for the administering agency (see below) to identify a local community leader or organization, ask them what project their community needed, and supply tools and materials if the community would provide volunteer labor. The projects were chosen and done quickly, without a lot of administrative overhead or review, with a goal of rapid response to identified local needs.
Nearly all of these projects were implemented as part of larger programs, described in Table 3. In addition to the programs in Table 3, USAID directly funded 21 similar projects totaling $326,000, mostly through local NGOs, and granted $250,000 to IOM’s Community Assistance for Population Stabilization (CAPS) program. (The numbers in Table 3 were provided as totals by USAID, and differ from more detailed data that forms the basis of the rest of this article.)
La’o Hamutuk has not reviewed these programs at the district or community level. But according to internal evaluations given to us by USAID, the programs were successful in rapidly bringing money, materials and jobs (TEP and TEPS) to communities, often restoring important local services. But the haste with which these programs were undertaken and the chaotic condition of local infrastructure and society after 1999 sometimes led to waste or unfinished projects. At times the goal seemed to be to spend money as quickly as possible – IOM’s mid-term BELE report discusses "an average burn rate of $59,199 per month." (The phrase "burn rate" normally describes how fast rocket fuel is used up.) Since the program only lasts eight months, it does not include follow-up to see if the project succeeded and the money was used effectively. While this has the advantage of rapid response and flexibility, it can distort local community structures or lead to corruption. It is no surprise that USAID’s end-of-project review of BELE and TEPS II found that these projects are more likely to succeed if they "consciously build on a partnership with some local supportive organization or institution."
These programs will end before East Timor becomes independent. Although they have met some infrastructure needs in some communities, local water supplies, roads, schools, markets, and community buildings in villages all over East Timor are still unrepaired or inadequate. We hope that East Timor’s government, working with donors, will be able to continue the task.
Civic education and election monitoring: $4,562,000U.S.-based international NGOs received 93% of this money, with most of the rest ($227,000) going to East Timorese NGOs. The primary focus has been the Constituent Assembly elections in August 2001 – training political parties and election monitors in the mechanics of the voting process.
Around the world, the United States promotes a view of democracy which emphasizes peoples’ ability to cast ballots as the most important factor, and USAID’s grants advance that perspective. Much attention is given to electoral laws and the voting-day process, with less focus on substantive issues, politics between elections, or to the ways citizens can communicate with and influence public officials. Civic education for citizens and politicians neglected the principle that the government exists with the consent of the people, and its purpose is to serve the public interest. Since this is different than East Timor’s experience during the last four centuries, this is fundamental to the transition to democracy.
During the August 2001 Constituent Assembly elections, different manuals for election monitors were written and published in several languages by UNDP (not USAID-funded), the Asia Foundation, and the International Republican Institute. All contained the same information, detailing the mechanics of the voting process and the role of election observers. While giving redundant attention to monitoring, USAID and other international donors paid little attention to the decisions members of the Constituent Assembly would make when they write the Constitution, or to explaining to the public or the legislators how political parties would operate in the Constituent Assembly and Parliament. The question of whether a second election should be held for Parliament, which became a public controversy in early 2002, was not included in civic education, even though it had been mentioned in the March 2001 UNTAET regulation which authorized the Assembly.
With East Timor’s next parliamentary election five years off, it is crucial that East Timor’s citizens know and use a range of persuasive and pragmatic powers to help their representatives represent them. People here have had a resistance relationship with foreign-imposed governments for centuries, and it will take education and experience in more than marking a ballot to make this country truly democratic.
The major civic education programs undertaken by each U.S.-based NGO are described as part of Table 1.
Justice, reconciliation and human rights: $3,419,000Although the United States government often enabled human rights violations here during the first 23 years of Indonesia’s occupation, Washington has prioritized this area for aid. At the same time the U.S. refuses to use its political muscle to encourage effective action by the UN to hold Indonesian military and political leaders (not to mention U.S. officials) accountable for crimes they directed and committed here between 1975 and 1999. UNTAET’s Serious Crimes Unit seems to follow the same policy when it comes to prosecuting high-level TNI officers (see La’o Hamutuk Bulletin Vol. 2, No. 6-7).
More than two-thirds of this money was given to international NGOs, as included in Table 1. In addition, USAID directly funds UNTAET, the East Timorese government and local NGOs working for human rights, justice, and reconciliation. Many of them do excellent and important work, and USAID’s support soon after the devastation of 1999 got them back on their feet. La’o Hamutuk has concerns about dependency on U.S. funding – especially in the under-resourced court system.
- UNTAET Serious Crimes Unit - $296,000 mostly for investigators, translators, and equipment
- Ministry of Justice - $260,000 for equipment support for judges, prosecutors, public defenders and the courts
- Judicial Systems Monitoring Programme (JSMP) - $132,000 to monitor the judicial system
- Yayasan HAK - $75,000, mostly for office construction to support human rights work
- Commission for Truth, Reception and Reconciliation - $67,500 in startup costs
- Suai and Baucau parishes - $67,000 for reconciliation and human rights work
- Eleven other East Timorese NGOs - $179,000 in smaller grants to work on justice, human rights and reconciliation
Media and media training: $3,224,000Most of this funding (eight grants totaling $2 million) has gone to U.S.-based Internews Network, Inc. Internews has trained East Timorese print and radio journalists in many subjects, provided media support during the Constituent Assembly elections (radio program and newspaper inserts), brought in an expert on media law to advise the Constituent Assembly, and is staffing a press office for the Assembly. Although not included in the media total above, the Asia Foundation and other international NGOs also train and support East Timor’s media with USAID-supplied resources.
The remaining $1.2 million has been distributed widely, and provides essential support for the two daily newspapers, nearly every radio station, the Print Consortium and most magazines. USAID supplied more than 1,000 wind-up radios which were distributed throughout the districts by local NGOs, and also purchases bulk copies of most newspapers and magazines to provide financial support and help with distribution, including in West Timor.
Much of USAID’s support for local media has been training and equipment. As in any large widely-based program, there have been some problems with the applicability and usefulness of the equipment, and with follow-through from the funder. But overall, USAID support has enabled a variety of groups to publish and broadcast. However, nearly all of East Timor’s independent media depend on United States government support, a situation that endangers their ability to provide unbiased news coverage, especially where U.S. interests are involved. Few if any of them will survive financially without U.S. government funding unless other sources materialize.
Over the next few months, the government media (TVTL, Radio UNTAET and Tais Timor newspaper) will close or change radically, with TV and radio responsibility being transferred from the UN to the East Timorese government (which has no budget for this), probably with Portuguese government support. Like La’o Hamutuk, USAID "is very concerned about the sustainability" and continuing independence of the media they have supported, especially Radio UNTAET.
Falintil Re-insertion Assistance Program (FRAP) $1,219,000International Organization for Migration (IOM) administers this project, which is funded by USAID, the World Bank and Japan. FRAP helps FALINTIL veterans who were not selected for East Timor’s Defense Force (FDTL) reintegrate into their families and communities. IOM worked in coordination with the FALINTIL High Command, USAID, UNTAET, the World Bank and the Office of Defense Force Development to conduct the program, which began with a survey of 1,896 FALINTIL veterans in December 2000. Some FALINTIL veterans were selected as soldiers for the FDTL in February 2001. Of those who were not, 1,283 registered with FRAP to receive benefits.
The FRAP program included a "Transitional Safety Net" of five monthly payments of $100 each, from March to July 2001, totaling $623,000. FRAP intended that $200 be used for household investment and $300 for basic food, clothing and health needs. FRAP also offered counseling and vocational training, trying to help veterans prepare for economic self-sufficiency. For veterans with income-generating plans, FRAP provides start-up funding, livestock, tools or other support to get their businesses started, a package value of up to $572 per veteran. This part of the program, budgeted at $632,000, is funded by the World Bank’s Post-Conflict Fund and Japan.
OtherIn addition to the program areas described above, USAID has provided funds or in-kind support for a wide variety of other projects. These are a few of the more interesting ones:
ConclusionUSAID has funded a variety of programs in East Timor, including most of our local NGO colleagues who are doing vital and important work. USAID has also helped local communities reconstruct their infrastructure and economy, and grappled with difficult problems like the justice system and the demobilized FALINTIL veterans. If this funding had not been available, East Timor would not have made as much progress as it has since 1999. Although much of the money ended up back in the United States, a significant portion did support the East Timorese population. In a just world, the U.S. would pay East Timor many times this amount for reparations, but this new nation needs all the dollars it can get. At present, cash in hand is more useful than debts.
We worry about dependency and the vulnerability of USAID grantees to shifts in political winds in Washington. Thus far, the "war against terrorism" that followed the September 11 attacks has not significantly affected USAID programs here, and we hope that new U.S. policy priorities will not reduce commitments for East Timor. But USAID is a United States government program, designed above all to "promote the foreign, security and general welfare of the United States." In a country as small and impoverished as East Timor, reliance on such funding leaves the government and civil society open to foreign manipulation. The U.S has used these tools in the past, and could do so again.
One way the U.S. could support East Timor financially and politically would be to place more trust in the East Timorese people to make funding decisions. To that end, we encourage the United States to increase its donations to operations and services as decided by East Timor’s elected government. For the next few years, this government will need a significant increase in foreign donations to avoid going into debt. The United States can and should help provide this money, either directly or through whatever financing mechanism is established.
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The Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), a component of USAID’s Washington structure, was established in 1994 to handle small grants in a few "priority conflict-prone countries" undergoing political transition. OTI works more quickly and with less bureaucracy than standard USAID procedures, in order to respond to rapidly changing conditions.
Currently, OTI works in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Serbia, Macedonia, Peru and Indonesia, as well as East Timor, where it has been since 1999. OTI has disbursed about $14 million of the $44 million in U.S. bilateral aid shown in Graph 1. It does not fund the three black bars (NCBA, TFET and CFET) or the large grants to international NGOs for "democracy and governance" activities. All direct grants to East Timorese communities and organizations have been through OTI.
East Timor’s transition is nearing an end, and OTI will leave after November 2002, transferring its responsibilities to USAID’s regional Asia Near East (ANE) Bureau. OTI’s pending departure raises concerns that the small USAID grants for local NGOs and communities may be cut back, although USAID "has every intention of ensuring the small grants funding mechanism remains in place after the transition."
USAID has hired an American corporation, Development Alternatives International (DAI), to operate their office in East Timor. DAI calls itself "an international consulting firm that provides economic development solutions to business, government, and civil society worldwide."
Except for a few top officials, everyone in the USAID/OTI Dili office is employed by DAI, which USAID claims can manage personnel and bookkeeping more efficiently than the government. DAI has worked for USAID in Indonesia since November 1998, and in East Timor since February 2000. The contract for East Timor was renegotiated in December 2001 for another year, although ongoing discussions will most likely extend it to the end of 2003. USAID officials hope "the transition [from OTI to ANE] will be relatively seamless," but it could affect their ability to process small grants quickly.
DAI is a for-profit business. Their financial information is secret, but La’o Hamutuk has learned their approximate costs and the profit they receive here, which is 2% of every grant they administer plus 7% of their operational costs. This could be an incentive to maximize their operational costs, reducing the amount available for grants. During their 1999-2001 East Timor contract, DAI managed 386 grants totaling $9,300,000. They spent $4,200,000 on operational costs, and made a profit of about $500,000. In other words, about one-third of the money given to OTI for foreign aid in East Timor paid for DAI’s costs and profit.
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Table 1: International NGOs and agencies receiving over $250,000 from USAID
International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Ex-FALINTIL reinsertion (FRAP);
Media training (see below)
The Asia Foundation
Survey of voter knowledge; Train East Timorese election monitors; get-out-the-vote campaign; support for Yayasan HAK and other local and national human rights groups; import experts for the Constituent Assembly
National Democratic Institute (NDI)
Focus-group studies of citizen knowledge and attitudes; Civic Forum discussions; stimulating public discussion on the role of the military in society.
Family Health International
HIV/AIDS education (part of global USAID program)
International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES)
Train election officials; monitor technical administration of elections. Also train judges and public defenders
International Republican Institute (IRI)
Train political parties in election law, monitoring, and "message development"
International Development Law Institute (IDLI)
Train judges, prosecutors and public defenders
Coalition for International Justice (CIJ)
Support UNTAET Serious Crimes Unit with interpreters, investigators, and public outreach
The Carter Center
Election monitoring in the broader political environment
Support local human rights organizations
Other INGOs receiving smaller grants
TOTAL for all International NGOs
Table 2: East Timorese groups receiving $50,000 or more from USAID
Operations; training; maintenance
Internet center; equipment; civic education
Office support; civic education
Judicial Systems Monitoring Programme (JSMP)
Monitor court system
Office support; media relations; diplomacy training
University of East Timor
Renovate building; transport staff
Office repair and construction
BIA Hula Foundation
Local clean water systems (BELE)
Salesians of Don Bosco in East Timor
Rehabilitation and equipment for agricultural and technical schools
East Timor Action for Development (ETADEP)
Re-establish office; Transport for farmers (BELE)
Re-establish office; publish "Buibere" book in Tetum
Suara Timor Lorosa’enewspaper
Equipment, transport, salaries
|2||$67,691||Clean water systems (BELE)|
|TOTAL for those listed above||59||$1,592,872|
|Other East Timorese media||26||$299,942||Smaller grants to newspapers, magazines, radio|
|Projects in local communities through local NGOs||99|
|BELE and TEPS programs (excluding items listed above, INGOs, and UNTAET)|
|Other East Timorese groups (smaller grants)||79|
|Smaller grants for East Timorese NGOs for reconstruction or projects|
|TOTAL for all East Timorese non-governmental recipients (NGOs, businesses, co-ops, schools, communities, Church)|
More than $1 million went to local communities and cooperatives in small grants for short-term economic recovery (see below)
Table 3: Economic recovery programs for community-based projects
Transitional Employment Program (TEP)
Mostly through UNTAET District Administrations
Salaries, tools, equipment and supplies for initial phase of community cleanup, building demolition, sports, road and drainage projects.
Transitional Engagement for Population Support (TEPS II)
Two-thirds through UNTAET District Administrations, rest through local organizations
Sep 2000 -Mar 01
In-kind support for small projects, such as market rehabilitation using community-supplied labor.
Building Empowerment, Leadership and Engagement (BELE)
USAID through community-based organizations
Manatuto, Baucau, Ainaro, Manufahi, Bobonaro, Liquiça
Apr 01 - Jan 02
Community selects project, USAID works through local group to give in-kind support (no salaries) for small-scale agriculture, roads, water systems, community buildings, sports facilities or in-kind support for cooperatives.
BELE through IOM
IOM through community-based organizations
Seven districts not listed above
Sep 01 - May 02
Community-selected projects like USAID BELE (previous row), but using IOM’s sub-offices to manage and procure materials.
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USGET and DynCorp, IncLiving and working on the Central Maritime Hotel boat, U.S. soldiers stationed in East Timor are arranging for U.S. warships to sail into Dili harbor. But this is not another foreign invasion – at least not one intended to kill and conquer. The United States Support Group East Timor (USGET) provides short-term aid in villages across East Timor.
USGET is not a USAID program. It is a Pentagon project, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and commanded by the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii. Admiral Dennis Blair took over that command in February 1999; since then he has been the strongest U.S. advocate for supporting Indonesia’s military.
From February 2000 until the end of 2001, USGET had 15 soldiers based on the Central, reduced to ten for the year 2002 and perhaps longer. These troops, who rotate every three months, prepare for the visits of U.S. warships to East Timor. One or three ships arrive about every six weeks. During their 2-5 day visits, the sailors help local communities. Because their visits are so short, the work is simple: pulling teeth, repairing schools, giving out eyeglasses, distributing medicine. They perform cataract surgery, but anything that can’t be finished in a few hours, or requires follow-up, isn’t attempted. USGET also does two or three larger projects each year, bringing U.S. sailors for a few months to do construction or engineering on power or water systems.
Humanitarian assistance isn’t USGET’s main purpose. According to one USGET Commander, they are here to "show the flag" – to demonstrate that the U.S. military supports the successes of the UN and the East Timorese people. U.S. officials won’t say openly who they are showing the flag to. They hint that it’s for Jakarta – to remind Indonesia that the Pentagon would side with East Timor this time (a shift from 1975-1999). But others think the U.S. troops could be a signal to East Timor not to pursue policies which Washington might find uncomfortable.
According to U.S. military and State Department officials, the U.S. has no plans for a military base on Ataùro island, as is often rumored, or anywhere else. They say the U.S. has "no strategic interests" in East Timor. But the rumors persist, and the U.S., as a global power, has strategic interests everywhere. USGET says they stay on the Central for security reasons and to avoid malaria. But should anyone be surprised that the presence of a dozen uniformed American soldiers, sailors and marines, not under UNTAET/PKF command, living and working in high-tech offices on a ship anchored in Dili Harbor, has raised questions?
USGET costs around $11 million per year, more than the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives budget for grants in East Timor, and it comes from the U.S. military’s budget. Most of the money goes to DynCorp Incorporated, a huge Texas-based company which performs services for U.S. and other militaries and governments around the world. DynCorp is responsible for logistical support for USGET – housing, food, security, communications, computers, transportation, mail delivery, electricity, and medical care.
DynCorp employs about 30 people to support USGET’s 10 soldiers – nine unarmed East Timorese and three armed American security officers, seven drivers, two medical staff, a computer technician, plus logistics personnel, translators and management. DynCorp billed the Pentagon $6,020,751 (more than a million dollars per year per soldier) for services for the first half of 2002, and the contract has been extended for the entire year.
This is not the first time the U.S. government brought DynCorp to East Timor. The U.S. Army, in coordination with UNTAET, hired DynCorp to provide heavy-lift helicopter services in November 1999. The State Department pays DynCorp to recruit and administer the 80 U.S. CivPols here. DynCorp organized training for the Timor Lorosa’e Police Service (TLPS) in January 2001 as part of the U.S. Justice Department’s worldwide International Criminal Investigative Training and Assistance Program (ICITAP), a training which will be repeated. The U.S. Defense Department will pay DynCorp to provide logistical support for East Timor’s Defense Force (FDTL) after independence. But USGET is DynCorp’s largest involvement here, and the only continuous presence. DynCorp is a private company started by the U.S. government in 1946. It employs 23,000 people worldwide to carry out its U.S. government business, often with disastrous effects. We have not heard of similar problems with their presence in East Timor, but their record elsewhere gives cause for concern.
Ecuadorian farmers and Amazonian Indians are suing DynCorp, charging the company with "torture, infanticide and wrongful death" for aerial spraying of highly toxic herbicides along the border of Ecuador and Colombia, South America. The U.S. Army has paid DynCorp $600 million to spray the chemicals on coca (cocaine) fields as part of its "war against drugs " in Colombia. They sprayed on the Ecuador side of the border. DynCorp is also a proxy for the U.S. military, providing military training and support for the Colombian military and police in their battle against revolutionary guerillas, which helps both governments avoid responsibility. It’s a similar tactic to Jakarta’s use of militias here to deflect international pressure from TNI during 1999.
In Bosnia, DynCorp employees under contract with the U.S. Air Force have been accused of "engaging in perverse, illegal and inhumane behavior [and] were purchasing illegal weapons, women, forged passports and [participating in] other immoral acts." In a lawsuit filed against the company by ex-employee Ben Johnson, DynCorp workers and supervisors are alleged to have organized child prostitution and sexual slavery with girls as young as 14. According to Insight magazine, (14 January 2002), a U.S. Army investigation verified these charges, but no criminal prosecutions resulted, and DynCorp kept its contract. Only a few whistle-blowers lost their jobs.
Johnson, who was fired by DynCorp in Bosnia after reporting these actions, says "The Bosnians think we’re all trash. It’s a shame. When I was there as a soldier they loved us, but DynCorp employees have changed how they think about us. I tried to tell them that this is not how all Americans act, but it’s hard to convince them when you see what they’re seeing."
Johnson’s allegations, as well as those of the Ecuadorian farmers, will have their day in court. But the U.S. government has not brought criminal charges against DynCorp or any DynCorp employees. The U.S. continues to give them nearly two billion dollars in business every year, including more than ten million for work in East Timor.
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La’o Hamutuk, The East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis
P.O. Box 340, Dili, East Timor (via Darwin, Australia)
Mobile: +61(408)811373; Land phone: +670(390)325-013
Baucau office: +61(438)143724; firstname.lastname@example.org
International contact: +1-510-643-4507, email@example.com