The Cable

Petraeus: The UAE's Air Force could take out Iran's

U.S. Centcom commander Gen. David Petraeus said last week that the United Arab Emirates, a key U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf, has the capability to overpower Iran's Air Force.

"The Emirati Air Force itself could take out the entire Iranian Air Force, I believe, given that it's got ... somewhere around 70 Block 60 F-16 fighters, which are better than the U.S. F-16 fighters," Petraeus said during remarks at a recent conference put on in Bahrain by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. 

In a related development, the new nuclear agreement between the U.S. and the UAE entered into force today, with the signing ceremony presided over by Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher and UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba.

"In today's world, we must find ways to meet the demand for clean energy and to recognize the right that all nations have to pursue the peaceful use of nuclear power. But we need to achieve this balance without increasing the risk of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and material," Tauscher said.

She praised the UAE for agreeing to import nuclear fuel, rather than producing it through reprocessing or enrichment. Tauscher also praised the UAE as a partner in the drive to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

The agreement, often referred to as the 123 agreement, provides for transfers of nuclear technology and knowhow to the UAE in exchange for its commitment to nonproliferation standards. (Meanwhile there are still concerns that members of the ruling family of Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE are actually facilitating illicit weapons transfers to Iran.)

President Obama sent the agreement to Congress in May. It was negotiated and signed by the previous administration.

The Cable

Performance ratings take a dive in Foggy Bottom

Hey State Department employees, how did your bureau perform last year? Probably not as well as it did the year before, according to a newly released financial report on the agency.

The 100-plus page document, the annual Agency Financial Report, is meant to give a snapshot of how all financial aspects of the State Department are faring, but includes an interesting aside. Only 63 percent of employees' performance ratings in fiscal 2009 were deemed to be "on or above target" and 38 percent were judged "below target or improved but not yet met." Ouch.

That's down from a 69 percent positive performance rating in fiscal 2008 and 86 percent in fiscal 2007.

But wait. The numbers don't tell the whole story. Apparently, the measures for grading performance changed somewhat for 2009, meaning that the numbers don't represent a genuine apples-to-apples comparison.

"Marked by increasing rigor and intensive engagement at  multiple levels of the organization, the process for developing and selecting performance indicators changed significantly in FY 2009," the report states. (Is the implication here that the previous administration wasn't "rigorous" in measuring performance?)

The indicators were changed to be "more outcome-oriented" and focused on "replacing qualitative with quantitative indicators when appropriate," according to the report. Also, "When possible, these indicators were designed to show quantitatively the Department's progress on achieving its strategic goals and priorities."

The report argues that you shouldn't read too much into the comparison between last year's numbers and the years prior, given how much the process of measuring changed. What's more, the new, lower performance numbers don't include foreign assistance programs because that data didn't come in early enough to be included in the report.

That said, the report does claim to matter in one very concrete sense: "Budgetary effects from performance management at the Department are most evident in building budget justifications; making decisions about the allocation, management, and monitoring of resources; reducing duplicative services; and increasing program cost-savings," it reads.

State Department readers, help us out on this one. Is the new performance system fair? How did your bureau do?