The Cable

State Department to be powered by prison labor

The State Department has found a way to save energy, save money, and rehabilitate federal prisoners all in one fell swoop. Soon, a portion of the energy that keeps the lights on in Foggy Bottom will come from solar panels built by prison inmates in New Jersey

"Yesterday, the Department of State had a signing ceremony that basically contracted the State Department with Baltimore's Constellation Energy, to enter into an agreement to procure renewable electricity from Constellation Energy through the Federal Prison Industry's contracting expertise," said Marguerite Coffey, director of the State Department's Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing and Innovation. "It was a very, very well attended event."

Coffey, who is also executive secretary of the department's "Greening Council," said the goal was to advance President Barack Obama's pledge to reduce federal greenhouse gas emissions 28 percent by 2020.

Bloomberg Government (subscription required) broke the news of the deal on Thursday afternoon. (Full disclosure: the journalist has a personal relationship with The Cable reporter.)

The project will speed development of a 17.5-megawatt wind farm in Pennsylvania and a 5-megawatt solar project in New Jersey. There will be 10 State Department facilities partially powered by the new renewable sources, including the State Department's headquarters on C Street. The total energy purchased will make up 65 to 70 percent of the energy needs of those 10 facilities.

The State Department has signed a 20-year contract with Constellation Energy, and the renewable sources will comprise about 45 percent of the energy being purchased. State is partnering with Federal Prison Industries, a corporation wholly owned by the federal government, on the contract. The contract is between State and Constellation but FPI managed the competition. 

No new funds need to be appropriated for the project. The deal is an "energy savings performance contract," so the company figures out how much the government will save, and State pays them that amount each year until the costs of developing the project are paid off.

"This innovative agreement serves as a model for federal agency energy management with a cost-effective, public-private effort that will create jobs through the development of clean energy resources," said Mayo Shattuck, chairman, president and CEO of Constellation Energy, in a press release about the deal. "We especially appreciate this opportunity to work with the State Department on an energy contract that supports President Obama's clean energy goals for the nation."

Will Congress follow State's cost-cutting, energy-saving example and start buying renewable power created through prison labor?

The Cable

Special Briefing Skipper: NATO takes over the Libya war

Two senior administration officials held a late evening conference call with reporters Thursday night to explain how NATO agreed to take over military operations in Libya and why the U.S. and NATO leadership seem to be giving totally conflicting messages on whether NATO is taking over political control of the war as well:

  • "Today we are taking the next step," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday evening. "We have agreed, along with our NATO allies, to transition command and control for the no-fly zone over Libya to NATO. All 28 allies have also now authorized military authorities to develop an operations plan for NATO to take on the broader civilian protection mission under Resolution 1973." She will go to London on Tuesday to meet with all the other foreign ministers, "to continue coordinating with our partners and charting the way forward," she said.
  • Clinton was involved intensively in working on this over the last couple of days. On Wednesday she spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and NATO Secretary General Anders "Fogh of war" Rasmussen. On Thursday she spoke with Davutoglu again and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe. She then convened a four way call between her, Juppe, Davutoglu, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, "during which time they hammered out the deal which was later announced," a senior administration official said. Juppe remarked on the call "Bravo, Hillary!" the official said.
  • Clinton also spoke with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdulla bin Zayed Al Nahyan and thanked him for UAE's announcement that they will join the coalition with six F-16 and six Mirage aircraft to help patrol the no fly zone.
  • The other senior administration official said that NATO control of the no fly zone will start immediately but it will take a couple of days to complete the transfer. He also said NATO agreed to "take on responsibility for all aspects of UNSCR 1973," which would include the no drive zone. That directly contradicts what Rasmussen said. "What we have decided tonight is to take the responsibility for enforcing the No-Fly Zone with the aim to protect the civilian population, and the mandate doesn't go beyond that, of course we can act in self-defence, but what we will do is to enforce the No-Fly Zone and ensure that we protect the civilian population," said Rasmussen. "But we are considering whether NATO should take on that broader responsibility in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution, but that decision has not been made yet."
  • The senior administration official said he was right and Rasmussen was wrong. "NATO will take over the command and control of the other part, which is the protection of civilians," the official insisted. "NATO also reached a political agreement that it needs to include within that mission... all other aspects of UNSCR 1973, including the protection of civilian and civilian areas against the actual threat of attack." The North Atlantic Council will be in control of the political decisions, the official said. "That is a very significant political decision."
  • So did Germany really go along with this? Well, the Germans won't actually participate but they won't stand in the way either, the official said, adding that German assets would be increased in Afghanistan to allow other NATO allies to shift assets over to Libya. NATO bases in Germany will also be available for NATO's use for the Libya war.
  • From now on, the Libya war will be subject to the control of the North Atlantic Council and run through Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) Adm. James Stavridis, who will be testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday coincidentally. The "Joint Task Force" commander who will run the day to day out of Naples will be Canadian Lieutenant General Charlie Bouchard, the official said. "NATO does welcome the participation of non NATO members in this operation."
  • Does this mark the end of the French proposal to create a "political steering committee" of western and Arab foreign ministers to run the political aspects of the Libya war? The NAC will be the "guiding and deciding body" for all the military operations. "When it comes to deciding on what will or won't happen with the NATO operation, that gets done in Brussels," the official said.