McCaskill to Kerry: Contractors to teach ‘How to’ beat Congress?


Sen. Claire McCaskill is puzzled by a State Department request. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is seeking an explanation for the State Department’s recent request for outside tutors to teach a How to Survive Congressional Hearings course.

In a letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry this week, the chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ subcommittee on financial and contracting oversight, questions whether paying contractors to prep officials to face Congress is a good use of the agency’s resources.

“I question the Department’s decision to award a new contract to manage its communications with Congress, rather than focusing its time and attention on fixing its underlying problems,” McCaskill wrote, citing an April inspector general’s report that found the department’s oversight of its contracts leaves much to be desired.

McCaskill noted the Loop’s reporting last month on State’s solicitation for contractors to run interactive seminars (role playing!) for its officials facing a congressional panel. We presume the agency hopes to avoid future embarrassing performances, say for instance, an ambassador candidate knowing hardly anything about the country he/she is being sent to (we affectionately like to call this training “Bundler to Ambassador 101″).

In her note to Kerry, McCaskill wonders whether the department’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs isn’t the place for such lessons. Among her other questions, the senator asks for a list of “all quotes, bids, proposals and other responses submitted by contractors” for the job and asks which office “proposed this training.”

We’re curious too.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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