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In the Loop

The Red in Red, White and Blue

By Al Kamen
Friday, March 18, 2005; Page A21

The U.S. Agency for International Development is moving smartly on its "branding" campaign, which is designed to make absolutely sure that people receiving U.S. aid know who it's from.

Nongovernmental groups operating overseas in nasty places are not too happy with putting the USAID logo on their cars, comparing it to a bull's-eye for bad guys to shoot at. The agency says it will allow exemptions in some cases.

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Meanwhile, though, folks at the agency have hats and lovely lapel pins they are to wear proudly to let everyone know where they work. There are great T-shirts, polo shirts, baggage tags and other items -- and a 94-page manual explaining how this is to work.

The United States, it seems, is not the only country working to improve its "branding" programs. The lapel pins -- "USAID" and "From the American People" -- have a little tag on each plastic envelope that says "Made in China."

The white baseball-cap tags say the same, with a China label inside that also alerts us to "hand wash only" -- though machine washing is not a huge danger in the Third World.

Who knew this was a Sino-American project? Will this confuse recipients? Should we just declare China a permanent subcontractor?

The Fix Is Not In

Democrats have criticized President Bush for not being more specific on Social Security, which apparently is no longer a "crisis" but merely an "issue."

At Bush's news conference Wednesday, David Gregory of NBC asked if the time had come "where it's incumbent upon you, and nobody else, to lay out a plan" for Social Security?

"First of all, Dave," Bush said, "let me, if I might correct you, be so bold as to correct you, I have not laid out a plan yet, intentionally. I have laid out principles, I've talked about putting all options on the table" to work with Congress "to work together to permanently solve the issue."

But hold on a minute. Bush does indeed have a plan. It's right there in the middle of the White House Web site. It says "The President's Plan." Okay, so maybe it doesn't go into a whole lot of detail, but . . .

The Deputy, a Big Holster to Fill

The Pentagon is looking for a few good people at the highest levels. Deputy Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz is out the door. The undersecretary for acquisitions is acting. There are other jobs to be filled.

A few vacancies normally would be no big deal except that the congressionally mandated quadrennial review (QDR), a major examination by the military of threats, capabilities and long-term needs, is due later this year.

The QDR is very serious business. We're talking budgets here. But the top civilians may not be around to work on the assessment.

The lists of potential candidates for Wolfowitz's old job are just being compiled. Here's one off the tops of the heads of some folks inside as well as outside the administration: Robert M. Kimmitt, former undersecretary of state, ambassador to Germany, investment banker and talked about for U.S. trade rep; Gordon R. England, who was secretary of the Navy, then at Homeland Security and now back as secretary of the Navy; and WilliamSchneider Jr., chairman of the Defense Science Board, former Office of Management and Budget official and a pal of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Also being mentioned for the Wolfowitz post: I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney and former deputy undersecretary of defense for policy; William H. Swanson, chief executive of mega-defense contractor Raytheon; retired Adm. Paul David Miller, chairman of ATK Inc., an aerospace and defense company: retired Adm. Dennis C. Blair, former commander of the U.S. forces in the Pacific and head of the Institute for Defense Analyses, which does a lot of Pentagon studies.

Get your résumé in.

Diplomatic Reception

Meanwhile, some highly prized ambassadorships are said to be getting filled.

Craig Stapleton, a real estate company executive, former Bush partner in the Texas Rangers baseball team, and still Bush's relative, (his wife, Dorothy, is a Bush cousin), had been ambassador to the Czech Republic in beautiful Prague in the first term and is now said to be the pick for Paris.

And there's buzz that Eduardo Aguirre Jr., a Cuban American from Texas who came to Washington to be vice chairman of the Export-Import Bank for a couple of years and then director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Department of Homeland Security, is the pick to be ambassador to Spain.

Julie Finley, another huge GOP fundraiser and finance chair of the 2000 inauguration, who's been on a NATO committee, is being talked about as envoy to Poland.

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