The State Department is seeking a public relations firm to teach staff about dealing with congressional hearings, prompting criticism even from a leading Democratic senator who questioned Secretary of State John Kerry about it this week.
Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during his meeting with Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende, Thursday April 24, 2014, at the State Department in Washington. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
The training comes as the State Department continues to face questions on how it dealt with the security at the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi.
The department's Bureau of Legislative Affairs office planned to issue the contract for overall training in dealing with congressional panels – and was not limited to a single issue.
Conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch this week released documents it obtained from the State Department through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that showed the White House was directly involved in promoting a false narrative about a video prompting a spontaneous demonstration rather than a terrorist attack. The department had not previously provided the documents to Congress.
In other cases, nominees to be foreign ambassadors have demonstrated little knowledge about the countries they would be living while representing the United States.
The State Department's official bid solicitation for contractors calls for a company to run interactive seminars with role-playing so State Department officials are better prepared for testifying before Congress.
In a letter to Kerry, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) asked why State Department resources should be used to tutor department employees in handling questions from Congress, the Washington Post reported Friday.
“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,” said McCaskill, the chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee on financial and contracting oversight wrote.
McCaskill referenced a State Department inspector general report that faulted the department for poor oversight of contracts.
In the letter, McCaskill wanted to know about “all quotes, bids, proposals and other responses submitted by contractors” for the job of conduct the role-playing seminars and further asked which office “proposed this training.”
(H/T: Washington Post)