Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Inside the Meter

More changes to the Obameter list

We've made a few more changes to our Obameter data base:

We're deleting these promises:

* No. 190: Improve domestic intelligence gathering between federal and local emergency responder, because it was a near duplicate of No. 490: Seek more information sharing on security between feds and localities, a promise we currently have rated as In the Works.

* No. 367: Improve plans for disasters,because it essentially duplicates No. 321: Improve emergency response plans.

* No. 364: Change FEMA insurance rules to help cities hit by multiple disasters. This promise was based on an incorrect assumption about the FEMA rules in question, and so we determined the promise is now  moot.

* No. 108, which extended "the window for new veterans to enroll in the VA from two to five years."
New veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have five years after ending active duty to enroll in the VA after it became public law in January, 2008 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008.

* No. 104 required "individual, face-to-face post-deployment mental health screenings." But iIndividualized screening for mental health disorders dates back to a March, 2005 directive from the Department of Defense. The Post-Deployment Health Reassessment Program "is a mandatory process for all active duty and reserve component service members" and "is a face to face interview with a DOD contract healthcare provider at active duty locations." Although the directive covers general health concerns, it is specifically meant to screen for mental health problems. Since this program fulfills everything Obama promised, and was enacted before he took office, we've decided to delete the promise.

* No. 151, "Create program for non-Defense agencies to deploy alongside military operations." It is substantially the same as Promise No. 152, "Create a Civilian Assistance Corps that would organize private sector professionals to help in times of need," a promise that we have rated In the Works.

* No. 127: "Encourage political accommodation in Iraq." Upon closer analysis, we have concluded the promise is too overly-broad and ambiguous, and that any rating would be subjective.

* No. 140: "Bring military pay more in line with the private sector, as measured by the employment cost index" because, by law, the president is required to increase military pay at the rate of the index. We concluded that makes it essentially a meaningless promise.

* No. 131, present the Iraq Status-of-Forces Agreement to Congress. After much research, we decided to delete this one because the circumstances that led to the promise never arose.

The Status-of-Forces Agreement, or SOFA, was being negotiated by the Bush administration during the election, and there was debate about whether or not an agreement needed to be approved by Congress. Obama clearly believed it did: As a senator, he signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill drafted by now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that would have required the agreement be approved by Congress.

The eventual agreement laid out the terms of the U.S. withdrawal, including a June 30, 2009 date for U.S. troops to leave cities, and a December 31, 2011 date for the total departure of United States troops. (It's worth noting some people -- including Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- don't expect the latter deadline to be met.) The Iraqi parliament approved the measure in November 2008.

That date -- two months before Obama took office -- is part of the reason we're deleting the promise. It would be bad precedent for a president to reverse a security agreement his predecessor had signed only months before if Congress hadn't approved the measure.

The other reason? The need for congressional approval, in the eyes of many, was directly linked to the idea the SOFA would contain an explicit guarantee for Iraq's security, the way the United States guarantees the security of Japan or the other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This likely would have made the SOFA agreement a treaty, and required a two-thirds approval of the senate.

Obama made the status-of-forces agreement promise anticipating that it would either contain a security guarantee, or that he wouldn't it be finalized when he took office. Neither of those things were true, so we've decided to drop it from our list.