This article from CJR's archives is presented as part of our 50th anniversary celebration.
I think Dan Senor knows what I’m doing, too. I respect his position as White House commissar and try hard not to step on his toes even if I don’t obey all the team rules. The only rule I routinely violate is that all interviews be on background; I talk on the record. Admiral Nash and I share the view that we are spending the taxpayers’ money, and everything we do should be transparent. So far, no one has complained, but I wonder if someone isn’t suspicious. Last week I was told that I’d be getting an assistant from Strat Comm, so maybe they’re catching on.
The assistant did arrive, in the form of the impressive, 240-pound Steve Susens. There’s no question of his competence or sense of humor. The story he tells is that he was brought over by Thatcher, but when he arrived Thatcher said he wasn’t needed after all. Rather than send him home, they assigned him to me. If he’s a spy, he’s now my spy. I couldn’t get along without him. Steve is thirty-eight and has been around the block a few times. Like me, he has a knack for networking.
Thursday, January 1, 2004.
For the past ten days I put off adding to this journal, waiting to see what happens to the admiral. Nash may be light on ego, but he’s heavy on character. Of course he resented that his program was being gutted without his being consulted. He was not insulted personally, but professionally he had turf to defend. Nash had expressed his astonishment to Bremer’s top deputy in the Pentagon, Reuben Jeffrey, on December 16.
‘Reuben, I am deeply disappointed in the latest turn of events that I was informed about 11:00 pm last night … . We now have the smallest program to implement and the way this is lining up, we may not need a PMO or me. Reuben, all those who are participating in this debate over the last few weeks have essentially disassembled my approach completely and I personally feel that we are setting ourselves up for failure.’
This e-mail was followed by a little give-and-take, temporarily raising Nash’s morale and boosting spirits in the PMO staff in Baghdad and back in Rosslyn, Virginia. Everything was quiet again for a few days, but the dam finally burst under pressure from the media’s expressing renewed interest in how $18.6 billion would be disbursed and who would do the disbursing. Interagency bickering soon followed. For the first time, apparently, some started thinking seriously of the post-June 2004 period when Iraq regains its sovereignty. We heard about a lot of second-hand chatter from those who wanted their hand in the till.
Nash watched and waited. Hoping to resolve the future of the PMO, he sent another memo to Jeffrey a few days after Christmas, but really directed to the secretary of defense or his deputy. ‘There is increasing concern amongst the contractor community, Congress, and the staff about the status of CPA/PMO after 1 July,’ Nash wrote. ‘Yet the original concept of a Program Management Office remains the most managerially viable and cost effective path forward. Having one point of contact, one line of authority, and management chain-of-command is essential.’
Other messages forwarded from Nash to the higher reaches were more explicit about the implications of his vanishing role in the reconstruction effort. A reply to one of his missives tried to placate him by suggesting ‘there’ll always be a place for you somewhere.’ This failed to satisfy, leaving those on the staff wondering once more where they’d be working next.