Biden Admin Moves Forward With Controversial Plans To Terminate Crisis Response Bureau

Critics say policy decision contributed to bungled Afghanistan withdrawal

Volunteers and medical staff unload bodies after the Aug. 26 Kabul attack / Getty Images
September 15, 2021

The Biden administration will move forward with its contested plans to abolish a Trump-era crisis response bureau that was set up to provide overseas emergency services, plans that have been widely criticized as contributing to America's deadly and chaotic exit from Afghanistan.

The State Department will "terminate" plans for the Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau (CCR), which was first established by the Trump administration but did not become fully operational, according to an official notification sent on Tuesday to Congress and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The CCR bureau was created to deal with situations like the one that unfolded last month in Afghanistan, when the United States pulled its troops from the country and scrambled to complete an emergency evacuation that ended up leaving many Americans still stranded.

"The Department intends to terminate the [CCR] bureau as expeditiously as possible," the State Department informed Congress in its notification.

The closure of the CCR bureau, which was first reported in mid-August by the Washington Free Beacon, drew widespread criticism from Republicans in Congress, who said it could have been used to rescue Americans from Afghanistan after the Taliban retook the country. The State Department first attempted to deny that it had nixed the program, telling the Free Beacon that officials did "not abolish any Bureau." The congressional notification, however, clearly outlines the Biden administration's "intent to terminate" the CCR bureau and reallocate upwards of $130,000 that would have been spent on resources for it.

After the Free Beacon's reporting, Vanity Fair spoke to several sources who said the administration's decision to nix the CCR Bureau "mucked up America's exit from Afghanistan."

A congressional aide with knowledge of the restructuring told the Free Beacon that the delayed notification to Congress—sent a month after the Free Beacon first obtained internal State Department documents that detailed how the CCR Bureau was killed just before the chaos in Afghanistan—signals that the Biden administration was sensitive to criticism of its decision.

"They know what they did and they know what happened afterwards," the source, who was not authorized to speak on record, told the Free Beacon. "They don't have a good explanation for why they made this decision other than they want to reverse everything Trump did."

The State Department says in the congressional notification that the CCR Bureau would not have bolstered its emergency response operations.

"After extensive review and analysis of CCR, the Department has concluded that the creation of CCR would not improve the efficiency, effectiveness, performance, or accountability of the Department's crisis response capabilities, and that the Department would be better position to advance the national interest of the United States by restructuring a medical bureau that already exists within the agency," according to the notification.

The CCR bureau was established late last year by then-secretary of state Mike Pompeo. In a notification sent in October to Congress, the Trump administration said the bureau would provide "aviation, logistics, and medical support capabilities for the Department's operational bureaus, thereby enhancing the secretary's ability to protect American citizens overseas in connection with overseas evacuations in the aftermath of a natural or man-made disaster."

These specific resources could have been used to mitigate the fallout from the Biden administration withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, which empowered the Taliban and also sparked a terror attack in Kabul that killed American personnel.

An internal State Department memo issued just months before U.S. forces left Afghanistan approved the "discontinuation of the establishment, and termination of, the Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau (CCR)."

The administration's decision to abolish the CCR bureau sparked a congressional investigation by GOP members who ordered the State Department in late August to turn over all records, internal communications, and documents related to its decision.