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The Obama administration recently issued warnings to contractors of potential sequestration-related spending cuts, but in the meantime federal spending continues unabated, domestically and globally.

Some of the apparently indispensable projects include a survey of the gopher tortoise, alternative energy outings to Turkey and the purchase of gold pellets.

The U.S. Agency for International Development said in a public notice that “due to the failure of Congress to reach a deal on balanced deficit reduction to avoid sequestration, the president on March 1, 2013, as required by law, issued a sequestration order canceling approximately $85 billion in budgetary resources across the federal government for the remainder of the federal fiscal year.”

USAID recently advised vendors that the agency “is taking every step to mitigate the effects of these cuts, but … it is likely that your company’s workforce, revenue, and planning processes may be affected.”

But that is not stopping USAID from reaching out to contractors to carry out its new $700 million global “ecological-governance” program.

The primary goal of the agency’s Restoring the Environment through Prosperity, Livelihoods and Conserving Ecosystems, or REPLACE, program is to strengthen the ability of governments and non-governmental organizations around the globe to provide climate-change mitigation and adaptation, seascape and landscape management, and other environmental and economic interventions.

Numerous other federal entities issued similar warnings via the FedBizOpps contractor database. Despite the advisories, new projects continue to emerge while existing programs undergo expansion, from the seemingly inconsequential – such as a $79,000 U.S. Trade & Development Agency grant to send U.S. railway representatives on an exploratory mission to India – to initiatives on a multi-billion-dollar scale.

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Most notable is the Department of Defense’s extended outsourcing of global counter-narcotics functions through its Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office, or CNTPO, a potential $15 billion contract vehicle that has enriched – and will continue to enrich – Blackwater Lodge & Training Center Inc.; Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems; ARINC Engineering Services LLC; Raytheon Technical Service Company; and Northrop Grumman/TASC Inc.

The following list of federal procurement actions represents an additional snapshot of recent contracts, requests for proposals and other solicitations, both large and small. This nation-by-nation compilation is by no means comprehensive but is designed to enlighten U.S. taxpayers about how the federal government is spending – or intends to spend – their money.

GAZA/WEST BANK

The creation of environmental-themed public murals, conducting student field-trips to “environmentally important sites” in Hebron and Jericho and holding environmental summer camps for Palestinian children are among programs that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service intends to fund. And USDA is procuring the services of the Palestinian Association for Child Arts and Culture to carry out these tasks for youth in the city of Hebron. The agency did not disclose the estimated cost.

Helping the Palestinian Authority to “build more effective and competent public institutions that are accountable to the public and respond to citizens’ needs” will cost $20.5 million under a contract that USAID awarded to Development Alternatives Inc.

WND broke the story on the project’s unveiling last April.

PAKISTAN

Current efforts to improve the competitiveness of small- and medium businesses in Pakistan have been extended another 20 months, now that USAID has raised Chemonics International’s contract ceiling to $93 million. The current contract for the Pakistan Firms Project was slated to end April 15, but with a $2.5 million increase, Chemonics will continue to provide technology upgrades, skill development and other assistance to hotels, mango growers, knitted-garment manufacturers and other Pakistani enterprises through December 31, 2014.

TURKEY

Alternative-energy industry representatives are getting free hotel rooms and airfare to Turkey to explore ways to capitalize on the nation’s energy boom. The U.S. Trade & Development Agency is offering a $537,000 grant to carry out the Smart Grid Upgrades to the Teias Electricity Transmission Network Feasibility Study. According to the agency, “Turkey is facing a rapidly rising demand in the midst of its bustling economic growth. The Turkish government is consequently making a concentrated effort to explore alternative sources of energy, such as wind, hydro and geothermal power as a way of meeting this shortfall.”

Consequently, the Obama administration has decided that U.S. taxpayers should shoulder the burden of that trip to Ankara.

UNITED STATES

Under its Adult Education and Immigrant Integration project, the U.S. Department of Education awarded a $1.3 million contract to World Education Inc. of Boston to design an initiative to “reduce linguistic, academic, and employment barriers for skilled and low-skilled immigrants and refugees, and to integrate them into the U.S. workforce and professions.”

Removal of asbestos from a “guard tower artifact” of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, is required for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The inclusion of the artifact is part of the Smithsonian’s Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: Era of Segregation program, which “explores the post-Reconstruction era history of segregation in the U.S.” and how the phenomenon impacted African American communities.

“The [Angola prison] grounds assist in telling this story, especially as it relates to the plantation system of labor and the social interactions among the imprisoned and figures of authority.”

The estimated cost was not disclosed.

New floors and carpets at the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern California Training Center at Redding could cost anywhere from $25,000 and $100,000, according to the agency’s own estimates. According to a Request for Proposals, the work will include removal of existing floors, a clean-up of the sub-flooring, and installation of new carpeting and resilient flooring.

A “comprehensive survey” of gopher tortoise burrows across 8,580 acres of the De Soto National Forest in Mississippi also is being planned by the U.S. Forest Service. The agency recently began soliciting proposals from contractors to conduct the survey, which seeks to locate such burrows while assessing “habitat quality on selected priority soils.” It acknowledged, however, that a contract award is “subject to the availability of funds.” It did not disclose the estimated cost.

Gold pellets valued at $17,580 are being purchased by the National Institute of Standards and Technology of the U.S. Department of Commerce, though the purpose of the acquisition remains a mystery. Although WND discovered the NIST contract award to ACI Alloys of San Jose, Calif., (Contract Award No. 13-084) via routine database research, an exhaustive search of the FedBizOpps system did not produce a solicitation or other documentation explaining why the Gaithersburg, Md.-based NIST engaged in the precious-metals acquisition.

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