B. DART Setup and Closeout Guidelines

1. Introduction

These guidelines may be used during DART setup to increase the efficiency of DART operations and ease the closeout or transition of the DART to USAID/Embassy or OFDA/W.

The philosophy of setup and closeout should be one of cooperation and collaboration with USAID/Embassy and, therefore, thinking ahead to their needs is critical. This cooperation and collaboration must also include agency partners that may establish a presence as the DART withdraws. Initiating planning for the transition when the DART is first set up will facilitate the eventual transfer to USAID/Embassy and the closing out of the DART.

The goal of a DART closeout should be to effect a seamless transition to the USAID/Embassy or OFDA/W. This transition will assist the succeeding entity in continuing support for the situation in terms of reporting, program management, and situation analysis.

Many tasks identified in this section fall within the area of responsibility of the DART's Administrative Officer; however, all team members are responsible for assisting in the setup and closeout of a DART by setting up and maintaining proper files.

2. Setup

a. Files and Recordkeeping

For security purposes, electronic files, instead of paper files, should be maintained (see the section on electronic storage below). When needed, paper files should be kept as simple as possible. Information Officers set up a simple, clearly documented filing system for cables, correspondence, and e-mail commencing on Day 1 of the operation. Binders for incoming and outgoing e-mail messages have proven to be successful. The historical file of all e-mail should be stored electronically.

The Administrative Officer establishes a financial tracking system for petty cash, fund cites, personnel files, leases, and procurement files.

The Program Officer establishes grant files for each grant as funding is put in place. Files are also created for rejected proposals and related correspondence.

All DART staff set up in/out boxes for correspondence, taskers, reports, and the like.

In addition to the grant files, maintaining a desktop binder that contains copies of the final grant documents, by UN/PVO/NGO/IO and grant number, has been found to be useful. This process enables DART members to rapidly find documents when having discussions with grantees and have a handy reference when working on situation reports (sitreps), replying to e-mails from Washington, etc.

(1) Sensitive but Unclassified Data

Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) data is information that requires protection due to the risk and magnitude of loss or harm that could result from inadvertent or deliberate disclosure, alteration, or destruction of the data. People entrusted with SBU information must safeguard it and employ the most stringent access controls available. Examples of SBU data that may be used on a DART are personal information, personnel actions, travel itineraries, procurement information, and cost or program planning information.

SBU information must be processed on unclassified computer systems approved by the designated Information Systems Security Officer (ISSO). Users must not handle SBU information on systems not formally approved for that purpose. E-mail messages or attachments containing SBU information should be sent on a need to know basis. When transmitting SBU information over the Internet, users must use agency ISSO-approved encryption methodologies. SBU information must be secured in a locked room or a locked container. Printed materials and removable media containing SBU information must be marked "sensitive" or carry a distribution restriction alerting data owners and recipients of the additional protective measures required. SBU data must be destroyed by burning, shredding, or other designated ISSO-approved methods when no longer needed. Sensitive magnetic storage media used on agency systems must be overwritten using approved overwrite procedures or degaussed with a magnet approved by the ISSO for USAID.

(2) Electronic Storage

Save e-mail, memos and strategy pieces, sitreps, and UN/PVO/NGO/IO grant documents in the OFDA eRoom in separate electronic files.

The Information Officer is normally responsible for the electronic storage of sitreps, cables, and e-mail messages and the Program Officer for grants, strategy documents, etc. The Administrative Officer is responsible for all administrative files. The Information, Program, and Administrative Officers should communicate with each other and the DART Communications Officer to coordinate file storage in eRooms.

b. Contact List

A contact list is established by the Information Officer(s). This list should be sorted by organization, name, and function. Noting the date of initial contact may also be useful, especially for long-term DARTs. Periodic review and update of the list is often useful. Obtaining contact information that provides temporary (field) and permanent (headquarters) contact information can be very helpful.

c. Program Management

DARTs operate under an operational plan that is updated periodically by the Team Leader, Planning Coordinator, and OFDA/W, with input from USAID/Embassy. The operational plan identifies the priority areas for OFDA support for relief activities and enables team members to work with UN/PVOs/NGOs/IOs in a focused and professional manner. The plan should be shared with the relief community. Involvement in the development of the plan will also enable USAID/Embassy to see the evolution of the program over time before their inheritance of the operation.

As proposals are reviewed, written comments by team members should be recorded, thereby providing an archive of the discussions that took place regarding each proposal before the proposal reached the final funding stage. This system is also useful if a DART is split and contracting occurs away from the center point of the team; a consolidated comment paper from the team can be forwarded to the Contracting Office for inclusion into the final file and discussion with UN/PVOs/NGOs/IOs. This will ensure that complete historical records are available when the DART leaves.

Any adjustments to grantee programs, even if amendments are not called for, should be recorded in writing and put in the appropriate grant files.

All DART members, even specialists with particular focus areas, should be familiar with the whole program to ensure consistency and continuity throughout the deployment. Mapping of DART-funded program activities is useful in this regard.

Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs) and locally hired U.S. personnel provide continuity as well as geographic and cultural familiarity. Provide newly hired staff with OFDA orientation.

Petty cash funds should be reconciled every 30 to 60 days.

A daily schedule of programmatic review meetings should be posted.

d. Packaging

Save any reusable packaging for equipment or supplies that will be returned during closeout.

e. DART Headquarters

Seek space in a commercial facility, such as a large office building or hotel, rather than sole occupancy of a building or compound. Existing space in the foreign affairs community is preferred. Commercial sites facilitate the immediate implementation of security applications at a minimum cost. Sole occupancy of a building or compound requires several additional security applications that require longer implementation time along with an additional cost. The Safety/ Security Officer should inspect potential facilities to ensure they meet agency guidelines.

3. Closeout

a. The Date

Difficult as it might be to project, the DART, working with OFDA/W and USAID/Embassy, should determine a target closeout date as far in advance as possible. The message that the DART is leaving must go out early to all concerned groups, organizations, and offices.

When a date is roughly determined, OFDA/W, working with the DART, must define the scope (operationally and programmatically) of the activities that will remain and begin to prepare USAID/Embassy or OFDA/W for the takeover of the program. This entails discussions on staffing, levels of funding available, disposition of equipment and supplies, etc.

b. Administration

The Team Leader, with the Administrative Officer, should prepare a checklist for all actions that need to be taken to close the DART. Assign a lead person for each action. Distribute a checklist to each team member and monitor progress toward completion of actions. A master list should be maintained by the Team Leader or Administrative Officer, who will note when actions are completed. Distribution of a task list enables team members to work their part of the closeout into their ongoing DART schedule.

c. Personnel

The DART should discuss with OFDA/W the possibility of establishing an OFDA program office to provide programmatic continuity after the DART closes.

Ensuring that USAID/Embassy understands and agrees with the plans for the transfer or separation of FSNs and locally hired staff is critical. OFDA’s policy is to try to ensure the transfer of all staff to other USG agencies when possible. All locally hired staff are provided letters of recommendation for their records.

d. Moving and Transferring Files

A DART transition may require a physical relocation of files and documents to USAID/Embassy. Before moving:

  • Visit the new location and identify the new space for DART files. If an Executive Officer (EXO) has already been assigned, work with him or her on these details.
  • Decide what needs to be moved and what is needed to move it.
  • Provide a copy of the file list to OFDA/W. If some files are needed back in OFDA/W, they should be removed from the files and put aside for sending to OFDA/W. If USAID/Embassy desires the same files, copies need to be made.

If organizational systems were put in place early, the actual transfer becomes easy. The files are catalogued by subject and grant, and a list can be handed off to USAID/Embassy. Originals can be returned to OFDA/W if required.

The sitreps are transferred to USAID/Embassy, giving USAID/Embassy a format on which to base any continued reporting that may be required.

e. Program Management

The most challenging part of the transition is ensuring that all matters regarding programs and grants are "complete" from the DART field perspective. Following is a list of actions that need to be taken:

  • Grantees must be notified as early as possible that a transition is imminent. The DART must explain how the transition will affect their programs. Individual meetings with grantees are recommended.
  • A general letter explaining the transition should be sent to all grantee headquarters and field offices at least 2 weeks before the DART’s final day of operation. The letter can be drafted in the field but should be cleared with OFDA/W and the USAID/W Contracts Office. The letter should outline the administrative changes and thank the grantees for their collaboration with the DART.
  • If a DART is shifting from field contracting to USAID/W contracting, for each grant, each grantee must receive an Amendment Letter noting the change in the Action Officer and any other blanket changes that are being caused by the DART’s move.
  • Depending on where the grant funding has been executed, it will be important for the DART to work out arrangements for the handling of DART grants with USAID/Embassy. Grants should be transferred either back to Washington or to the USAID Mission/Embassy, as appropriate, including those grants executed by the DART in the field.

f. Public Relations

Send letters to key colleagues (e.g., the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Force Commander, International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC], local officials) explaining the DART closeout and transition and expressing DART’s appreciation for their collaboration.

Send a cable announcing the DART transition and thanking missions and embassies in the region for their support.

g. OFDA Funds

Administrative approval for payment of bills can be transferred to the OFDA Program Officer or an approved USG official, e.g., a USAID EXO. Unliquidated funds should be deobligated as soon as possible. Petty cash must be cleared before the DART’s departure. If petty cash funds were provided in the field, they must be accounted for in the field. If petty cash funds were provided in Washington, they must be accounted for in Washington. To clear the fund, gather all receipts together. A ledger should have been maintained showing the drawdown of the funds. This information should be returned to the point where the funds were issued. Any residual funds will be returned by the controlling mission to OFDA/W.

h. Transfer of Property

The DART Administrative Officer must work with the Property Disposal Officer to dispose of any OFDA property during the closeout in coordination with the appropriate staffs (e.g., Communications, Logistics). The disposition should include an agreement on how to handle the property–transfer it, leave it in place for use for a set period of time, or leave it as prepositioned equipment–and whether OFDA will be expected to provide support for the equipment and the nature and extent of the support.

The DART Administrative Officer will base his or her decision on the most appropriate recipient of OFDA property according to the following choices, listed from the most optimal to least optimal:

  1. OFDA-funded NGOs and PVOs responding to the disaster.
  2. USG-funded NGOs and PVOs responding to the disaster.
  3. Other non-USG-funded organizations with a clear humanitarian mandate consistent with the purposes of the International Disaster and Famine Assistance account, including the appropriate UN agencies and IOs, e.g., ICRC, International Organization for Migration.
  4. The USAID Mission in-country.
  5. Other OFDA-funded programs to the extent that trans-porting property is cost effective.
  6. Public auction with funds credited to OFDA, afterrequesting Property Disposal Officer assistance.

When equipment is provided to a non-USG entity, it represents an "in-kind" grant, and appropriate documentation is prepared and signed by the U.S. Embassy or USAID Mission and the recipient of the equipment. The "in-kind" grant must be signed on behalf of the USG by a person with the requisite signing authority. The estimated value of the "in-kind" equipment is considered to be the amount of the grant.

i. Communications

Equipment provided by OFDA/W Communications should be returned to OFDA/W Communications. Equipment procured in the field can be disposed of according to local regulation.

j. Closeout Memo

The Team Leader, during the final closeout with USAID/Embassy, may want to develop a Closeout Memo that defines all follow-on relationships between OFDA and USAID/Embassy. The memo can address issues such as outstanding financial obligations and the disposition of property and locally hired staff.

TOC: Disaster Assistance Response Team