Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency / Detachment Three - Laos
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s Detachment Three is located in Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, with its offices in the U.S. Embassy. Detachment Three was officially established in January 1992 as one of four geographically separated Detachments under Joint Task Force-Full Accounting Headquartered at Camp Smith, Hawaii. On October 1, 2003 a merger between Joint Task Force-Full Accounting and the Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii resulted in command authority of Detachment Three being assumed by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), a component command of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM). On 15 January 2015 Detachment Three was officially integrated into its current parent organization upon the establishment of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). DPAA integrated the former JPAC, the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), and the Life Sciences Equipment Laboratory (LSEL) to carry on the accounting mission.
Although the names of the parent agencies have changed, the functions of Detachment Three remain the same; i.e. to provide coordination, control, and logistical support required to conduct search and recovery field operations for unaccounted for Americans from past conflicts in the Lao PDR. Detachment Three utilizes host country facilities for transit of personnel and pre-positioning of equipment. Four active military personnel (1-Army, 1-Navy, and 2-Air Force), two Department of Defense civilians, and seven host nation civilian personnel are permanently assigned to Detachment Three and are responsible for the safe conduct of four joint field operations per year. Detachment Three also facilitates unilateral investigations carried out solely by the Lao government component of the joint U.S.-Lao POW/MIA team, and coordinates trilateral investigations with Vietnamese witnesses to cases in the Lao PDR. Additionally, Detachment Three facilitates bilateral technical meetings (“Consultations”) with senior members of the Lao POW/MIA team to review progress and plan future field operations.
Defense Attaché Office (DAO)
The Defense Attaché Office (DAO), Vientiane, Laos, manages all Security Cooperation activities with the Lao Government, to include military education and training programs, humanitarian assistance, procurement of U.S. military goods and services, and United States Pacific Command (PACOM) Theater Security Cooperation activities, in order to achieve U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives with the Lao PDR.
The agreement to exchange military attachés between the United States of America and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was first announced in 2007. The Defense Attaché Office was officially opened on December 5, 2009 at the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane.
- United States Pacific Command (USPACOM)
- Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA)
- United States Army Pacific (USARPAC)
The Political/Economic Section provides support on political and economic issues to the United States Ambassador to Laos. The Section maintains contacts with Lao government entities, other foreign missions including embassies and the United Nations, international financial institutions, and international and local NGOs working across a wide range of sectors in Laos.
The Section monitors all aspects of U.S. political and economic relations with the Lao PDR and reports to Washington on key developments in Laos and on Laos’s relations with its neighbors. The Political/Economic Section represents the official views of the United States Government to Lao officials on a broad range of bilateral and multilateral issues. Examples of the types of political issues the section addresses include the management of our assistance clearing unexploded ordnance (UXO) from Laos, supporting good governance and civil society, promoting human rights and religious freedom, combating trafficking in persons, and furthering cooperation on humanitarian issues.
The Economic and Commercial side of the section analyzes the macro and micro-aspects of the economy of Laos, particularly in relation to its several larger neighbors, and responds to the Ambassador’s economic priorities. The section reports to the State Department and a range of other U.S. government agencies on Lao economic conditions and trends, promotes the protection of intellectual property rights, advises potential investors, advocates on behalf of American business interests, enhances opportunities for U.S. business investment, and follows trade developments.
Public Diplomacy Section
The Public Diplomacy Section is responsible for press, culture, and education programs for the Embassy. With cooperation from other sections within the Embassy, the Public Diplomacy Section uses all available USG products and services to promote mutual understanding, provide accurate information about American values, culture and institutions, and foster enduring institutional and personal linkages between Laos and the U.S.
We do this in a number of ways.
The Public Diplomacy Section has primary responsibility for responding to all media enquiries posed to the Embassy by Lao or foreign journalists. PDS works with other sections of the Embassy to get media placement of all USG funded or supported programs in Laos. By promoting Embassy activities we are creating a foundation of trust with the Lao people. The Public Diplomacy Section maintains contact with both Lao and regional correspondents. We provide Lao government officials with information about U.S. policies, trends, American life and institutions.
Exchanges: PDS sends Lao officials and students to the U.S. for short and extended periods of study through several exchange programs. We administer the International Visitors, Voluntary Visitors, American studies Summer Institute, and the Southeast Asian Summer Institute programs. PDS offers Lao students the chance to pursue advanced studies in the United States through the Fulbright Scholarship and Humphrey Fellowship programs.
English Teaching: We support English language and American Studies instruction at the university and teacher college levels. PDS places English language tele-courses on Lao National Television and Lao National Radio to encourage English language studies. We also fund the translation of selected American works into Lao.
Conferences/Speakers: We fund and organize speakers programs that support Mission goals. The speaker program to promotes U.S. values and establish institutional and personal ties between the U.S. and Laos. Recent speakers have discussed distance education, information technology, and health care. U.S. journalists conduct training with Lao media in Vientiane as well as the provinces.
Student Advising Services: PDS maintains a student advising reference collection. We offer assistance in the registration and administration of the TOEFL test for admission to U.S. schools.
Cultural Programs: PDS organizes the visits of American musicians to promote cross-cultural understanding. Examples include jazz vocalist Coco York and the Mike del Ferro Trio who performed at the National Culture Hall in May 2002. The 2001 Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation–which provides funds to preserve important local heritage sites–was used for a survey and signage at the Keohintang Archaeological Park in Houaphan Province.
The Public Diplomacy Section also houses the AC, which provides specialized, substantive, and accurate reference and research information about the United States, its people and its policies. The American Center @ThatDam responds to inquiries from Embassy employees, government officials, academics, members of the media, and private citizens.
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Section (INL)
Since 1989, the United States has provided more than $48 million to support alternative development, community based treatment, law enforcement programs and the rule of law.
U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
Alternative Development. Laos ranks among the world’s biggest producers of illicit opium. Houaphan province has traditionally grown opium for consumption, sale, and for medicinal purposes. Many farmers earn their livelihood from the illegal sale of opium. The Embassy supports projects that encourage at-risk farmers to cultivate alternative crops or raise livestock that can be sold on the local market. Under the project villagers are also educated on counter narcotics laws.
Community Based Treatment. Outpatient drug treatment services help decrease the stigma associated with drug users and reduces overcrowding at government-run drug treatment centers. Recidivism rates are reduced due to the fact addicts remain at home with their families and receive the emotional support necessary to aid their recovery. The Embassy currently supports outpatient services in two provinces by training drug treatment specialists on prevention and counseling.
Law Enforcement. U.S. law enforcement programs in Laos support equipment purchases for Lao counter drug agencies and in-service training for the drug control police. Donated equipment assists Laos to protect its borders from the illegal transit of controlled substances and their chemical precursors. Interdicting the flow of narcotics and amphetamines in Laos helps to protect neighboring countries, other nations in the region, and even the U.S. The Embassy also assists Lao officials to participate in training programs at the International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEA) in Bangkok and Roswell New Mexico, where officials can learn new techniques to enhance their crime-fighting skills.
Rule of Law. The Embassy supports the Lao government’s goal to become a rule of law state by 2020 through the UNDP project “Support to the Legal Sector Master Plan.” The U.S. contribution supports legal aid and the development of the case management system.
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Laos
In January 2011 the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) returned to Laos after a 35 year absence. Around the world, USAID is the principal U.S. agency providing humanitarian aid, disaster relief, economic assistance, and support for democratic reforms. In Laos, USAID oversees a broad portfolio of programs that totaled $ 8 million in fiscal year 2014, primarily addressing critical needs in the health, environment, and economic development sectors. Throughout Laos, USAID funds are supporting projects to assist Lao people to raise their quality of life, protect natural resources, and modernize the economy in a sustainable manner.
A small sampling of USAID programs in Lao P.D.R. includes:
- In the field of health and medicine: programs to monitor and prevent avian flu and other emerging pandemic threats; programs to prevent and control transmission of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections; programs to control the spread of malaria, tuberculosis, and Dengue Fever.
- In the field of environmental protection and conservation: Programs to support responsible timber trade and sustainable forest management; programs to protect endangered species and reduce the illegal wildlife trade; programs to help communities along the Mekong River adapt to climate change
- In the field of economic development: programs providing technical assistance and training to the Government of Laos to implement reforms in order to accede to the World Trade Organization, implement the Lao PDR-US Bilateral Trade Agreement, and collaborate with other ASEAN nations; programs supporting the development of an ASEAN single window for trade.
Mr. Curtis Borden is the USAID/RDMA Representative in Laos. Before taking the USAID position, Mr. Borden worked on a number development projects in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, India and Thailand. He speaks Lao and Thai.
Infectious Disease Coordinating Office – What We Do
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began operations in Laos with a memorandum of understanding in 2006. The agreement was renewed for another five years in August 2011, with a focus on pandemic, avian, and seasonal influenza. Since 2006, there has been a significant strengthening of engagement to include technical assistance in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support and national program management; and expanded maternal and child health immunization coverage. CDC programmatic activities are primarily worked with and through a WHO Country Collaboration in building infectious disease detection and response capacity through investments in laboratory, surveillance and human resource development in developing national epidemiological capabilities. With the introduction of seasonal influenza vaccine, the first regional disease initiative in a low income country, the CDC with its host-national MoH partner has engaged on a more research oriented agenda including the impact of vaccines on pregnant women. CDC provides de-facto country representation for other U.S. Government health interests, including those of the Department of Defense (DTRA and NAMRU Asia) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Inspection Service.
The IDC/USCDC manages several ongoing programs with the Lao Government: namely the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MoAF). Specific programs to note include the following:
- In Laos, CDC has built and continues to support Influenza laboratory, surveillance, outbreak investigation, infection control guidelines and best practices, clinical case management, and pandemic planning. CDC technical investments have led to: 1) the importance of influenza, contributing to over 40% of respiratory illness during peak seasonality: 2) laboratory capacity that has led to recognition of pandemic (2009 Influenza, A/H5N1 and H5N6; 3) data sharing of viral isolates with the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System; and 4), improvements and expansion of Influenza surveillance networks to capture new emerging threats like H7N9. WHO has recognized the National Center for Laboratory and Epidemiology by designating it a National Influenza Center in August 2010.Capacity building beyond influenza has strengthened the International Health Regulations as practiced in Laos, and enabled the country to detect human anthrax and circulating dengue subtypes for the first time in the laboratory. Moreover, dengue surveillance piggybacking on an influenza surveillance network of 8 hospital sites allowed the tracking of over 50,000 cases during the 2013/14 epidemic.
- Evidence of disease influenza disease burden in Laos has led to an innovative private-public partnership where excess vaccines (from the US in 2012 and Australia in 2013 and 2014) are donated to Laos. In 2014, this program led to the vaccination of an estimated 700,000 persons with support from the Partnership of Influenza Vaccine Introduction (PIVI) reflecting the only such initiative in a low income country from the region
- The Influenza Division, in conjunction with (now) annual seasonal influenza vaccinations is conducting projects to assess: 1) disease burden in prioritized pregnant women; and 2) impact of vaccine status (vaccinated and unvaccinated) in pregnant women on birth outcome measures.
- USCDC Laos is now working with WHO and USCDC Beijing to broker a “vaccine sharing facility” though contributions and/or discounting of recently WHO pre-qualified seasonal influenza vaccine. This pilot initiative if successful good be expanded to other countries of the region, and involve other vaccines, e.g. JEV: 1.5 million doses of Chinese procured JEV vaccine were deployed in 2015, establishing a precedence for this kind of sharing arrangement.
The CDC Thailand Global HIV/AIDS Asia Regional Office has worked in Laos since 2009, with the goal of providing technical assistance (TA) to strengthen the country’s HIV response. The focus is on HIV prevention in men having sex with men (MSM), quality services for counseling and testing and for care and treatment, laboratory capacity, HIV surveillance, health information systems, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission. Activities have included development of training curricula, guidelines, and standard operating procedures; field supervision, and data use for program planning and decision-making. CDC’s TA has brought many “lessons learned” from Thailand’s experience in developing and implementing HIV/AIDS programs and adapting to the Lao situation. HIV/AIDS work has also benefited through collaboration with WHO and partnering with the Center of HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (CHAS), National Center f0r Laboratory and Epidemiology (NCLE) and Mother and Child Health Child Health Center (MCHC).
CDC’s contribution to the Expanded Program for Immunization is channeled through WHO in Laos. CDC provides operational and technical support for vaccine initiatives against maternal tetanus, measles, rubella, acute flaccid paralysis (polio) and pandemic influenza, and for data management. CDC experts also assist in monitoring vaccination campaigns, including pre- campaign planning and post campaign review. Notable accomplishments include:
Introduction of hepatitis B birth dose home visits, including BCG vaccination,
- Post-natal care, and vitamin A for new lactating mothers
- Introduction of JEV vaccine in targeted population aged 1-14 year olds in 8 northern provinces
- Introduction of HPV in targeted school girls (grade 5 in schools and aged 10 outside schools) in Vientiane Capital and Province.
- Increasing uptake of Td in pregnant women and pediatric deworming and Vit A supplementation, attributed to seasonal influenza vaccine campaigns.
- Assistance to the MoH in support of Vaccine Preventable Disease (VPD) immunization activities, including monitoring, health education, etc. THIS WORK IS PARTICULARLY NOTABLE in responding to recent VPD outbreaks that include measles, diphtheria, pertussis and vaccine derived polio virus (VDPV).
Field Epidemiology Training (FET) Program
CDC capacity building investments include standing up and providing operational support for the Lao FET. A year-long training initiative intended to decentralize outbreak response and surveillance capabilities, Lao FET is organized into three modules, with each consisting of one month of practical classroom instruction and three months of field work. The Lao FET has resulted in a national network of 47 alumni and uniquely brings human and animal health FET candidates together to carry out invaluable investigative work that has led to the following:
- Recognition of morbidity and mortality associated with seasonal influenza outbreak occurrence.
- Expansion and improvements of influenza surveillance networks.
- Determination of the susceptibility of the female population of child-bearing age to rubella.
- AEFI and Acceptability Assessment in conjunction with introduction of seasonal influenza vaccination campaigns.
- Recognition of the outbreak potential of Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and implications for JEV targeted vaccination.
- Study of adverse events following pandemic influenza vaccination.
- Recognition and control of human anthrax outbreak.
- Management by the Lao FET of 25 outbreak investigations in less than three years.
- Investigation and control of diphtheria, measles and other vaccine preventable disease outbreaks.
- Cultural, social and economic barriers to update of MCH oriented vaccines in ethnic Hmong minority populations, leading to new approaches in vaccine promotion.
CGH/DGHP Supported Activities
With veterinarian support from the Thai MoH-USCDC Collaboration (TUC), working with DTRA supported USCDC Lao Country Operations, in the following:
- Promoting “one health” approach to disease zoonoses, including implementation of PACS, a specimens and data archival and retrieval management system, to be instituted in both human (National Center for Laboratory and Epidemiology) and animal (National Animal Health Laboratory), organized by DTRA.
- Developing with national collaborators both National Strategy and Work Plan for the elimination of Rabies.
- Procurement and distribution plan of post-exposure anti-rabies vaccine.
- Support of a pilot animal (dog) survey in Vientiane Capital, with the City Health Authority.
Other Technical Assistance
- Tracking the largest dengue outbreak on-record with over 50,000 cases in 2013
- Response to re-emergence of malaria and first time recognized artemisinin drug resistance