IS THE ENEMY OUR OWN STUPIDITY?
America’s recent attack, augmented by top line Afghan army troops, against the massive Taliban enclave in the city of Marjah, population 80,000, a city that has been an enemy stronghold for years may not have happened at all. Can anyone prove it? Nobody had ever heard of Marjah before or even knew a city was there. Nobody knew it was a Taliban stronghold either. One thing we can easily figure out from the total lack of reporting, other than our “screw ups,” killing the usual civilians, using our over reliance on technology, is that the sham of the operation was simply to give the mercenary army of the Northern Alliance, an army no American soldier would turn its back on, a casual airing.
A trip to Vegas would have been cheaper and we would have found just as many Taliban. What we did find is drugs, drugs everywhere, the embarrassment of our deceitful policy to build narcotics production from nothing to massive levels. The further risk of peppering the internet with more photos of American, Afghan, British or Canadian troops tiptoeing through the poppies had to be avoided at all cost. Thus a tissue thin cover story about poor farmers and their reliance on opium for a living was spun to the public, a story based on lies.
WHAT ARE WE REALLY INTO?
We have turned Afghanistan from a haven for a few foreign fighters, bin Laden included, given safe haven under strict parole, no training facilities, monitored daily under threat of expulsion, a country with a strict Islamic government actively rejecting opium production, western technology and the human rights of its women, into a sewer of drug dealers, crooked contractors, terrorist training camps and spies. We originally handed the country over to warlord drug barons and criminals and eventually melded Hamid Karzai, a know moderate and very well know weak leader into the dupe of a defacto dictatorship built around the city of Kabul. For years, America ignored an entire nation, an error of massive proportions that has exploded in our faces. Other than Bush era stupidity and hubris, what was our rationale?
OIL, GAS, DRUGS, AND BETRAYAL
Bush settled into the poorly managed war in Afghanistan at the behest of Israel and India. Israel was chasing gas pipeline revenue and India needed a base of operations to train guerrillas to attack Pakistan. In the process, absolutely everyone involved was going to get rich peddling heroin into Russia by mule and running it by the ton into Western Europe and America in through every means possible including, we are told, using rendition flights as drug couriers. Now that these flights have been “privatized” for some reason, it could actually get worse, if that is possible.
Since day one of the American war, the primary goal has been to push opium production to maximum levels, restructure it as the number one agricultural crop of Afghanistan and to build a permanent tribal war to cover open involvement in this massive multi-billion dollar initiative through purposeful mismanagement, misjudgment and sheer idiocy.
NO WAR CAN BE FOUGHT IN AFGHANISTAN AS THINGS NOW ARE
We have recently learned, again, that our military leadership in Iraq had become corrupted in every imaginable way. The current round of investigations will end the careers of hundreds of officers and only proves that the new “privatized model” being used by the Pentagon to artificially suppress the actual number of troops involved in a conflict by supplanting the majority of military functions, including military intelligence, transport and logistics, administration and even some combat operations with private contractors and mercenaries, is a ruse. We don’t fool enemies anymore. It is always assumed the enemy is Congress, the American People and our allies.
Some of the contracting firms, notably KBR, Haliburton and Blackwater, but others also, performed dismally, over billed by billions and led to a culture of corruption that tore at the core of our Army, reducing effectiveness massively instead of supplementing and supporting. This “deconstructionism” cost billions and left us in a shambles, a shambles that has moved onto Afghanistan where things have only gotten worse.
We spend as much time briefing our military on “keeping their mouths shut” about corruption as we do combat.
Iraq had only Shiites and Sunnis. Afghanistan is filled with warlords, Islamic insurgents, Israeli and Indian spies, the scum of the earth packaged as United Nations workers, American mercenaries, India diplomats and tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of gun toting criminals who will kill their own mothers for 5 dollars. War attracts this kind of crowd but it took America’s decision to build drug trafficking to unprecedented levels to make the environment totally unviable for any military operations. Was it planned? It couldn’t have happened this way otherwise.
Did the US plan it alone? Not hardly. India was involved from day one, whispering in Bush’s ear about how bad things were, tens of thousands of foreign fighters building nuclear weapons in caves. They made it all up, like they made up the stories about how unsafe Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is. Only an administration with absolutely nobody in charge with any education or experience could fall for any of this. Look at the real history of Rumsfeld and Cheney, the “brain trust” that created this mess. These are little but blustery windbags who couldn’t keep up a conversation at dinner.
India and now Israel have continually pushed to keep Pakistan drowning, facing enemies on both sides, and Karzai was a leader India knew it had in its pocket, has played along. His own family is rumored to run much of the nation’s drug business and Karzai himself went to university in India and has always hated Pakistan, suspecting them of killing his father. India has been given free rein of the country and is arming and training terrorists at war against Pakistan or so we like to tell ourselves. Actually, we don’t know who they are arming or what they are doing.
Weapons are flowing into the region and Americans are being murdered. It would be a shame if the weapons, such things as components needed for building IEDs and suicide vests were to actually come from American allies. We have some experience with this, having armed Saddam ourselves, arming him with bio-weapons, nerve gas and worse, much of it sold through relatives of 2 American presidents. Don’t expect to read this story either. Ever wonder why it was so important to silence Saddam?
The only information we get is from “private intelligence contractors” who are likely involved in the drug trade themselves. Everyone knows this but turns a blind eye, that many people are getting paid out of this
THE REAL DRUG WAR
What does it take to build a massive drug operation like this with thousands of hectares under production? Now that heroin production has been established inside Afghanistan, massive profits can be realized but the farmers themselves, the ones we are worrying about so much receive almost nothing for their poppies. They are actually paid better for growing wheat, an honest crop that brings high prices and is needed locally.
Where does the money come from? There was never an infrastructure in place that could organize production on a national scale, process heroin, ship it around the world and bank the billions of dollars in a world where strict money laundering procedures are in effect. There is certainly one now. I would start searching every politician on a junket to the region, especially some of the Americans who stop off at Tel Aviv on the way back. I would search them very carefully.
When international controls make it impossible to move hundreds of millions of dollars via the SWIFT system, negotiable instruments in paper form, such as Standby Letters of Credit and Bank Guarantees are used to move massive amounts of money. Only a VIP can carry such a thing without risk. The banking world is very aware of these transactions as is international law enforcement. However, it is powerless to act against the rich, powerful and righteous.
PLANNING TO LOSE
The only way money can keep flowing, drug money, massive contractor payoffs, money to rig elections and the Fog of War to make it all possible, the only way chaos can be maintained is by keeping a war going with phony victories every so often and the appearance of building a nation, a nation with no economy, no cohesive institutions and no leadership. Karzai is perfect for this, a classic “asset.”
As there never was a real enemy, no major leader of the Taliban, no “big kahuna” so to speak, especially since the death of bin Laden, not even Mullah Omar, defining an enemy or a victory would be impossible anyway. It gets worse when you have indefensible border on both sides, Pakistan and Iran and are fighting an enemy that can melt into the civilian population for 2 years to reemerge victorious while we are away playing tennis. Yes, Iran is being attacked also. They say Israel is doing it.
We have some experience with such things. We called it Vietnam.
The current plans, military, political and economic are ill advised, impossible to execute and blatantly dishonest in measure and application. They are a sham.
LEAVING A VIABLE NATION
Nobody is going to survive the worldwide flood of narcotics from Afghanistan, not untouched. Every family will suffer at some level, whether through drug crime, corrupted officials or watching their children sink into a life of addiction.
When some of the most powerful nations on earth send their most corrupt elements into a region, allow them to establish a narco-kingdom defended by the most powerful military on earth with the world’s most skilled intelligence agencies either complicit in operations or “stood down” by their “private sector” surrogates, expect the worst. Killing is a kindness compared to narcotics addiction. One addict can murder an entire extended family. Several addicts can turn any community into a sea of misery and despair.
Imagine that much of the destruction being done, not only to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the world at large is being done in the name of democracy and religion.
GUNS AND DRUGS HAVE TO GO
Farmers and herdsmen don’t need anti-aircraft weapons, RPGs and automatic rifles. An Afghan herdsman can kill a predator at 600 meters with a hundred year old rifle. Anyone that can’t make a living without growing opium poppies, anyone given the opportunity to live otherwise, is an enemy and must be destroyed. As it looks now, the root of the problem and the leadership of the threat to world civilization is drugs, not insurrection. Perhaps we might want to see if we, ourselves, have become the enemy. We train military and police that give weapons to terrorists, in fact, many are terrorists as we have found.
WHY POLICE AFGHANSITAN WHEN WE CAN’T EVEN POLICE OURSELVES
The news loves reporting on “collateral damage.” A building is hit, a family is killed or a patrol attacks a village where insurgents and civilians are intermingled. Afghanistan is only an outpost of crime, the real criminal headquarters exists in a ring of cities, Washington, New Delhi, Tel Aviv, Dubai, Zurich, Brussels, Baghdad and Kabul.
The crimes? Material support of terrorism, drug running, murder, anything you can imagine including overlapping conspiracies involving massive bribery, kidnapping, torture and endless war being fed, not out of confusion or policy errors but out of greed and deceit.
We have Chicago out of the 1920s all over again on a global scale with no Eliot Ness to turn to. No law enforcement body, American or international has made any attempt to approach what is going on, not when the criminal gangs often hide behind badges themselves, those and the cover of national intelligence agencies, private contrating firms that have been placed above all laws and terrorist organizations that may well be more business partners than enemies.
When it comes to diplomatic security, contractors are a hard habit for the State Department to break. According to a new audit by the department’s Office of the Inspector General, or IG, the department has paid one company — Triple Canopy — a whopping $438 million to guard the embassy in Baghdad since mid-2005.
The report does not contain any damning allegations, like the Animal House-style antics of contracted guard force at the Kabul embassy. But it does give insight into the size of the force that is required to provide security for the Vatican-sized compound on the Tigris. What’s more, it suggests that the embassy has poorly planned for the anticipated U.S. drawdown in Iraq, meaning the government will pay a “projected unnecessary cost” of around $20 million to maintain the contract guard force in Baghdad.
All told, the company currently has around 1,800 employees dedicated to embassy security in Baghdad. Around 1,600 of them are from either Uganda or Peru. And that presents something of a problem: The report found that the contracting officer’s representative — a government employee who is supposed to exercise oversight — “does not enforce contractually required standards for guards’ English language profi ciency.”
And that, potentially, could be a problem if English-language supervisors can’t communicate with guards, especially during an emergency.
Hiring “third country nationals,” or TCNs, as guards is not an uncommon practice in Iraq: Ugandans are perhaps best known for guarding the entrances to military dining facilities in Iraq. Companies like Triple Canopy hire them because they are relatively cheap, compared to U.S. or European expatriates. But the TCNs, apparently, don’t complain as much about working conditions either.
The IG, for instance, faulted Triple Canopy for not providing adequate housing, saying that Triple Canopy “houses guards in unsafe conditions.” Guards, the report says, “live in crowded barracks and shipping containers that exceed occupancy limits by more than 400 percent.”
Generally speaking, the IG said Triple Canopy “performs well” in areas where the State Department properly performs oversight. More than anything, it suggests that State’s oversight, not necessarily the contractor’s performance, is the bigger issue. Triple Canopy, as well, seems to have learned from the repeated public relations disasters of competitors like Xe (a.k.a. Blackwater): It maintains a more low-key, corporate image, complete with a spiffy, Lockheed Martin-style logo, seen in the screenshot here.
Partnership for a Secure America
Increasingly one can’t go a day without reading more news about private military and security contractors. Actually, private military and security contractors (PMSC), a catch all phrase encompassing, broadly speaking, two categories – logistics workers and armed guards – is a bit of a misnomer, as in the United States context it generally refers to just those working under State or Defense Department contracts. But that excludes contractors working for the intelligence community, or Department of Homeland Security or numerous other departments and agencies. But for the sake of convenience, as it is such a widely sued and recognized phrase, I’ll continue to use it.
Whether one likes the idea of using PMSC or not the inescapable fact is that U.S. reliance on them has grown so much in the past few decades that trying to stop using them is literally impossible. They are now far too intertwined with the clients they work for to be removed. To attempt to do so would like the scene in the first Alien movie, where the crew of the Nostradamus attempt to remove the Alien creature from Executive Officer Kane after it attaches itself to its face. And no, I’m not saying that PMCS are parasites.
But until that magical day comes when the country actually has a serious soul-searching discussion on whether it is in the U.S. interest to maintain a global military presence contractors are here to stay. Put another way, to paraphrase the classic Spencer Tracy movie, it’s a mad, mad, contracting world now.
After years of experience in Iraq and Afghanistan it is clear that use of PMSC only works well when the client, i.e., the U.S. government for the most part, is clear about its goals, knowledgeable about its contractors capabilities, and has the both the staff and resources to provide proper oversight and accountability of the contract.
To their credit both the U.S. government and even PMSC have taken steps in recent years to improve the status quo of oversight, including new Congressional subcommittees focusing on the issues to Special Inspector Generals for Iraq and Afghanistan Reconstruction. Of course, given the fairly abysmal state of affairs back in 2003 when the United States invaded Iraq almost anything would be an improvement.
As an Aviation Week blog post noted, “After eight years of war, the U.S. government is finally “starting to grapple with the issue of contractors in ways that they haven’t before. . . It’s a hell of a lot better than it was two years ago,” says Moshe Schwartz of the CRS [Congressional Research Service], who adds that the “Defense Dept. [is] improving, but they’ve still got issues.”
The question is whether it is enough. Progress is still spotty. Consider a the Commission on Wartime Contracting hearing held yesterday on rightsizing and managing contractors during the Iraq drawdown.
The government has requested the contracts withdraw at the same rate as troops pull out, but that has not been happening with contractors working for KBR, which has the largest contract with the Pentagon, including maintaining equipment and feeding troops, for $38 billion.
As Christopher Shays, Co-Chair of the Commission said in his opening statement, “The Department of Defense expects that contractor employees in Iraq will exceed 70,000 in August 2010. That would be about half the contractor count of January 2009 – but still nearly one and a half times the U.S. troop-strength target for August.” There are about 98,000 troops in Iraq, but that figure is expected to drop to 50,000 by August.
An audit found that most contractors working for Houston based KBR were sitting in Iraq with nothing to do and they were not coming home at the pace troops were.
“This DCAA audit stated that if this KBR contracting reduced their staffing levels to adequate that the government could save 193 million dollars,” said Commissioner Robert Henke, Wartime Contracting Commission.
The Army never formally responded to the audit. KBR responded that the government needs to speak with one voice and give them direction. It said it constantly warned the military about the lack of use of its services and has since come up with more cost saving methods.
Last Thursday a Mother Jones article noted:
It was just a single contract for a single job on a single base in Iraq. The Department of Defense agreed to pay the megacontractor KBR $5 million a year to repair tactical vehicles, from Humvees to big rigs, at Joint Base Balad, a large airfield and supply center north of Baghdad. Yet according to a new Pentagon report [PDF], what the military got was as many as 144 civilian mechanics, each doing as little as 43 minutes of work a month, with virtually no oversight. The report, issued March 3 by the DOD’s inspector general, found that between late 2008 and mid-2009, KBR performed less than 7 percent of the work it was expected to do, but still got paid in full.
This is not to pick on KBR because it could be right. Shays said:
KBR expects to have about 30,000 employees in Iraq by late summer of this year, compared to more than 60,000 in March 2009. But the planning to synchronize contractors’ drawdown with military needs does not appear to be as advanced as the military’s planning for removing its own personnel and property.
Part of the reason for that may be that the U.S. military has yet to make key decisions that will affect contractors’ drawdown plans. It appears the government is not giving contractors adequate guidance on events, dates, and requirements for them to trim or redeploy workforces appropriately.
Yesterday the Washington Post had an article on a Pentagon contract with Afghan contractors worth up to $360 million to transport U.S. military goods through some of the most insecure territory in Afghanistan. U.S. military officials say they are satisfied with the results, but they concede that they have little knowledge or control over where the money ends up.
According to senior Obama administration officials, some of it may be going to the Taliban, as part of a protection racket in which insurgents and local warlords are paid to allow the trucks unimpeded passage, often sending their own vehicles to accompany the convoys through their areas of control.
Last week it was reported that a DynCorp International executive says he was fired for complaining that the company charged the State Department millions of dollars for a database that did not exist. The 2004 contract awarded DynCorp $1 million to build a database of Americans trained in law enforcement who were willing to go to Afghanistan or Iraq at a moment’s notice, and $1 million a year to maintain it, Michael Riddle claims in Federal Court.
So, like Felix and Oscar, the famed Odd Couple, government and contractors are stuck with each other for the foreseeable future but let’s hope that they can improve the quality of their relationship so they don’t have to start seeing a counselor; at least any more than they already are.
Allied World Assurance is brand new to Defense Base Act Workers’ Comp
PEMBROKE, Bermuda, March 30 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ —
Allied World Assurance Company Holdings, Ltd (NYSE: AWH) announced today that Kevin Behan, Senior Vice President for General Casualty in the United States, will be speaking at the IPOA’s 2010 EuroConference. The conference will focus on RiskManagement in Conflict and Post-Conflict Zones, and examine how companies, military and governments can prepare to manage risk in these environments. The event takes place in London on April 8 & 9, 2010.
Mr. Behan joined Allied World in October 2008, as Senior Vice President for General Casualty. He is responsible for Primary Casualty, working with brokers to develop Allied World’s Primary Casualty business capability. Primary Casualty includes Defense Base Act Business, General Liability, Automobile Liability and Physical Damage. Mr. Behan has over 25 years of experience in the insurance industry.
About Allied World Assurance Company
Allied World Assurance Company Holdings, Ltd, through its subsidiaries, is a global provider of innovative property, casualty and specialty insurance and reinsurance solutions, offering superior client service through offices in Bermuda, Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States. Our insurance and reinsurance subsidiaries are rated A (Excellent) by A.M. Best Company. For further information on Allied World, please visit our website at http://www.awac.com.
Allied World Assurance, new to Defense Base Act Insurance, has just been awarded the contract.
The 25-year-old Riverview native was employed as a civilian contractor with Falls Church, Va.-based DynCorp International, where he served as a personal security specialist.He was protecting U.S. diplomats in Kirkuk, Iraq, last Wednesday when his life was cut short by a sniper’s bullet. HERE
RIVERVIEW, Mich. — A U.S. veteran who returned to Iraq as a civilian contractor was shot to death while protecting American diplomats in Iraq, his employer said Sunday.
Justin Pope, 25, died after being shot late Wednesday or early Thursday in Kirkuk, said Douglas Ebner, a spokesman for Falls Church, Va.-based DynCorp International.
Detroit-area television station WJBK reported Saturday that Pope was killed by sniper fire. Ebner denied that, saying Pope died of “an accidental gunshot wound.” He would not elaborate, saying the incident was under investigation by DynCorp and the U.S. State Department.
“We’re very sorry that this happened,” Ebner said. “The family has our condolences.”
Pope’s mother, Patricia Salser, said her son joined the Marines after graduating from Riverview High School in 2002. He served two military tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan before returning to Iraq as a DynCorp employee, WJBK reported.
Pope’s survivors include his wife and a 7-year-old son.
The AP has reported 1,264 civilian employees of U.S. government contractors died through Sept. 30, 2008, the latest figures available. The vast majority of civilian contractors in Iraq are employed by the Pentagon.
DynCorp is one of three U.S.-based security contractors that work for the State Department in Iraq.
Miss. man sentenced for manslaughter in Iraq
GULFPORT, Miss. — Authorities say a Mississippi man who worked as a security contractor has been sentenced to three years in federal prison for accidentally shooting a co-worker in Iraq.
U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. sentenced 27-year-old Kyle Palmer of Biloxi on Monday.
Court records said Palmer and Justin Pope worked as security contractors for DynCorp, a Department of State contractor, at a U.S. embassy office in Erbil, Iraq.
A news release from the U.S. attorney’s office said Palmer was intoxicated when he and Palmer pointed a 9 millimeter pistol at each other during an informal party in March 2009.
Palmer allegedly fired Pope’s weapon without checking whether the gun was loaded and accidentally killed Pope.
In my March 25 post I mentioned how difficult it still is, despite years of trying, to collect accurate data on basic private military and security contractor (PMSC) facts, such as how many are there,
And I noted that to help increase oversight of activities supporting the Defense and State departments and USAID’s efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the three agencies designated the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker (SPOT) as their system for tracking the required information. That information, required for each contract that involves work performed in Iraq or Afghanistan for more than 14 days, includes:
* a brief description of the contract,
* its total value, and
* whether it was awarded competitively; and
* for contractor personnel working under contracts in Iraq or Afghanistan,
* total number employed,
* total number performing security functions, and
* total number killed or wounded.
Now, despite years of effort SPOT still has problems in terms of collecting and saving information. Some reasons are disappointing but understandable, given differing methodologies for collecting and saving information across different departments and agencies.
But one truly disappointing thing it does not do well is to keep track of contractors who are killed or wounded. According to John Hutton, Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, U.S. Government Accountability Office, who on March 23 testified before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations regarding “Interagency Coordination of Grants and Contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan: Progress, Obstacles, and Plans“:
In addition to agreeing to use SPOT to track contractor personnel numbers, the agencies agreed to use SPOT to track information on contractor personnel killed or wounded. Although SPOT was upgraded in January 2009 to track casualties, officials from the three agencies informed us they are not relying on the database for this information because contractors are generally not updating the status of their personnel to indicate whether any of their employees were killed, wounded, or are missing. In the absence of using SPOT to identify the number of contractor personnel killed or wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, the agencies obtain these data from other sources. Specifically, in response to requests made as part of our ongoing review, State and USAID provided us with manually compiled lists of the number of personnel killed or wounded, whereas DOD provided us with casualty data for U.S citizens, but could not differentiate whether the individuals identified were DOD civilian employees or contractors.
While contractors are not active duty military, although they may very well have been not that long ago, they don’t deserve to be treated like the Unknown Soldier either. Whether or not you like the idea of the government relying on PMSC the reality is that they make a significant contribution, just like regular military personnel. Contractors know going in that if they are killed their family members won’t get the same survivor benefits, except for what they get under the Defense Base Act, as a soldier or marine who is killed. They know no chaplain will arrive at the door of their home to comfort the grieving.
So it is really too much to ask that at the very least the government could at least kept track of those who are wounded and killed? After all, one can find contractor casualty lists on Wikipedia. If websites like Icasualties.org could include contractor casualties, as it used to do, the U.S. government with vastly greater informational resources at its disposal should be able to do so as well, albeit in far more comprehensive fashion.
Some contractors are extremely good about letting the world know when their people are killed. DynCorp, for example, has for years, put out a press release every time one of its contractors dies. Why other contractors “are generally not updating the status of their personnel to indicate whether any of their employees were killed, wounded, or are missing” is an interesting question that someone ought to ask. Perhaps the Commission on Wartime Contracting can do so the next time it holds a hearing.
Needless to say, SPOT data, should include contractors of any and all nationalities working for a PMC, not just a citizen of the host country
March 29, 2010
We may have spoken too soon when we praised the Army for taking past contractor performance into consideration for the LOGCAP program. POGO was recently informed that the Army is considering awarding KBR additional work in Iraq under the LOGCAP III contract. That action would continue KBR’s monopoly on LOGCAP work in Iraq, rather using the competitive procurement procedures created under LOGCAP IV.
In a letter sent today to Army Secretary John McHugh, POGO urged the Army to end KBR’s monopoly in Iraq and reconsider the continued use of the LOGCAP III program. To better evaluate goods and services, and to get the best value for taxpayers, the government must encourage genuine competition.
The spotlight on KBR’s work in Iraq was also reviewed today as company representatives testified before the Commission on Wartime Contracting at a hearing on the “Rightsizing and managing contractors during the Iraq drawdown.” The military is going to have to handle many issues, including troop withdrawals and determining adequate levels of contractor support needed for ongoing activities. Additionally, the government must resolve logistical problems with the goods that have brought into the country to support military and reconstruction effort – sometimes with a lack of planning and management.
A congressional committee on Monday questioned one of the Pentagon’s biggest defense companies and military leaders about how they plan to reduce the nearly 100,000 contractor employees in Iraq, as the U.S. draws down its military forces there.
“Taxpayers need assurance that contractors don’t have unnecessary staff hanging around — accidentally or by design — without work, but still drawing pay,” the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan said in its prepared statement.
The Pentagon expects the number of contractor employees in Iraq — mostly foreign nationals and Iraqis — to have declined from 149,000 in January 2009 to no more than 75,000 by August 2010. KBR, of Houston, has the largest service contract for $38 billion to provide a range of logistic services including equipment eminence, feeding troops and other work.
A recent Pentagon inspector general report found that KBR contractors were billing the government for 12 hours in doing truck maintenance, but in reality were working an average of 1.3 hours — a waste of $21 million. The report also found that KBR could save $193 million if it drew down its workforce faster, according to an audit by the Defense Contract Audit Agency.
KBR defended its practices in written responses to the auditors, saying that under the contract, it is up to the U.S. military to decide what work it wants done and set the staffing needs. It also said that it has put in place more cost-efficient methods for doing its work.
Officials on the wartime commission said they are concerned that the U.S. military has “yet to make key decisions that will affect contractors’ draw down plans.”
“The government is not giving contractors adequate guidance on events, dates, and requirements for them to trim or redeploy workforces appropriately,” the commissioners said in the prepared statement.
Moving personnel and equipment out of Iraq is a massive job, Army officials said.
Lt. Gen. James H. Pillsbury, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, which is helping oversee the drawdown of the logistics operations in Iraq, said the “magnitude and scope of the Iraq drawdown is unprecedented.”
There are, he noted, more than 341 facilities; 263,000 soldiers, Defense Department civilians and contractor employees; 83,000 containers; 42,000 vehicles; 3 million equipment items; and roughly $54 billion in assets that will ultimately be removed from Iraq.
Pillsbury said that the effort is “equivalent, in personnel terms alone, of relocating the entire population of Buffalo, New York.”
Rightsizing and managing contractors during the Iraq drawdown
9:30am to 2pm
Dirksen Senate Office Building
C Span 2 on your television
WASHINGTON — The independent Commission on Wartime Contracting wants to know whether American contractors in Iraq are adequately reducing the number of employees in the country as U.S. troops are withdrawn.
The commissioners take up the matter at a Capitol Hill hearing on Monday. At issue is whether the government is ensuring that contractors don’t have idle workers. Each contracted employee can cost thousands of dollars a month, and some 100,000 contracted employees are working in Iraq.
The number of U.S. troops in Iraq is scheduled to fall to 50,000 in August; all are to leave by the end of 2011.
KBR Inc., the Army’s primary support contractor in Iraq, was warned last fall by Pentagon auditors to cut its numbers or face nearly $200 million in penalties.
- Commission on Wartime Contracting: http://www.wartimecontracting.gov/
An expanding network of Pentagon contractors with professed expertise in information operations has become the focus of an investigation ordered last week by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
Gates’s action was prompted by news reports that Michael D. Furlong, a senior civilian Defense Department employee, had used $25 million in funds from the Pentagon’s program against roadside bombs to hire private contractors to gather information on suspected insurgents in Afghanistan — activities that Furlong says were authorized by top U.S. military commanders.
But Furlong’s now-halted operation is just one example of units in every branch of the armed forces spending millions of dollars on private contractors — many of them retired military, CIA and other intelligence specialists — to satisfy military commanders’ new interest in information operations.
“Information operations is the hot thing, and somebody turned on a hose of money,” said W. Patrick (“Pat”) Lang, a retired senior Defense Intelligence Agency officer who served in Army Special Forces. “Retired colonels and senior executive service officers are forming teams to compete.”
Gates told reporters Thursday that such operations are “critical” to the war in Afghanistan, albeit in need of “an overall strategy or perhaps adequate oversight.” Beyond the Furlong case, he said, “there are broader problems in terms of oversight in these important areas that need to be corrected, and that’s what I’m focused on.”
Based in Lackland Air Force Base, Tex., the Joint Information Operations Warfare Center is the 435-person lead unit that “plans, integrates and synchronizes information operations in direct support of joint forces commanders . . . across the Defense Department,” according its mission statement. Those operations may include “psychological operations . . . and military deception,” according to a 2006 publication from the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Because senior military officers have had little experience in those areas, they frequently have relied on private contractors.
The Warfare Center, where Furlong is based, has a relatively small budget of its own. But it also gets funding from across the Defense Department, from the Joint Forces, Special Operations, Air Combat and Army’s 1st Information Commands, wrote Navy Lt. Cmdr. Steve Curry, chief of media operations for Strategic Command, in answer to a question.
Between 2006 and 2008, Central Command alone had 172 contracts worth $270 million just for information operations in Iraq, according to a Defense Department inspector general report released in September.
Purchases of products and services made through major contracts included “military analysts, development of television commercials and documentaries, focus group and polling services, television air time, posters, banners, and billboards,” the inspector general reported. Smaller individual purchases under information-operations programs included “magazine publishing and printing services, newspaper dissemination, television and radio airtime, text messaging services, internet services and novelty items,” the report said.
Another aspect of information operations is the complicated chain out of which they develop. One such chain was illustrated on Jan. 9, 2009, by JB Management of Alexandria.
JBM announced it was part of a winning team selected by the Warfare Center to provide “Human Network Analysis and Information Operations Support” for one year with “three additional year-long option periods.”
JBM’s president, Harry Gibb, is a retired Army colonel and its chief operations officer, Andy L. Vonada, is a retired Marine Corps officer whose last assignment was as “lead politico-military planner for the strategic plans and policies directorate for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” Alex J. Johnson, chairman of the JBM board of directors, is another Army veteran.
And the firm’s director of capture and strategy, Robert Cordray, is a West Point graduate who left the Army after five years, went to work for another private contractor and was deployed to Iraq to assist with information operations.
By LAWRENCE SELLIN
HELSINKI, Finland, March 25 (UPI) — The sorry state of affairs surrounding the training and readiness of the Afghan National Police is again in the news. If it were not so pathetic it would be laughable.
In February 2009 a report issued by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction titled “Hard Lessons: the Iraq Reconstruction Experience” described massive waste, fraud and a lack of accountability in the $50 billion relief and reconstruction project in Iraq, most of it done by private U.S. contractors.
At that time, the report’s senior author, Stuart Bowen, suggested that many of the same mistakes will likely occur again in Afghanistan because none of the substantive changes in oversight and contracting or personnel assignments that the U.S. Congress, auditors and outside experts proposed for Iraq have been implemented in Afghanistan.
The price tag for training the ANP is $6 billion and counting. So, what exactly has been the return on this investment?
As described in a Newsweek and ProPublica report, less than 12 percent of the ANP units are capable of operating on their own, 90 percent of recruits are illiterate, 15 percent test positive for drug use and only 25 percent of the current 98,000 ANP force has received any formal training. Of the roughly 170,000 Afghans trained under the program, only about 30,000 remain.
In the worst-case scenario, members of the ANP have been reported to have sold their ammunition to the Taliban. Even Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the State Department’s top representative in the region, has called the ANP “an inadequate organization, riddled with corruption.”
If the ANP is riddled with corruption, then our side is apparently riddled with incompetence.
Since the Department of State first engaged Virginia defense contractor DynCorp International to assist in training the ANP in 2003, errors in contract management and weaknesses in contractor accounting procedures appear to have been frequent.
According to a joint Department of State and Department of Defense report “Interagency Assessment of Afghan Police Training and Readiness”, as of May 2006, funding for the ANP program was about $1.1 billion for the period 2004-07. Almost all of that funding went to the contract with DynCorp.
In September 2004, barely one year after the initial DynCorp contract to train the ANP, allegations were made against DynCorp’s Worldwide Personal Protective services in Afghanistan. The official investigation found no indications of fraud and mismanagement in DynCorp’s operations, but it did note instances of poor accounting. The main conclusion of the Department of State report was poor contractor oversight by its own contracting officers, permitting $950,000 of erroneous or duplicate billing after an examination of a $17 million limited sample of contractor expenses, all of which the contractor agreed to reimburse.
According to the Newsweek article, a recent government audit of ANP training identified a total of $322 million in invoices that had been “approved even though they were not allowable, allocable, or reasonable” with half of the invoices containing errors.
None of this, however, is new. Operation Iraqi Freedom had comparable pain points.
An inspector general’s report of Jan. 30, 2007 entitled Review of DynCorp International, LLC, Contract Number S-LMAQM-04-C-0030, Task Order 0338, for the Iraqi Police Training Program Support was consistent with the results of other investigations.
It concluded that “weak and sometimes non-existent contract administration was the root cause of the problems we identified with work performed under Task Order 0338.”
One of the recommendations was to “seek reimbursement from DynCorp of the improperly authorized payment of $4.2 million that represents contractually unauthorized work directed by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. This work included the relocation of the residential camp, the manufacture of additional VIP trailers, and the construction of an Olympic size swimming pool.”
As early as December 2005, a Department of State asset verification report from Iraq stated that “DynCorp invoices were frequently ambiguous and lacked the level of detail necessary to determine what was procured,” “did not maintain a complete list of items procured” and “did not establish policy guidelines or accountability procedures.” The report concluded that the government couldn’t determine if it received what it paid for.
Despite a history of alleged contractual difficulties, the chief executive officer recently told investors that DynCorp will continue to train the ANP at least through July. DynCorp maintains that has “diligently fulfilled the requirements” of operating Afghan National Police training centers while developing and implementing police training programs, and “has won praise for its efforts from senior U.S. government officials.”
Reached for comment, an official representative for DynCorp also noted: “There are three elements that are central to designing a successful police training program in Afghanistan. First, roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined at the outset so that both government and contractors fully understand the goals and metrics by which success will be measured. Second, government should provide oversight that is aligned to the mission in order that professional and capable contractors like DynCorp International can achieve the appropriate results. Third, the contract process should provide a fair playing field for all bidders, so that government can achieve the best value by choosing the most qualified contractor with the least transition risk.”
The ongoing controversy regarding the ANP program could all be just shrugged off as typical government ineptitude and the comfortable relationships that can develop between contractors and contracting officers.
This would be so, if the effectiveness of the ANP was not a key element of the “hold” and “build” components of the “clear, hold and build” counterinsurgency strategy.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who took over in November as chief of the U.S. program to expand and improve Afghanistan’s security forces, has noted that it is easier to work with military personnel or national police forces than with contractors. He may be on to something.
Unless one is prepared to be thoroughly aware of the statement of work and the terms and conditions of the contracts, while vigorously monitoring contractor performance and accounting, the problems of the past will continue into the future.
Sadly, the disaster that is the ANP program wasn’t only predictable, it was preventable.
We will get new numbers on Civilian Contractor Deaths and Injuries based on DoL Defense Base Act Claims filed soon. While not accurate these should reflect a similar spike if not a larger one.
KABUL – The number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan has roughly doubled in the first three months of 2010 compared to the same period last year as Washington has added tens of thousands of additional soldiers to reverse the Taliban’s momentum.
Those deaths have been accompanied by a dramatic spike in the number of wounded, with injuries more than tripling in the first two months of the year and trending in the same direction based on the latest available data for March.
U.S. officials have warned that casualties are likely to rise even further as the Pentagon completes its deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and sets its sights on the Taliban’s home base of Kandahar province, where a major operation is expected in the coming months.
“We must steel ourselves, no matter how successful we are on any given day, for harder days yet to come,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a briefing last month.
In total, 57 U.S. troops were killed here during the first two months of 2010 compared with 28 in January and February of last year, an increase of more than 100 percent, according to Pentagon figures compiled by The Associated Press. At least 20 American service members have been killed so far in March, an average of about 0.8 per day, compared to 13, or 0.4 per day, a year ago.
The steady rise in combat deaths has generated less public reaction in the United States than the spike in casualties last summer and fall, which undermined public support in the U.S. for the 8-year-old American-led mission here. Fighting traditionally tapers off in Afghanistan during winter months, only to peak in the summer.
الرجاء يسلم اطلاق سراح هذا الجندي يدعى أحمد وهو غاب عن عائلته ، واسمحوا الحرب قد انتهت ، أن نتذكر أن نصف الأمريكية لم تؤيد غزو العراق ، شكرا لك
Please free Prisoner of War in Iraq – US Army Sergeant Ahmed Qusai al Taie
(BAGHDAD / SALEM) – During the Vietnam War, thousands of Americans were held as Prisoners of War, though they were never regarded as such by their captors.
Similar to the Bush/Cheney/Obama Iraq War idea of literally stripping the rights accorded by the Geneva Convention from a combatant for suspicions of “terrorism”, the North Vietnamese viewed the American military as an illegal force, and claimed they were not bound to any international rules.
It led to the mistreatment of Americans at places like the Hanoi Hilton. Americans were horrified to learn upon their first mass release, that U.S. POW’s were hideously tortured inside the walls of the North Vietnam prison complex. Slightly more than three decades later, a U.S. President and his entire cabinet, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney, solidly assumed the pose of America’s former Communist enemies by endorsing torture as a national concept.
This article also considers a different kind of torture; the ulcer and gray hair causing variety, experienced by the families of captive Americans who are so helpless to make a difference in a place as far away as Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Vietnam.
I will examine the status of the various Americans that we know of who were captured in the current war. Iraq is not the only war by any means, though it was the scene of so much fighting for so many really hard years.
Three Hungarians convicted of killing their driver as they travelled to Sierra Leone to allegedly seek work as mercenaries were A court in Dakar found them guilty of criminal conspiracy, murder and theft. They were accused of having strangled their Senegalese driver in April 2006 and stolen his vehicle.on Saturday sentenced to hard labour for life in Senegal.
Prosecutors say Gal Geza, 29, Zoltan Nazy, 32, and Feher Tamas, 34, had come to West Africa in search of mercenary work, particularly in Sierra Leone.
Geza was a deserter from the French Foreign Legion, while Nazy deserted from the Hungarian military, prosecutors say. During the trial, Geza denied seeking work as a mercenary.
“In Hungary, the job of security agent is not prohibited after a military career,” he said.
One of their lawyers had said they were passing through Senegal on their way to Sierra Leone to look for work as security officers in diamond mines.
According to prosecutors, they had planned to travel to Sierra Leone but did not have enough money for food, transport and lodging, leading them to plot to rent a 4×4 and kill the driver.
In April 2006, they rented the 4X4 on the pretext of going on safari in the north of the country, but strangled the driver when they reached Tivaouane, 92 kilometres (57 miles) north of Dakar, prosecutors said.
When they were arrested five kilometres from the Guinean border, they had no weapons but were in possession of a GPS, survival material and “documents instructing on guerrilla tactics in the jungle,” according to the charges.