Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

The Unknown Contractor

By David Isenberg at Huff Post

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 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, DynCorp, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

End KBR’s Monopoly in Iraq

Project on Government Oversight

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.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, KBR, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Panel examines contractor drawdown in Iraq

Trancript of Hearing

From WaPo

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.”

March 29, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, KBR, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Commission to examine level of contractors in Iraq

Rightsizing and managing contractors during the Iraq drawdown

9:30am to 2pm
Dirksen Senate Office Building

C Span 2 on your television

http://www.c-span.org/Watch/C-SPAN2_wm.aspx

Kimberly Hefling AP

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.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | Wartime Contracting | , , | Leave a comment

Defense investigates information-operations contractors

Walter Pincus Washington Post

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.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | CIA, Civilian Contractors, Pentagon | , , , | Leave a comment