Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Whistleblower Claims Many U.S. Interpreters Can’t Speak Afghan Languages

Says Translators Failed Language Tests, Were Still Embedded With US Troops In Afghanistan

By MATTHEW MOSK, BRIAN ROSS and JOSEPH RHEE at ABC News

More than one quarter of the translators working alongside American soldiers in Afghanistan failed language proficiency exams but were sent onto the battlefield anyway, according to a former employee of the company that holds contracts worth up to $1.4 billion to supply interpreters to the U.S. Army.

“I determined that someone — and I didn’t know [who] at that time — was changing the grades from blanks or zeros to passing grades,” said Paul Funk, who used to oversee the screening of Afghan linguists for the Columbus, Ohio-based contractor, Mission Essential Personnel. “Many who failed were marked as being passed.”

After being asked about the allegations, U.S. Army officials confirmed to ABC News they are investigating the company.

Funk outlined his claims in a whistleblower lawsuit unsealed earlier this year against Mission Essential Personnel, saying the company turned a blind eye to cheating on language exams taken over the phone and hired applicants even though they failed to meet the language standards set by the Army and spelled out in the company’s contract. He alleges that 28 percent of the linguists hired between November 2007 and June 2008 failed to meet the government’s language requirements. The company has contested those claims in court, and this week rejected them as false in an interview with ABC News.

Civilian translators have for nearly a decade been playing a crucial if unsung role in the Afghanistan war, embedding with troops as they have moved through the countryside, helping soldiers gather information from local villagers, and attempting to spread the message of security, moderation and peace that undergirds the U.S. presence there. Some Afghan veterans have rated the value of a skilled interpreter as equal to that of a working weapon or sturdy body armor.

But a former top screener of translators heading to Afghanistan tells ABC News in an exclusive interview that will air tonight on World News with Diane Sawyer and Nightline that he believes many of the translators currently in the field cannot perform their function.

Please read the entire story here

September 8, 2010 - Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Mission Essential Personnel, Pentagon, Safety and Security Issues, Whistleblower | , , , , ,

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