Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Pakistan says U.S. prisoner has immunity

(Reuters) – An American jailed for shooting two Pakistanis is shielded by diplomatic immunity, a Pakistani official said on Wednesday, but local courts are likely have the final say in a case that has ignited a bruising row between two strategic allies.

Despite signals the Pakistani government is yielding to U.S. pressure to back the release of consular employee Raymond Davis, his fate remained unclear as the killings stirred up fierce anti-U.S. sentiment that could put Pakistan’s unpopular leadership at risk.

Davis shot dead two Pakistanis last month in what he said was self-defense during an armed robbery. The Lahore High Court will hold another hearing in the case on Thursday, during which the United States is expected to present a petition to certify that Davis has diplomatic immunity and should be released.

But the Pakistani official said that would not guarantee his release.

“We will present all relevant laws and rules about immunity before the court and will plead that prima facie it is a case of diplomatic immunity. But it is for the court to decide,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The row over the U.S. national is the latest issue straining ties between two nations that are supposed to be working to stamp out a tenacious Islamist insurgency that has fueled attacks against U.S. soldiers in neighboring Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama waded into the fray on Tuesday, saying the United States was working with Pakistan, a major recipient of U.S. aid, to secure the release of the former U.S. special forces soldier now locked in a Lahore jail.

‘BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA’

The fragile government in Islamabad, mired in a battle against militants, struggling with a stagnant economy and fearful of backlash from its people, appeared to be willing to go only so far to placate its American allies.

“We are facing difficult decisions. There is a political price,” Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, speaking at a religious event in Islamabad, said on Wednesday.

“If we make one decision, the people won’t support it. If we make another decision, the world doesn’t support it. We’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea,” he said.

Please read the entire story here

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Legal Jurisdictions, Pakistan, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , | Leave a comment

Civilian Contractor Casualties again overlooked as Military predicts violence to rise in Afghanistan

Afghanistan Violence to Rise in 2010: US Military

The prediction by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signals an escalation in the nearly decade-old conflict even as the United States prepares to start withdrawing troops in July.

“We expect the violence coming in 2011 to be greater than last year,” Mullen said in a statement submitted to the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, without saying whether this implied a rise in U.S. military casualties.

“The fighting will be tough and often costly, but it is necessary to sustain and even increase the pressure we have been placing on the insurgent groups.”

President Barack Obama ordered a “surge” of 30,000 extra U.S. troops to Afghanistan in 2009, with a goal of reversing the momentum of Taliban militants to allow for the withdrawal of U.S. forces to start this July.

Violence in Afghanistan has risen since the surge as the larger U.S. force expands the fight against the Taliban. Civilian and military casualties hit record levels last year and more than 2,300 foreign soldiers have been killed since the war began in 2001.

Nearly 500 U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan last year alone.

U.S. officials have declined to specify the pace or scale of the drawdown, saying it will depend on conditions on the ground.

But the United States hopes to transfer lead security control to Afghan forces by the end of 2014 and, under pressure to reduce defense spending, reduce the overall size of the U.S. Army and Marines starting in 2015.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking of the plans to cut the Army and Marine numbers, told the committee: “I think you will know as early as the end of 2012, beginning of 2013, whether that is going to happen, which allows plenty of time to alter these decisions.”

Mullen, in his statement, cited progress on the battlefield but warned that advances against Taliban insurgents were being undermined by a lack of governance and reconstruction.

“Despite a dramatic increase in our civilian presence in Afghanistan this past year, improvements in sub-national governance and reconstruction have not kept pace with progress in improving security,” Mullen said. “This has impeded our ability to hold, build and transfer.”

Congress, seized by fears about a ballooning national debt, will examine cutting overall civilian assistance and training for Afghanistan that has already cost the United States some $56 billi

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Department of Defense | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fix the Pentagon Part I: Create an Independent Audit Agency

Truthout February 16, 2011

Today’s Solution column is written by Charles Smith, a little known, retired, Army civilian employee hero, who went up against the Iraq contractor KBR on behalf of the troops and the taxpayers and was demoted. Smith was chief of the Field Support Contracting Division of the Army Field Support Command in Rock Island Arsenal, and one of his main jobs was to oversee the enormous Army contract with KBR during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In 2004, he became concerned when the auditors of the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) told him that KBR could not justify more than a billion dollars in spending because of their chaotic documentation. He backed the auditors and would not sign off on payments and bonuses to KBR until they provided documented proof of their costs. He also backed DCAA and told KBR that he would legally be withholding 15 percent of all payments to KBR until their auditing systems caught up to their spending.

KBR, with their enormous influence and ability to stop their work on the Iraq and Afghanistan bases, pushed back. Smith was replaced and shuttled off to look at future contracts, while his replacement approved and paid KBR the money without major changes in the billings. That contract, known as LOGCAP III, has now provided KBR with over $40 billion for slinging hash, doing laundry, driving trucks and building barracks in Iraq and Afghanistan. For the full picture of what can happen when a contractor “owns” the service they are working for, i.e. the US Army, see a New York Times profile outlining how Smith, with all his experience, could not get away with doing the right thing for the troops and taxpayers.

The DCAA, even with all the auditing problems and undue influence in DoD contracting, is being used to audit more and more of the rest of the federal government. This is a dangerous trend and could cause the bad contracting habits to infect the rest of the government agencies. DoD has not been able to pass a fiscal audit since 1999, when required by law, and the fraud, waste and abuse of their contractors is legendary, with overruns and lost money. As I mentioned in last week’s column introducing our Solutions series on DoD problems, the DoD is considered “unauditable” on many levels, with contracts and with fiscal audits. As one of my Defense Financial and Accounting Service (DFAS) sources has told me over the years, the DoD may never be able to get its financial and contracting house in order because they don’t know where their money is going at the base level, so it is “garbage in, garbage out.” And, now, the rest of the government may also go down that road by using the DCAA for their auditing, or even worse, hire private contractor auditors, as the Army did to justify pouring money on KBR.

Read more of Dina Rasor’s lead in here

The Need for a Federal Contract Audit Agency
Charles M. Smith

Last fiscal year, the United States Government awarded over $535 billion in contracts with private corporations, nonprofits and other entities. A significant percentage of these contracts are awarded not as safer fixed-price contracts or they were awarded without adequate price competition, meaning auditing is the only realistic defense American taxpayers have against contractor overbilling. There is only one agency with the authority and the ability to audit contractor proposals, assist negotiations and audit incurred costs under massive, fraud-prone and complicated cost-type contracts. That agency, despite conducting work across most of the federal government, is located within the Defense Department, underneath several layers of senior officials. The DCAA conducted 76 percent of contracts audits outside of the DoD, according to a recently published Senate fact sheet. But despite the existence of the DCAA as a de facto government-wide contract audit agency, the US government still does not have the complete capability to use audits to help manage and provide oversight on the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars that go out the door to contractors every year. Also, the DoD has the worst history of all agencies in knowing where its money is, having flunked many contract audits and having never passed an overall fiscal audit, as required by law. If this trend is allowed to continue, the DoD’s tolerance for disastrous contracting habits could infect the rest of the government

On February 1, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) chaired a hearing where she explored this issue in her Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight. She noted that the DoD utilized contract auditing far more than the rest of the federal government – while the DCAA conducts one audit for every $24.7 million, the rest of the US government conducted one audit per every $511 million spent. (Ironically, the DoD contracting officers can ignore the DCAA audit results and billions of dollars are not recovered.)

The reason why the DoD had approximately 15,000 contract audits conducted in 2009, and the rest of our government had 1,800 audits conducted in the same period, is due to DCAA’s DoD-centric orientation, the way it is funded and its lack of visibility to the rest of the federal government. A proposed Federal Contract Audit Agency would remedy all of these problems, and bring numerous other benefits, such as greater independence and less pressure from undue agency influences.  Please read the entire report by Charles Smith here

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, Follow the Money, Government Contractor, KBR, Pentagon | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment