Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

14 Bomb-Sniffing Dogs Found Dead

Courthouse News December 13, 2011

HOUSTON (CN) – A dog-training company claims an animal transport service killed 14 of its bomb-sniffing dogs who “were en route to Afghanistan to support U.S. military operations,” by leaving them overnight in an unventilated, sealed truck.
American K-9 Detection Services sued Indian Creek Enterprises dba Animal Port Houston and its successor company, Live Animal Transportation Services dba Animal Port Houston, in Harris County Court.
American K-9 says its dogs’ deaths led the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate Animal Port Houston “for alleged violation of USDA regulations for the safe transport of animals.”
The Lake Mary, Florida-based American K-9, called AMK9 in the complaint, says it “leases, on fixed-term bases canine and handler teams trained in narcotics and explosives detection to government agencies, non-governmental organizations, law enforcement agencies, and private entities domestically and worldwide.”
AMK9 says its “canine/handler teams” have been working with U.S., Canadian and NATO forces in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2005 providing checkpoint security, vehicle sweeps and roving patrols.
“Searches by AMK9 canine teams have led to numerous discoveries of explosives, weapons caches, and narcotics resulting in the arrest of criminals and terrorists in the Middle East,” American K-9 says.
Under a contract with the U.S. government, AMK9 began getting canine/handler teams ready for deployment to Afghanistan in late 2010.
AMK9’s Texas agent, Hill Country Dog Center, contracted with Animal Port Houston to get the dogs on a Royal Dutch Airlines cargo flight scheduled to depart Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston on Dec. 20, 2010, according to the complaint.
AMK9 says its dogs were taken to Royal Dutch Airlines receiving terminal at the airport, put in transport kennels and placed on pallets, and dropped off with Animal Port Houston’s manager Christopher Hay.
While at the airport, Hill Country Dog Center employee Jason Dill got a call from his employer asking that he bring one of the dogs back with him, which Dill did, according to the complaint.
“However, before he departed, Dill confirmed that each of the fourteen canines that remained – Tiny, Rex, Rocky, Crock, Dork, Harrie, Stress, Sigo, Rex, Jago, Kimbo, Kilo, Albert and Bak (collectively, the ‘canines’) – were alive and in good health,” AMK9 says.
AMK9 says Hays called Hill Country’s employee later that afternoon and said “through a series of events allegedly beyond his control, the canines had been unable to catch the originally scheduled KLM flight and were in his custody.”
“Hay also stated that the canines would not be boarded on another flight departing the same day, but that he would try to have the canines re-manifested on the first KLM flight the next day,” AMK9 says.
Hay offered to board the dogs overnight and said he did not have enough kennel space for all the dogs “but that he would board as many of the canines as possible in APH’s kennels while the remaining canines would be left in their transport kennels inside of APH’s warehouse,” according to the complaint.
AMK9 says Hay later spoke with Hill Country Dog Center’s owner Mike Clemenson, and assured him that Animal Port Houston would get the dogs on the scheduled flight.
“At the end of the call, Clemenson agreed to send drivers to APH early the next morning who would pick up the canines in the event that that the canines could not be boarded on the next departing flight,” AMK9 says.
AMK9 says early the next morning Hill Country’s employees arrived at APH’s office and found the dogs unattended in the back of a refrigerated box truck, rather than inside APH’s kennels and warehouses, where Hay said they would be.
Hill Country’s employee got into the truck and “immediately was struck by the rancid odor,” AMK9 says.
“He observed that there was blood on the floor of the truck and in several of the crates, and he noted that transport kennels for two of the canines (Stress and Kimbo) had been damaged – in an apparent attempt by the canines to escape their situation. Nevertheless, all fourteen canines were dead,” according to the complaint. (Parentheses in original.)
AMK9 says Hay told Hill Country’s he had found the dogs dead earlier that morning.
“Hay acknowledged that he had left the canines in the truck overnight and, in statements made to AMK9 representatives following the incident, stated that the canines were alive and well at the time he observed them the previous evening.
“Hay also stated (in subsequent conversations with AMK9) that when he discovered the canines, he noticed the truck’s climate control unit (which he had allegedly set to 68 degrees Fahrenheit the night before) was not blowing cool air.
“Further, Hay stated that the truck’s cooling unit temperature gauge showed a reading of 77 degrees Fahrenheit,” according to the complaint. (Parentheses in original.)
AMK9 says in subsequent conversations it had with Hay and with APH’s president, it learned that “it had been a common practice at APH to leave animals overnight in its transport.”
AMK9 says that in the wake of its dogs’ deaths APH was taken over by a new company called Live Animal Transportation Services, and APH’s website was revised to reflect the ownership change.
AMK9 says that during a recent conversation between Hay, and Hill Country’s owner Mike Clemenson, “Hay advised Clemenson that he (presumably via LATS) had acquired all of APH’s stock and is now in charge of ‘running’ APH’s former business.” (Parentheses in complaint.)
Hay is not a party to the lawsuit.
AMK9 seeks damages for breach of contract/bailment, negligence, negligence per se, deceptive trade practices and negligent misrepresentation.
It is represented by Christopher Popov with Vinson & Elkins in Houston

Please see the original at Courthouse News

December 13, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Explosive Remnants of War, Landmines | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Dogs of War: Beloved Comrades in Afghanistan

The New York Times Pentagon Memo  May 11, 2011

Click photo to see this and more photos at ABC News

Capt. Manuel Zepeda, the commander of Company F, Second Battalion, Sixth Marines, was unapologetic. If the Lab on the patrol had been hurt, the Marines would have lost their best weapon for detecting roadside bombs — and would have called for a medevac helicopter, just as they would for a human. An attack on the Lab was an attack on a fellow warrior.

As Captain Zepeda put it that day, “We consider the dog another Marine.”

The classified canine that went on the Navy Seals’ raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound last week has generated a wave of interest in military dogs, which have been used by the United States since at least World War I. Now, more valued than ever, they are on their own surge into Afghanistan.

American troops may be starting to come home this summer, but more dogs are going in. In 2007, the Marines began a pilot program in Afghanistan with nine bomb-sniffing dogs, a number that has grown to 350 and is expected to reach nearly 650 by the end of the year. Over all, there are some 2,700 dogs on active duty in the American military. A decade ago, before the Sept. 11 attacks, there were 1,800.

“Most of the public isn’t aware of what these dogs add to national security,” said Gerry Proctor, a spokesman for training programs at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, including the Military Working Dog School. Dogs are used for protection, pursuit, tracking and search and rescue, but the military is also increasingly relying on them to sniff out the homemade bombs that cause the vast majority of American casualties in Afghanistan. So far, no human or human-made technology can do better.

Please read the entire story here

May 12, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Improvised Explosive Devices | , , , | Leave a comment

Adopt heroic working dogs from Iraq

Monday morning (3/14/2011) between 6 & 10 on “Morning Express with Robin Meade” you’ll meet two retired military contractor dogs. Ivy and Nugget. After their service sniffing out explosives in Iraq, these pups and 2 others (4 total) need homes.

The official press release from the group that brought Ivy and Nugget to the states is below… if you are interested in providing these heroes a place to retire keep reading:

SPCA International Announces U.S. Arrival of 7 Heroic Working Dogs from Iraq

In an emotional journey, several dogs that worked tirelessly as contractors in Iraq for the U.S. Military and Coalition Forces are arrived in America this week for adoption after their many years of service in Iraq. The dogs worked primarily in the ‘Green Zone’ where they sniffed out explosives in vehicles at checkpoints, in military bases and buildings, at the airport and in hotels where Americans stayed while on business in Baghdad. Some of the dogs worked in land mine detection as well.

“We are extremely happy to be able to give these wartime heroes a new life in loving, caring homes after all their years of service in Iraq,” said Terri Crisp of the SPCA International (www.spcai.org). “These animals played an important and noble role protecting civilians and military personnel in Iraq and they deserve a comfortable retirement filled with love.”

People interested in giving these wartime heroes an honorable retirement in a loving home can email SPCA International at answers@spcai.org to enter the screening process.

For more information, go to www.spcai.org.

March 12, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Improvised Explosive Devices | , , | Leave a comment

Review finds that bomb-sniffing dogs in Afghanistan and Iraq may not be up to snuff

LA Unleashed

The State Department’s inspector general said Friday that bomb-sniffing dogs in Afghanistan and Iraq aren’t being tested properly and may not be able to effectively detect explosives.

The inspector general’s review found that the companies hired to supply and train the animals weren’t testing them for all of the scents of the most commonly encountered explosives, increasing the chance of a dog missing a bomb in a vehicle or luggage. That puts U.S. diplomats at risk, the inspector general said.

The companies — U.S. Training Center in Moyock, N.C., a business unit of the company formerly known as Blackwater, and RONCO Consulting Corp. in Washington — also used expired or potentially contaminated materials for the scent tests, the inspector general’s report said.

Susan Pitcher, a spokeswoman for Wackenhut Services, RONCO’s parent company, called the inspector general’s review “inaccurate.” She said a canine expert engaged by the State Department to verify the detection capabilities of the dogs concluded that they complied with the required standards.

Pitcher, however, said that the company had not been provided the expert’s report, receiving instead what she described as “on-site briefings” about the results.

The inspector general’s office said it had not been given the results of the expert’s inspection when it released its report.

The U.S. Training Center did not respond to a request for comment on the inspector general’s report.

The inspector general’s review was limited to three canine programs handled by U.S. Training Center and RONCO. The report did not say how many dogs each contractor provides.

Overall, the State Department uses nearly 200 bomb-sniffing dogs. The report only offers a glimpse of the costs of these services, saying the State Department pays $24 million a year alone for canine services at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

The report faults the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which is responsible for managing the canine program, for weak oversight. Investigators found that the contractors, not the bureau, were running the program and policing themselves.

During visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the investigators did not meet any bureau personnel with expertise in bomb-sniffing dogs. “They depended upon the knowledge and expertise of the contractors to ensure all contractual requirements and other standards were met,” according to the report.

The contractors told the investigators “that no outside organization with expertise in explosive detection canines had ever reviewed their operations in Iraq or Afghanistan,” the report said.

In comments printed in the report, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security said it is taking steps to improve the canine program and plans to hire an independent expert who will ensure all the contract requirements are met properly.

Original Article here

October 13, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, ArmorGroup, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, G4S, Ronco, Safety and Security Issues, State Department, Wackenhut | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Report: US Taxpayers Are Wasting Millions On Contractors To Train Explosive Sniffing Dogs

Be Informed

The US State Department (DOS) spends millions on it’s explosives detection canine services program in Iraq and Afghanistan. The dogs are trained to sniff explosives to ensure safety of US as well as foreign personnel on the ground. The program is operated through contractors like the DC based RONCO Consulting Corporation, which further sub-contracts the work to others like the ArmorGroup of North America, Triple Canopy etc. According to a report recently published by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), this program is seriously mismanaged, as contractors are neither doing their job properly, nor are they supervised.

The OIG reviewed three specific explosives detection canine programs managed by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) in South Asia and the Middle East, and reached the following conclusions. Here’s an excerpt from the report:

  • All of the Department’s explosives detection canine services are part of various security-related contracts in South Asia and the Middle East. These contracts include the embassy security force contracts in Baghdad and Kabul and task orders of the Worldwide Personal Protective Services contract in Baghdad, Tallil, and Erbil in Iraq and Kabul, Afghanistan. Canines in these programs regularly conduct searches and inspect vehicles, packages, and luggage.
  • Given that the Department employs nearly 200 canines and handlers for these services, the expenditures for canine services can be considerable. For example, the Department pays over $24 million per year for canine services associated with the Baghdad Embassy Security Force.
  • The ability of a canine to recognize explosive scents is the foundation for any explosives detection canine program, and canines should be able to recognize common explosives. Canines under Department contracts must comply with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Odor Recognition Proficiency Standard for Explosives Detection Canines. This standard includes testing for six mandatory scents of the most commonly encountered explosives.
  • During its review of these three programs, OIG found systemic weaknesses in canine test procedures that call into question the ability of the canines to effectively detect explosives. The contractors do not test for all mandated scents and use old materials to train and test the canines, although fresh materials are required. Additionally, the improper method of storing these materials may be leading to cross-contamination (which violates the standards laid out by the Treasury, which specifically prohibits cross-contamination of scents of explosives, so as to ensure that the dogs are accurately trained).
  • At the time of OIG’s field work, no independent expert had validated the detection abilities of the canines or determined whether the contractors comply with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Odor Recognition Proficiency Standard for Explosives Detection Canines since the award of the contracts.
  • The Department of the Treasury’s standard requires that fresh explosives be used for each testing session and that testing be done annually. At none of the locations could contractors verify the age of the testing materials. One contractor reported using testing material obtained over three years ago from the previous security contractor. Other contractors indicated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell or the Department of Defense’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit provides the testing explosives, many of which are collected from unexploded improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan and are of indeterminate age.
  • Canines undergo regular scent recognition testing under which they must be able to recognize six mandatory scents. In two programs, contractors did not possess all testing substances. In a third program, the contractor reported that it tested for all six scents, but could not verify to the OIG team that the materials used were actually the required testing substances. No contractor had reliable documentation to validate either the receipt or composition of testing materials. Contractors with all three programs reported that they either did not know how to ship in fresh testing materials or were incapable of doing so.
  • Certain explosive testing materials must be stored separately as they tend to readily cross- contaminate with other explosives. However, the OIG team observed that in all three programs, contractors stored these particular materials with other explosives, which may result in contaminated testing materials. Contractors with all three programs stated at the time of OIG’s fieldwork they did not have the space to store materials separately.
  • During field work in Iraq and Afghanistan, the OIG team did not encounter any DS personnel with expertise in explosive detection canines. Instead, according to DS staff members, they depended upon the knowledge and expertise of the contractors to ensure all contractual requirements and other standards were met. The contractors responsible for the canines reported to OIG that no outside organization with expertise in explosive detection canines had ever reviewed their operations in Iraq or Afghanistan

The OIG’s conclusion: “OIG’s examination of three explosive detection canine programs revealed systemic problems that directly affect the safety and security of U.S. Government personnel and installations. In the three programs OIG reviewed, the contractors, rather than DS, were responsible for implementing the program and ensuring that contractually required procedures were being followed. Contractors are not testing for all scents, are using possibly expired or contaminated materials to test canines, and are storing materials in a manner that may be leading to cross-contamination.”

The Center for Public Integrity has this to say about the RONCO Consulting Corporation, the contractor in charge of this mess: “On March 14, 2003, Ronco was awarded a contract by the U.S. Defense Department worth more than $419,000 to come up with a plan to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate the Iraqi armed forces, as well as national and regional militias. The State Department contracted with Ronco to perform two main functions in the landmine clearance activities in Iraq.

Ronco received a six-month contract from the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives’ Afghanistan Political Transition Grant Project. To fulfill this contract, Ronco established offices in Afghanistan to coordinate the disbursement of grants designed to rehabilitate Afghanistan’s social and economic infrastructure. According to USAID, Ronco is in charge of creating “a broad operational platform for the entire USAID effort in Afghanistan.” Toward the end of the initial six months, USAID extended the contract to one year for a total value of $5.65 million.

Ronco has also been involved in Afghanistan’s demining efforts. The company provides training and assistance to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance and the Mine Action Program Afghanistan. In January 2002, the State Department provided approximately $3.1 million to support the salaries and expense costs of 15 Ronco staff members stationed in Afghanistan to train Afghan mine clearance personnel, according to a State Department fact sheet.

Among Ronco’s full-time staff of 90 U.S. and 300 host country personnel, the company boasts on its Web site of employing many ex-government officials, including “a former USAID deputy assistant administrator, mission directors [and] senior military personnel.” Among the former USAID employees is Larry Crandall, who is currently Ronco’s vice president for International Programs. Crandall was mission director of USAID’s operations in Haiti. According to USAID’s presentation to Congress in 1997, Ronco was a contractor in Haiti while Crandall was mission director in that country.”

RONCO has been awarded even more contracts worth millions by the DOS beside the $3.1 million contract mentioned above. We are not only wasting millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money but this puts at risk those who depend on these explosive detecting services for their safety. The only ones benefiting from this mismanaged program are the contractors who are paid handsomely for their (lack of) services.

~ Gauri   Please see the original article at Be Informed

October 12, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, ArmorGroup, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Demining, Private Military Contractors, Ronco, Safety and Security Issues, State Department, Triple Canopy, Wackenhut | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Report says Ronco and The US Training Center (Blackwater) bomb-sniffing dogs not up to snuff

Update by Richard Lardner Associated Press at CB Online

WASHINGTON (AP) – The State Department’s inspector general said Friday that bomb-sniffing dogs in Afghanistan and Iraq aren’t being tested properly and may not be able to effectively detect explosives.

The inspector general’s review found that the companies hired to supply and train the animals weren’t testing them for all of the scents of the most commonly encountered explosives, increasing the chance of a dog missing a bomb in a vehicle or luggage. That puts U.S. diplomats at risk, the inspector general said.

The companies — U.S. Training Center in Moyock, N.C., a business unit of the company formerly known as Blackwater, and RONCO Consulting Corp. in Washington — also used expired or potentially contaminated materials for the scent tests, the inspector general’s report said.

Representatives from RONCO, owned by Wackenhut Services, and the U.S. Training Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the inspector general’s report.

The inspector general’s review was limited to three canine programs handled by U.S. Training Center and RONCO. The report does not say how many dogs each contractor provides.

Overall, the State Department uses nearly 200 bomb-sniffing dogs. And the report only offers a glimpse of the costs of these services, saying the State department pays $24 million a year alone for canine services at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

The report faults the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which is responsible for managing the canine program, for weak oversight. Investigators found that the contractors, not the bureau, were running the program and policing themselves.

During visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the investigators did not meet any bureau personnel with expertise in bomb-sniffing dogs. “They depended upon the knowledge and expertise of the contractors to ensure all contractual requirements and other standards were met,” according to the report.

And the contractors told the investigators “that no outside organization with expertise in explosive detection canines had ever reviewed their operations in Iraq or Afghanistan,” the report said.

In comments printed in the report, the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security said it is taking steps to improve the canine program and plans to hire an independent expert who will ensure all the contract requirements are met properly.

Richard Lardner Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The State Department’s inspector general says bomb-sniffing dogs used in Afghanistan and Iraq aren’t being tested properly and may not be able to effectively detect explosives.

In a report released Friday, the inspector general said its review found that the companies hired to supply and train the dogs weren’t testing them for all of the scents of the most commonly encountered explosives, increasing the chance of a dog missing a bomb in a vehicle or luggage. That puts U.S. troops at risk.

The companies also used expired or contaminated materials for the scent tests.

In comments printed in the report, the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security says it is taking steps to improve the canine program and plans to hire a contractor that will ensure all the contract requirements are met.

October 8, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Iraq, Ronco, Ronco Consulting Corporation, State Department | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Military Canines show battle stress

Military dog comes home from Iraq traumatized

Associated Press Writer Dan Elliott

Click here to see more photos

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Gina was a playful 2-year-old German shepherd when she went to Iraq as a highly trained bomb-sniffing dog with the military, conducting door-to-door searches and witnessing all sorts of noisy explosions.

She returned home to Colorado cowering and fearful. When her handlers tried to take her into a building, she would stiffen her legs and resist. Once inside, she would tuck her tail beneath her body and slink along the floor. She would hide under furniture or in a corner to avoid people.

A military veterinarian diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder — a condition that some experts say can afflict dogs just like it does humans.

“She showed all the symptoms and she had all the signs,” said Master Sgt. Eric Haynes, the kennel master at Peterson Air Force Base. “She was terrified of everybody and it was obviously a condition that led her down that road.”

A year later, Gina is on the mend. Frequent walks among friendly people and a gradual reintroduction to the noises of military life have begun to overcome her fears, Haynes said.

Haynes describes her progress as “outstanding.”

“Pretty fabulous, actually,” added Staff Sgt. Melinda Miller, who’s been Gina’s handler since May. “She makes me look pretty good.”

PTSD is well-documented among American servicemen and women returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but its existence in animals is less clear-cut. Some veterinarians say animals do experience it, or a version of it.

Read the entire article here

August 4, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Iraq, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder | , , | Leave a comment

It’s PMC Déjà vu All Over Again

By David Isenberg at Huff Post

Thanks to the dedicated folks over at the Project on Government Oversight, who just last September broke the story about drunken party antics and serious security lapses by Armor Group North America contractors at the U.S. embassy in Kabul we now have ANOTHER example of lack of proper U.S. government oversight of a private military contractor at an American embassy.

In July 2005, Triple Canopy was awarded the Baghdad Embassy Security Force contract. From the start of the contract in July 2005 until September 2009, DS has obligated to Triple Canopy a total of $438 million. Currently, Triple Canopy has more than 1,800 employees dedicated to the contract in Baghdad. Approximately 1,600 of these employees are guards from Peru and Uganda.

The POGO press release says:

A previously unreleased report by the Department of State Office of Inspector General (IG), obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), found that the State Department has failed to properly oversee the contractor responsible for guarding the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The IG found problems similar to those POGO uncovered at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
The IG discovered that security is undermined by significant training and language deficiencies in the Embassy Baghdad guard force, in violation of the contract held by Triple Canopy ( http://www.triplecanopy.com ). The IG also found that conditions for guards at Camp Olympia were “unsafe,” and included “four times the acceptable number of guards residing in a room” and “frayed electrical wires in high traffic areas.” In the most serious case, there was an electrocution death in September 2009.

According to the report, in the areas in which State conducted the most oversight, Triple Canopy performed well. But in the areas in which State had little oversight-such as training and English language proficiency-the contractor’s performance failed to meet contract requirements. “No random language proficiency checks were carried out,” the report stated.

“As a result, Triple Canopy has been able to hire and employ guards and guard supervisors with insufficient language ability.”

In addition, Triple Canopy’s guards reported working an average of 10 to 11 consecutive days, and the IG found that some worked as many as 39 days in a row.

POGO has posted the State Department IG report, “The Bureau of Diplomatic Security Baghdad Embassy Security Force: Performance Audit here so people can read it for themselves. Thus far, it is not available on the Middle East Regional Office portion of the State Department Inspector General website, which is where such a report should be.

Now, it is worth remembering that Triple Canopy did its job reasonably well with respect to its core contract function, i.e., keeping the embassy safe. The very first finding in the IG report says:

The Baghdad Embassy Security Force (BESF) provided through a contract with the private security company, Triple Canopy, has been effective in ensuring the safety of chief of mission personnel in Baghdad’s volatile security environment.
Also the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) generally manages the Triple Canopy contract well, although it could improve its oversight of personnel attendance and language qualification.

But the IG report also states the contracting officer’s representative in Baghdad does not verify either the guards’ attendance at their posts or the accuracy of personnel rosters (muster sheets) before they are submitted, to ensure contractor charges for labor are accurate.

In addition, DS does not ensure that personnel have required English language proficiency.

It does not take a PhD to understand that if your guards do not speak English it is going to be difficult for their Western managers to communicate with them. As the report says on page five, “Due to their low levels of proficiency, some guard supervisors are unable to adequately communicate with their subordinates, which could lead to serious problems during an emergency.” In case you think this is theoretical nitpicking here is what the report says:

Nine English-speaking Ugandan guards told the OIG team they could not communicate with their Spanish-speaking Peruvian supervisors. When the Ugandan guards need to speak to their supervisors, they must find a bilingual guard to interpret. According to the regional security office, during an emergency or threat, guard supervisors are expected to lead, take charge, and issue orders to subordinates. Without English language proficiency, they would be unable to adequately function during an emergency. OIG believes the Peruvian supervisors’ low level of English language proficiency undermines guard force effectiveness.

The report notes in the comments it received from DS that:

The methodology used by the DS program office to determine language proficiency is not clear, but OIG’s detailed review of the supervisors’ training files indicated that not all of the supervisors possessed Level 2 English language proficiency for their position as required by the contract. Numerous supervisor files included signed letters from Triple Canopy management requiring them to attend Level 0 or Level 1 English classes. Also, in discussions with Triple Canopy’s training instructors, OIG learned that Triple Canopy was aware that not all of the guards who were promoted to supervisory positions possessed the required Level 2 English proficiency.

Hopefully someone will ask Triple Canopy when it became aware of the lack of English proficiency and what, if anything, they were planning to do about it.

The IG report also found that DS lacks standards for maintaining training records. As a result, Triple Canopy’s training records are incomplete and in disparate locations making it difficult for the Bureau to verify whether all personnel have received required training.

The BESF contract requires Triple Canopy to maintain employee training records that may be reviewed by the contracting officer’s representative (COR). OIG found that Triple Canopy does not adequately maintain training records for all employees. Specifically, through an examination of records, OIG was unable to determine whether all guard supervisors had taken and passed the required supervisory training course. Additionally, training records are not consistently formatted or housed in a central location, making it difficult for the COR to review them. Lastly, OIG determined that the Triple Canopy training department in Baghdad does not follow any standard operating procedures for training data collection and storage. (p. 16)

Another problem is that there are several weaknesses in the canine explosive test procedures carried out by Triple Canopy’s subcontractor, RONCO Consulting Corporation.

RONCO could not confirm whether it is testing for all scents required by the contract. In addition, possibly expired and contaminated materials are used to train and test the canines, although fresh testing materials are required. Finally, the way in which these materials are stored may lead to cross-contamination.

More troubling is thta DS representatives at Embassy Baghdad do not have criteria for the number of consecutive days guards can work without a day off. The Office of Inspector General found that some guards had worked as many as 39 days without a break.

This is similar to what happened with the ArmorGroup guards in Afghanistan, when they were found to be working 12 hour shifts without a break. How hard is it to understand that a tired guard is an unsafe guard?

Then there was the matter of unsafe working conditions.

Triple Canopy BESF guard housing is unsafe and in violation of the contract, several safety codes, and Department of State (Department) regulations. Specifically: Triple Canopy houses guards in unsafe conditions. Guards live in crowded barracks and shipping containers that exceed occupancy limits by more than 400 percent. Barracks lack required sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers, and two exit points.

Barracks’ exits also exceed the minimum safe distance, and are sometimes blocked by objects. The barracks and containers do not have required fire alarms, smoke detectors, emergency lighting, or exit signs. Currently, no entity is overseeing housing safety, although both Triple Canopy and the Department are required to do so.

Interestingly, Triple Canopy is a member of IPOA, a private military contractor trade association. Triple Canopy joined IPOA in July 2008.

IPOA has a Code of Conduct, albeit largely toothless, which its member companies are supposed to follow. And Triple Canopy has its own Code of Conduct and Business Ethics that employees are expected to follow.

With respect to IPOA’s Code Section 6.3 states, “Signatories shall utilize adequately trained and prepared personnel in all their operations in accordance with clearly defined company standards that are appropriate and specific to their duties undertaken and the environment of operations.” Having guards who lack the proper language proficiency would seem a violation.

Similarly 6.4 states, “Signatories shall properly vet, supervise and train personnel.” That suggests Triple Canopy has failed insofar as it knew it had personnel who lacked the required language skills yet was not doing anything to remedy it.

In theory IPOA could undertake an investigation of Triple Canopy. IPOA has a mechanism for filing complaints against its member companies. But, as it states, “The SCOPe shall not be legally binding. It is intended that it serve as a guide for the Standards Committee in its monitoring of Member Company compliance with the IPOA Code of Conduct (“the Code”).” Given that IPOA’s budget comes, in large part, from its member companies it does not have any incentive to investigate them. Even if it did its tiny, albeit well paid permanent staff, does not have much time or organizational resources to do so. It seems it is easier for IPOA to dismiss people who report bad news as “sometime-cynics” then to take seriously its own self-proclaimed mission to “promote high operational and ethical standards of firms active in the peace and stability operations industry.”

Still, taking the larger view, Triple Canopy represents progress. Unlike ArmorGroup in Iraq, where the contractors potentially put the embassy in danger, Triple Canopy did keep the Baghdad embassy safe at all times. And at least no guards were drinking vodka shots off someone’s ass. Slow progress perhaps, but progress nonetheless.

Finally, just to end where we started, after POGO blew the whistle on ArmorGroup last year, the State Department fired eight guards and announced it would not renew the contract of ArmorGroup after it expires in July, but would grant it a six-month extension “to allow for an orderly transition between contractors.” But since ArmorGroup is still on the job until the end of this year, the State Department wants to toughen its oversight of the private security contractor, and it intends to do that by hiring other contractors to oversee this one. Talk about hiring the fox to guard the henhouse.

March 26, 2010 Posted by | ArmorGroup, Triple Canopy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment