Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

National Guard soldiers say contractor knew about toxin

KTVL TV 10 Portland Associated Press  April 4, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A military contractor knew an Iraqi water treatment plant’s lax environmental standards let a toxic chemical contaminate the area, but never disclosed it to Oregon National Guard soldiers who were sickened, the soldiers said in a complaint filed Wednesday.

The complaint in U.S. District Court in Oregon alleges Kellogg, Brown and Root knew about the presence of sodium dichromate at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant months before the date they originally gave in testimony and depositions.

A message left Wednesday for KBR was not immediately returned.

Sodium dichromate is an anticorrosive compound that can cause skin and breathing problems and cancer.

The soldiers, suffering from myriad respiratory problems, migraines and lung issues, sued KBR in June 2009.

The company acknowledged the presence of sodium dichromate in July 2003; a former employee later revealed an email to his managers that showed the company knew of the chemical in June 2003.

But the report uncovered by the soldiers’ attorneys points to KBR knowing about the presence of sodium dichromate in January 2003.

The soldiers say they only learned of the alleged misrepresentation in late February, after a Department of Defense inspector general investigation directed them to a 2002 KBR assessment of the plant.

Attorneys for the soldiers called the company’s earlier explanation “deliberate, calculated concealment,” according to the complaint. Guard soldiers from Oregon, Indiana and West Virginia who provided security at the Qarmat Ali water plant are involved in suits against KBR.

April 4, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, Follow the Money, Government Contractor, Halliburton, KBR, Toxic | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

98 Percent of Former Military Officers Drop Out of Pentagon Program after Financial Disclosure

Project on Government Oversight  POGO November 9, 2011

Since Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered the Pentagon to require “senior mentors” to file public financial disclosure documents, 98 percent of the retired senior officers have left the program, according to a Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG) report released on October 31.

The controversial “senior mentors” program refers to the Pentagon’s practice of hiring retired military officers, one to four stars in rank, as part-time government advisors. According to USA Today, in exchange for offering advice to former colleagues, these mentors made as much as $330 an hour—more than triple what they made as active officers.

On top of that, USA Today revealed that of 158 identified senior mentors, 80 percent had financial ties to defense contractors—and 29 were full-time executives of defense companies. As POGO’s former national security investigator Mandy Smithberger pointed out, this practice showed that “the revolving door between the Pentagon and the defense industry is alive and well…and raises many ethical questions that merit additional investigation by Congress and the Inspector General.”

After the Senate Armed Services Committee exerted pressure, the Pentagon ordered an overhaul of the program in April 2010. The resulting memorandum [which was revised again in November, 2010] included subjecting mentors to federal conflict of interest laws, such as preventing mentors from divulging non-public information to defense contractors, or taking action that has “a direct and predictable” effect on their private interests. It also required all members of the program to disclose their employers, earnings and stocks.

The resulting Inspector General audit aimed to determine whether DoD implemented and complied with the memorandum. It determined that of the 194 reported senior mentors in fiscal year 2010, 11 converted to the title of “highly qualified expert” (HQE) and the rest are no longer working in the senior mentor program.

Please read the entire article here

November 9, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, Government Contractor, Pentagon | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Defense Department Inspector General says KBR and the military failed to respond quickly to health risks posed to Oregon soldiers

The OregonianSeptember 28, 2011

The Defense Department and contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root failed to act as quickly as they should have to protect those exposed to a carcinogenic chemical at an Iraqi water treatment plant in 2003, according to a report Wednesday by the Defense Department’s Inspector General.

The report was hailed as a victory for Oregon soldiers by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who was one of a group of senators who sought the IG’s evaluation, and by Oregon National Guard troops who are among those suing KBR. They accuse the contractor of knowingly exposing them to sodium dichromate, an anticorrosive compound that can cause skin and breathing problems and cancer.

Because KBR “did not fully comply with occupational safety and health standards required” under its contract with the Army, the Inspector General found, “a greater number of Service members and DoD civilian employees were exposed to sodium dichromate, and for longer periods, increasing the potential for chronic health effects.”

The report found that “nearly 1,000 Army soldiers and civilian employees were exposed to the compound in the five months it took from the initial site visit until the military command required personal protective equipment.”

“To me, the bottom line is this report confirms what Oregon soldiers and I have been saying for years,” said Wyden. “KBR and the military command failed to protect soldiers from a known threat.”

Houston-based KBR couldn’t be reached for comment before deadline. KBR has previously denied knowingly exposing soldiers or contractors to health risks.

Rocky Bixby of Tualatin, the former Oregon National Guard soldier who is listed as the first plaintiff in the suit against KBR, said Wednesday afternoon that he hadn’t yet seen the report, but is “obviously happy.”

“I’m just happy that the government is making a stand on this and protecting its troops,” said Bixby, who says he continues to suffer breathing difficulties that started after he helped secure the plant where KBR was working to restore water service.

The 56-page report also faults the military’s handling of the work at Qarmat Ali, from the vague wording of its initial contract to its failure to monitor the contractor’s compliance with its terms

Please read more here

September 28, 2011 Posted by | AIG and CNA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Department of Defense, Halliburton, KBR, Safety and Security Issues, Toxic | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

IG finds Army mismanaged contingency operations support contract

Logistics Civil Augementation Program Support Contract Needs to Comply with Aquisition Rules

by Robert Brodsky at Goverment Exec

Army procurement officials failed to properly manage a key support contract for contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, awarding millions of dollars of work without competition and disclosing bidders’ proprietary information without their knowledge or consent, according to a watchdog’s new report.

The report by the Defense Department inspector general found scores of internal control weaknesses associated with the Army Sustainment Command’s management of a support contract for the massive Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, which provides a host of services and in-theatre assistance to soldiers. Three firms — DynCorp International, Fluor Corp. and KBR — compete for task orders on the LOGCAP IV contract.

Serco Inc. of Vienna, Va., in February 2007 won a $117 million support contract to help the Army plan and estimate costs of task orders on the LOGCAP IV contract. But, according to auditors, Army officials allowed the scope of Serco’s contract to expand to non-LOGCAP requirements without taking the proper steps to ensure competition and prevent conflicts of interest.

Please read the entire article by Robert Brodsky here

January 7, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contract Awards, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, DynCorp, Fluor, Government Contractor, Iraq, KBR, LOGCAP, Pentagon | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PMC and Sex Crimes

The crime that dare not speak its name…

By David Isenberg at Huff Post

On April 16 the Department of Defense Inspector General released a report that nobody has been talking about. Allow me to be the first. Perhaps we should subtitle it the crime that dare not speak its name, as it deals with a topic that most private military contractors (PMC) generally don’t talk about publicly.

The title of the report is “Efforts to Prevent Sexual Assault/Harassment Involving DOD Contractors During Contingency Operations.” .

My first thought is how is it that some contractors can’t seem to keep it in their pants? This is an issue that seems to keep happening over the years; from the days when DynCorp contractors were involved in a sex trafficking scandal in Bosnia when employees and supervisors engaged in sex with 12 to 15 year old children, and sold them to each other as slaves to the gang-rape of Jamie Leigh Jones a former KBR employee who claimed that seven KBR employees drugged and gang-raped her on July 28, 2005 at Camp Hope, Baghdad, Iraq.

For those who like to dismiss such things as isolated occurrences just head on over to the “Rape, Hazing, Discrimination & Harassment” section of Ms, Sparky’s blog and you will be promptly disabused of such a notion.

In fact the situation is serious enough that the sexual assault of employees of U.S. military contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan will be tracked by the Pentagon under a system it is setting up.

Evidently the fact that the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) declares that sexual assault committed by the Armed Forces and DOD civilians and contractors accompanying Armed Forces in contingency operations is a criminal offense that is punishable by court-martial is not enough to keep assaults from happening.

The IG report reviewed contracts that support Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom for language in clauses that address the prevention of sexual assault or harassment of or by contractor personnel. It also determined whether DOD and/or DOD contractors provided sexual assault/harassment prevention and response training to contractor employees prior to deployment.

What it found was:

That of the 10 DOD contractors reviewed, 8 did not have policies or training requirements for sexual assault prevention and response. This condition occurred because contractual requirements were not established to ensure that contractors were aware of DOD’s definition of sexual assault or that contractors should report sexual assault complaints to Military law enforcement during contingency operations. In addition, sexual assault prevention and response policy was not applied to contractors and contractors were not required to complete such training as part of theater-specific individual requirements training. The Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7, and Air Force contracting officers did not provide adequate oversight of contractor deployment training for sexual assault prevention and response. This condition occurred because the Kellogg, Brown, and Root Services, Inc. Continental United States Replacement Center (CRC) and Fluor Corporation CRC operations were inappropriately approved, despite the contractors’ sexual assault awareness and reporting training not meeting the minimum
training requirements. Further, contractor employees were processed through pre-deployment sites without ensuring that sexual assault prevention and response training was completed.

One can’t help wondering what the world is coming to when men have to go through training to understand that no means no.

Indeed, the report found that most contractors had problems even defining sexual assault. The report noted:

We determined that 8 of 10 contractors reviewed did not establish an adequate corporate definition of sexual assault or promote awareness to contractor employees assigned to DOD projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. Specifically, five contractors misclassified sexual assault, a violent felony, as an act of sexual harassment, a civil offense, which is reported internally within the companies instead of externally to Military law enforcement; one contractor developed a definition that was inconsistent with DOD’s definition and established internal company reporting procedures; and the remaining two contractors did not provide any definition of sexual assault. The remaining 2 of 10 contractors developed a definition of sexual assault that was consistent with DOD’s definition, but only 1 of the 2 contractors established external reporting to Military law enforcement.

Sexual assault is not just a problem for private contractors; it also is a problem for regular military forces. On February 5, 2004, the Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum, “Department of Defense Care for Victims of Sexual Assaults,” that expressed concern with the increasing numbers of reports alleging sexual assaults involving Service members deployed to Iraq and Kuwait and directed a review of how DOD handled the treatment and care for victims of sexual assault in theater. On February 10, 2004, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness [USD(P&R)] directed the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Health, Protection, and Readiness to establish and lead a task force to review the reporting of sexual assaults and consider the necessity of training for Service members. In April 2004, the task force issued the “Task Force Report on Care for Victims of Sexual Assault,” which found that DOD did not have a policy or program aimed at preventing sexual assault, particularly in joint combat environments.

The companies that the report looked at were. AECOM; Environmental Chemical Corporation (ECC); Fluor Corporation (Fluor); ITT Corporation, Systems Division (ITT); Innovative Technical Solutions, Inc.(ITSI); Kellogg, Brown, and Root Services, Inc. (KBR); L-3 Communications; Parsons Corporation (Parsons); Readiness Management Support, LC (RMS); and Tetra Tech, Inc.

These ten contractors were selected based on the following criteria: U.S.-based companies; contracting actions awarded in FY 2006 and FY 2007; and combined FY 2006 and FY 2007 contracting actions equal to or exceeding $250 million.

As is often the case with PMC issues the government shares the blame for the problem. The report noted:

Although the 10 DOD contractors reviewed have policies and training requirements in place to comply with the intent of Equal Employment Opportunity laws regarding sexual harassment, the contractors did not establish similar policies and training requirements for sexual assault awareness, prevention, and reporting for DOD contractor employees. This occurred because the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics [USD(AT&L)] did not establish requirements in DOD contracts to ensure: • contractors are made aware of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) definition of sexual assault; and
• contractor employees report sexual assault complaints to Military law enforcement during contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In addition, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness [USD(P&R)]:
• established sexual assault prevention, reporting, and response policies that excluded DOD contractors; and
• did not ensure that combatant commanders established minimum pre-deployment training requirements to include sexual assault prevention and response training for contractors who accompany U.S. Armed Forces in contingency operations.

As a result, contractor employees who were alleged victims or witnesses may not have known how to report sexual assault crimes to the appropriate Military law enforcement officials while in Operations Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Iraqi Freedom (OIF) areas of operation. Additionally, DOD contractors, a supporting component of the DOD total force, may have been unaware of the severity of sexual assault as a criminal offense under the UCMJ, thereby increasing the risk of sexual assault occurrences that threaten contractor productivity in support of DOD contingency operations.

In terms of policies the report found:

We determined that KBR and Parsons were the only two contractors that developed company policies for their employees that addressed sexual assault prevention and response, but that the KBR and Parsons policies were limited. The KBR sexual assault policy, issued in October 2007, applied to only KBR employees who supported the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) and excluded KBR employees performing work on other contracts supporting contingency operations; provided a definition of sexual assault that considered any nonconsensual sexual act or contact to be sexual assault; and established reporting procedures for its LOGCAP employees to report sexual assault crimes internally to KBR human resources representatives, employee relations representatives, its ethics hotline, or legal counsel, and did not mention local law enforcement. Parsons’ workplace violence policy prohibited physical assault, which included sexual assault; however, the Parsons’ policy was inadequate because it did not provide the defining elements of sexual assault. Additionally, the Parsons’ policy provided internal company reporting procedures for its employees to contact Parsons supervisors, security, and emergency hotline, and did not mention local law enforcement.

In terms of training the report found:

RMS and Fluor were the only two DOD contractors that developed and implemented sexual assault prevention and response training that classified sexual assault as a crime characterized by nonconsensual and threatening physical contact causing bodily harm, including rape. The RMS training module, implemented in June 2007, was the only sexual assault training that appropriately instructed employees to report sexual assault crimes to law enforcement authorities as well as to internal company management, human resources managers, and the RMS ethics hotline. However, the Fluor sexual assault prevention and response training, implemented in June 2009, inappropriately instructed employees to report sexual assault crimes internally to Fluor supervisors and managers.

The IG report recommends that the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics develop contractual requirements to ensure that DOD contractors are aware of the DOD definition of sexual assault and require contractors to report sexual assaults to Military law enforcement.

Of course, there are many private military contractors working for places other than the Defense Department. One can’t fault the IG report for that; it can only address its own department. But one hopes that someone in government will ensure the recommendations apply government wide and not just to Pentagon contractors.

Follow David Isenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/vanidan

April 21, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Defense Base Act, KBR, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors, Rape, Sexual Assault | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Senators Call for Changes to Troubled, Costly Afghan Police Training Program

by Ryan Knutson, ProPublica

State and Defense department officials took a tongue-lashing today, trying to explain to a Senate subcommittee how the government has poured $6 billion since 2002 into building an effective Afghan police force with disastrous results.

ProPublica and Newsweek examined the problems [1] with police training in Afghanistan in a story published last month. The program, managed under a contract with DynCorp International, has faced challenges on every front, from recruitment to inadequate training periods to corruption to poor officer retention.

“Everything that could go wrong here, has gone wrong,” Gordon S. Heddell, the inspector general of the Department of Defense, acknowledged to an ad hoc subcommittee [2] of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Heddell’s office, along with the State Department’s Inspector General, completed a six-month audit in January of the program that found significant lapses.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the subcommittee chair, and others on the panel were less interested in rehashing the program’s well-known shortcomings and more interested in hearing about solutions. “What you laid out was a problem we knew in 2001,” said Sen. Edward Kaufman, D-Del., in response to comments from Heddell. “What are the two or three things you can spend $6 billion on and not end up with essentially nothing?”

Defense and State Department officials agreed that clearer guidelines for the contractor and more oversight are needed to improve the program. Currently, the State Department has just seven contract overseers in Afghanistan, said David T. Johnson, an assistant secretary for the State Department. The agency hopes to have 22 in place by September, Johnson said.

Another key would be to make training ongoing, rather than just the six weeks that police recruits are getting now, said David S. Sedney, a deputy assistant secretary with the Defense Department. “This is not a weeks- or months-long [process] — it’s a years-long process,” he said, adding that police need to be partnered with American military and more experienced Afghan troops on whom they can model their behavior.

Even if the program makes headway, some senators questioned whether it would be sustainable without a massive ongoing commitment from U.S. taxpayers. The Afghan police and army are slated to receive $11.6 billion to fund their operations for 2011, with just over half going to the police, Sedney said. McCaskill pointed out that’s only $2 billion less than the entire country’s Gross Domestic Product.

“It’s obvious that Afghanistan is not going to be able to afford what we’re building for them,” she said. The U.S. has made a “billion-dollar commitment for years to come.”

The government is already exploring whether a change in contractors might benefit the police-training program. DynCorp’s contract has been extended for several months, but the State Department has issued a call for new bids, hoping an array of companies will step up to compete for the job, Johnson said. McCaskill was skeptical, however.

“I will be shocked — like winning the lottery — if we end up with anybody other than DynCorp,” she said.

Write to Ryan Knutson at Ryan.Knutson@propublica.org

April 15, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, DynCorp, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Defense Contract Management Agency Acquisition Workforce for Southwest Asia

DCMA and Contractor Oversight

By David Isenberg at Huff Post

Let us start out by acknowledging that most federal government auditors and contracting officers charged with doing oversight on private contractors have a difficult job. As has been documented for years they are overburdened and until recently, under resourced. I am sure most of them try to do an enormously difficult job as professionally and competently as they can.

That said, they can only be as good as the agency they work for. When we think of private contractors working for the U.S. military that means places like the Defense Contract Auditing Agency and the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) . DCMA is the DOD Component that works directly with Defense suppliers to help ensure that DOD, Federal, and allied Government supplies and services are delivered on time, at projected cost, and meet all performance requirements.

With regard to the latter let’s look at a recent report by the Department of Defense Inspector General. Titled “Defense Contract Management Agency Acquisition Workforce for Southwest Asia” its objective was to determine DCMA requirements to support Southwest Asia (SWA) contracting operations and the number of available DCMA civilian, military, foreign national, and support contractors supporting the operations. Specifically, it determined whether DCMA identified its requirements to support SWA contracting operations. It also evaluated whether a sample of the DCMA acquisition workforce for SWA was adequately trained and certified.

Southwest Asia means Afghanistan so one can see this is not a just a subject of academic concern.

Unfortunately for U.S. troops there the report makes DCMA look a bit like the Keystone Cops. The report found that as of December 31, 2008, DCMA provided contract oversight and contract administration for contract actions valued at $1.3 trillion.

But DCMA could not determine its resource requirements for contractor oversight and
contract administration in SWA because:

DCMA is reactive rather than proactive in assuming its role to provide contractor oversight and contract administration.
DCMA did not define its acquisition workforce requirements to support contracting operations in SWA,

AT&L [Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics] does not require Defense agencies to document acquisition workforce requirements, and

DCMA must be delegated contractor oversight and contract administration responsibility for work in SWA.

On the not so outlandish assumption that one can’t do good oversight if you don’t have good auditors the report dismayingly reports that:

DCMA Southwest Asia personnel did not have the proper training and certification for contingency contracting positions in SWA. Specifically, of the 221 DCMA personnel training records reviewed from a universe of 1,170 from FY 2004 through FY 2009: 103 DCMA personnel were not fully qualified for the position occupied, and

57 quality assurance representatives did not have or could not produce proof of Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act certification.

In addition, of the 75 position descriptions DCMA provided, 30 position descriptions were either incorrect or did not have a requirement for certification.

Although the Pentagon has said numerous times in the past several years that it is increasing the size of its acquisition workforce the IG report noted that

DCMA reported that its civilian staffing decreased from 19,403 full-time equivalents as of October 1, 1992, to 9,423 as of December 31, 2008 (a 51 percent decrease). DCMA military staffing decreased from 570 on January 1, 2003, to 542 as of December 31, 2008. From October 1, 1999 through December 31, 2008, the number of DCMA-administered contracts increased from 309,000 to 321,000, while the obligated value of those contracts increased from $866 billion to $1.3 trillion (50 percent increase). Conversely, during the same period the number of contractors administered by DCMA decreased from 18,600 to 18,500.

With those numbers it is small wonders problems keep cropping up.

Considering what I wrote in my last post , regarding contractors overseeing contractors, it is worth noting that the report says “DCMA does not (nor is required to) report the number of contractor and foreign national personnel in the acquisition workforce. However, the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) contract requires contractor personnel to perform contract administration functions. As a result, an unknown number of contractor and foreign national personnel may be supplementing the contract administration workforce.”

For those who wonder why that is a problem, consider this excerpt from the IG report::

The Army awarded the LOGCAP III contract to Kellogg, Brown, and Root in 2001 and delegated the responsibility of managing the LOGCAP III contract to DCMA in August 2006. Although DCMA was delegated contract administration authority for the LOGCAP III contract, DCMA relied on the prime contractor to perform quality assurance, inspections, and repair in those facilities. DOD Inspector General (IG) Report No. IE-2009-006, “Review of Electrocution Deaths in Iraq: Part I – Electrocution of Staff Sergeant Ryan D. Maseth, U.S. Army,” July 24, 2009, found that the prime contractor did not advise DCMA of electrical deficiencies in facilities that soldiers and contractors occupied. As a result, one service member died in those facilities due to faulty electrical wiring and improperly grounded electrical equipment. The report stated that the Government in good faith relied upon the contractor to provide qualified people to do the work as part of the “workmanlike” standard and quality provisions provided for under the terms of the contract. In addition, the report stated that LOGCAP III Support Unit contracting officer acceptance of prime contractor assumptions during contract negotiations resulted in a false perception that buildings and peripheral equipment were in acceptable condition during the transfer of Radwaniyah Palace Complex facility operations and maintenance to LOGCAP III.

Follow David Isenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/vanidan

April 15, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Army Corps of Engineers’ Use of Award Fees in Iraq and Afganistan

April Fools Award Fees and the Army Corps of Engineers

By David Isenberg at    Huff Post

Since nobody has mentioned it thus far I thought I would draw your notice to a Department of Defense Inspector General’s report. As it was dated April 1 perhaps people thought it was an April Fools joke. Alas, it was not.

The aim of the report, “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Use of Award Fees on Contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan” was to determine whether award fees paid by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Programs Center (TAC) to contractors in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were justified.

You can probably already guess the answer.

The report found that:

TAC contracting and award fee officials did not properly manage and oversee the award fee process for the 15 CPAF [Cost-Plus-Award-Fee] task orders reviewed, valued at $116.4 million. Specifically, officials did not:
Develop adequate award fee plans for incentivizing and evaluating contractor performance,

Adequately conduct oversight and evaluation responsibilities, or

Adequately document and support award fee ratings.

This occurred because USACE did not have policies and procedures for administering award fees consistently and in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requirements. In addition, USACE did not adopt Army best practices documented in the Army Contracting Agency (ACA) Award Fee Contracts Handbook.

How TAC could not “have policies and procedures for administering award fees consistently and in accordance with” FAR requirements is an interesting mystery. Admittedly the FAR is not easy reading. Okay, it is mind numbing. Still, assuming one had one’s morning coffee it is an easy click down to “Subchapter C–Contracting Methods and Contract Types”

Anyway, the bottom line was that “As a result, TAC contracting officers and award fee personnel awarded fees, totaling approximately $20.6 million, without sufficient support, justification, or assurance that contractors were paid award fees commensurate with their level of performance.”

For those without a calculator that means almost 18 percent of the total task orders award fees value was without “sufficient support, justification, or assurance that contractors were paid award fees commensurate with their level of performance.”

I wonder if that is the sort of value various industry trade associations have in mind when they proclaim contractor cost-effectiveness. I’m just asking, mind you.

This is not to blame the contractors. They can only follow the procedures that exist and the procedures were AWOL.

As the report notes:

TAC contracting officials did not develop adequate AFPs [Award Fee Plan]. Specifically, TAC contracting officials did not develop criteria to evaluate contractor performance that were tailored to the individual circumstances of the procurement, as required by AFARS. Instead, TAC contracting officials established criteria that were vague and not measureable. For example, TAC established criteria that were intended to evaluate the contractors’ efforts to control cost; however, the criteria that TAC established did not address acquisition outcomes such as meeting cost goals. The cost control criteria were overly general and included undefined terms such as “effectiveness,” “timeliness,” “completeness,” and “reasonableness.”

April 15, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contract Awards, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Former top U.S. Afghan commander investigated for mismanagement

Posted By Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy

Retired Lt. Gen. David Barno, the former top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, has been under investigation for over a year amid allegations he grossly mismanaged a Pentagon-funded research center.

Barno currently runs the National Defense University’s Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, which was established in 2000 and brings together thinkers from 25 countries across the broader Middle East for dialogue and education. NESA is the youngest of five such regional centers at NDU, and lists 21 faculty members and four senior leaders on its website.

According to four current and former NESA Center employees, all of whom asked for anonymity for fear of retribution, Barno has been investigated by a special unit of the Defense Department’s Inspector General’s office that focuses on senior officials. The allegations are that he created an office that misspent taxpayer funds, abused contractor employees under threat of termination, awarded jobs based on favoritism rather than merit, and created an overall atmosphere of fear and intimidation at the center.

“I’ve never seen a situation in which such a small agency is mismanaged so badly,” said one NESA employee with decades of government experience, who lamented that no official action has yet been taken. “It is to me incredible that you can have, on one hand, such mismanagement and that no one is prepared, evidently, to do anything about it.”

In one example cited by all four employees, a senior staffer close to Barno discouraged the use of Arabic at the center, despite its mandate to engage people from Arabic-speaking countries. In a 2008 email sent to the center’s lone Arabic-speaking contractor at the time, obtained by The Cable, Barno’s chief of operations Rosaline Cardarelli wrote the following:

“I often hear you speaking in languages other than English on the phone in the office. Are these conversations official in nature and can English be used instead?”

That contractor was fired shortly thereafter without explanation after only four months on the job. A Muslim, she was let go just as the Ramadan celebration was beginning.

Cardarelli and another top NDU staffer, Wendie White, were the subject of many of the investigator’s questions, said the employees, who told The Cable that the DOD inspector general’s office conducted multiple rounds of interviews over the last year with several NESA employees. It’s not clear if the investigation is still active, although no public report has been issued and Barno remains in his post.

One focus of the investigator, according to the employees, was Barno’s appointment of Cardarelli’s husband, John Ballard, a former professor of strategic studies at the National War College, as the center’s academic dean. An independent committee had recommended another candidate, NESA professor William Olson, but Barno ignored that recommendation and chose Ballard, in what some saw as favoritism. He was then compelled to rework the organizational chart at the center to avoid a conflict of interest whereby Cardarelli would be directly supervising her own husband.

Another focus of the investigation was the NESA Center’s 2008 alumni symposium, which was held in Prague. The employees estimated that more than $250,000 of NESA funds were spent on the trip, but few alumni attended and the reasons for choosing the Czech capital to host alumni from the Near East and South Asia were never clear. Moreover, the employees said last-minute changes to the schedule and general disorganization resulted in tens of thousands of dollars being wasted.

“No one had been to Prague before so they picked Prague,” one employee explained. “People tried to say ‘Well wait a minute, maybe this is not the best place to have this,’ and then they couldn’t get many alumni to come.”

Overall, all four employees reported an atmosphere at the center that was intimidating and unfriendly, where contractors were unable to collect money for overtime hours worked and feared termination if they complained, and where Barno’s top staffers monitored email and phone calls of employees to the point of harassment.

Before joining NDU, Barno had been rumored to be seeking a more prominent position in the Bush administration, and was said to be lobbying for the job of ambassador to Afghanistan. After being part of Obama’s transition team, sources said, Barno was offered a deputy assistant secretary-level position in the Pentagon, but viewed that as below his station and so turned it down.

A military source told The Cable that the current custom of appointing military officials to lead academic centers at NDU is fairly recent phenomenon, put in place during the waning years of George W. Bush‘s administration by Pentagon officials who wanted to reassert control over the centers and give out plush assignments to their three- and four-star friends.

“The idea of the regional centers was to have an academic, non-military focus for outreach to foreign military,” one former employee said. “But what Barno did was turn it into an Army outpost, populated with ex-colonels who didn’t have a whole lot of respect for the civilians who’d been there and just made it a hostile work environment.”

A spokesman for the DOD inspector general’s office said that they don’t comment on ongoing investigations. Barno, after initially telling The Cable that he wanted to discuss the allegations, stopped returning emails late last week.

Barno is slated to move to the Center for a New American Security in May. The NESA Center is funded and controlled by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, led by Michèle Flournoy. Before joining the administration, Flournoy was the founding president of CNAS.

“CNAS was unaware this investigation was taking place,” said current CEO Nathaniel Fick, who added that Flournoy had no involvement whatsoever in the announced movement of Barno from NDU to CNAS.

See also by Gordon Duff at Veterans Today

March 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Defense chief looking into contractor’s alleged spy ring in Afghanistan

by Craig Whitlock

Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered a review of the military’s information operations programs in response to allegations that private contractors ran an unauthorized spy ring in Afghanistan.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Tuesday that Gates had instructed a small group of senior officials to determine whether there were any “systemic problems” with the operations, which include electronic warfare, psychological operations and other noncombat programs and have a 2010 budget of more than $500 million.

Gates’ decision was prompted by reports that a senior Defense Department official, Michael Furlong, hired contractors to run a $24 million intelligence-gathering program to track down suspected insurgent leaders in Afghanistan. The program was shut down late in 2009 after the CIA and some military officials said Furlong was operating an off-the-books spy network.

The Defense Department’s inspector general and other Pentagon officials have already launched investigations into Furlong’s activities. But Gates wanted a broader review, Morrell said. He has given the team of senior officials 15 days to conduct the review. Morrell declined to identify the officials involved.

Furlong has denied wrongdoing. He told the San Antonio Express-News last week that all his activities had been requested and approved by top U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan.

March 24, 2010 Posted by | Contractor Corruption, Legal Jurisdictions, State Department, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pentagon Study Proposes Overhaul of Defense Base Act to Cover Care for Injured Contractors

Pentagon Study Proposes Overhaul of Defense Base Act to Cover Care for Injured Contractorsdba-report-475

by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica – September 15, 2009 6:52 pm EDT

WASHINGTON, DC – Congress could save as much as $250 million a year through a sweeping overhaul of the controversial U.S. system to care for civilian contractors injured in war zones, according to a new Pentagon study.

In the most extensive review ever of the taxpayer-financed system, the Pentagon suggested that the government could issue its own insurance to cover the skyrocketing costs of medical care and disability pay for injured civilians.

Currently, the U.S. pays more than $400 million annually to AIG and a handful of other carriers to purchase special workers compensation insurance policies required for overseas civilian contractors by a law known as the Defense Base Act, the study found.

By cutting out insurance company profits as high as 35%, the government could self-insure the contractors for less money, according to a copy of the study obtained by ProPublica [1]. The study is due to be released Friday.

The Pentagon’s suggestion would require a massive legislative revision of the government’s 60-year-old system to care for injured civilians, which has been criticized as expensive and ineffective for modern war zones where civilian contractors account for half the work force.

Despite the possible savings, it remains unclear whether anyone in Congress will champion such a bill. And the Pentagon hedged its bets by saying that it would pursue reforms to the current system of private insurance while “considering” the pursuit of legislative authority to change to a system of self insurance.

Such a proposal could also improve the delivery of care to injured contractors, the report found. Civilian contractors have faced protracted battles with insurance carriers to obtain medical treatment and disability pay, according to an investigation [2] by ProPublica, the Los Angeles Times and ABC News.

“In the long run, the self-insurance alternative may have the greatest potential for minimizing DBA insurance costs, and it has several administrative and compliance advantages as well,” the report said. A Pentagon spokeswoman declined comment since the report has not yet been made public.

Under the proposed system, the U.S. would pay directly for medical benefits and disability benefits rather than relying upon private insurance providers. The government would hire an outside firm to administer the claims to avoid the expense of training and hiring examiners.

The report makes clear, however, that such a fundamental change to the system would face a battle from the insurance industry. AIG dominates the market for the insurance, which exploded from an $18 million a business to more than $400 million per year after civilian contractors flooded into war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, the report said.

AIG controls about 75% of the market, followed by Chicago-based CNA and Bermuda-based ACE Group. Together, the three firms collect 97% of all premiums paid by defense contractors for the insurance, the cost of which is reimbursed by the government.

Changing to a self-insurance system “has the potential to have the most financial benefit, if implemented government-wide,” the report found. However, under the heading “Cons,” the report said that legislation to change the current private insurance system “has potential for significant political pressure from those most directly affected by such a change (carriers, brokers, etc.)”

AIG and ACE did not immediately return requests for comment. The industry has said that profits are reasonable and that claims are handled fairly.

CNA said it was examining the recommendations. “We are in the process of carefully reviewing and digesting the DOD report. As previously stated, we welcome changes and improvements to the DBA program,” the company said in a statement.

The chance for such fundamental reform is uncertain. The Obama administration has not put forth a specific bill, though the Pentagon and Labor Dept., which administers claims, worked together in producing the report. A Labor Dept. spokesman said Tuesday that the agency was not prepared to comment on the report.

In the House, Rep. Ike Skelton [3], (D-Mo.) chair of the House Armed Services Committee, called the report’s findings “interesting, surprising, and worth considering for next year’s defense authorization bill.”

“The House Armed Services Committee will closely examine the report as we seek ways to lower the costs associated with Defense Base Act insurance,” Skelton said in a statement.

The Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Sen. Carl Levin [4], (D-Mich.) would wait for the Defense Dept. to suggest changes in its spring legislative proposal, a spokesman said.

Rep. Elijah Cummings [5] (D-Md.) has announced plans for cutting costs and improving the delivery of care for contractors, but has yet to offer details. Sen. Bernie Sanders [6], (I-Vt.) has also called for change.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) “The current system for providing health insurance and workers compensation for our military contract workers in Iraq and Afghanistan is broken and wasting millions of dollars in payments to companies like AIG,” Sanders said in a statement. “If the Pentagon, the Department of Labor and Congress modernize the current insurance system, we can save up to $250 million and finally give these workers and their survivors the basic health care and support they need and deserve.”

In the absence of a major legislative overhaul in the next three years, the report recommends reforms to the current system of paying private insurance carriers for policies. Chief among them is a proposal that the government collect information on how much such claims cost.

Unlike state workers compensation systems, where rates are regulated and based on years of occupational injury data, the federal system for contractors relies upon individual insurance carriers to set rates. In the early years of the war, rates skyrocketed but the government had no way of determining whether such increases were justified.

The Pentagon tried to reduce rates by creating a umbrella program in 2005 in which one carrier, CNA, won a bidding contest to issue insurance for all contractors working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The State Dept. and the U.S. Agency for International Development have similar programs.

While initial studies by the Army Corps found significant cost savings, the current Pentagon report said that CNA’s rates in the umbrella program were higher on average than policies purchased by individual defense contractors.

Using a formula which weighed factors such as the size of the contract, CNA charged contractors in the umbrella program 8.3% of payroll costs on average, while individual contractors paid about 5.3% of their payroll for the insurance, the report found. That means the Army Corps paid $8,300 to purchase worker’s compensation insurance for a civilian contractor making $100,000 a year, compared with $5,300 for a civilian working for a different agency.

“The department’s overall conclusion, based on its comprehensive analysis of the current DBA premium data, is that the open market—when it involves adequate price competition among carriers—results in rates that are lower than those in a single-provider program,” the report said.

No matter which program, however, the report found that insurance carriers “may be achieving significant” profit from selling the insurance.

The Pentagon attempted to determine exactly how much money private carriers made from the taxpayer-financed policies, but insurance companies refused to turn over any data, the report said.

Previous investigations by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that carriers made more than 50% profit from some polices—far in excess of normal workers’ compensation insurance.

Written by the Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition and Technology Office, the report was based on interviews and data from industry players, including two insurance carriers, six brokers and seven defense contractors.

The Pentagon has denied [7] a Freedom of Information Act request by ProPublica to release documents submitted by the firms as part of the review, claiming that the information is proprietary business data.

A recent insurance industry study [8] confirmed that companies paid far more for workers compensation insurance in Iraq and Afghanistan than other countries. The higher rates have drawn criticism since the government reimburses carriers for the cost of combat injuries.

September 16, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Audit finds contractor oversight improving in Iraq

y LARA JAKES (AP) – 9 hours ago

WASHINGTON — The government has kept a closer eye on U.S. contractors in Iraq since a deadly 2007 shooting by Blackwater guards, but it still needs to do a better job tracking and investigating when private security guards fire their guns, two new Pentagon audits have found.

The reports were released Tuesday by the Pentagon’s special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. They looked at the oversight of at least 13 U.S. firms working for the Defense and State departments between May 2008 and February 2009.

In perhaps the most serious lapse of oversight, one of the audits concluded, contractor watchdogs did not properly report and track the May 2008 death of an Army Corps of Engineers employee who was caught in a gunfight between security guards and al-Qaida suspects near Bayji, in central Iraq.

Pentagon auditors said the employee’s death should have been recorded in a database and triggered an Army investigation. U.S. officials in Iraq, however, said that was unnecessary if “the incident is caused by the enemy and does not involve a local national,” the audit found.

“Because of the lack of documentation, we could not determine if the incident was not investigated for the reasons cited by … officials or there simply is no record of an investigation,” the audit noted.

In all, contractor watchdogs did not record five out of 109 incidents where private guards fired their weapons during the 10-month period, the audit found. Moreover, the watchdogs’ database did not have evidence supporting 51 percent of the incidents reported.

Responding, the military’s Armed Contractor Oversight Branch in Iraq reported that it now tracks all serious incident reports of contractor shootings in its database, including 44 between February and June.

The reports ranged from 25 accidental shootings and the killing of a poisonous snake to 17 so-called “graduated force response” incidents that escalated into shootings. Of those 17, three have been referred for investigation, auditors found.

The second audit found that new rules for contractors that were put in place after the 2007 Blackwater shootings generally have helped oversight and coordination between private guards and the military.

Seventeen Iraqi civilians died in the notorious Blackwater shootings in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square, an incident that strained U.S.-Iraqi relations. Blackwater is no longer operating in Baghdad, although it still has guards in some southern areas who are working under the company’s new name, Xe.

Five Blackwater guards have pleaded not guilty in the shootings, which Justice Department prosecutors say was an unprovoked attack on civilians. The guards’ lawyers, however, say the five men believed they were under attack and acting in self-defense.

A sixth Blackwater guard struck a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to killing one Iraqi and wounding another.

July 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

IG Blames System Failure in Death of Ryan Maseth

The Death of Ryan Maseth

By KIMBERLY HEFLING (AP) – 1 hour ago

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department’s Inspector General has determined that military leaders and a military contractor failed to protect a Green Beret who was electrocuted while showering in his barracks in Iraq.

The 2008 death of 24-year-old Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth has triggered investigations into the other electrocution deaths of U.S. troops and the review by the Defense Department’s IG.

The inspector general says that “multiple systems and organizations” failed and exposed Maseth to “unacceptable risk.” That’s according to a summary of the IG’s findings obtained by The Associated Press.

It specifically spells out that KBR Inc. installed improperly grounded equipment that faulted and led to Maseth’s death.

July 27, 2009 Posted by | KBR | , , | Leave a comment