Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Fluor employee victim of brutal rape at FOB Shank in Afghanistan Critical in Germany

Updates:  Fluor states that the rape victim did not die but is in critical condition in Germany.

This post has been edited to correct errors in the original that reported the victim had died in Germany of her injuries.-Yes, sometimes I get it wrong too. Ms Sparky-July 26, 2011

Cross Posted from MsSparky  July 25, 2011

I’ve just learned there’s been a brutal   at in . The victim was reportedly a female Fluor employee from the Macedonia region.

I’m not certain of the date, but the attack occurred between July 17-22. She was reportedly found unconscious and was medi-vac’d to Bagram Air Field (BAF) and then to Germany where it has been reported, she died of her injuries.

This crime has apparently got the entire FOB locked down. Hopefully, they’ll find the person(s) who committed this heinous crime and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.

This is but another on the long list of tragic rapes and murders in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As soon as I get more information on this sad tragedy I will update the post.

My most heartfelt condolences to the friends, family and co-workers of this victim.

Ms Sparky

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Contractor Casualties, Fluor, Rape, Safety and Security Issues, Sexual Assault | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Oversight of war zone subcontractors is lacking, panel finds

Robert Brodsky at GovExec

Prime contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan are not managing their subcontractors’ performance and fees consistently, the Defense Department’s top auditing official told the Commission on Wartime Contracting on Monday.

A Defense Contract Audit Agency review of prime contractors’ billing and cost records identified several situations in which they failed to award fixed-price subcontracts based on fair and reasonable prices, often leading to unreasonable or unallowable costs.

“Prime contractors must be held accountable for establishing fair and reasonable subcontract prices,” Patrick Fitzgerald, director of DCAA told commission members.

Subcontractors comprise about one-third of the roughly 200,000 contractor employees in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the commission’s data. But federal regulations limit government officials’ visibility into the activities of in-theater subcontractors.

Federal agencies enter into agreements with the prime contractors and have no direct business relationship, known as privity of contract, with subcontractors. Prime contractors are legally responsible for managing subcontractors, but many lack the internal controls or oversight mechanisms to carry out that role, the panel suggested.

For example, DynCorp International billed the government roughly $6 million for work performed by Kuwaiti-owned subcontractor Al-Shora International General Trading and Contracting Co. The cost-type subcontract terms required Al-Shora to provide cost data to support its invoices. When DCAA requested that Al-Shora open its books to document its costs, the company declined, citing Kuwaiti law. DCAA has since suspended payment for DynCorp’s billed costs from Al-Shora.

“If foreign companies want to be in business with this government, they ought to play by our rules,” said commission member Dov Zakheim.

DCAA plans to recommend that Pentagon officials consider adding a contract clause that would require primes to manage its subcontractors more closely.

“Prime contractors should have systems or processes in place to review subcontractor billing processes to ensure [they] are in accordance with subcontract terms and conditions,” Fitzgerald said.

In addition, the Defense Contract Management Agency has yet to approve the purchasing systems of two of the three prime contractors — DynCorp and Fluor — for the Army’s multibillion-dollar LOGCAP IV logistical-support contract for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government relies on data from prime contractors’ purchasing systems to ensure subcontract costs are reasonable.

Commission members cited ethical, security and logistical concerns with wartime subcontractors, including allegations of exploitation of unskilled foreign laborers, human trafficking and excessive costs from tiering contracts, or adding layers of subcontractors to obscure fees and credentialing.

“Subcontracting is a normal business practice,” said commission co-chairman Christopher Shays. “But what makes sense for an office renovation project in Maryland can create some unique risks when the contractor is hiring subcontractors in a combat zone half a world away.”

The daylong hearing included officials from four federal agencies, four prime contractors and six subcontractors. Each agreed that subcontracting in a wartime environment presents unique security and operational concerns.

“We recognize the risks of contracting in a contingency operation,” said Edward Harrington, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for procurement. “We must ensure that America’s integrity is not harmed by the actions of our contractors and subcontractors.”

Both State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development officials said prime contractors must obtain their contracting officers’ written consent prior to the award of a subcontract.

Prime contractors told the panel that oversight of subcontractors was lacking at the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in part, because relatively few foreign-owned firms in the region had any experience working with the U.S. government. They said the environment has improved considerably in recent years, but challenges remain.

For example, the federal government frequently prevents local citizens from working on U.S. bases, where much of the subcontract work is performed, said John Supina, DynCorp’s senior vice president of business administration.

“Vetting of host country employees to ensure that they do not support insurgents, will not divert funds to insurgent causes, or pose a threat to U.S. and allied personnel is very difficult,” he said.  Original here

July 26, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, DynCorp, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ms. Sparky aims at KBR, electrifies war-contractor scrutiny with blog

Debbie Crawford was playing with her grandson at her Battle Ground home two years ago when she heard a news report on a Green Beret who died in Baghdad. The water pump in his Army shower was not properly grounded, and when he turned the faucet, a jolt of electricity killed him.

Crawford cried, her worst professional fear realized. She went to her laptop and began to type:

“As a licensed electrician who worked for KBR in Iraq for two years, I find this UNACCEPTABLE!!!! How did this happen? Let me give you my opinion from first-hand experience….”

Five weeks later, after a Senate staffer saw her post, Crawford testified before Congress to poor management and poor workmanship by Kellogg, Brown & Root in Iraq, including subcontracting electrical work to locals not skilled to U.S. standards and failing to check electricians credentials.

Two years later, the blog she started that 2008 day —mssparky.com – is the largest online catalog of news articles, opinion, leaks and lawsuits regarding war contractors. The site has drawn more than 10.8 million page hits since Jan. 1.

When Oregon veterans of the Iraq war appear in federal court in Portland today in their chemical-exposure lawsuit against KBR, they join a wide group of plaintiffs suing KBR — over electrocutions, burn pits and sexual assault.

Much of what connects them all is Ms. Sparky.

“She’s allowed people to speak that otherwise would be too afraid to do so,” says Todd Kelly, a Houston attorney who represents six clients suing KBR alleging they were sexual assaulted while working in Iraq. “I would characterize her as pretty courageous in her own right, being willing to blog about the things she’s willing to blog about. She has the sense that someone has to speak out.”

Crawford says, “This just took on a life of its own. My blogging is the least interesting part about it .”

Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, the federal government has paid private companies $150 billion to do what the military once did — support daily life for the troops. KBR has been the single largest provider of meals, housing, recreation, mail delivery, laundry and fuel.

KBR maintains there is no evidence that its work caused or contributed to the Green Beret’s electrocution and that its military contract for his building was for on-call repairs, not preventative maintenance and inspections. KBR also denies responsibility for exposing troops or employees to carcinogens at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant, “There was no hazardous exposure and there has been no documented illness related to the facility.”

Today, Magistrate Judge Paul Papak will hear arguments on whether an Oregon Army National Guard veterans’ case against KBR should go forward in U.S. District Court in Oregon. Twenty-six Oregon vets — and soldiers in three other states — have sued, saying they were sickened by hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing chemical, as they guarded KBR employees working to restore Iraqi oil in 2003.

Crawford has assembled an online library about the suits.

“This wasn’t done so a child could drink safe water. This was done to pump water into wells to get oil flowing. All these soldiers and civilians exposed, for oil.”

To meet Ms. Sparky — the slang for female electrician — drive past Vancouver’s suburban blocks to the hobby farms beneath Mount St. Helen. The 49-year-old wife, grandmother and blogger answers the door in black jeans and a pink plaid cotton top. She homeschools her 7-year-old grandson and takes Tae Kwon Do lessons with him.

Crawford says she is not a disgruntled KBR employee. The journeyman electrician says she went to Iraq four years ago out of patriotism and the same spirit of adventure that took her to contract jobs in Antarctica and China. She did not realize until she returned that problems she saw in Iraq were systemic, including what she saw as poor management and a lack of government oversight.

Growing up near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, Crawford applied for an electrical apprenticeship after graduating Benton City High and became the first female journeyman out of IBEW Local 112 in Kennewick. She met her husband, Cal Crawford, at Hanford and talked him into moving to Seaside, then to Portland where she is a member of Local 48.

Crawford liked the math and technology in being an electrician and working with people who can visualize a problem and design solutions. She also liked that she could get a job anywhere. She spent 10 months in Antarctica, then traveled the country with her husband performing maintenance on nuclear plants.

They signed on in 2004 for Iraq. At $14.90 an hour, the salary was less than half what she made at home, but she felt she could contribute to the war effort.

“I thought I was doing the right thing,” Crawford says.

The couple were housed at different camps. Both threw themselves into their work, surviving rocket and mortar attacks, heat and family disapproval. (Both of Crawford’s parents died while she was overseas and her only daughter Tiffany went in prison for burglary.) Cal returned home after a year, but Crawford reupped for a second, with a raise and management opportunities. She returned to the Northwest July 28, 2008.

She was blogging about her travels and struggles with her daughter, when she heard the news report about Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth’s  death. Since then, Crawford’s writing has almost exclusively focused on war contractors.

She rises every morning at 4:30 and logs on, often working well after her husband and grandson she is raising go to bed. Crawford posts anonymous tips, aggregates related news and videos, expresses her opinion, tips journalists and breaks news such as the death of State Department contractor who was electrocuted in his shower in Iraq in 2009. Categories on her website include “Chemical and other Exposures”; “Contractor Deaths”; “Electrocutions/”; “Indictments, Convictions and Arrests”; “Human Trafficking”; “Rape, Hazing, Discrimination and Harassment”; and “Rants.”

Crawford has expanded her scrutiny to include contractors DynCorp, Fluor and Triple Canopy.

She works without pay but takes donations and advertisements on her website. She has had to bring on another person to handle the information flowing through the site. Still, she says the biggest payoff has been meeting all the special people affected by their service or work in the war zones.

Jill Wilkins was a young Florida widow desperate for information after her Air Force reservist husband, a registered nurse, died of a brain tumor in 2008. Wilkins found Ms. Sparky and within weeks of posting her questions about her husband’s exposure to burn pits in Iraq on mssparky.com, Wilkins was featured on CNN, found other plaintiffs suing over the use of burn pits and was awarded her husband’s veterans benefits.

“It was a lifeline,” says Wilkins, who was so inspired she started her own Facebook site on burn pits.

Crawford says what she wants most is for the federal government to police war contractors.

“I have a 7-year-old who is bound and determined to be a soldier and I have to get this fixed before he is in the Army.”   Read the original story at Oregon Live here

July 12, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Defense Base Act, DynCorp, KBR, Safety and Security Issues, Triple Canopy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment