Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

GAO Finds Pentagon Still Can’t Keep Track of Its Contractors

By NEIL GORDON at POGO  April 10, 2012

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released the second of three annual reviews of Department of Defense (DoD) service contract inventories. As you know, POGO has repeatedly called for the government to improve the quality of these annual inventories, which are crucial for determining the true size and cost-effectiveness of the federal service contractor workforce and whether contractors are performing inherently governmental functions.

According to the GAO, DoD spent $204 billion on service contracts in fiscal year 2010. DoD relies on contractors to perform a wide variety of services, including professional and management support, information technology, and weapon system and intelligence functions.

The GAO reported that DoD has made a number of changes to improve the utility of the FY 2010 inventory, such as centrally preparing contract data to provide greater consistency among DoD components and increasing the level of detail on the services provided. However, the GAO found a number of problems that continue to limit the utility, accuracy, and completeness of inventories. DoD, to its credit, is making progress, but it does not expect to fully meet statutory requirements until FY 2016.

In the meantime, the shortcomings in DoD’s systems for compiling and reviewing inventories leave contractors free to run amok. According to the GAO, Army and Air Force inventory reviews identified 1,935 and 91 instances, respectively, in which contractors were performing inherently governmental functions. These are functions which, by law, must be performed by federal government employees.

For example, the GAO found 26 instances of Army contractors performing the inherently governmental function of Systems Coordinator, a position that involves representing program managers at meetings, acting as a liaison with Congress, and writing background papers for military staff. In another example, the entire police force at U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands (pictured above) was made up of 47 contractors patrolling, issuing citations, making arrests, and investigating misdemeanors. (Check the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) subpart listing examples of inherently governmental functions, and the first one you’ll see is “the direct conduct of criminal investigations.”)

Please see the original and read more here

April 11, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, Government Contractor | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Over 1,000 US Contractors may be blocked

Washington Bloomberg via SFGate  December 28, 2011

The Obama administration, under pressure from Congress to weed out government suppliers for ethics violations or poor performance, has proposed to ban almost as many contractors this year as President George W. Bush did in his entire second term.

Federal agencies have proposed blocking 1,006 companies and individuals from contracting so far this year, as well as asking a judge to ban a unit of food-processing giant Cargill Inc. of Minneapolis, in a process known as debarment. That is 16 percent more than the 868 contractors that governmental agencies proposed to block in all of 2010, and only 70 fewer than the 1,076 contractors that U.S. agencies sought to debar under Bush from 2005 to 2008, according to the General Services Administration.

Federal agencies are under pressure after a series of congressional hearings and reports from inspectors general and the Government Accountability Office faulted procurement officials for failing to keep unqualified or ineligible vendors out of the $500 billion-a-year federal market.

“We are starting to see the pendulum swing to more contractor accountability, but government needs to do a lot more to ensure it only works with responsible contractors and thereby protects the public,” said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group

please read the entire story here

December 28, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Follow the Money, Government Contractor | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraq: We Lost $1.2 Billion in Equipment Going in; How Much Will We Lose Getting Out?

Wednesday 21 September 2011
by: Dina Rasor, Truthout | Solutions

On December 31, 2011, the United States has committed to the government of Iraq that they will be removing their troops and contractor personnel. The US State Department will remain in a diplomatic role with limited Department of Defense (DoD) personnel and some State Department-hired private security personnel for protection.

Beyond the sticky diplomatic implications of this transfer, the DoD has a complicated task to wind down its giant footprint in Iraq. It will require a delicate and well-prepared withdrawal to get all the troops, contractors, equipment,and other assets out of the giant bases and turn the bases over to the Iraqi government while preventing attacks from insurgents and looting of US government assets.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) just released a detailed report saying, in their ever so polite way, that the DoD and the State Department don’t have the information and tools to pull this off. The benign title of the report to Congress (“IRAQ DRAWDOWN: Opportunities Exist to Improve Equipment Visibility, Contractor Demobilization and Clarity of Post-2011 DoD Role”) doesn’t project the startling troubles they outline inside the report that threaten this withdrawal.

Please read the entire article here

 

September 22, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Department of Defense, Follow the Money, Iraq, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gov’t Watchdog Criticizes Pentagon Center for PTSD, Brain Injuries

By T Christian Miller and Joaquin Sapien at ProPublica  July 11, 2011

If you want more explanation about the military’s troubles in treating troops with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress, read no further than two recent but largely unnoticed reports from the Government Accountability Office.

It turns out the Pentagon’s solution to the problems is an organization plagued by weak leadership, uncertain priorities and a money trail so tangled that even the GAO’s investigators couldn’t sort it out. The GAO findings on the Pentagon’s Defense Centers of Excellence (DCOE) echo our own series [1] on the military’s difficulty in handling the so-called invisible wounds of war.

“We have an organization that exists, but we have considerable concern about what it is that it’s actually accomplishing,” said Denise Fantone, a GAO director who supervised research on one of the reports. She added: “I can’t say with any certainty that I know what DCOE does, and I think that’s a concern.”

First, some background. After the 2007 scandal over poor care delivered to soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Congress ordered the Pentagon to do a better job treating soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. The Pentagon’s answer was to create DCOE [2]. The new organization was supposed to be a clearinghouse to foster cutting-edge research in treatments.

DCOE was rushed into existence in late 2007. Since then, it has churned through three leaders, including one let go after alleged sexual harassment of subordinates [3]. It takes more than five months to hire each employee because of the federal government’s glacial process. As a result, private contractors make up much of the center’s staff.

“DCOE’s development has been challenged by a mission that lacks clarity and by time-consuming hiring processes,” according to the first report in the GAO series [4], focusing on “management weakness” at DCOE.

Just as concerning, the GAO says that it can’t quite figure out how much money DCOE has received or where it has all gone. DCOE has never submitted a budget document that fully conformed to typical federal standards, according to a GAO report released last month [5]. In one year, the center simply turned in a spreadsheet without detailed explanations.

Please read the entire article at ProPublica

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Department of Defense, Pentagon, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taxpayers On the Hook for Retiree Costs for Federal Contractors

Fox Business  Friday June 10, 2011

A surprising new government report shows that taxpayers have been footing the bill for retiree benefits not just for federal workers, but for independent freelance contractors who do work for the government as well. 

And no one is watching the store to see if your tax dollars are being wasted.

Taxpayers for years have been covering private contractors’ retiree costs for things like pensions and health care, even though these workers are not on the federal payroll.

Taxpayers also cover these retiree costs for contractors’ spouses, too, and in some cases if contractors want to retire early (at age 50), just like regular federal workers, many can then get taxpayer-funded coverage, says an official at the Government Accountability office.

For the Department of Energy alone, overall this coverage cost taxpayers $6.8 billion over the last 10 years, according to the new GAO report recently sent to Congress. Nine out of ten  dollars spent on the DOE’s annual budget goes towards contracts, including contractor retiree benefits.

Please read the entire story here

June 10, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Government Contractor | , , , | Leave a comment

Senators: GAO should investigate DOD

By CHARLES HOSKINSON | 5/16/11 8:16 AM EDT

A bipartisan group of senators are questioning whether the Pentagon will meet a 2017 deadline for the first complete audit of its finances, and are calling for a Government Accountability Office investigation.

In a statement that will be released later Monday, Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Scott Brown (R- Mass), John McCain (R-Ariz), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla), said the latest Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness status report from the Pentagon raised concerns that the deadline set in a 1990 law won’t be met, despite the plan it lays out to comply.

See the entire story at Politico

May 16, 2011 Posted by | Department of Defense | , , , | Leave a comment

Committee wants checks on defense industry’s supply chain

DOD’s supply chain management has been on GAO’s High Risk List since 1990

By Matthew Weigelt    May 13, 2011  Federal Computer Week

The House Armed Services Committee’s defense authorization bill would require defense officials to research where they’re getting their supplies in the age of the global marketplace.

The fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1540) would require the Defense Department to conduct an assessment of its industrial base to find any potential gaps that may affect the military’s operations.

Then, the Government Accountability Office would be double-checking DOD’s work to make sure it’s actually complete. GAO would review how DOD did its assessment and that recommendations for better management are reasonable, according the bill.

Please see the original at Federal Computer Week

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense | , , , | Leave a comment

TSA Cooked The Books For Years On Costs, Federal Vs Private Screening

AvStop.com Online Aviation Magazine March 14, 2011

March 14, 2011 – The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a letter to Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) that confirms the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has used faulty data and withheld information when evaluating and comparing the costs of the all-federal screening model and an alternative federal-private screening program.
The Screening Partnership Program was established in the Aviation Transportation Security Act (ATSA) after September 11, 2001, to enable airport authorities to “opt-out” of all-federal screening and instead use private screening contractors under federal standards, supervision and oversight. Previously, TSA has misleadingly claimed that the cost of the privatized screening program is at least 17 percent higher than the cost of using screeners who are TSA employees.
“In essence, TSA cooked the books to try to eliminate the federal-private screening program,” Mica said. “GAO found that TSA ignored critical data relating to costs. In fact, according to TSA’s own revised cost study, the cost differential between the two screening models is closer to three percent, likely within the margin of error,” Mica said.
“And that still doesn’t account for various other ignored factors, including the cost taxpayers incur from TSA’s high attrition rate and the full cost of TSA’s bloated and unnecessary bureaucratic overhead. “I am investigating the full cost differential between the two screening models, and I believe the federal-private program model will prove to be less expensive and provide the best model for U.S. aviation security,” Mica said.
Please read the entire article here

March 14, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Government Contractor | , , , | Leave a comment

Contractors complain audit agency has gotten too strict

By Marjorie Censer at The Washington Post

The defense industry is facing a changed — and some say more tense — relationship with the Defense Contract Audit Agency since the organization, under criticism from the Government Accountability Office, took steps to be more independent.

“While DCAA got criticized for being too lax, now they’ve gone to the other extreme,” said James J. Gallagher, a partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge.

The DCAA conducts audits meant to ensure the government gets a reasonable price for contracted services and supplies and that contractors are using the right methods, including accepted accounting and billing systems, to charge the government.

In fall 2009, the GAO released a report blasting the DCAA’s independence as compromised and concluding that the agency was failing to protect the public interest.

“They were trying to accommodate their customer, which is the DOD contracting community,” said Asif Khan, the GAO’s director for financial management and assurance, who noted that the agency of about 3,600 people was producing about 40,000 annual audits. “When they got pushback from the contractor . . . they let those findings drop.”  Please read the entire article here

January 31, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Department of Defense, Government Contractor | , | Leave a comment

Close but no SIGAR

Commentary: Arnaud de Borchgrave

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) — After no less than 10 quarterly reports to Congress, 40 percent of $56 billion — $22.4 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds — allocated to civilian projects in Afghanistan cannot be accounted for by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.

The original amount for civilian aid is now being increased to $71 billion.

Corruption and outright theft are rampant in the projects SIGAR supposedly inspects but SIGAR’s top cop, retired U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields, kept coming up empty handed as he labored to protect his 150-person organization (32 of them stationed in Afghanistan, most of whom don’t speak any local language).

SIGAR employs 50 auditors, many of them “double-dippers,” who collect both government pensions and six-figure salaries, but none of them ever conducted required forensic or contract audits. More than 100 cases of corruption — both U.S. contractors and Afghan subcontractors — were ignored. U.S. Government Accounting Office auditors look at programs but are not shown the uncompleted completion.

U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., led a team of Senate investigators that spent two years looking into what became the SIGAR scandal.

Please read the entire commentary at UPI

January 14, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, SIGAR | , , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Army failed to conduct post-deployment health assessments throughout Afghan conflict, records suggest

By Bryant Furlow at Epinewswire

Post-deployment health assessments (recorded using form DD-2796) were frequently not completed by U.S. Army doctors early in the occupation of Afghanistan, according to Army Medical Command “lessons learned” reports obtained by epiNewswire.

“Clinicians had no idea of what the DD-2796 was, nor what to do with it,” one of the unclassified reports states.

The undated report, written between 2003 and 2005, urged that commanders educate soldiers and clinicians about the importance of completing post-deployment health assessments. The assessments are used for statistical analyses of health trends among deployed soldiers and to assess soldiers’ fitness for redeployment.

But a 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that five and six years into the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the failure to conduct post-deployment health assessments remained widespread. Nearly a quarter of the assessments were missing for soldiers deployed to combat zones in 2007 and 2008, the GAO reported.

July 27, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Iraq, Pentagon, Veterans | , , , , | Leave a comment

OMB to GAO: How We Doing?

David Isenberg at Huff Post

Not many people noticed this Government Accountability Office report when it was released yesterday so let’s take a look at it because it says some interesting things about government efforts to improves its oversight efforts on private contractors.

Let’s start by noting regardless of whether you are a supporter or critic of government use of private contractors – a use, by the way, that extends far beyond contractors working for the Defense or State departments – both sides agree that current government capabilities are inadequate. That is not an opinion, just a plain fact. Actually, in many cases, “inadequate” is a polite description of governmental capabilities but berating government for its deficiencies is not the subject of this post. Rather its efforts to improve its capabilities are. As the memo states:

The President acknowledged that many federal contracting arrangements do not serve the needs of the federal government or the interests of the American taxpayer in a March 2009 memorandum.
Among many of the issues discussed, the memorandum states that the government needs to ensure that it has the workforce needed to carry out robust and thorough management and oversight of contracts to achieve programmatic goals, avoid significant overcharges, and curb wasteful spending. However, the capacity and the capability of the federal government’s acquisition workforce to oversee and manage contracts have not kept pace with increased spending for increasingly complex purchases. For example, federal civilian agencies’ acquisition spending increased in real terms from $80 billion to $138 billion between fiscal year 2000 and fiscal year 2008, while their acquisition workforce grew at a considerably lower rate. Furthermore, 55 percent of the current acquisition workforce will be eligible to retire in 2018–more than twice the number eligible in 2008–which creates potential future skill shortages. To help address the challenges faced in the federal contracting environment, the President’s fiscal year 2011 budget identifies the development of the federal acquisition workforce as a priority investment with $158 million requested to support that investment.

Last year Congress directed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to prepare a plan–the Acquisition Workforce Development Strategic Plan (plan)–for federal agencies other than the Department of Defense to develop a specific and actionable 5-year plan to increase the size of the acquisition workforce and operate a government wide acquisition intern program.

The OMB released its plan last October 27.

Congress asked GAO to report on OMB’s plan 180 days after its issuance. On the positive side the GAO found that OMB plan addresses several, but not all, of the matters it was required to address. But since nothing is ever perfect GAO found some areas that could stand improvement. For example:

The plan was to examine the appropriateness of growing the acquisition workforce by 25 percent over the next 5 years. However, OMB’s plan only specifies 5 percent growth for fiscal year 2011. OMB officials informed us that they did not project growth through 2014 because a 5 percent annual growth rate may not be applicable to all agencies based on their government wide analysis of acquisition workforce growth in fiscal years 2008 and 2009.

One area that touched on a perennial lighting rod dealt with an issue that OMB was not specifically asked to address, although GAO was. That was the extent to which the Acquisition Workforce Development Strategic Plan considered the use by agencies of contractor personnel to supplement the acquisition workforce.

GAO found:

Except for a short acknowledgment that agencies use contractors to address shortages in their acquisition workforce and how this may diminish an agency’s core acquisition capability, the plan does not otherwise mention the role or impact of contractors supplementing the government acquisition workforce. According to OMB officials, they considered agencies’ use of contractor personnel when they looked at acquisitions’ shortcomings in general, including the issue of whether contractors are performing “inherently governmental” functions and agencies’ over-reliance on contractors. However, for purposes of this plan, the officials explained that they focused on federal employees, rather than addressing contractors as part of the acquisition workforce.

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

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Contractors Overseeing Contractors

Welcome back David Isenberg at Huff Post

Holy freaking Yahweh! I go away for just a week and private military contractor news busts out all over. Thus I’ll be doing more posts than normal this week in an effort to catch up.

Let’s start with the report the U.S. Government Accountability Office released earlier today on the subject of contingency contracting.

While the widespread dependence of government on private contractors is no longer front page news, the fact that the government also relies in a big way on private contractors to help manage contracts is startling, if not surprising.

The GAO report is titled “Improvements Needed in Management of Contractors Supporting Contract and Grant Administration in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Contract and grant administration functions represent the government’s primary mechanism for assessing whether it is getting the expected products or services from contractors or whether grantees are performing in accordance with grant programs. Examples of such functions include on-site monitoring of contractor activities, supporting contracting and program offices on contract-related matters, and awarding grants and monitoring grantee performance. Using contractors to support these functions can provide benefits, such as flexibility to meet immediate needs, but it can also introduce risks the government needs to consider and manage.

For example, contractors performing certain contract or grant administration functions may closely support the performance of inherently governmental functions, which increases the risk that government decisions will be inappropriately influenced by, rather than independent from, contractor actions. In addition, reliance on contractor support to meet agency missions can increase the risk of conflicts of interest among companies and individuals, particularly for cases in which contractors closely support inherently governmental functions.

How reliant is the U.S. government on private contractors? Good question. Unfortunately the government does not know. The report found that:

DOD, State, and USAID’s use of contractors to help administer contracts and grants was substantial, although the agencies did not know the full extent of their use of such contractors. GAO found that the agencies had obligated nearly $1 billion through March 2009 on 223 contracts and task orders active during fiscal year 2008 or the first half of fiscal year 2009 that included the performance of administration functions for contracts and grants in Iraq and Afghanistan. The specific amount spent to help administer contracts or grants in Iraq and Afghanistan is uncertain because some contracts or task orders included multiple functions or performance in various locations and contract obligation data were not detailed enough to allow GAO to isolate the amount obligated for other functions or locations. Overall, the agencies relied on contractors to provide a wide range of services, including on-site monitoring of other contractors’ activities, supporting contracting or program offices on contract-related matters, and awarding or administering grants.

Well, okay, we all understand that government might need to turn to contractors as it does not have enough qualified personnel of its own to manage contracts. So long as the government has a policy in place on how to use contractors for contract management and the contractors are competent it should be okay. So what is the policy? Surprise, there isn’t one.

Decisions to use contractors to help administer contracts or grants are largely made by individual contracting or program offices on a case-by-case basis. In doing so, the offices generally cited the lack of sufficient government staff, the lack of in-house expertise, or frequent rotations of government personnel as key factors contributing to the need to use contractors. Offices also noted that using contractors in contingency environments can be beneficial, for example, to meet changing needs or address safety concerns regarding the use of U.S. personnel in high-threat areas. GAO has found that to mitigate risks associated with using contractors, agencies have to understand when, where, and how contractors should be used, but offices’ decisions were generally not guided by agencywide workforce planning efforts.

Well, at least the government is smart enough to avoid the obvious conflict of interest issue that critics would raise about the risks associated with contractors helping to administer other contracts or grants, isn’t it?

Agencies generally complied with requirements related to organizational conflicts of interest, but USAID did not include a contract clause required by agency policy to address potential conflicts of interest in three cases. Also, some State officials were uncertain as to whether federal ethics laws regarding personal conflicts of interest applied to certain types of contractors. In almost all cases, the agencies had designated personnel to provide contract oversight. DOD, State, and USAID contracting officials generally did not, however, ensure enhanced oversight as required for situations in which contractors provided services closely supporting inherently governmental functions despite the potential for loss of government control and accountability for mission-related policy and program decisions.

April 13, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, State Department, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraq and Afghanistan: GAO-10-509T March 23, 2010

Iraq and Afghanistan:  Aencies Face Challenges in Tracking Contracts, Grants, Cooperative Agreements, and Associated Personnel which was released on March 23, 2010

March 24, 2010 Posted by | Wartime Contracting | , , | Leave a comment

GAO blocks contract to Blackwater to train Afghan police

By Joby Warrick
Washington Post
Tuesday, March 16, 2010; A05

Federal auditors on Monday put a stop to Army plans to award a $1 billion training program for Afghan police officers to the company formerly known as Blackwater, concluding that other companies were unfairly excluded from bidding on the job.

The decision by the Government Accountability Office leaves unclear who will oversee training of the struggling Afghan National Police, a poorly equipped, 90,000-strong paramilitary force that will inherit the task of preserving order in the country after NATO troops depart.

GAO officials upheld a protest by DynCorp International Inc., which currently conducts training for Afghan police under a State Department contract. DynCorp lawyers argued that the company should have been allowed to submit bids when management of the training program passed from State to the Army. Instead, Pentagon officials allowed the training program to be attached to an existing Defense contract that supports counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan.

Xe Services, the new name of Blackwater, was poised to win one portion of a much larger group of contracts, shared among five corporations, that could earn the companies more than $15 billion over five years.

GAO officials said the decision will allow a new round of bidding by DynCorp and other firms, including Xe Services

March 16, 2010 Posted by | Blackwater, Contract Awards, DynCorp, Private Military Contractors | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment