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

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

Insourcing “Inherently Governmental” Work Will Save Money

By Pratap Chatterjee | January 25, 2011  Center for American Progress

The U.S. Army has identified 2,357 contractors doing work that is supposed to be reserved exclusively for federal employees, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office released last week.

Another 1,877 contractors are doing “unauthorized personal services” for the Army, the GAO found, while 45,934 contractors are doing Army jobs that are considered closely associated with inherently governmental functions, which require strict oversight and management. Other military services as well as civilian agencies are probably employing thousands of contractors with similar conflicts.

Work that is “inherently governmental,” such as oversight functions or those that may commit the government to overall policy decisions, must not be done by contractors, according to draft guidelines issued last March by the Obama administration.

The GAO estimates that 766,732 contractors worked for the military on service contracts worth $140.4 billion in fiscal 2009. That’s more than the 737,000 civilians that were employed by the military in 2009, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The Center for American Progress believes that eliminating contractors who do “inherently governmental” work will save the military dollars and bring it into compliance with the law. Returning or “insourcing” these jobs back to the permanent federal workforce should be the military’s first action in complying with Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s request for a 10 percent annual reduction in contract spending over the next three years.

It’s a shame, but not a surprise, that no such suggestion was included in the spending reduction proposal released last week by the Republican Study Committee. As CAP Senior Fellow Scott Lilly has previously noted: “The real question is why Republicans, in their earnestness to reduce the deficit, have not taken on the issue of government contracting. That has been where the real growth in government has occurred.”

Please read the entire article here

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, Government Contractor | , , , , | Leave a comment

To Do the Impossible Job

David Isenberg at Huff Post

Recent news about private military contractors (PMC) confirms the obvious; the federal government needs to improve both the quantity and quality of resources it devotes to doing PMC oversight.

While PMC do, at times, screw up through their own actions and choices, I think it fair to say that most of them strive to do the right thing. But they can only be as good insofar as they have a knowledgeable client that clearly spells out what is expected and how the work should be done.

Now consider the just published, must read article that ProPublica co-published with Newsweek. It examines U.S. efforts to train the Afghan National Police. An honest, effective Afghan police force is crucial if Afghanistan is ever going to be able to function on its own.

For many years DynCorp held the contract and encountered all sorts of problems. Some were DynCorp’s own fault but many were not. When the client, as in the U.S. government, sets ridiculous requirements failure become inevitable:

The people who oversaw much of the training that did take place were contractors–many of them former American cops or sheriffs. They themselves had little proper direction, and the government officials overseeing their activities did not bother to examine most expenses under $3,000, leaving room for abuse. Amazingly, no single agency or individual ever had control of the training program for long, so lines of accountability were blurred.

It’s practically impossible to produce competent police officers in a program of only eight weeks, says a former senior DynCorp executive, requesting anonymity because he continues to work in the industry. But that was the time frame State and Defense set for the course. “They were not going to be trained police officers. We knew that. They knew that,” the former executive says. “It was a numbers game.” In fact, the course has now been cut from eight weeks to six in order to squeeze in more trainees. (“We believe the training is appropriate under the circumstances,” says Assistant Secretary of State David Johnson. DynCorp spokesman Douglas Ebner says the basic-training course is part of a more extensive 40-week program, and is supported by further “field monitoring, mentoring, and advising.” Training hours have been extended to make up for the lost weeks, he says. DynCorp does “not make the policies, recruit the police candidates, or design the program,” he adds, saying the company has “fully met” its objective of providing highly qualified police trainers.)

DynCorp’s defense smacks of the Nuremberg defense, i.e., it was just following orders “to produce highly qualified police trainers” when, in fact, the goal is to produce qualified and competent Afghan police. But, in truth, DynCorp is correct. It should not be held at fault for trying to do the impossible, as in impossible to produce competent police officers in a program of only eight weeks. While Don Quixote could dream the impossible dream, contractors should not be paid to do an impossible job.

Of course, DynCorp could have said, this is impossible, it won’t work, and we’re not going to do it. That would be an ethical business practice. As any contractor knows, sometimes you just have to tell the client that it can’t have what it wants. Yet, the recent decision by the GAO to reopen the competition for the police training contract, for which Xe Services (formerly Blackwater) had heretofore been considered a leading contender, means that DynCorp is still willing to take the money to do a job that is, unless the State Department radically changes its contract requirements, virtually impossible to successfully achieve.

The article makes clear that when it comes to oversight on this contract State is AWOL:

Those failures should have been no surprise. The audit also found that State routinely short-staffed its contract-monitoring office in Afghanistan. At one point, only three contract officers were on the ground overseeing DynCorp’s $1.7 billion training contract. A former DynCorp official who worked in Afghanistan, asking not to be named because he remains in the government contracting business, says he asked the State Department repeatedly for concrete goals for the police contract but never got firm answers. “I’d ask them: ‘Please explain to me what a successful training program was. What are the standards you want us to apply?’ There was no vision for the future.”

The ProPublica article is just another depressing example of how badly government falls down on the job. This is worse than not just providing enough auditors or contracting officers, although that is still a significant problem. As William Solis, director of defense capabilities and management for GAO, testified to the U.S. House Appropriations defense subcommittee on March 17 shortcomings include a lack of sufficient and sufficiently trained military personnel and civilian employees to oversee contractors day-to-day during wartime operations. For example, in Afghanistan, there was concern the military didn’t have people with enough knowledge of trades such as plumbing and electrical wiring to oversee contractors doing those jobs.

This is about being able to write a realistic job goal. If the U.S. government can’t do that then why expect a contractor to pull its fat out of the fire?

If you think this is an exaggeration consider that when President Obama announced his plan to send another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan everyone recognized this meant tens of thousands more contractors would be accompanying them. Yet according to Solis:

On December 1, 2009, the President announced that an additional 30,000 U.S. troops would be sent to Afghanistan to assist in the ongoing operations there, and the Congressional Research Service estimates that between 26,000 and 56,000 additional contractors may be needed to support the additional troops. However, during our December 2009 trip to Afghanistan, we found that only limited planning was being done with regard to contracts or contractors. Specifically, we found that with the exception of planning for the increased use of LOGCAP, USFOR-A had not begun to consider the full range of contractor services that might be needed to support the planned increase of U.S. forces. More important, officials from USFOR-A’s logistics staff appeared to be unaware of their responsibility as defined by DOD guidance to identify contractor requirements or develop the contract management and support plans required by guidance.

Let’s hope that at this Wednesday’s hearing, to examine Defense Department and State Department contracts for police training in Afghanistan, including the State Department’s Civilian Police (CIVPOL) Program contract, members of the Senate Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight will minutely scrutinize all the contract requirements and goals.

March 21, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Police, DynCorp, Private Military Contractors, State Department | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment