Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

State Department Says No to Mercs at Sea

The U.S. State Department may have given rise to modern-day private armies with its personnel security contracts to protect diplomats in Iraq. But that doesn’t mean department officials want to see guns-for-hire on the high seas.

by Sharon Weinberger at Wired’s Danger Room

The prospect of having armed security guards ward off pirates presents a number of legal problems, according to Donna Hopkins, the Coordinator for Counter Piracy and Maritime Security in the State Department. “I think the legal and political implications of private, armed escorts at sea are hugely problematic and not likely to be answered in the next year or two,” she said earlier this week at the Navy League Sea Air Space Exposition.

The number of Somali-based pirate attacks has exploded over the past few years, as have the ransoms the pirates demand for safe return of ships and crewmembers. Pirates holding hijacked ships now often command between $3 and $5 million in ransom.

Despite that growing security threat, the State Department is wary of companies providing security services to combat piracy. “As a matter of policy and philosophy for many years, governments have reserved for themselves the right maintain a monopoly on the use armed force,” Hopkins said. “The idea of armed escorts on the high seas calls into question some serious philosophy in that regard.”

In fact, most ship-owners have been hesitant to turn to private security contractors, fearing the liability associated with playing host to armed guards outweighs any benefits they might provide. That may now be changing, with more companies looking to private companies to protect them from pirates.

“I do think you see a growth in the market,” said Doug Brooks, president of the International peace Operations Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group that represents private security and stability operations contractors.

The lack of support from State Department for such contractors could be viewed as ironic, given that the department’s Diplomatic Security bureau was responsible for one of the most notorious armed security contracts of all times: the Worldwide Personal Protective Services contract to Blackwater Worldwide, now known as Xe Services.  The Blackwater contract in Iraq eventually ran afoul of the local government, particularly after the Nissour Square massacre.

At sea, ships face different government laws at each port they visit, making such services even more complex. Even some companies interested in the market have balked at the potential barriers.

April 15, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Civilian Contractors, Pirates, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, State Department | , , , , , | 1 Comment

International Stability Operations Association: IPOA’s New Name

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The association that represents the stability operations industry, formerly called IPOA, is now the International Stability Operations Association (ISOA). The new name and logo are designed to better reflect the broad industry that provides vital services and support to the international community in conflict, post-conflict and disaster relief operations.

“From the beginning, our goal has been to make international stability operations more successful by increasing accountability, ethics and standards within the industry,” said ISOA’s President, Doug Brooks. “For almost ten years we have grown as the ethical core of a unique and valuable international resource. Our new name reflects that evolution as an association and as an industry, and positions us for the future.”

ISOA’s Director, J.J. Messner, unveiled the organization’s new name and logo at the IPOA 2010 Annual Summit in Washington, D.C. last week. The change is the result of an association-wide vote and is designed to better represent the broad mission and clientele of the industry as a whole.

The announcement of the ISOA name is part of a progressive effort to ensure the support and participation of all key actors in the Stability Operations Industry, including private firms, non-governmental organizations, and governmental and commercial clients.

ISOA’s mission is to serve as a valued and trusted association representing ethical and professional organizations partnering in stability, support and development efforts worldwide. The Association develops and implements ethical standards that enhance the missions of clients and raise the quality of the larger industry. ISOA does advocacy for the interests and values of the membership using a proactive, unified industry voice, and engages in education and outreach regarding the industry and the capabilities of the association’s membership.

Contact: Doug Brooks
International Stability Operations Association
Washington, DC
Tel: +1 (202) 464-0721
Email: DBrooks@stability-operations.org

October 25, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight | , , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s Tell It Like It Is, IPOA Annual Summit 2010

By David Isenberg at Huffington Post

I have, on occasion, in the past been critical of IPOA (formerly the International Peace Operations Association and now the Association of the Stability Operations Industry), the Washington, DC-based trade association for private military and security contractors. So it is only fair to mention them when they do something inarguably right.

That something was their three day 2010 Annual Summit that took place earlier this week.

To go to the event and listen to the panels on such subjects as international standards and accountability, logistics and support in contingency operations, regulatory evolutions in the industry was to see both private companies and public officials seriously grappling with issues of oversight and accountability at a practical, not a rhetorical, level.

There was some serious reflection going on. At the beginning of the first day Chris Taylor, CEO of Mission Essential Personnel, an IPOA member company, and a main sponsor of the summit, said the following in his opening remarks:

All of us have been asked to testify or to speak about a great many issues. And deservedly so. Spending the taxpayer’s money is an important task that comes with a great responsibility [Note: Let’s call this the Peter Parker principle: with big contracts comes big responsibility] But one of the things that we can’t let it do is force the industry to be transactional instead of transformational. We do bring a certain value to the government and to taxpayers. Because of the scrutiny I don’t believe that – I think it can actually be our finest hour for the industry; not a reason to hunker down and not be cooperative, not be forthcoming with people who may have questions about what it is that we do. As a matter of fact I think it should be quite the opposite. I think it should be an opportunity for us to tell it like it is; to inform people of the facts about our abilities, about the complexities of working in contingency operations, and working in development operations, and working in security operations. I don’t think we should, we shouldn’t miss that opportunity whatsoever. We certainly should not shy away from it.
I would encourage all of us to ask tough questions of each other first…

To me that reflects the emergence of a mindset that is self-confident but not boastful, proud of its accomplishments but mature enough to understand that legitimate questions can be raised about their operations.

It is hard to imagine a CEO of a traditional military-industrial company, such as Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman, saying something similar.

For those people who think that PMC or the U.S. government don’t take seriously issues of oversight and accountability they should view the video of the panel on international standards and accountability.

I recorded it with a Flip camcorder and you can watch the segments on my YouTube page. I had to break them up due to Youtube’s size limit on what can be uploaded at one time but you can view them here.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

One of the more interesting parts of that panel was the discussion of the forthcoming International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers. Among other things it:

– Sets out clear obligations and operational standards for PSCs based on international human rights standards

– Launches a process to establish effective oversight and compliance mechanisms.

There will be a high-level signing ceremony for it on 9 November 2010 in
Geneva, Switzerland. You can find the code online here .

As IPOA taped the entire summit it will, hopefully, transcribe and post online the proceedings as soon as possible. Hint, hint.

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Mission Essential Personnel, Wartime Contracting | , , , , | Leave a comment

Doug Brooks on the Stability Operations Industry

August 21, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Africa, Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contractor Oversight, Haiti, Iraq, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Wartime Contracting | , , , | Leave a comment

Security contractors could face new rules

Roxanna Tiron at The Hill

House defense authorizers are pressing ahead with efforts to weed out fraud, waste and performance debacles that have plagued private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee are expected to approve several provisions in the 2011 defense authorization bill that would establish standards for how private security contractors would win Pentagon business.

Private security contractors have lobbied for the changes, arguing that higher standards and more oversight would ensure that contracts go to legitimate companies. The Armed Services Readiness subcommittee already vetted the provisions under consideration.

House lawmakers are trying to establish a third-party certification process to determine whether private security contractors should be eligible for Pentagon contracts. Defense authorizers are requiring the Defense secretary to establish a third-party certification process for “specified operational and business practice standards to which private security contractors must adhere” as a condition of being selected as contractors.

It has not yet been determined whom the “third party” issuing the certifications would be, but the provisions aim to establish a baseline for acceptable contractor performance, industry officials said.

It would ensure that “everybody is up to the same standard,” said Doug Brooks, the president of the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), which represents the Association of the Stability Operations Industry and has advocated for the provision. “We support the concept that somebody would check on how these companies do everything they are supposed to.”

Private security contractors have tried to convince lawmakers to support contracts that offer the best value rather than just the lowest price. As a result, defense authorizers are seeking to establish a pilot program within the Pentagon that would implement best-value standards for private security contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The contracts awarded under the pilot program would continue until they are supposed to expire even if the pilot program is terminated, according to language in the defense authorization bill awaiting a full committee vote. The Defense secretary has to provide to the committee each Jan. 15 for three years a report identifying the contracts awarded under the pilot program, including the consideration that led to the award of the contract.

“The best-value language would avoid the race to the bottom,” said Jeff Green, who lobbies for IPOA.

Avoiding contracts that are awarded solely on the lowest-cost criterion would go to the heart of the private security industry’s efforts to preserve good standing. Lowest bidders often trim “some of the ethical aspects of their operations to save money,” said IPOA’s Brooks.

Companies could cut their training standards or the vetting of their own employees to keep costs low, explained Brooks.

“In the long run it will provide enormous value for U.S. taxpayers,” Brooks said. The best-value concept “focuses more on getting the mission done right rather than simply saving money.”  Read the full story here

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Allied World’s Kevin Behan to speak at the IPOA 2010 EuroConference

Allied World Assurance is brand new to Defense Base Act Workers’ Comp

PEMBROKE, Bermuda, March 30 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ —

Allied World Assurance Company Holdings, Ltd (NYSE: AWH) announced today that Kevin Behan, Senior Vice President for General Casualty in the United States, will be speaking at the IPOA’s 2010 EuroConference. The conference will focus on RiskManagement in Conflict and Post-Conflict Zones, and examine how companies, military and governments can prepare to manage risk in these environments. The event takes place in London on April 8 & 9, 2010.

Mr. Behan joined Allied World in October 2008, as Senior Vice President for General Casualty. He is responsible for Primary Casualty, working with brokers to develop Allied World’s Primary Casualty business capability. Primary Casualty includes Defense Base Act Business, General Liability, Automobile Liability and Physical Damage. Mr. Behan has over 25 years of experience in the insurance industry.

About Allied World Assurance Company

Allied World Assurance Company Holdings, Ltd, through its subsidiaries, is a global provider of innovative property, casualty and specialty insurance and reinsurance solutions, offering superior client service through offices in Bermuda, Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States. Our insurance and reinsurance subsidiaries are rated A (Excellent) by A.M. Best Company. For further information on Allied World, please visit our website at http://www.awac.com.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

IPOA Director: Critics of private contractors “don’t understand what the industry does”

The International Peace Operations Association has an admirable goal in mind, promoting higher standards and requiring ethical operations of their membership.

We support the IPOA and it’s  goals but would like to see some support for the injured employees some of their members have abused.

Senior stability operations figure believes that contractors must endeavour to educate the public on the facts.

Mar 25, 2010 – In recent years, the demand for stability operations has risen sharply, coming from both NATO and many struggling nations. Yet the majority of publicity tends to cast a negative shadow over private contractor involvement in these regions, claiming that governments are faced with a conflict of interests in involving contracting companies in the formation of defence budgets.

Sometime-cynics include David Isenberg of The Huffington Post, who has written extensively on both the pros and cons of the PMC emergence. Yet for vocal opponents like author and activist Naomi Klein, such firms are seen to merely exploit disaster-struck countries for profit. The Facebook group “No Shock Doctrine for Haiti”, based on Klein’s condemnation, has well over 37,000 members.

J.J. Messner, Director of the International Peace Operations Assosciation (IPOA), the umbrella association for the stability operations industry, described this view as a “very unfortunate”

way of seeing the matter.

Speaking to DefenceIQ, Messner spoke of the support that contractors offer in terms of freeing the army to deal with foreign policy affairs and focusing on the suppression of insurgents, actions fundamental to transitioning a region out of warzone status. Likewise, disaster-hit areas can benefit from the speedy action of these companies in the immediate aftermath of the emergency.

“Ultimately what we can see is that – in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti – there was an immense amount of suffering, there was an immense amount of capacity needed at very short notice, and some private contractors were able to provide airlift support, medical support and logistics at very short notice.”

With the resources of the US military already strained across Afghanistan and Iraq, and with this situation coinciding with a period of military downsizing, Messner holds that IPOA’s companies can provide peace-keeping support and expertise that otherwise wouldn’t be there or are not so widely available in non-profit organisations.

He also addressed the misconception that private contractors in conflict zones are dominated by private military companies such as the extremely controversial and former-member Blackwater.

“It becomes abundantly clear with many of the critics of the industry that they really don’t quite understand what the industry does. If you look at the industry as a whole, I think it’s probably fair to say that 90% of the industry concerns itself with logistics and non-security services, whereas the average man on the street will often think it’s all about heavily armed security contractors.”

“Those kinds of perceptions are very important to tackle because – when it comes to a public perception point of view – if you are sending a number of contractors into a particular country, if the public at large believe that those contractors are going to be heavily armed security contractors…their amount of support is probably going to be different than to if they act knew that the vast majority of them are going to be providing services such as logistics, or medical support, or air lift.”

He added that re-balancing the argument for private contractors and making the public aware of the positive aspects of the firms “really is one of the key roles that IPOA has to fill over the years – an educational role”.

As for critics who argue that the actions of contractors need to be transparent, Messner couldn’t agree more.

“You tend to see the criticism focused a lot more on, for example, oversight and accountability, and we would completely agree that those are areas really do need to be addressed and those areas are very important to get right, rather than [debating] the industry’s existence in the first place.
This is a press release that can be read here

March 25, 2010 Posted by | AIG and CNA, Defense Base Act, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

At Long Last: IPOA is Right !

David Isenberg at Huff Post

oug Brooks, founder and head of IPOA, a trade group for private military and security contractors, has long claimed that using such contractors is more effective than their public sector counterparts. Indeed, search online for “Doug Brooks and cost effectiveness” and you get 33,500 results.

Now, it appears that he is right, at least mostly, in his view, according to a report released today by the Government Accountability Office.

The report “Warfighter Support: A Cost Comparison of Using State Department Employees versus Contractors for Security Services in Iraq” focused on determining the costs to the Department of Defense and the State Department of using private security contractors for security services versus using federal employees to provide the same services.

The report reviewed four task orders of the Worldwide Personal Protective Services (WPPS) II contracts and one contract for Baghdad embassy security. WPPS is the way the State Department hires private security firms to protect its personnel around the world.

GAO based its review on assumptions provided by the State Department. These included that the State Department would have to recruit, hire, and train new employees who would all be U.S. citizens; the employees would serve 1 year in Iraq and then return to the United States; and the State Department would use the same number of employees the contractors use to provide security.

What the GAO found was:

Our comparison of likely State Department costs versus contractor costs for four task orders and one contract awarded by the State Department for security services in Iraq showed that for three of the task orders and the contract, the cost of using State Department employees would be greater than using contractors, while the State Department’s estimated cost to use federal employees was less for the other task order. For example, using State Department employees to provide static security for the embassy in Baghdad would have cost the department approximately $858 million for 1 year compared to the approximately $78 million charged by the contractor for the same time period.

In regard to the remaining task order, the result was only slightly less favorable.

In contrast, our cost comparison of the task order for providing personal security for State Department employees while in the Baghdad region–which required personnel that have security clearances–showed that for this task order, the State Department’s estimated annual cost would have been about $240 million, whereas the contractor charged approximately $380 million for 1 year. However, because the State Department does not currently have a sufficient number of trained personnel to provide security in Iraq, the department would need to recruit, hire, and train additional employees at an additional cost of $162 million.

Overall, the difference between the contractors’ cost and the estimated State Department cost ranged from about $3 million for one task order to over $785 million for the contract.

See Table 1 on page 6 for a cost comparison for one contract and four task orders using a one-to-one ratio of deployed to stateside employees.

GAO did note that contract requirements are a major factor in determining whether contractors or government personnel are less expensive–especially factors such as whether personnel need security clearances.

For instance, unless the State Department specifies a need for personnel with security clearances–which are generally not available to non-U.S. citizens–contractors typically choose to employ a large percentage of third-country nationals and local nationals to lower contract cost. For example, the contractor providing embassy security in Baghdad employed a large percentage of third-country nationals and local nationals (about 89 percent), whose lower wages contributed to the lower cost of the contract. In contrast, our comparison of the task order for providing personal security for State Department employees while in the Baghdad region–which required personnel that have security clearances–showed that for this task order, the State Department’s estimated annual cost would have been about $240 million, whereas the contractor charged approximately $380 million for 1 year.

And when using contractors, the department also incurs administrative costs for awarding the task orders and contract and providing oversight; however, the State Department was unable to estimate these costs. These costs can vary depending on the complexity and sensitivity of the contract. For example, according to State Department officials, the Baghdad Embassy contract provides static security at a fixed site which requires less oversight than the Worldwide Personal Protective Services II contracts which provide for the protective security of U.S. government officials and other individuals traveling in unsecured areas in theatre.

This does not definitively settle the debate as there were some things GAO did not look at such as whether the quality of the services provided by the contractors or whether better services could be provided by the State Department. It also did not evaluate the policy implications of using contractors to perform security functions.

Yet when you look at the availability of bodies for security functions it becomes clear why the State Department will continue to rely on private security contractors. GAO notes:

That in order for the State Department to perform these security missions with its own employees it would cost the State Department approximately $162 million to recruit, hire, and train 6,330 employees. When determining total costs for the department to provide security services, these recruitment and training costs would be in addition to the State Department’s estimated annual cost. Overall, for these four task orders and one contract, the State Department is using 3,165 contractors for security in Iraq. However, the State Department only has about 1,500 security agents who are already performing other missions and according to State Department officials, these agents would not be available to perform the security missions provided by the contractors. According to State Department officials, based upon recent experience in establishing a new skill specialty, it would take about a year to have the first security personnel on-board; however, they would not be in sufficient numbers to completely replace the contractors. They said it could easily take them 3 years or longer to hire, train, and fully staff all positions necessary to accomplish the mission. As an example of the length of time it would take to hire and mobilize more employees, State Department officials informed us that after the attacks on September 11, 2001, under their current hiring process it took the State Department 2 years to hire 327 employees using existing career fields (to include recruitment, training, and completing the security clearance process).

But, compared to past efforts, such as this 2005 report and 2008 report by the Congressional Budget Office the GAO report is as close as we have yet seen in comparing apples to apples.

March 4, 2010 Posted by | Private Military Contractors | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment