There are more contractors than troops in Afghanistan
Time’s Battleland October 9, 2012 by David Isenberg
U.S. military forces may be out of Iraq, but the unsung and unrecognized part of America’s modern military establishment is still serving and sacrificing — the role played by private military and security contractors.
That their work is dangerous can be seen by looking at the headlines. Just last Thursday a car bomb hit a private security convoy in Baghdad, killing four people and wounding at least nine others.
That is hardly an isolated incident. According to the most recent Department of Labor statistics there were at least 121 civilian contractor deaths filed on in the third quarter of 2012. Of course, these included countries besides Iraq.
As the Defense Base Act Compensation blog notes, “these numbers are not an accurate accounting of Contractor Casualties as many injuries and deaths are not reported as Defense Base Act Claims. Also, many of these injuries will become deaths due to the Defense Base Act Insurance Companies denial of medical benefits.” To date, a total of 90,680 claims have been filed since September 1, 2001.
How many contractors are now serving on behalf of the U.S. government?
According to the most recent quarterly contractor census report issued by the U.S. Central Command, which includes both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as 18 other countries stretching from Egypt to Kazakhstan, there were approximately 137,000 contractors working for the Pentagon in its region. There were 113,376 in Afghanistan and 7,336 in Iraq. Of that total, 40,110 were U.S. citizens, 50,560 were local hires, and 46,231 were from neither the U.S. not the country in which they were working.
Put simply, there are more contractors than U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
These numbers, however, do not reflect the totality of contractors. For example, they do not include contractors working for the U.S. State Department. The CENTCOM report says that “of FY 2012, the USG contractor population in Iraq will be approximately 13.5K. Roughly half of these contractors are employed under Department of State contracts.”
While most of the public now understands that contractors perform a lot of missions once done by troops – peeling potatoes, pulling security — they may not realize just how dependent on them the Pentagon has become.
Please read the entire post here
by T Christian Miller at Propublica June 1, 2011
For proof that the wheels of justice turn slowly for private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sometimes bog down all together, look no further than the indictment  this week of George H. Lee, American businessman.
A federal grand jury indicted Lee on charges that he allegedly paid bribes to military officers to win contracts for his company, Lee Dynamics International. The company, a family affair that included Lee’s son, Justin W. Lee (also indicted this week), provided bottled water, food, living quarters, and all kinds of everyday items that form the backbone of a military logistical operation. George Lee also stands accused of setting up fake bank accounts, buying airplane tickets for contracting officials, and sending them on spa trips.
According to prosecutors, Lee’s wrongdoing began back in 2004 — almost seven years ago.
Several military officials were held accountable for their roles in his schemes long ago. Maj. John Cockerham pleaded guilty to taking millions of dollars in bribes from Lee and received a 17-year prison sentence . Maj. Gloria Davis killed herself shortly after allegedly confessing to authorities that she had taken a $225,000 payment from Lee.
But it has proven exceptionally difficult to bring Lee himself to justice. Even the indictments this week do not signal the end of the hunt. Lee remains at large, perhaps in Kuwait or Dubai . His son is expected to appear in court in the U.S. The government barred Lee Dynamics from receiving further contracts in 2007.
The case provides further evidence of how difficult it is to secure convictions against private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, no matter how severe the crime. A number of private security guards accused of killing civilians have escaped sanction. Most notably, a judge dismissed  all charges in 2009 against five guards from the firm Blackwater for killing 17 Iraqis in a well-publicized shooting in Nisour square.
After nearly a decade of war, few mechanisms exist to investigate wrongdoing by the private sector, despite increasing reliance on contractors by the U.S. military. Attempts to bring private contractors under the military justice system have stalled. When federal investigators with the FBI or the inspectors general for Iraq and Afghanistan have attempted to collect evidence for cases filed in civilian courts, they have struggled to meet the demands of the American justice system.
We’ve annotated the indictment  to note highlights of the case and what it shows about difficulty of achieving accountability under the largest, most expensive U.S. reconstruction effort since the Marshall Plan.
Please see the original at ProPublica
Center for Integrity and McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — Launched in February 2006 with an urgent goal – to save U.S. soldiers from being killed by roadside bombs in Iraq – a small Pentagon agency ballooned into a bureaucratic giant fueled by that flourishing arm of the defense establishment: private contractors.
An examination by the Center for Public Integrity and McClatchy Newspapers of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization revealed an agency so dominated by contractors that the ratio of contractors to government employees has reached 6-to-1.
A JIEDDO former director, Lt. Gen. Michael Oates, acknowledged that such an imbalance raised the possibility that contractors in management positions could approve proposals or payments for other contractors. Oates said the ratio needed to be reduced.
Please read the entire story here
TPM Muckraker March 7, 2011
The U.S. Army is getting rid of its “pen and paper” and “string and stick” method of tracking fuel use in Afghanistan after nearly a decade of mismanagement, theft and fraud resulting in what is likely hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars in lost fuel, some of which is sold on the black market and has ended up in Taliban hands.
The highest levels of the U.S. military have deep concerns about the rampant robbery, and the U.S. Army this week is beginning to implement, base by base in Afghanistan, a computerized accounting system aimed at making it easier to track the disappearing fuel.
“This has very senior leader attention,” Col. Phil Vonholtz, the commander of the Army Petroleum Center told TPM in a telephone interview. “I have personally briefed [Army Secretary John McHugh]. It has the attention at the highest levels…”
When asked why it has taken the military so long to implement basic safeguards in Afghanistan and Iraq, Vonholtz said he had only worked at the Center since July of 2009 and didn’t know what had caused the delays.
Last week, a TPM investigation reported that the Defense Department is under intense pressure to find a way to staunch the fuel losses in and out of its bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, especially considering the rising costs of oil in the wake of Middle East unrest and Congress’ intensified efforts to cut government waste, fraud and abuse anywhere they can find it.
Please read the entire investigation here
“These individuals are increasingly an integral part of the mission but have been almost completely ignored in the medical literature. That needs to change so that we can develop better methods of injury and disease prevention.”
February 21, 2011 By Stephanie Desmon Johns Hopkins Medicine
After analyzing data on 2,155 private contractors, diplomats and other civilians supporting war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan who were medically evacuated from combat zones, researchers have found that such civilians are more likely to be evacuated for noncombat-related injuries but more likely to return to work in-country after treatment for these conditions.
Still, the findings of the Johns Hopkins–led research team, published online in CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association, note that 75 percent of the nonmilitary group medically evacuated from the war zones to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany between 2004 and 2007 did not return to the field.
“Everyone is understandably focused on the troops, but wars have fundamentally changed. Today, roughly half of those deployed in Iraq and two-thirds in Afghanistan are not members of the military,” said study leader Steven P. Cohen, an associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves. “These individuals are increasingly an integral part of the mission but have been almost completely ignored in the medical literature. That needs to change so that we can develop better methods of injury and disease prevention.”
Stephan Clark at Fox News
How many private contractors does the Pentagon need to cut to meet Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ target of a 10 percent reduction annually over three years?
The Pentagon might not even know — it doesn’t have a comprehensive count for the contractors it employs.
“You don’t know whether they’re using that 10 percent because they’re clueless and they want to sound like they’re doing something meaningful — or whether that 10 percent is really 2 percent,” Winslow Wheeler, a director at the Center for Defense Information and a defense budget expert, told FoxNews.com. “This is something that desperately needs a comprehensive and thorough explanation. We don’t even know what we don’t know.”
Former Sen. Alan Simpson, co-chairman of President Obama’s deficit reduction commission, said over the weekend that the Pentagon should be able to cut 250,000 contractors based on estimates that the Pentagon employs between 250,000 and 1 million contractors.
Whereas contractors used to be the “in” thing as a means to get employees off the government dole, Gates says the department has become far too reliant on them to perform functions that could be done by full-time employees.
Please read the entire story here
CNN In this file photo from October, NATO supply trucks in Pakistan prepare to enter Afghanistan.
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — Unidentified gunmen on motorbikes opened fire and killed the driver of a supply truck for NATO troops in southwest Pakistan on Sunday, a senior government official told CNN.
Noorul Haq Baloch, an official of Pakistan’s southwestern district of Mastung in Balochistan province, said the incident happened in the area of Khad Kocha, 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Quetta.
Baloch said the truck was going to Afghanistan from the southern city of Karachi.
The gunmen escaped after killing the driver, he said.
“The gunmen fired multiple bullets (that) killed the driver and damaged the container,” Baloch said.
Supplies for NATO in Afghanistan are transported from Pakistan through private contractors.
Dozens of oil tankers and containers pass through Pakistan daily to supply fuel and other supplies to NATO troops battling insurgents in Afghanistan.
Some of them are attacked by militants on their way to Afghanistan.
In Balochistan province in October, dozens of oil tankers destined for Afghanistan caught on fire after being attacked by gunmen. Please see the original here
By Robert Brodsky firstname.lastname@example.org November 4, 2010 at Government Executive
The Pentagon has issued an interim rule that would formally prevent private contractors from interrogating detainees in military custody.
The notice, published on Wednesday in the Federal Register, implements a fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act provision by allowing only government personnel to question detainees.
The statute, however, does permit the Defense secretary to waive the prohibition temporarily if doing so is “vital to the national security interests of the United States.”
Interrogation is a key tool for the United States and its allies to win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the practice must operate legally and should support the military’s mission overseas, according to the rule.
“It is imperative that contractor activities in support of these efforts comply with the law and do not detract from the commander’s intent in order to contribute to mission success,” the draft regulation stated. “A lack of compliance affects the perception of both local citizens and the international community, which would provide support to our adversaries that will adversely impact the U.S. government’s efforts.”
The CIA already has stopped using private contractors for interrogations.
While private sector firms will not be allowed to grill detainees, they will be permitted to assist in the interrogation.
At the request of the Obama administration, lawmakers revised the 2010 authorization measure to allow contractor personnel with proper training and security clearances to serve as linguists, interpreters, report writers, information technology technicians, and trainers and advisers to the interrogators.
The contractors must be subject to the same laws, rules, procedures and policies as the government interrogators, and qualified and trained Defense Department personnel must oversee them to ensure they do not perform prohibited activities.
“In some limited cases, a contract interrogator may possess the best combination of skills to obtain critical intelligence, and this provision, therefore, could prevent U.S. forces from conducting lawful interrogations in the most effective manner,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a July 2009 statement of policy on the Defense measure.
The final version of the law defines detainees as “enemy prisoners of war, civilian internees and retained personnel” but not Defense Department or contractor personnel being held for law enforcement purposes.
The provision was a response to allegations that employees of private firms CACI International Inc. and L-3 Communication (formerly Titan Corp.) conspired to torture detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.
Some of the Iraqi detainees have successfully sued the firms, but the companies have appealed the ruling. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., is hearing the case. Contractors are arguing they are covered by the same level of immunity that protects U.S. soldiers from being sued by enemy combatants in wartime.
“Immediate implementation of this statute is necessary to preclude a contracting officer from inadvertently awarding a contract that allows for the interrogation of detainees by contractor personnel,” the interim rule stated.
Please see the original article here and leave your comments
Defense will accept comments on the rule through Jan. 3, 2011. They can be submitted by e-mail at email@example.com; through the Regulations.gov website; or by mail to:
Defense Acquisition Regulations System
Attn.: Julian E. Thrash, OUSD (AT&L) DPAP/DARS
3060 Defense Pentagon, Room 3B855
Washington, D.C. 20301-3060
By David Isenberg at Huff Post
There are two words which strike fear in the hearts of all those who follow the private contracting issue. And by private contractors I just don’t mean those carrying out security or military function. Rather I mean any task that at some point was considered the domain of someone in the public sector.
Those two words are inherently governmental. Far stronger men than I have cowered in fear when asked to define what an inherently governmental task is.
Trying to define the term is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall; only nailing Jell-O is easier. Yet the stakes are enormous. Obviously private sector companies would like the definition to be crafted as narrowly as possible as it potentially means more work for them.
Years ago it was reported that the use of private contractors as interrogators at Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq violated an Army policy that requires such jobs to be ﬁlled by government employees because of the “risk to national security.” An Army policy directive published in 2000 classiﬁes any job that involves “the gathering and analysis” of tactical intelligence as “an inherently governmental function barred from private sector performance.”
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) lists the following functions as inherently governmental: interpreting and executing laws; ordering military or diplomatic action on behalf of the United States; conducting civil or criminal judicial proceedings; performing actions that signiﬁcantly affect the life, liberty, or property of private persons; and collecting, controlling, or disbursing appropriated and other federal funds.
One has to give credit to the Obama administration for daring to try and do some thing in this area, where angels fear to tread.
Last year the Administration issued a Presidential Memorandum on Government Contracting, issued on March 4, 2009, which directs OMB to clarify when governmental outsourcing of services is, and is not, appropriate, consistent with section 321 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2009. Section 321 requires OMB to (i) create a single definition for the term “inherently governmental function” that addresses any deficiencies in the existing definitions and reasonably applies to all agencies; (ii) establish criteria to be used by agencies to identify “critical” functions and positions that should only be performed by federal employees; and (iii) provide guidance to improve internal agency management of functions that are inherently governmental or critic.
On March 31 the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget issued a proposed policy letter to provide guidance addressing when work must be reserved for performance by federal employees. The letter was intended to implement direction in the President’s Memorandum. The letter states:
A single definition of “inherently governmental function” built around the well-established statutory definition in the Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act (FAIR Act), Public Law 105-270, would replace existing definitions in regulation and policy. The FAIR Act defines an activity as inherently governmental when it is so intimately related to the public interest as to mandate performance by Federal employees. Examples and tests would be provided to help agencies identify inherently governmental functions.
Given the existing multiple definitions of “inherently governmental” it is understandable the government wants to use just one. The letter states:
There are three main sources for definitions and guidance addressing inherently governmental function: (1) The FAIR Act, (2) the FAR, and (3) OMB Circular A-76. a. Definition. The FAIR Act, FAR, and Circular A-76 each make clear that the term “inherently governmental function” addresses functions that are so intimately related to the public interest as to require performance by federal government employees. There are some variations in the language used by the three sources to describe the types of functions included in the definition. In particular, the FAIR Act states that the term includes activities that require the “exercise of discretion” in applying “Federal Government authority,” whereas the Circular speaks in terms of the exercise of “substantial discretion” in applying “sovereign” Federal government authority. It is unclear what the impact of this type of variation has been. This notwithstanding, these variations can create confusion and uncertainty.
The proposed policy letter retains an illustrative list of functions closely associated with inherently governmental functions. These include:
1. The direct conduct of criminal investigation.
2. The control of prosecutions and performance of adjudicatory functions (other than those relating to arbitration or other methods of alternative dispute resolution).
3. The command of military forces, especially the leadership of military personnel who are members of the combat, combat support or combat service support role.
4. The conduct of foreign relations and the determination of foreign policy.
5. The determination of agency policy, such as determining the content and application of regulations, among other things.
6. The determination of Federal program priorities or budget requests.
7. The direction and control of Federal employees.
8. The direction and control of intelligence and counter-intelligence operations.
9. The selection or non-selection of individuals for Federal Government employment.
10. The approval of position descriptions and performance standards for Federal employees.
11. The determination of what Government property is to be disposed of and on what terms (although an agency may give contractors authority to dispose of property at prices with specified ranges and subject to other reasonable conditions deemed appropriate by the agency).
12. In Federal procurement activities with respect to prime contracts:
(a) determining what supplies or services are to be acquired by the Government (although an agency may give contractors authority to acquire supplies at prices within specified ranges and subject to other reasonable conditions deemed appropriate by the agency);
(b) participating as a voting member on any source selection boards;
(c) approval of any contractual documents, to include documents defining requirements, incentive plans, and evaluation criteria;
(d) awarding contracts;
(e) administering contracts (including ordering changes in contract performance or contract quantities, taking action based on evaluations of contractor performance, and accepting or rejecting contractor products or services);
(f) terminating contracts;
(g) determining whether contract costs are reasonable, allocable, and allowable; and
(h) participating as a voting member on performance evaluation boards.
13. The approval of agency responses to Freedom of Information Act requests (other than routine responses that, because of statute, regulation, or agency policy, do not require the exercise of judgment in determining whether documents are to be released or
withheld), and the approval of agency responses to the administrative appeals of denials of Freedom of Information Act requests.
14. The conduct of administrative hearings to determine the eligibility of any person for a security clearance, or involving actions that affect matters of personal reputation or eligibility to participate in government programs.
15. The approval of federal licensing actions and inspections.
16. The determination of budget policy, guidance, and strategy.
17. The collection, control, and disbursement of fees, royalties, duties, fines, taxes and other public funds, unless authorized by statute, such as title 31 U.S.C. 952 (relating to
private collection contractors) and title 31 U.S.C. 3718 (relating to private attorney collection services), but not including:
(a) collection of fees, fines, penalties, costs or other charges from visitors to or patrons of mess halls, post or base exchange concessions, national parks, and similar entities or activities, or from other persons, where the amount to be collected is easily
calculated or predetermined and the funds collected can be easily controlled using standard cash management techniques, and
(b) routine voucher and invoice examination.
18. The control of the Treasury accounts.
19. The administration of public trusts.
20. The drafting of Congressional testimony, responses to Congressional correspondence, or agency responses to audit reports from the Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office, or other federal audit entity.
It will be interesting to see whether example three “The command of military forces, especially the leadership of military personnel who are members of the combat, combat support or combat service support role” will cause any problems for private military or security contractors. In theory it should not but reality on battlefields often has a way of throwing theory out the window.
For other functions that are not listed among the above twenty, OFPP says it will develop a test to analyze “whether a function is inherently governmental based on the nature of the function and the level of discretion to be exercised in performing the function.”
OFPP says agencies should look on a case-by-case basis at the nature of the function to determine if it’s uniquely governmental function and whether the job commits the government to decisions that deal with overall policy discretion or approval, or oversight by federal officials.
The policy also defines “closely associated” with inherently governmental functions and provides 19 examples. These include functions that involve or relate to budget preparation, including workforce modeling, fact finding, efficiency studies and cost analyses, involve or relate to development of regulations, in support of acquisition functions, such as assistance in contract management, technical evaluations and development of statements of work.
Finally the OFPP letter defines critical functions that are considered core capabilities of agency employees.
The proposed policy letter would define critical function to mean a function whose importance to the agency’s mission and operation requires that at least a portion of the function must be reserved to federal employees in order to ensure the agency has sufficient internal capability to effectively perform and maintain control of its mission and operations,” the letter states. “Agencies would be held responsible for ensuring a sufficient number of positions performing critical work are filled by federal employees with appropriate training, experience, and expertise to understand the agency’s requirements, formulate alternatives, manage the work product, and manage any contractors used to support the federal workforce.
This would mean the situation one often finds where contractors supervise contractors would have to end. Although given the current state of the acquisition workforce it won’t happen soon.
If you think the OFPP letter will finally clear things up all I can say is don’t hold your breath. As a marvelously detailed February 1 Congressional Research Service report notes:
The current debate over which functions are inherently governmental is part of a larger debate about the proper role of the federal government vis-à-vis the private sector. This debate is as old as the Constitution, which prohibits privatization of certain functions (e.g., Congress’s legislative function), a prohibition courts enforce under various judicial tests (e.g., nondelegation, functions “affected with the public interest,” etc.). Since the 1920s, federal contracting has been a primary arena for the public/private debate, with the executive and legislative branches contesting (1) which functions the government must perform because they are inherently governmental; (2) which functions the government should perform because they are closely related to inherently governmental functions or for some policy reason; and (3) which functions should be left to the private sector. DOD functions are often central to debates over which functions are inherently governmental because of the specific functions DOD performs; its prominent role in federal contracting; and its unique workforce, which blends military and civilian personnel.
Ironically, this is not the only other inherent debate. Back in 2005 the Pentagon amended the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement to address issues related to contract performance outside the United States. Many observers noted that the rule appeared to shift too much risk to contractors. One respondent noted that the use of the term inherently dangerous in paragraph (b) of the clause could jeopardize a contractor’s ability to obtain insurance coverage under the Defense Base Act and other provisions.
When the Pentagon was amending acquisition rules in 2004, it received many comments. One response raised was how much risk contractors must accept. The government’s proposed rule states that carrying out a contract for deployed forces is “inherently” dangerous. “The Contractor accepts the risks associated with required contract performance in such operations,” the proposed rule states. But the Professional Services Council, a group representing companies that perform communications, engineering, and scientiﬁc services, interpreted that to mean that the contractor must assume all the risk and said the government should share some responsibility. Original Here
Follow David Isenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/vanidan
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq will seize heavy weapons from foreign security firms and expel within days ex-Blackwater contractors still in the country, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani said on Wednesday.
The decision follows Iraqi government outrage at the dismissal by a U.S. court of charges against Blackwater Worldwide guards accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.
It also comes ahead of a parliamentary election on March 7 in which Bolani is running at the head of his own coalition against a slate headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Bolani said he had “ordered that the heavy weapons used by some of the foreign security firms be collected.” Speaking to Reuters at a campaign event, he gave no further details and did not clarify whether that included licensed weapons.
He reiterated that he had ordered all former employees of Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, to be kicked out of Iraq.
“We gave them a deadline to leave Iraq. It will expire in the next few days,” he said. He declined to say what would happen to former Blackwater workers if they did not leave or how the Interior Ministry knew if someone had worked for Blackwater in the past.
He said most former employees had left when the company lost its license to operate last year. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh had previously said there was no official order expelling former Blackwater workers.
The Blackwater incident in 2007 came to symbolise for many Iraqis the impunity from prosecution in Iraq enjoyed by foreign security contractors after the 2003 U.S. invasion.
Their immunity from prosecution was lifted last year under a U.S.-Iraqi security pact that gave Iraq back its sovereignty.
Since then, Iraqi security forces and foreign contractors have come close to blows at checkpoints as Iraqi troops make clear to heavily armed foreigners that Iraqis are now in charge.
The decision by a U.S. federal court in December to dismiss charges against the Blackwater security guards accused of killing the civilians produced an immediate crackdown by Iraqi police on the operations of security contractors in Iraq.
Maliki’s government has hired U.S. lawyers to prepare a law suit against Blackwater.
The guards said they shot in self-defense in the incident, which occurred during some of the worst sectarian violence in Iraq. The U.S. government is appealing the dismissal. Original article here
Original Story here
The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
WASHINGTON — A U.S. contractor in Afghanistan helping train the national police was found dead last week of a possible drug overdose, just months after his company was reprimanded by the State Department for another worker’s drug-related death.
The deaths have raised questions over how well DynCorp International selects and manages those assigned to the police training contract, a crucial component of the U.S. effort to hand over more of the security burden to the Afghans.
The leaders of an independent panel investigating wartime spending said Wednesday they are troubled by the deaths of two workers at the State Department’s largest contractor.
“This shouldn’t be treated as an isolated event that (the State Department) can ignore,” said Christopher Shays, co-chairman of the Commission on Wartime Contracting. “They really need to step in and say, ‘Do we have a drug problem at DynCorp?’”
The employee was found dead in his quarters in Kabul, the capital, on Sept. 10. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said an investigation is under way.
DynCorp spokesman Douglas Ebner said the company would not speculate on the cause of the death.
Michael Thibault, who along with Shays heads the contracting commission, said DynCorp officials informed the panel last week that a syringe, needle, and a drug vial were found near the body. A toxicology test will be conducted to determine if drugs were a factor.
The employee, a medic, had arrived in Afghanistan in late August. Given his profession, it would not be unusual for medical supplies to be found in his room.
On March 17, a DynCorp employee assigned to the same contract was found dead in the company’s housing in Kabul. Drug use was suspected in that death, which remains under investigation. After that death, the State Department ordered the company to replace its senior project managers on the police training contract.
Both the departments of State and Defense depend heavily upon contractors such as DynCorp for support in war zones for construction, transportation, security, food service and laundry. But how well federal authorities are watching over the performance and conduct of this industrial army is a long-standing concern.
Most recently, the State Department has been criticized by the commission and public interest groups for failing to know that private security guards hired to protect the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan were engaging in lewd and inappropriate behavior that may have compromised the U.S. effort there.
DynCorp has been training police in Afghanistan since 2003, according to information on the Falls Church, Va.-based company’s Web site. The latest installment of the training contract was awarded by the State Department in August 2008 and is worth $317 million.
Dyncorp has 16,000 employees in Iraq and Afghanistan and expects to expand that number to 20,000 as demands for its services increase.
William Ballhaus, DynCorp’s president and chief executive officer, was asked about the Sept. 10 death during a hearing held Monday by the wartime contracting panel on a separate State Department contract.
Ballhaus didn’t discuss the cause of the death or provide any details about the employee. But he did say company managers in Afghanistan treated the area where the employee died as a “crime scene,” securing the room with guards to make sure evidence wasn’t removed.
He also said the company immediately notified the State Department and the FBI. “We’re talking about tens of minutes on this timeline,” Ballhaus said.
The body was brought to back to the U.S. on Sunday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, he added.
Ballhaus said he and other DynCorp officials reviewed how the employee was recruited, hired and trained. “We wanted to make sure our process was intimately followed, and it was,” he said.
Colonels’ Corner by Ollie North
Bagram, Afghanistan — It is amazing how a change of geography can alter perception. In the weeks leading up to this, my 16th FOX News deployment to cover the fight against radical Islamic terror, the news was full of attacks on civilian contractors. The target: Those who have been providing support for U.S. military and intelligence operations since Sept. 11, 2001.
“Contractor” is the new dirty word in the so-called mainstream media and in Washington. On Capitol Hill, contractors are the Rodney Dangerfields of the war – they just don’t “get no respect.” Here, where the war is being fought, contractors are regarded as essential to victory.
The attacks on civilian contractors didn’t begin with this summer’s hemorrhage of congressional leaks, sensational disclosures of classified information, threats of inquisitions and the appointment of a special prosecutor. Civilian contractors have been in the crosshairs of Congress since George Washington had to defend buying beans, bread, bandages and bullets from sutlers accompanying the Revolutionary Army. In the opening days of World War II, then-Senator Harry Truman became famous for threatening to “lock up” civilian contractors for producing sub-par munitions and President Dwight D. Eisenhower ominously warned against the threat of a “military-industrial complex.”
However, all that is pale by comparison to the viscera now being aimed at civilian contractors supporting the campaigns in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates and in the shadow of the Hindu Kush. Though the mainstream media and congressional critics initially ignored the essential role played by civilian security and logistics contractors in the opening months of Operation Enduring Freedom, they went into high dudgeon when the Bush administration began preparations for liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein.
It has gone downhill since.
Critics on the left are quick to point to events like the 2007 incident in Baghdad that led to the prosecution of security contractors for using excessive force in carrying out protective duties. On Capitol Hill, members of Congress have threatened to cut the budgets of federal agencies that use security contractors instead of government employees to protect key personnel and sensitive installations. At the Pentagon — which uses more civilian contractors in the war effort than any other U.S. government entity — the response to the criticism was capitulation.
In April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced plans to hire 30,000 additional Department of Defense employees to cut the percentage of work being done by contractors. The FY 2010 Defense Budget request replaces nearly 14,000 contractor personnel with government employees, even though the “lifetime cost” — counting government benefits and retirement — will more than double the expense to American taxpayers. The numbers don’t mesh, but when it comes to getting the press and politicians off the backs of Pentagon poobahs, cutting contractors loose is apparently a small price to pay.
Unfortunately, dollars may not be the only thing lost.
Last week, in the midst of the firestorm over U.S. intelligence agencies using private contractors, General Michael Hayden, CIA director from 2006-09, asked a telling question: “Who is the best individual available for this task at this moment?” With more than 30 percent of his former agency’s work being performed by contractors, the answer is obvious. He went on to note that the CIA uses contractors for their “very discreet skill sets” and “as an integral part of our workforce.”
The CIA isn’t alone. Here in Afghanistan there are more than 74,000 military contractors and the number is increasing as more U.S. and NATO troops “surge” into the theatre. Though it’s unlikely to make the lead story in any of the mainstream media, contractors are performing tasks that U.S. government entities either cannot do or that cannot be done as economically. A few non-sensational, but essential examples:
— The Afghanistan Border Police (ABP) has the mission of securing the country’s porous borders — an absolutely crucial task if the fight against the Taliban is to be won. The ABP is being recruited, screened, trained, equipped and advised by fewer than 140 private contractor personnel. To date they have deployed more than 3,600 new ABP officers.
— The Counter Narcotics Police and the Afghanistan Narcotics Interdiction Unit (NIU) are being mentored, trained and supported by fewer than 40 private contractors. These law enforcement units are key components in denying the Taliban and Al Qaeda revenues from opium production.
— In the 11 months since I was last in Afghanistan, private contractor aircraft have flown more than 12,000 sorties, delivering nearly 6 million pounds of cargo, 5 million pieces of U.S. mail and 59,000 personnel to installations around the country. Contractor aircraft have also air-dropped more than 640,000 pounds of urgently needed, food, water, ammunition, and medical supplies to troops on the battlefield. For last week’s presidential elections, contractor aircraft airdropped equipment and ballots to remote polling stations.
Like it or not, our modern, all-volunteer military cannot fight or even prepare to do so without civilian contractors. Propagandists for the left know it is no longer politically correct to attack young Americans in uniform, so they aim their viscera at military, logistics, security and intelligence support contractors instead.
Disparaging and de-funding civilian contractors is just one more way of disarming America, but at the end of the day, we won’t win without them.
CIA’s ‘Black ‘ Helicopters Land in Court
Danger Room / Wired
Over seven years ago a group of Americans traveled to Siberia to buy a pair of Russian Mi-17 helicopters for the CIA’s post-9/11 clandestine operations in Afghanistan. As with many “black” programs, the contract had elements of craziness: Contracting officials paid the multimillion dollar contract on a credit card at a local El Paso bar and then used the credit card rebate to redecorate their office; the team traveled under the guise of being private contractors; and the charter crew transporting the group abandoned the team in Russia in the middle of the night.
Ultimately, a five-year investigation into the mission led to the conviction of the Army official in charge and the contractor who bought the helicopters on charges of corruption. The two men, currently in federal prison, are appealing their convictions.
At first glance, it’s a simple case: a few days after returning from Russia, the contractor paid off the second mortgage of the Army official in charge of the mission. Prosecutors argued that the contractor, Maverick Aviation, was unprepared for the mission, and the Army official helped cover up the problems in exchange for a payoff. The defendants at trial were barred from mentioning the CIA, Afghanistan, or even 9/11.
In an article for the New York Post, I look at what really happened in Siberia based on over two dozen interviews with people involved in the mission and trial. It’s a story, that in some respects, is very different than the portrait painted by the government at trial.
Here’s one interesting comparison not mentioned in the article but worth noting in light of recent purchases of Russian helicopters: In 2001, Maverick Aviation was paid $5 million for two freshly overhauled Mi-17s, spare parts, and travel and logistics for team of Army/CIA personnel, and got the helicopters out of Russia in under 30 days. In 2008, ARINC, a major U.S. defense contractor, was paid $322 million dollars to buy 22 Russian helicopters under a U.S. foreign military sales contract.
Guess how many helicopters ARINC has delivered to Iraq after 18 months? Zero.
Check out the full story at the New York Post.
Washington Post Opinions
By T. Christian Miller
Sometimes It’s Not Your War, But You Sacrifice Anyway
To outsource the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has turned to the cheapest labor possible. About two-thirds of the 200,000 civilians working under federal contracts in the war zones are foreigners. Many come from poor, Third World countries. Others are local hires.
In the Philippines, I spoke to a woman who received a cellphone message when her son’s father died: “God took him.” She, too, had never been told of her rights to benefits by the employer or the United States. Her partner’s wages were so low that the death payment would have amounted to about $14,000. Not much, perhaps. But on the day I met her in a slum of tin shanties and reeking sewage, she did not know where she would find food that night for her three 3-year-old son. She still has received no payments.
These are not isolated examples. They are part of a pattern of neglect by the U.S. government and its contractors to inform civilian workers of their rights or even to deliver care that has already been purchased by taxpayers. While about two-thirds of the contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan are foreigners, only about 15 percent of claims are filed by foreigners, according to an analysis of Labor Department and Pentagon records by ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom.
Since foreigners work many of the same jobs as Americans, albeit for far less money, the reasons for the disparity seem obvious. Their care has been entrusted to an overwhelmed bureaucracy and the machinations of insurance firms and multinational corporations. And the government has so far shown little interest in helping them out.
Seth Harris, the deputy secretary of labor, said at a congressional hearing in June that the program has “systemic problems,” and he urged Congress to enact new legislation. “The program is not designed for the circumstances we’re in right now,” Harris told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “We are trying to meet a complex, 21st-century challenge with a program from World War II.”
Harris’s history lesson is spot on. Congress, corporate America and individual laborers banded together 60 years ago to create the program for wounded war workers after what is perhaps one of the most forgotten chapters of World War II.
On the day of the Pearl Harbor bombing, Japanese forces also attacked the South Pacific outpost of Wake Island. At the time, about 1,200 American construction workers were beefing up the island’s defenses. Most were employed by an Idaho construction company, Morrison Knudsen. Aided by the contractors, who manned gun batteries in some cases, U.S. Marines repelled the first attack, but they fell to a second assault on Dec. 23, 1941.
The Japanese sent both civilians and soldiers to prisoner-of-war camps in China. But a contingent of 98 contract workers was kept on the island as forced labor. They were all men, mostly white, from towns across America. Photos show them with pomaded hair and fedoras. When the U.S. Navy attacked the island in October 1943, the Japanese lined up the workers and executed them, dumping their bodies in a mass grave.
A single, unknown man escaped, only to be recaptured a few weeks later. In a macabre echo of the fate that would befall several contractors in Iraq, the Japanese commander, Adm. Shigematsu Sakaibara, later confessed to personally beheading him, according to an account by Mark Hubbs, a retired Army Reserve officer who researched the incident. All told, more than 150 civilian contractors from Wake Island were killed, executed or died in prison camps.
The civilians’ entanglement in the war caught the military and the contracting firms unprepared. Earlier in the year, Congress passed the Defense Base Act, requiring defense contractors to purchase workers’ compensation insurance for employees building overseas bases as the U.S. girded for war. But it was a law for workplaces, not war zones. The law did not deal with hostile acts. Nor did it cover employees killed outside the workplace, such as civilians who died in prison camps. The families of the Wake Island men were left without income.
“These people were just coming out of the Depression. There were young wives with children, dependent parents,” said Bonnie Gilbert, an Idaho writer whose father was an imprisoned worker. “They were between a rock and a hard place.”
The families’ plight spurred action. Led by Morrison Knudsen, contracting firms lobbied Congress and financed a charity to help the families with mortgage bills and doctors visits. Each Christmas, the men’s children were given a check for around $9, according to a report published by the firms. The War Department directed emergency funds to the cause.
Congress, meanwhile, created the outlines of the current benefits system. The Defense Base Act was amended to require employers to provide coverage on a nearly 24-hour basis in war zones. To persuade insurers to write policies, Congress also passed the War Hazards Compensation Act in December 1942. The act reimburses carriers for injuries or deaths due to combat, lowering their risk for catastrophic expenses.
In creating the system, Congress recognized that civilian contractors played a vital part in fighting the war. Sen. Elbert D. Thomas (D-Utah), then chairman of the Senate’s Education and Labor Committee, urged passage by telling fellow lawmakers that the war was everybody’s business. “When once total war . . . is undertaken, the sooner we bring home to our people the fact that all are responsible for the war, all might suffer by the war and therefore all should sustain the losses, the better off we will be in a social and governmental way,” he said.
The sympathetic response to the Wake Island tragedy contrasts with the attitude toward contractors today. They are now often labeled as mercenaries or war profiteers. Their contributions to the war efforts are lost amid reports of six-figure salaries, murdered Iraqis and substandard construction. Last Sunday, a British security guard working for ArmorGroup was arrested by Iraqi authorities after allegedly gunning down two colleagues in the Green Zone — an action that would amount to a contractor version of fratricide.
Nearly 1,600 civilian workers have died in Iraq, and more than 35,000 have reported injuries. Since 2001, Congress has held scores of hearings for injured veterans, but only two for injured contractors. The Government Accountability Office has published more than 100 studies on veterans’ benefits since March 2003. It has done two on the Defense Base Act.
Nor, with a few exceptions, have the contract firms stepped forward for their employees. No company leads a charge to fix the system. Notably silent is Washington Group International, a major contractor in Iraq. The company, which has reported 19 deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, was once known as Morrison Knudsen. Now part of URS Corp., the company declined to answer questions about contractor deaths.
It’s not surprising that neither the government nor the firms have felt much pressure to act. Many of the foreign workers and their families do not speak English. They do not have a senator to argue their case or a corporation to lobby for them. The result is an invisible, disposable army suffering its wounds in silence.
T. Christian Miller is a senior reporter for ProPublica and author of “Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives and Corporate Greed in Iraq.”
The killing of two security contractors in Iraq has again raised the issue of governments’ inability to regulate the industry
Once again, it appears that a lapse in discipline by an individual has brought the spotlight back to bear on the world of private security contractors. It is a world on which everyone seems to have an opinion, but one bedevilled by an emotive past and present that often obscures the issues at the heart of the argument for and against their existence and use.
The timing of the latest security contractor horror story, as Danny Fitzsimons is arrested in Iraq on two murder charges, is ironic. Only last week, David Miliband announced that the British government’s large-scale use of private security contractors was here to stay, saying that they had an important role to play enabling government foreign policy. If that wasn’t enough to get people to sit up and listen, he went on to say that rather than attempt to regulate the industry the government proposed it regulate itself. It has taken the government seven years since a green paper on the subject in 2002 and much experience to reach these conclusions. They stem from the interventionist doctrine espoused by Tony Blair, the sub-war conflict scenarios that this doctrine either sought to address or inadvertently created and the inadequate resourcing of the UK’s participation.
The private security industry has expanded rapidly from a niche business providing private personal protection to a multibillion-dollar sector working directly or indirectly for national governments. Indeed, governments now rely heavily on the sector and it is arguable whether the US and UK reconstruction programme in Iraq or Afghanistan would be possible without it. The attraction of private contractors to government is obvious: flexibility, responsiveness, force multiplication and arguably, economy. Such advantages come at a price though. The part-privatisation of security, where unregulated contractors are perceived as another arm of an occupying country’s military presence, can lead to justified questioning of the legitimacy of those governments’ actions. This is particularly so in the case of contractor abuses, such as Blackwater’s killing of 17 Iraqi civilians while protecting a US state department convoy in Baghdad in 2007. Less sleep will be lost over contractors shooting each other while off duty, other than as an indicator of the volatility of this form of security solution.
Yet for all governments’ inclination and desire for regulation of the sector, attempts to formulate a regulatory regime have foundered on the multinational and multi-jurisdictional nature of the industry. At the heart of this issue is the problem of definition. In an echo of the old adage that one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist, today’s security contractor is one government’s “legitimate enabler” and another’s mercenary. The foreign secretary’s announcement that regulation is unfeasible and an industry code of conduct his preferred solution is simply an admission that no amount of international talk will produce a viable method of regulation.
Of course, such an admission lays Miliband open to the charge that abandoning any attempt to regulate the industry is a convenient way of continuing to resource security on the cheap while failing to protect the interests of those on the receiving end of contractor abuses. To some degree he has mitigated his stance by undertaking that the government will only employ contractors who sign up to the “stringent” proposed code of conduct. However, the British government falls far short of the measures taken by the US government, albeit belated, to try to ensure the accountability of contractors. These include extending US legal jurisdiction over contractors directly and indirectly funded by government.
International regulation of the security sector remains an unattainable goal and governments’ continuing dependence on security contractors is a reality. The British government, among others, will have to look hard at the way in which it employs and controls security contractors if it is to avoid damage to its foreign policy aims and this country’s reputation.