Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room November 2, 2012
Just days after an inspector general report revealed that a giant Pentagon contractor performed “unsatisfactory” work in Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force awarded the firm another multimillion-dollar pot of cash.
Virginia’s DynCorp, which performs everything from private security to construction for the U.S. military, has re-upped with Air Force to help pilots learn basic flying skills on the T-6A/B Texan II aircraft, a training plane. The deal is only the latest between DynCorp and the Air Force on the Texan II: In June, the Air Force Materiel Command gave the company a deal worth nearly $55 million for training services. The latest one, announced late Thursday, is worth another $72.8 million, and lasts through October 2013.
But the Air Force’s lucrative vote of confidence in DynCorp comes not even a week after the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction blasted the company for performing “unsatisfactory” construction work at an Afghan Army base in Kunduz. The base was “at risk of structural failure” when the watchdogs initially inspected, but the Army Corps of Engineers chose to settle DynCorp’s contract, a move that awarded the company “$70.8 million on the construction contracts and releas[ed] it from any further liabilities and warranty obligation.” (.pdf)
A DynCorp spokeswoman, Ashley Burke, told Bloomberg News that the company disputed the special inspector general’s findings. For its part, the special inspector general took to tweeting photographs of what it called “DynCorp’s failed work at #Afghan #Army Base in #Kunduz.
Special Investigator General for Iraq Reconstruction
Quarterly Report to US Congress
Dan Froomkin Huffington Post April 30, 2012
WASHINGTON — Afghan reconstruction efforts remain severely hampered even after nearly $100 billion in spending over the last 10 years, according to a new watchdog report. The most immediate challenge seems to stem from the insistence by Afghanistan’s government that the private army of hired guns providing security for ongoing projects be replaced with Afghan locals, who do not appear to be up to the job, the report noted.
The report’s most urgent warning concerns the “imminent transition” from private security contractors (PSC) to the state-owned Afghan Public Protection Force.
Steven J. Trent, the acting special inspector general, expressed concerns that as many as 29 major USAID projects costing nearly $1.5 billion are at risk of full or partial termination “if the APPF cannot provide the needed security.” About half that amount has already been spent.
And whether it can is very much an open question, Trent wrote. The U.S. embassy, the Afghan government and the U.S.-led military forces agreed a year ago to check the progress of the Afghan Public Protection Force at the 6-, 9-, and 12-month marks.
“The 6-month assessment, completed in September 2011, found that the APPF was not ready to assume any of the essential PSC responsibilities to meet contract requirements — such as training, equipping, and deploying guard forces,” the report pointed out. “[T]he December assessment, which would have been at the 9-month mark, has not yet been made public” and “the deadline for the 12-month assessment has passed.”
Quarterly Report to the US Congress
April 30, 2012
U.S. agencies have “limited visibility over U.S. cash that enters the Afghan economy — leaving it vulnerable to fraud and diversion to the insurgency,” SIGAR said in a statement.
Kabul’s international airport has long been seen as a virtual black hole for foreign currency, the perfect venue through which travelers can smuggle out hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid that was intended for development projects.
More than a year after The Washington Post first disclosed American concerns about the airport, a report released Wednesday by the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction concludes that attempts to choke off the exodus of cash have been plagued by a hard-to-fathom set of obstacles.
The installation of currency-counting machines to better trace illicit funds at the airport — one of the centerpieces of a plan by the Department of Homeland Security — was delayed by seven months because U.S. and Afghan officials could not agree on where to put them.
Once the machines were installed, in April, Afghan customs officials began using them to count the cash but not to record serial numbers or to report financial data, necessary steps to determine whether the money being carried out of the country had been siphoned from aid flowing in.
It took eight months for U.S. and Afghan officials to agree on where to place signs at the airport informing passengers of the requirement to declare cash totalling more than $22,000. Americans officials were unable to get approval to place the signs at the entrance to the airport, so they are now located beyond the point where passengers pass through customs.
“As a result,” the report noted, “passengers are not informed of the requirement to declare the currency until it is too late.”
Meantime, VIPs are still allowed to leave the airport without having their cash scanned through the currency counters — one of the main points of concern for U.S. officials, who believe some businessmen are carrying bagfuls of illicit cash to the Persian Gulf and elsewhere
Limited Interagency Coordination and Insufficient Controls over U.S. Funds in Afghanistan Hamper U.S. Efforts to Develop the Afghan Financial Sector and Safeguard US Cash
What SIGAR Reviewed
Since 2002, Congress has appropriated more than $70 billion to implement security and development assistance
projects in Afghanistan, with some of those funds converted into cash and flowing through the Afghan economy. The
United States is implementing programs to increase the capacity of Afghanistan’s central bank (Da Afghanistan Bank, or
DAB) to regulate the nation’s 17 commercial banks and to strengthen U.S. and Afghan law enforcement agencies’
oversight over the flow of funds through the Afghan economy. This report (1) evaluates U.S. efforts to improve the
capacity of the Afghan government to regulate the financial sector (which includes commercial banks and informal
financial organizations, or hawalas) and (2) assesses the controls that U.S. agencies use to track U.S. funds as they flow
through the Afghan economy. To accomplish these objectives, we reviewed Afghan laws and U.S. policies, plans, and
progress reports relevant to U.S. financial sector development initiatives. We met with officials from the Departments
of State, Homeland Security (DHS), Treasury, Defense (DOD), and the U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID). We conducted our work in Washington, D.C., and Kabul, Afghanistan, from October 2010 to July 2011 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction Quarterly Report to the US Congress Jan 30, 2011
SIGARS Audits this quarter found that critical reconstruction programs are at risk because of poor planning, insufficient oversight, and the inability of the Afghan authorities to sustain them. These Audits examinded Department of Defense (DoD) plans to build and sustain facilities for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and 69 projects funded through the Commanders Emergency Response Program (CERP) inLaghman Province
SIGAR CONTRACT AUDIT SHOWS $49.2 MILLION AT RISK OF WASTE
January 27, 2011 – The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), Arnold Fields, today released an audit report that identifies $49.2 million of U.S. reconstruction funds in Afghanistan at serious risk of waste. Special IG Fields said, “Sustainability is the key. If the U.S. government continues to spend millions of dollars on projects the Afghans are unable to sustain when we turn them over, then our investment will have been wasted.”
The audit SIGAR released today focuses on contract performance and oversight of 69 projects in Afghanistan’s Laghman Province. The 69 reconstruction projects cost more than $53 million and are all funded through the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP). The 69 projects audited include 24 active, 42 completed, and 3 terminated projects
Since 2004, Congress has appropriated nearly $2.64 billion for CERP projects in Afghanistan. CERP enables commanders to fund humanitarian relief and reconstruction projects to immediately assist the local population.
Washington (CNN) — Billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars spent to train, equip and support Afghanistan security forces may end up wasted, according to the watchdog of reconstruction spending.
The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, retired Marine Gen. Arnold Fields, in what may be his final public event before he retires next month, painted a starkly pessimistic picture of what lies ahead in Afghanistan.
The build-up of the Afghanistan army and police is a key element in the Obama administration’s plans to withdraw U.S. forces by the end of 2014. But Fields told the Commission on Wartime Contracting that the build-up is at risk.
“The United States lacks a comprehensive plan for building ANA (Afghan National Army) and ANP (Afghan National Police) facilities,” Fields said. “The projects audited to date have been seriously behind schedule.”
And Fields said it is not clear how Afghanistan will be able to sustain the big police and army building projects — such as barracks and training bases — once U.S. Forces withdraw.
“These issues place the entire U.S. investment of $11.4 billion in ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) facilities construction at risk of not meeting Afghan needs or intended purposes and resulting in a large degree of waste,” Fields said in his prepared statement to the commission.
Members of Congress repeatedly have criticized Fields for not being more aggressive in watching over the more than $56 billion in Afghanistan reconstruction. He has said it took time to establish his watchdog agency in 2008 and oversight in a war zone is difficult and dangerous.
Fields admitted that American taxpayers are “wary” of the U.S. investment in Afghanistan.
He said the U.S. plan calls for 884 projects for Afghanistan army and police to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2012. But Fields said only 133 are completed, 78 are under construction and 673 have not been started. Please see the original here
ARLINGTON, VA, Jan. 19, 2011 – The independent and bipartisan federal Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan will conduct a hearing on Jan. 24, 2011, on problems in U.S.-funded construction projects in Afghanistan.
Witnesses for the Capitol Hill hearing, “Recurring Problems in Afghan Construction,” include Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields (USMC, Ret.), the departing Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction; military and federal-civilian officials; and a panel representing key contractors performing work in Afghanistan.
The hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 24, in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building, 2nd and C Streets, NE, Washington, DC. The hearing is open to the public and to news media.
The U.S. government has committed billions of dollars to construction projects in Afghanistan since the anti-Taliban intervention was launched in 2001. Goals include supporting U.S. and allied troops, providing facilities for the Afghan government, reconstructing damaged properties, and promoting economic development. The lead agencies involved are the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Department of Defense, all of whom employ large numbers of contractors.
Projects include the $300 million Kabul power plant, schools, hospitals and clinics, prisons, and facilities for the Afghan National Army and Police; plus barracks, airfields, clinics, dining facilities, and other support for American and allied troops in the country.
“I’ve seen first-hand the Afghan people’s need for modern infrastructure, schools, and health-care facilities,” said commission Co-Chair Michael Thibault. “Providing them with that help is a humane thing to do, as well as an element in reducing support for the Taliban and other extremists. Our hearing isn’t challenging those objectives, but it is raising questions about how wisely American taxpayers’ dollars are being spent and how well contractors are being supervised. Both government and contractors need to do better.”
Commission Co-Chair Christopher Shays said, “We have built a power plant that the Afghans can’t afford to run and can’t maintain on their own. We have built clinics without staff and schools without teachers. We have built wooden structures in termite-ridden areas. We have committed billions to construction without adequate planning, supervision, or good records on contractor performance. It’s no surprise that many projects exhibit delays, cost overruns, quality problems, and sustainability issues.”
WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) — After no less than 10 quarterly reports to Congress, 40 percent of $56 billion — $22.4 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds — allocated to civilian projects in Afghanistan cannot be accounted for by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.
The original amount for civilian aid is now being increased to $71 billion.
Corruption and outright theft are rampant in the projects SIGAR supposedly inspects but SIGAR’s top cop, retired U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields, kept coming up empty handed as he labored to protect his 150-person organization (32 of them stationed in Afghanistan, most of whom don’t speak any local language).
SIGAR employs 50 auditors, many of them “double-dippers,” who collect both government pensions and six-figure salaries, but none of them ever conducted required forensic or contract audits. More than 100 cases of corruption — both U.S. contractors and Afghan subcontractors — were ignored. U.S. Government Accounting Office auditors look at programs but are not shown the uncompleted completion.
U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., led a team of Senate investigators that spent two years looking into what became the SIGAR scandal.
Arnold Fields, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, offered no explanation for his decision to leave. His resignation becomes official at the beginning of next month.
“I depart confident in the knowledge that SIGAR is positioned to provide essential support to the president’s strategy,” he said.
Fields’ resignation leaves vacant a key post in the Obama administration’s push for bringing greater accountability to U.S. contracting in Afghanistan.
McClatchy reported in November that over the past three years, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction projects in Afghanistan have failed, face serious delays or resulted in subpar work, costing American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and hobbling U.S. efforts to stabilize the country.
Four senators accused Fields’ office of doing a poor job of scrutinizing how $56 billion in reconstruction money is being spent in the war-torn nation. The senators demanded Fields’ resignation in a letter to President Barack Obama late last year.
Last week, Fields fired two of his deputies partly in response to the congressional criticism. However, Fields, a retired Marine Corps major general, told McClatchy, he had no plans to resign saying: “The Marine Corps taught me not to quit.”
But a report by the federal Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency had fueled the calls for his resignation. The council recommended that the Justice Department consider revoking the special inspector general’s law enforcement authority and concluded his office had problems with hiring, strategic planning and investigative policies.
The U.S. official assigned to combat corruption in the multibillion-dollar effort to rebuild Afghanistan, who has been criticized by lawmakers for incompetence and mismanagement, fired two top deputies Tuesday and pledged to focus on financial fraud and waste.
Arnold Fields, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said that the organization’s upper ranks needed “new blood,” and he rejected the idea that the changes were made to keep him from being fired.
“This is about making SIGAR a better organization,” he said, using the shorthand name for his office.
Last fall, key members of Congress urged President Obama to dismiss Fields. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who chaired the contracting oversight subcommittee, joined GOP Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and Susan Collins (Maine) in calling SIGAR a “failing organization” in need of new leadership.
The senators said that Fields’s office has failed to aggressively oversee the $56 billion the United States has committed since 2002 to improving schools, roads, electricity and medical facilities in Afghanistan.
Fields said he removed John Brummet, the assistant inspector general for audits, and Raymond DiNunzio, the assistant inspector general for investigations. Their deputies will serve in acting capacities while Fields searches for replacements. DiNunzio will remain with the organization for 60 to 90 days as an adviser, Fields said. Brummet might also stay on for a limited period in a different capacity, Fields said.
EODT took advantage of situation in Iraq, inspector general says
A federal watchdog indicated Thursday that this week’s raid on a local defense contractor is aimed at bringing accountability to those who have tried to take advantage of the situation in Iraq.
Stuart Bowen is the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, a position created by Congress in 2004 to provide accountability for the use of funds for Iraq relief and reconstruction. In an interview Thursday, Bowen said his office has more than 100 ongoing cases, including a case related to Wednesday’s raid on Lenoir City contractor EOD Technology.
The IG said most of the cases are executed through task forces, such as the one that participated in the Wednesday raid. He added that the U.S. Army’s criminal investigation division ‘played a major role’ in getting that case put together. Bowen, a graduate of the University of the South, said his agency also works closely with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, which is an arm of the Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General.
‘This is not the first, and it won’t be the last, time that we work with those agencies … as well as (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to hold accountable those who have taken advantage of the chaotic situation in Iraq for their criminal, personal benefit,’ said Bowen.
Asked if that’s what he believes happened in the case of EODT, Bowen replied, ‘Yes, that is why the search was carried out.’
In a statement issued Wednesday, EODT officials said they didn’t know of anything that could have triggered the raid. ‘We obviously would not have been selected for some of the sensitive and important projects we handle for our country around the world had we not been thoroughly investigated before and found to be trustworthy,’ the statement said.
Federal agents, assisted by the Lenoir City Police Department, raided EODT’s three-building campus on Old Highway 95, in Lenoir City, and an EODT facility in Roane County on Wednesday, and were seen carrying paperwork between buildings and escorting occupants of the buildings to their vehicles. By Thursday morning, activity at both sites appeared to be at an end.
In recent years, EODT has faced scrutiny in court, in Congress and by military officials. In September, a report from the Senate Armed Services Committee alleged that EODT ‘partnered with local strongmen’ to support its operations in Adraskan, a village in Afghanistan’s Herat Province. The report said EODT had garnered a contract worth nearly $7 million to provide security at a facility in the village, and that the company assigned quotas to local strongmen or ‘notables’ to staff its guard force. Among those who recommended men for hire, the report said, was ‘General’ Said Abdul Wahab Qattili, who allegedly recommended some men who had previously been fired by another contractor for reportedly providing sensitive security information to a Taliban-affiliated warlord.
In a press release, EODT said its contract required the company to use Afghan personnel from the area surrounding the contract location. ‘The local leaders which EODT sought out to assist in hiring personnel were persons made known to EODT by the U.S. military or were commonly known leaders within that area,’ the release said. ‘In any event all leaders which EODT utilized were made known to the U.S. military at every stage of mobilization.’
The company also said the name of any Afghan hired by EODT was provided to the appropriate person, as designated by the contract, for approval of the hire.
In October, a Kuwaiti manufacturer of temporary housing was among the plaintiffs that sued EODT in U.S. District Court, alleging that the company stole more than $1 million worth of prefabricated shelters. Neither EODT nor its officials named in the lawsuit could be reached for comment at the time.
EODT has also clashed with some of its former employees. In 2009, the company sued five former employees for $80 million, and accused them of stealing company secrets to form a competing company. That suit was later dismissed.
One of those former senior managers had been accused in a 2007 Army investigation of helping secure $2.5 million in contracts for EODT through inside information he received from an Air Force captain with whom he was having an extramarital affair. The Army threatened to ban EODT from government work because of allegations against the employee, but eventually decided against a suspension or debarment.
In March, one of the former employees sued by EODT filed his own suit against the company in Loudon County Chancery Court, alleging a wide variety of misconduct by the company, including the violation of federal arms export laws and overcharging on government contracts. The company responded by calling the claims ‘sensational, unsubstantiated, and untrue allegations (used) as a tactic to obscure the real issues of the case.’