Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Trouble Ahead for Contractors in Iraq?

Journal of International Peace Operations
Volume 7, Number 5 – March-April 2012  Posted March 8, 2012

As the mission transitions from one agency to another, some lessons may be lost

LITTLE more than two months ago, with the end of Operation New Dawn, the Department of Defense (DoD) presence that had dominated Iraqi reconstruction efforts for years withdrew, leaving roughly 16,000 State Department personnel in more or less full control of the U.S. mission in Iraq. This mission, the largest in State Department history, has already come into controversy, with early reports indicating that up to half of the contractors and staff employed by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad would be withdrawn. Though spokesmen have denied these rumors, the incident reinforces the widely-held belief that the State Department does not have a well-defined plan to accomplish the remaining reconstruction missions in Iraq. Furthermore, statements from the Department indicate that many of the lessons about contractors learned by DoD did not make the transition to State control along with the Iraqi mission.

March 8, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Department of Defense, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, State Department | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US embassy to ‘localise’ Iraq operations

AFP February 16, 2012

BAGHDAD — The United States embassy in Iraq is to increase its reliance on local goods and services as part of efforts to cut the size of its mission, the largest in the world, a top State Department official said on Wednesday.

Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Thomas Nides told reporters during a visit to Baghdad that as part of such efforts, “we’ll look at the contract piece,” specifically “purchasing more local goods and services.”

“We’re basically telling our contractors we expect them to source more of the food internally than bringing it over the border, and so that will obviously lessen our dependence on some of the contracts,” Nides said.

“We have a very much aggressive hire … Iraqi programme, meaning that we’re being very clear not only to our contractors but even here for our staff to begin to localise much of our operations,” he said.

Contractors, he said, have been given targets to reach.

Please read the entire article here

February 16, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, State Department | , , , | Leave a comment

Iraq and Afghanistan: DOD, State, and USAID Cannot Fully Account for Contracts, Assistance Instruments, and Associated Personnel

GAO-11-886 September 15, 2011

Highlights Page (PDF) Full Report (PDF, 32 pages) Accessible Text


DOD, State, and USAID have relied extensively on contracts and assistance instruments (grants and cooperative agreements) for a range of services in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the last 3 years, GAO has provided information on the agencies’ contracts, assistance instruments, and associated personnel in the two countries, detailing the agencies’ challenges tracking such information. Amendments from the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 now require the agencies to provide this and other information to Congress through annual joint reports. They also direct GAO to review those reports. In response, GAO reviewed the first joint report and assessed (1) data and data sources used to prepare the report; (2) use of data from the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker (SPOT) for management, oversight, and coordination; and (3) efforts to improve SPOT’s tracking of statutorily required information. GAO compared data in the joint report to agency data GAO previously obtained, reviewed supporting documentation, and interviewed agency officials, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan, on how the data were collected and used.

The Departments of Defense (DOD) and State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) designated SPOT as their system in 2010 for tracking statutorily required information on contracts, assistance instruments, and associated personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. Citing limitations with SPOT’s implementation, the agencies generally relied on data sources other than SPOT to prepare their 2011 joint report. Only State used SPOT but just for its contractor personnel numbers. However, GAO found that regardless of the data source used, the agencies’ data had significant limitations, many of which were not fully disclosed. For example, while the agencies collectively reported $22.7 billion in fiscal year 2010 obligations, we found that they underreported the value of Iraq and Afghanistan contracts and assistance instruments by at least $4 billion, the majority of which was for DOD contracts. In addition, data presented in the joint report on personnel, including those performing security functions, are of limited reliability because of significant over- and undercounting. For example, DOD did not disclose that its contractor personnel numbers for Afghanistan were overreported for most of the reporting period because of double counting. Additionally, despite the reporting requirement, State did not provide information on its assistance instruments or the number of personnel working under them. As a result of such limitations, data presented in the joint report should not be used to draw conclusions or identify trends over time. DOD, State, and USAID have used SPOT to a limited extent, primarily to manage and oversee individual contracts and personnel. Agency officials cited instances of using SPOT to help identify contractors that should be billed for the use of government services, including medical treatment and dining facilities. State and DOD officials also identified instances of using SPOT to help inform operational planning, such as preparing for the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq. Officials from the three agencies indicated that shortcomings in data and reporting capabilities have limited their use of SPOT and, in some cases, led them to rely on other data systems to help manage and oversee contracts and assistance instruments. Further, the agencies cannot readily access each other’s data in SPOT, which limits interagency coordination opportunities. Recent efforts have been made to improve SPOT’s tracking of contractor and assistance personnel. SPOT now allows users to enter aggregate, rather than individual personal information into SPOT, which may overcome resistance to using the system based on security concerns. In addition, DOD and State report increased efforts to validate personnel data in SPOT. However, practical and technical challenges continue to affect SPOT’s ability to track other statutorily required data. For example, SPOT cannot be used to reliably distinguish personnel performing security functions from other contractors. Also, while SPOT has the capability to record when personnel have been killed or wounded, such information has not been regularly updated. The agencies have identified the need for further modifications and new guidance to address some but not all of these limitations. It is unclear when SPOT will serve as a reliable source of data to meet statutory requirements and be used by the agencies for management, oversight, and coordination. As a result, the agencies still do not have reliable sources and methods to report on contracts, assistance instruments, and associated personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009, GAO recommended that DOD, State, and USAID develop a plan for addressing SPOT’s limitations. The agencies disagreed, citing ongoing coordination as sufficient. GAO continues to believe such a plan is needed and is not making new recommendations.

September 16, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Department of Defense, Government Contractor, State Department, USAID, Wartime Contracting | , , , , | Leave a comment

Cuba upholds US contractor Alan Gross sentence

Cuba’s Supreme Court has upheld a 15-year prison sentence imposed on a US contractor accused of crimes against the state.

BBC August 5, 2011

The contractor, 62-year-old Alan Gross, was convicted in March of distributing illegal communications equipment in Havana.

He says he was just trying to help Cuba’s small Jewish community.

The rejection of his appeal is likely to further sour relations between the US and Cuba.

In his appeal hearing last month Gross admitted bringing satellite equipment into the country, but said he never intended to harm the Cuban government.

The Supreme Court rejected his argument, saying he was part of a US government programme aimed at “destabilising” and “subverting” Cuba’s communist system.

Gross’s US lawyer, Peter Kahn, said in a statement that his family was “heartbroken” by the decision, but remained hopeful that there could be a diplomatic solution.

Please read more at the BBC

August 7, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Legal Jurisdictions, State Department | , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Blocks Oversight of Its Mercenary Army in Iraq

by Spencer Ackeman at Wired’s Danger Room  July 22, 2011

By January 2012, the State Department will do something it’s never done before: command a mercenary army the size of a heavy combat brigade. That’s the plan to provide security for its diplomats in Iraq once the U.S. military withdraws. And no one outside State knows anything more, as the department has gone to war with its independent government watchdog to keep its plan a secret.

Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), is essentially in the dark about one of the most complex and dangerous endeavors the State Department has ever undertaken, one with huge implications for the future of the United States in Iraq. “Our audit of the program is making no progress,” Bowen tells Danger Room.

For months, Bowen’s team has tried to get basic information out of the State Department about how it will command its assembled army of about 5,500 private security contractors. How many State contracting officials will oversee how many hired guns? What are the rules of engagement for the guards? What’s the system for reporting a security danger, and for directing the guards’ response?

And for months, the State Department’s management chief, former Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, has given Bowen a clear response: That’s not your jurisdiction. You just deal with reconstruction, not security. Never mind that Bowen has audited over $1.2 billion worth of security contracts over seven years

Please read the entire story here

July 22, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Iraq, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , | Leave a comment

SAIC, Tetra Tech joint venture gets contract

AP at Forbes  June 29, 2011

McLEAN, Va. — Defense contractor SAIC Inc. and Tetra Tech Inc., an engineering and construction consultant for water and energy projects, said Wednesday that their joint venture received a contract to provide civilian police and criminal justice assistance to the U.S. Department of State.

Under the contract, Integrated Justice Systems International LLC will compete for task orders to provide technical assistance, training, logistics and infrastructure services to help the Department of State strengthen criminal justice systems in foreign countries.

The joint venture is one of six teams that can compete for task orders under the contract, the companies said. The multiple-award, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract could be worth $10 billion, with one base year and four option years, the companies said.

Please read the entire article here

June 29, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contracts Awarded, Government Contractor, State Department | , , , | Leave a comment

Afghanistan poppy killers get scrutiny absent in prior contracts

U.S. contractors with almost $2 billion worth of counter-narcotics business in Afghanistan will get more scrutiny than they faced for work completed in Latin America over the past decade, government officials said.

The Washington Post  June 26, 2011

DynCorp International, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, ITT and ARINC, which are working with the Defense and State departments on anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan, performed similar work in Latin America with inadequate competition and little oversight, according to a report by the majority staff of a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee and a previous investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general.

The contractors should expect new accountability measures at State and the Pentagon, as well as heightened scrutiny from Congress, as the United States seeks to stabilize the government in Afghanistan, where drug trafficking generates as much as $100 million a year for the Taliban, officials said.

“Many of the things we’ve been doing in Afghanistan, it’s not reinventing the wheel — we’ve been doing it in Colombia for a decade, and with many of the same contractors,” said Laura Myron, a spokeswoman for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), chairwoman of the subcommittee.

McCaskill is to convene a hearing this week on Afghanistan contracting, at which she’ll address the counter-narcotics work, Myron said in an e-mail.

Please read the entire story at The Washington Post

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, DynCorp, Pentagon, State Department | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. contractors face dangers in Iraq

American civilians working for the U.S. government and Embassy are targeted by militants and hounded by Iraqi police.

The raids are believed to be under the supervision of Maliki’s son, Ahmed, according to Iraqi and Western sources, as Iraqi officials seek to regain control of the Green Zone.

Ned Parker Reporting from Baghdad for The LA Times  June 24, 2011

Stephen Everhart was brought to Iraq by the U.S. Agency for International Development to assist the University of Baghdad’s business college in qualifying for international accreditation.

He was killed Thursday outside the gates of the university when a powerful bomb commonly used by Shiite Muslim militias detonated.

The attack highlighted the precarious position of contractors for the U.S. government and Embassy as the American military prepares to leave the country.

Militia groups, some with ties to the Iraqi government, are intent on hitting U.S. diplomats, soldiers and contractors employed by the embassy. And it is no longer clear how far Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and his security forces can go in reining the groups.

Civilian contractors working on projects to help build the country’s democracy are also coming under intense pressure from the Iraqi police and army. In the last month, there have been at least four raids by the army and police on USAID contractors’ compounds in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.

The deputy head of a USAID program was detained for about a week by the Iraqi security forces; he was released Thursday.

In part, the harsh treatment now is baggage from eight years when Americans had virtual immunity from Iraqi rules, and Iraqi officials came to resent civilian and security contractors who were seldom, if ever, held accountable.

Please read the entire article at the LA Times

June 24, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Iraq, Safety and Security Issues, State Department, USAID | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Iraq car bomb kills U.S. contractor, two injured

Update:  AP Baghdad

The American civilian killed earlier Thursday was Dr. Stephen Everhart, said a U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland.

“Dr. Everhart was an American citizen who was working in Iraq for an implementing partner of the United States Agency for International Development’s Mission in Iraq. He was killed while working on a project to introduce a new business curriculum to a Baghdad university in a program supported by the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education,” she said in a statement.

“We are saddened by this tragedy and extend our thoughts and prayers to Dr. Everhart’s family and loved ones, and to the three other injured victims and their families,” she said.

Everhart worked at the American University in Cairo, where he was associate dean of the Business School and a finance professor. Before joining AUC, he worked extensively with the World Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a U.S. government agency designed to help businesses break into developing markets.

He also wrote articles on topics like international aid, corruption and financial markets.

Officials at Georgia State University said Everhart listed San Antonio, Texas, as his hometown on his registration paperwork. Everhart got both his master’s and doctorate in economics at Georgia State in Atlanta.

Mary Beth Walker, dean of the School of Policy Studies, said Everhart met his wife, Stephanie, while in graduate school there. She described him as a “hard worker” with a good sense of humor.

Walker said Everhart had contact with Georgia State faculty members in the last two weeks about his work in Iraq and said he was planning to move to Vietnam soon to work at a university there.

The State Department gave no information about how he was killed, but an Iraqi police official said the American contractors were visiting a satellite office of Mustansiriyah University in eastern Baghdad when they were hit by a roadside bomb.

Reporting from Baghdad—

By Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times  June 23, 2011, 8:45 a.m.

The civilian contractor and another American who was wounded in the blast were attacked in eastern Baghdad on the way to a Baghdad University campus, the U.S. Embassy reports.

A U.S civilian contractor was killed and another American wounded in a car bomb attack in eastern Baghdad on Thursday, according to the U.S. Embassy.

The slain American had been traveling to Baghdad University’s Mustansiriya campus when attackers detonated a car bomb near Palestine Street, a busy commercial avenue.

“An American civilian working with an implementing partner of the United States Agency for International Development in Iraq was killed in a terrorist attack today in Baghdad,” embassy spokesman David Ranz said. “Two additional civilians were wounded in the attack, including one American citizen.”

Please see the original at the LA Times

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Iraq, State Department, USAID | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

As U.S. Military Exits Iraq, Contractors To Enter

by Tom Bowen NPR  May 17, 2011

A U.S. Army helicopter brigade is set to pull out of Baghdad in December, as part of an agreement with the Iraqi government to remove U.S. forces. So the armed helicopters flying over the Iraqi capital next year will have pilots and machine gunners from DynCorp International, a company based in Virginia.

On the ground, it’s the same story. American soldiers and Marines will leave. Those replacing them, right down to carrying assault weapons, will come from places with names like Aegis Defence Services and Global Strategies Group — eight companies in all.

All U.S. combat forces are scheduled to leave Iraq by year’s end, but there will still be a need for security. That means American troops will be replaced by a private army whose job will be to protect diplomats.

Already, the State Department is approving contracts, but there are questions about whether it makes sense to turn over this security job to private companies.

Security For The State Department

Overseeing the armed personnel is Patrick Kennedy, a top State Department official.

“I think the number of State Department security contractors would be somewhere in the area of between 4,500 and 5,000,” Kennedy says.

That’s roughly the size of an Army brigade, and double the number of private security contractors there now.

The State Department has an in-house security force, but it has just 2,000 people to cover the entire world. They handle everything from protecting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to guarding embassies and consulates.

Kennedy says for a tough job like Iraq, he needs help.

“In a situation like this, where you have a surge requirement that exceeds the capability of the State Department, it is normal practice to contract out for personnel to assist during those surge periods,” he says.

A Shaky Record

But the State Department has a shaky record overseeing armed guards. A recent congressional study found that many contractor abuses in Iraq were caused by those working for the State Department, not for the Pentagon.

The most notorious was the shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians at a Baghdad traffic circle in 2007. Guards with the private security contractor Blackwater opened fire while protecting a State Department convoy. A U.S. investigation later found there was no threat to that convoy.

Among those contractors who will be working in Iraq next year is International Development Services, a company with links to Blackwater, now renamed Xe Services.

State Department officials say they’ve made changes since that deadly incident in Baghdad. There are now more State Department supervisors; contractors must take an interpreter on all convoys; and companies can be penalized for poor performance.

But Grant Green, a member of the Commission on Wartime Contracting created by Congress, says that’s not enough. He told a House panel recently that the State Department still isn’t ready to assume responsibility for Iraq next year.

“They do not have enough oversight today to oversee and manage those contractors in the way they should be,” Green says.

Kennedy of the State Department disputes that contention. He says there are plenty of supervisors who shadow these private contractors.

“We have trained State Department security professionals in every convoy in every movement in Iraq,” Kennedy says.

‘Beef Up’ State Department Forces?

But that raises a broader question: Should the State Department be turning over these inherently military jobs to private contractors?

Pratap Chatterjee of the Center for American Progress doesn’t think so. Chatterjee, who writes about contractors, says these are government roles that demand accountability to the public. He has another idea about what should be done.

“You might as well beef up the Bureau of Diplomatic Security,” he says.

That means greatly expanding the State Department security force of 2,000 that now covers the entire world.

“And make sure you have the capability for future operations in countries like Libya or wherever it is, rather than assuming the private contractors will do a good job because you’ve written a good contract. That’s just not good enough,” Chatterjee says.

It may be impractical to hire thousands more State Department security personnel. Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, says today’s wars are different — they’re lengthy and ambitious. So it doesn’t make sense to build a large force to protect diplomats.

“I don’t expect that the United States is going be engaged in a stabilization operation of the size of either Iraq or Afghanistan in the near future,” Bowen says.

That may be true. But for the time being, private security contractors — thousands more — will soon be on the job in Iraq.

Please see the original here with comments and listen to the audio

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, DynCorp, Iraq, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, State Department, Xe | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US calls off Afghan-Pak trilateral meeting in retaliation to Davis detention issue

The New Kerala

Washington, Feb 13: The United States has postponed a high-level trilateral meeting among the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan that was scheduled to take place later this month, in what seems to be a retaliation against the continued judicial remand of double-murder accused US diplomat Raymond Davis in Lahore.

The trilateral talks, in which top officials were to have outlined the progress on issues like the war in Afghanistan and the campaign against extremism, had been scheduled for February 23-24 in Washington.

“In light of the political changes in Pakistan and after discussions with Afghan and Pakistani officials in Washington, it was agreed to postpone the Trilateral Meeting scheduled for February 23-24,” US Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip J. Crowley said in a press statement.

The step is being seen as an American arm-twisting of Pakistan to release Davis, who has confessed to shooting dead two Pakistani men in Lahore, allegedly in ‘self-defence’.

However, Crowley maintained that “we remain committed to robust engagement between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States, as we share many issues of mutual concern and benefit from being at the same table.”

“We look forward to convening a very productive Trilateral Meeting at the earliest opportunity,” he added.

The latest development- the postponement of the trilateral dialogue- seems to be the fallout of the diplomatic row between the two countries on the Davis detention issue.

It is noteworthy that according to an ABC News report, two Pakistani officials involved in negotiations about Davis said that Donilon summoned Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, to the White House on Monday evening, and told him that the US will kick Haqqani out of the country, close US consulates in Pakistan and cancel Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s upcoming visit to Washington if the detained US embassy employee is not released from custody by Friday.

However, the US Embassy in Islamabad denied the report in a press release titled “Correction for the record”.

“Although we are unable to discuss the substance of a private diplomatic meeting, U.S. Embassy Islamabad can state categorically that the description of the conversation in this report is simply inaccurate,” the US Embassy added.

According to earlier reports, the US had already warned that the Pak-US high-level dialogue would be at risk unless Pakistan releases Davis, and also threatened to cut aid to Pakistan in that case.

Despite the US insisting that Pakistan should free Davis as he is entitled to “full immunity from criminal prosecution by Pakistan” under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, he was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days on Friday, with the next hearing due on February 25.  Please see the original article here

February 13, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, CIA, Civilian Contractors, Department of Defense, Legal Jurisdictions, Pakistan, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pakistan to Charge Detained American

From Press TV

US claims Davis has diplomatic immunity and acted in self-defense. However, reports by Pakistani media say that Davis was not a consulate official but an agent for the notorious US security firm, Blackwater.

Analysts say many questions have remained unanswered, including what the American national did at the US Embassy and why he was carrying a gun.

More suspicions have been raised about the case as Pakistan’s police have caught two US consulate vehicles holding fake license plates in Islamabad.

The drivers of the vehicles identified themselves as American consulate workers.

by Zahid Hussein and Tom Wright at WSJ

ISLAMABAD — The mystery surrounding a U.S. government contractor who shot dead two armed men in Pakistan last month deepened on Friday when police publicly questioned the claim that he acted in self-defense and confirmed they plan to formally charge him with murder.

Pakistani authorities have identified the man as Raymond Davis. But much about him – including what exactly he was doing in Pakistan – remains unclear.

The U.S. government insists he is covered by diplomatic immunity and Pakistan’s custody of him, and plans to charge him, is severely fraying relations between the two nations at a time when broader cooperation on counterterrorism is faltering.

Police have held Mr. Davis since the shooting in Lahore in late January. On Friday, a court in Lahore, the capital of eastern Punjab province, ordered Mr. Davis moved to Kot Lakhpat jail in the city and held for 14 days.

Aslam Tareen, Lahore’s police chief, said Friday that preliminary investigations showed Mr. Davis did not act in self-defense when he shot the two armed men, as claimed by the U.S. government.

Police are moving closer to formally charging Mr. Davis with murder, Mr. Tareen said. He gave no further details.

Please read the entire story at WSJ here

February 11, 2011 Posted by | CIA, Civilian Contractors, Department of Defense, Government Contractor, Legal Jurisdictions, Pakistan, Pentagon, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Setbacks Plague U.S. Aid to Pakistan

Wall Street Journal Asia by Tom Wright

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—A massive U.S. aid program that has made Pakistan the world’s second-largest recipient of American economic and development assistance is facing serious challenges, people involved in the effort say.

The ambitious civilian-aid program is intended in part to bolster support for the U.S. in the volatile and strategically vital nation. But a host of problems on the ground are hampering the initiative.

A push to give more money directly to local organizations and the Pakistani government has been slowed by concerns about the capacity of local groups to properly handle the funds.

• Some international groups have balked at new requirements, such as prominently displaying U.S. government logos on food shipments, and have pulled out of U.S. government programs.

• Anti-American sentiment in the nation continues to flourish despite the uptick in spending, in part because of American drone attacks on tribal regions. A poll of Pakistanis in July by the Washington-based Pew Research Center showed that two-thirds of respondents considered the U.S. an enemy.

“Drone strikes cannot be justified because civilians are also killed in them, which further aggravates a tense situation,” said Bacha Khan, a refugee from Bajaur, a tribal region along the Afghan border where the Pakistani army is fighting Taliban militants.

Due to various problems, in the year ended Sept. 30, the U.S. spent only about two-thirds of the roughly $1.2 billion appropriated by Congress.

U.S. officials acknowledge difficulties distributing so much money, but say the shift in direction is needed. “Our goal here is to help the [Pakistani] government improve its capacity to deliver key public services,” says senior State Department official Robin Raphel, U.S. Coordinator for Economic and Development Assistance in Pakistan. “The object of the program is quality, not to push money out of the door.”  Please read the entire article here

January 21, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Pakistan, State Department, USAID | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aid workers’ security situation spurs talks on Afghan contractor ban

Washington (CNN) Concerned a ban on security contractors in Afghanistan will curtail the efforts of development workers, the State Department is feverishly negotiating with the Afghan government about a set of conditions that will allow private security details to operate in the country, senior U.S. officials told CNN.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations, said the United States is concerned about a four-month deadline Afghanistan’s president imposed last month to phase out the country’s 52 private security companies by year’s end. If implemented, the move would leave critical aid personnel unprotected and unable to continue their work, a key pillar of the U.S. strategy as it seeks to stabilize Afghanistan.

The U.S. is in intense negotiations with the Afghan interior ministry for a “clarification letter” that would spell out a consistent and uniform set of guidelines by which contractors would be allowed to remain in the country and under what conditions they can operate. The guidelines should be finished within the next week, they said.

Diplomatic missions, including the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, rely on private forces to protect their compounds, and NATO uses private forces to guard convoys along their supply routes.

Recent events, including the kidnapping and slaying of a British aid worker, have underscored the need for security to accompany aid workers.

“The four-month deadline is going to be extremely difficult to meet,” one senior official said. “We have to be more realistic.”

Officials said discussions over the past several weeks with the Afghan government about the phasing out of contractors have given the United States “very unclear” information about the fate of the contractors protecting nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working on U.S.-funded projects.

For years, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticized the private security industry operating in his country — a mix of legally registered international companies and unregulated Afghan paramilitaries. Officials say they are sympathetic to his desire to phase out the illegal companies, but are concerned about the way Karzai has tried to address the issue by decree without any clarification.

In the meantime, USAID officials from several NGOs say discussions have been under way about the need for contingency plans for their staffs in the event of the worst-case scenario, under which all contractors would have to leave the country.

“We are trying to make sure that doesn’t happen,” the senior official said. “We hope it will be resolved shortly.”  Original story here

October 12, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , | Leave a comment

Contractors Pressured to Perform in Iraq Without Valid Credentials

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic

The United States is rapidly drawing down troops in Iraq, and contractors are picking up the slack. DynCorp International, in particular, employs hundreds of ex-soldiers and cops to act as bodyguards and shepherds for State Department personnel across the country. The company also trains Iraqi police forces.

DynCorp is under intense pressure to perform without blemish. Private security companies and their employees are under scrutiny from both the U.S. and Iraqi governments more than ever before because of a string of incidents. Within the military, soldiers who quit to join these companies are derided as “mercs.” The culture among DynCorp’s ranks is similar to that of elite military units — what happens out there stays out there. It’s dangerous. Contractors get killed and injured with regularity. The pay is OK — it starts at $90,000 a year — and the working conditions — living in tents, eating MREs — are harsh. State Department officials have told me that the U.S. is generally pleased with DynCorp’s performance so far … but DynCorp is pretty much the only company that can do what State needs it to do.

But one member of an elite unit, a former Army Ranger who asked not to be identified, is concerned that DynCorp and the U.S. government are cutting corners unnecessarily.

The U.S. government is responsible for coordinating the vehicle credentialing and registration process with the Iraqis. Iraq’s new bureaucracy changed its rules, delaying the renewal efforts. DynCorp International’s team leaders are not supposed to leave their bases without valid credentials, period — no matter the reason.

The decals are important — they allow U.S. and Iraqi troops to see their vehicles as belonging to friendlies.

If the decals are out of date and the licenses are expired, DynCorp’s folks can find themselves arrested, or worse. In December, when decals expired, the company continued to operate until a DynCorp team member was arrested, according to this employee.

Vehicle decals and licenses issued by the Iraqi government again expired on August 1.

And yet, according to the ex-Ranger, team leaders on Monday were instructed by the State Department to continue sending out teams. “Hopefully, no one gets hurt due to this,” the DynCorp employee said. The implicit message, according to the ex-Ranger, was that either the teams go out or they go home — fired, back to the United States.

I was not able to reach State Department officials in Iraq, and e-mails sent to the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq were not returned. DynCorp, however, responded fairly quickly to my inquiry.

“At the direction of our customer, the U.S. Department of State, as of August 3, 2010, [Dyncorp] has suspended operations with vehicles that have expired stickers,” a company spokesperson said in a statement:

The safety and security of all DynCorp International (DI) personnel who have bravely chosen to work in remote and often hostile environments is a top priority for the Company. In Iraq, our teams have volunteered to operate in a warzone performing dangerous but vital tasks in support of a number of U.S. government programs. We provide the safest possible environment for our personnel by working closely with the Iraqi government to obtain all licensing and certifications that are required to operate in Iraq.

DynCorp says that its licenses with the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, the Kurdish ministry of the interior, and various other organizations are “all in good standing”:

“Both the U.S. government and the Iraqi [government] have assured us that the administrative process to receive an additional written extension is underway.”  Original Here

August 5, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, DynCorp, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, State Department | , , , , , | Leave a comment