David Isenberg at Huffington Post August 16, 2012
Last year I wrote a report for the Project on Government Oversight about and subsequently testified to Congress, regarding a Kuwaiti-based KBR subcontractor which had exploited hundreds of third-country nationals (TCN) coming from various South Asian countries.
Some of the subsequent press coverage criticized KBR, but that missed the point. Sure, in several respect KBR could have done much better, but at least it held special inspections documenting atrocious living conditions and threatened to cut off awards to the subcontractor.
But the real story is how little information the U.S. government has over the operations of foreign subcontractors. As I noted in my congressional testimony:
Subcontracting is among the most challenging parts of the U.S. government’s widespread outsourcing of war-related tasks. It works like this: A government agency – most likely the Defense Department, State Department, or U.S. Agency for International Development – will award work to a “prime” contractor. That prime contractor, usually a large American company like Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) or DynCorp International, will often subcontract some or even a majority of its work to other companies, including foreign-owned firms. Those subcontractors sometimes then turn around and subcontract part of the work, and so on.…
But in footing the bill for all this work by a network of companies, the U.S. government often doesn’t know who it is ultimately paying. And that can lead to fraud, shoddy work, or even taxpayer funds ending up in the hands of enemy fighters.
For more detail the article “Limitations Of the Contingency Contracting Framework: Finding Effective Ways To Police Foreign Subcontractors In Iraq And Afghanistan” by Carissa N. Tyler in the Winter 2012 issue of the Public Contract Law Journal provides some valuable detail on the scope of this problem. For example, “Subcontractors are responsible for approximately seventy percent of the work of prime contractors; however, the Government has extremely limited visibility into these subcontractors’ operations. U.S. taxpayer dollars are at risk because U.S. agencies cannot directly police foreign subcontractors. ”
The Overseas Contractor Count published by the Pentagon reports DoD contractor personnel numbers in theater and covers DoD contractor personnel deployed in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Iraq, and the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR).
These four graphs show the figures for the past five quarters and you can clearly see some interesting trends.
U.S. Citizen Contractors
Third Country National Contractors
Host Country / Local Contractors
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has recommended that President Aquino convene a high-level committee to address a recent directive issued by a United States (US) government agency that would affect Filipinos working for US interests in Afghanistan.
The DFA was referring to the memorandum issued by Centcom on the termination of certain foreign workers in Afghanistan, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
In its recommendation to President Aquino, the DFA proposed that the committee be headed by the Executive Secretary with the secretaries of the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Labor and Employment as members.
The committee will be mandated to assess the security situation in Afghanistan, the implications of the Centcom order, and make recommendations to ensure the safety and welfare of Filipino workers currently employed by the US government or its sub-contractors in Afghanistan.
A Centcom memorandum issued on September 17, 2010 ordered the termination of employment of all foreign workers whose domestic laws prohibit them from traveling to, or working in, Afghanistan.
The Philippines has an existing travel and deployment ban to Afghanistan since 2005.
However, there are an estimated 2,500 to 4,000 Filipinos working in US military facilities in Afghanistan, mostly on Third Country National (TCN) basis.
TCN refers to workers that are of separate nationality to both the contracting government or private contractor or the host country or area of operations