Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

If State Dept Is Not Cancelling Iraqi Police Training Program, Why Is Its Contractor Packing Up?

Excerpts from:  DiploPundit  May 16, 2012

Last week, NYT reported that the U.S. May Scrap Costly Efforts to Train Iraqi Police. We blogged about it in State Dept May Dump Multi-Billion Dollar Iraqi Police Program; Noooooooo! Not So Says Embassy Baghdad.

During the Daily Press Briefing of May 14, the State Department Spokesperson clarified that “we have no intention to cancel our police training program in Iraq,” and told reporters that the department “had considerable difficulties with that story.”

If that is so, how come it has not requested a retraction of this NYT story? But more to the point, why it its contractor handling the police training program in Iraq, packing up?

Either the NYT got this right or the NYT got this wrong.

And while State is working on “that set of issues” we heard from an official familiar with the program both under DOD and State that the contractor for the Police Development Program is packing up and will be out of there by this summer.

“If DoS intends to continue the program, they had better let the primary contractor know this because it is shuttering their operation as we speak.”

Our source says that there are less than 50 police trainers currently working under this contract, and by August 2012, all of them, will leave Iraq and finally end their embassy compound sequestration.

Somebody please send this tip to the spokespersons in Foggy Bottom and the US Embassy in Baghdad, in case this item was deemed “need to know.”

Please read the entire post at DiploPundit

May 16, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Iraq, 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

U.S. Planning to Slash Iraq Embassy Staff by Up to Half

 primarily by decreasing the number of contractors needed to support the embassy’s operations.

The New York Times  February 7, 2012

BAGHDAD — Less than two months after American troops left, the State Department is preparing to slash by as much as half the enormous diplomatic presence it had planned for Iraq, a sharp sign of declining American influence in the country.

Officials in Baghdad and Washington said that Ambassador James F. Jeffrey and other senior State Department officials are reconsidering the size and scope of the embassy, where the staff has swelled to nearly 16,000 people, mostly contractors.

The expansive diplomatic operation and the $750 million embassy building, the largest of its kind in the world, were billed as necessary to nurture a postwar Iraq on its shaky path to democracy and establish normal relations between two countries linked by blood and mutual suspicion. But the Americans have been frustrated by Iraqi obstructionism and are now largely confined to the embassy because of security concerns, unable to interact enough with ordinary Iraqis to justify the $6 billion annual price tag.

The swift realization among some top officials that the diplomatic build-up may have been ill-advised represents a remarkable pivot for the State Department, in that officials spent more than a year planning the expansion and that many of the thousands of additional personnel have only recently arrived. Michael W. McClellan, the embassy spokesman, said in a statement, “over the last year and continuing this year the Department of State and the Embassy in Baghdad have been considering ways to appropriately reduce the size of the U.S. mission in Iraq, primarily by decreasing the number of contractors needed to support the embassy’s operations.

Please read the entire article here

February 7, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, State Department | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Embassy Baghdad: Strict Enforcement of Immigration Procedures and Other Authorizations

The U.S. Embassy wishes to inform U.S. citizens living and working in Iraq that the Government of Iraq is strictly enforcing immigration and customs procedures, to include visas and stamps for entry and exit, vehicle registration, and authorizations for weapons, convoys, logistics, and other matters.
Rules and procedures may be subject to frequent revisions, and previous permissions may be deemed invalid.
The Embassy highly recommends that all U.S. citizens living and working in Iraq carefully review their immigration status and other permits to operate in Iraq and not attempt movements about the country in the absence of valid, current permits and paperwork.
The U.S. Embassy is aware of cases where discrepancies in permits or paperwork have resulted in legal action, including detention, by Iraqi police and other entities.
Detentions often last 24-96 hours or more.The Embassy’s ability to respond to situations in which U.S. citizens are arrested or otherwise detained throughout Iraq is limited, including in and around Baghdad.Please refer to the current Travel Warning for further information about limitations, as well as information about the security situation.

U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad should enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). U.S. citizens without internet access may enroll directly at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate at their destination. By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

U.S. citizens may contact the U.S. Embassy, located in the International Zone, via e-mail to BaghdadACS@state.gov. In the event of a U.S. citizen emergency please contact: 0770-443-1286 (from Iraq) or 011-964-770-443-1286 (from the United States).

U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the U.S. Department of State’s, Bureau of Consular Affairs website, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Country Specific Information can be found. The U.S. Embassy also encourages U.S. citizens to review “A Safe Trip Abroad,” which includes valuable security information for those living and traveling abroad.

Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

You can also download our free Smart Traveler iPhone App to have travel information at your fingertips. In addition to information on the internet, travelers may obtain the latest information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or outside the United States and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

January 16, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Safety and Security Issues, State Department | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flexing Muscle, Baghdad Detains U.S. Contractors

“While private organizations are often able to resolve low-level disputes and irregularities, this issue is beyond our ability to resolve,” the International Stability Operations Association, a Washington-based group that represents more than 50 companies and aid organizations that work in conflict, post-conflict and disaster relief zones, said in a letter on Sunday to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Doug Brooks, president of the organization, said in a telephone interview that the number of civilian contractors who have been detained was in the “low hundreds.” He added in an e-mail on Sunday, “Everyone is impacted, but the roots have more to do with political infighting than any hostility to the U.S.”

The New York Times  January 15, 2012

BAGHDAD — Iraqi authorities have detained a few hundred foreign contractors in recent weeks, industry officials say, including many Americans who work for the United States Embassy, in one of the first major signs of the Iraqi government’s asserting its sovereignty as a result of the American troop withdrawal last month

The detentions have occurred largely at the airport in Baghdad and at checkpoints around the capital after the Iraqi authorities raised questions about the contractors’ documents, including visas, weapons permits, and authorizations to drive certain routes. Although no formal charges have been filed, the detentions have lasted from a few hours to nearly three weeks.

The crackdown comes amid other moves by the Iraqi government to take over functions that had been performed by the United States military and to claim areas of the country it had controlled. In the final weeks of the military withdrawal, the son of Iraq’s prime minister began evicting Western companies and contractors from the heavily fortified Green Zone, which had been the heart of the United States military operation for much of the war.

Just after the last American troops left in December, the Iraqis stopped issuing and renewing many badges, weapons licenses and other authorizations. The restrictions created a curious sequence of events in which contractors were being detained for having expired documents that the government would not renew.

The Iraqi authorities have also imposed new limitations on visas, a new twist on a longstanding issue for foreigners in Iraq in which the rules for gaining approval appear to change every few months. In some recent cases, contractors have been told they have 10 days to leave Iraq or face arrest in what some industry officials call a form of controlled harassment.

Earlier this month, Iraqi authorities kept scores of contractors penned up at Baghdad’s international airport for nearly a week until their visa disputes were resolved. Industry officials said more than 100 foreigners were detained; American officials acknowledged the detainments but would not put a number on them.

Latif Rashid, a senior adviser to the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, and a former minister of water, said in an interview that the Iraqis’ deep mistrust of security contractors had led the government to strictly monitor them. “We have to apply our own rules now,” he said.

Private contractors are integral to postwar Iraq’s economic development and security, foreign businessmen and American officials say, but they remain a powerful symbol of American might, with some Iraqis accusing them of running roughshod over the country.

An image of contractors as trigger-happy mercenaries who were above the law was seared into the minds of Iraqis after several violent episodes involving private sector workers, chief among them the 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square when military contractors for Blackwater killed 17 civilians.

Iraq’s oil sector alone, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the government’s budget, relies heavily on tens of thousands of foreign employees. The United States Embassy employs 5,000 contractors to protect its 11,000 employees and to train the Iraqi military to operate tanks, helicopters and weapons systems that the United States has sold them.

The United States had been providing much of the accreditation for contractors to work in Iraq, but after the military withdrawal, that role shifted to the Iraqi bureaucracy around the time when the government was engulfed in a political crisis and when Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, fearing a coup, was moving tanks into the Green Zone.

The delays for visa approvals have disrupted the daily movement of supplies and personnel around Iraq, prompting formal protests from dozens of companies operating in Iraq. And they have raised deeper questions about how the Maliki government intends to treat foreign workers and how willing foreign companies will be to invest here.

“While private organizations are often able to resolve low-level disputes and irregularities, this issue is beyond our ability to resolve,” the International Stability Operations Association, a Washington-based group that represents more than 50 companies and aid organizations that work in conflict, post-conflict and disaster relief zones, said in a letter on Sunday to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Please see the original and read more here

January 15, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Contractors Held, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The curious case of the four armed Americans in Baghdad

Baghdad Governor: Four armed Americans arrested in Iraq

“Security forces could have shot them for penetrating the area without the consent or knowledge of authorities,” he said, a source told Alsumaria.

“There are strict orders to shoot any person that penetrates the area without the consent of operations’ command,” Baghdad Governor declared stressing that killing these Americans would have aggravated the situation

Foreign Policy The Mid East Channel  January 13, 2012

Iraqi authorities arrested four armed Americans in civilian clothes in Baghdad who claimed they were there to protect Shiites heading toward Karbala. The two men and two women were reportedly carrying automatic weapons and driving a silver BMW with unregistered diplomatic plates. The Iraqis said that they found this all suspicious, since there had been no prior coordination and the law forbids such American activities without notifying the responsible authorities.

The U.S. Embassy reportedly stepped in within 15 minutes of the arrest, and the four were released without charge. It isn’t obvious exactly what was going on, but we can all probably guess.

Baghdad governor Salah Abd al-Razzaq told reporters that even if the group were U.S. intelligence operatives, their activities had nothing to do with Iraqi security and were a clear violation of Iraqi sovereignty. He demanded an explanation from the U.S. Embassy and a promise that it not be repeated. A diplomatic crisis seems to have been averted, but the curious episode should be a cautionary tale. Whatever really happened, this could have easily escalated into a major diplomatic showdown and a legal nightmare for the Embassy.

Expect a lot of more of these kinds of incidents in the coming days. While there hasn’t been much coverage of the incident in English, it’s being heavily covered in the Arab and Iraqi media. Arresting and exposing American operatives in Iraq is going to be politically popular andthe local media will eat it up. A lot of ambitious political forces might find it useful to be seen on TV arresting an armed American. Armed Americans traveling around Iraq, whether security contractors or intelligence operatives, are going to be an endless source of potential crisis. And people wonder why the Pentagon staunchly opposed maintaining any U.S. military presence in Iraq without a SOFA which guaranteed immunity from prosecution for American soldiers?

January 13, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, State Department | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kuwait Lobbied State Dept. on Behalf of Contractor that Bungled U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

Jake Wiens POGO Blog  September 7, 2011

A newly released cable by the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks shows that the government of Kuwait repeatedly lobbied the State Department on behalf of First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Company (First Kuwaiti), the company responsible for bungling the construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

The cable, sent in May 2008, includes the text of a diplomatic note from the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Secretary of State. The diplomatic note cites Kuwait’s strong relationship with the U.S. Government, including its “critical support to the war in Iraq,” before raising concerns about the “unfounded allegations” that had been voiced by Members of Congress and the press involving First Kuwaiti.

The diplomatic note called on the State Department for assistance in rehabilitating First Kuwaiti’s “public reputation and resolving completely all pending investigations of the company as soon as possible.”

In reaction to this diplomatic note, a State Department official commented that it indicated how well-connected the company is with senior leadership in the government of Kuwait:

It is clear from this second intervention, coming during the Secretary’s visit and conveyed by the Amir’s own senior staff, that First Kuwaiti has major connections in Kuwait—including with the Al Sabah leadership—and remains agitated over its reputation within the Department and elsewhere.

It’s unclear what impact, if any, the lobbying effort had on First Kuwaiti’s relationship with the State Department. But as POGO has documented, the State Department has not attempted to recover $132 million from First Kuwaiti for its shoddy work on the Embassy, as the Office of Inspector General recommended nearly two years ago.

In addition, the State Department has allowed First Kuwaiti to continue working on U.S. embassies around the world through a small American company that some State Department officials have called a “front” company, although that claim has been denied by the company and other State Department officials.

If nothing else, the government of Kuwait’s advocacy on behalf of First Kuwaiti illustrates the sensitive interaction between diplomacy and contracting in war zones. Since many foreign contractors have high-level connections to U.S. allies, the U.S. government may come under conflicting pressures when conducting oversight and considering holding these contractors accountable.

It’s an open question whether the Kuwaiti government’s efforts contributed to U.S. taxpayers being left holding the bag in this case, but the recent cable released by Wikileaks suggests it is a real concern

Please see the original here

September 7, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contractor Oversight, Follow the Money, Government Contractor, State Department | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Despite Drawdown, Big Bucks for Baghdad Embassy Security

by Nathan Hodge

The Danger Room

When it comes to diplomatic security, contractors are a hard habit for the State Department to break. According to a new audit by the department’s Office of the Inspector General, or IG, the department has paid one company — Triple Canopy — a whopping $438 million to guard the embassy in Baghdad since mid-2005.

The report does not contain any damning allegations, like the Animal House-style antics of contracted guard force at the Kabul embassy. But it does give insight into the size of the force that is required to provide security for the Vatican-sized compound on the Tigris. What’s more, it suggests that the embassy has poorly planned for the anticipated U.S. drawdown in Iraq, meaning the government will pay a “projected unnecessary cost” of around $20 million to maintain the contract guard force in Baghdad.

All told, the company currently has around 1,800 employees dedicated to embassy security in Baghdad. Around 1,600 of them are from either Uganda or Peru. And that presents something of a problem: The report found that the contracting officer’s representative — a government employee who is supposed to exercise oversight — “does not enforce contractually required standards for guards’ English language profi ciency.”

And that, potentially, could be a problem if English-language supervisors can’t communicate with guards, especially during an emergency.

Hiring “third country nationals,” or TCNs, as guards is not an uncommon practice in Iraq: Ugandans are perhaps best known for guarding the entrances to military dining facilities in Iraq. Companies like Triple Canopy hire them because they are relatively cheap, compared to U.S. or European expatriates. But the TCNs, apparently, don’t complain as much about working conditions either.

The IG, for instance, faulted Triple Canopy for not providing adequate housing, saying that Triple Canopy “houses guards in unsafe conditions.” Guards, the report says, “live in crowded barracks and shipping containers that exceed occupancy limits by more than 400 percent.”

Generally speaking, the IG said Triple Canopy “performs well” in areas where the State Department properly performs oversight. More than anything, it suggests that State’s oversight, not necessarily the contractor’s performance, is the bigger issue. Triple Canopy, as well, seems to have learned from the repeated public relations disasters of competitors like Xe (a.k.a. Blackwater): It maintains a more low-key, corporate image, complete with a spiffy, Lockheed Martin-style logo, seen in the screenshot here.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Private Security Contractor, Triple Canopy, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s PMC Déjà vu All Over Again

By David Isenberg at Huff Post

Thanks to the dedicated folks over at the Project on Government Oversight, who just last September broke the story about drunken party antics and serious security lapses by Armor Group North America contractors at the U.S. embassy in Kabul we now have ANOTHER example of lack of proper U.S. government oversight of a private military contractor at an American embassy.

In July 2005, Triple Canopy was awarded the Baghdad Embassy Security Force contract. From the start of the contract in July 2005 until September 2009, DS has obligated to Triple Canopy a total of $438 million. Currently, Triple Canopy has more than 1,800 employees dedicated to the contract in Baghdad. Approximately 1,600 of these employees are guards from Peru and Uganda.

The POGO press release says:

A previously unreleased report by the Department of State Office of Inspector General (IG), obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), found that the State Department has failed to properly oversee the contractor responsible for guarding the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The IG found problems similar to those POGO uncovered at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
The IG discovered that security is undermined by significant training and language deficiencies in the Embassy Baghdad guard force, in violation of the contract held by Triple Canopy ( http://www.triplecanopy.com ). The IG also found that conditions for guards at Camp Olympia were “unsafe,” and included “four times the acceptable number of guards residing in a room” and “frayed electrical wires in high traffic areas.” In the most serious case, there was an electrocution death in September 2009.

According to the report, in the areas in which State conducted the most oversight, Triple Canopy performed well. But in the areas in which State had little oversight-such as training and English language proficiency-the contractor’s performance failed to meet contract requirements. “No random language proficiency checks were carried out,” the report stated.

“As a result, Triple Canopy has been able to hire and employ guards and guard supervisors with insufficient language ability.”

In addition, Triple Canopy’s guards reported working an average of 10 to 11 consecutive days, and the IG found that some worked as many as 39 days in a row.

POGO has posted the State Department IG report, “The Bureau of Diplomatic Security Baghdad Embassy Security Force: Performance Audit here so people can read it for themselves. Thus far, it is not available on the Middle East Regional Office portion of the State Department Inspector General website, which is where such a report should be.

Now, it is worth remembering that Triple Canopy did its job reasonably well with respect to its core contract function, i.e., keeping the embassy safe. The very first finding in the IG report says:

The Baghdad Embassy Security Force (BESF) provided through a contract with the private security company, Triple Canopy, has been effective in ensuring the safety of chief of mission personnel in Baghdad’s volatile security environment.
Also the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) generally manages the Triple Canopy contract well, although it could improve its oversight of personnel attendance and language qualification.

But the IG report also states the contracting officer’s representative in Baghdad does not verify either the guards’ attendance at their posts or the accuracy of personnel rosters (muster sheets) before they are submitted, to ensure contractor charges for labor are accurate.

In addition, DS does not ensure that personnel have required English language proficiency.

It does not take a PhD to understand that if your guards do not speak English it is going to be difficult for their Western managers to communicate with them. As the report says on page five, “Due to their low levels of proficiency, some guard supervisors are unable to adequately communicate with their subordinates, which could lead to serious problems during an emergency.” In case you think this is theoretical nitpicking here is what the report says:

Nine English-speaking Ugandan guards told the OIG team they could not communicate with their Spanish-speaking Peruvian supervisors. When the Ugandan guards need to speak to their supervisors, they must find a bilingual guard to interpret. According to the regional security office, during an emergency or threat, guard supervisors are expected to lead, take charge, and issue orders to subordinates. Without English language proficiency, they would be unable to adequately function during an emergency. OIG believes the Peruvian supervisors’ low level of English language proficiency undermines guard force effectiveness.

The report notes in the comments it received from DS that:

The methodology used by the DS program office to determine language proficiency is not clear, but OIG’s detailed review of the supervisors’ training files indicated that not all of the supervisors possessed Level 2 English language proficiency for their position as required by the contract. Numerous supervisor files included signed letters from Triple Canopy management requiring them to attend Level 0 or Level 1 English classes. Also, in discussions with Triple Canopy’s training instructors, OIG learned that Triple Canopy was aware that not all of the guards who were promoted to supervisory positions possessed the required Level 2 English proficiency.

Hopefully someone will ask Triple Canopy when it became aware of the lack of English proficiency and what, if anything, they were planning to do about it.

The IG report also found that DS lacks standards for maintaining training records. As a result, Triple Canopy’s training records are incomplete and in disparate locations making it difficult for the Bureau to verify whether all personnel have received required training.

The BESF contract requires Triple Canopy to maintain employee training records that may be reviewed by the contracting officer’s representative (COR). OIG found that Triple Canopy does not adequately maintain training records for all employees. Specifically, through an examination of records, OIG was unable to determine whether all guard supervisors had taken and passed the required supervisory training course. Additionally, training records are not consistently formatted or housed in a central location, making it difficult for the COR to review them. Lastly, OIG determined that the Triple Canopy training department in Baghdad does not follow any standard operating procedures for training data collection and storage. (p. 16)

Another problem is that there are several weaknesses in the canine explosive test procedures carried out by Triple Canopy’s subcontractor, RONCO Consulting Corporation.

RONCO could not confirm whether it is testing for all scents required by the contract. In addition, possibly expired and contaminated materials are used to train and test the canines, although fresh testing materials are required. Finally, the way in which these materials are stored may lead to cross-contamination.

More troubling is thta DS representatives at Embassy Baghdad do not have criteria for the number of consecutive days guards can work without a day off. The Office of Inspector General found that some guards had worked as many as 39 days without a break.

This is similar to what happened with the ArmorGroup guards in Afghanistan, when they were found to be working 12 hour shifts without a break. How hard is it to understand that a tired guard is an unsafe guard?

Then there was the matter of unsafe working conditions.

Triple Canopy BESF guard housing is unsafe and in violation of the contract, several safety codes, and Department of State (Department) regulations. Specifically: Triple Canopy houses guards in unsafe conditions. Guards live in crowded barracks and shipping containers that exceed occupancy limits by more than 400 percent. Barracks lack required sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers, and two exit points.

Barracks’ exits also exceed the minimum safe distance, and are sometimes blocked by objects. The barracks and containers do not have required fire alarms, smoke detectors, emergency lighting, or exit signs. Currently, no entity is overseeing housing safety, although both Triple Canopy and the Department are required to do so.

Interestingly, Triple Canopy is a member of IPOA, a private military contractor trade association. Triple Canopy joined IPOA in July 2008.

IPOA has a Code of Conduct, albeit largely toothless, which its member companies are supposed to follow. And Triple Canopy has its own Code of Conduct and Business Ethics that employees are expected to follow.

With respect to IPOA’s Code Section 6.3 states, “Signatories shall utilize adequately trained and prepared personnel in all their operations in accordance with clearly defined company standards that are appropriate and specific to their duties undertaken and the environment of operations.” Having guards who lack the proper language proficiency would seem a violation.

Similarly 6.4 states, “Signatories shall properly vet, supervise and train personnel.” That suggests Triple Canopy has failed insofar as it knew it had personnel who lacked the required language skills yet was not doing anything to remedy it.

In theory IPOA could undertake an investigation of Triple Canopy. IPOA has a mechanism for filing complaints against its member companies. But, as it states, “The SCOPe shall not be legally binding. It is intended that it serve as a guide for the Standards Committee in its monitoring of Member Company compliance with the IPOA Code of Conduct (“the Code”).” Given that IPOA’s budget comes, in large part, from its member companies it does not have any incentive to investigate them. Even if it did its tiny, albeit well paid permanent staff, does not have much time or organizational resources to do so. It seems it is easier for IPOA to dismiss people who report bad news as “sometime-cynics” then to take seriously its own self-proclaimed mission to “promote high operational and ethical standards of firms active in the peace and stability operations industry.”

Still, taking the larger view, Triple Canopy represents progress. Unlike ArmorGroup in Iraq, where the contractors potentially put the embassy in danger, Triple Canopy did keep the Baghdad embassy safe at all times. And at least no guards were drinking vodka shots off someone’s ass. Slow progress perhaps, but progress nonetheless.

Finally, just to end where we started, after POGO blew the whistle on ArmorGroup last year, the State Department fired eight guards and announced it would not renew the contract of ArmorGroup after it expires in July, but would grant it a six-month extension “to allow for an orderly transition between contractors.” But since ArmorGroup is still on the job until the end of this year, the State Department wants to toughen its oversight of the private security contractor, and it intends to do that by hiring other contractors to oversee this one. Talk about hiring the fox to guard the henhouse.

March 26, 2010 Posted by | ArmorGroup, Triple Canopy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surprise! Another War-Zone Embassy Poorly Guarded by Contractors

By Spencer Ackerman 3/26/10 8:35 AM

Last time, it was the lascivious behavior of ArmorGroup — the private security firm handling the U.S. Embassy in Kabul — that attracted headlines. Those revelations led to disclosures of how contractors knowingly hired guards with poor English skills to save money — something the State Department knew about before renewing the company’s contract. Now it’s Triple Canopy, which guards the gargantuan U.S. Embassy in Iraq.

The Project on Government Oversight, the good-government group that discovered ArmorGroup’s State Department-abetted negligence, has obtained a report from the State Department investigating the department’s management in handling its contract with Triple Canopy for embassy security. POGO was good enough to pass the report on to me. Labor standards are such that Triple Canopy guards often worked ten or eleven consecutive days on average, with some working 39 days in a row without a break.

Here are some highlights of how State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which controls the contract, is managing your money and protecting American diplomats in what remains a warzone.

Embassy Baghdad has not adequately planned for a reduced Department or Department of Defense (DoD) presence in Baghdad, resulting in a projected unnecessary cost of approximately $20 million to the U.S. Government for site security over the next two years. Of this sum, the Department would incur approximately $12 million and DoD would incur more than $8 million in unnecessary costs.

Remember that everything the U.S. is supposed to be doing in Iraq is predicated on the 2011 troop withdrawal. I’ve heard from former administration officials that the embassy is lax in its political mission in Baghdad. Apparently that attitude has some spillover effect.

This will be familiar:

DS does not ensure that [Triple Canopy] personnel have required English language proficiency.

The report further finds that DS did not carry out the random language checks they were supposed to have carried out. True story: when I visited the embassy in 2007, the Triple Canopy guards were very nice people from (if I recall correctly) El Salvador, who made up for their lack of English with warm attitudes. I saw one guard actually reading a Teach-Yourself-English handbook on post in the Green Zone. Clearly DS’s negligence with ArmorGroup’s English-challenged guards is hardly an isolated case.

This might be my favorite:

The contracting officer’s representative in Baghdad does not verify either the guards’ attendance at their posts or the accuracy of personnel rosters (muster sheets) before they are submitted, to ensure contractor charges for labor are accurate. In addition, DS does not ensure that personnel have required English language proficiency.

DS lacks standards for maintaining training records. As a result, Triple Canopy’s training records are incomplete and in disparate locations making it difficult for the Bureau to verify whether all personnel have received required training.

And yet the IG’s overall conclusion is “The Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) generally manages the Triple Canopy contract well.” The last State Department Inspector General to take such a sunny interpretation of contract security in spite of the accumulated evidence resigned in disgrace.

POGO executive director Danielle Brian comments in a prepared statement, “How could State not have learned their lesson after the public flogging they got for their handling of the Kabul contract?…This report again raises an important point about whether State can properly manage Embassy security contracts in a war zone.”

March 26, 2010 Posted by | ArmorGroup, Private Security Contractor, State Department, Triple Canopy, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment