Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Interesting Statements from the Commission on Wartime Contracting

The Commission on Wartime Contracting had hearings on the 12th of July and some interesting comments have come out so far.  The State Department will have to hire thousands of contractors to provide security and logistical support as the U.S. military begins to withdraw from Iraq in 2011.

Within 18 months, U.S. troops are scheduled to depart Iraq.  In the joint opening statement there are some significant statements.  I hope to give you highlights:

There are  (PSC employees working in Iraq)... roughly 5,000 work for the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
...Most of the security duties currently executed by the U.S. military in Iraq and by DoD contractors are being handed off to the Department of State ...will need more security contractors, many of them with special skills. ...(it) will put increased strain on our systems for planning, acquiring, overseeing, contract- and program-managing, and evaluating performance related to PSC work.

The State Department lacks the personnel, equipment, experience, and training to take on ... quick-reaction combat teams, route-clearance capabilities, recovery of wounded personnel and damaged vehicles, the counter-rocket and counter-battery teams that return hostile indirect fire within seconds, and the experts and vehicles that detect and dispose of IEDs... The Iraqi government currently lacks many of these capabilities, as well as a robust and consistent system for monitoring and regulating PSC operations in the country ...  The dramatic expansion of State’s security responsibilities in Iraq could lead to weakly managed contractors performing inherently governmental functions in a combat zone—a scenario with large downside risks on both policy and practical grounds, such as concerns for the safety of remaining government and contractor employees.

With the troop drawdown under way and operational demands in Afghanistan rising, we simply cannot afford to return to the pre-surge, “Wild, Wild West” days of 2006-2007 in Iraq.

The second panel brings together four industry witnesses who will testify on government’s program management of PSCs in Iraq. They are: Don Ryder, vice president, Civilian Police Programs (CIVPOL), DynCorp International; Kristi Clemens Rogers, president, Aegis Defense Services; Ignacio Balderas, director and chief executive officer, Triple Canopy; and Jerry Torres, chief executive officer, Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions.(note: Torres did NOT testify - he had several excuses)

During the hearing, these people spoke:

Gary Mostek:
... The first step in this effort is to produce a universal standard of conduct (Standard) broadly endorsed by the PSC industry. A draft of this Standard has been developed and is being refined by a working group drawn from the U.S., UK, and Swiss Governments, with equal participation from the PSC industry and NGOs active in human rights law and the law of armed conflict. The aim of the working group is to finalize the Standard and the principles for the accountability mechanism for PSCs later this year.

Charlene Lamb:
Currently, DS utilizes the services of approximately 2,700 PSC personnel in Iraq, comprised of roughly 900 movement security personnel under the Worldwide Personal Protective Security II (WPPS II), and an additional 1,800 guards providing perimeter security to Embassy Baghdad and related facilities in the International Zone.
Donald J. Ryder:
Every day we serve alongside U.S. military personnel and government civilians. It is dangerous work and sadly 68 of our employees have paid the ultimate sacrifice while supporting U.S. contingency operations. Just two weeks ago, an American CIVPOL advisor and a Nepalese guard working at the Kandahar Regional Training Center for the Afghan National Police were killed in an attack on the facility. A vehicle bomb was used to breach the perimeter security and unfortunately an insurgent was able to detonate a suicide vest inside. We have an obligation to those individuals and their families. To support those seriously injured and the families of those killed, DynCorp International originally created the Civilian Police Employee Assistance Program. The program has since been expanded, now called "DI Cares," to cover all of the DynCorp International family of employees. We believe that our employee assistance program represents the gold standard of employee support for other companies to emulate, and recommend that the government mandate and fund this program for all contractors supporting U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives in hostile environments. We have made this recommendation consistently throughout our opportunities to testify. The death of yet
another employee only further solidifies our resolve that this is the right thing to do.
Ignacio Balderas: (He basically plays a myth buster role here)

Despite the important role private security contractors play in supporting the missions of both the Department of Defense and Department of State, for many years we have seen
sweeping, unsupported arguments made against the use of private security contractors. And we have seen each of these arguments, in turn, found to be either false or exaggerated. For example, there were arguments that private security contractors were "stealing" personnel from the U.S. military and thereby depleting our armed forces. When the GAO examined this claim in 2005, however, it concluded that personnel were not leaving military service at any greater rate due to private security contractor hiring.

There were arguments that it would take fewer military personnel to accomplish tasks performed by private security contractors. However, in testimony before Congress, the Department of Defense has noted that, in fact, it would take three military personnel to occupy one deployed position due to training and military leave requirements, to say nothing of the military "tooth-to-tail" costs and requirements needed to support deployed individuals.

There were arguments that contractors were paid exorbitant sums that greatly outweighed their military counterparts...
In truth, a 2008 Department of Defense compensation review established that military personnel actually do as well as, or better than, their contractor counterparts.

Finally, there were arguments that private security contractors cost more than it would cost to utilize government personnel. A 2008 Congressional Budget Office analysis and a comprehensive 2010 GAO report both discredited this argument, and in fact established that private security contractors can and do save the U.S. Government money, in some cases hundreds of millions of dollars on a single contract. For example, our work for the Department of State protecting the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was estimated by the GAO to save over $785 million every year, a savings of nearly $4 billion over the life of that contract.
I would like to address one of the items the Commission has been specifically tasked by Congress to examine - namely, whether providing security in an area of combat operations is inherently governmental ... When you look at the work performed by private security contractors, it is not of the type that should be classified as inherently governmental. In fact, there is a long history of allowing such work to be performed by private entities, even when the work is being performed for the U.S. Government. For example, the Department of State has for many decades used private firms to provide security at various embassies around the world, regardless of where the embassy is located and whether the host nation is friend or foe. For many years, the Office of Management and Budget listed "guard and protective services" as an example of commercial activities that may be performed by private entities under contract to the U.S. Government.

... even if you take the most restrictive view - namely, that sovereign nations have an absolute monopoly on the use of force within their borders - nearly all nations have established legal frameworks by which private persons or entities may be authorized to use limited force within the context of national laws... (in) Iraq and Afghanistan. Any use of force by a licensed security provider will be judged according to local laws, such as the law of self-defense and defense of others...

... regardless of whether we believe security work should be classified as inherently governmental, the fact is that other nations may not want or will not permit armed U.S. government or military personnel to be present within their borders, or they will limit the number of personnel that may be present or the activities they may perform... A shift of security from private entities to the U.S. military in all likelihood would not be possible under the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement. Even if it was, it likely would shift the U.S. military mission away from more critical needs.
I think I gave a bit more than highlights, but lots of good stuff quoted here.  Anyways, draw your own conclusions, and the Obama Administration still has to make their own decision.

You can get the report by the commission made before these hearings.  It can be found here.

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