Commentary

DynCorp in Iraq

By David Isenberg
This article appeared in the Huffington Post on January 24, 2010.

Sigh! A just released report “Long-standing Weaknesses in Department of State’s Oversight of DynCorp Contract for Support of the Iraqi Police Training Program,” by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) shows that the State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) has a “a history of weak oversight of the task orders” issued under a contract it has with DynCorp. Considering some of what has happened in the past with DynCorp operations in Iraq this is a bit like saying the sun rises in the east.

The INL contract in question was awarded in February 2004 for a base year and four 1-year options (February 18, 2004, through February 17, 2009). In February 2009, the contract was extended for 6 months to August 17, 2009, and in August 2009, the contract was further extended for 1 year to August 17, 2010.

It includes task orders to support the Defense Department’s Iraqi police training program. Under the task orders, DynCorp has provided police advisors and in-country support for those and other advisors.

Specifically, the report says:

INL continues to exhibit weak oversight of the DynCorp task orders for support of the Iraqi police training program. INL lacks sufficient resources and controls to adequately manage the task orders with DynCorp. As a result, over $2.5 billion in U.S. funds are vulnerable to waste and fraud. The In-country Contracting Officer Representatives (ICOR), who are critical to overseeing DynCorp’s performance and expenditures under the current task order, do not perform adequate reviews and tests to ensure that: (1) the costs submitted by DynCorp on invoices are allowable under the contract/task order, supported by appropriate documentation, and correct; (2) U.S. government property managed by DynCorp is adequately controlled; (3) lease agreements negotiated on behalf of the U.S. government protect the U.S. government’s interests; and (4) the government receives the services at the performance standards specified in the task order. As DoS takes responsibility for the police training program from DoD in 2011 and DoS continues to oversee contracts costing the American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, it will be critical for DoS to have in place effective management and controls of those contracts to ensure that U.S. funds are effectively and efficiently spent.

Some background is necessary to appreciate how messed up the effort to retrain Iraqi police has been. Both private and public sectors share the blame for it.

In April 2003 the U.S. State Department awarded DynCorp a one-year contract in a limited competition against SAIC worth up to $50 million to support law enforcement functions in Iraq.

In May 2003, under the Department of State Advisory Support Mission (DASM) contract, DynCorp International deployed, supported, and equipped U.S. law enforcement personnel to provide police presence, enhance public security, and assist in reestablishing the Iraq National Police by providing necessary training to local police. SAIC was brought in by DynCorp to cooperate in the contract delivery.

Under the contract, up to 1,000 civilian technical advisors with 10 years of domestic law enforcement, corrections, and judicial experience, including at least 2 years in specialized areas, were to help the government of Iraq organize effective civilian law enforcement, judicial, and correctional agencies. Advisors would work with Iraqi criminal justice organizations at the national, provincial, and municipal levels to assess threats to public order and mentor personnel at all levels of the Iraqi legal apparatus.

They also were to train 32,000 Iraqi recruits at a rebuilt military base at Muwaqqar in neighboring Jordan.

The contract paid $75,000 to $153,600 to those it hired on yearlong contracts.

In February 2004,Computer Sciences Corporation won a State Department contract for civilian police (CIVPOL) services worth about $1.7 billion over ?ve years. On July 15,2004, functions being performed in Iraq under the DASM contract were shifted to the CIVPOL contract, which was one of three planned contracts that were awarded under the State Department’s Civilian Police Program. CSC was to recruit up to 2,000 experienced American law enforcement specialists to serve in civilian policing missions overseas.

Initially the training of Iraqi police forces was a haphazard affair. The Pentagon began to rebuild the Iraqi police with a mere dozen advisors. Over matched from the start, one was sent to train a 4,000-of?cer unit to guard power plants and other utilities, a second to advise 500 commanders in Baghdad, and another to organize a border patrol for the entire country.

Before the war, the Bush administration dismissed as unnecessary a plan backed by the Justice Department to rebuild the police force by deploying thousands of American civilian trainers. After Baghdad fell and a majority of Iraqi police of?cers abandoned their posts, a second Justice Department proposal calling for 6,600 police trainers was reduced to 1,500,and then never carried out. At that time DynCorp had already located 1,150 active and retired police of?cers who had expressed interest in serving in Iraq.

Field training of the Iraqi police, the most critical element of the effort, was left to DynCorp, which received $750 million in contracts. When it became clear in 2004 that the civilian effort by DynCorp was faltering, American military of?cials took over police training, relying on heavily armed commando units that had been established by the Iraqis. Within a year, members of the Sunni Muslim population said some units had been in?ltrated by Shi’ite Muslim militias and were kidnapping, torturing, and executing scores of Sunni Muslims.

Subsequently, in the spring of 2006, three years after administration of?cials rejected the large American-led ?eld training effort, American military commanders adopted that very approach. Declaring 2006 the year of the police, the Pentagon dispatched a total of 3,000 American soldiers and DynCorp contractors to train and mentor police recruits and of?cers across Iraq.

DynCorp said that many concerns about its performance are related to the of?cers recruited for the Iraqi or Afghan police forces, which is not the company’s responsibility. The company hired public relations ?rm Qorvis Communications to help deal with the attention.

DynCorp also received a contract from the State Department to recruit veteran U.S. law of?cers who would serve as “mentors” and train Iraqis to guard their borders.

Some U.S. politicians, such as then Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona -now Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security —and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, worried that the effort distracted from the mission of securing the U.S. border.

This is not the first time DynCorp’s performance has come into question. In fact, DynCorp’s performance in Iraq has been criticized numerous times.

A 2005 State Department audit claimed that DynCorp International employees overcharged the U.S. government $685,000 to provide fuel for a police academy in Jordan used to train Iraqi security forces. The audit found that a DynCorp driver, in collusion with two other employees, in?ated the amount of fuel. DynCorp said the three workers were ?red. The company reimbursed the State Department and ?led suit to recover the money in a Jordanian court.

One DynCorp contractor, Thomas Nelson Barnes III, made news in September 2005 when he was charged with distributing identity badges that control access to Baghdad’s heavily forti?ed Green Zone to people not allowed to receive them, including an Iraqi woman he was dating. Ironically, on September 2 DynCorp was awarded a $9,872,005 ?rm-?xed-price contract for Access Control Badge System Services. This was a sole source contract initiated on August 6,2005.

In October 2006 a U.S. government review of Iraqi police training concluded that there were no accurate means to verify the operational capabilities of more than 120,000 of?cers reported to have passed through DynCorp and U.S. Army classes.

In February 2007 an audit SIGIR noted that DynCorp’s contract called for it to build a camp to house its trainers. Auditors found that the company performed $4.2 million worth of work that had not been authorized by the contract, including building a pool and 20 VIP trailers at the behest of Iraqi of?cials. Because of security concerns, the camp was never used. The State Department ordered work on the project stopped in September 2004, shortly after issuing the contract, because of concerns that the location was too dangerous for DynCorp’s trainers. DynCorp initially told the department that the camp had already been completed, but more than a year later said it wasn’t.

Another report released by SIGIR in October 2007 found that the State Department so terribly managed a $1.2 billion contract for Iraqi police training that it can’t ?gure out what it got for the money spent.

Because invoices and records on the project were in total disarray and the government was trying to recoup money paid inappropriately to DynCorp, auditors temporarily suspended their effort to review the contract’s implementation. The process improved somewhat subsequently somewhat improved and in April 2007 SIGIR released a follow-up report that found improvement in the overall administration of the contract.

Questions were also raised about the competence of some of DynCorp’s managers in Iraq. Some employees contended that ?awed decisions by DynCorp managers repeatedly put employees at lethal risk. Among their concerns was the fact that Dyncorp sent employees into war zones without adequate weapons and protective equipment. In another case, a manager took his unit’s only armored vehicle for personal errands, leaving his employees to drive in hostile areas with “soft-sided” passenger cars. Another ordered his staffers to drive along one of Iraq’s most attack-prone routes to purchase liquor for his personal consumption.

At one point in 2006,a U.S. Army general ordered the company to temporarily halt operations because too many people were being killed.

But if DynCorp’s performance on some past task orders has been considered inadequate so is the government’s ability to do oversight, despite numerous post-mortems over the years detailing its flaws.

The SIGIR report states:

Inadequate resources and controls are not new problems. As early as 2005, INL was told that its staffing had not increased commensurate with its workload and that it needed to strengthen its oversight of the contracts for Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2007, INL was again told that its poor oversight of the contract for Iraq had put millions of dollars at risk. In a hearing and in responses to audit reports, INL officials have repeatedly stated they recognized the problems and had initiatives to increase staff and improve management and oversight of the contract for Iraq. However, INL has fallen far short on those initiatives.

And it is not clear that INL’s plan to improve things is credible. The SIGIR report states:

INL stated that it plans to increase the number of ICORs in Iraq to 11-there were 3 in November 2009. However, SIGIR believes the ICORs need additional guidance to clearly specify their responsibilities and more oversight to determine what they are or are not doing. Until that guidance is developed and implemented, INL is in no position to accurately determine how many additional ICORs it needs. SIGIR believes that more than 3 ICORs are needed but does not believe INL has demonstrated it needs 11.

And things are not going to get better anytime soon, according to SIGIR.

Because of weak oversight of the DynCorp contract in Iraq from its start in 2004, INL is reconciling all historical invoices. Although SIGIR was told in October 2007 that the reconciliation effort would take 3 to 5 years to complete by a full complement of 11 personnel, the reconciliations will likely take longer because INL has not fully staffed the effort. In addition, reconciliation efforts have been adversely impacted by high error rates on invoices and poor or missing support documentation. Moreover, the workload will likely increase because of the problems found with the current invoice review process. Because weak contract administration and oversight have been long-standing issues that INL has not corrected, SIGIR recommends that the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources direct an immediate examination of the Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan Support (AIJS) Division’s personnel and operations to determine if the Division is structured, staffed, and managed to effectively and efficiently oversee the contracts under its responsibilities.

This latest audit comes at a time when DynCorp has been having problems with too much overhead costs and not enough new business. Beginning in mid-year 2008 DynCorp began laying off people. Then on September 10, 2008 they had their largest Reduction In Force with over 100 overhead positions being eliminated. This was repeated with almost 100 more in January over a couple of day period.

David Isenberg is an analyst in national and international security affairs and a US Navy veteran. He is also a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute, and the author of a new book, Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq.