DynCorp Begs to Differ

In regard to my April 16 2010 post "The Contractors that Couldn't Shoot Straight?" I received the below email yesterday.

Dear David,

At DynCorp International, we appreciate your ongoing coverage of, and interest in, contractor issues and Afghan National Police training. However, many points in the article you posted today, "The Contractors That Couldn't Shoot Straight", are factually incorrect:

1. The issue of faulty marksmanship training has unfortunately been perpetuated after it appeared in a Newsweek story. It is just plain wrong, and I have attached for your information a brief discussion of the facts of this issue.
2. The figure of $6 billion is regularly mentioned in the context of Afghan National Police training, with the implication that DynCorp International has received that amount for its work. That is not correct. DynCorp has received an aggregate of approximately $1.2 billion over the last 6 years. This represents a tremendous investment in the human and physical infrastructure required to build the Afghan National Police for the future. Here is a summary of the broad range of work included under CIVPOL in Afghanistan:
• The Afghanistan program supports approximately 700 police advisors and mentors at 53 sites throughout Afghanistan, including the Central Training Center in Kabul, seven Regional Training Centers, and a separate facility for the Afghanistan National Civil Order Police and those embedded at U.S. military forward operating bases in police districts around the country. 85% of our advisors and mentors are outside the training centers at regional and district levels. Roughly 1500 employees serve in support functions, including life and mission support, security and IT and communications.
• Beyond the number of personnel and the experience level required to execute the contract, DynCorp International manages and accounts for over 75,000 items of equipment, including close to 375 vehicles, and maintains 17 dining facilities - capable of being supported by air if ground travel is not possible. The company also provides independent fuel and other base support services at each facility. Our employees often are subject to hostile fire and other risks. This is a large and complex operation, and our record of supporting this undertaking is outstanding.
• Through this contract we have worked seamlessly with our customer to refine curricula; construct and operate the Regional Training Centers; develop a cadre of Afghan instructors; mentor and monitor Afghan district police in the field; and advise senior officials in the Ministry of Interior.
3. The contract to which you refer from Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) reflects DynCorp's good standing with that organization, which would be unlikely to award a contract for new work if DynCorp were performing poorly. At today's (4/19/10) Commission on Wartime Contracting Public Hearing, Commissioner Robert Henke stated that when Members of the Commission asked CSTC-A Commanding General William Caldwell if CSTC-A had been dissatisfied with DynCorp International's performance, LTG Caldwell responded that CSTC-A has been satisfied with the contractor's performance.

4. DynCorp welcomes strong and effective government oversight of its work. Existing audit and oversight activities are ongoing: embedded Defense Contract Audit Agency representatives; Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction; the Inspectors General from the Department of State and Department of Defense; multiple Congressional committees; and many other organizations have reviewed and continue to review our performance. Your article references various government audits from last year or earlier that have criticized the oversight of the CIVPOL contract. We have implemented corrective action plans for each area identified in those reports as needing correction. These action plans are pending comment and approval by auditing entities. DynCorp International will continue to respond quickly and comprehensively to any issues identified by oversight authorities to ensure the taxpayers are receiving the best possible performance and value for our services.
We hope that you will correct your article accordingly, and welcome any questions you may have.

Thank you,

Jason Rossbach
Acting Director, Media Relations
DynCorp International

Before I respond to the above let me make a couple of points.

First, I am not picking on DynCorp. Actually, DynCorp, compared to many other firms doing private security work (and, that is only s small part of what DynCorp does overall) actually has a pretty good reputation. As I have previously noted it is to be commended for its employee assistance program and has been very transparent about the casualties its contractors have suffered.

That said, let me address Mr. Rossbach's points. I very much appreciate his writing to give DynCorp's side of the story. Still, I think I will decline to 'correct" the article. Here is why.

With regard to the marksmanship issues I did not write this was a confirmed fact. I wrote "One of the astonishing allegations in the article was this:" Given the seriousness of the issue I took points to point out it was an allegation. I also checked the DynCorp website to see if it had any response to the story. It did not. It still does not as I write this.

But Mr. Rossbach sent along an attachment, not on the DynCorp website, with his email which addresses the rifle sighting issue. Here it is in its entirety.

Weapons Training and Qualification
For the Afghan National Police
Performed by DynCorp International

Recent assertions made in Newsweek magazine and picked up by other media concerning Afghan National Police weapons qualifications procedures are factually incorrect.

All weapons training and qualifications procedures performed by DynCorp, for both pistols and rifles, are approved by the Department of Defense and the Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL). The program of instruction includes training and qualification from a variety of distances (beginning at 5 meters for pistols and 10 for rifles) and postures (standing, kneeling, prone, and walking). With regard to rifle procedures, in this case AK-47s, all recruits are required to perform a mandatory basic zeroing operation (BZO) which consists of test firing 10 rounds at a time to establish proper sighting and alignment at the beginning of every training and qualification session. If the weapon does not meet standards on the first BZO, the procedure is repeated; after a second inaccurate BZO the weapon is removed from the range and taken to a separate repair facility. Detailed records are kept on all recruits, their training and weapons qualification scores. There have not been
demonstrable differences in recorded qualification scores for trainees taught by U.S. civilian contractors or international police instructors.

ANP Weapons Qualifications Overview:

As part of the Afghanistan Civilian Advisor Support (ACAS) "Basic Eight" ANP training curriculum, DynCorp International has oversight of Afghan instructors who teach marksmanship to Afghan police recruits on the 9mm pistol and AK-47 rifle. Tactical training on operational use of both weapons is taught in a subsequent Tactical Training Program (TTP) course.

All police recruit scores are recorded at the beginning and again at the end of each training course. Records of pre- and post-marksmanship training are maintained in the individual police officer's training record at the Regional Training Center (RTC) and are forwarded at the end of the training to the police officer's headquarters. Marksmanship records on all students are available at the RTC for inspection by the appropriate government officials. Decisions on remedial training or discharge for police officers who have failed to qualify are made by the ANP, not by DynCorp or CSTC-A.

At each training session, individual police recruits are issued specific weapons which they use throughout the entire training session. At the beginning of each session, the recruits carry out a Basic Zeroing Operation (BZO) to sight in and adjust the weapon. Each recruit's zeroing and adjusting are done under the instruction of an Afghan trainer.

A DynCorp instructor supervises the work of the Afghan trainer. A typical
marksmanship class would have 20 recruits, four Afghan trainers and two DynCorp International instructors.

The recruit zeros in his weapon with a 10-round clip in cycles of two rounds per cycle. If the weapon is not properly sighted, further 10-round clips are shot. If basic sight adjustment does not align the weapon, the weapon is returned to the CSTC-A weapons subcontractor, HEB, located at each RTC which either repairs or replaces the weapons with one with correctly aligned sights.

This is certainly interesting. If this is true were the Italian carabinieri lying when they told Newsweek that the sights of the AK-47 and M-16 rifles the recruits were using were badly out of line? "Was Lt. Rolando Tommasini lying when he said, "We zeroed all their weapons. It's a very important thing, but no one had done this in the past. I don't know why."

Mr. Rossbach does not say. The simplest way to try to ascertain the truth would be for DynCorp to release the "Detailed records" his email cites. Surely if the charges are false, and I explicitly allowed for that possibility when I wrote "If DynCorp is innocent of the allegations and has fully complied with the terms of its contract and all problems are the result of government mismanagement one would certainly want that known." it would want to do everything possible to prove that the allegation is indeed false. It is unreasonable for either a private firm or the federal government to expect the billlpayer, the U.S. taxpayer, to operate on a Joe "Trust me" Isuzu basis.

In regard to his second point, the portion of the Newsweek article I quoted said "America has spent more than $6 billion since 2002 in an effort to create an effective Afghan police force, buying weapons, building police academies, and hiring defense contractors to train the recruits--but the program has been a disaster." It did not say that America has paid DynCorp $6 billion. I am glad to know it has only been $1.2 billion. I do not know whether there is more money that DynCorp is owed by the government for its work on the contract. Perhaps Mr. Rossbach can tell us.

I gladly acknowledge and take his word on the large numbers of trainers and mentors DynCorp is providing as part of its effort to train the Afghan National Police but that wasn't something the Newsweek article questioned. Rather they questioned the program's effectiveness, which is a different issue. As any computer beginning science student would tell you input does not equal output. Perhaps both Newsweek and DynCorp are right. The program has been a disaster, but it has been an on or below budget one.

Although there is reason to wonder about the quality of DynCorp International's bookkeeping. According to a Defense Contract Audit Agency audit "Report on Audit of Labor Hour Billings through Public Voucher 1473-37, under Contract No. S-LMAQM-04-C-0030, Task Order S-AQMPD-05-F-
1473 (Afghanistan)"
dated November 27, 2009, made public at last week's hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight

We determined DI's control environment and overall accounting system, policies, and procedures are inadequate. We also consider the billing system to be inadequate in Audit Report No. 3181-2009D11010001 issued April 23, 2009 (see Contractor Organization and Systems section, page 11, for detailed explanation of the billing system internal control deficiencies). In addition, we determined that DI's compensation system and related internal controls, policies, and procedures are inadequate in Audit Report No. 3181-2008D13020001 issued April 29, 2009. As addressed in Audit Report No. 03181-2007D13010001 issued March 18, 2009, we determined DI's labor system and related internal controls, policies, and procedures are inadequate.

According to this article Mr. Rossbach said the Nov. 27, 2009 audit was outdated and that "many of the corrective actions were completed." However, a statement from the audit agency last Friday said "The internal control deficiencies in the audit report are serious and need to be addressed by DynCorp," the agency stated, adding, "DynCorp is not yet compliant with many of deficiencies cited in the audit report."

But again there is an easy way to get the truth; release the records. As I am sure Mr. Rossbach is aware every contractor has to keep detailed progress reports as part of the contract's quality assurance plan. It would be nothing short of marvelous if DynCorp took a bold step -- that its fellow firms might follow -- and stopped using the "proprietary business information" excuse for not releasing such information. Alternatively, if DynCorp can't release it because the government refuses to allow it then we can assume the fault lies with the federal government, not DynCorp.

In regard to his third point, "The contract to which you refer from Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) reflects DynCorp's good standing with that organization, which would be unlikely to award a contract for new work if DynCorp were performing poorly." I would simply say that have been many examples in both Iraq and Afghanistan of firms either being awarded or re-awarded contracts that they should not have gotten. Anyone remember Custer Battles, for example?

One of the very obvious points made over and over by the Commission on Wartime Contracting is that the U.S. governmental acquisition workforce is not currently up to the task of providing proper oversight on contingency contracting. One has only to look at reports over the years from the Department of Defense Inspector General, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), and Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) for detail. Indeed, a SIGAR report released May 2009 said:

Based on our review of CSTC-A's oversight of a large training contract, we found that CSTC-A lacks effective contract oversight capabilities. U.S. government agencies are responsible for ensuring that U.S. funds are expended effectively, efficiently, and in accordance with U.S. laws. Although CSTC-A is responsible for the management of the training programs for the ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces], it does not have mechanisms necessary to ensure that U.S. funds are managed effectively and spent wisely. Because of its presence in Afghanistan, CSTC-A is in a unique position to play an important role in contract oversight. Moreover, CSTC-A bears responsibility for knowing how program funds are used--it must ensure the funds are used as intended, both to accomplish the mission and to protect the interests of the taxpayer. To do so, CSTC-A staff trained in contractor oversight need to visit sites where the contractor is providing services, and verify that the services are meeting the mission and are consistent with the contract specifications. SIGAR found that this is not happening. CSTC-A has one contracting officer's technical representative--located in Afghanistan--for contract oversight purposes. However, that official has limited contracting experience and training and has been unable to make field visits to monitor contract performance. Lack of oversight increases the likelihood that training funds may not be used as intended.

The Afghan National Security Forces consists of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.

Insofar as DynCorp's "good standing" with CSTC-A is concerned the report states, "We are not naming the contractor in this report because we did not assess the contractor's performance and we have no evidence to suggest how well the contractor has performed."

Finally, in regard to "DynCorp welcomes strong and effective government oversight of its work" nothing I wrote suggested anything to the contrary. In fact I pointed out that if the allegations were true "would be unfair to pin all the blame on DynCorp. The federal government would certainly share in it."

Insofar as "Your article references various government audits from last year or earlier that have criticized the oversight of the CIVPOL contract. We have implemented corrective action plans for each area identified in those reports as needing correction" I am genuinely glad to hear it and I assume that DynCorp is genuinely doing its best to implement them. But as I pointed out in the article and in numerous past ones corrective action can only work when there is properly resourced and trained government contracting officers to check them. We don't have them now and as testimony at yesterday's hearing of the Commission on Wartime Contracting made clear we won't have those we need for ten years at a minimum.

In fact, according to CWC Co-Chairs Michael Thibault and Christopher Shays, "After more than seven years of war in Southwest Asia, typically with a one-to-one ratio of contractor employees to warfighters, it is astonishing but apparently true that no one in DoD or the Army has either a department-wide or theater-wide view of contracts, contracting activity, or the numbers and location of contractors." If that is true what confidence can we have that the government is even capable of assessing whether DynCorp is doing a good job?

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