The GAO Transcripts, Part 5: Could the Military Trust the PSCs?

The GAO Transcripts, Part 5: Could the Military Trust the PSCs?
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This is the fifth installment of the Government Accountability Office interview transcripts that were prepared pursuant to the July 2005 GAO report "Rebuilding Iraq: Actions Needed To Improve Use of Private Security Providers."

Two points in particular are worth consideration. First private military and security contractor advocates frequently claim, that contractors stay on the job, regardless of how dangerous it is. And if they do quit, advocates say it is so rare as to be insignificant, as this 2009 interview with Doug Brooks, head of the PMC trade group IPOA, illustrates.

IA-Forum: One of the concerns that I think about, for example, in running the supply line, is if the going gets too tough, what's to stop the company from just quitting?

Mr Brooks: [You are referring to the book] Betraying Our Troops? It's about KBR and [it] talks about four or five incidents where KBR convoys refused to go because the risk was too high. ...That's over four years; it doesn't happen that often. It does happen; I think it's important that combatant commanders keep that in mind, that contractors can essentially quit or not do things that are too risky, that's true.

The flip side to that is that happens in the military as well. In the military, convoys on at least two occasions [in the current Iraq war] refused orders--which means you can be shot--refused orders because the risk was too high. ...If in five years you have three or four times where individual convoys haven't been made--that's' really nothing.

But as the below transcript shows this was enough of a concern that the Joint Chiefs of Staff tasked the U.S. Central Command for additional information on the subject.

Second, it was recognized early on by the military itself that the guidance it provided contractors was insufficient. Nearly six years this is about as surprising as saying the sun rises in the east but back then it was still a controversial assumption. On this point contractor advocates are right when they say that government did not have its act together when doing contracting on the battlefield. Of course, considering that even at this point there was a quite large body of field manuals, directives, rules and regulations for doing just that it says something rather disturbing about how useful they were when rubber met reality.

Standard disclaimer: I have put in ( _____ ) to reflect those words of phrases which have been blacked out in the transcript. I have also put in the underlining as it appeared in the original transcript. As in the transcript, I have left out letters from various words, even when it seems obvious what the word is.

GAO Interview
Written By: Kate Walker
Date Created: November 15, 2004
Job Code: 350544

Title: Interview with CENTCOM
Purpose : To discuss CENTCOM policies addressing PSCs in CENTCOM's AOR Date: November 9, 2004
Type: Face-to-face
Location: CENTCOM, MacDill Air Base, Tampa, Florida
Participants: __________________________________________________

Steve Sternlieb, Assistant Director, GAO/DCM, (202) 512-2501,

Carole Coffey, Analyst-in-Charge, GAO/DCM, (202) 512-5876,

Kate Walker, Analyst, GAO, (202) 512-6193,

We met with ____________ discuss policies and memorandums addressing private security contractors (PSCs) in CENTCOM's AOR.

In June 2004, there was significant concern that a US contractor aiding the military in Iraq might withdraw its services due to security situation in Iraq. In response, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) sent out a request for information from CENTCOM. CENTCOM then issued a warning order (WARNORD) to Multinational Force-Iraq MNFI). This WARNORD requested that the MNFI commanders provide an estimated list of contractors in Iraq, the potential risk to the reconstruction should contractors withdraw their services, and courses of actions to improve contractor security in Iraq. In July MNFI responded with a short document detailing their action plans for addressing the contractor concern. The JCS found this document to be insufficient and requested more information. CENTCOM then issued another WARNORD in August with a September due date. MNFI responded with a draft 46-page document on 20 September 2004. CENTCOM currently has Version 10 of the document. The MNFI response has not been finalized and is still sitting on the Commanding General's desk. CENTCOM has currently halted work on the WARNORD and review of the MNFI document because because it is linked to the release of the Interagency Memorandum. The current MNFI response indicated that more information is needed about contractors in Iraq.

In addition to the WARNORD, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of State (DOS) is writing the Interagency Memorandum. The Interagency Memorandum directs organization-wide coordination and eliminates the need for the information collected in the WARNORD. The Memorandum is "not a new idea" and breaks down the stovepipes that many feel have been thwarting contractor coordination. The Memorandum was created in response to contractor concern about security and the need for a consistent set of rules for PSCs. The Memorandum also lays out the anticipated responsibilities of the military to contractors and other USG agencies. We asked ____________ there was a comprehensive list of guiding documents for contractors in accordance with 1.4 from the Interagency Memorandum. ____________ does not believe that a comprehensive list exists. He stated that a number of different documents currently address the military's responsibility to contractors in Iraq, but a document that provides a comprehensive overview of the military's relationship to PSCs does not exist. ____________ ggests that we speak with Staff Judge Advocate (SJA) for a robust list of such documents.

The Interagency Memorandum has been held in suspense for a number of reasons. Currently, the priorities of the US military, the embassy, and the Interim Iraqi Government (IIG) are not aligned. Contractors including PSCs are not the main priority in Iraq right now. There is also some debate over whether the Iraqi Military Force (IMF) can participate in the memorandum.

____________believes that the Interagency Memorandum's vision for a common operating picture would be in the best interest of the contractors; it would decrease costs and overhead and would increase security. The success of the Interagency Memorandum and the creation of a common operating picture are dependent upon the success of the Project and Contracting Office Operations Center (PCOC). The PCOC is vital for communication and coordination of contractors in Iraq; it is the only communication and coordination source for contractors in Iraq.____________ as been working with a Joint staff counterpart, ____________ on the Interagency Memorandum.

Insurgency has continued to grow in Iraq since the spring of 2004. ____________ noted that the number of contractors in Iraq has increased greatly since the government transition and the number of contracts in Iraq is still growing. Currently, CENTCOM does not know the number of contractors in Iraq contractors are constantly in flux. CENTCOM does not have visibility to the subcontractor level. ____________ is unaware of anything below DOD regulations that instructs contractors about protocols for conduct, movement, and coordination with the military. ____________ believes that the main governing document for contractors in Iraq is the contract itself. ____________ asserted that the need for the DOD Directive (DODD), DOD Instruction (DODI) and the Interagency Memorandum are all examples of the lack of guidance provided to contractors in Iraq. These documents were created because contractors need more direction than that provided in their contracts.

____________ believes that the only way to legally require contractors to register would be to include it in their contracts and require contracting agencies to report this information. All current contracts for work in CENTCOM's AOR would have to be rewritten to reflect this new policy. ____________ suggested that we speak with the SJA to learn more about the legal issues facing contractors in Iraq.

____________ believes that the only policy that outlines the military's responsibility for contractors and US agencies in Iraq is the National Security Council (NSC) Operation Plan (OPLAN). Annex K of the OPLAN outlines CENTCOM's and DOS's security responsibilities. The NSC OPLAN is a handshake security agreement between the DOS and the DOD that provides security guidelines inside and outside the Green Zone. The OPLAN delineates the pecking order for receiving aid.

Under CENTCOM's current commander's mission for Iraq, it is a military mission to provide a "secure and stable environment." This outlined mission in iraq does not, however, indictate that the military is to provide security for contractors and civil government agencies. ____________ said that as available the military does support but the spectrum of contractor support is wide. For example, at one end of the spectrum, there are those contractors that are working for USAID and the Army Corps of Engineers that do not have a direct connection to the US military and currently provide their own security. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those contractors providing logistics support for the military at base sites and are provided with security by the military. Somewhere in between these two extremes are the contractors inside Iraq that are supporting USG agencies who have little contact with the military and are not receiving security from the military. ____________ believes that the Interagency Memorandum seeks to formalize some of these relationships and provide a safety net for those contractors that are not directly working with the military.

Currently, there is no one organization that is maintaining a database of contractors working in Iraq. ____________ indicates that there has been some conflict over resources and who would manage the database.

Movement control is currently part of the PCOC fusion cell. According to ____________ this fusion cell is up and running. If contractors are capable of radio communication, they can call the PCOC and radio in their movement schedule. The Interagency Memorandum would further define the responsibility of the PCOC fusion cell.

If contractors should need assistance, the military will send a quick reaction force (QRF) from whichever military unit can respond first. The military will send QRF aid if it has the assets available. It is the commander's responsibility to decide whether he/she has enough personnel to respond. Operating procedures hold that contractors under attack should first contact the PCOC. The PCOC would then relay contractor needs through NMOC and the highlighted responsibility would be to the nearest military installment and could include IMF, MNFI, other PSC, or US military aid.

____________ indicated that the PCOC has been responsible for information sharing with contractors since the turnover in July. It is the prime contractor's responsibility for ensuring that sub-contractors remain informed.

____________ does not believe that the military has direct legal authority over PSCs. For example, while the military can suggest that contractors not enter Fallujah, contractors are still legally allowed to enter the area at their own risk. ____________ believes that the only definite line of authority is that of the contractor over the subcontractor. The contracting officer is the closest link to the military for contractors.


• ____________ believes that communication between the military and private security contractors can be improved by standardizing communication methods and knowledge of communication links. It is vital that contractors have common radios and linkage with the PCOC.. ____________ holds that while much of the foundation for communication is in place, communication does not exist to the level necessary.
•Standardization of contract language would help to alleviate some of the confusion over military responsibility and chain of command issues. ____________
believes that the Interagency Memorandum will address some of these issues.

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