By the end of the year US troop levels in Afghanistan will fall to 9,800, with another 3,000 – 5,000 NATO troops sticking around as well through the end of 2016. And while those remaining forces will be focused solely on training and advising the Afghan Army, Air Force, police and border patrol mostly at the leader and Ministerial level in Kabul and a few other sites, jobs like security for the major bases will have to be outsourced to private companies.-Paul Macleary of the Intercepts blog.
This just came out and it is hot off the press. A big hat tip to the blog Intercepts over at Defense News for finding this one. So let’s dig into the particulars of this FBO RFI requiring between 500 and 600 folks to guard the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.
The first thing that came to mind is the whole 45-60 day mobilization period? That is not a lot of time to recruit, train, and spin up such a sizable force. And if you force a company to adhere to such a thing, then they will get sloppy and they will allow bad seeds to get into the mix, just because of the sheer volume of guys they have to hire for this. Anything is possible, but the more you compress the time for this, the more the company will be rushed and will be sloppy with vetting and recruiting. The contract should emphasize the importance of spinning up a quality guard force, and the appropriate time to do so.
Also, I imagine that the standing force requirements are probably a little under half of this number, meaning maybe 200 to 300 guys actually on site protecting the facility (see the photo below)? So these guys that are standing up this contract better have some clue as to how static security works on this base and the leaders of this contract better know how to integrate well with the base QRF elements and the base defense plan. I highly recommend whatever company that stands this up, to study the Camp Bastion attack reports written by the Marines, so that they can get an idea of what their guard force needs to think about in Afghanistan. All actions by this guard force, should be focused on unity of command and unity of effort with BDOC or the military command and QRF of the base.
Another point. Base defenses these days have heavy weapons. If the Kandahar Airfield has posts with heavy weapons, and these guards will be manning those weapons, then training requirements should be specified in the contract. I would absolutely insist on some kind of deal where contractors are able to get training in a controlled environment, and then continue that training on these weapon systems while in Afghanistan. Meaning allow them to shoot the weapons, work the ranges with those weapons, and train on the TTP’s with those weapons. The base defense is highly dependent on that guard force to do it’s job. That would mean structure shifts to be smaller, so that there is more time for training. A contract could stipulate 8 hour shifts at the max, which would then give the company time to train while out in the field. The concept of 12 hour shifts does not help at all for training.
Like wise, if posts have special equipment like thermal imagers or military radios, these guards absolutely need to be spun up on this stuff. They should also be versed in a sound action plan for when the base gets attacked, and the contract should require that they do drills and maintain proficiency. With an 8 hour shift scheme, the companies would have plenty of time to do these drills and training. Like I mentioned before, the Camp Bastion attack is an excellent example of stuff a guard force needs to think about and work on.
Final point would be communications. The guard forces, be it military or contractor, need to be talking to one another and interacting. They need integrated communications, and this relationship should be geared towards creating unity of effort and unity of command. The BDOC should absolutely insist on this, and whomever is tasked with spinning up this contract for the Army, should think long and hard about how to structure the contract to meet those ends.
As for the pay and benefits, all I can say there is that if you ‘pay peanuts, you will get monkeys’. I have seen multiple complaints from contractors on how the Camp Leatherneck or Camp Dwyer contracts have materialized. If these contracts are poorly structured, poorly managed, and not given the time to properly set up, then of course things will get screwed up. And if the contract is paying an unreasonably low salary, then the guard force you hire will not have any respect for the job. They will be miserable, and this attitude will permeate throughout the contract. Guys will also jump contract at the first opportunity of a better gig. My advice is to pay a living salary that is respectable in this industry, and structure the leave and shift scheduling that will keep guys around, and not scare them away.
That last part is key. If companies are getting paid for training folks, and are not penalized for pushing contractors out with horrible policies and poor management, then what pops up is a revolving door training scam. The companies will push contractors to the edge with dumb policies so that folks eventually just leave, and then those same companies can train more people and charge the government more money for that. So my advice to the government is to incentivize the company they work with, to keep guys hanging around. The contract should use longevity bonuses, if a contractor stays an ‘x’ amount of days. The contract should also protect the salary of those contractors, so the company can’t play games with the salary. The contract should require paying a higher salary to shift leaders or other small unit leaders, to attract those who would want to do that kind of work. Reward companies for treating their people with respect and setting up excellent systems. Penalize companies that create training schemes, where they push out contractors so they can train more and grow their training business back home. And make damn sure your contracting officer that is assigned to watch this contract, knows what they are doing and actually cares what the company is doing in the field. You need to watch every step of the way, and have plenty of tools to keep that company in check so it does exactly what you want it to do.
My personal preference for a contract, is for the government to stipulate that companies form teams or platoons, where guys are assigned a unit. That way you can actually build some kind of unit cohesion within the contract. True leaders will rise to the top, because they have been forged in that furnace of a team. The current contracts on various bases, where guys are not assigned any team and are just thrown into the mix every time they come back from leave, is idiotic. It doesn’t build unit cohesion, or mutual trust, and folks are constantly having to adapt to a new group of people. It is better to build that trust between individuals through the mechanism of a team or platoon or squad or detail formations, as opposed to constantly breaking up that mutual trust that forms within a unit in a war zone. Teams are also important for mission command to be successful, and if the military is truly focused on implementing mission command within it’s operations, then they should practice what they preach with the formation of contracts that help support that type of structure and culture.
Something to think about for the companies and contracting officers that are reading this. All of this stuff can be spelled out in a contract and implemented by a company. There are other checks and balances that I am missing in this post that I could spend days talking about, but the big one to remember is that a contract should help in the creation of an environment and culture where folks are successful because of the system or contract, and not in spite of it. -Matt
This Request for Information (RFI) is a market research survey to determine the availability and adequacy of potential sources prior to determining an acquisition and contract strategy to procure Private Security Company (PSC) services in support of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan (US FOR-A) Garrison Command, and tenant organizations at Kandahar Airfield (KAF), Afghanistan. Only expatriates from the FVEY (Five Eyes) International Intelligence Sharing Network Nations (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) will be permitted to perform work as permanent or temporary residents of Kandahar Airfield under any future contract – no exceptions. There is a requirement for U.S. Secret level security clearances for supervisory and operations personnel.
This RFI does not constitute a solicitation (Request for Proposal or Request f or Quotation) or a promise to issue a solicitation in the future. As stipulated in FAR 15.201(e), responses to this notice are not considered offers, shall not be used as a proposal, and cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract. This RFI does not commit the Government to contract for any services whatsoever. We are not seeking proposals at this time. Responders are advised that the Government will not pay for any information or administrative costs incurred in response to this RFI.
The information received will be utilized by RCC-South in developing an acquisition strategy and Purchase Description and Specification. The information in this notice is based on current information available to date. This information is subject to change and is not binding to the Government. Responses to this RFI may or may not be returned. Not responding to this RFI does not preclude participation in any future solicitations, if one is issued.
Any resulting procurement action will be the subject of a separate, future announcement. The proposed acquisition is for services for which the Government intends to solicit and award in conjunction with policies procedures from FAR Part 15, Contracting by Negotiation.
The proposed acquisition is expected to be a firm fixed price contract for a ten (10) month base period, which includes a sixty (45-60) day mobilization period (estimated), and no option periods. The requirement calls for an approximate of 500-600 guards, armorers, and management personnel; no less than 30% of which must be FVEY Expatriates, with the remaining 70% from an allowable ISAF Troop Contributing Nation: http://www.nato.int/ISAF/structure/nations/index.html
The following information is provided to assist with developing your response:
1. The government will provide all lodging and office space to meet this requirement. Contractors may have access to MILAIR, DFACs, PX, and MWR. A contractor man- camp is not required.
2. The contractor shall provide all vehicles, weapons, ammunition, communications equipment, optics, and other equipment necessary to perform the PSC mission. There will be some government furnished equipment, but this is not relevant to the mobilization questions.
3. The service is to secure the entirety of Kandahar Airfield (man towers), man/operate ECPs, and conduct roving patrols 24/7 for the specified period of performance.
Interested parties shall submit a response that answers the following questions:
1. Can you mobilize the required number of personnel, complete with medical screening, vetting and arming authorizations processed, within 45 days of contract award?
2. If not, what is the maximum number of personnel feasible to mobilize within 45 days of contract award?
3. Can you mobilize the required number of personnel, complete with medical screening, vetting and arming authorizations processed, within 60 days of contract award?
4. If not, what is the maximum number of personnel feasible to mobilize within 60 days of contract award?
5. What is the minimum timeframe feasible for full mobilization of a guard force of approximately 500-600 personnel?
6. If a phased approach is used for mobilization, please describe the number of personnel and timelines you could reasonably expect to accomplish full operating capability?
7. What are some of the barriers you anticipate could impact expedited mobilization?
You have the option to present evidence that you are capable of providing the services required and as such your response may contain any information that you feel is relevant. Please provide an electronic copy of your submitted information to the point of contact email@example.com NO LATER THAN 13 October 2014 by 1800 hours EST.
FBO RFI here.