Posts Tagged AGNA

Industry Talk: Aegis Guards Speak In Kabul… And Their Leaders Should Have Listened

First off, bravo to these guards for voicing their concerns and holding their company and leaders accountable. I also want to say thanks to POGO for putting this out there, both on their blog and over at Foreign Policy magazine.

As I read through this post, it looks to me like the company’s leaders have done a terrible job of listening to their guard force’s concerns about security or even about the day to day operations of the company. And if the actions of the company and these leaders are causing folks to leave, then that only creates more problems for the guys on the ground because they work more hours and get burned out.

Another point I want to bring up is that today’s security contracting industry is filled with combat seasoned contractors who know exactly what is needed to actually provide security in a war zone. If these guys are recognizing deficiencies in the security apparatus of the embassy, then it would behoove the leadership to listen to these concerns and make adjustments. Especially after such incidents like what happened in Benghazi.

They should be thanking these men for actually caring about the mission and the defense of the facility, and bringing these concerns forward. Instead, it looks like the ego of these leaders is more important and they have chosen to fire or reprimand those who actually spoke up. Shameful….

On that note, it makes no sense at all for a leader or leaders of a security force to not listen to this pool of combat veterans, security contractor veterans or police veterans, that when combined, would have years of experience and knowledge. It should be the goal of that leadership to tap into that pool of ‘human resource’, and take full advantage of that. To use that resource to build a better security apparatus or use it as part of their Kaizen or continuous improvement plan, and then reward that resource by giving them the credit and encouraging them to do it again and again. Call it collaboration or team work, and it works if you actually allow it to happen and know how to use it.

People will also support what they help to create, which is a Jundism. It is also a great way of showing that you are not a toxic leader.

Either way, we will see how this turns out? Obviously this is a black eye on the management of Aegis because it got to this level, and some changes are in order if they intend to hang onto this contract. -Matt

Edit: 01/24/2013- It sounds like four of the guards have filed a $5 million lawsuit against Aegis for being told to lie on their time sheets. The law firms they are using are The Employment Law Group and Lichten & Liss-Riordan. Here is a link to the court filing.

 

A “Mutiny” in Kabul: Guards Allege Security Problems Have Put Embassy at Risk
January 17, 2013
By Adam Zagorin
Private guards responsible for protecting what may be the most at-risk U.S. diplomatic mission in the world — the embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan — say security weaknesses have left it dangerously vulnerable to attack.
In interviews and written communications with the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), current and former guards said a variety of shortcomings, from inadequate weapons training to an overextended guard force, have compromised security there — security provided under a half-a-billion-dollar contract with Aegis Defense Services, the U.S. subsidiary of a British firm. “[I]f we ever got seriously hit [by terrorists], there is no doubt in my mind the guard force here would not be able to handle it, and mass casualties and mayhem would ensue,” a guard serving at the embassy wrote in a late November message to POGO.
“[I]f we ever got seriously hit [by terrorists], there is no doubt in my mind the guard force here would not be able to handle it, and mass casualties and mayhem would ensue.”
In July, dissatisfaction boiled over when more than 40 members of the embassy’s Emergency Response Team signed a petition sounding an alarm about embassy security, people familiar with the document said. The petition, submitted to the State Department and Aegis, expressed a “vote of no confidence” in three of the guard force leaders, accusing them of “tactical incompetence” and “a dangerous lack of understanding of the operational environment.” Two guards say they were quickly fired after organizing the petition, in what they called “retaliation.”
A State Department document obtained by POGO describes a “mutiny” among guards who defend the Kabul embassy — an apparent reference to the petition, though the document does not explicitly mention it. Dated July 18, 2012, and labeled “SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED,” the document says that the mutiny was “baseless” but that it “undermined the chain of command” and “put the security of the Embassy at risk.”

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Afghanistan: The US Embassy Is Attacked, And Yet Nothing Said About Security Contractor Performance?

Boy, this latest attack in Kabul was an interesting incident. Purely because I have yet to hear anything at all about the security contractor performance during this whole deal.

Now I will tell you what I have heard that is not making the news, and that is at least one Afghan security guard was wounded on the compound itself. I have also heard that the tower that the Taliban were using in this attack was a major concern of security contractors that have been posted at that site over the years. It is the high ground, and positions like this are always a concern. But what was done about it? Because I am sure the RSO’s over the years had received an earful about it.

I have also heard that there weren’t any M-2′s or MK-19′s used to decimate those enemy positions in the tower. At those distances, something like a M-2 .50 cal. could reach the tower and pour some hate on it.  It might have saved some lives, and yet I am hearing that the military component of the defense did not respond with such tools? I could be wrong here, and I would like to be corrected on this. Because I am sure the contractors didn’t have those tools or authority to use those kinds of weapons. (The video below shows the fight at ISAF, and I don’t see any heavy weapons being used?)

Either way, I would love to hear from any contractors or soldiers that were on scene on any of those compounds that were involved in this fight. Because it is just odd to me that we spend this much money on the WPS guys and the KESF guys, and everyone else in between, and there is nothing at all about their good work and sacrifice? It is actually in poor taste that the DoS, ISAF or NATO refuses to say anything at all about our industry’s contribution in incidents like this.

The other reason why I wanted to post this is to give any of the companies and DoS/ISAF/NATO a chance to communicate about the contractor performance during this deal. Because as we speak, the media and new media folks out there are filling in the vacuum of information with their narrative.

You have folks like POGO that have been excellent at pointing out the deficiencies of companies like AGNA, but currently is spinning this latest deal as if AGNA performed poorly in this incident? And yet POGO has not one shred of information to support anything of the sort. So instead, they go off on the past performance of AGNA to leave the reader with the idea that they ‘must have performed poorly during this incident’. That is what I mean by narrative, and DoS and company silence is doing more harm than good.

Hell, if you want, I could spin this as a deal where the contractors performed well?  I could just assume that because not one diplomat or federal employee was killed or injured, that the defense was excellent. Or I could use quotes from guys like General Carsten Jacobsen:

He said the attack proved the security of the Nato and US embassy compounds, which were not breached, and said the Afghan forces responded “very well” and quickly.

But instead, I would like to draw some conclusions based on facts. So help me out folks, and don’t let others who could care less about the facts control the narrative.

Now of course the DoS/ISAF/NATO is probably instructing AGNA or other companies not to make any press releases, or there is some contract stipulation against such things, but still?  It is just horribly odd to me that there is not a mention about the very people that put their lives on the line to defend the property and people of these compounds during such a publicized attack? -Matt

(definitely ‘like’ the US Embassy in Kabul, ISAF and NATO let them know on their wall what you think)

Edit: 9/15/2011- Supposedly there were two contractor injuries. Thanks to a reader for the information.

Edit: 9/16/2011- Ok, I have had several reports from readers that contractors were engaged in combat during this deal. Meaning, they were using their weapons to defend against attackers. Which I am glad they did, and I certainly hope they killed some of these Taliban attackers? Nothing confirmed as far as how many Taliban were killed by contractors. There were also multiple RPG hits within the compound.

 

 

Statement from Ambassador Crocker on Attacks of September 13, 2011
Yesterday was a long and difficult day for the U.S. Embassy, for ISAF and for the residents of Kabul.  We witnessed both cowardly attacks by an increasingly desperate insurgency, as well as instances of enormous courage and dedication on the part of ISAF troops and especially the Afghan National Security Forces.  It was Afghan police and soldiers who bravely ended the attack on the embassy and stopped further strikes on Kabul Airport, two police stations, and a local high school.  We mourn the Afghan civilians and the brave troops and security forces killed in these actions, and wish a full recovery to the wounded, which include Afghan civilians and American and partner-nation troops.  We offer condolences to the families of these innocent victims.??The attacks serve to highlight the weakness at the core of the insurgency.  Unable to confront ISAF and newly-trained Afghan troops on the conventional battlefield, they have turned to launching attacks on high-profile facilities like the U.S. Embassy in an attempt to garner headlines.  Yet their actions backfired. Afghan security forces showed they were up to the task of thwarting such operations and are willing to sacrifice their lives to reclaim their communities and country.  Unlike the insurgents, the ANSF took great care to avoid civilian casualties. The transition to Afghan-led security is on track, as we turn our focus to long-term efforts for supporting a more secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.??As Secretary of State Clinton said yesterday, “We will be vigilant, but we will be continuing with even greater commitment to doing all we can to give the Afghan people, who have suffered so much, a chance at a better future for themselves and their children.”
Press release here.
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UPDATED: U.S. Embassy Statement
September 13, 2011
The U.S. Embassy confirms an attack occurred today in the area of the U.S. Embassy, including RPG and small arms fire.  Four Afghans were injured in the attack on the embassy compound, none with life threatening injuries.  They included three Afghan visa applicants and one local contract guard.

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Legal News: AGNA And It’s Affiliates Pay $7.5 Million To Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

Wow, this is quite the legal news day!  James Gordon has been fighting this one for a long time, and it is good to see him become victorious in his case. ($1.35 million for a settlement is not bad)  This is also an interesting precedence for False Claims Acts, because now guys can look at this case as an example of how to go about pursuing similar cases.  Debra Katz was Gordon’s legal counsel and she would be a good one to put on retainer if you have a False Claims Act that you would like to pursue. -Matt

Edit: 07/11/2011- I have just been contacted by a representative of AGNA in regards to their side of the case. Out of fairness, I think it is important to post their view and you can read their statement in the comments section below.

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Armor Group North America and Its Affiliates Pay $7.5 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations
Armor Group North America Inc. (AGNA) and its affiliates have paid the United States $7.5 million to resolve allegations that AGNA submitted false claims for payment on a State Department contract to provide armed guard services at the U.S.   Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Justice Department announced today. The settlement resolves U.S. claims that in 2007 and 2008, AGNA guards violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) by visiting brothels in Kabul, and that AGNA’s management knew about the guards’ activities. The settlement also resolves allegations that AGNA misrepresented the prior work experience of 38 third country national guards it had hired to guard the Embassy, and that AGNA failed to comply with certain Foreign Ownership, Control and Influence mitigation requirements on the embassy contract, and on a separate contract to provide guard services at a Naval Support Facility in Bahrain.
The settlement resolves a whistleblower suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.   The lawsuit was initially filed under seal by James Gordon against AGNA, ArmorGroup International plc, G4S plc and Wackenhut Services Inc. under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals, called “relators”, to bring lawsuits on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of the proceeds of a settlement or judgment awarded against a defendant.   Mr. Gordon will receive $1.35 million of the settlement proceeds.   During 2007 and early 2008, Mr. Gordon was employed by AGNA, as its director of operations.

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Industry Talk: State Department Dismisses EODT From The Kabul Embassy Contract

 

This actually came out on the forums a couple days back.  Supposedly everyone that was slated for this contract is now being redirected to other places, like Iraq. Although that is just rumor from the forums. Perhaps if anyone from EODT would like to comment or correct the record on this, feel free to say so in the comments section or send me an email.

AGNA is also hanging on to this sucker for a bit longer. I am sure the guys working for them right now have been going through a roller coaster of emotions as to how long the contract will last and who will they work for next? These transition periods can be very aggravating to say the least. -Matt

State Department axes guard firm for Kabul embassy

March 17, 2011

The State Department has fired the contractor it hired to guard the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, leaving protection of the key diplomatic outpost in the hands of another company the department has been trying to replace for more than a year.

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Publications: OIG MERO Kabul Embassy Security Force Performance Evaluation–Sept 2010

OIG MERO Kabul Embassy Security Force Performance Evaluation, Sept 2010

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Industry Talk: AGNA Report News–Sloppy Reporting And Range Violations By The IG In Afghanistan

     A senior level review of the misconduct allegations against AGNA personnel, combined with AGNA’s history of contract compliance de?ciencies, led DS, AQM, and Embassy Kabul to conclude that it was in the best interests of the Government to compete a new contract. In light of recent legislation, the KESF contract has been combined with the Baghdad Embassy Security Force and Worldwide Personal Protective Services II (WPPS II) contracts into one base Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) contract.  The new WPS contract is a multi-award, inde?nite delivery, inde?nite quantity (IDIQ) contract that will be awarded on a best value basis. Individual requirements, such as the KESF, will be awarded as task orders under the base WPS contract. The current KESF contract with AGNA expired on June 30, 2010, but performance has been extended until the end of December 2010 to allow for the completion of the acquisition process for the new WPS contract and KESF task order and to provide for an orderly transition to the next provider. -From the Bureau of DS Comments in Report 

     What I wanted to do here is give the former contractors and managers of Armorgroup North America a chance to voice their opinion of the latest report. My inbox is filled with numerous emails from former employees and managers of AGNA, all wanting to tell their side of story. Partly because Congress, State or the IG really could care less about the little guy on the ground, and partly because the report is sloppy. So call this a rebuttal from the little guy.

     This particular email was from a former manager at AGNA, whose identity I will refer to as ‘former manager’. I would hope that this would have some significance to those that are reading this, and that what he has to say pretty much conflicts with what the IG is reporting. Specifically that the weapons issue pointed out in the report was lacking some key points, and that the IG violated the range rules during their inspection.

     I might also add that there is nothing in the report that discusses how AGNA came to be contracted in the first place. The Commission on Wartime Contracting came out with an excellent and damning report about how Lowest Priced, Technically Acceptable contracting is what created the environment that forced State to contract with the lowest bidder.

     It is also interesting to me that Danielle Brian of POGO still asserts that LPTA is a legitimate contracting mechanism for security contracting in war zones, when there has been several reports presented that have identified the horrific secondary affects of this type of contracting in war-zones.

     Best Value contracting would have given State more choice and flexibility in the matter, and they could have gone with the best company for the job and not with the cheapest or technically acceptable. It would not have been a race to the bottom, but a race to the best value company for the job.

    Furthermore, why is POGO so silent about the TWISS program, another example of the failure of LPTA? (did I mention that companies are now considering Sierra Leone contractors as guards because they are cheaper than Ugandans?) I know POGO reads the blog and I have directed everyone that has complained to me, to go to POGO and voice their concern. I would like to think that POGO would actually listen to what the guys on the ground have to say about such things?

     Or why is the Army using LPTA for FOB security in Afghanistan, when the CWC is so opposed to it? I posted a ton of contracts flying that were all LPTA, and here we are trying to convince Karzai to not ban PSC companies. With LPTA, we are giving him more ammunition by putting our lowest bidders, ‘junior varsity squads’ out there. Pffft.

     The other thing that pisses me off about LPTA, is that the troops see the direct result of this on the FOBs. How would you feel if you were being protected by the lowest bidder? It is a simple question, that pisses off most when they come to the conclusion that they don’t like it. Especially if their base has been attacked, like what has happened frequently in Afghanistan.

     LPTA doesn’t work for picking a doctor to cure your sick mother, and it doesn’t work for picking a company to protect your people in a war zone. LPTA is great for picking a company to rake your leaves though. lol You get what you pay for, and that is the lesson I got out of the reports.

    Thats not to say that State or AGNA doesn’t share any fault here, but Congress must take more blame, and all because they insisted on lowballing the security for Embassy protection in the first place.

    Finally, this post is about the guys on the ground who were contracted to operate in this environment. They are the ones that take on the task of trying to make this mess work. No one signs on to a contract to do bad. They sign on so they can be employed and pay their bills/feed their family at home. They sign on because they care about participating in the war. They are also sacrificing by being away from family, or facing death and injury in war-zones–and all for their country and for the war effort. We should support them, not hate them.

     Most guys whom have done the contracting thing for awhile have also worked for numerous companies. A contractor could have worked for Xe, Custer Battles, Erinys, Aegis, AGNA etc., and that is not abnormal nor does that mean the contractor is a bad guy. They are going where the work is so they can continue to earn a living and serve in the war. I am sure when EODT takes over this contract in Kabul, AGNA guys will be ‘switching t-shirts’ and transition under the management of this new company.

     I want to make sure that Congress, State, AGNA, and now EODT knows that these men need leaders who can manage a ‘properly funded, staffed, and equipped’ contract at all levels. These men are not the bad guys, and they deserve the best management we can give them.

     This work force will move mountains for you, if you actually apply a little Jundism to your management principles as well. Know your stuff, have the courage to do what is right, and take care of your people. Trust, but verify. Lead by example. Lead from the front. Your people will support what they help to create. Obtain feedback gold. Create a learning organization and gain a shared reality. Continuous improvement and customer service and satisfaction. Have fun.  All of this stuff is important, and all of it should be geared towards results and getting the job done. -Matt

 

From Former Manager at AGNA

     “Sorry I cannot be more forthcoming with dates and witnesses, most have left. A number of the team in Kabul are upset as great progress has been made and this is rarely acknowledged, we just get the old issues regurgitated and inaccurate reporting. No organisation, or individual, is perfect and mistakes will be made, but, this report is poor and has an impact on individuals and corporations. How can organizations be expected to work with the IG if they produce sloppy reports, it is counter productive. Instead of working on ways to improve the contracting process and performance; it erodes it – people do not put things in writing, everyone tries to cover their backs all the time, every decision takes a long time/ or make poor ones, as people try to assess what an inspector or congressman (who has to be re-elected every two years) might say three years from now and with 20/20 hindsight.”

From IG Report In Regards To The Firing Range

      AGNA does not adequately maintain training records. AGNA firearms instructors failed to sufficiently instruct guards to help correct firing errors. Instructors also qualified guards who did not achieve the minimum qualifying score at the firing range.

From Former Manager at AGNA

     “There are other areas that need to be looked at – such as the statement that AGNA fails to conduct weapon training properly – how can they make this a key finding from a visit to one range? The same range the inspector is removed from the firing line by a former ranger chief instructor for moving in front of the firing line. The same inspector who, in front of the project manager, grabbed an M4 from a guard to check the serial number, not checking the weapon status/ clearing it and muzzle sweeping personnel in the process – we would be disciplined for handling a weapon in this way. How can they say AGNA put guards on post who failed the weapons qual, without checking the source documentation? (which they found difficult to navigate but did not ask the training staff to assist them in finding). Have you looked at the equation they used with regard to rifle quals? It makes no sense to me and I believe the two personnel they say failed actually had passed if you looked at the source document, not the spreadsheet where results are collated. They say guards were on post for 8 months without training, yet they interviewed some of these guards, I would imagine that they should have asked them if they had undergone training and when? If they were trained prior to standing post (which they were) then it is an issue of maintenance of records, which is still a problem to be highlighted and resolved, but does not effect the security of the Embassy.”

From IG Report In Regards To Weapons

     AGNA’s current control of U.S. Government-furnished property is generally satisfactory, but AGNA cannot account for 101 U.S. Government-furnished weapons that have been missing since 2007. Additionally, from July 2007 until September 2009, AGNA used U.S. Government-furnished weapons to train guards when contractor-furnished weapons were required by its contract. OIG calculates that AGNA’s loss and misuse of these U.S. Government-furnished weapons cost the government $431,000.

*****

     OIG found that AGNA cannot account for 101 U.S. Government-furnished assault ri?es of a lot of 116 that was to be returned to the U.S. Government in July 2007 under a contract modi?cation. OIG found one missing assault ri?e of this lot under a desk in an AGNA of?ce. The photo on the right in Figure 3 shows the assault ri?e as found under the desk. DS was able to locate an addition 14 weapons that had been transferred to other State Department of?ces and US Government agencies. Neither AGNA nor DS could provide documentation verifying the return or location of the remaining 101 assault ri?es. OIG calculates this assault ri?e lot is worth approximately $50,000.

     According to correspondence between the Department and AGNA management, from July 2007 until September 2009, AGNA did not provide a suf?cient number of contractor-furnished weapons to the KESF guards. Instead, AGNA used U.S. Government-furnished weapons for training, although the contract required contractor-furnished weapons (U.S. Government-furnished weapons are to be used for guard duty). AGNA and the Department negotiated a ?nancial settlement in which AGNA was to reimburse the U.S. Government $381,000 for the use of these weapons. However, OIG reviewed invoices and found that AGNA has not yet reimbursed the Department. DS of? cials con?rmed that AGNA has yet to reimburse the Department.

From Former Manager at AGNA

     “The original contract and mod 1 contained 116 soviet block weapons that were used on the previous contract, before the Govt supplied US weapons. As these weapons were not going to be used on the program DoS moved them to their own storage unit prior to 1 July 2007 (when AGNA took responsibility for the contract). Consequently these weapons were never part of the equipment handover and AGNA did not sign for them on handover. Because of this the contract was modified in mid July 2007 reflecting this. How can AGNA provide handover documentation for items they were never responsible for? It seems as if the IG assumed AGNA was responsible because the contract mod was mid July, but that is a poor assumption, and the IG was informed of the situation by DS.”

     “From what I understand DoS then gave AGNA some of the weapons (7 or so) to use for identification training (they were generally kept on the training/ briefing room in full view), but they were demilitarized (welded bolt, soldered and bent barrel etc). One of these weapons is the one seen in the photograph in the report. Other weapons were sent to the US for use at DS facilites and the rest were disposed of, although I do not know how. Most of the people involved in this are DoS personnel who oversaw the program handover. Those from AGNA have since left the company. However, with all the scrutiny on this program you would think that DoS would have mentioned AGNA ‘losing’ 100+ weapons before now…”

Comments from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security in Report

     A senior level review of the misconduct allegations against AGNA personnel, combined with AGNA’s history of contract compliance de?ciencies, led DS, AQM, and Embassy Kabul to conclude that it was in the best interests of the Government to compete a new contract. In light of recent legislation, the KESF contract has been combined with the Baghdad Embassy Security Force and Worldwide Personal Protective Services II (WPPS II) contracts into one base Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) contract.  The new WPS contract is a multi-award, inde?nite delivery, inde?nite quantity (IDIQ) contract that will be awarded on a best value basis. Individual requirements, such as the KESF, will be awarded as task orders under the base WPS contract. The current KESF contract with AGNA expired on June 30, 2010, but performance has been extended until the end of December 2010 to allow for the completion of the acquisition process for the new WPS contract and KESF task order and to provide for an orderly transition to the next provider.

Link to report here.

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