Posts Tagged DoS

Cool Stuff: Hagel, Biden And Kerry Rescued By Security Contractors In Afghanistan, 2008

This is awesome. A big hat tip to Will for putting this one up on his site. In this photo below, it shows Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Vice President Joe Biden and on the far right, Secretary of State John Kerry, which back then they were all Senators. The back story of this photo is that all three of these men were in a helicopter in Afghanistan during winter. During the flight, the snow got really bad and the helicopters were forced to land on some mountain top in Afghanistan.

They put out a distress call and the military was not in a position to rescue them. So security contractors or what I assume were WPS folks were called in, and they came over land to rescue them. Here is the quote in the article.

With the rapidly worsening weather, there was no way to evacuate the senators to safety by air. The U.S. military didn’t have the necessary people and vehicles nearby to rescue the senators via ground transport before the storm hit.

So the U.S. Embassy asked the men of Blackwater USA to go in by land and evacuate them to Bagram. They did the job, and the senators knew who came to their rescue mountainside when the military could not.

One of the points of Will’s post is that none of these men would acknowledge that they were rescued by contractors, or they outright lied and said it was American troops that rescued them. Here is what then Senator Kerry had to say.

“After several hours, the senators were evacuated by American troops and returned overland to Bagram Air Base, and left for their next scheduled stop in Ankara, Turkey,” a statement from Kerry’s office said. “Sen. Kerry thanks the American troops, who were terrific as always and who continue to do an incredible job in Afghanistan.”

Nope, you were not rescued by American troops– you were rescued by civilians or security contractors…..

Oh well, but at least I can help to correct the record on this blog and give it some more attention. This is just one example of many, where security contractors were the ‘cavalry’ and yet their actions were ignored or barely given a mention. If folks have any photos of the convoy that rolled up to rescue them, I would gladly make the edit and add it to this post. Good job to that team for making this rescue! –Matt

Edit: 09/24/2014–If you check out the comments below, you will see that there was a military convoy that went up to rescue these folks, but there were also contractors in vehicles that went with this convoy. So to clarify, both military and contractors were involved in this rescue operation. At the time of writing this post, I was only going with the information that was available or what was coming in via comments and email. I wasn’t there.  I also said I would make an edit if new information came in, so hopefully this helps. Keep checking the comments and the full story will present itself. Thanks to all for correcting the record and contributing to the story.

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Industry Talk: DynCorp International Honors Defense Of Freedom Medal Recipients

Speaking on behalf of the Department of Defense was Lieutenant General William N. Phillips, and from the Department of State were Ambassador Patrick Kennedy and Ambassador William R. Brownfield.
“There about 17,000 DynCorp personnel serving in a combat theater today. They are serving alongside our warfighters and protecting our freedom. Bottom line – contractor personnel and all they do remains vital to our nation. We depend on them, we rely on them, and they are extraordinary for their execution of the mission,” Phillips said.

Good on DynCorp for honoring their fallen and I certainly hope other companies will follow the same path, if they haven’t done so already. I have written in the past about the process companies and families/friends of the fallen can go through in order to get the Defense of Freedom Medal for their fallen and I highly encourage folks to do this. We must honor the sacrifice of the fallen….

I was also intrigued by this bit of news that came out during the ceremony. The State Department will be building a memorial to honor civilians/contractors that were killed, defending the DoS in the war. Very cool.

During his remarks, Ambassador Brownfield announced that, later this year, the Department of State will unveil a new memorial at the U.S. Department of State to honor civilian personnel, including contractors who have lost their lives serving on police training missions abroad.
“On the thirteenth of May this year, with the support, assistance and my personal gratitude to Under Secretary Kennedy, I hope we will unveil and dedicate a memorial to all those civilian police personnel who have given their lives up in overseas operations,” said Brownfield.

With that said, I certainly hope the new Secretary of State John Kerry will be in attendance, once this memorial is unveiled and dedicated? Better yet, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and the new Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel should all be in attendance. Because all of them owe their lives to the brave actions of security contractors who rescued them off a mountain in Afghanistan! For that matter, most of congress and our senior leadership should be in attendance–past and present, because most of them have been protected by contractors in some capacity in Iraq or Afghanistan, and at some point in this long war. –Matt



DynCorp International Honors Defense of Freedom Medal Recipients
February 28, 2013
DynCorp International hosted the families of 17 employees who were killed while serving U.S. government missions abroad as they received the Department of Defense’s Defense of Freedom medal, posthumously recognizing the contributions their loved ones made for their country. The honorees were killed while working on U.S. Department of State police training missions in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2004 and 2011. The award recipients’ families, representatives from the Department of State and Department of Defense, along with nearly 200 DI personnel were in attendance at the ceremony held February 11, 2013, in the Washington, D.C. area.
Speaking on behalf of the Department of Defense was Lieutenant General William N. Phillips, and from the Department of State were Ambassador Patrick Kennedy and Ambassador William R. Brownfield.
“There about 17,000 DynCorp personnel serving in a combat theater today. They are serving alongside our warfighters and protecting our freedom. Bottom line – contractor personnel and all they do remains vital to our nation. We depend on them, we rely on them, and they are extraordinary for their execution of the mission,” Phillips said.
During his remarks, Ambassador Brownfield announced that, later this year, the Department of State will unveil a new memorial at the U.S. Department of State to honor civilian personnel, including contractors who have lost their lives serving on police training missions abroad.
“On the thirteenth of May this year, with the support, assistance and my personal gratitude to Under Secretary Kennedy, I hope we will unveil and dedicate a memorial to all those civilian police personnel who have given their lives up in overseas operations,” said Brownfield.
Steve Gaffney, chairman and CEO of DynCorp International, placed a special emphasis on the family members who were in attendance, “Each of the 17 individuals who we honor tonight had a profound and lasting impact – not just on our company but on our country – and we often talk about their bravery and strength. But I also want to highlight the bravery and strength of those family members who are here tonight, and who continue to share the stories of their loved ones.”
The Defense of Freedom Medal, the civilian equivalent of the military’s Purple Heart, was presented to the families of the following DI personnel:
Roland Carroll Barvels of Aberdeen, S.D.
Brett Patrick Benton of Dry Ridge, Ky.
Brian Morgan Brian of Camden, Ark.
Michael Wayne Butler of Rembert, S.C.
Mike Dawes of Stilwell, Okla.
Arsenio Ducusin Domingo of Wadmalaw Island, S.C.
Richard Thomas Hickman of Cave Springs, Ga.
Leon Vincent Kimbrell of Boiling Springs, S.C.
Deborah Dawn Klecker of Redman, Ore.
Rudy Guerrero Mesa of Maxwell, Texas
William Lawrence Juneau of Orange County, Calif.
Douglas Stephen Thomas of Lexington, S.C.
Robert McDonald Timmann of Tallahassee, Fla.
Donald Bruce Tow of Lake Havasu, Ariz.
Darrell Leroy Wetherbee of Raymond, Maine
Gary Wayne Willard of Resaca, Ga.
Ronald Austin Zimmerman of Glenwood, Ind.

Link to post here.

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Publications: IG Review Of Best Value Contracting For DoS Local Guard Programs

After reading the latest report on the Benghazi attack called Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi, I came across another really cool report they referenced in regards to Best Value contracting. I thought it was pretty interesting and worthy of some attention here.

Here is the quote about it from the Benghazi report.

Though a few members of the February 17 Brigade and the Libya Shield militia assisted the Americans on the night of the attack, the security that these militias and the local police provided to U.S. personnel was woefully inadequate to the dangerous security environment in Benghazi.
The unarmed local contract guards also provided no meaningful resistance to the attackers. The Department of State’s Inspector General had previously found that concerns about local security guards were not limited to Libya. A February 2012 Department of State Inspector General (IG) report found that more than two-thirds of 86 diplomatic posts around the world surveyed reported problems with their local guard contractors. Of those posts that reported problems with their contractors, 37 percent said there was an insufficient number of local guards and 40 percent said there was insufficient training. The IG found that overseas diplomatic posts, particularly those in high-threat situations beyond Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan urgently needed best-value contracting, which takes into account the past performance of contractors.
Recommendation: When it becomes clear that a host nation cannot adequately perform its functions under the Vienna Convention, the Department of State must provide additional security measures of its own, urgently attempt to upgrade the host nation security forces, or decide to close a U.S. Diplomatic facility and remove U.S. personnel until appropriate steps can be taken to provide adequate security. American personnel who serve us abroad must often work in high risk environments, but when they do, we must provide them with adequate security. That clearly was not the case in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.
Recommendation: The Department must conduct a review of its local guard programs and particularly the use of local guard contractors at high-risk posts who do not meet appropriate standards necessary for the protection of our personnel or facilities.

Did you read that highlight? Urgently needed Best Value contracting….. and this is the IG saying this. lol Myself and others have been promoting the concept for awhile now and at least the IG get’s it. It sounds like DoS is starting to see the light as well.

The one interesting point that was discussed is the 10 percent price preference rule and how local guard force companies were just partnering with US companies in order to qualify. Here is a quote:

U.S. companies or qualified joint ventures “shall be evaluated by reducing the bid by 10 percent.” Based on an examination of contract competition documents for 35 local guard contracts, OIG found that the 10 percent price preference given to qualifying U.S. companies had no effect on the outcome of the awards. OIG further determined that it is easy for foreign companies wishing to take advantage of the price preference to become eligible by simply forming a joint venture with a U.S. company, thus largely negating the purpose of the preference.

So private industry found a loophole and exploited it to win contracts. With that said, I agree with the IG’s take on the 10 percent rule, and that it needs to be changed in order for it to be effective. Here is their suggestion.

Review the need for a 10 percent price preference given to U.S. companies bidding on local guard contracts because the preference has not been demonstrated to be a factor in recent local guard competitions.

Check it out below and it will be located in my Scribd or here on the blog for future reference. –Matt


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Quotes: Eric Nordstrom On Dealing And Fighting With The Bureaucracy Within

I had to put this quote up. It rings true with both the public realm and in private industry, and it is this kind of resistance towards supporting the efforts out in the field that just makes you shake your head in disbelief.

These folks put their lives on the line defending the embassies and consulates throughout the world. The main office tasked with support, should be bending over backwards to provide that support to those security efforts and leadership out in the field–and not fighting them. If that type of relationship is not in place, then that is when accidents or attacks seem to happen–as per the law’s of Murphy…. –Matt



“I said, ‘Jim, you know what makes it most frustrating about this assignment? It’s not the hardships. It’s not the gunfire. It’s not the threats. It’s dealing and fighting against the people, programs, and personnel who are supposed to be supporting me,” Nordstrom said.
He also told the State Department officer, “‘For me, the Taliban is on the inside of the building.”

-Eric Nordstrom, the one-time regional security officer, told the House Oversight Committee that he had a disheartening conversation with the regional director of the agency’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs when he requested additional manpower for the facility. (source)


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Iraq: Iraq Police Development Program–Will It Be Scrapped Or Just Reduced In Size?

The trainers are mostly retired state troopers and other law enforcement personnel on leave from their jobs back home, and a number of officials who criticized the program questioned what those trainers have to offer Iraqi police officials who have been operating in a war zone for years.
Mr. Perito said that the State Department never developed a suitable curriculum and that instead, advisers often “end up talking about their own experiences or tell war stories and it’s not relevant.”
Retired Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, now a senior fellow at the Institute for the Study of War, who oversaw the training of Iraqi security forces from 2007 to 2008, said, “The evidence suggests that the State Department never really engaged the Iraqis to find out what they need and what they want.”

In an effort to ‘right size’ the US mission in Iraq, and adjust to Iraq’s desire to enforce their sovereignty, we are seeing an adjustment happening.  Which makes sense and is totally reasonable. It is the Iraqi’s show now, and it will be very difficult to sell them on a massive program that they think they do not need or even want.

Or, like the quote up top and what SIGIR identified in the report, that DoS should work a little harder at creating a curriculum or program that the Iraqis actually like and want more of. And that would take talking with them, and using some kind of metrics to determine what is working with the course, and what is not.(as SIGIR recommends)

Also, more work needs to be done to convince the police commanders and leaders of Iraq that courses like this actually do increase the effectiveness of their police. But that takes action, not words, and the service out in the field must be evaluated and surveys taken in order to get a feel for what is effective. That old Jundism of ‘get feedback’ comes to mind.

Another point was brought up in the article below that was interesting. And that is security for these police advisers in Iraq. With the military gone, the security these days for operations are contractors.

The Iraqis have also insisted that the training sessions be held at their own facilities, rather than American ones. But reflecting the mistrust that remains between Iraqi and American officials, the State Department’s security guards will not allow the trainers to establish set meeting times at Iraqi facilities, so as not to set a pattern for insurgents, who still sometimes infiltrate Iraq’s military and police.

So as Iraq hassles contractors, or as the Iraqis do a terrible job of securing places that these advisers might visit or the people they might train, that operations in this environment becomes very complex and dangerous. But it isn’t impossible, and security contractor will make it happen–just as long as DoS is working hard about the issue of how Iraqis treat security contractors.

If you are on this program and disagree with what was said in this NYT’s article or what was said in the SIGIR, definitely come up in the comments section and speak up. Also, if anyone at DoS wants to come up and speak about the program on this blog, by all means feel free to do so. Although DoS did make a public statement in regards to this article, and I posted that below along with the SIGIR report done last year about this program. –Matt 


U.S. May Scrap Costly Efforts to Train Iraqi Police
May 13, 2012
In the face of spiraling costs and Iraqi officials who say they never wanted it in the first place, the State Department has slashed — and may jettison entirely by the end of the year — a multibillion-dollar police training program that was to have been the centerpiece of a hugely expanded civilian mission here.
What was originally envisioned as a training cadre of about 350 American law enforcement officers was quickly scaled back to 190 and then to 100. The latest restructuring calls for 50 advisers, but most experts and even some State Department officials say even they may be withdrawn by the end of this year.
The training effort, which began in October and has already cost $500 million, was conceived of as the largest component of a mission billed as the most ambitious American aid effort since the Marshall Plan. Instead, it has emerged as the latest high-profile example of the waning American influence here following the military withdrawal, and it reflects a costly miscalculation on the part of American officials, who did not count on the Iraqi government to assert its sovereignty so aggressively.
“I think that with the departure of the military, the Iraqis decided to say, ‘O.K., how large is the American presence here?’ ” said James F. Jeffrey, the American ambassador to Iraq, in an interview. “How large should it be? How does this equate with our sovereignty? In various areas they obviously expressed some concerns.”

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Iraq: US Embassy Staff Might Be Reduced, And Iraq Continues To Hassle PSC’s

Approved movements have been subject to stops, detentions and confiscation of equipment without justification, impacting delivery of equipment, supplies, and materials to the US embassy, bases and offices throughout the country,” said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.
The Congressional Research Service said last May that the State Department estimated the number of security contractors working for it in Iraq would reach 5,500, “with some 1,500 providing personal security for diplomatic movements and an additional 4,000 providing perimeter security.”
Brooks said “our hope is that the US government will be a bit more proactive,” as the government and embassy, in “our impression, has not been very active in trying to help the Iraqis address this problem.

This first story below is from the New York Times, so take it with a grain of salt. lol And of course as soon as it came out, an edit was made that showed that the NYT jumped the gun a little on this. With that said, it is wise that if you are in WPS (mobile or static security), or one of the numerous contractors assigned to do convoy operations for logistics, then it pays to pay attention to this stuff.

The second story just emphasizes what Iraq is doing to security companies as they try to operate there. If the Embassy can’t get supplies, then point the finger at Iraq for holding up those convoys at the border or for hassling security contractors about paper work/visas/licenses that Iraq has failed provide or update.

In short, things in Iraq are getting a little dicey now that the troops are gone, and the US mission there is having to adjust to this new environment. This was to be expected and there will be many hiccups along the way. The US is also experiencing economic issues and an upcoming election. So cost savings will be a factor, and reducing waste in our overseas operations will be necessary if the current administration wants to show it is serious about saving money (and getting re-elected as a result).

But this administration does not want a failed Iraq mission under it’s belt. They have already cut the troops from Iraq earlier than expected, which is not the smartest thing strategically, but it makes sense politically. But cutting security will only add one more planet into alignment for a really bad situation or situations that could truly stain a political campaign. Security should be the last thing you mess with, and especially in that chaotic and extremely dangerous environment.

There is also politics and corruption in Iraq that is impacting operations. A visa or license or whatever is required for the companies to operate can be a simple and fair process if Iraq wants these companies there. Or it can be a complex and unfair process if these officials have other things in mind. Maybe they are looking for kickbacks, and purposely targeting foreign companies so that Iraq companies are able to secure all of this work. Especially for supplying the embassy, or for oil related security contracts. (Strategy Page is echoing the same thing in their post about PSC’s in Iraq and the Embassy)

Perhaps this was a concession when the Sunni-bloc came back in to join parliament? Perhaps there is a focus on attacking logistics using government and political mechanisms, so that the Embassy is forced to reduce in size so it can be weaker for an attack. Or get more Iraqis involved with working at the Embassy, so as to get more spies or even attackers on the inside?

Who knows? All I know is that there is a reason why Iraq is doing this, and that reason often revolves around money or extortion of some sort. Meaning ‘if you do this, maybe we will do this’. We see the same thing happening in Afghanistan, and maybe Iraq is taking notes from the Afghans on how to play the US. It is ironic to me that we have the largest Embassies in the world in both countries, have expended much American/Coalition blood and treasure in both countries, and yet simple matters like visas, licenses or even a MOU or SOFA cannot be worked out? That corruption in these countries is trumping our so-called ‘diplomatic’ missions there. Certainly we can do better and get better for what has been invested.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that there is a third party that has a say so in this matter. That would be the insurgents and jihadists in Iraq who are in the shadows and doing all they can to attack Iraq and the US mission there. You also have Iran doing what they can to exert influence. You can slash the staff at the Embassy, but the security requirement to protect that Embassy does not change. That’s unless the grounds of the Embassy are slashed as well and given back to the Iraqis.

But as you give up more ground, then that gives more ground to the enemy so they can maneuver closer for attacks. If patrols in the area decrease, then that means the enemy can launch more mortars/rockets, drive more VBIED’s, or use more suicide assaulters. So security is still essential and will be even more important as you give up more territory.

I could see the mobile side of WPS decreasing a little, but not by much. If there is still going to be 1,000 diplomats as opposed to 2,000 diplomats (if they are halved according to the article), then those 1,000 will still have to do their missions in Iraq. Or does state plan on never leaving their Embassy?

We could also have an extremely small footprint in Iraq, and bring it on par with the size of other Embassies in the world. But there are a couple of issues that are front and center for the US, which to me justifies a presence there. Oil, Iran, Jihadists and the continuing collapse of regimes in the Middle East because of the Arab Spring (Syria comes to mind). If we can keep Iraq functioning and focused on their oil goals, and goals for their nation’s well being, then that is a good thing. How many diplomats that takes and how we do that is out of my lane. But these are considerations when we think about why we are there.

Now the one thing that looked like it was getting a look for cuts was the police training contract, and that would also include all the logistics required for that. So that might be a big savings and reduction right there.

One State Department program that is likely to be scrutinized is an ambitious program to train the Iraqi police, which is costing about $500 million this year — far less than the nearly $1 billion that the embassy originally intended to spend. The program has generated considerable skepticism within the State Department — one of the officials interviewed predicted that the program could be scrapped later this year — because of the high cost of the support staff, the inability of police advisers to leave their bases because of the volatile security situation and a lack of support by the Iraqi government.

Interesting stuff and I would like to hear what you guys think? Either way, I will keep my eye on this as it develops. –Matt

Edit: 02/10/2012- It looks like State is trying to clarify a little more as to what they plan on doing. Here is a quote below. Also be sure to follow Diplopundit’s take on the whole thing, because they are also questioning the security cuts (if made), and who would step in as replacements (maybe Iraqi security?). I doubt they would go this path and DoS is not about to put the lives of it’s diplomats at the hands of Iraqi security forces….quite yet.

The State Department has asked each component of the massive U.S. diplomatic mission in Baghdad to analyze how a 25 percent cut would affect operations, part of a rapidly moving attempt to save money and establish what a top official on Wednesday called “a more normalized embassy presence.”
“We’re going to be looking at how we’re going to do that over the next year,” said Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R. Nides. “What we’re not going to do is make knee-jerk decisions” that could jeopardize the security of the thousands of U.S. citizens working in Iraq, he said.


US Embassy in Iraq.


U.S. Planning to Slash Iraq Embassy Staff by as Much as Half
February 7, 2012
Less than two months after American troops left, the State Department is preparing to slash by as much as half the enormous diplomatic presence it had planned for Iraq, a sharp sign of declining American influence in the country.
Officials in Baghdad and Washington said that Ambassador James F. Jeffrey and other senior State Department officials were reconsidering the size and scope of the embassy, where the staff has swelled to nearly 16,000 people, mostly contractors.
The expansive diplomatic operation and the $750 million embassy building, the largest of its kind in the world, were billed as necessary to nurture a postwar Iraq on its shaky path to democracy and establish normal relations between two countries linked by blood and mutual suspicion. But the Americans have been frustrated by what they see as Iraqi obstructionism and are now largely confined to the embassy because of security concerns, unable to interact enough with ordinary Iraqis to justify the $6 billion annual price tag.

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