Posts Tagged security contracting

Legal News: Leahy, Price Reintroduce CEJA Bill

Interesting news on the legal front. The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act has been brought up before in the past to give DoJ the jurisdiction necessary to prosecute non-military related contractors. Which is a significant portion of US government contractors. This group would include DoS or ‘other government agency’ type contractors, and this legislation would close that gap. Currently the MEJA covers military related contractors.

Why this is important, and especially now, is that contractors currently work in countries where they are not covered by a SOFA or have immunity. They are basically at the mercy of the local judicial process.  CEJA, like MEJA, would give the US government jurisdiction over contractors that it hires for work in these countries that have no SOFA in place to cover them. Iraq is an example of such arrangement and WPS guys and embassy protection forces are there, currently working for DoS.  CEJA would give jurisdiction for prosecution to the US government.

In other words, if you ran into trouble, would you rather be tried in a US legal system or some overseas third world court run by corrupt officials?

Another point with the CEJA is that it further legitimizes the PMSC industry. It helps to take away that argument that we are somehow ‘above the law’ or untouchable. Clients of our services will benefit from having a protective force that can be held accountable.

It will also contribute to a speedier trial. Just ask the contractors involved with the Nisour Square incident, that have been in a legal mess for years. The legal jurisdiction has been a factor.

So we will see where this goes. One critique I do have in regards to this press release is the mention of Jamie Leigh Jones and her case. Whereas the jurisdictional questions about her case are valid to bring up, I find it disingenuous to not mention the fact that she lied about the whole thing.

To read up on the past issues with the CEJA, check out David Isenberg’s commentary on it over the years. Here is a copy of the latest bill and the Congressional Research Service wrote a report on the particulars of why a CEJA is the right thing to do. We will see how the committee treats this one. -Matt

 

Senator Patrick Leahy in a committee.

 

Leahy, Price introduce legislation to hold American contractors overseas accountable
News Release — Sen. Patrick Leahy

July 14, 2014
Contact:?Jessica Brady (w/Leahy) – 202-224-7703?Andrew High (w/Price) – 202-225-1784
Also helps lay groundwork for eventual preclearance arrangements in restoring Vermont-to-Montreal passenger rail service??WASHINGTON (MONDAY, July 14, 2014) – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman David Price (D-N.C.) renewed their partnership on bicameral legislation to provide accountability for American contractors and government employees working abroad.
The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA), which the lawmakers introduced Monday, would close a gap in current law and ensure that government employees and contractors working overseas can be prosecuted for criminal acts they commit abroad. The two lawmakers have worked together on the legislation for years.
The legislation allows the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute government contractors and employees for certain crimes committed overseas. Tragedies like the 2007 killing of unarmed civilians in Baghdad by private security contractors with Blackwater underscore the need for clear jurisdiction and trained investigative and prosecutorial task forces able to hold wrongdoers accountable. Four Blackwater guards involved in the Nisour Square shooting are currently on trial.
“The Blackwater trial is only just now under way, seven years after this tragedy, and the defendants continue to argue in court that the U.S. government does not have jurisdiction to prosecute them,” Senator Leahy said. “This bill would also provide greater protection to American victims of crime, as it would lead to more accountability for crimes committed by U.S. government contractors and employees against Americans working abroad.”

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Publications: Private Military Contractor International

This is a digital publication, and I was not able to get an embed code for it so you can read it here. If you want to read it, just click on the links below and then expand the magazine so you can read it online.

What is cool about this mag is that it is going over some old school stories that happened back in the early days of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, I totally forgot the story about Wolf Weiss. Anyway,  check it out and I have no idea if they will continue to publish this digital magazine or if they are planning to make hard copies and sell on the news stands. -Matt

Edit: Also, it looks like PMCI is looking for writers. h/t Soldier Systems.

 

Private Military Contractor International-April 2014
Published on 9 March 2014
Issue description:
Private Military Contractor International is a digital magazine specifically for PMC Operatives and companies involved in the Private Military and Security sectors. Written by individuals with many years of experience in their particular field, each issue will contain a mix of product reviews, news and general interest features, as well as social and lifestyle articles. The Pre-Launch sample is a small representative example which provides a small snapshot of what future editions will contain.
Magazine description:
Private Military Contractor International is a digital magazine specifically for PMC Operatives and companies involved in the Private Military and Security sectors. Written by individuals with many years of experience in their particular field, each issue will contain a mix of product reviews, news and general interest features, as well as social and lifestyle articles.

Find publication on Joomag here.

Find on itunes here.

PDF of publication here.

Facebook for PMCI here.

 

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History: The Battle For Najaf, By Travis Haley

This is an excellent story on this famous battle, fought by the contractors and military assigned to protect the CPA in Najaf, Iraq back in 2004. By now, most folks familiar with the battle have seen this video of the battle circulating around the net, and it gives a snapshot of what these guys were up against. Travis has added more detail to the big picture of what was happening at the time, to include lessons learned.

You can also read more about Travis and his history and contribution to the training industry over at his website.  He also did a post over at OAF about his experience. Check it out and it is definitely worth your time. -Matt

 

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Publications: RAND–Out Of The Shadows, A Survey On Contractor Health

Awhile back I was contacted by RAND to help promote this survey. I agreed because there was not enough information out there on the subject of contractor physical and mental health in these wars. So it is cool to see a final product and available for folks to check out.

The information provided is pretty revealing and I highly suggest reviewing the document if you are interested in either getting into this industry, or just learning about the actual health of this industry.

Now for some of the interesting tidbits that I found in the survey.

Only 16 percent of contractors sampled had ever made a DBA claim. Among those whose most recent contract had been funded by the U.S. government, 22 percent reported that they had made a DBA claim. The DBA mandates that all civilian employees working outside the United States on U.S. military bases or under a contract with the U.S. government for public works or national defense have access to workers’ compensation for injuries or deaths sustained as a result of such employment. We found that, among respondents who applied for benefits, 57 percent of claims were approved and 37 percent were either denied or still being processed at the time of the survey. (Six percent of respondents reported that they did not know the outcome of their DBA claim.) Contractors from the United States were more likely to file DBA claims than those from other countries. -page 20

Only 57 percent approved?  This is a horrible statistic, but not new. The survey mentioned the findings of T. Christian Miller’s report as well, which I posted several years back.

In a series of articles for ProPublica, T. Christian Miller reported on the types of physical and mental health problems affecting contractors, including loss of limbs,burns, loss of hearing or eyesight, various wounds (such as from shrapnel, gunshots, mortar attacks, or IEDs), PTSD, TBI, depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide. Despite the reported frequency and severity of these problems, Miller (2009a) found that between 2002 and 2007, “insurers had denied 44 percent of all serious injury claims” under the DBA and that they “also turned down 60 percent of contractors who claimed to suffer psychological damage, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.” He highlights systemic flaws in the DBA—along with a lack of regulation and enforcement by the U.S. Department of Labor and the monopoly of insurance company AIG—as contributors to the high rate of DBA claim denial.

 It just blows me away that ’60 percent of contractors’ with PTSD or some mental health issue, were turned down! And according to this recent survey, only 57 of these folks surveyed had that had DBA claims, had them approved. That has to change and contractors have sacrificed in this war. They deserve better than that, and it is shameful contractors are treated like this.

They also mentioned a company that specializes in providing mental health services. Back in 2008, I wrote a brief deal about Mission Critical Psychological Services and it is good to see they are still doing their thing.

Individual private companies have also developed programs to address the psychological challenges facing contractors, though there is limited publicly available information on how these programs are structured or the types of support they offer. For example, Mission Critical Psychological Services is a U.S.-based firm that provides psychological support services to firms in the contracting industry. Asked to estimate the number of contractors suffering from mental health issues, its CEO stated, “I think the numbers are in the thousands, maybe tens of thousands. Many are going undiagnosed. These guys are fighting demons, and they don’t know how to cope” (Risen, 2007). -page 45

I hope to see more companies pop up to meet the demand of contractor mental health, and especially after reports like this bringing attention to the matter. Or maybe, PMSC’s will be more focused on paying attention to this. Especially when they get their various certifications that show how compliant they are or when they are signatories to things like the ICoC. Check this quote out.

The extent to which the diverse array of contracting companies rely on private providers of psychological services tailored to the industry is unclear. However, recent U.S. and international codes and standards aimed at regulating the private security industry, in particular, clearly mandate that these firms establish policies that promote a safe and healthy working environment, including policies that address the psychological health of employees. One such requirement is embedded in the American National Standards Institute/ASIS International document Management System for Quality of Private Security Company Operations (known as the PSC.1 standard), which states, “The organization shall establish, implement, and maintain procedures to promote a safe and healthy working environment including reasonable precautions to protect people working on its behalf in high-risk or life threatening operations consistent with legal, regulatory, and contractual obligations.” One of the procedures specified is “medical and psychological health awareness training, care, and support” (American National Standards Institute and ASIS International, 2012,p. 24). The inclusion of such a requirement in the PSC.1 standard is significant, because compliance with the standard is now mandated in all DoD- and UK government-funded contracts. Moreover, the International Code of Conduct, a multi-stakeholder initiative aimed at industry self-regulation to which more than 600 private security companies are now signatories, includes a similar provision requiring that signatory companies adopt policies that support a safe and healthy working environment. This requirement specifically mentions a requirement for policies that address psychological health (“International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers,” 2010,section 64d, p. 14). -page 45

Why is this important? Well for one, if you look at past incidents of contractors ‘snapping’ like with the Fitzsimmons case in Iraq, you can see why it is so important for companies to care about this stuff. Unfortunately, they do not care.

It is my experience as a contractor that none of the companies I have worked for, presented any kind of program that focused on the mental health of it’s contractors. I was never informed of any services and was just expected to deal with issues on my own.

Nor have I have ever worked with anyone in the past that has filed a DBA as a contractor for mental health issues–even though I know there are guys who should. Hell, this year alone, I am aware of two contractors that I worked with in the past that committed suicide recently–one of which was a friend. So I know there are mental issues out there, and yet the companies are not really getting involved with this stuff.

The report also mentioned the fact that many contractors are prior veterans and may have gotten their PTSD from service in the military, which I concur. So with that said, the VA should be highly responsive to the needs of these veterans. Should, is the key word, because you get an earful from guys on contract on how crappy the VA is when dealing with this stuff.  Several issues I have seen with contractors whom are veterans, are sleeping issues and TBI or traumatic brain injury. Or the use of pain killers to deal with past injuries. As for mental stuff, it is there, but guys usually don’t like going there.

On the positive side, contracts are a great way for veterans to come together again and share experiences. This is called armed group therapy. lol. Many contractors are attracted to this type of work, because it gets them back in the game of war, and gets them amongst a group that understands war. It is hard for guys to relate to others whom have not experienced that stuff, so that is what makes contracting a plus for veterans.

It is also interesting to note that if you watch AFN (Armed Forces Network) commercials overseas on TV, you are constantly bombarded by deals about suicide in the military or PTSD in the military. The services are constantly trying to reach out to Joes, and work the problem of suicide and PTSD. There are no commercials reaching out to contractors with similar health issues–even though there are more contractors in the war zones than there are military folks. There are no commercials at all geared towards contractors, which is interesting. With such health issues identified by RAND and others, some kind of effort to reach out to contractors could save lives.

Some other factoids that were of interest to me were the combat experiences and living conditions of contractors overseas. The one group of contractors that saw the most combat in this survey were the transportation security contractors or PSD/Convoy guys. The folks that go outside the wire and are exposed to the same dangers as the military, who all have to travel the same roads.

Training and advising contractors were the second most dangerous, which makes sense with all of the green on blue incidents involving contractors happening in places like Afghanistan. Also, by nationality in this survey, the US contractors saw more combat than any other nationality surveyed. Although I doubt this would be the case if Afghan or Iraqi contractors were more involved in this survey. lol

The living conditions of contractors were interesting as well. The worst living conditions experienced were the transportation guys. Living in transient tents all the time or sleeping in your truck can get old. You also work really long hours and the whole 12 hour shift concept seems to be used more and more by companies. Which really sucks, because this hinders sleep, thus making it difficult to keep sharp on the job. More companies neglect giving time off out in the field as well, and there is not enough emphasis on giving folks a break out there so they can recharge. Getting good sleep and not being overworked is crucial to security operations, and this is neglected all the time by the companies.

The best living conditions were experienced by the maritime security folks and logistics/maintenance folks.

Interesting report and check it out for yourself. Companies should take the time to read this and get a better feel for what is going on out there with their people, or try to work harder to meet the needs of their people. Thanks to RAND and authors, and to all of the contractors that participated in this survey. Hopefully this will get the conversation going on the true health of this industry, and how to meet the needs of contractors. -Matt

 

 

Read the report here.

Read the summary here.

This is a quick report done on AIG and the way they have treated DBA claims of contractors. Horrible treatment is all I have to say, and the statistics support that.

 

Contractors Who Worked in Conflict Zones Suffer High Rates of PTSD, Depression and Get Little Help
December 10, 2013
Private contractors who worked in Iraq, Afghanistan or other conflict environments over the past two years report suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression more often than military personnel who served in recent conflicts, according to a new RAND Corporation study.
Researchers found that among the contractors studied, 25 percent met criteria for PTSD, 18 percent screened positive for depression and half reported alcohol misuse. Despite their troubles, relatively few get help either before or after deployment.
“Given the extensive use of contractors in conflict areas in recent years, these findings highlight a significant but often overlooked group of people struggling with the after-effects of working in a war zone,” said Molly Dunigan, co-author of the study and a political scientist with RAND, a nonprofit research organization.
The results are from an anonymous online survey of 660 people who had deployed on contract to a theater of conflict at least once between early 2011 and early 2013. The study attracted participants through several methods, including contacting individual companies and trade associations and posting links to the survey on websites and blogs. It is the first survey to examine a broad range of deployed contractors, not just those who provide security services.

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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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Industry Talk: The Muscogee Nation Uses Native 8(a) To Win A Guard Contract In Afghanistan

Building on the Afghanistan contract, MNBE has sent representatives to security industry expos in Dubai and is preparing to attend a similar expo in Ethiopia, hoping to gin up similar contracts to the one in Afghanistan. “Where some of the same things that we’ve been doing [in Afghanistan], they’re going to be looking at some of those same opportunities in” the Middle East and Africa, said Anderson.

Very cool. Although we will see if they are able to deliver on this particular contract now that they are doing it all themselves. In the past, it sounds like they subcontracted this type of thing to Ronco. But it also sounds like most of the Ronco guys stayed on to work with MNBE.

According to the article, not all of the contractors they are using are tribal folks as well. They were also able to obtain this contract because of the Native 8(a) program that gives preference to tribal owned businesses. Here is a quote:

However, according to MNBE’s CEO, Woody Anderson, the small firm owned by the Muscogee Nation Indian tribe is indeed protecting U.S. military projects in Afghanistan. “The people that we have in this contract here are our employees; they’re not Ronco employees,” Anderson told FP during a Sept. 21 telephone interview.
While the actual bodyguards working for MNBE aren’t members of the Muscogee tribe, some of the technicians who install cameras and other security gear in Afghanistan are, according to Anderson, who says that, of MBNE’s hundred-plus employees, about a dozen are tribe members.
For the last two years, MBNE partnered with Ronco to provide security to the Pentagon’s Task Force for Business and Sustainability Operations in Afghanistan, learning what it takes to run a private security outfit in a war zone and recruiting former military commandos to staff its security teams.
“The 8(a) program was an opportunity to get our foot in the door,” said Anderson; now, MBNE is striking out on its own.

On their website I have not see any specific ads for their Afghanistan deal, but send them a resume and you never know? If anyone from the company would like to comment on the company or contract, feel free to do so in the comments. -Matt

Website for the Muscogee Nation Business Enterprise here.

 

 

Tribal Warfare
Why did the Pentagon award a $7 million Afghanistan security contract to this group of Native Americans in Oklahoma?
BY JOHN REED
SEPTEMBER 25, 2012
The Muscogee Nation, part of the Creek Indian tribe, which fought with Confederate troops against the U.S. military during the Civil War, is now guarding Americans stationed at U.S. bases in Herat and Helmand, Afghanistan, under a $7 million Pentagon contract. The Muscogee Nation Business Enterprise (MBNE) is a 100-person firm that has in the past used its status as a tribal-owned company to win government business, some of which it then subcontracted to a larger security company, but it says that its employees are fulfilling this contract, providing security in a war zone.
Neither MBNE nor the Pentagon would provide specifics about the deal, citing security concerns. But, according to the contract announcement, made August 9, MBNE is “to provide life support services to the Department of Defense Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Afghanistan. These services will include basic necessities, complex security, and personnel security details for safe travel in the immediate region around the Herat and Helmand facilities.”
The task force is a U.S. military organization charged with building up Afghan industries, particularly mining, agribusiness, and IT in order to “help Afghanistan achieve economic sovereignty,” according to a Pentagon website.
Given its small size, at first glance the notion that MBNE is protecting U.S. efforts in Afghanistan — a business dominated by large private security firms — seems implausible. Experts contacted about the contract initially speculated that MBNE might be a so-called pass-through firm.

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