Situation Normal: Afghanistan Fouled Up

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Army photo / Sgt. Stephen Decatur

Freshly-minted Afghan National Police in Herat

A trifecta of trouble in three Pentagon inspector-general reports released Thursday concerning the U.S. military’s continuing struggle to build Afghan security forces so U.S. troops can come home.

Here is the first finding from each report:

— NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (NTM-A/CSTC-A) officials did not develop adequate sustainment requirements for the 15 types of ANA individual equipment items.

— ACC officials did not properly award or manage 19 contract actions in accordance with regulations and did not include specific quality requirements in the contract for 13 contract actions because they did not perform all necessary contracting procedures when accelerating procurements.

— Army contracting officials at Army Contracting Command-Aberdeen Proving Ground (ACC-APG) did not appropriately award and administer the ANP contract in accordance with Federal and DoD guidance.

What the heck is going on here?

Here we are, a decade into this war, and the proper training and outfitting of the Afghan security forces is the key to leaving something worthwhile — worth the nearly 2,000 American lives and $640 billion we’ve invested in the place – when we depart, more or less, by the end of 2014.

It’s really pretty simple: either the rules are too complex and not worth following, or the military – at least in these cases – is incompetent. Most likely, of course, it’s some of each. Granted, no war plan survives contact with the enemy, but it shouldn’t be so brittle that the IG can carp and criticize nonstop.

Perhaps there are too many little things tripping up our troops. That’s not fair to them, the IG, or the Afghan security forces, who generally seem content with what U.S. troops call Afghan good – not good enough to pass muster with Pentagon bean-counters, perhaps, but good enough for an 18th Century nation roiled by more than three decades of war.

Here are representative shortcomings highlighted in this trio of IG reports. Let’s call them little, medium and big-sized problems:

Here’s a little problem:

We identified internal control weaknesses in the NTM-A/CSTC-A process for developing ANA individual equipment requirements for sustainment. Specifically, NTM-A/CSTC-A relied on anecdotal evidence, experience, and professional judgment to develop the recapitalization rates; could not determine the portion of items identified for recapitalization or the process used to develop the requirements for the budget; did not request all necessary maintenance data from the contractors’ maintenance systems; and did not request subject-matter expertise from the LCMCs in developing sustainment requirements for individual equipment used by the ANA.

— From Development of Individual Equipment Requirements for the Afghan National Army Needs Improvement

Here’s a medium problem:

The U.S. Government uses pseudo-Foreign Military Sales (FMS) procedures to procure items and services to support the ANSF through this fund. FMS procedures for purchasing items with ASFF are “pseudo” because the U.S. Government is not selling the small arms to a foreign customer but, instead, to the Department of the Army, who provides those items to the ANSF. DoD has spent at least $313 million on U.S.- and foreign-manufactured small arms to support the ANSF.

ACC contracting officials did not properly award or manage 19 of the 45 contract actions we reviewed, valued at approximately $45.4 million of the $103.2 million, in accordance with applicable contract regulations. In addition, for 13 contract actions, valued at approximately $43 million, ACC contracting officials did not include specific quality requirements in the contract to verify that the small arms were in working order before acceptance.

— From Improving Army Contract Award and Management for Small Arms Acquired Using Afghanistan Security Forces Funds

Here’s a big problem:

Army Contracting Command-Aberdeen Proving Ground (ACC-APG) officials awarded the ANP contract (W91CRB-11-C-0053), valued at approximately $1 billion, to DynCorp International, LLC, (DynCorp) on December 20, 2010.

…in the first 4 months of contract performance, the cost of the ANP contract increased by $145.3 million, approximately 14 percent, and ACC-APG contracting officials may not have awarded the ANP contract based on the best value. Additionally, contractor officials had not reached the mentor and trainer staffing levels required by the contract and may not be able to adequately train the Afghans to take full responsibility of the police force by the end of the ANP contract.

CSTC-A personnel made substantial changes to the statement of work less than 1 month after the ANP contract was awarded, to include additional job categories, increased qualifications for specific job categories, and additional contractor reporting requirements. CSTC-A personnel initially drafted the ANP statement of work in June 2010. On October 12, 2010, CSTC-A personnel changed the date on the June 2010 statement of work and issued the ANP contract solicitation with the newly dated statement of work. In an e-mail on October 19, 2010, CSTC-A officials stated that the statement of work changes were necessary to reflect the current situation on the ground…

ACC-APG officials awarded the ANP contract on December 20, 2010, based on the June 2010 statement of work; on January 18, 2011, CSTC-A officials created a modified statement of work.

The ACC-APG PCO stated that the additional requirements were not incorporated into the solicitation and initial contract because CSTC-A and Army contract officials needed to stop making changes to the statement of work so they could award the ANP contract based on a “static” document…

CSTC-A personnel also updated the statement of work to include increased qualifications for the additional job categories. The senior mentors were required to have a bachelor’s degree and 8 to 10 years of experience in program or project management. CSTC-A preferred former lieutenant colonel or colonel-level officers to fill the senior mentor positions. At a minimum, senior trainers were to have been at least a captain or first sergeant with experience training at the battalion level or higher. According to the statement of work, CSTC-A desired recent experience in Afghanistan or Iraq.

CSTC-A preferred all senior trainer candidates have a bachelor’s degree, and the ability to obtain a top secret security clearance. Furthermore, CSTC-A personnel added qualifications to the job categories that existed in the previous statement of work. For example, in the January 2011 statement of work, a mentor was required to have experience as a major, lieutenant colonel, colonel, or command sergeant major, with at least 15 years of experience. In addition, trainers were required to have experience as a staff sergeant or sergeant first class, have battalion or brigade level training, and be able to obtain a top secret security clearance. The October 2010 statement of work, included in the basic contract, did not require mentor positions to have specific military experience or 15 years of experience.

After the work began on the ANP contract, the contractor had problems filling numerous training and mentoring positions, in part because the increased qualifications were not included in the solicitation. According to a memorandum from DynCorp to the ACC-RIPCO, some positions would cost more than originally proposed and could not be filled as quickly because of the increased qualifications. The ANP contract required that the contractor maintain a specified level of effort. If the contractor cannot meet the contract requirements and fill the mentor and trainer positions, then the U.S. may not be able to fully train the Afghans to take over the police force by the end of the contract…

The contractor more than doubled the size and cost of its proposed program management office after contract award, adding positions that should have been included as part of its contract proposal. The contractor added 44 personnel to their program management office, 17 positions as a result of requirements changes, and 27 other positions because the contractor omitted key program office positions from the contract price proposal. As a result, the contractor increased the number of personnel in the program office from 29 to 73, increasing the overall contract costs by $16.1 million. FAR Part 16 states that a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract provides the contractor payment of all allowable incurred costs as well as the negotiated fee that is fixed at the inception of the contract. A cost-plus-fixed-fee contract provides only a minimum incentive for the contractor to control costs…

The contract specialist and contracting officer’s representative determined the contractor underbid on the ANP contract which resulted in additional program management costs after contract award. The contract specialist stated in the price negotiation memorandum for modification 005 that “this proposal almost doubles the size of the PMO [Program Management Office] with many of the positions being CONUS [Continental United States]-based…”

Specifically, when ACC-APG contracting officials awarded the ANP contract, total program management costs proposed by DynCorp and accepted by the Government were approximately $8.2 million. After the cost increases in modification 005, program management costs increased to $24.3 million, an increase of approximately 200 percent.

— From Afghan National Police Contract Requirements Were Not Clearly Defined but Contract Administration Improved