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The State Department Spokesman addressed the POGO letter on September 2 during the DPB; a day after the news broke and went all over the known universe. I realized that timing on what’s available to be dispensed to the public is not always within Ian Kelly’s control but I just wished he had this yesterday. It would have shown that DOS was on top of this even before the POGO story broke. Now, everything done appears nothing more than a patellar reflex to show that somebody was not sleeping at the wheel. Below is the Department’s official statement on allegations raised by the Project on Government Oversight:
Let me start off with talking a little bit about the allegations that were raised by the Project on Government Oversight. As I said before, we take these allegations extremely seriously. In fact, we’ve documented a number of management concerns through our ongoing oversight of this particular contract. There are a number of investigations that are underway, both here and out in Kabul. And we expect to see prompt and effective action taken, as a result of these investigations, and we expect that there will be some changes.
A senior team from Diplomatic Security and our Bureau of Management, some contracting officials, will be going to Kabul in the coming days to investigate. This team will work very closely with the Office of Inspector General, who, as you know, is also investigating this. In addition, Ambassador Eikenberry has instructed his senior staff to examine the allegations and report back to him. He’s also having a town hall tomorrow with staff at Embassy Kabul to discuss this situation and the allegations, and expressed his determination to correct management deficiencies.
To be clear, there were some things going on in Kabul which we were not aware of, but frankly, we should have been aware of. I’d like to stress, though, that all along, any problems that we did discover throughout this contract, we did promptly raise with the contractor, and they were immediately addressed. And you saw some of these deficiencies, of course, in the report of the – of POGO regarding some of the communications we’ve had with the contractor.
By the way, let me just say that – just remind everybody, not that you need reminding, but Afghanistan is a very dangerous place. But it is also important that we believe that the Embassy in Kabul has been well protected. We believe Americans, host nationals, and others working at Embassy Kabul have had the security that they need. As I said before, we have a number of investigations going on, and we’ll keep you abreast of the – of developments as we can.
The subject took most of the DPB yesterday. A summary of the topics covered is below. Read the full text here.
- Documents were shared with Senator McCaskill and Senator Collins
- State Department has a number of investigations going on
- Armor Group contract value is $189 million for one year with four one-year option periods
- State Department does not believe that security has been compromised
- Ambassador Eikenberry is having a town hall meeting tomorrow
- Eight deficiency letters sent to Armor Group and it has been determined that they have addressed these concerns
- The only way to justify renewing the contract is to address deficiencies
- Letters Started in June 2007 and continued through April 30, 2008
- Ninth letter was a show cause notice
- The show cause notice was the first step towards considering termination of the contract
- State Departments has real concerns with this group in Kabul
- Concerns include conduct issues, management of leadership, and Morale and harassment
- Staffing shortages were manned from within the Embassy by supervisory personnel and RSO’s
- The decision to renew the contract was based on the information on hand and State was satisfied that the contractor was providing adequate security for the Embassy.
- State Department has eight guard service contracts with ArmorGroup – Kabul, Manama, Bahrain, Quito, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda
- State Department has temporarily arranged for an extension of the U.S. Training Center contract
- The contract only applies to aviation services
- State Department is disappointed that a transition to a new contractor cannot be made
- Logicistical issues with Dyncorp
Ultimately, “M” (Management) and Diplomatic Security are the ones on the line here. One oversees administration including contracts and the other has oversight on the ground through the Regional Security Office. Of course, on the ground RSOs report directly to the Deputy Chief of Mission or the Deputy Ambassador, who then reports directly to the US Ambassador. So this thing is going to ricochet through multiple offices and cubicles before this is over.
Expect a speedy investigation from OIG, followed by a very public release of the report. And I would not be surprised if they would bring out before long U/S Patrick Kennedy and whoever is the top honcho at DS these days to give an on the record briefing on this. This is such a public meltdown that I doubt if time-outs would work here. (See Dead Men Working‘s post on heads rolling for this; graphic photos posted).
Now, I’ll have to see if Ambassador Eikenberry’s town hall in Kabul would make it out of the embassy walls.
Senator McCaskill’s letter to U/S Patrick Kennedy | September 1, 2009 SubCommitee on Contracting Oversight