US Embassy Kabul: OIG Report from 2006 Shows Up

You know things are moving fast when even a 4-year old OIG report on US Embassy Kabul is found and posted 2-4 days after the POGO story. I don’t know if this was a result of a FOIA request or if State’s OIG office simply anticipated interest on this prior report.

The OIG inspection took place in Washington, D.C., between September 6 and September 30, 2005, and in Kabul, Afghanistan, between October 6 and October 30, 2005.

In its report dated January 2006, the OIG says in part:

Embassy Kabul is staffed by energetic, capable employees who work tirelessly to accomplish their work. All assigned Americans are volunteers, a factor that enhances esprit de corps.

Afghanistan presents a dangerous and stressful operating environment. Stringent security requirements constrain work schedules, consume large amounts of human and other resources, restrict mobility, and directly affect post morale. The conduct of the embassy’s protective detail projects an overly aggressive image that has the potential to generate negative opinions of the United States.

As far as I know, t
he US Embassy Kabul continues to be staff by State Department and other agency employees who volunteer for one-year assignments in Afghanistan. Afghanistan also continues to present a dangerous and stressful operating environment. If you look at the coalition military casualties by month, you will see the casualties in an upward trajectory since 2005 but with the highest level in August 2009. But that IG statement on the security details appears prescient given what happened in Baghdad with Blackwater/Xe, doesn’t it?

OIG Saw the Future on Staffing Numbers

The exact number of employees under chief of mission authority in Afghanistan varies widely from month to month, and even from day to day. At the time of the inspection, best estimates were 180 direct-hire Americans and 343 FSNs. FY 2005 funding for the mission was approximately $62.75 million. One embassy officer compared the process of ascertaining staff numbers to “trying to catch flies with chopsticks.” These totals do not include positions in the pipeline for approval, the ever-fluctuating pool of long-term and short-term TDY employees at the mission, or the growing number of personal services contractors. The only certainty is that the numbers are increasing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Fast-forward to 2009 and the civilian surge …. people in the pipeline … the IG saw the staffing up of US Mission Afghanistan four years before it happened. I imagine that putting down the staffing numbers at post would still be similar to “trying to catch flies with chopsticks.”

In any case, whoever requested this file was presumably interested in looking at the local guard issue at the US Embassy, the cause of so many news feed in the last 72 hours. I should note that Armor Group, North America did not get the guard contract until March 2007. Previous to that, the contract was held by a company called MVM terminated for “failure to meet contract requirements” according to State’s Logistics Management DAS, William H. Moser. Below is what the OIG report says about the local guard contract four years ago.

Diplomatic Security Service (United States) - sealImage via Wikipedia

DS did not submit requirements for local guard services to the Office of Acquisitions with sufficient lead-time to allow full and open competition. As a result, the local guard contract was awarded on an urgent and noncompetitive basis. DS officials say that requirements were submitted late because they received late notification from Defense of its plans to withdraw its combat Marine Task Force from Kabul. However, OIG learned that Defense gave official notification to the Department six months before deployment and gave earlier verbal notification of its plans on several occasions. This lack of advance planning by DS and lack of coordination among government agencies led to higher local guard contract cost. This noncompetitively awarded contract has been costing DS approximately $6 million per month since the departure of the combat Marines on March 31, 2005. A new local guard contract, awarded on a competitive basis on July 7, 2005, to become effective on December 1, 2005, will cost the U.S. government less than $2 million per month – a significant reduction.

There are legitimate reasons for issuing contracts on an urgent basis and also for contractual delays, but OIG found no evidence in the contract files that suggests DS conducted advance acquisition planning within time frames suggested in the Federal Acquisition Regulations. FAR 7.104 states that acquisition planning should begin as soon as an agency identifies a need, preferably well in advance of the fiscal year in which contract award or order placement is necessary. In August 2004, OIG made a recommendation to correct similar acquisition planning issues in its inspection of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Directorate of Infrastructure.

So that’s that until more reports are dug up. This is going to be a loooong September. May seem particularly long for DS. The Middle East Regional Office (MERO) of the DOS OIG is also currently reviewing the Diplomatic Security’s management of WPPS in Afghanistan. The review which started in March 2009 is looking at what studies and needs assessments were conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security to determine PPS requirements in Afghanistan and what mechanisms are in place to ensure personal protective services assets are utilized in an efficient and effective manner. This report is bound to show up in the next couple of months.

Related Item:

OIG Report No. ISP-I-06-13A, Inspection of Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan
January 2006 | PDF