Military Operations:

Contractors Provide Vital Services to Deployed Forces but Are Not Adequately Addressed in DOD Plans

GAO-03-695: Published: Jun 24, 2003. Publicly Released: Jun 24, 2003.

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The Department of Defense (DOD) uses contractors to provide a wide variety of services for U.S. military forces deployed overseas. We were asked to examine three related issues: (1) the extent of contractor support for deployed forces and why DOD uses contractors; (2) the extent to which such contractors are considered in DOD planning, including whether DOD has backup plans to maintain essential services to deployed forces in case contractors can no longer provide the services; and (3) the adequacy of DOD's guidance and oversight mechanisms in managing overseas contractors efficiently.

While DOD and the military services cannot quantify the totality of support that contractors provide to deployed forces around the world, DOD relies on contractors to supply a wide variety of services. These services range from maintaining advanced weapon systems and setting up and operating communications networks to providing gate and perimeter security, interpreting foreign languages, and preparing meals and doing laundry for the troops. DOD uses contractor services for a number of reasons. In some areas, such as Bosnia and Kosovo, there are limits on the number of U.S. military personnel who can be deployed in the region; contract workers pick up the slack in the tasks that remain to be done. Elsewhere, the military does not have sufficient personnel with the highly technical or specialized skills needed in-place (e.g., technicians to repair sophisticated equipment or weapons). Finally, DOD uses contractors to conserve scarce skills, to ensure that they will be available for future deployments. Despite requirements established in DOD guidance (Instruction 3020.37), DOD and the services have not identified those contractors that provide mission essential services and where appropriate developed backup plans to ensure that essential contractor-provided services will continue if the contractor for any reason becomes unavailable. Service officials told us that, in the past, contractors have usually been able to fulfill their contractual obligations and, if they were unable to do so, officials could replace them with other contractor staff or military personnel. However, we found that this may not always be the case. DOD's agencywide and servicewide guidance and policies for using and overseeing contractors that support deployed U.S. forces overseas are inconsistent and sometimes incomplete. Of the four services, only the Army has developed substantial guidance for dealing with contractors. DOD's acquisition regulations do not require any specific contract in deployment locations for contract workers. Of 183 contractor employees planning to deploy with an Army division to Iraq, for example, some did not have deployment clauses in their contracts. This omission can lead to increased contract costs as well as delays in getting contractors into the field. At the sites that we visited in Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Persian Gulf, we found that general oversight of contractors appeared to be sufficient but that broader oversight issues existed. These include inadequate training for staff responsible for overseeing contractors and limited awareness by many field commanders of all the contractor activities taking place in their area of operations.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To promote better planning, guidance, and oversight regarding the use of contractors to support deployed forces, the Secretary of Defense should develop training courses for commanding officers and other senior leaders who are deploying to locations with contractor support. Such training could provide information on the roles and responsbilities of the Defense Contract Management Agency and the contracting officer's representative and the role of the commander in the contracting process and the limits of the commander's authority. Also, contracting officers should ensure that those individuals selected as contracting officer's representatives complete one of the established contracting officer's representative training courses before they assume their duties.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD has not implemented this recommendation despite the fact that it concurred with our recommendation. We continue to believe the recommendation is valid and a similar recommendation is included in GAO-07-145.

    Recommendation: To promote better planning, guidance, and oversight regarding the use of contractors to support deployed forces, the Secretary of Defense should develop and require the use of standardized deployment language in contracts that support deployed forces. The Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement should be amended to require standard clauses in such contracts that are awarded by DOD and to address deployment in orders placed by DOD under other agencies' contracts. This language should address the need to deploy into and around the theater, required training, entitlements, force protection, and other deployment related issues.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2003, GAO recommended that DOD develop and require the use of standardized deployment language in contracts that may require contractors to deploy with military forces. Specifically, we recommended that the contract language should address the need to deploy into and around a theater, training, entitlements, force protection, and other deployment issues. GAO also recommended that the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) be amended to require that this clause be included in deployment contracts. DOD concurred with our recommendation and, in May 2005, DOD announced in the Federal Register that they were amending the DFARS, effective June 6, 2005, to include a clause that would be applicable to contracts that require contractor personnel to deploy in support of contingency operations, humanitarian or peacekeeping operations, or other military operations as designated by the combatant commander. The clause includes provisions regarding entitlements, force protection, command and control, and training.

    Recommendation: To promote better planning, guidance, and oversight regarding the use of contractors to support deployed forces, the Secretary of Defense should develop DOD-wide guidance and doctrine on how to manage contractors that support deployed forces. The guidance should (a) establish baseline policies for the use of contractors to support deployed forces, (b) delineate the roles and responsibilities of commanders regarding the management and oversight of contractors that support deployed forces, and (c) integrate other guidance and doctrine that may affect DOD responsibilities to contractors in deployed locations into a single document to assure that commanders are aware of all applicable policies. Additionally, the Secretary of Defense should direct the service secretaries to develop procedures to assure implementation of the DOD guidance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2003, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense develop DOD-wide guidance and doctrine on how to manage contractors who support deployed forces. Our recommendation stated that the guidance should (1) establish baseline policies for the use of contractors to support deployed forces, (2) delineate the roles and responsibilities of commanders regarding the management and oversight of contractors who support deployed forces, and (3) integrate other guidance and doctrine that may affect DOD responsibilities to contractors in deployed locations into a single document to assure that commanders are aware of all applicable policies. In October 2005, DOD issued DOD instruction 3020.41, "Contractor Personnel Authorized to Accompany the U.S. Armed Forces." As we recommended, the instruction established baseline policies for the use of contractors, specifies the roles and responsibilities of commanders when it comes contractors who support deployed forces and integrates applicable guidance into a single document. For example, the instruction details when contractors can be used to provide security for DOD assets, clarifies the commander's responsibility for providing force protection, and highlights other DOD guidance that is applicable to contractors including guidance on mortuary affairs, personnel recovery and identifying contractors who provide essential services.

    Recommendation: To promote better planning, guidance, and oversight regarding the use of contractors to support deployed forces, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop procedures to monitor the implementation of DOD Instruction 3020.37.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD does not see the value of meeting the requirements of DOD I 3020.37 and has no intention of implementing the recommendation despite the fact that it agreed with our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To promote better planning, guidance, and oversight regarding the use of contractors to support deployed forces, the Secretary of Defense should direct the heads of DOD components to comply with DOD instruction 3020.37 by completing the first review of contracts to identify those providing mission essential services. This review should be completed by the end of calendar year 2004.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD does not see the value of meeting the requirements of DOD I 3020.37 and has no intention of implementing the recommendation despite the fact that it agreed with our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To promote better planning, guidance, and oversight regarding the use of contractors to support deployed forces, the Secretary of Defense should, to improve the commander's visibility over, and understanding of, the extent and types of services being provided by contractors, direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) to implement the changes to the department's Financial Management Regulations previously agreed to with these modifications: (a) the Financial Management Regulations should specify the the biannual report include a synopsis of the services being provided and a list of contractor entitlements; (b) the report should include all contracts that directly support U.S. contingency operations including those funded by the services base program accounts; and (c) the changes should be finalized by January 1, 2004.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2003, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense take steps to improve the commander's visibility over, and understanding of, the extent and types of services being provided by contractors, as well as the support the military is to provide to the contractors' employees. We recommended that DOD provide this information to the military service serving as the executive agent for an area of operation and that the information include the types of support contractor employees are entitled to under the terms of their contract, as well as a synopsis of services being provided under the contract. In October 2005 DOD issued DOD instruction 3020.41 "Contractor Personnel Authorized to Accompany the U.S. Armed Forces," including two sections that provide commanders with the types of information included in our recommendation. First, the instruction requires that the Undersecretary Defense (P&R), working with the Undersecretary of Defense (ATL), establish a database that provides by-name accountability for contractors who support deployed forces. Included in the database is information on the services or capability that contractors are providing to the military. Second, the instruction also requires that each contract employee be issued a Letter of Authorization by the contracting officer, which, among other things, documents the types of support contractor employees are entitled to receive under the terms of their contract. All employees are required to have such a letter to travel to, from, or within the area of responsibility and are required to carry the letter at all times.

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