Contingency Contract Management:

DOD Needs to Develop and Finalize Background Screening and Other Standards for Private Security Contractors

GAO-09-351: Published: Jul 31, 2009. Publicly Released: Jul 31, 2009.

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Currently in Iraq, there are thousands of private security contractor (PSC) personnel supporting DOD and State, many of whom are foreign nationals. Congressional concerns about the selection, training, equipping, and conduct of personnel performing private security functions in Iraq are reflected in a provision in the fiscal year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that directs DOD to develop guidance on PSCs. This report examines the extent (1) that DOD and State have developed and implemented policies and procedures to ensure that the backgrounds of PSC employees have been screened and (2) that DOD has developed guidance to implement the provisions of the NDAA and (3) that DOD and State have addressed measures on other issues related to PSC employees in Iraq. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed DOD and State guidance, policies, and contract oversight documentation and interviewed agency and private security industry officials.

State and DOD have developed policies and procedures to conduct background screenings of PSC personnel working in Iraq who are U.S. citizens, but only State has done so for foreign nationals. Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) directs U.S. government agencies to establish minimum background screening requirements in order to issue access credentials. But DOD has not developed departmentwide procedures for conducting background screenings of its foreign national PSC personnel. Disagreements among the various DOD offices responsible for developing and implementing these policies and procedures hindered timely execution of the HSPD-12 requirements, and the completion of this development and implementation has been hampered by the lack of a focal point to resolve these disagreements. For example, officials at the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence interpret HSPD-12 as requiring a government screening process for foreign national contractor personnel that is equivalent to the National Agency Check with Written Inquiries (NACI) currently used for U.S. citizen contractor personnel. But officials at the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics maintain that a NACI-equivalent screening for foreign nationals would not be feasible, given the inherent difficulty of screening foreign nationals and the inconsistent quality of criminal and employment records from one country to another, and further, such an approach would will severely limit the numbers of foreign national contractor personnel DOD could use. The offices also differ as to who should approve background screenings, known as adjudication. The Commander of Multi-National Forces-Iraq has established a screening process for PSCs, but GAO has identified several shortcomings that limit the effectiveness of this process. For example, the process directs contractors to obtain background screening for entities that will not provide data to contractors. While DOD has acknowledged the inherent force protection risk it assumes when using contractor employees, without the timely development of standardized policies and procedures, DOD lacks full assurance that all its PSCs are properly screened. While DOD is developing guidance to meet the requirements of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, the draft guidance does not meet all of the requirements of that act. For example, the draft guidance does not address the requirement for establishing minimum standards for background screening of PSCs. Instead it directs the combatant commanders to establish standards for their respective areas of responsibility, though it does not establish time frames within which they should do so. Without addressing these concerns, DOD's draft guidance only partially meets the requirements of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. DOD and State have taken actions on other issues related to PSCs in Iraq. For example, they have implemented similar processes to ensure that PSC personnel are trained, and to account for PSC weapons. Both agencies have also developed policies related to alcohol use by PSCs

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not provide Congress with a timeline for meeting the requirements of Section 862 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). However established standards and processes required by the NDAA. DOD established these standards in response to Congressional direction included in Section 833 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 which required the Defense Department to use business and operational standards in contracting and management of PSCs.

    Recommendation: To ensure that DOD fully meets the requirements of Section 862 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to provide a report to Congress with the timelines for completing the minimum processes discussed in our recommendation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As of July 2013, none of the geographic Combatant Commands have develop and publish the regulations, orders, directives, instructions, and procedures for private security contractors operating during a contingency operation within their area of responsibility as required by the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.

    Recommendation: To ensure that DOD fully meets the requirements of Section 862 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to direct the geographic combatant commanders, through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to develop and publish the regulations, orders, directives, instructions, and procedures for private security contractors operating during a contingency operation within their area of responsibility.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In May 2012, DOD adopted the Private Security Company standards adopted by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) which incorporate the PSC International Code of Conduct. This document establishes minimum requirements for the selection, accountability, training, equipping, and conduct of personnel performing private security functions under a covered contract during a combat operation These standards are incorporated into DODI 3020.50 Private Security Contractors (PSCs) Operating in Contingency Operations, Humanitarian or Peace Operations, or Other Military Operations or Exercises by reference. In May 2012 the DFARs was updated to require that contracting officers writing contracts for security include the requirement to adhere to the ANSI standards in all applicable contracts.

    Recommendation: To ensure that DOD fully meets the requirements of Section 862 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to establish minimum processes and requirements for the selection, accountability, training, equipping, and conduct of personnel performing private security functions under a covered contract during a combat operation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: While DOD concurred with our recommendation they have to date, taken no action to implement the recommendation. For example, contracting officer's representative training does not include information on background screening requirements for private security contractors and the operational contract support training available to miltary commanders does not include information on background screenings and employee vetting.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that DOD develops a departmentwide approach to properly screening private security contractor personnel, including non-United States citizens, the Secretary of Defense should appoint a focal point, at a sufficiently senior level and with the necessary authority to ensure that the appropriate offices in DOD coordinate, develop, and implement policies and procedures to conduct and adjudicate background screenings in a timely manner. More specifically the focal point should develop a training program to ensure that military commanders and contracting officials, including contracting officers and contracting officers' representatives, understand the department's policies and procedures for background screening as well as their roles and responsibilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not appoint a focal point to coordinate, develop, and implement polices and procedures that addresses the adjudication of background screenings for foreign national contractors. DOD has not establish procedures for background sceenings and it did not addressed the adjudication issues raised in our report.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that DOD develops a departmentwide approach to properly screening private security contractor personnel, including non-United States citizens, the Secretary of Defense should appoint a focal point, at a sufficiently senior level and with the necessary authority to ensure that the appropriate offices in DOD coordinate, develop, and implement policies and procedures to conduct and adjudicate background screenings in a timely manner. More specifically the focal point should develop an effective means to communicate to MNF-I the new procedures so that MNF-I officials can adjust their existing background screening policies and procedures, if necessary, to comport with the procedures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not appoint a focal point to coordinate, develop, and implement policies and procedures that addresses the adjudication of background screenings for foreign national contractors. They did not establish departmentwide procedures for conducting and adjudicating background screenings of foreign nationals.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that DOD develops a departmentwide approach to properly screening private security contractor personnel, including non-United States citizens, the Secretary of Defense should appoint a focal point, at a sufficiently senior level and with the necessary authority to ensure that the appropriate offices in DOD coordinate, develop, and implement policies and procedures to conduct and adjudicate background screenings in a timely manner. More specifically the focal point should direct the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, in consultation with the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, to develop departmentwide procedures for conducting and adjudicating background screenings of foreign national contractor personnel and establish a time frame for implementation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In May 2012, the Defense Federal Acquisition Supplement (DFARS 225.74) was amended to require that contractors providing security services to DOD in (a) combat operations, (b) contingency operations, or (c) other military operations or exercises, adhere to ANSI/ASIS PSC.1-2012, American National Standard -- Management System for Quality of Private Security Operations. Section 833 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 required the Defense Department to use business and operational standards in contracting and management of PSCs. The Standards address selection and training of private security contractors as well as the equipping and conduct of contractor employees.

    Recommendation: To ensure that DOD fully meets the requirements of Section 862 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to revise the Federal Acquisition Regulation to require the insertion into each covered contract a clause addressing the selection, training, equipping, and conduct of personnel performing private security functions under such, contract.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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