Senate Armed Services Committee Releases Report on the Role and Oversight of DoD’s Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan

Thursday, October 7, 2010

WASHINGTON - Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today released the report of the committees yearlong inquiry into the role and oversight of the Department of Defenses private security contractors in Afghanistan. The Committee approved the report on Sept. 28, 2010. The report is available here . [PDF 23 MB]

The committees investigation uncovered a significant amount of evidence that a number of security contractors working under Department of Defense contracts and subcontracts funneled U.S. taxpayer dollars to Afghan warlords and strongmen linked to murder, kidnapping, and bribery, as well as to Taliban and anti-Coalition activities. It also revealed wasted resources, dangerous performance failures, and wide gaps in government oversight that allowed such failures to persist. The report provides strong support for the decision by U.S. military commanders to take action against contracting practices that run contrary to the counterinsurgency mission. The report includes:

  • A detailed description of a U.S. Air Force subcontract with ArmorGroup, a company hired to provide security at an Afghan air base. ArmorGroup relied on Afghan warlords, some of whom were Taliban supporters, to provide manpower for the companys guard force at the airbase. While the contract was ongoing, one of those warlords killed another of the warlords in a shootout at an Afghan bazaar. A third was killed in a U.S. and Afghan military raid on a Taliban meeting being held at his house. ArmorGroup is a subsidiary of G4S, a company based in the United Kingdom.
  • A detailed description of a U.S. Army contract with EOD Technology (EODT), a company hired to provide security at a facility in Afghanistan. EODT relied on local powerbrokers to supply manpower for its guard force, including one individual whom U.S. military reports said raised money for the Taliban and another whom U.S. military reports said worked with a hostile foreign government. Some personnel hired by EODT had previously been fired by ArmorGroup for passing sensitive security information to a Taliban-linked warlord. EODT is registered as a foreign corporation in Tennessee.
  • The committee also reviewed more than 125 Department of Defense security contracts in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2009. The review revealed systemic failures, including security contractors failures to vet personnel or to ensure that their armed personnel received adequate training.

The review also identified contracting practices at odds with the counterinsurgency strategy and U.S. and Afghan government policy. U.S. military counterinsurgency doctrine states that militias outside the control of the host nation can often be obstacles to ending an insurgency and constitute a long-term threat to law and order.

Our reliance on private security contractors in Afghanistan has too often empowered local warlords and powerbrokers who operate outside the Afghan governments control and act against coalition interests, Levin said. This situation threatens the security of our troops and puts the success of our mission at risk.

The committee reached 12 conclusions (detailed on pp. ix-xi of the report). Among them:

  • Conclusion 1: The proliferation of private security personnel in Afghanistan is inconsistent with the counterinsurgency strategy.
  • Conclusion 2: Afghan warlords and strongmen operating as force providers to private security contractors have acted against U.S. and Afghan government interests.
  • Conclusion 4: Failures to adequately vet, train and supervise armed security personnel have been widespread among Department of Defense private security contractors, posing grave risks to U.S. and coalition troops as well as to Afghan civilians.

In response to concerns about contracting practices, the Department of Defense has established two military task forces to identify and eliminate contracting practices that run contrary to the counterinsurgency strategy. Earlier this month, General David Petraeus issued guidance on the use of contractors that made it clear that all corrective actions, including terminating contracts and suspending or disbarring contractors, will be on the table. Other actions taken by the Department of Defense are listed in a letter that Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent to Levin [PDF] dated Oct. 5, 2010.

Levin said, I am grateful for Secretary Gatess and the Department of Defenses support throughout the investigation and of Secretary Gates writing me that the Committees report has helped DoD understand the nature of the problems associated with contracting in Afghanistan.

Levin added, This problem clearly has the attention of our commanders on the ground. When he was in command, General McChrystal told the committee that private security contractors are just not right for a country that is growing law and order. And General Petraeus recently told the committee that our use of private security in Afghanistan should be limited to legal, licensed and controlled contractors. In his recent contracting guidance, General Petraeus also cautioned that when we spend contracting funds quickly and with insufficient oversight, it is likely that some of those funds will unintentionally fuel corruption, finance insurgent organizations, strengthen criminal patronage networks, and undermine our efforts in Afghanistan. Our committee investigation turned up strong evidence to support those assessments by General McChrystal and General Petraeus.

Levin continued, We need to shut off the spigot of U.S. dollars flowing into the pockets of warlords and powerbrokers who act contrary to our interests and contribute to the corruption that weakens the support of the Afghan people for their government. Our commanders have taken first steps toward identifying abuses and I am hopeful that they will act aggressively to fix the problem.