The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has obtained an e-mail saying that ArmorGroup North America’s (AGNA) State Department security contract for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul will not be renewed for a fourth year, but will get a six month extension until another contractor is selected. POGO applauds what appears to be a signal that the Department seeks to hold contractors accountable. POGO still questions, however, whether security in a combat zone should be performed by contractors, or should instead be deemed an inherently governmental function and thereby performed by the federal government.
“The State Department seems to be holding this Embassy security contractor accountable,” said POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian. “But State will need a real culture change before it can provide adequate oversight of these complex and challenging contracts.”
The State Department’s decision follows allegations of numerous contract deficiencies exposed by POGO after over 30 guards blew the whistle to POGO about such problems as serious and chronic understaffing; language deficiencies that violated the contract and prevented communication among the guard force; and numerous instances of making false statements and misrepresentations to the State Department. Those deficiencies were in addition to deviant behavior by guards and supervisors that was seen in video and pictures. POGO sent a letter to State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton raising our concerns with the contract in September. According to the e-mail obtained by POGO, which was written by Deputy Project Manager of Camp Sullivan Frank Schaddelee, changing contractors was a decision “based on the unfortunate and embarrassing events that occurred here several months ago; there are serious consequences when things like that happen.”
Since POGO first revealed the problems at the Embassy in Kabul, AGNA has removed most of the bad actors and has made progress on fulfilling the promises it made to the Wartime Contracting Commission on September 15 to protect the whistleblowers and victims of the misconduct. But POGO remains concerned about ongoing reports of excessive work hours and language deficiencies.
A report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals that the State Department’s AGNA contract is one of many challenges facing the Department’s management of embassy security. The GAO found that the State Department lacks sufficient planning to address the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s resource needs or management challenges. Among the challenges listed were the same language and communication problems alleged in AGNA’s contract performance. The GAO’s investigation found that more than half of State’s Regional Security Officers (RSOs) could not speak and read at the foreign language level required by their positions, which in one case could have compromised an informant.