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PMCs and Entrepreneurs Applied capitalism. Making money in the war zone, and the issues that go with it.

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Old 09-08-2009   #21
Schmedlap
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Sandbag,

That's a good story that illustrates a dynamic that most people are not aware of - including me, until now.

It squares 100% with the madness that I observed on the FOBs. The first time that I visited a FOB - in 2005 - was an attempt to secure some lumber in order to build overhead cover for my Soldiers in a newly established outpost that was getting hammered with RPGs and mortars. I could not get any lumber. It was not available in the supply system - or so everyone said. But, curiously, the FOB landscape was peppered with wooden bus stops, wooden stairways leading to wooden rooftop decks, and wooden porches, wooden verandas, wooden gazebos, and - my personal favorite - some aviation unit actually constructed a wild west style saloon. Glad we bought lumber at a fat premium to ensure a handful of pilots could enjoy their midnight chow in aesthetically pleasing and properly-themed settings. I found it amazing that Soldiers had the time, tools, and know-how to build some of those elaborate structures. In hindsight, it was probably contractors - and plausibly the fraud/waste/abuse was committed in a manner similar to what you described. FWIW, I immediately emailed the Army's fraud/waste/abuse whisteblower email. Eight months later, I got a generic "thanks for contacting us."
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Old 09-08-2009   #22
Ken White
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Default Did somebody get that idiot to pay the Government the added cost

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I know of a contractor performing work ordered within scope by the KO to pour sidewalks at a FOB. The sidewalk-making was going well and within cost, schedule and performance parameters. Then a senior soldier (we'll keep the rank out of this on principle) decided he needed a sidewalk to his quarters, along with one for his boss. He directed the contractor to perform this. The contractor's on-site supervisor, not having a full command of the language, and doing what DCUs tell him to, begins pouring the extra sidewalks.

Needless to say, confusion, frustration and anger reigned with both the KO and the contractor when the project busted the parameters. Evil, greedy contractor? Not hardly. Government conspiracy? Nope. Apparent authority mis-utilized? Yep.
Being a senior soldier of whatever rank doesn't entitle anyone to get away with stupid actions and doesn't prevent them from doing wrong -- but the system can cope with that; even if no disciplinary action was taken (should have been) he or she could still have been zapped for some funds for misappriopriation.

As long as stupidity like that is tolerated it encourages the idiots in Congress to pass even more dumb laws or others to write even more Regs that penalize the innocent and let guilty doofuses like that slide.

Not to mention Commanders that tolerate idiocy in their name, even if they weren't aware of it-- they should have been -- and don't stop it as soon as it appears as it usually does. That failure just encourage other Doofuses to say "The Boss wants ..." often without a clue to what the Boss might actually want.
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Old 09-08-2009   #23
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I dealt with contractors primarily in the realm of supply and maintenance. I do not know if it is cultural, bureaucratic, or both, but I had nothing but problems with Army personnel when it came to supply and maintenance. ...

Contractors were the most user-friendly folks that I met in Iraq.
I wonder if this is because most contractors are older, at least middle aged, and they want to be there, for the money, but just as importantly, to help the soldiers.
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Old 09-08-2009   #24
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I wonder if this is because most contractors are older, at least middle aged, and they want to be there, for the money, but just as importantly, to help the soldiers.
I'm sure that is a large part of it. I remember a couple of guys with big white bushy beards - they both looked like Santa Claus. They remarked something along the lines of, "nobody gave a damn about us in Vietnam. We're gonna make sure you boys get what you need." One of them then smashed a damaged SAW with a sledge hammer and said, "looks like this is a code-out. Here's a new one." Now that is cutting through some red tape.
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Old 09-08-2009   #25
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Ahh, this brings us to the ratification process, the oft-unused method by which the Government attempts to make an unauthorized commitment all-OK in the eyes of fiscal and contract law.

In the case I mentioned, it was merely one of several hundred that were rolled into a task order negotiation for LOGCAP. I had the opportunity to see this through the eyes of one of the Administrative Contracting Officers assigned to work that period's current task order for the big support (or LOGCAP) contract.

It went a little something like this:

The Government and Contractor (KBR) meet in a conference room. The Govvies bring with them a binder or two containing everything they legitimately ordered done under the scope, terms and conditions of the contract. The Government reps in this case were warranted contracting officers assigned to the contract, and had issued orders in full compliance with relevant laws, rules and regulations. KBR reps were the company's contracting representatives, in most cases former Government people of the same ilk, with the company's authority to negotiate and obligate.

KBR reps ask for a small delay, as their documentation was being brought by another rep, and that rep had not yet arrived. About half an hour later, the Government is starting to get impatient (and confident), and interpret the delay as KBR being on their ass, and began to think this negotiation was going to go very well for the Government.

The documentation finally arrives in the form of at least one (I forget if it was more) of those library cart things full of binders, documenting order after order. Obviously, this doesn't match up with what the Government KOs think is true. The lead Govvie immediately asks what KBR's bottom line is. KBR responds to something like, "6.8". The Government is pleased, but asks why a mere $6.8million requires so much documentation. KBR says, "Million? We never said 'million'".

As it turns out, the binders that KBR brought were chock-full of "drive-by" orders from unit leaders all over the country. Sidewalks, gazebos, decorations, maintenance work done outside scope, extended hours, you name it. Some of the things were perfectly reasonable, but still were ordered by "Sergeant Major X", or "Captain Y" (guys who held apparent, but not actual authority) at countless FOBs and places all over that country. In every case, the DCUs in question never actually consulted anyone in the contracting chain of custody; they just pointed and shouted a lot. The local rep either complied out of patriotism, fear or just ignorance that the DCUs in front of him couldn't actually tell him to do squat. In every case, though, the contractor diligently added up the cost and sent it to higher.

If I remember right, the Government basically took it right in the shorts, and then turned to and went after the offenders, with varying degrees of success. In usually every case, the KOs working each and every ratification got the "Few Good Men speech" from some senior soldier who told him that the sidewalk or gazebo was ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to the war effort, and that they wouldn't tolerate some paper-pusher coming down to their location and telling them what they could or couldn't do in their battle space. Support from very senior leadership? Not so much.

I guess I posted this just to point out that the whole "contractors = bad" narrative isn't all it's briefed to be. Where you sit often determines what you see.


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Being a senior soldier of whatever rank doesn't entitle anyone to get away with stupid actions and doesn't prevent them from doing wrong -- but the system can cope with that; even if no disciplinary action was taken (should have been) he or she could still have been zapped for some funds for misappriopriation.
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Old 09-08-2009   #26
Ken White
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I guess I posted this just to point out that the whole "contractors = bad" narrative isn't all it's briefed to be. Where you sit often determines what you see.
However, I understand the reality of
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...the KOs working each and every ratification got the "Few Good Men speech" from some senior soldier who told him that the sidewalk or gazebo was ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to the war effort, and that they wouldn't tolerate some paper-pusher coming down to their location and telling them what they could or couldn't do in their battle space. Support from very senior leadership? Not so much.
I also know from experience in other wars that bad Commanders not only tolerate but also indirectly encourage that sort of stuff and that good commanders don't tolerate it and tend to make sure the violators pay in some way.

Since I'm sure what you say is absolutely correct, it seems to me that there may be fewer of those good types and more bad types than there used to be. I wonder why that is? Somebody ought to work on that...
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Old 09-08-2009   #27
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Wait, if contractors are just decent, hard-working people trying to do a job, who are we going to blame for all the evils in the world? Who are the aliens in District 9 going to kill? Who is Jeremy Scahill going to write about?
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Old 09-09-2009   #28
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... who are we going to blame for all the evils in the world?
Blaming this guy never seems to fail, no matter what the problem. My passenger-side tail light burned out. I'm sure he had something to do with it.
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Old 09-09-2009   #29
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Blaming this guy never seems to fail, no matter what the problem. My passenger-side tail light burned out. I'm sure he had something to do with it.
Wow, there's a whole slew of things in there to blame him for that I never thought of before! It's certainly his fault that my wife got laid off, but who do I blame now that she can't get another job...?
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