Further Improvements Needed in Agency Tracking of Contractor Personnel and Contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan
GAO-10-187: Published: Nov 2, 2009. Publicly Released: Nov 2, 2009.
This statement discusses ongoing efforts by the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of State (State), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to track information on contractor personnel and contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Reliable, meaningful data on contractors and the services they provide are necessary to inform agency decisions on when and how to effectively use contractors, provide support services to contractors, and ensure that contractors are properly managed and overseen. The importance of such data is heightened by the unprecedented reliance on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan and the evolving U.S. presence in the two countries. The statement focuses on (1) how information on contractor personnel and contracts can assist agencies in managing and overseeing their use of contractors and (2) the status of DOD, State, and USAID's efforts to track statutorily-required information on contractor personnel and contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as our recent recommendations to address the shortcomings we identified in their efforts. This statement is drawn from our October 2009 report on contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which was mandated by section 863 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (NDAA for FY2008), and a related April 2009 testimony. Our prior work was prepared in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audits to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.
The need for information on contracts and contractor personnel to inform decisions and oversee contractors is critical given DOD, State, and USAID's extensive reliance on contractors to support and carry out their missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The agencies' lack of complete and accurate information on contractors supporting contingency operations may inhibit planning, increase costs, and introduce unnecessary risk, as illustrated in the following examples: (1) Limited visibility over contractors obscures how extensively agencies rely on contractors to support operations and help carry out missions; (2) Without incorporating information on contractors into planning efforts, agencies risk making uninformed programmatic decisions; (3) A lack of accurate financial information on contracts impedes agencies' ability to create realistic budgets; (4) Lack of insight into the contract services being performed increases the risk of paying for duplicative services; and (5) Costs can increase due to a lack of visibility over where contractors are deployed and what government support they are entitled to. DOD, State, and USAID have made progress in implementing the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker (SPOT). However, as we reported last month, DOD, State, and USAID's on-going implementation of SPOT currently falls short of providing agencies with information that would help facilitate oversight and inform decision making, as well as fulfill statutory requirements.