Operational Contract Support:

Additional Actions Needed to Manage, Account for, and Vet Defense Contractors in Africa

GAO-16-105: Published: Dec 17, 2015. Publicly Released: Dec 17, 2015.

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What GAO Found

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has established a formal operational contract support (OCS) organizational structure at its headquarters to serve as the central coordination point to manage, plan for, and assess OCS. However, except for U.S. Army Africa, AFRICOM's subordinate commands do not have OCS organizational structures with dedicated personnel to manage OCS. Officials from AFRICOM's subordinate commands stated that applying OCS concepts would be helpful to avoid duplication of work and increased costs. One structure that the Department of Defense (DOD) has introduced is an OCS Integration Cell, an entity with dedicated personnel to provide staff integration and promote coordination on OCS issues; such a cell could help identify and address gaps at AFRICOM's commands, especially in a joint environment like Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, where contracting officials stated that some military tenants have arrived without informing responsible officials about the number of contractors accompanying them. AFRICOM has also developed a scorecard to assess OCS management capabilities at the subordinate commands against certain standards, but these assessments have not always been accurate because the standards have not been clearly defined or consistently applied. Without clearly defined assessment standards, AFRICOM cannot accurately assess the OCS actions taken by subordinate commands.

AFRICOM does not have a complete picture of the number of contractor personnel supporting its operations in the region. AFRICOM uses two primary sources—daily personnel status reports and the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker, a DOD contractor personnel accountability database—to collect contractor personnel accountability information, but neither source provides comprehensive accountability or visibility of DOD contractor personnel on the continent because the total number of local national contractor personnel are not being included in either, and the numbers of U.S. citizen and third country national contractor personnel vary between the two. Without clear guidance on how to comprehensively account for contractor personnel, it will be difficult for AFRICOM to ensure that it has full visibility over who is supporting its operations.

AFRICOM conducts some limited vetting of potential non-U.S. contractors, also referred to as vendors, but it has not established a foreign vendor vetting process or cell that would preemptively identify vendors who support terrorist or other prohibited organizations. AFRICOM has not yet established a foreign vendor vetting cell because while DOD guidance discusses the benefit of a cell, it does not require it or specify under what conditions it would be appropriate. Additionally, DOD sites in Africa use background investigations to determine the trustworthiness of contractor employees with access to DOD facilities. However, not all AFRICOM sites are incorporating additional screening measures, such as biometric screening or counterintelligence interviews, based on the specific risks at each site. As a result, AFRICOM is at risk of not exercising the appropriate level of vendor vetting or contractor employee screening on the African continent to protect DOD personnel from insider threats.

Why GAO Did This Study

Since its establishment in 2008, AFRICOM has increased its footprint in Africa to support its mission—building African partner capabilities and deterring threats to regional security. In tandem with AFRICOM's growing footprint will be a continued reliance on contractors to support the command's operations. Accordingly, AFRICOM and subordinate commands must be able to plan for and integrate OCS during operations. House Report 113-446 included a provision for GAO to review OCS in Africa.

This report examines the extent to which AFRICOM (1) has an organizational structure in place to manage, plan for, and assess OCS; (2) accounts for contractor personnel; and (3) vets non-U.S. contractors and contractor employees. To conduct this work, GAO evaluated AFRICOM's OCS organizational structures and conducted site visits to Djibouti, Niger, and Uganda to collect information on accountability and vetting processes. GAO selected these locations based on the types of contractor employees represented, among other factors.

What GAO Recommends

GAO made recommendations to DOD regarding types of contractor personnel to account for, foreign vendor vetting process development, and guidance for contractor accountability and employee screening, among others. DOD generally concurred, but did not concur that AFRICOM should develop contractor accountability guidance because it was in the process of doing so. GAO continues to believe the recommendations are valid, as discussed in this report.

For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431 or russellc@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: U. S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) service component commands have designated staff elements to coordinate OCS issues, as we recommended. Since AFRICOM headquarters established its OCS Working Group in April 2015, core membership has included policy and planner subject matter experts and staff from multiple headquarters directorates, as well as logistics planners from service components. Agendas from OCS working group meetings in 2017 and 2018 identify designated elements from AFRICOM service components as participants responsible for coordinating OCS issues. For example, officials from U.S. Army Africa, U.S. Navy Africa, U.S. Air Force Africa, and U.S. Marine Forces Africa participated in forums for sharing strategic theater OCS-related information, synchronizing contractor support planning and policy, and facilitating OCS execution oversight. Moreover, AFRICOM officials stated in July 2019 that in lieu of an OCS Integration Cell with dedicated OCS personnel, OCS planning and coordination was assigned to logistics planners. These actions meet the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To enable AFRICOM's component commands to better plan, advise, and coordinate for OCS, the AFRICOM Commander, as part of AFRICOM's ongoing efforts to update related guidance and emphasize the importance of OCS integration at the subordinate command level, should direct the service components to designate elements within their respective staffs to be responsible for coordinating OCS, and consider the establishment of an OCS Integration Cell or similar structure with these dedicated OCS personnel, as needed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: U.S. Africa Command

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. AFRICOM has taken steps to implement this recommendation. AFRICOM established an OCS Integration Cell at a key subordinate joint force command, Combined Joint Task Force-horn of Africa, in August 2016, including permanent OCS billets in logistics directorate. AFRICOM also establishes OCS Integration Cells for all subordinate joint force commands when they are designated. For example, during Operation United Assistance the initial Joint Force Command conducted a daily Joint Requirements Review Board followed by a Joint Contracting Support Board; the follow-on joint force command established the OCS Integration Cell and conducted boards on a less frequent basis. Additionally, AFRICOM has produced reports for each command highlighting observed OCS strengths and areas of improvement. Some subordinate joint force commands such as SOCAF are challenged with manning constraints that limit their ability to establish permanent OCS Integration Cells; however, SOCAF conducts its OCS planning through contracting and logistics planners. These actions meet the intent of this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To enable AFRICOM's component commands to better plan, advise, and coordinate for OCS, the AFRICOM Commander, as part of AFRICOM's ongoing efforts to update related guidance and emphasize the importance of OCS integration at the subordinate command level, should clarify under what conditions a subordinate joint force command, such as Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, should establish an OCS Integration Cell.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: U.S. Africa Command

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. AFRICOM has taken steps to implement the intent of this recommendation. AFRICOM officials stated in January 2018 that the OCS Readiness Scorecard was a valuable internal management tool in-place from fiscal years 2012 to 2015, at a time when OCS at AFRICOM was in its infancy and lacked proper staffing, processes, and procedures. In fiscal year 2015, AFRICOM formally established its OCS Integration Cell along with a chartered monthly OCS Working Group. According to AFRICOM officials, the establishment of the OCS Integration Cell with 5 personnel-along with 2 DLA JCASO OCS Planners - provided the correct amount of OCS personnel to properly execute OCS policies, procedures, guidance, and oversight at the AFRICOM J4. The OCS working group is a forum for the OCS community of interest that allowed for the proper identification, discussion, and vetting of OCS challenges and readiness issues. As a result, the AFRICOM J4 discontinued the use of the USAFRICOM OCS Readiness Scorecard as a management tool in December 2015. Even though the use of the scorecard was discontinued, the recommendation was made to enable AFRICOM to better identify, address, and mitigate OCS readiness gaps, which AFRICOM's actions demonstrate, and therefore meet the intent of this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To enable AFRICOM to better identify, address, and mitigate OCS readiness gaps at its component commands before inaccurate information is incorporated into formal defense readiness reporting systems, the AFRICOM Commander should clarify the scorecard process, including assessment standards, for OCS Readiness Scorecards to ensure that evaluators can accurately assess subordinate commands' OCS capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: U.S. Africa Command

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. DOD has taken steps to clarify what types of contractor personnel should be accounted for in its guidance on personnel status reports, but, as of July 2019, revision of that guidance is ongoing. According to Joint Staff officials in May 2018, CJCSM 3150.13C provides policy and guidance on what types of contractor personnel to account for in personnel status reports, and the updated guidance will incorporate lessons learned from USAFRICOM's implementation of that policy. The updated CJCSM 3150.13C is projected to be completed by Summer 2018. Once issued, USAFRICOM officials stated they will incorporate their local policies and standards into the CJCSM 3150.13C, and expect that a coordinated directive on local policies, procedures and standards will mitigate many of the previous interpretation issues. However, additional training and amplifying local procedures issued by the USAFRICOM J-1 may be necessary to fully implement its provisions and ensure consistent interpretation. Additionally, in February 2016, a class deviation became effective for the USAFRICOM area of responsibility (AOR). This deviation superseded Class Deviations 2014-O0005, and 2015-O0003. The deviation stated that contracting officers shall incorporate clause 252.225-7980, Contractor Personnel Performing in the United States Africa Command Area of Responsibility, in lieu of the clause at DFARS 252.225-7040, Contractor Personnel Supporting U.S. Armed Forces Deployed Outside the United States, in all solicitations and contracts, including solicitations and contracts using FAR part 12 procedures for the acquisition of commercial items that will require contractor personnel to perform in the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) area of responsibility. In addition, to the extent practicable, contracting officers shall modify current, active contracts with performance in the USAFRICOM AOR to include the clause 252.225-7980. The USAFRICOM Commander has identified a need to utilize the Synchronized Pre-deployment and Operational Tracker for all contracts performed in the AOR during all operational phases (including Phase 0), not limited to declared contingency operations. However, until CJCSM 3150.13C clarifying the types of contractor personnel and incorporating lessons learned from AFRICOM's implementation is finalized, this recommendation will remain open. When we confirm what additional actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To enable AFRICOM to comprehensively and consistently account for contractor personnel in Africa, the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should direct Joint Staff to clarify what types of contractor personnel should be accounted for in its guidance on personnel status reports.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with this recommendation citing no requirement for the Secretary of Defense to direct AFRICOM to develop area of responsibility-wide contractor personnel accountability guidance on or before December 2015. However, subsequent steps DOD has taken meet the intent of this recommendation. Specifically, in June 2016, DPAP published Class Deviation 2016-00008 to the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement 252.225-7980, Contractor Personnel Performing in the United States Africa Command Area of Responsibility. This clause requires the use of the Synchronized Pre-Deployment and Operational Tracker to account for all Contractor Authorized to Accompany the Force, United States and third-country national contractors, all private security contractors. and all other contractor personnel authorized to carry weapons when performing in the AFRICOM area of responsibility on all DOD contracts, regardless of the contract amount or period of performance. Furthermore. the DOD contractor is required to submit to the cognizant contracting officer for SPOT reporting and aggregate count of all local national employees performing in the AFRICOM Area of Responsibility, by country of performance, for 30 days or longer under a contract valued at or above $150,000. The Class Deviation clarifies which types of contract personnel should be accounted for using SPOT and when SPOT accountability requirements should be incorporate into contracts, and therefore meets the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To enable AFRICOM to comprehensively and consistently account for contractor personnel in Africa, the AFRICOM Commander should develop area of responsibility-wide contractor personnel accountability guidance on or before December 2015, when the current guidance expires, that clarifies which types of contractor personnel should be accounted for using SPOT, and when SPOT accountability requirements should be incorporated into contracts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: U.S. Africa Command

  6. Status: Open

    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. As of July 2019, DOD has taken steps to develop foreign vendor vetting guidance, but is still working to determine key components of that guidance. Office of the Deputy of the Secretary of Defense issued a directive type memorandum in April 2018 that establishes policy and assigns responsibility for developing vendor vetting guidance to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Additionally, DOD established a foreign vendor vetting working group in January 2017 to, among other things, develop guidance that will define foreign vendor vetting as a distinct function and provide combatant commanders with guidance on addressing the risks associated with relying on commercial vendors. As of November 2019, OSD officials stated the working group is making progress to develop a formal charter, identify tools and strategies to enhance vendor vetting across the combatant commands, and establish a department-wide vendor vetting policy. Until DOD develops vendor vetting guidance, this recommendation will remain open. When we confirm what additional actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To ensure that combatant commands are not contracting with entities that may be connected to or supporting prohibited organizations, the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should develop guidance that clarifies the conditions under which combatant commands should have a foreign vendor vetting process or cell in place to determine whether potential vendors actively support any terrorist, criminal, or other sanctioned organizations, including clarifying when combatant commands should develop procedures for transmitting the names of any vendors identified through this process for inclusion in prohibited entities lists in the appropriate federal contracting databases, such as the System for Award Management.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USAFRICOM has completed and issued guidance that details the standard of contractor employee screening for forward operating sites. Specifically, officials stated that in June 2016, USAFRICOM issued ACI 3300.20, ? Identity Intelligence Support to Force Protection and Security,? which supports force protection and security activities within the area of responsibility, including contractor screening. Further, officials told us that in August 2016, AFRICOM issued ACI 4800.07, ?Foreign Vendor Vetting Program.? Officials stated that these instructions allow USAFRICOM to apply a comprehensive risk based approach to contractor screening. AFRICOM officials also pointed to ACI 3300.11, ?Identify Resolution Program? for biometric screening of foreign contractor employees for site access. We believe that these actions taken meet the intent the of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To ensure that AFRICOM applies a risk-based approach to contractor employee screening in Africa, the Secretary of Defense should direct AFRICOM to complete and issue guidance that specifies the standard of contractor employee screening for forward operating sites, based on factors such as the number of DOD personnel on base, type of operations, and local security threat.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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