For overseas missions, Defense contractors rely on foreign workers for services like construction and security. Some workers have alleged labor abuses, like wage withholding, despite the government's zero-tolerance policy on forced labor and human trafficking.
Army and Navy contracting officials we met with were unaware of or unclear on their training and oversight responsibilities for combating trafficking. Also, DOD's Inspector General and the Army didn't report all trafficking investigations as required.
We recommend that DOD issue guidance, train staff, and report actions taken against non-compliant contractors to protect foreign workers.
DOD Combating Trafficking in Persons Awareness Poster
What GAO Found
The U.S. government has a zero tolerance policy for human trafficking, as established in a presidential directive, but trafficking in persons (TIP) of foreign workers on U.S. government contracts overseas persists. Selected Department of Defense (DOD) components have conducted limited oversight of contractors and not met combating trafficking in persons (CTIP) training requirements for contracts. Twelve of 14 Army and Navy contracting officers and contracting officer representatives (CORs) GAO spoke with said they were not aware of their CTIP oversight responsibilities, as set forth in CTIP guidance. DOD requires CORs to conduct contract oversight, but does not say how they should do so. Moreover, nine of 14 individuals said they took a CTIP training other than the required training for acquisition professionals. DOD CTIP guidance, as of fiscal year 2018, also no longer requires components to report the number or percentage of personnel trained, which may limit DOD's awareness about whether acquisition professionals have taken their required training. Until DOD provides guidance to explain how contracting personnel should oversee contractor CTIP compliance and ensures they take the correct training, contracting personnel may continue to be unaware of their CTIP responsibilities.
Department of Defense (DOD) Combatting Trafficking in Persons Awareness Poster
The Army, the Navy, and DOD's Office of Inspector General (DODIG) have systems for tracking investigations of TIP incidents, but the Army and DODIG did not report all TIP violations and investigations in contracts in annual self-assessments, as required by DOD guidance. For example, the Army and DODIG had incomplete reporting of closed TIP investigations in their annual reporting from fiscal years 2015 through 2020. Without complete reporting, DOD leadership lacks full information on TIP investigations. GAO also found that two investigations led to DOD taking action against the contractors, but the Army contracting officers did not report them as TIP violations in a federal database, as required. DOD guidance and federal regulations have different requirements for who is responsible for this reporting, and the Army has not developed clarifying guidance. Without accurate reporting of actions taken against contractors in this database, contracting officers will lack complete information when making future award decisions involving contractors that engaged in TIP.
Why GAO Did This Study
GAO and DODIG reports on overseas U.S. military operations have highlighted TIP among foreign workers employed on contracts. Congress included a provision in the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 for GAO to review DOD's efforts to combat TIP related to contracts. This report examines, among other things: the extent to which selected DOD components have implemented oversight and training requirements for CTIP in contracts and the extent to which selected DOD components have tracked and reported investigations of TIP incidents in contracts from fiscal years 2015 through 2020. GAO analyzed federal laws, and DOD guidance, regulations, contracts, and data related to CTIP. GAO also interviewed DOD officials, including Army and Navy officials responsible for overseeing contracts in U.S. Southern Command.
GAO is making six recommendations to improve DOD oversight of contractors' CTIP efforts and reporting of TIP in contracts: two to strengthen guidance on oversight, one to reinstate requirements on reporting the percentage of people trained, and three to clarify guidance for reporting on TIP investigations. DOD concurred with all of the recommendations.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of the Army||The Secretary of the Army should issue guidance to highlight and reinforce CTIP responsibilities and explain how contracting personnel can monitor and oversee contractors' CTIP efforts. (Recommendation 1)|
|Department of the Navy||The Secretary of the Navy should issue guidance to highlight and reinforce CTIP responsibilities and explain how contracting personnel can monitor and oversee contractors' CTIP efforts. (Recommendation 2)|
|Department of Defense||The Secretary of Defense should reinstate requirements for components to report the percentage of personnel who complete required acquisition professionals CTIP training in their annual self-assessments. (Recommendation 3)|
|Department of Defense||The Secretary of Defense should clarify guidance for reporting TIP investigations by DOD components in their annual self-assessments, such as informing CTIP program managers to collect data from their component's offices involved in debarments related to contractor TIP incidents. (Recommendation 4)|
|Department of Defense||The Secretary of Defense should clarify which offices should be involved in receiving and reporting on TIP incidents involving contractors to ensure that DOD provides complete information on its CTIP activities for the Attorney General's annual required report to Congress. (Recommendation 5)|
|Department of the Army||The Secretary of the Army should issue guidance clarifying which Army personnel are responsible for accurately reporting in FAPIIS actions taken against contractors for TIP violations, as required by DOD policy. (Recommendation 6)|