Human Trafficking: DOD Should Address Weaknesses in Oversight of Contractors and Reporting of Investigations Related to Contracts

GAO-21-546 Published: Aug 04, 2021. Publicly Released: Aug 04, 2021.
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Fast Facts

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


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Highlights

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

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.

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Recommendations

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

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
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)
Closed – Implemented
The Army concurred with this recommendation. In July 2021, in its response to our report, the Army outlined the following actions it plans to take to address this recommendation: The Office of Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Procurement) (ODASA(P)) will provide guidance to contracting officers that highlights and reinforces CTIP responsibilities and explains how contracting personnel can monitor and oversee contractors' CTIP efforts. The guidance will remind contracting officers to complete the required CTIP training; to coordinate with the requiring activity to ensure the appropriate CTIP monitoring activities are included in the Quality Assurance Surveillance Plan and accomplished during contract administration; to ensure Contracting Officer's Representative completion of required training; and to take appropriate action upon receipt of credible information regarding a TIP violation. Estimated Completion Date: NLT 2nd Quarter Fiscal Year 2022. In March 2022, the Army created a CTIP Job Aid, which included information about CTIP training, Quality Assurance, COR training, what to do if a Contracting Officer receives credible information of a CTIP incident, and Remedies to address CTIP incidents. The Army distributed this Job Aid via email and stored it in a Knowledge Management Portal for the Army's procurement community. Issuing this additional guidance will help the Army ensure that its contracting personnel are aware of their CTIP responsibilities, which could reduce trafficking in persons incidents.
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)
Closed – Implemented
The Navy concurred with this recommendation. In July 2021, in response to our report, the Navy did not provide additional comments about any actions it plans to take to address this recommendation. In January 2022, the Navy distributed a CTIP Fact Sheet to its contracting workforce via a "Policy Push" email. This Fact Sheet was included in our 2021 report as an example of an action taken by a component. The Navy stored this Fact Sheet on a Policy Push webpage. Issuing this additional guidance will help the Navy ensure that its contracting personnel are aware of their CTIP responsibilities, which could reduce trafficking in persons incidents.
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)
Closed – Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation. As of July 2021, in the Department's response to our report, officials outlined the following actions they plan to take to address this recommendation: the CTIP Program Management Office (PMO) will add a data call to the annual CTIP Self-Assessment, beginning with the Fiscal Year 2021 tasking in August 2021 to the DoD Components. The CTIP PMO will request the following information for the Acquisition Professionals training: How many acquisition professionals are there in your Component? (See Section 3.4 in DoDI 2200.01 for a list of personnel who are considered acquisition professionals.) Of that total, how many are required to take CTIP Acquisition Professionals training in Fiscal Year 2021? The requirement for acquisition personnel is to take the training once every three years. How many of the required personnel took the training in Fiscal Year 2021? In August 2021, the CTIP Program Management Office distributed via email the 2021 Combating Trafficking in Person Annual Self-Assessment. In the corresponding email, the CTIP Program Management Office notes that in response to our recommendation, it added questions to the self-assessment for components to report on CTIP Acquisition Professionals training, including how many acquisition professionals were required to take the specialized training and how many completed it. These questions are also incorporated into the self-assessment. By tracking and reporting this information, DOD components and DOD leadership can help ensure that contracting officers and contracting officer representatives are taking the correct CTIP training, which could help reduce trafficking in persons on DOD contracts.
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)
Closed – Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation. As of July 2021, in it's response to our report, DOD outlined the following action it plans to take to address this recommendation: the CTIP PMO will convene a meeting in the summer of 2021, before the annual CTIP Self-Assessment for Fiscal Year 2021 is tasked, with its CTIP points of contact (POCs) in the Services and the DoD Inspector General's Office and the Defense Criminal Investigative Services (CID, DCIS, NCIS, OSI) to review the TIP case data collection sheets and to inform the POCs they need to reach out to their Service Suspension and Debarment representatives as well as their Staff Judge Advocates to request TIP case information. In August 2021, the CTIP Program Management Office distributed via email the 2021 Combating Trafficking in Person Annual Self-Assessment. In the corresponding email, the CTIP Program Management Office notes that in response to our recommendation, it added notes to questions in the self-assessment for components to include cases from their suspension and debarment offices. These notes are also incorporated into the self-assessment. By requiring DOD components to ensure they report TIP investigations, including from suspension and debarment offices, DOD leadership will have more complete information, which could help them prioritize CTIP efforts across the department.
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)
Open
DOD concurred with this recommendation. As of July 2021, in its response to our report, DOD outlined the following actions it plans to take in response to our recommendation: The CTIP PMO will work with the CTIP POC in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (OUSD(A&S)) to determine the best and most efficient method of receiving and reporting information on TIP incidents involving contractors. The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness will task OUSD(A&S) annually through the CTIP PMO in the CTIP Self-Assessment for the incident information. The CTIP PMO will include the data call information obtained by OUSD(A&S) in the consolidated DoD submission for the U.S. Attorney General's Annual Report to Congress on U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons. As of April 2022, DOD was still addressing this recommendation. According to DOD officials, the CTIP PMO worked with OUSD(A&S) to determine an agreeable method of receiving and reporting information on TIP incidents involving contractors and close reporting gaps. The CTIP PMO plans to coordinate with OUSD(A&S) annually through the CTIP Self-Assessment reporting process to capture incident information not reported through other channels and include the data call information in the consolidated DoD submission for the U.S. Attorney General's Annual Report to Congress on U.S. Government Activities to Combat TIP. OUSD(A&S) will work with the DAR Council to update the DFARS/PGI and publish guidance to the Heads of Contracting Activities for distribution to KOs/CORs by Oct. 31, 2022.
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)
Closed – Implemented
The Army concurred with this recommendation. In July 2021, in its response to our report, the Army outlined the following actions it plans to take to address our recommendation: The ODASA(P) will provide guidance clarifying which Army personnel are responsible for accurately reporting in FAPIIS actions taken against contractors for TIP violations, as required by DoD policy. The guidance will state that the contracting officer of the contract under which allegations of a TIP violation are made is responsible for entering the violation in FAPIIS, following receipt of a final determination that the allegations are substantiated. Estimated Completion Date: NLT 2nd Quarter Fiscal Year 2022. In March 2022, the Army created a CTIP Job Aid which included information about actions a Contracting Officer should take if they receive credible information of a TIP incident, remedies to address TIP incidents, and Contracting Officers' responsibility to enter substantiated TIP incidents into FAPIIS. The Army distributed this Job Aid via email and stored it in a Knowledge Management Portal for the Army's procurement community. Issuing this additional guidance will help the Army ensure that its contracting personnel are reporting substantiated TIP incidents, as required, which could reduce the chance that a contractor that committed a TIP incident does not receive federal contracts.

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