Special Operations' Oversight of Contractors Is Faulted

Sunday, 31 May 2009 10:15 By Walter Pincus, The Washington Post | name.

Special Operations
U.S. Navy crewmen rig an inflatable boat to a Chinook helicopter. Among other deficiencies, contractors have neglected their helicopter maintenance tasks. (Photo: Reuters)

    The U.S. Special Operations Command, which has Army Special Forces units worldwide, has been criticized by the Pentagon inspector general for not providing adequate oversight of $1.7 billion in logistic support contracts at 20 locations and for allowing contractors to perform what are considered "inherently government functions."

    Federal government rules and regulations prohibit the hiring of contractors who perform actions reserved for government employees, yet a Special Operations Command unit managing the contract with L-3 Communications Integrated Systems permitted contractor approval of such matters as overtime and acceptably completed work, according to a report by the Pentagon inspector general released this week.

    The contracts called for L-3 Communications to provide logistic support for Special Forces equipment including repair, maintenance and support that between 2003 and 2008 involved 2,148 separate tasks. The Special Operations Forces Support Activity, which administered the contract, designated one government employee to be the contracting officer for the contract. But the IG report noted that "it is not feasible for one individual to effectively oversee 2,148 task orders requiring surveillance in 20 locations."

    No L-3 Communications official was available to comment on the report.

    The report pointed out that no quality-assurance plan was developed for tasks that typically would guide contracting officers in determining whether contracting tasks were being completed as required. Instead, the IG report said, the Special Operations Forces unit relied on complaints from those receiving the contractor services in determining problems.

    One example cited by the IG report was chipping and flaking paint on six helicopters because of poor preparation before painting. "These aircraft needed to be repainted and, therefore, reduced the warfighter's ability to support military operations as scheduled," according to the report. The contractor charged the government an additional $225,000 to repaint the aircraft.

    The IG report said it found 14 examples where Special Forces contracting personnel allowed contractors to perform inherently governmental functions on 10 task orders, valued at approximately $80 million. The work, which should have been performed by government employees, included an instance in which a contractor "instructed" additional supplies or services be added to his task order, and one in which a contractor requested a cost estimate for additional services and it was made into another task order. In some cases, contractors performing inherently governmental functions did not identify themselves as contractors.

    In March, a follow-on contract by Special Operations Command covering a 10-year period with a $5 billion ceiling was awarded but has not come into effect because of a protest. As a result, the current L-3 Communications contract has been extended to October 2009 for an additional $200 million, according to the report. Meanwhile, Special Operations has designated several contracting officers and has put together quality-assurance plans for current work.

Last modified on Sunday, 31 May 2009 12:19