Friday, June 26, 2009


So, to adjust the chart a bit for the real world:

In fact I'm not entirely sure there was a call for bids either. I have a feeling the company sort of showed up, talked to a few people and, being Johnny on the Spot, got the deal.

But I definitely know that no one asked about whether the company was carrying insurance. I know this because Kirk's boss, when I told him about the Act, had never heard of the requirement - had no idea at all that legally Ultra Services HAD to carry insurance and, legally, the military could not deal with them if they did not do so.

Now, I'm willing to grant that it was still a fairly chaotic situation in Iraq (although there had been contractors there for quite some time). But Ultra Services was the sister company of another one which had been contracting for a couple of years in Afghanistan - years. And yet no one, apparently, knew anything about this little niggling problem.

How is that possible? How can a company - and, I have to believe, multiple other small companies - deal for an extended period of time with the military and not once, apparently, be told about basic, fundamental rules for being a military contractor? I honestly, truly want to know. Did the military guys who were given the power to sign these contracts simply not know about it? Was there no training involved? No oversight - in not one military conflict but two? Or did the company really know about it but somehow manage to avoid the requirement?

Anyway, that's the first, egregious place of failure. The second is in what happened after Kirk went missing. However, to keep things short(ish), we'll save that for tomorrow.


Susie Dow said...

More fuel for the fire...

The burden was placed on contractors and their employees to know about an obscure law they were unlikely to have ever heard of unless they had previously worked for a large publicly listed defense contractor who worked overseas. And that's just wrong. Government agencies work for us and should broadly disseminate information to everyone, large and small.

Not helping the situation, the Department of Labor who administers claims didn't hold its first seminar on the Defense Base Act for contractors working overseas - specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan - until December 2003. (The DOL seemed a tad defensive on this topic at the DBA conference back in October.)

US forces and contractors had already been in Afghanistan for two years. If those contractors had checked the DOL website in 2003, they would have found little information beyond the text of the law. Most of the DBA information now at the site didn't appear until 2005 and later.

Adding another layer of confusion, some contracting officers were/are under the mistaken belief that supply contracts are always exempt from DBA. Ultra Services was ultimately a supplier - procuring goods and services. And while services are covered under DBA, supplies - such as containerized housing units - are exempt.

That said however, "service incidental to supply" is not exempt (installation, delivery, maintenance, etc). But a contractor working off of a supply contract is unlikely to know that because the legally required DBA clauses generally are excluded on a supply contract.

Ultimately, and this is just my personal opinion, I think blame lies at the feet of the Department of Defense. I find it hard to believe they were unaware of the extent to which they were expecting to rely on private contractors to support US forces. Pretty much now at a ratio of 1:1. The DOD has an entire department devoted to acquisition so there's really no excuse for not disseminating information.

Megan said...

Spot on.