defense authorizers are pressing ahead with efforts to weed out fraud,
waste and performance debacles that have plagued private security
contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lawmakers on the House
Armed Services Committee are expected to approve several provisions in
the 2011 defense authorization bill that would establish standards for
how private security contractors would win Pentagon business.
are trying to establish a third-party certification process to determine
whether private security contractors should be eligible for Pentagon
contracts. Defense authorizers are requiring the Defense secretary to
establish a third-party certification process for “specified operational
and business practice standards to which private security contractors
must adhere” as a condition of being selected as contractors.
has not yet been determined whom the “third party” issuing the
certifications would be, but the provisions aim to establish a baseline
for acceptable contractor performance, industry officials said.
would ensure that “everybody is up to the same standard,” said Doug
Brooks, the president of the International Peace Operations Association
(IPOA), which represents the Association of the Stability Operations
Industry and has advocated for the provision. “We support the concept
that somebody would check on how these companies do everything they are
Private security contractors have tried to
convince lawmakers to support contracts that offer the best value rather
than just the lowest price. As a result, defense authorizers are
seeking to establish a pilot program within the Pentagon that would
implement best-value standards for private security contracts in Iraq
The contracts awarded under the pilot
program would continue until they are supposed to expire even if the
pilot program is terminated, according to language in the defense
authorization bill awaiting a full committee vote. The Defense secretary
has to provide to the committee each Jan. 15 for three years a report
identifying the contracts awarded under the pilot program, including the
consideration that led to the award of the contract.
best-value language would avoid the race to the bottom,” said Jeff
Green, who lobbies for IPOA.
Avoiding contracts that are
awarded solely on the lowest-cost criterion would go to the heart of the
private security industry’s efforts to preserve good standing. Lowest
bidders often trim “some of the ethical aspects of their operations to
save money,” said IPOA’s Brooks.
Companies could cut their
training standards or the vetting of their own employees to keep costs
low, explained Brooks.
“In the long run it will provide
enormous value for U.S. taxpayers,” Brooks said. The best-value concept
“focuses more on getting the mission done right rather than simply
Erik Quist, the general counsel of Eodt EOD
Technology, warned that by focusing solely on the lowest price, the
private security business would become a simple commodity such as “a box
of nails.” He said criteria for judging contractors should go beyond
price and also reflect the complexity of the business.
said his company would welcome an improved vetting process for private
“Any responsible contractor certainly should
welcome appropriate standards and oversight in the area of security
contracting,” he said. “It is my belief that the legitimate players in
the security industry have been seeking this for a long time because it
is a way to demonstrate and get credit for being a credible contractor.”