From Little ACODs Mighty Scandals Grow

07/01/2010 12:18 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • David Isenberg Author, 'Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq'

Last week the Washington Independent ran an interesting article regarding a new military task force in Afghanistan which will attempt to "get a handle on one of the thorniest aspects of the way the U.S. military fights its wars: its relationship with the small army of contractors it hires for support."

The article says Task Force 2010 will focus on the intersection of contractor money and political power in southern Afghanistan, and giving senior military officers a greater amount of visibility into murky networks of subcontractors using taxpayer dollars than they currently have. Given the recent reports and congressional hearings on subjects like the corruption in trucking contracts in Afghanistan, this is certainly a useful activity.

Task Force 2010 is led by Rear Adm. Kathleen Dussault, a longtime Navy logistics officer who served as senior contracting overseer when Petraeus commanded the U.S. war in Iraq. TF 2010 established an Armed Contractor Oversight Division to help advise Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and now presumably Gen. David Petraeus who replaced him, on how to deal with the companies.

This is all well and good. Certainly, it will be good for U.S. contracting folks to have visibility on the sub-contractors that they currently do not have.

But there is a bit more to Rear Adm. Dussault and ACOD. There was actually an ACOD established in Iraq before there was one in Afghanistan.

According to a U.S. military officer who worked in the Iraq ACOD Dussault "never liked that ACOD didn't belong to her or reported to her." Also, TF 2010 didn't establish ACOD, CentCom established ACOD.

The officer also thinks that the Afghanistan ACOD still has some issues to thrash out. He notes, "It seems to be all over the place with what this task force is going to look at. Is it just PSCs or all contractors? "

The officer wrote in an email to me that:

The whole thing about the Afghanistan ACOD is a bit strange especially the comment that the Task Force (TF) 2010 established it and what's more interesting is Admiral Dussault is involved. Iraq ACOD started talking to CentCom during the summer of 2008 about an Afghanistan ACOD. We had a video conference and sent CentCom our FRAGO (Fragmentary Order). I believe that by the Fall of 08 an officer had been identified as the ACOD OIC (Officer in Charge). Fast forward to late Jan/early Feb 2009, ACOD had a meeting with Admiral Dussault. At the end of the meeting the Admiral informed us that she had just returned from Afghanistan and that they had approved the request for proposal to man and run the Afghanistan ACOD. Surprised, I said really and what model was used? Well, of course the Iraq model. My response was that I wished somebody had asked because I was not happy with our model and that the division needed to be much larger. Oh well. Later that winter, the ACOD contract had been awarded to AEGIS. This about sent me into orbit. I sent emails to both CentCom and the DoD about how could a Private Security Company be awarded a contract that gives them an oversight role over, well, themselves? The quick answer was that Aegis did not currently have any PSC contracts in Afghanistan. We now know that that changed just liked it did in Iraq. I understand that because of the GAO (perhaps another watch-dog), the contract has been cancelled. My questions would be, are they still working pending another contract award or did they just stand down ACOD? Perhaps a reorganized ACOD from the dust of Aegis is what the TF is claiming to have established.