12/11/2010 11:25 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

One Small Step for Transparency, One Giant Step for the U.S. State Department

In the past I have been critical of both private security contractors and the government for not being more transparent about the details of the contracts that PSC undertake for various U.S. government departments and agencies. Although, in all fairness, the government deserves a bigger share of the blame as it often, if not always, inserts a clause in its contracts saying the PSC can't talk to the media without first getting permission from the government.

So, imagine my surprise and delight to find that the U.S. State Department, of all places, has posted online portions of some of its actual past contracts. While not all the contract language is there and much of the information is generic, as in specifying the various parts of U.S. law that a contractor must comply with, it is worthwhile to know the requirements with which a PSC is supposed to comply.

Consider, for example, S-AQMPD-05-D-1098. This was the contract the State Department had with Blackwater under the Worldwide Personal Protective Services contract, the mother of all security contracts for State, as it provides for protection of U.S. diplomats around the world.

It is useful to peruse this as it shows that, at least when it comes to drafting a contract, the government does take some pains to specify what a contractor can and cannot do. The section on contract clauses covers everything from anti-kickback procedures, payment for overtime premiums, workers compensation insurance, and cost account standards, to name just a few clauses.

In case you wondered how much the State Department pays to provide contractors with Defense Base Insurance, as required by federal law, the amount is:

(a) The Department of State has entered into a contract with an insurance carrier to provide DBA insurance to Department of State contractors at a contracted rate. The rates for this insurance are as follows:

Services @ $3.87 per $100 of compensation; or

Construction @ $5.00 per $100 of compensation.

Or consider the equipment the U.S. government agreed to provide ArmorGroup for the contract it had to protect the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. ArmorGroup was the PSC in the news back in 2009 when the party antics of some of its staff, such as drinking vodka shots off someone's butt, made headlines around the world. That, by the way, would seem to be a violation of this contract provision:

H.2.4 CONTRACTOR COMPLIANCE. Contractor personnel shall adhere to the following rules, regulations, and policies of the U.S. Chief of Missions, Kabul, Afghanistan.
• Contractor personnel shall be expected to perform and conduct themselves with proper decorum, subject to the U.S. Chief of Mission.

The Sate Department obviously wanted the security contractors to stay in shape, which is why it paid for such gym equipment as elliptical bicycle, table tennis table, curl machine, chest press, shoulder press, bench press, abdominal bench, and DVD player, to name a few.

Or see S-AQM-PD-05-C-1103, which is the contract DynCorp held for providing aviation services for anti-drug work in Colombia. Those Colombian citizens who have been concerned about the possible health effects of the chemicals used to destroy coca crops will be interested to know that the contract calls for:

Written records for each scheduled spray mission that includes: mission ID, pilot ID, date, time, aircraft number, aircraft type, duration of flight, hectares sprayed, flow through spray total amount of herbicide dispensed, type of crop sprayed, geographic location of spray mission, reason for abort of aborted missions. Identify as Del Norte or non- Del Norte spray mission.

By the way, since contractors are not shy about claiming that they are usually more cost-effective than the government you should note that the contract states that the contractor shall provide "an overall effectiveness rate report of the aerial eradication program for the calendar year. This shall be compared to ground verification data (if the ground verification is performed). Raw data captured for this report shall be provided to a USG representative."

I'm sure we would all love to see that report.