The GAO Transcripts, Part 16: What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

07/19/2010 01:01 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

This is the sixteenth installment of the Government Accountability Office interview transcripts that were prepared pursuant to the July 2005 GAO report " Rebuilding Iraq: Actions Needed To Improve Use of Private Security Providers."

Among other things this transcript shows that the long dysfunctional government security clearance process hinders PSC from getting the information they need to do their job and probably raises the overall cost of their contract, as PSC are forced to hire employees who have clearances, who generally cost more.

It also confirms what other transcripts have shown; that in the first years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there was no centralized place PSC could turn to for intelligence information; communication and coordination of PSC among themselves and with the military was a systemic problem; that the need for PSC to keep a low profile (as in not wearing uniforms) could lead to situations where the military did not know if they were a friend or foe; and that military forces were "dismissive of PSC." Evidently the belief that PSC were far better paid than regular military forces fostered an attitude where military personnel were disinclined to come to their aid if PSC got into trouble. And, according to the interviewee, the Army as a whole was not happy with PSC because "they impinge upon the military's authority. Additionally, military officers are afraid of losing their rank and fear that may make them look bad."

And finally, the interviewee indicated that PSC can suffer from the same 'mission creep" phenomenon that the regular military often experiences.

Standard disclaimer: I have put in ( _____ ) to reflect those words of phrases which have been blacked out in the transcript. I have also put in the underlining as it appeared in the original transcript. As in the transcript, I have left out letters from various words, even when it seems obvious what the word is.

Prepared by: Kate Walker Index:
Date Prepared: September 28, 2004 DOC Number: 1182177
Reviewed by: Carole Coffey DOC Library: Goal 2
Job Code: 350544

Record of Interview

Title ______________ nterview and Site Visit
Purpose To gain on-the-ground insight from PSCs
Contact Method Face-to-face
Contact Place ______________
Contact Date August 31, 2004\
Participants Kate Hudson, DCM, Analyst
Carole Coffey, DCM, AIC
Steve Sternlieb, DCM, AD


In our second day of interviews with ______________ we spoke with ______________ Iraq. ______________ left Iraq I ______________ is now working as a ______________ ______________

______________ y believes that the security clearance process is illogical and does not work in practice. Currently in Iraq, there is a lot of information that would be valuable to private security contractors that is being held behind closed doors. ______________ rted that by closing legitimate paths to information, many private security contractors had to resort to getting information "through the back door." Oftentimes, if private security companies (PSCs) need cleared information to which they do not have access, they will ask one of their informal military or cleared PSC contacts. To circumvent some of the problems associated with the security clearance process, ______________ is started requiring more clearances than their contracts require so that they could have access to information.

Currently there is no one clearinghouse of information in Iraq that PSCs can turn to for
intelligence ______________ garners its intelligence reports from a variety of sources, including: DOD, CJTF7, DOJ, CPA, British troops, etc. ______________ und that "no one entity had everything." In addition to gathering intelligence ______________ so tracks attack trends. From these reports ______________ can tell which areas are suffering more attacks and plan their travel routes appropriately.

Communication and coordination is both logistical and systemic problem. Logistically, communication is difficult due to intermittent and unreliable coverage. Frequently, improvised explosive devices (IED) disrupt connections. ______________ has found that people use a combination of radio, cell, and satellite phones because no one mode of communication can ensure complete coverage. From his experience unclassified cell phones provide the most reliable form of communication. Cell phones, however, have a short range of 30 km and

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conversations on open lines must be encoded. Encrypted UVF and VHF handheld radios are another popular mode of communication. While having a wide variety of communication channels is helpful internally, ______________ has found that it is sometimes more difficult to get in touch with the military's quick reaction force (QRF).

Communication is further complicated because the military does not systematically communicate from unit to unit. ______________ states "there is a lot of stove-piping occurring." ______________ would like to see communication spread to everyone theatre-wide. He believes that there needs to be a consolidated communication center to coordinate PSC and military movement ______________ has run into numerous problems with the military with the military because the cannot communicate their movements. ______________ mployees are often not in uniforms and dress like indigenous people, driving native cars and using domestic weapon ______________ resorted to these tactics because they found that wearing uniforms and driving military vehicles made them targets for insurgent attacks. Thus, without a proper outlet of communication, the military has no way of knowing whether or no ______________ employees are friend or foe. Mistaken identities can lead to regretful accidents. In addition, because of their lack of communication employees cannot request military QRF aid in urgent situations.

Because no formal means of communication with the military exists, ______________ has also been "forced to go underground and use informal military contacts." For example ______________ has developed liaisons at most units at Camp Victory where the DOD theatre commander is located. ______________ could only gain access unofficially to information on military or PSC locations, movements, contact information and communication frequencies ______________ also informs their informal contacts within the military of their movements as a precaution. For example, by the request of
PSCs, the Air Force has been known to send training groups to areas in where PSCs are traveling and think that they might need backup force. ______________ had made contact with the military officially, they would have had to mire through the bureaucratic chain of command which oftentimes takes too long and does not ensure aid in times of need.

______________ mentioned that there had been one person in the military who had attempted to create a formal communication and intelligence-sharing hub ______________ a Marine. ______________ coordinated the reconstruction effort in Baghdad and the Green Zone; he setup the design for Green Zone ______________ id that ______________had vision and insight and was "trying to do things the right way." ______________ r held weekly meetings in coordination with the CPA to inform PSCs of any intelligence that had been gathered ______________ y stopped attending the meetings after three months, however, because he found the meetings to be ineffective and uninforrnative. ______________ felt that the meetings did not provide him with any information that he could not already glean from his sources. ______________ ntinued to give ______________ their information even after they stopped attending meetings.

Originally, CJTF7 had the tasking authority to provide a QRF for anyone in Iraq that needed help. ______________ as not yet seen this come to fruition and in its absence has created internal quick reaction forces (QRF) for teams with 30+ people. ______________ as learned that it needs to "solve our own problems." These QRFs tie up two men from each team. ______________ oted, however, that nearly 75% o ______________teams do not have QRFs.

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At the urging of a number of government agencies ______________ submitted an unsolicited proposal to DOD for a QRF. This proposal was denied. (Analyst note: we have a copy of the submitted proposal.)

______________hasn't seen any formal policies, procedures, or guidance about PSC interaction with the military. ______________ elieves that the military mindset is focused on their mission for the USG and dismissive of PSCs ______________ as learned not to rely upon DOD support. ______________ has also found that there is contention between the military towards PSCs. Enlisted military are not willing to risk their life for "these private security guys who are making nearly 5x their salary for practically the same type of work. ______________ also believes that the Army resents PSCs because they impinge upon the military's authority. Additionally, military officers are afraid of losing their rank and fear that may make them look bad."

______________ ays that there is a huge separation between civilian contractors and the military, even though "we are supposed to be a unified team." The military cannot account for or identify contractors, resulting in a lot of "blue on blue" fighting ______________ ays that technology, such as the Beacon system, easily could be used to identify where people are. While this is an expensive technology, it could be used to identify people "on the same team" and prevent unnecessary fighting.

Wher ______________ first came to Iraq, they moved with the military. Over time however, ______________ found that the military's movement was too conspicuous. The military uses the same format for convoy movement every time and is constantly getting "hammered." ______________ ried dropping back from the military, but this too drew fire as insurgents became savvy to their new tactics. ______________ ays that the military is not taking defensive measures in determining its movement; military movement involves no intelligence gathering. Eventually ______________ that they had to start varying their movement formats and start thinking like Iraqis in order to avoid getting attacked. They started driving indigenous cars, wearing native clothing and copying the driving patterns of domestic people. ______________ also started to clean their cars more frequently because the realized that Iraqis were very proud people and liked to have clean vehicles. ______________ found the insurgents to be smart and adaptive.

______________ as found the majority of the military to be unaware of the local population's customs and traditions. ______________elieves that contractors have a better feel for the local people He believes that in order to win this war we have to win both the locals' hearts and minds. For example ______________ keeps water and candy in every vehicle to build relationships and good will with the locals ______________ nks that 85% of the people in the Green Zone have never left the walls surrounding them and have no idea what it is actually like to live in Iraq.

______________found that the scope of the work his team was responsible for changed drastically while he was in Iraq. Originally, ______________ providing PSD for their client during vehicle

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movement from one site to another. Three months late ______________ s work had expanded to provide planning, training, first aid, risk assessment and strategy design in addition to vehicle PSIS protection. Their responsibilities stretched way above their original mission. ______________ calls this the "mission creep." ______________ said tha ______________ tracks results and statistics to demonstrate to their clients the necessity and success of "mission creep." ______________ eeps logs and dates in a database of information to show their clients the "before and after" effects of ______________ vork. While such tracking costs ______________ ney and subtracts from their bottom line, it helps them to better understand their client's situation and which tactics are most successful.
______________ as heard government employees in Iraq say that they do not feel comfortable with ______________ upport.

o ______________ would like to see one single clearinghouse of information.
o ______________ uggests that the military have some sort of tracking or beacon system on individuals in high-risk areas.
o ______________ would like there to be a universal sign to signal to the military that they were not enemies. Because of their indigenous garb ______________employees have been drawn down upon a number of times.
o would like a dedicated military QRF force to respond to PSCs requests.

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