Huffpost Business
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

David Isenberg Headshot

The GAO Transcripts, Part 20: When PSC Cause "Mission Creep"

Posted: Updated:

This is the twentieth 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."

Two years after the U.S. invaded Iraq U.S. military officers still see problems in interacting with PSC. They are unsure where PSC fit in the command structure, still had irregular contact with PSC, and witnessed strife when PSC would not comply with bases rules regarding loaded firearms.

For example, the officers referred to a case in which PSCs repeatedly did not comply with the rules governing the handling of loaded firearms. PSCs persisted in carrying loaded weapons into the FOB dining hall, although this was forbidden for safety reasons. After repeated violations, which included leaving loaded firearms in unlocked vehicles outside the dining hall, the contractor was banned from the dining facility.

The lack of contact and communication, coupled with PSC driving behavior, led to situations like this:

In particular, driving behavior of unpredictable in the view of the ___________ officers. In hindsight they understood that the security contractors were being aggressive and secretive in order to evade detection and safely escort their high-value targets. For example, they told use of several incidents where PSCs tried to enter bases using the exit lanes (to avoid the checkpoint lines and then wondered by the military had fired on them.

In at least once case they saw PSC being the cause of military mission creep when PSC would not undertake a security contract.

At the same time, however, the officers said they were concerned about what they saw as mission creep. Typical reconstruction duties which normally would be the responsibility of PSCs, such as escorting contractor personnel to and from work sites along oil pipelines fell the military because of the danger of such work. The so called "Steel Dragon escort service , which performed this service logged over one million miles and was a battalion-sized unit, but was typically attacked 5 to 6 times per day. As a result contractors were not interested in the contract and responsibility for security became the military's.

There was also a number of Blue on Blue instances when soldiers and PSC fired at each other. This is noteworthy because most PSC supporters claim that the average PSC is more experienced and disciplined than the average soldier. But not all U.S. officers agreed.

One officer in particular felt that there was a wide range of training and experience among the PSCs working in Iraq. In his view, the "old hands" caused fewer security problems in theater and the majority of blue on blue incidents resulted from PSC new recruits, who he referred to as "reckless gun-toters."

Of course, most Blue on Blue incidents involved soldiers shooting at PSC so the officer's view may be giving a large break to soldiers. Still, it does raise doubt about the validity of PSC advocates claims that all PSC are inherently more disciplined and mature than regular soldiers.

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: Mattias Fenton Index:
Date Prepared: May 19, 2005 DOC Number: 1329172
Reviewed by: Carole Coffey DOC Library: Goal 2
Job Code: 350544

Record of Interview

Title Interview w/ officers of the ___________

Purpose To learn more about the operational relationship between
private security contractors (PSC) and military units ________
in Iraq during their recent tour of duty there.

Specific issues:
• Degree of coordination between PSCs and U.S. mil.
• Awareness/use of the Reconstruction Operations Center
(ROC) by both parties.
• Interaction between PSCs and U.S. military. Related issues.
• Insight into improving interaction between PSCs and U.S.

Contact Method Interview
Contact Place ___________
Contact Date May 9, 2005
Participants ___________
___________
___________
Carole Coffey, Senior Analyst, DCM
Mattias Fenton, Analyst, DCM

Comments/Remarks: Duration of this interview was roughly 2 hrs.

I. Characterizing relations between ___________ rivate security contractors

The officers generally felt that the relationship between the military and the PSCs was too irregular and suffered from a distinct lack of coordination. They felt that increased communication and training would be the key to better cooperation and fewer friendly-fire incidents in the battlespace.

Based on the experiences of the officers, significant issues regarding the interaction between PSCs and U.S. military were as follows:

Page 1 Record of Interview

a) Command structure: PSCs like NGOs are not in the chain of command in the field because the commanding officers in the field have no contractual relationship with the contracting firms.

While PSCs did not fall under the chain of command in the field they were subject to the rules and regulations of base commanders while on the base. Conforming to these rules was sometimes the source of strife between PSCs and base authorities.

For example, the officers referred to a case in which PSCs repeatedly did not comply with the rules governing the handling of loaded firearms. PSCs persisted in carrying loaded weapons into the FOB dining hall, although this was forbidden for safety reasons. After repeated violations, which included leaving loaded firearms in unlocked vehicles outside the dining hall, the contractor was banned from the dining facility.

b) Mission: The PSCs and the military had distinctly different missions within the theater: as they saw it, PSCs focused on protecting individuals while the ___________ was protecting the Green Zone.

At the same time, however, the officers said they were concerned about what they saw as mission creep. Typical reconstruction duties which normally would be the responsibility of PSCs, such as escorting contractor personnel to and from work sites along oil pipelines fell the military because of the danger of such work. The so called "Steel Dragon escort service , which performed this service logged over one million miles and was a battalion-sized unit, but was typically attacked 5 to 6 times per day. As a result contractors were not interested in the contract and responsibility for security became the military's.

In addition, many contractors operated in theater without any security forces and consequently relied heavily on the military for protection.

c) Operational style: The differing operational styles of PSCs and the U.S. military had a significant effect on PSC/U.S. military relations.

In particular, driving behavior of unpredictable in the view of the ___________ officers. In hindsight they understood that the security contractors were being aggressive and secretive in order to evade detection and safely escort their high-value targets. For example, they told use of several incidents where PSCs tried to enter bases using the exit lanes (to avoid the checkpoint lines and then wondered by the military had fired on them.

d) Communications: The officers commented that contact between PSCs and U.S. military was irregular and inadequate. They didn't recall whether there was a PSC point of contact which they could reliably fall back on Radio systems were incompatible. No requirement for the PSCs to coordinate their movements with the ___________. This contact was voluntary and while most PSCs that were operating in the ___________ OR would coordinate, it seldom if ever happened when PSCs were merely traveling through the AOR. The ___________ was very concern about the lack of mandatory coordination between the military and contractors in

Page 2 Record of Interview

the battlespace. He noted that his unit and most Army units believe they have a moral obligation to assist contractors, particularly U.S. contractors, if they had contact with the insurgents. However, he noted that when ever he sent his soldiers out to provide assistance to contractors he was putting his sliders at risk. He believed that coordination would reduce some of the risk because if contractors had to coordinate their movements, they could be informed of areas that were unsafe and either change their route or delay the movement.

e) The representatives of the unit were unfamiliar with the RROC but did know that there was an ___________ ontractor in the operations center because they were present for the daily briefing (Note: ___________ ___________ ___________ ___________ ___________. The ___________ could not comment on if the ROC had improved coordination because he was not familiar with the ROC.

f) The ___________ expressed concerns about the number of friendly fire incidents (AKA Blue on White) and agreed with the characterization that most of the incidents were caused by poor trigger discipline. We talked about possible ways to reduce these types of incidents and he said that the Army needed to look at any approach but needed to recognize that there would be downsides to almost every solution. For example, he had suggested that the rear gunner in a convoy be equipped with a paint gun so that when someone was approaching the convoy their windshield could be "painted" and it would be a clear indication that they were seen as hostile. The ___________ aid that some of the operators expressed concern that about the gunners having to put down a paint gun if they needed to shoot at an insurgent. Also, we discussed my suggestion that a system similar to random anti-terrorism measures could be used for convoy and checkpoint procedures. In such a system, a number of different identification procedures would be established and MNC-I would determine what procedures would be in place for a given day. The procedures would be disseminated to the PSCs through the ROC and would be changed frequently so insurgents could not copy them. The ___________said that idea was worth considering but what did you do about the PSCs or the solider who did not get the message that the id procedures had changed?

g) The ___________ provide some assistance to help find the Italian journalist that had been captured but they were only providing support and did not try any rescue attempts.

h) Misc.:
Q: Was the ___________ ever asked to provide a quick reaction force (QRF) or similar to help out the PSCs?

A: No, the ___________ as not. Contractors did ask for telephone numbers and contact information in case of emergency. They rarely received calls - those they did receive were requests to provide after incident consequence management either providing medical assistance or help with the remains of the decease On one occasion, according to the ___________ a U.S. military air asset saw a PSC involved with an insurgent and called the ___________ request assistance.

Page 3 Record of Interview

One officer in particular felt that there was a wide range of training and experience among the PSCs working in Iraq. In his view, the "old hands" caused fewer security problems in theater and the majority of blue on blue incidents resulted from PSC new recruits, who he referred to as "reckless gun-toters."

Q: Did the members of the ___________ receive any formal training on interaction with PSCs in the battlespace before deployment to Iraq?

A: No, the-officers could not recall any formalized training before deployment.

II. Recommendations for Improvement of Interaction between PSCs and U.S. military

When asked how to improve interaction between PSCs and the military in Iraq, the officers answered as follows:

1. Both U.S. troops and PSCs should receive training on their respective roles and modes of operation before and during deployment to the Iraqi theater of operations.

2. Establishing an effective liaison between military and PSCs would increase awareness of the location of friendly forces and thus reduce the likelihood of blue on blue violence.

3. Establishing a "clearing house" responsible for tracking the whereabouts of PSCs would be especially useful for the military.

4. Making it mandatory for PSCs and other contractors to coordinate with the military would reduce the risk his soldiers faced when they went to provide assistance to contractors.

Page 4 Record of Interview