As it has not received much attention allow me to draw you attention to a bill that was introduced in Congress last month.
The bill, S. 3037, Enhancing Oversight and Security at United States Missions Act of 2010, introduced by U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
The introduction of the bill occurred the same day that Sen. McCaskill participated in the Feb. 24 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Blackwater and its subsidiary Paravant, that focused on a major contract for training of the Afghan army, which helps explain why the bill has received little mention.
The impetus for the bill is, for once, not about something that Blackwater did. Rather it was what ArmorGroup North America, the subsidiary of British firm Armor Group did. In June 2009, Sen. McCaskill held a hearing in the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight which she chairs, that examined the State Department's contract for security guard services at the Kabul Embassy. At the hearing, the Subcommittee released State Department documents and a majority staff analysis, which found that the contractor's mismanagement and the State Department's lack of oversight were so poor that, at times, the security of the Embassy may have been placed at risk. Subsequent revelations in August about contractor misconduct prompted additional inquiries. This is what happens when you drink vodka shots off someone's ass on the government dime.
The bill would require the Departments of State and Defense to create concrete plans to increase oversight of private security contractors, as well as to improve training standards and to set a more appropriate ratio of United States government security personnel to private security contractors.
Specifically, it would:
Require the government to create a plan to increase oversight. Under the bill, the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, is required to establish a plan to increase the oversight of private security contractors at Embassies where Armed Forces are engaged in combat operations. The plan must be presented to Congress and implemented within 180 days. The plan must include:
Require an annual review of performance to Congress to ensure that oversight over private security contractors complies with established procedures under the plan. The report must include the following information:
- A determination of the appropriate ratio of United States Government security personnel to private security contractors.
- A coordinated increase in U.S. personnel or decrease in private security contractors.
- Establishment of practices to adequately train personnel and assign oversight responsibility sufficient to maintain embassy security.
- The ratio, number, and type of U.S. Government security personnel and private security contractors utilized at each such mission.
- The justification for the determination by the Secretaries of State and Defense of the ratio and any increase or decrease in the respective numbers of personnel and contractors.
- The name of each private security contractor company, a description of the activities carried out under the contract, and the value of each contract.
- An analysis of and justification for the determination that each specific security activity does not constitute an inherently governmental function.
- A description of the training and responsibilities of United States Government security personnel performing oversight at each such mission.
- Certification of whether there has been compliance with existing regulations for private security contractors in Section 862 of the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.
These are mostly fairly straightforward requirements which should not prove burdensome for the State or Defense Departments to answer. The one potentially troublesome point is determining that "each specific security activity does not constitute an inherently governmental function." Given how confused and amorphous the definition of "inherently governmental" is this could be like nailing Jell-o to a wall.
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