06/27/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

DynCorp Does Good

Since I've had a couple of posts recently mentioning articles published elsewhere which were critical of DynCorp it is only fair to mention a recent report that found DynCorp to be doing a good job.

Last month the State Department Inspector General released a report on the "Air Wing Program in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

DynCorp has been doing anti-drug work for the U.S. government for years. The Department of State's Office of Aviation in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL/A) supports U.S. Government counternarcotics missions with aviation expertise and resources. INL/A provides aircraft and operates Air Wing programs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, and Peru.

In 1998, INL/A entered into an aviation services contract with DynCorp International to support worldwide counternarcotics missions. In November 2005, INL/A awarded a new performance-based contract to DynCorp for the continuation of aviation support services. The total value of the current contract (November 2005 to October 2009) with DynCorp is $1.07 billion for all countries. Since January 2005, the Afghanistan Air Wing program has received $356 million, and Pakistan Air Wing operations have been funded at $32 million.

While one can argue about the U.S. should be doing counternarcotics work in Afghanistan the IG found that the contractor hired to do the work, DynCorp, was doing a good job. "The Office of Aviation in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL/A), through its contractor, DynCorp, has provided effective air support for counternarcotics efforts and other missions in Afghanistan, despite the unstable security situation. A sufficient aircraft readiness rate has been consistently maintained."

The report also found that

Aircraft in the Afghanistan Air Wing program are properly maintained and appropriately scheduled, contractor personnel are qualified and well-trained, and DynCorp adequately inventories U.S. Government-furnished equipment.

In Pakistan, the Air Wing program has provided effective airlift support for Government of Pakistan programs along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The program is also building host government capacity to operate and maintain aircraft.

In other words, DynCorp is doing what it was contracted to do without problems and given the conflict environment it is operating in, is doing it quite well. The report's summary says, "To date, the contractor, DynCorp, has safely met its contracted air support requirements using professional, well-trained staff, carrying out a significant number of successful missions, and adapting well to the quickly changing and dangerous Afghan environment. Contractor staff members follow the rules of engagement, including the use of deadly force. DynCorp has also been able to sustain the required aircraft readiness rate, despite maintenance staff shortages, and uses appropriate maintenance and flight scheduling systems."

Was everything perfect? No, but that is not entirely DynCorp's fault.

In Pakistan, the Air Wing program, funded at $32 million to date, has been generally effective in providing critical air support for activities along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, including a variety of missions for the Pakistan Government. However, DynCorp has had problems meeting some of the contract terms, particularly flying hour goals. The inability to meet the required aircraft readiness rate is directly related to low levels of maintenance personnel and, according to INL/A, is also affected by issues with staff from Pakistan's Ministry of Interior. OIG was unable to determine whether the Pakistan Government is adhering to the terms of a letter of agreement regarding use of INL/A aircraft, and found that the government continues its reticence in providing information on flights. The PSC who is the senior aviation advisor for the Air Wing program in Pakistan, reports directly to the INL/A COR [Contracting Officer Representative] in the United States on all contractual issues. The COR has never been to Pakistan. This situation potentially weakens management and internal controls. OIG also learned that neither INL/A nor DynCorp knows who owns the information system, AWIS, or its contents, which are critical to operations in all six countries under the Air Wing contract.

The most critical aspects of the report dealt with deficiencies in U.S. government oversight capabilities, not DynCorp's performance. For example,

• NL/A uses personal services contractors (PSC) as senior aviation advisors in Afghanistan to manage the program and directs all contract deliverables to be sent directly to the U.S program office, resulting in weak contract oversight and cost controls. The PSCs cannot and are not reviewing DynCorp cost reports, and neither are Embassy Kabul personnel, so it is not possible to determine the appropriateness of contractor charges. In addition, contract deliverables and reports, such as those related to safety, property, and aircraft reporting and accounting, are not being validated or certified in Afghanistan.

• The performance-based contract under which DynCorp is operating in
Afghanistan has created management challenges for INL/A. In particular, the contract lacks clearly defined requirements, makes oversight of specific aspects of contractor performance difficult, and lacks effective cost control measures to prevent cost overruns.

In short, as happens frequently in government contracts, State may be using the wrong contract vehicle for this work. The report noted that

Until 2009, DynCorp worked under general and outdated requirements, hindering program efficiency. Additionally, complying with the principles of performance-based acquisition (PBA) inhibits oversight of specific aspects of the contract, such as staffing levels, as long as mission performance requirements are met. Further, the current contract does not include any meaningful cost-related requirements. In fact, the cost tracking system fails to control costs, resulting in more than $10 million in cost overruns and charges. These problems were exacerbated by INL/A staffing shortages in voucher examination and auditing. (Following its audit, OIG learned that INL/A had hired two additional voucher examiners.) All of these issues lead OIG to conclude that a performance-based contract may not be the ideal vehicle to manage and oversee such a complex program.