THE BLOG
07/11/2010 03:29 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The GAO Transcripts, Part 12: Can't We All Just Coordinate?

This is the twelfth 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."

This interview with a U.S. military officer who served in Iraq indicates that in his experience interactions with private security contractors was both good and bad. Generally, it was mostly good but the bad could be royal pains in the butt. The officer notes that most private security contractors act professionally. Some, however, were not, and by some, I mean more than a "few bad apples" as trade associations like to say.

An example of the latter is this:

This being said, there are still an enormous amount of contract act security that roam the Green Zone with seemingly limited adult supervision. This group creates an image of a pseudo mercenary army in the green zone. Soldiers have little regard for them bordering on contempt for their lack of standards and discipline.

Another example is this:

Standards of conduct that apply to all contractors that clearly define lines of communication and authority. Specifically, we continually had problems with contractors carrying loaded weapons on secure military compounds and in our dining facilities. If the contractor is actively engaged as a body guard for a VIP, this is no problem. Other than that they should not carry loaded weapons on US compounds. We strictly enforced this standard and escorted many contractors off our installation that refused to comply.

Of course, this was years ago, when U.S. forces had been in Iraq just over two years. Still, that is a long time by military standards. And yet there were still significant issues that were bedeviling the military contractor relationship, such as non-interoperable communications or unresolved command and control relationships.

As there were no procedures in place as to when military commanders should help contractors if they got into trouble decisions were made on an ad hoc basis.

Things are doubtlessly improved now but it does not reflect well on either the military or contractors that it took so long for things to get worked out.

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 Carole Coffey Index:
Date Prepared: April 27, 2005 DOC Number: 130798
Reviewed bye Steve Sternlieb DOC Library: Goal 1
Job Code: 350544

Record of Interview
Title Interview with representatives
Purpose Obtain info on pre-deployment training
Contact Method phone
Contact Place N/A
Contact Date April 26, 2005
Participants
Carole Coffey, GAO 202-512-5876
______________________________
_______________
_______________
_______________

Comments/Remarks:

I contacted _______________ determine if the Iraq pre-deployment training included a segment on private security contractors in Iraq. I contacted the _______________ because we had been told that they were going to be rotating back to Iraq. _______________ made the following comments

I. The division has not been notified as to whether or not it will be returning to Iraq. While the division still has some folks in Iraq, those that deployed for the Jan 30 election return in the late March time frame and are on block leave. The Division headquarters deployed to Iraq in mid-2003 and return to _______________ in the fall of 2004. Prior to leaving in 2003 they received no guidance or training regarding PSCs.

2. The division always has a brigade ready to deploy with hours. According to the Major, there this brigade has not received any training on working with PSCs or the PCO or ROC.

3. According to _______________, who served as a battle captain for one of the division's brigades, his unit did not know that there were PSCs in the battle space until the PSCs began to contact them for assistance He described the coordination between the PSCs and his unit as non-existent.

4. The Captain thought that coordination should work through MNF-I as it did for the Iraqi Survey Group. The Command would issue a frago and the unit would provide assistance for the survey group as directed by in the frago.

5. _______________ that it would be helpful to have more information about who was in the batttlespace and the Captain said that the PSCs needed to let the military know when they would be in their area and give the units as much notice as possible.

6. The division has talked about the complex battlefield in terms of NGOs and coalition forces but they have not discussed PSCs, specifically.

Page 1 Record of Interview

Questions Regarding Private Security Contractors

Command and Control f Private Security Contractors

Our current understanding is that the military services directly contract for security of military facilities, that some DOD contractors may contract for security for their personnel, and that civilian government agencies and their prime contractors contract for security in Iraq and possibly elsewhere. While it is our understanding that _______________ not contract for security of military facilities in Iraq, we also understand that the MOM may have come in contact with private security contractors frequently while in Iraq. That is the context for the following questions.

Background: I served as the Operation Officer for the _______________ _______________ _______________ , the Squadron's mission was to provide security escort to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad Iraq. The Squadron conducted over 5500 escort missions for CPA. Numerous missions involved interaction with _______________ security personnel o _______________ security personnel. From APR 04 to JUL 04 the Squadron conducted operations in Ad Diwaniya, Iraq. While in Ad Diwaniya the Squadron occupied Camp Wolfpack (formerly camp Foxtrot). This camp was occupied by the Squadron as well as a small contingent of CPA employees with their assigned security contractors from _______________ security. I currently serve as Regimental X0.

I. What guidance did CENCTOM or CJTF-7 issue for dealing with the private security contractors? Did the guidance differentiate between contractors providing security for U.S. government agencies and those providing security for contractors? Did the _______________ velop any policies or guidance? If any policies or guidance were provided or developed please provide us with a copy.

I do not recall any guidance from CETCOM or CITE-7 for dealing with security contractors. The Regiment did not publish any specific guidance in dealing with contractors. At the Squadron level we coordinated our activities with the security contractors to ensure the safety and security requirements of our operations were met.

2. What is the command and control relationship between military commanders and subcontractors that provide security to DOD contractors? What authority do the military chains of command have over private security contractor personnel and how is that authority exercised?

I am not aware of any formal C2 relationship between security contractors. The Squadron Commander executed his command authority over his area of responsibility. Policies and standards for operations and conduct were published for our soldiers and were expected to be adhered to by contractors operating in our battle space. The X0 or I met with contractors daily to discuss operations. We all had a common understanding of our mission and worked together to achieve success. If there was a problem, it was addressed to the appropriate level of supervision at the CPA headquarters or in Diwaniya with the CPA Chief. Ultimately, the military commander retained authority for all operations. If security contractors wanted to conduct missions that would compromise security or endanger lives, the Commander would strongly advise against it or flat out cancel it. Military Commanders had no disciplinary oversight over contractors.

3. What is the command and control relationship between military commanders and firms that are contracted by the U.S. Government to provide security for State Department, USAID, or other government personnel and facilities in Iraq? What authority do the military chains of command have over private security contractor personnel and how is that authority exercised?

Again, I am not sure of the official C2 relationship that existed between contractors and the military. Commanders do not have authority over contractors, but do establish credible relationships based on experience and a common mission. The vast majority of the contractors I dealt with were extremely professional and had a great deal of military experience. 95% of the time we worked together there were no issues. In most instances of this relationship, we provided additional security (outer and inner cordon) for high profile officials. When refining plans and operations to protect these people, the Squadron was ultimately responsible for the security of the VIP. Contractors provided the inner cordon of security and coordinated routes and activities of the VIP.

4. What is the command and control relationship between military commanders and the private security contractors who are providing security to contractors who have been awarded contracts by US government civilian agencies to rebuild Iraq? What authority do the military chains of command have over private security contractors and their personnel and how is that authority exercised?

We did not deal with these security firms.

Interaction Between Private Security Contractors and US and Coalition Military Forces

I. Can private security contractor personnel call on U.S. military commanders for support in case of trouble? What procedures are currently in place for private security contractors to call upon military commanders for help?

I do not know the legal answer to this question. I know that anyone in the battle space we controlled that was in trouble got the help they needed. On numerous occasions we provided support to CPA contractors who were in trouble. We had established relationships with these organizations that knew how to contact us at our operations center by cell phone or by coming to the TOC. Ultimately, the Commander made the decision to provide any assistance.

2. What responsibility, if any, do military commanders have to defend, rescue, or search for missing private security contractor personnel, if they are (a) United States citizens or (b) foreign nationals?

I believe Commanders have the responsibility to safeguard personnel who are engaged in the business of building a safe and secure environment in Iraq. On several occasions we went to the assistance of contractors, both military and others, who were in imminent danger from a hostile threat in our battle space.

3. What efforts have been made to promote interoperability between private security contractors and U.S. and coalition military forces?

I do not know of any besides fostering a professional relationship based on the common goal of providing security for contractors and then CPA personnel in Iraq.

4. What interoperability exists between the communications equipment of military units and private security contractors? If there is no interoperability or the extent of interoperability is unknown, what plans, if any, are there to establish or improve interoperability?

There was no commonality in communications between military and private contract services. Even among different contractors there were different communication systems. The only common link was by cell phone. Our Squadron never had the assets to loan such systems to contract security personnel. Doing so may also compromise the security of US forces. When we had to work together or needed a shared communication network, the contractor would loan us some of their radios.

5. What mechanisms are there for intelligence sharing between private security contractors and United States or coalition troops?

We would share limited intelligence with private contract services. Most of the information we provided pertained to route security, recent attacks, emerging tactics, techniques and procedures the enemy was using and the current enemy situation in our battle spaces. Information concerning targeting of insurgents and information concerning operations we were conducting was not shared. The contractors provided us another source of information with their internal contacts on numerous occasions that helped in developing our targeting.

6. To what extent do, private security contractors share their intelligence information with United States and coalition troops?

Again, established a very professional relationship based on mutual trust and a common mission. They knew we gave them as much information as possible to conduct their operations to fulfill the mission to protect their primaries. They also understood that we could not divulge all information based on operations security. In turn they were very fourth coming in providing information to us on their experiences and what they had seen. This was especially true in Ad Diwaniya, and with _______________ curity personnel in Baghdad.

7. What procedures are in place between military commanders and private security contractors for coordination of movement of contractor personnel through U.S. and coalition military sectors in Iraq?

Contractors that worked in our battle space coordinated all of their moves through our operation center. Other contractors traveling in or through our space did not coordinate. While in Baghdad, the Squadron coordinated all of its movement through other units battle at least 24 hours prior to moving through that area. I do not believe contractors have that capability based on their communication equipment compatibility to coordinate their movement with the military unless they coordinate through JTF-7.

8. What procedures are in place for movement of private security contractor personnel through military checkpoints?

Contract security had to adhere to the same procedures as any other civilian agency coming onto our compound in Ad Diwaniya unless special arrangements were made. Special arrangements were made when the contractors were escorting high level VIPs. Coordination measures included visual signals, cell phone calls and convoy descriptions and composition. These convoys moved through our checkpoints unhindered to prevent them from stopping in a possible vulnerable area susceptible to attack.

Contractor access was an issue in the green Zone in Baghdad. 2d BDE, 1 AD had numerous issues with contractors escorting CPA and Iraqi Government personnel entering the Green Zone. It was a constant challenge for the 2d BDE force protection officer to enforce entry standards with contractor personnel.

9. What impact (if any) did having private security contractors in Iraq have on the ability of the ______________

I can only speak in terms of the Squadron I worked with and the battle space and missions we conducted. The contractors did have an impact, but most of it was from outside requirements generated at higher levels. The impact they had was the request for additional security support in moving VIPs or conducting missions during periods of heightened tension. On one occasion, when the Squadron was conducting operations in Najaf, the contractors escorted the CPA chief to the town of Afak without our knowledge. While in Afak, the party was surrounded by hostile forces while attending a meeting at the city government building. An aggressive fire fight ensured. The Squadron had to react rapidly to send a relief column to rescue the party. This event did have a significant impact on our operations.

10. What actions should be taken to improve the interaction between private security contractors and the military in Iraq?

Standards of conduct that apply to all contractors that clearly define lines of communication and authority. Specifically, we continually had problems with contractors carrying loaded weapons on secure military compounds and in our dining facilities. If the contractor is actively engaged as a body guard for a VIP, this is no problem. Other than that they should not carry loaded weapons on US compounds. We strictly enforced this standard and escorted many contractors off our installation that refused to comply. Standards also need to be enforced to notify unit commanders of contractors operating in their battle space. Standardized communications would also be a great help.

11. Did the ______________ complete after action reports or incident reports on any of its interaction with private security companies? If so, please provide us with copies?

We did not do an AAR concerning private security contractors.

12. Is SJA aware of any incidents of contractors violating U.S. or Iraq law (besides the prison incidents)? If yes, how were these dealt with?

I am not aware of any violations. The contractors we dealt with had very limited if any contact with the Iraqi people.

Final Comment. The contractors we dealt with were mainly from ______________and ______________ The vast majority that I dealt with were professional and worked with us very well. Any issues concerning standards and operations were addressed immediately to the leadership of these organizations and resulted in immediate rectification.

There is an air of friction and contention in dealing with contractors. This is especially
true in the Green Zone. The contractors that worked with ______________ Baghdad and the team in Diwaniya were very professional and assisted us greatly. The security team ______________ (all senior prior service special operation forces soldiers) even provided the troopers of my Squadron training in urban movement techniques, VIP escort techniques, small arms engagement techniques and defensive driving.

This being said, there are still an enormous amount of contract act security that roam the Green Zone with seemingly limited adult supervision. This group creates an image of a pseudo mercenary army in the green zone. Soldiers have little regard for them bordering on contempt for their lack of standards and discipline. The fact that these private security contractors earn 7 to 8 times the pay of the soldiers adds to this. Several soldiers were hired into lucrative contracts as private security contractors and left the Army for that occupation.

Questions Regarding Private Security Contractors

Command and Control of Private Security Contractors

Our current understanding is that the military services directly contract for security of military facilities, that some DOD contractors may contract for security for their personnel, and that civilian government agencies and their prime contractors contract for security in Iraq and possibly elsewhere. While it is our understanding that the ______________ did not contract for security of military facilities in Iraq, we also understand that the ______________ may have come in contact with private security contractors frequently while in Iraq. That is the context for the following questions.

Background: I served as the __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ responses will be from the perspective of my duty positions held and the time served while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

1. What guidance did CENCTOM or CJTTF-7 issue for dealing with the private security contractors? Did the guidance differentiate between contractors providing security for U.S. government agencies and those providing security for contractors? Did the ______________ velop any policies or guidance? If any policies or guidance were provided or developed please provide us with a copy.
I am unaware of any formal, specific guidance provided by CENTCOM or CJT-7. We
developed internal, informal procedures as the situations arose. These policies continued to be refined over time as the situation continued to develop.

2. What is the command and control relationship between military commanders and subcontractors that provide security to DOD contractors? What authority do the military chains of command have over private security contractor personnel and how is that authority exercised?
I am unaware of any formal command and control relationship that existed between contractors and military commanders. It was the general understanding that the military commander maintained complete and final authority of his battle space to include any persons operating within that area.

3. What is the command and control relationship between military commanders and firms that are contracted by the U.S. Government to provide security for State Department, USAID, or other government personnel and facilities in Iraq? What authority do the military chains of command have over private security contractor personnel and how is that authority exercised?
I am unaware of any formal command and control relationship that was established between the military commanders and these organizations. Our specific cases were based on based on a professional relationship that took into account our responsibility towards the safety and security for all individuals within our battle space and the contractors recognized need for support due to their limited resources. We never encountered a situation that could not be resolved through discussion and prior coordination so the need to involve a higher headquarters to arbitrate a disagreement never arose.

4. What is the command and control relationship between military commanders and the private security contractors who are providing security to contractors who have been awarded contracts by US government civilian agencies to rebuild Iraq? What authority do the military chains of command have over private security contractors and their personnel and how is that authority exercised?
I am unaware of a specific command and control relationship between military commanders and the private security contractors. Again, professional courtesy and open communications were the key to facilitate both military operations and the mission of these contractors. It was our "general understanding" that we held authority over these individuals since they operated within our battle space although we never had to exercise this authority.

Interaction Between Private Security Contractors and US and Coalition Military Forces

1. Can private security contractor personnel call on U.S. military commanders for support in case of trouble? What procedures are currently in place for private security contractors to call upon military commanders for help?
It was our common understanding that we would provide assistance to any individual or groupthat required it in order to maintain security and stability within our area of operations. Numerous times, security personnel would conduct coordination with our unit in order to synchronize their movements and activities. The majority of this coordination was conducted in person due to the lack of communication interoperability.

2. What responsibility, if any, do military commanders have to defend, rescue, or search for missing private security contractor personnel, if they are (a) United States citizens or (b) foreign nationals?
As the military authority within our area of operations, our commander considered it his responsibility to provide assistance to any individual or group (whether U.S. citizen or foreign national) within his battle space that required it.

3. What efforts have been made to promote interoperability between private security contractors and U.S. and coalition military forces?
Cellular phones were the only common communications means that were available to communicate with private security contractors. These systems were unreliable and were extremely limited in availability. Often, liaisons were posted in close proximity to our operations center in order to facilitate coordination.

What interoperability exists between the communications equipment of military units and private security contractors? If there is no interoperability or the extent of interoperability is unknown, what plans, if any, are there to establish or improve interoperability?
Cellular phones were the only communication assets that were available to communicate and significant distance with private security contractors. If operating in close proximity on occasions we provided "Talk-About" style radios to contractors to be able to communicate.

5. What mechanisms are there for intelligence sharing between private security contractors and United States or coalition troops?
Limited intelligence was shared with private security contractors and the type and amount of intelligence was strictly controlled by the commander. The majority of information pertained to recent enemy contact, route status, and local points of contact.

6. To what extent do private security contractors share their intelligence information with United States and coalition troops?
On multiple occasions, security contractors would share information with our operations center. This information was mainly anecdotal in nature and would be cross-checked with current on-hand intelligence.

7. What procedures are in place between military commanders and private security contractors for coordination of movement of contractor personnel through U.S. and coalition military sectors in Iraq?
I am unaware of any specific procedures that were in effect to coordinate the movement of contractors within our battle space. Over time; contractors realized that it was in their best interest to contact the local military authority and conduct coordination before beginning movement

8. What procedures are in place for movement of private security contractor personnel through military checkpoints?
Contractors were required to adhere to all standard operating procedures while passing through our checkpoints unless prior coordination was conducted.

9. What impact (if any) did having private security contractors in Iraq have on the ability of ______________ to perform its mission?
On numerous occasions, short notice plans would be developed in order to support a security contractor's mission within our battle space. This resulted in less than complete instructions being relayed to the troops potentially supporting these contractors and reduce the time available to them to prepare for any contingency missions.

10. What actions should be taken to improve the interaction between private security contractors and the military in Iraq?
In my opinion, a central coordination cell should be formed that provides a means of coordinating between various private contractors. These cells should be established at the headquarters of each brigade sized element in order to facilitate the timely sharing of information.

11. Did the ______________ complete after action reports or incident reports on any of its interaction with private security companies? If so please provide us with copies?
No AARs or reports were developed concerning these matters by our unit

12. Is SJA aware of any incidents of contractors violating U.S. or Iraq law (besides the prison incidents)? If yes, how were these dealt with?
I am unaware of any such incidents occurring within our area of operations.