McCaskill Introduces Bill to Improve Embassy Security in War Zones
Bill will ensure added oversight of private security contractors
February 24, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Many Americans would be surprised to learn that the people guarding U.S. embassies in war zones are private security contractors and that those contractors have often lacked sufficient oversight from the U.S. government. In light of the U.S.'s growing reliance on contractors and reports of security personnel problems at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, which were examined in a hearing on the issue chaired by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill in the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, three U.S. senators today introduced legislation that would ensure that the federal government adequately monitors and oversees the work of private security contractors protecting embassies in combat zones.
The 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), 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. The bill also requires an annual report to Congress detailing key information about private security functions and contractors.
In June of 2009, Chairman McCaskill held a hearing in the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight which 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.
The number of contracting personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan has risen dramatically, and as of September 2009, there were more contract employees working in those countries than uniformed personnel. This has resulted in the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel in U.S. history. Despite increases in contracting, there has been little accompanying increase in the management, enforcement, and oversight of contractors by the U.S. government. The Government Accountability Office has reported that approximately 90 percent of all State Department Diplomatic Security personnel are contractors.
The introduction of this bill occurs on the same day that McCaskill grilled U.S. government personnel and officials from the firm most commonly known as Blackwater and its subsidiary Paravant in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. In the hearing, which focused on a major contract for training of the Afghan army, McCaskill highlighted problems with inadequate government oversight for the training contract and expressed concern over alleged security lapses by Paravant while executing the contract. This case is similar to problems McCaskill found in the contract for security services at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, which ultimately led to the legislation she and her colleagues are introducing today.
The legislation will:
- 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:
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
Find your local office