Lawmakers criticize management of Kabul embassy security contract

Lawmakers on Wednesday said they were concerned by the State Department's decision to extend a contract for security services at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, despite performance problems.

An investigation by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight at the request of Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, found complaints about ArmorGroup North America Inc. dating back to July 2007, when the company started protecting the embassy. State contracting officers had repeatedly warned ArmorGroup that it was failing to meet its contractual obligations.

"I consider the contract deficiencies addressed below to endanger performance of the contract to such a degree that the security of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul is in jeopardy," a State Department contracting officer wrote in a July 2007 notice to ArmorGroup.

In September 2008, the company's performance problems had reportedly grown so severe that State advised ArmorGroup it was considering terminating the contract. As recently as March 2009, State again informed the company that it had "grave concerns" about continuing failure to provide sufficient guards. During a workforce inspection, State officials observed at least 18 guards absent from their posts at the embassy.

William Moser, deputy assistant secretary of State for logistics management, told the subcommittee during a hearing on Wednesday that department officials identified a number of deficiencies but the security of embassy personnel was not compromised. State officials interviewed by the subcommittee staff said the department's security personnel in Kabul provided diligent oversight of the contractors and determined that the embassy's operational security was never at issue.

Moser said the notices and warnings from the contracting officer were meant to show ArmorGroup that the department was "serious about these things."

"You want contracting officers in the federal government to be tough on contractors, particularly when they're starting in to a new contract," he said.

McCaskill told Moser she was having difficulty reconciling the documents with his testimony, and Collins admonished him for allowing contracting officers to cry wolf.

"If the Department of State is telling a contractor that the deficiencies addressed below endanger performance of the contract to such a degree that the security of the embassy is in jeopardy… If that is an exaggeration that is unfair to the contractor; if it's accurate it's an alarming situation that demands action by the State Department," Collins said.

Samuel Brinkley, vice president of homeland and international security services at ArmorGroup parent company Wackenhut Services Inc., said the firm has worked hard to correct deficiencies since acquiring ArmorGroup in May 2008. As part of this process, Wackenhut made personnel changes in ArmorGroup and revamped its internal processes and procedures. "We are proud to say that we now have addressed each weakness and deficiency in the performance on the Kabul Embassy contract -- and that today AGNA is in full compliance with the staffing and other major requirements of the contract," Brinkley said.

After hearing the testimony, McCaskill said she trusted AmorGroup and State had made significant progress fixing contract deficiencies going into an additional option year, but remained dissatisfied with the record of mismanagement by the agency and the contractor.

"The Kabul embassy contract can be viewed as a case study on how mismanagement and lack of oversight can cause poor performance," she said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.