At the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was obvious that contractors would play a historically large role in how those wars were waged.
Once the traditional war fighting was over, contractors were increasingly at risk as they drove convoys, worked as trainers for police forces and were exposed to suicide bombers and other threats.
Sometime around 2010, or maybe a little earlier, the tide turned, and more contractors were being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan than were military personnel.
Finding hard numbers is difficult. In late 2010, a report came out from George Washington University law professor Steven Schooner, and his student at the time, Collin Swan, that put the 2010 death toll at 232 contractors and 195 U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan, and 204 contractors and 188 troops killed in Iraq.
I’ve struggled to find reliable numbers covering 2011 and 2012.
Recently, I’ve written about a group of DynCorp employees and a PAE Group employee who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were honored with Defense of Freedom medals given by the Defense Department. They were U.S. police officers working in theater to train Afghan and Iraqi police forces as part of a State Department contract.
Lockheed Martin also built a wall at its headquarters to honor employees killed in action.
I’m writing about it again because I had lunch this week with officials from the CivPol Alumni Association, an all-volunteer group whose members served as law enforcement trainers working with police forces overseas, primarily in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.
They were responsible for pushing for the Defense of Freedom medals. This is not a sophisticated, high powered lobbying group. Mark Lewis, president, and Peter Tragni, vice president, are full-time police officers. The executive assistant and Lewis’ wife, Susan Brune, works full-time for a Connecticut school system.
But through their determination, they convinced Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon to write last year to then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, urging that more than 20 contractor police trainers receive the Defense of Freedom Medal.
The letter got the process untracked for that group, but the challenge remains to make recognition and support for those killed and wounded part of a routine process. It shouldn’t take a letter from a senator to get the wheels rolling each time.
CivPol’s ultimate goal is broader than the medals. They want to develop into a resource for the government, contractors and individuals who want to work overseas as trainers and advisors. They have ideas about vetting people for the proper skills, providing training and helping with post deployment transitions.
There is no safety net for returning contractors. Tragni told me the story of how he left Iraq after a year, and arrived home on a Monday. On Thursday, he was back to work at the police department, incredulous that no one was trying to kill him as he drove down the street.
Lewis story is even more amazing. He severely injured his back after being targeted by the Kosovo mafia. They rammed his car with a dump truck. He spent months recovering with no income, and had to fight to get his U.S. job back.
Few people the group meets with, whether they be congressional staffers or State Department officials, disagree or object to their goals, but little action results.
I could sense their frustration as we talked.
But aside from the challenges CivPol faces, I think the group’s struggles illustrate the mixed feelings we have as a nation about contractors working in warzones.
The knee jerk reaction from some quarters is that we shouldn’t have contractors there in the first place. Contractors are just war profiteers, and don’t deserve further consideration than their too-high paychecks.
But that’s just wrong. I’ve had too many conversations with too many contractors about the importance of the government’s mission, and about how personally committed they are to that mission. I believe them. Many are former military or had careers in government service. Their careers are built around the government’s mission, both civilian and military.
Besides, the government can’t meet its increasingly complex missions without contractor support, whether it is training police officers in foreign lands, or collecting and analyzing intelligence.
I’m not sure what the ultimate solution should be, but recognizing the sacrifices that individual contractors make is a good first step.
Contractors who have served in warzones deserve our thanks, and for those who have been killed or wounded, the Defense of Freedom Medal is a small token of gratitude.
Posted on May 16, 2013 at 1:15 PM0 comments
More than two years in the making, and possibly worth $4.6 billion, the capture of the Global Information Grid Services Management Operations contract last year was a highlight for Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Information Systems and Global Solutions business.
They technically won the contract in May 2012 to manage the infrastructure of the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Global Information Grid, or GIG, but a protest by incumbent Science Applications International Corp. delayed the start of the contract until October.
I didn’t even have to ask Angela Heise, the Lockheed executive in charge of the contract, about how the transition went. Moving the work from SAIC to Lockheed is now over, and Heise, vice president of enterprise information technology solutions, defense, for Lockheed IS&GS, is bursting with pride.
“It has gone very, very well,” she told me at a Lockheed media briefing.
She even includes SAIC in her praise. “They were very gracious to us,” Heise said. “They were very focused on making the sure the customer’s mission was supported, and it’s an important mission.”
The GIG is used by the Defense Department and military commands across the global for voice, video and data transmissions -- information on everything from command and control operations to paying the warfighters travels across the infrastructure.
When we had a chance to talk one-on-one, I asked Heise for lessons learned from the contract and the transition.
A couple things to note: the new contract, which goes by the acronym GSM-O, for Gig Services Management-Operations, is huge: 7,800 devices, millions of users and global reach. The Lockheed contract also moves from a cost-plus and time and material structure to performance-based with more than 70 service-level agreements that need measuring and management. As part of their bid, Lockheed guaranteed it would hire 85 percent of the incumbent work force or over 500 people.
Obviously, there were plenty of moving parts, so Heise walked me through Lockheed’s process.
Contract Initiation Review
Step one was conducting a contract initiation review with DISA, and with the commanders that GIG serves. This was a two-week, face-to-face review.
“We went over the goals and how to achieve them. What we saw as the risks and where we would need their help,” she said.
And DISA did the same. “The acquisition started over two years ago, so they went over how the network was different. It had grown a lot and changed a lot,” Heise said.
The customer listed things to worry about, and other watch items for Lockheed.
“That contract initiation review was a significant milestone because it sets the state for the partnership going forward,” Heise said.
Lockheed used a phased transition approach, starting with the networks supporting operations in the contiguous United States or CONUS before moving out to the rest of the globe.
“CONUS is the biggest entity, but because we were also doing operations convergence [Lockheed has migrated four network operations centers] and a lot of the scope of work was coming back to CONUS, that was the best place to start,” she said. “We wanted to get CONUS right first.”
As this approach progressed, Lockheed would hold operational readiness reviews with the commands, where they would walk commanders through the transition, and they could give the plan a thumbs up or thumbs down, she said.
Some of the commands involved in addition to DISA CONUS are DISA Europe, DISA Pacific, and DISA Central in both Bahrain and Tampa, Fla.
As part of its plan to take on SAIC employees, Lockheed held open houses and conducted interviews. “We wanted to make sure we were selecting the right talent,” she said.
“We have a very strong on boarding process, and we used a lot of communications,” Heise said.
One of the biggest changes for the staff is the shift to a performance-based contract, which required putting more tools and processes in place.
“A lot of tools were there, but they weren’t set up for performance-based contracting,” she said.
Part of it is training – this is what you’ll be measured on, here are when time stamps are going to be taken. “We have to measure every element of the process,” she said.
Lockheed has to meet a requirement of responding and fixing any issue within 18 hours, Heise said.
Right now, a lot of the processes are manual, but over the next two years, the processes will be automated.
Converging operations and cost savings
The goals of the contract include converging operations so DISA customers get the same experience anywhere in the world. All of the commands were doing things differently in the past, Heise said.
And, of course, lowering costs and delivering more capabilities is paramount.
The contract has a high profile within Lockheed and DISA. DISA Director Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins Jr. and Lockheed Martin IS&GS Executive Vice President Sondra Barbour exchange emails every week. Barbour is Heise’s boss’s boss.
“Our partnership with our teammates, AT&T and Xerox, has been vital,” she said. “We are glad the transition is over but there is still work to be done.”
Posted on May 15, 2013 at 12:22 PM0 comments
More details are emerging about furloughs at the Defense Department as the government figures out how to deal with sequestration budget targets.
DOD now expects to furlough 800,000 civilian employees this summer for 11 days, Politico is reporting.
That’s half the number that was expected when sequestration took effect on March 1. Incredibly, two and half months later, major government contractors are still waiting for answers from their customers. Perhaps this is the start of more specific information becoming available.
Many executive are starting to look to fiscal 2014 for the more severe impacts to be felt.
The bottom line is that you had better be ready. So I thought I’d remind readers about Mark Hoover’s article from late April reviewing critical questions to ask customers about furloughs.
The best advice is to get out in front of your customers, particularly with contracting officers, who control the purse strings.
Questions to ask include:
- Can work take place while civilian workers are on furlough?
- Can work be accepted?
- Will you have access to perform work?
That’s just a start of course. And remember there is no single answer that applies across all customers, so you need to get out and ask each customer.
And to sound like a broken record – talk to those contracting officers. They are the only ones who can obligate the government.
Posted on May 14, 2013 at 12:54 PM1 comments