CACI calls GAO report flawed

Responding to criticism from the Government Accountability Office of how federal contracts were awarded to private companies to provide military support services in Iraq, one of the contractors, CACI International Inc., said today that GAO did not take into account the severe battle conditions at that time.

"We regret that the GAO report fails to recognize the life-threatening urgency of combat operations in Iraq," said J.P. "Jack" London, chairman of the Arlington, Va., company. "The report just doesn't convey the wartime intensity and the immediate sense of urgency that existed in theater when these orders were put in place in August 2003."

The military and federal agencies' hiring of private contractors to perform prisoner interrogations, interpreting and other services at Abu Ghraib prison and other locations in Iraq has been highly controversial because of prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib. However, GAO's report April 29 did not examine the abuses, but rather focused on whether appropriate federal contracting procedures were followed.

CACI was hired to provide the military with interrogators, and at least one of its employees has been linked to Abu Ghraib abuses in investigative reports. However, no CACI employees have been charged in connection with the abuses. Several soldiers are facing prison for their roles in the scandal.

In August 2003, the Defense Department "was faced with a critical and largely unforeseen need for interrogators and screeners, some of whom were needed at Abu Ghraib prison. DOD had in place only a contingency contracting office in Iraq at the time," GAO said in its report.

As a result, the military relied on the Department of the Interior to handle the procurements, which consisted of 11 task orders issued over an eight-month period and valued at $66 million, GAO said. However, 10 of those 11 orders went beyond the scope of the contracts underlying them, GAO found.

GAO concluded that "numerous breakdowns occurred in the issuance and administration of the orders for these services," with orders issued beyond the scope of underlying contracts, violations of competition rules and "inadequate monitoring of contractor performance."

In some cases, CACI officials were allowed to choose on their own the labor categories for their workers, resulting in several blatant differences between the work performed and the work described in the labor category. For example, a "strategic interrogator" was termed in work documents as a "senior system planner," GAO said.

Today, CACI is defending its work and accusing GAO of not considering the environment in its report.

"The company believes that GAO failed to fully acknowledge the impact of the urgent, wartime and combat-related circumstances upon the contracting practices used by the Army and Department of the Interior in awarding work to CACI in Iraq in August 2003," CACI said in a press release.

CACI officials agree the procurement procedures were "in some aspects flawed," and recommended development of special procurement procedures for "in-theater, wartime and combat-related situations," the news release states.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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