COMMENTARY

OCONUS contractors must prepare now for Iraq withdrawal

In March, Foreign Policy published an article, “Iraq Prepares to Evict U.S. Troops.” Pro-Iranian factions influencing the Iraqi government are pushing for this. There are approximately 5,200 troops in Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve and as I have written before, there are usually 2-3 contract employees for every military personnel. Whether expulsion is a real possibility or not, this is another opportunity for our OCONUS contractors to use as a case study in risk management vigilance.

Preparation is key. A quality program means a contractor should perform their own security assessments that are over and above what is provided by the government. While the government’s and its contractor’s goals should be mutually supportive, there may be instances where they diverge. For instance, the government’s contracts may not provide for safety or security managers, yet they may imperative for a quality CYA risk management program.

A senior executive for a major government contractor was adamant that Iraq is not a place for new or inexperienced contractors. Iraq is not a place to freelance and learn on the job. To do so is to put lives at risk, including the officials who have spent years developing an infrastructure of relationships. Contractors need people who know the country and how it works. 

Contractors need to review their contracts with the US government to determine if there are line items triggering their responsibilities in the event change in circumstances. They need to have a solid strategy and they need to plan for the worst-case scenario, including the need to evacuate.

Any plans to respond to a change in circumstances should absolutely include your insurers -- and this should be done well in advance of a potential threat. There are triggers in the policies covering OCONUS activities that differ from domestic programs. This is especially true with respect to Defense Base Act policies. For instance, insurers need to know when there is a potential concentration of employees in one conveyance and they need to be a partner in the evacuation process. 

Contractors navigate a tightrope between looking out for their own duty of care to their employees while also respecting the contractual obligations to the government. This is a classic CYA scenario for contractors: understand the threat, know your contractual responsibilities and have a solid plan for protecting your employees. This is a difficult situation where contractors must act early and prepare even earlier.

About the Author

Karen Dobson is a consultant specializing in DBA contracts at www.linkedin.com/in/karenhdobson/ or www.govcondba.com.

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