Re-tooling the Afghan national police as a counterinsurgency force is a critical part of the military mission in Afghanistan. Now that effort will be delayed because of a misbegotten attempt by the U.S. Army to shortcut the contract process.
The Government Accountability Office Monday told the U.S. Army to start over in its search for bids for a $1.6 billion effort to overhaul police training. The GAO ruled in favor of DynCorp International, the company currently training Afghan police, which had protested that the process was unfairly skewed toward its rivals.
The GAO recommended the Army “conduct a full and open competition” or, under federal regulations, provide justification for a limited competition. The GAO also told the Army to pay DynCorp’s legal costs connected to the protest.
The contract dispute arose during a key transition time in Afghanistan. DynCorp’s contract to train police in Afghanistan — originally overseen by the State Department — was to have ended in January. State’s contract with DynCorp, worth some $440 million since 2004, was extended until August because of the protest.
Hours after the GAO ruling, military sources said that existing contract with DynCorp could be extended again — as late as into December — to ensure that police training continues in Afghanistan. Spokesmen from the State Department and Pentagon declined comment on how the delay would affect training.
The Pentagon wants to nearly double the number of police in Afghanistan by 2013. Improving the police is an imperative in the new strategy laid out by the Obama administration last year. The police are seen as the weak link in the fight against the insurgency. The Defense Department argued persuasively last year that it, rather than the State Department, needed to oversee instruction and to add more robust tactical and counterinsurgency skills.
Once the transition from State to Pentagon was approved, the Army moved quickly to find an existing contract that could be amended to add police training.
The Army eventually added two orders for the training to a three-year-old existing contract, issued under the Space and Missile Defense Command to cover counterterrorism and technological needs. Five companies — including Blackwater, Raytheon and Northrup Grumman — were principals on the contract and were also seen as viable candidates as police trainers.
But DynCorp was not part of that contract and called foul. By December, DynCorp filed a protest to the GAO that police training and mentoring did not rightfully fall under the scope of the contract.