- Finding A: DoD and DoS did not sufficiently plan for the transition. A billion dollars over three years for the program that more than one senior official has billed as our exit strategy. How does this happen? This is how you take a bad program and make it worse. Read the rest of this section - this is almost criminal.
- Finding B: Additional personnel needed for program management and contract oversight. We're looking at oversight organizations that don't know much about the topic they're contracting and then they're not even staffing them to do the basic oversight work such as processing paperwork.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
How do you take a massive government project that is failing and ensure that it fails more and better in the future? You transition the contract between departments with little oversight or planning and then allow the contractor to fail to fully staff it. So says the IGs of the Departments of State and Defense on the perennially challenged Afghan National Police training program.
Let's start with the basics on this roughly $300 million per year program. It was started, as most police training programs are, by the Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). This Assistant Secretariat is staffed by hardworking Americans that are Foreign Service Officers - not experts on policing generally speaking (there are of course, a number of these FSOs who have become so in their tenure at INL, but this is the exception in my experience here in DC and in the field). Between this lack of expertise and their organizational structure, they are incapable of in-sourcing police development programs. This has led to their becoming a contracting agency for DoS, which has brings us to these massive outsourcing contracts - primarily to DynCorps. Challenge number one is having a government agency with little expertise in a discipline overseeing a ~1000 person contract conducting that discipline. Without getting onto my training versus development soap box, in my mind this is one of the greatest reasons the ANP are still a failure throughout most of Afghanistan.
So it's not working and the powers that be decide that maybe DoD should take over the contracting responsibilities for training the ANP. DoD is a big organization that handles lots of ginormous contracts, so it should work. Right? Wrong. Let's now talk about another organization that knows next to nothing about policing. I've written before about the large differences between the police and the military - the fact that they're both in uniforms and armed does not mean that they are interchangeable. If you doubt this, just take a look at Iraq's police or read this excellent paper by the brilliant Bill Rosenau. From a performance monitoring perspective, this transition will likely not change the outlook for ANP training in the coming years from its DoS days.
Now that we've argued that two departments who have owned this contract don't really know what they're doing, let's take a quick look at the IG report (quick because the bean counting stuff puts me to sleep).
Successful police development is one of the major keys to our withdrawal from Afghanistan. And yet we're still doing train and equip programs through contractors who are understaffed and receive oversight from government organizations who don't very well understand what they're supposed to do. Now we see that a significant event in all of this that was designed to improve how things were being done was absolutely fumbled and still not corrected as of this week. It is apparent that the U.S. is still not serious about the Afghan National Police as a viable force to assume responsibilities after we transition responsibility. So let's get this right very quickly or think about not wasting any more money on this endeavor.