Hagel’s written confirmation testimony response on PMSC Questions

Hagel’s written confirmation testimony response on PMSC Questions

So what does prospective U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel think about using private military and security contractors?

On January 31 he testifies before the Senate to answer questions as part of his confirmation process. Of course, many of the questions Hagel will have had access to beforehand.

You can find the full 100 page plus prepared statement here but the following are relevant excerpts:

103) Services Contracting

Over the last decade, the Department has become progressively more reliant uponcontractors to perform functions that were once performed exclusively by government employees.  As a result, contractors now play an integral role in areas as diverse as the management and oversight of weapons programs, the development of personnel policies, and the collection and analysis of intelligence.  In many cases, contractor employees work in the same offices, serve on the same projects and task forces, and perform many of the same functions as DOD employees.

 In your view, has DOD become too reliant on contractors to support the basic functions of the Department?

Although I understand that DoD has been taking steps in recent years to reduce its reliance on contractors, I believe DoD must continue to manage its workforce in a way that avoids inappropriate or excessive reliance on contractor support for basic Department functions, while also meeting its obligations to perform work efficiently and effectively and to be a good steward of taxpayer resources.   If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department implements a workforce strategy that aligns functions and work among military, civilian, and contracted services in a cost effective, and balanced manner consistent with workload requirements, funding availability, and laws and regulations.

If confirmed, how do you plan to address the issue of cost growth in services contracting and ensure that the Department gets the most for its money in this area?

If confirmed, I will continue the efforts of the Administration and the Department to improve the visibility and accountability of contracted services by expanding and refining the data we collect from contractors, as required by statute, in order to compare it to our civilian and military workforce planning factors.

U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have relied on contractor support to a greater degree than previous U.S. military operations.  According to widely published reports, the number of U.S. contractor employees in Iraq and Afghanistan has often exceeded the number of U.S. military deployed in those countries.

Do you believe that the Department of Defense has become too dependent on contractor support for military operations?

At this time I don’t have enough information to make an assessment.  While many support functions for military operations are appropriate for contract support, some are more closely associated with work that should be performed by government employees (military or civilian), or other federal agencies.  I am aware of recent recommendations made by the Commission on Wartime Contracting and the GAO regarding such dependence and, if confirmed, I will support ongoing efforts to implement those recommendations as appropriate.

What risks do you see in the Department’s reliance on such contractor support?  What steps do you believe the Department should take to mitigate such risk?

Reliance on contractor support can lead to operational risk if contractors fail to perform or perform outside the scope of appropriately defined roles. Our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan have also shown that additional risk is introduced when there is poor government oversight, further increasing the potential for fraud, waste, and abuse.  We also know that government oversight is critical to ensure appropriate contractor interaction with local communities.

If confirmed, I will support the Department’s ongoing efforts to minimize any over-reliance on contractors and ensure the appropriate mix of military, civilian, and contract personnel in theater.

I will also review the Department’s progress in implementing recommendations made by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, the GAO, and the legislative mandates in the NDAA regarding operational contracting requirements including considerations for contract support as part of the national military strategy, the Quadrennial Defense Review, and the Chairman’s annual risk assessment.

Do you believe the Department is appropriately organized and staffed to effectively manage contractors on the battlefield? 

I do not have enough information yet to make a full assessment of this issue. However, I believe that investments made over the last few years in the Department’s acquisition workforce, as well as the implementation of recommendations made by the Commission on Wartime Contracting and the GAO, have vastly improved the Department’s ability to effectively manage contractors on the battlefield.  If confirmed, I will continue to improve our capabilities in this critical area.

What steps if any do you believe the Department should take to improve its management of contractors on the battlefield?

At this time I don’t have enough information to identify specific steps or actions necessary to improve management of contractors on the battlefield.  If confirmed, I will work with the Chairman, the Joint Chiefs, the Combatant Commanders, and other Department leadership to ensure commanders in the field have the necessary resources and access to information to effectively manage contract support and mitigate against potential risks.

104) Private Security Contractors

Federal agencies including the Department of Defense have spent more than $5 billion for private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade.   Over this period, there have been numerous reports of abuses and questionable activities by private security contractors in both countries.

Do you believe the Department of Defense and other federal agencies should rely upon contractors to perform security functions that may reasonably be expected to require theuse of deadly force in highly hazardous public areas in an area of combat operations? 

I believe it may be appropriate to use private security contractors for specific security functions in contingency operations when they are limited by specific rules for the use of force.

Such functions include providing security for our military bases in areas of operations and protecting supply convoys. Without a significant increase in end strength and resources, the Department would not have the capacity to take on all the missions private security contractors are able to fill.  However, the Department must provide proper guidance and supervision when using private security contractors and must ensure they do not engage in combat operations.  I cannot comment on the use of private security contractors by other federal agencies.

In your view, has the U.S. reliance upon private security contractors to perform such functions risked undermining our defense and foreign policy objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The use of private security contractors in support of contingency operations always requires careful oversight.  The misapplication of the use of force by private security contractors can undermine our strategic objectives.  If confirmed, I will ensure the  Department of Defense has established policies and procedures to effectively manage private security contractors to prevent actions that would be detrimental to our policy objectives.

Section 846 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 requires the Department of Defense to carry out risk assessments and risk mitigation plans whenever it relies on contractors to perform critical functions in support of overseas contingency operations.

What steps will you take, if confirmed, to implement the requirements of section 846? 

I believe that contract support is an essential part of the total force and will remain so in the future.  In many cases contractors are absolutely vital.  For example transportation command heavily uses contractors to move personnel and equipment.  If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department of Defense policy and operational guidance addresses the  requirements of section 846 and that proper risk assessments and risk mitigation plans are conducted.

What steps if any would you take, if confirmed, to ensure that any private security contractors who may continue to operate in an area of combat operations act in a responsible manner, consistent with U.S. defense and foreign policy objectives?

If confirmed, I will ensure the Department of Defense has policies that effectively guide the operations of private security contractors when they are used, and that we provide proper oversight.   We must also strive to ensure that all contractors, including private security contractors, are appropriately legally accountable for their actions, and that private security contractors that operate in an area of combat and contingency operations act responsibly.

106)  Acquisition Workforce

Over the last 15 years, DOD has reduced the size of its acquisition workforce by almost half, without undertaking any systematic planning or analysis to esure that it would have the specific skills and competencies needed to meet DOD’s current and future needs.   Since September 11, 2001, moreover, the demands placed on that workforce have substantially increased.   Section 852 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 established an Acquisition Workforce Development Fund to help the Department of Defense address shortcomings in its acquisition workforce.   This requirement was revised and updated by section 803 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.

Do you agree that the Department would be “penny-wise and pound foolish” to try to savemoney by cutting corners on its acquisition workforce at the risk or losing control over thehundreds of billions of dollars that it spends every year on the acquisition of products and services?

Yes.  It is imperative that the Department of Defense act as a good steward of the resources entrusted to it by the American people.  A properly qualified and sized acquisition workforce is central to maintaining this stewardship and to ensuring that the Department obtains as much value as possible for the money that it spends obtaining products and services from contractors.

Do you believe that the Acquisition Workforce Development Fund is needed  to ensure that DOD has the right number of employees with the right skills to  run its acquisition programs in the most cost effective manner for the taxpayers?

I understand that the Acquisition Workforce Development Fund has provided funds necessary for strengthening the acquisition workforce with regard to both its size and skills.  I support this goal and, if confirmed, will work with the Congress to ensure that the Fund is used effectively to build the capability of the Department’s acquisition workforce.

107) Human Capital Planning

The Department of Defense faces a critical shortfall in key areas of its civilian workforce, including the management of acquisition programs, information technology systems and financial management, and senior DOD officials have expressed alarm at the extent of the Department=s reliance on contractors in these areas.   Section 115b of title 10, U.S. Code, requires the Department to develop a strategic workforce plan to shape and improve its civilian employee workforce.

Would you agree that the Departments human capital, including its civilian workforce, is critical to the accomplishment of its national security mission? 

Yes, I agree.  The civilian workforce performs key enabling functions for the military, such as critical training and preparation to ensure readiness, equipment reset and modernization.

Civilians also provide medical care, family support, and base operating services – all vital to supporting our men and women in uniform.

Do you share the concern expressed by others about the extent of the Departments relianceon contractors in critical areas such as the management of acquisition programs,information technology and financial management?

Yes.  We must ensure that we have a properly sized, and highly capable, civilian workforce that maintains critical skills and prevents an overreliance on contracted services. If confirmed, I will support the Administration’s focus on reducing inappropriate or excessive reliance on contracted support.

If confirmed, will you ensure that the Department undertakes necessary human capital planning to ensure that its civilian workforce is prepared to meet the challenges of the coming decades?

Yes.  If confirmed, I will ensure Departmental human capital planning employs strategies for recruitment, development, and retention of a mission-ready civilian workforce. Section 955 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 requires a five percent reduction in anticipated funding levels for the civilian personnel workforce and the service contractor workforce of the Department of Defense, subject to certain exclusions.

What impact do you expect the implementation of section 955 to have on the programs and operations of the Department of Defense? 

I do not have enough information at this time to speak to potential impact.  If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department’s implementation of section 955, both in the civilian and contracted support workforces, is done in a manner that best mitigates risk to programs and operations, while maintaining core capabilities and support to our warfighters and their families.

What steps will you take, if confirmed, to ensure that section 955 is implemented in a manner that is consistent with the requirements of section 129a of title 10, United States Code, for determining the most appropriate and cost-efficient mix of military, civilian and service contractor personnel to perform DOD missions?

If confirmed, I will ensure implementation of section 955 recognizes that the sourcing of work among military (both Active and Reserve Components), civilian, and contracted services must be consistent with requirements, funding availability, and applicable laws.

What processes will you put in place, if confirmed, to ensure that the Department implements a sound planning process for carrying out the requirements of section 955, including the implementation of the exclusion authority in section 955(c)?

If confirmed, I will review the current processes the Department has for workforce determinations, along with existing management structures and tools.  I do not currently have enough information regarding possible specific exclusions, but will ensure that the workforces of the Department are sized to perform the functions and activities necessary to achieve the missions of the Department.

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