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CRS Slams Lack of Oversight of Contractors
Report Concludes Transparency, Controls, Legal Accountability Inadequate
08/20/2007 12:42 PM ET
MOSUL, Iraq: A foreign security contractor stands guard to allow Iraqi election officials and US embassy officials to exit a meeting.
David Furst/AFP/Getty
MOSUL, Iraq: A foreign security contractor stands guard to allow Iraqi election officials and US embassy officials to exit a meeting.

The Bush Administration either has not kept sufficient records or has been unwilling to present to Congress basic, accurate information on the companies employed under U.S. government contracts and subcontracts in Iraq, according to the newest revision of a CRS report on the issues involving US employment of contractors in Iraq.

A number of government officials blamed the lack of adequate oversight on understaffing, pointing out that the Departments of Defense and State have reduced the number of contracting officer’s representatives (CORs), those who are responsible for supervising contracted work, even as the use of contractors has been on the rise.

Doug Brooks of the International Peace Operations Association, an industry representative, described the oversight situation as “a nightmare” and stated that “the better” companies would prefer closer oversight.

CRS periodically revises its report "Private Security Contractors in Iraq: Background, Legal Status, and Other Issues" for Congress, with the most recent version completed in July.

In the latest edition, for the first time CRS addresses allegations of abuse of third-country nationals employed as security contractors. CRS reports the United Nations Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries has collected abuse complaints in five countries from which private security personnel are regularly recruited--Chile, Ecuador, Fiji, Honduras, and Peru. Complaints include contractual irregularities, poor working conditions, partial or non-payment of salaries, and neglect of basic needs such as access to medical services. Though the UN working group did not name the companies responsible for the abuse, the statements on Fiji and Peru named Iraq as the country where the abuse occurred.

In another concern related to the employment of third-country nationals, CRS revised a conclusion from the last edition of the report, which had indicated contractors had made strides to improve background screenings and quality controls on new-hires. Now CRS says the situation does not appear to have changed significantly in the past year since they first raised it.

With regard to the most prevalent concern of the legal accountability of civilians armed with deadly force, CRS summarizes all the relevant criminal and military statutes, painting a portrait of legal accountability that remains full of loopholes.

Private Security Contractors in Iraq: Background, Legal Status, and Other Issues CRScontractors7_07.pdf

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