11.1 Making sustainment and contracting ‘Commander’s business’
It is not yet habitual for contracting to be integrated with planning or intelligence analysis, and investigation of the financial flows contracting creates has not been a priority for military personnel.
Afghanistan: Corruption and the making of warlords
A US Congressional investigation into a supply contract in Afghanistan – the Host Nation Trucking Contract - shows that while military contracting officers focused on contract implementation and contractor performance, they have not considered the wider implications of corruption and extortion along the supply chain and the way these could undermine the wider objectives of the deployment.View Case Study
“Under normal circumstances, contractors do not volunteer to the government that they might be breaking the law; in this case, HNT contractors repeatedly did just that. Their reports fell on deaf ears….Although many military officials later expressed concerns…about what they had heard, little action was ever taken to investigate the issue. From the logisticians’ perspective, their jobs were to make sure the goods got to where they needed to go. Any other concerns were beyond the scope of their duty.”
Warlord, Inc., p. 55
What the logisticians missed in this case was that corruption and resource diversion along the supply chain, which fed not only corrupt Afghan officials, but also filled the coffers of the insurgency. As local supply chains are one of the most significant interfaces between the mission and the host nation, those who run them are in a crucial position: they can both observe and address corruption and fraud risks that affect mission goals and host nation actors.
Following the Host Nation Trucking scandal, ISAF Commander General David Petraeus issued guidance that squarely put contracting among key issues influencing the missions’ ability to fulfil their goals:
“….contracting has to be ‘Commander’s business.’ Indeed, I expect Commanders to consider the effects of our contract spending and understand who benefits from it. We must use intelligence to inform our contracting and ensure those with whom we contract work for the best interests of the Afghan people. We must be better buyers and buy from better people.”
COMISAF/CMDR USFOR-A, ‘COMISAF’s Counter-Insurgency (COIN) Contracting Guidance, 2010
In practice, what recognising sustainment and contracting as ‘commander’s business’ means is seeing sustainment through the lens of the overall goals that the mission is trying to achieve. It means working to ensure not only that financial flows are reconciled and audit trails correct, but also that the overall design of sustainment supports mission goals rather than endangers them. Commanders’ involvement will also set an appropriate tone from the top, stressing expectations of integrity and consideration rather than focusing only on getting the contract fulfilled.
The following are sample questions that could be asked to guide the assessment of the impact that sustainment can have on mission goals and on governance and security in the area of operations:
- Who are local sustainment partners likely to be?
- Are there reasons to suspect they are involved in corrupt or criminal practices?
- Are they likely to misuse mission resources?
- Is that misuse likely to undermine governance and security? Is it likely to increase mission costs?
- Is resource misuse likely to enrich the adversaries, including insurgent or terrorist groups?
- What would be the impact of corruption along the supply chain on the mission’s overall objectives?
- Are there ways of making local contracts support for the local economy?
Seen this way, contracting becomes part of overall operational and tactical planning and analysis. It also allows the strategic recognition of the importance of contracting to be translated into processes, analysis and expertise which would support it. As this tends to be a new way of approaching sustainment, commanders’ commitment is crucial if it is to take root and shape the way staff approach the issue.
- Command Group