- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

State Department investigators last year quit probing kickback charges against one of the government’s largest military contractors because they didn’t want to go through the “lengthy” process of getting permission from the Iraqi government to interview its citizens, records show.

The decision left unresolved accusations of whether DynCorp let a subcontractor solicit kickbacks from linguists at Baghdad’s police academy as a condition of continued employment. The company was hired under a nearly $1 billion task order to provide linguists to work in three Iraqi cities.

But the State Department inspector general’s office shut the case after investigators decided it wasn’t worth going through the process of complying with a June 2012 Iraqi government policy that restricted “all interviews of Iraqi citizens without submission of a request through official political channels.”

Investigators had interviewed six linguists and one State Department official before cutting off the probe, according to a summary memo of the case obtained by The Washington Times through the Freedom of Information Act.

The disclosure raises broad concerns about the logistical difficulties of policing the billions of dollars in existing and future contracts doled out in Iraq.

“There’s a lot of money at stake and to not pursue it in the face of obstacles from the Iraqi government is troubling,” said William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.

Mr. Hartung said it especially matters because U.S. dollars are flowing again to military contractors operating in Iraq to help support efforts against the Islamic State.

“It’s a serious problem,” he said of the lack of access to Iraqi citizens encountered by the inspector general. “And we don’t know how often this happens.”

The inspector general declined to comment Tuesday. But the memo summarizing the investigation indicates that investigators had run into problems when seeking permission from the Iraqi government to interview its citizens.

“The adjudication of such requests requires release of sensitive law enforcement information to the [government of Iraq], has proven to be a lengthy process and often results in denial of the request,” a State Department inspector general employee wrote in a memo before closing the case.

An unidentified special agent in charge “determined further efforts in this case are not in the best interest of the [State Department],” the memo concluded.

Neither DynCorp nor its subcontractor, Janus Security Iraq, responded to emails Monday, nor did the Iraqi Embassy.

Stephen Biddle, a professor at George Washington University and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said things may be different now that a new Iraqi government has been formed and is seeking U.S. help in fighting the Islamic State militants.

“That said, I doubt they’ll ever be as cooperative as we’d like,” he said. “And we may or may not get enough cooperation to enable prosecutions that would stand up in U.S. courts. But their willingness at the margin to help Americans was probably at something like a post-2003 low in 2013. It can only go up from there.”

DynCorp has been one of the Army’s main logistics contractors in Afghanistan, but it also has been a top contractor for the State Department in Iraq.

In a report recently highlighted by the Project on Government Oversight, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found that DynCorp received nearly 70 percent of the roughly $4 billion that the State Department paid to contractors in reconstruction funding.

But in a contract action disclosed last week, the State Department gave a no-bid task order for guard- and police-training services to another firm, Triple Canopy.

In a sole-source justification, a State Department official specifically ruled out DynCorp, saying it would be a conflict of interest for the company to train local police that ultimately would replace American contractors in some security duties.

On Tuesday, the company announced that it was among a group of contractors awarded an umbrella contractor to compete for task orders under an Army intelligence contract valued at up to $7.2 billion.

The contract that was the subject of the closed State Department investigation was awarded to DynCorp in 2004, with a task order four years later now worth $966 million to provide local linguists to work in Irbil, Basra and Baghdad.

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