Inspectors Slam Army, Contractor for Shoddy Afghan Base

DynCorp was paid $73 million for a base plagued with issues.

A soldier stands near the site of an attack on the out skirts of the city in Kunduz province, north of Kabul, Afghanistan in 2008.
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The government office tasked with monitoring U.S. efforts to rebuild Afghanistan claims the U.S. Army lost tens of millions of dollars supposed to be used to re-construct an Afghan Army base that remains in disrepair.

The Office of the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has opened an investigation into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its $73 million contract with DynCorp International to build an Afghan National Army base at Camp Pamir in the northern Kunduz Province.

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DynCorp was paid in full and released from the contract, SIGAR says, though the base is plagued with structural failures and a crumbling foundation. This investigation stems from an October report outlining the issues.

"We found major structural failures, improper grading, and sink holes at the site," writes SIGAR's John F. Sopko in a Dec. 13 letter to the Corps of Engineers' top general.

"Most alarming was our discovery that despite the unsatisfactory performance by DynCorp–USACE's prime contractor at the site–USACE had released DynCorp from all contractual liabilities and warranty obligations and paid the company nearly $73 million for its work at Camp Pamir," he says.

James B. Balocki, head of the Army's Transatlantic Division Regional Integration Team, tasked with overseeing engineering and technical support for domestic and foreign governments. In a memo cited in SIGAR's letter, Balocki said the corps did not have sufficient information to release DynCorp from their contract, which "raises a number of concerns."

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"Mr. Balocki's memorandum along confirms the need for further investigation of the DynCorp settlement," wrote Sopko. "However, we have also become aware of questionable actions on the part of personnel involved in the DynCorp settlement negotiations, which have prompted us to open an investigation."

DynCorp says SIGAR never contacted the contractor for information before releasing the report, and takes issue with many of its conclusions.

"That report made several unsupported leaps connecting [DynCorp] to current conditions at a location where the company has not had a presence for more than a year," says company spokeswoman Ashley Burke in an E-mail to U.S. News.

Pictures in the SIGAR report are dated 2012. DynCorp left the site in early 2011, Burke says, and other contractors have been working on the site since 2010.

"We are unable to comment on 2012 site conditions that may or may not exist today; the site was turned over in 2011 and the current occupants have been responsible for the maintenance and care of the facilities since," she says. "Other phases of construction and further site grading by other contractors on the site had already commenced in 2010 and continued after [DynCorp] left."

The contractor also only received partial payment for their work, says Burke, resulting in a company loss of more than $26 million for two phases of the contract. When asked why DynCorp accepted partial payment, Burke said, "Despite the fact that the obstacles we encountered were not contemplated by the contract, were beyond its scope, and greatly increased its costs, this was a fixed-price project and we ultimately accepted payment consistent with the terms of the original contract."

The Corps of Engineers plans to cooperate with the investigation, according to a statement obtained by U.S. News.

"USACE conducted an initial review of the settlement that raised some questions, which involve highly technical factors pertaining to site conditions and related geotechnical issues, as well as the requirements of the contract," according to the statement. "USACE has assembled a multidisciplinary team with the appropriate technical knowledge to conduct a more thorough investigation."

News of the investigation comes weeks after SIGAR released a report stating Afghanistan will not be able to care for its security infrastructure following the U.S. projected draw-down in 2014. The report highlighted an $800 million contract the Corps of Engineers gave to Exelis to train local security forces. The contractor was not performing adequate quality control on the services it was paid to supply, SIGAR claimed.