Tags: Afghanistan | Money | National Debt | building | contracting | military | nation

Pentagon Fails Miserably at Vehicle Maintenance Training

By Tuesday, 16 August 2016 11:19 AM Current | Bio | Archive

How far does the U.S. have to scale back its ambitions before it reaches an international goal it can achieve? For over a decade, under two administrations, we’ve been an abject failure at nation-building. Now a new audit from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction proves the Pentagon can’t even build a functioning Jiffy Lube.

The objective was straightforward: Teach Afghans how to change the oil and rotate tires, while the Americans do the heavy lifting.

Not exactly putting a man on the moon, but after spending $423 million over a five-year period to introduce the Afghanistan National Army to the concept of regular vehicle maintenance, the DOD failed spectacularly.

It makes one wonder how the camels survived all those centuries.

Evidently the contractor, Afghanistan Integrated Support Services JV (AISS), was working with the same raw material DHS processes each week on our southern border.

The audit lists “challenges” including: “a low literacy rate, poor training attendance, low retention of trained personnel and a limited pool of managers who possess the skills necessary to manage the supply chain and maintenance shops.”

Subjecting illiterates to death-by-PowerPoint they can’t read was a flawed training strategy from the beginning. Particularly when Afghan “cultural practices” closely mirrored those of the average federal workday: “requiring extended absences from classroom training every day [and] limited training to only 5 or 6 hours per day."

Even if the Afghans had been airing up the tires and emptying ashtrays on a daily basis, it wouldn’t have made much difference because the contractor persuaded the Pentagon to approve a contract that paid it more for doing less.

So the AISS did less.

AISS was paid for repairs made at maintenance centers based on the number of vehicles in the Afghan National Army fleet. That’s a figure a contract negotiator uses to estimate the number of vehicles that may require service. The total repair budget is then based on that calculation and kept in–house for negotiation purposes.

Payment based on total number of vehicles, rather than vehicles repaired, is a fiscal policy that only makes sense if you’re the federal government. It’s like sending a check to the dealership service center each month for the total number of cars parked at the house, instead of only paying when your car is in the shop.

That’s why over the course of the contract as AISS was ordered to close repair centers and the number of vehicle repairs dropped precipitously, monthly checks stayed the same. The only change was the repair cost per vehicle, which ballooned from $1,889 each to $51,395.

During the first three years of the contract onsite inspectors issued 113 contract violation notices and a hot letter. Then violations stopped. Not because AISS became a model contractor, but because DOD stopped sending inspectors. In June 2013 the Pentagon decided it was too dangerous to send bureaucrats into the field but not too dangerous to keep working on the vehicles.

Quality inspections after travel was banned followed the Senor Wences model: A rear echelon bureaucrat would call and ask, “S'awright?” And the reply would be, “S'awriiight!”

Even when onsite inspections resumed the bureaucrats didn’t check to see how many vehicles in the fleet were in operating condition. This was important because the contract called for a readiness rate of 90 percent.

Instead, paper-pushers counted the number of vehicles that had been in the shop and did not compare that number to the total fleet.

That gave taxpayers the worst of both worlds. They were paying for repairs based on the total number of fleet vehicles, but total fleet strength was ignored when calculating the performance of the contractor when it came to operational readiness.

Now you’re asking one of two questions: A. What fool negotiated that contract? Or B. How can I get me one of those contracts?

The answers to both questions are related.

Officials in the Pentagon often complain of the “culture of corruption” in the Afghan government and military. But there is an equally pervasive culture of soft corruption in the Pentagon and it centers on contracting and contractors.

All too often military compliance officers are also hoping to go to work for the contractor they supervise after they retire. That’s a recipe for collusion. No contractor is going to hire a former compliance officer who negotiated a tough contract or had strict evaluation standards.

And that’s why defense contracting is filled with waste, inefficiency, and fraud.

And there’s no hope of “reforming” the contracting process until retired military personnel are forbidden by law from working for any private sector business that has a contract with the branch of the military they just left.

Absent that, the Pentagon will continue lubing taxpayers.

Michael R. Shannon is a commentator, researcher (for the League of American Voters), and an award-winning political and advertising consultant with nationwide and international experience. He is author of "Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!)." Read more of Michael Shannon's reports — Go Here Now.




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There’s no hope of reforming the contracting process until retired military personnel are forbidden by law from working for any private sector business that has a contract with the branch of the military they just left.
building, contracting, military, nation
Tuesday, 16 August 2016 11:19 AM
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