The Interior Department's inspector general is reviewing the contracting
procedures that allowed the Army to hire civilian interrogators in Iraq and
has blocked the Army from using the contract to place new orders with
Arlington-based CACI International Inc., an agency spokesman said yesterday.
It was under this contract that CACI's Steven A. Stefanowicz worked as an
interrogator at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. An Army report on abuses
at the prison accused Stefanowicz of encouraging soldiers to set conditions
for interrogations and says he "clearly knew his instructions equated to
physical abuse." Stefanowicz's lawyer has said his client was wrongly
CACI's work was performed for the Defense Department, but managed by
Interior, sparking questions about whether the government properly
supervised the order.
In a news conference yesterday, Interior spokesman Frank Quimby defended the
agency's performance, saying its role was not to oversee the work but simply
to perform administrative tasks like paying billings and recording
contracting modifications. He said the Army is responsible for overseeing
the work of CACI's employees and it has not reported any problems to
"The Department of Interior received no indication . . . that anything was
amiss with the contractor's performance," Quimby said. An Army
representative told Interior last week that he "is satisfied with CACI's
personnel and performance."
Although Interior will not allow the Army to place new orders under the
contract, work already underway will continue, Quimby said.
The contract was first awarded to Premier Technology Group Inc., a Fairfax
defense contractor, in 1998 by the Army acquisition center at Fort Huachuca
in Sierra Vista, Ariz. In January 2001, the center was taken over by the
Interior Department as part of the Defense Department's effort to reduce and
streamline its acquisition operations.
The contract, which is officially called a blanket-purchase agreement and
has a $500 million limit, was then reissued by Interior. Blanket-purchase
agreements are large, vaguely worded contracts designed to give agencies
flexibility and to speed up purchases. Critics say these open-ended
contracts allow agencies to skirt public oversight.
A year ago CACI acquired Premier Technology Group. In August, Command Joint
Task Force-7, the unit overseeing operations in Iraq, decided it wanted CACI
to provide interrogators under the blanket-purchase agreement, and informed
Interior of its plan.
Because the blanket-purchase agreement was by that time an Interior
contract, an Interior official was required to evaluate the new orders to
make sure the work was not "outside the scope" of the contract, said Quimby,
and that CACI was charging the government appropriately.
The contract was for technology services, but Interior's contracting officer
"was convinced under his own guidelines" that the Army could request CACI's
help with interrogations because the order included computer integration and
data processing work, Quimby said. Interior thus issued a $19.9 million
order for the work.
In December 2003, the contract was used again to hire CACI for
counterintelligence support in a deal worth $21.8 million.
Design and oversight of the interrogation project was done by an Army
employee in Iraq, who was supposed to bring any problems to the attention of
Interior's contracting officer. But Quimby conceded that communication
between the two has been "incremental and sporadic."
Charles Tiefer , professor of government contracts at the University of
Baltimore School of Law, said: "This is a war situation and I don't know
what the Department of Interior is doing out there. "
The purchase of services through an Interior Department contractor "sounds
like a formula for having little or no oversight and a real potential for
abuse, " Tiefer said.
CACI and Premier Technology performed 81 tasks under the blanket-purchase
agreement; 11 of those projects have involved work in Iraq. Twenty-seven of
CACI's employees work in Iraq as interrogators.
The Army is not required to issue requests for competitive bids when it
wants to hire Premier Technology or CACI under the blanket-purchase
agreement, nor is it required to disclose the type of work being done under
that contract or the price paid for those services.