The Government Accountability Office has denied a protest from American security services firm DynCorp International LLC of the Army's controversial award of a $293 million contract in March to British firm Aegis Defense Services Ltd. to coordinate and manage the activities of security contractors operating in Iraq.
DynCorp, a heavyweight in the global security services market, also had bid on the contract. The firm is owned by Computer Sciences Corp. of El Segundo, Calif.
The award to Aegis surprised many because the company had no experience in the Middle East, and its main shareholder, Tim Spicer, a former lieutenant colonel in the Scots Guards, has been at the center of a number of controversial business deals, including a 1998 arms-smuggling operation in Sierra Leone in violation of a United Nations arms embargo.
GAO found that DynCorp's proposal was "marginal, and ineligible for award without significant revision" and therefore, the company had no standing in the protest. The contract was awarded on a "best value" basis, based on technical and management capability, past performance and cost. The request for proposals had advised contestants that technical and management capability would be rated slightly higher than past performance, and that the two factors together would rate higher than cost.
Computer Sciences Corp. spokeswoman Janet Herrin said Monday that the company had no comment on GAO's findings.
The Iraq award is a far-reaching contract aimed at bringing order to the operations of dozens of companies providing security services. Under the contract, Aegis is to provide anti-terrorism support and analysis, and serve as a clearinghouse for information between coalition forces in Iraq and security contractors. In addition, Aegis is to establish 75 armed security teams to protect personnel involved in reconstruction.
Military officials and security contractors in Iraq had been eagerly anticipating the fulfillment of the contract. In an August interview , Lt. Col. Len McWherter, operations officer for the Multinational Brigade Northwest, which operates in the northern sector of Iraq, said the proliferation of private security contractors has made the work of Aegis vital to military operations there.
It is especially important for military commanders to know where the contractors are, and that they operate according to established procedures, McWherter said. "We're the only one that can respond to assist them if something goes wrong. If they run into [a roadside bomb], or run into contact with insurgents, then we have a responsibility to react and assist as best we can." It is equally important that contractors don't unknowingly stumble into the middle of a military operation, he said.
Trefor Williams, a former British special forces soldier who directs operations in Iraq for the private security company Diligence LLC, estimates that there are between 40 and 60 security firms now working in the country, with more setting up shop daily.
"Aegis should be a central point for intelligence coming in from the private security sector to help others in the private security sector and the military. And they should be passing out unclassified intelligence to us so we can do our job better," he said.
As a result of the DynCorp protest, the inspector general for the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. governing authority in Iraq before the Iraqi interim government took power June 30, began an investigation into the contract award. That investigation was suspended following GAO's findings.