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Defense Department Translator Contract Criticized

The Department of Defense obviously has a great need for translators considering the current main efforts are in Iraq and Afghanistan. In order to procure these it had awarded an omnibus contract to L3 Communications in the early part of this decade. Many of the translators used by the U.S. forces are locals or expatriates from Iraq or Afghanistan that are paid through this type of contract.

As with most U.S. Government contracts it came up for recompete and in 2008 the new contract was awarded to DynCorp. DynCorp was already providing logistic support services to the U.S. military overseas as part of their core business. L3 Communications protested the award of the over four billion dollar contract and in a rather creative solution DynCorp formed a new company Global Linguist Solutions (GLS) that included L3 as a partner. This led that company to drop the protest and the military could move out on getting their services.

Now GLS is being accused of mismanaging the contract by critics. The Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) made mention of the fact that the company has hired multiple sub-contractors to conduct the pay roll activity for the linguists it provides. The agency feels that the use of twelve different companies to do this work is costly to the government and inefficient. The DCAA estimates this business plan will cost the government an extra $500 million or more.

The company has responded to this criticism by saying that the number of subs is necessary as the linguists are recruited world wide and operate in a variety of places as well. These companies make sure that the translators supporting the military are paid properly and on time. There have been issues with salaries and overhead with the contract but much of that is related to the transition between contractors.

That is not to say DynCorp and its partners are without blame and the Government is being overly critical. The company has had issues with other contracts with over charging the government. These kind of problems are common with large contracts to provide very discrete services. The contract is awarded this way in an attempt to facilitate management by the Government and with the idea that one large contract is more efficient then several smaller ones. In this case it might have made sense to have different contracts for different geographical areas or one for recruiting and one for operations.

The threat of protest with something like this that provides critical services also motivates government and contractor to solve them. A protest delays implementation of the contract by up to one hundred days. In this case the two companies teamed with each other and eliminated the protest. This solution has been ruled legal.

Any student of history knows that war is wasteful. Many times extra resources are used to fix problems that may cost the Government and military more then it would if all T's were crossed and I's dotted. There are often rushes to complete contract awards. Often these kind of issues are worked out in the process and the contractor and government come to an equitable solution. Chances are that is what will happen with this contract.


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