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U.S. Contracting Goals In Afghanistan Raising Favoritism Concerns

The U.S. government is spending a great deal of money in Afghanistan for commercial services and logistic support. This is necessary due to the limited size of the U.S. military and of its NATO allies as well as the land locked and mountainous nature of the country but concerns have arisen with how the money is being spent.

One reason is that the U.S. has a plan to spend as much money as possible on domestic companies and providers so that they will help build a sustainable Afghan economy. This is one of the keys to making that country functional without a massive U.S. and allied presence and the United States is willing to leverage its contracting policies to help support this effort.

One company that is feeling the negative effect of this policy and is not happy about it is Infrastructure Defense Technologies (IDT) from Illinois. They manufacture among other products special earth filled barriers used to provide perimeter defense at bases from direct fire as well as explosive attack. In 2008 they bid on a contract to provide this kind of product for use in Iraq and Afghanistan potentially worth up to $400 million. The contract did not go to them but a foreign company. IDT has protested this award twice now.

IDT feels that despite there better product they were slighted due to the Pentagon’s desire to have this material made in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of their plan to build up the economy. IDT lost a lawsuit with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) on the grounds that the British company chosen, Hesco Bastion, could fulfill the needs of the contract. This is one of the main reasons used to justify sole source awards no matter what the cost — the supplier is the only one who can provide a technically compliant product in the amount of time required. Often these contracts end up costing more then if they were competitively bid and awarded.

Sometimes the desire to contract efficiently and ethically may not be supported by other policies or needs. In Afghanistan it seems that the hope of spending large amount of U.S. tax dollars in the local economy will support the mission of building and effective government and economy. Even if this plan hurts U.S. businesses and doesn’t get the most bang for the buck.

Photo from takomabibelot’s flickr photostream

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