The International Stability Operations Association (ISOA) is a global partnership of non-governmental and private sector organizations, and individuals dedicated to the establishment, support, and good conduct of international stability operations. ISOA members work in high risk environments providing stability and protection to regions, nations and/or vulnerable groups, and laying a foundation for long-term economic, social and political development. Working on all seven continents with more than 200,000 employees worldwide, ISOA members are critical partners to governments, non-government organizations, and commercial clients, and are implementation experts with decades of experience in successful stabilization, reconstruction, and development operations.
In 2014, as the voice of the implementer industry in overseas operations, ISOA will advocate along four major categories: (1) for permanent funding and authority for contingency stability operations; (2) to improve contracting practices and policies across the government; and (3) to promote the responsible transitions in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly by focusing on building host nation capacity; and (4) in recognition for where we have come, ISOA will continue to highlight the creation of the ICOC and ANSI PSC1 standards.
Promote Permanent Funding for Stability Operations
The United States and its allies should support countries that are failing, failed, or in post conflict situations. These fragile and complex environments put vulnerable populations at risk for poverty and violence, but also pose a national security risk as potential hotbeds for extremism. In 2014, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will further draw down operations in Afghanistan, but there will be future contingency stabilization operations. Our governments must be able to call upon the expertise and experience from private sector implementing partners, NGOs, and contractors to stabilize these environments. While the U.S. may reduce Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding in FY-2015 and beyond, it is imperative that the United States maintain an adequate base for contingency funding authority. It does not matter what you call it -- 1206, GSCF, Democracy Fund -- but such authorities should be made permanent and their funding streams given a reliable foundation.
Mindful of the threat of fragile states worldwide, ISOA will advocate for:
- Contingency ops funding authority, and, potentially, an Oversees Stability Operations Fund, or Office of Overseas Contingency Operations, with appropriate interagency authority and leadership with sufficient flexibility to support contingency operations rapidly.
- Designating a coordinating function for Countries in Transition in the Department of Defense who will participate in planning with Combatant Commands, with the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations in the State Department and with private industry.
Improve Contracting Practices and Procedures
Governments rely on ISOA members’ expertise in many areas. This relationship typically stems through a contract, grant, or cooperative agreement. These legal mechanisms allow governments great flexibility to buy, lease, or rent the capacity they need, when they need, for as long as they need; and, in addition, provide high levels of oversight and control. Service providers are incentivized to respond to government direction and ensure compliance with local and international laws. Success for ISOA members is a matter of pride and national security. But because we work in partnership with - and on contract to - the governments, successful actions in this sphere require well-written contracts and grants that are responsibly executed, and can be appropriately overseen and audited. The scope of work performed overseas under government contracts is vast and complex, and the system that distributes or allocates that work remains haphazard, opaque, and cumbersome. The relationship between requirement owners and implementing partners, thus needs improvement. Many lessons learned have been written, but many remain ignored and discarded.
ISOA will continue to advocate for better contracting regulations, procedures, and practices including:
- Responsible and appropriate oversight and transparent management practices conducted by a well-trained, professional, government contracting cadre.
- Expanded use of practices that award contracts – particularly for services -- based on a “best value” determination, and not “Lowest Priced Technically Acceptable”; and to foster innovation and choose the most capable, reputable and efficient implementers.
- Requests for proposal (RFPs) that stipulate: high technical qualifications for awardees, such as the international management criteria maintained by ISO (the International Organization for Standards); and Improved government-contractor communications, joint planning, and lessons learned processes, as well as practical training that will bring a better end-result for government interests.
- Encourage and enforce accurate record keeping and suitable measures of success and performance.
Many of the ISOA member companies continue to provide services and operate in Afghanistan. Given our experience in many “states in transition” Afghanistan is noteworthy. On top of well-known corruption and infrastructure challenges, the Afghan Government does not apply uniform policies – specifically for tax or licensing purposes – to all international contractors. Furthermore, the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the U.S. Government and the Afghan Government has yet to be signed. While the BSA articulates the agreed-to requirement needed for U.S. forces (and support contractors) to remain in Afghanistan post-2014, absent such an agreement, a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan at the end of 2014 is a real possibility. This uncertainty challenges the normal planning processes of ISOA member companies currently operating in Afghanistan. We will continue to work closely with the Congress, the Department of Defense, State Department, and other agencies to inform and advocate on these issues. Some specific examples include:
- Equal treatment and accountability of Afghan tax matters for ALL U.S. contractors performing duties in Afghanistan under any U.S. Government prime contract.
- Predictable security posture for U.S. contractors post-2014, with or without a BSA.
- Protocols necessary for protection of U.S. contracting personnel without potentially triggering U.S. Government termination clauses.
- Predictable business operating climate in Afghanistan post-2014.