Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

The Modern Day DBA Casualty

Drugs suspected in death of Afghanistan contractor

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on September 16, 2009

The Associated Press
Original Story here
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WASHINGTON — A U.S. contractor in Afghanistan helping train the national police was found dead last week of a possible drug overdose, just months after his company was reprimanded by the State Department for another worker’s drug-related death.

The deaths have raised questions over how well DynCorp International selects and manages those assigned to the police training contract, a crucial component of the U.S. effort to hand over more of the security burden to the Afghans.

The leaders of an independent panel investigating wartime spending said Wednesday they are troubled by the deaths of two workers at the State Department’s largest contractor.

“This shouldn’t be treated as an isolated event that (the State Department) can ignore,” said Christopher Shays, co-chairman of the Commission on Wartime Contracting. “They really need to step in and say, ‘Do we have a drug problem at DynCorp?'”

The employee was found dead in his quarters in Kabul, the capital, on Sept. 10. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said an investigation is under way.

DynCorp spokesman Douglas Ebner said the company would not speculate on the cause of the death.

Michael Thibault, who along with Shays heads the contracting commission, said DynCorp officials informed the panel last week that a syringe, needle, and a drug vial were found near the body. A toxicology test will be conducted to determine if drugs were a factor.

The employee, a medic, had arrived in Afghanistan in late August. Given his profession, it would not be unusual for medical supplies to be found in his room.

On March 17, a DynCorp employee assigned to the same contract was found dead in the company’s housing in Kabul. Drug use was suspected in that death, which remains under investigation. After that death, the State Department ordered the company to replace its senior project managers on the police training contract.

Both the departments of State and Defense depend heavily upon contractors such as DynCorp for support in war zones for construction, transportation, security, food service and laundry. But how well federal authorities are watching over the performance and conduct of this industrial army is a long-standing concern.

Most recently, the State Department has been criticized by the commission and public interest groups for failing to know that private security guards hired to protect the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan were engaging in lewd and inappropriate behavior that may have compromised the U.S. effort there.

DynCorp has been training police in Afghanistan since 2003, according to information on the Falls Church, Va.-based company’s Web site. The latest installment of the training contract was awarded by the State Department in August 2008 and is worth $317 million.

Dyncorp has 16,000 employees in Iraq and Afghanistan and expects to expand that number to 20,000 as demands for its services increase.

William Ballhaus, DynCorp’s president and chief executive officer, was asked about the Sept. 10 death during a hearing held Monday by the wartime contracting panel on a separate State Department contract.

Ballhaus didn’t discuss the cause of the death or provide any details about the employee. But he did say company managers in Afghanistan treated the area where the employee died as a “crime scene,” securing the room with guards to make sure evidence wasn’t removed.

He also said the company immediately notified the State Department and the FBI. “We’re talking about tens of minutes on this timeline,” Ballhaus said.

The body was brought to back to the U.S. on Sunday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, he added.

Ballhaus said he and other DynCorp officials reviewed how the employee was recruited, hired and trained. “We wanted to make sure our process was intimately followed, and it was,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: