Recurring problems in Afghan construction
On January 24, 2011, the federal Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan held a hearing to examine recurring problems in Afghan construction projects. This hearing is the result of a study conducted by the Commission on major construction projects in Afghanistan funded by the United States Government.
The United States Government has committed billions of dollars to construction projects in Afghanistan to support its military and reconstruction/stabilization efforts. These projects range from military base facilities and power plants, to roads, schools and health clinics. The Commission sought input from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and U.S. Government contracting agencies responsible for funding and overseeing these projects, and the construction contractors responsible for building these projects.
The hearing was organized into three panels including: The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment (AFCEE), and the US Department of State. The third panel included representatives from CH2MHill, AMEC Earth and Environmental, Black & Veatch Special Projects Corporation, The Louis Berger Group, and the United Nations Office for Project Services.
"Too often, adverse impacts are felt by American soldiers, Marines, and airmen who find themselves jammed into cramped and inadequately protected quarters," said Commission co-chairman Michael Thibault. "The Afghan people we are trying to help have also been ill-served by some of the U.S.-funded construction projects in their country. These issues go beyond delays and cost overruns, and are just unacceptable."
On the first panel was Major General Arnold Fields (USMC Ret.), Inspector General, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
According to MG Fields, “SIGAR's audits of infrastructure projects in Afghanistan have identified serious problems resulting from insufficient planning, inadequate contract management, and inability to provide quality assurance and oversight, particularly in areas that are not secure.”
“These issues place the entire U.S. investment of $11.4 billion in [Afghan National Security Forces] facilities construction at risk of not meeting Afghan needs or intended purposes and resulting in a large degree of waste,” Fields said.
The witnesses for the second panel were U.S. Government officials representing the four major U.S. Government agencies funding and overseeing construction contracts in Afghanistan. They were Major General Jeffery J. Dorko, Deputy Commander for Military and International Operations, USACE, Colonel Wilfred T. Cassidy, Deputy Director, AFCEE, Mr. William J. McGlynn, Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), Department of State and J. Alexander Their, Afghanistan and Pakistan Task Force, Deputy Assistant Administrator , USAID.
“Lack of security limits our ability to travel to construction sites and provide quality assurance by Corps personnel," Dorko said. "The hostile environment in Afghanistan can make it difficult to provide quality assurance and project oversight on all projects at all times and certainly not at the same level as we could in a secure environment.”
The witnesses for the third panel were senior executives from construction contractors in Afghanistan. They were Mr. Larry Walker, President, Louis Berger Group, Mr. William Van Dyke, President, B&V Special Projects Corp, Black and Veatch, Mr. Michael E. McKelvy, President, Government, Environment & Nuclear Division, CH2M Hill, Mr. Charles Mouzannar, Executive Vice President, AMEC Earth and Environmental, Inc. and Mr. Bruce McCarron, Regional director, UNOPS.
At the hearing, the Commission focused on major construction issues which were identified by Commission through research and witnessed by Commission officials during two fact-finding missions into Afghanistan. These issues were host nation involvement in project selection, cost, schedule and quality of the construction projects in Afghanistan, sustainability of the US funded construction projects in Afghanistan, the past performance record of construction companies employed, and quality assurance problems which have plague US funded construction projects, and finally the adequacy of contractor business systems used to monitor progress of major construction projects.
The hearing began at 9:30 a.m. on January 24, 2011, in room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC. Due to scheduling restrictions at the Hart Senate Office Building, the Commission was able to complete hearing only panels I and II before adjourning. The Commission may reconvene the hearing at a later date to hear testimony from the third panel.
Transcript: Jan 24, 2011 hearing transcript
Panel 3 (Did not testify at this hearing due to time contraints)
Larry Walker, President, Louis Berger Group
William Van Dyke (Black & Veatch)
Mr. Bruce McCarron (UNOPS)
Mr. Michael E. McKelvy (CH2M Hill)
Charles Mouzannar (AMEC Earth and Environmental)