Army Tightens Supervision on MENA Contractors

Army Tightens Supervision on MENA Contractors

The Department of Defense hired Tapestry’s Global Distribution Management System to monitor the distribution of supplies and equipment throughout the Central Command’s purview. This area includes Iraq, Qatar, Kuwait, and five other nations in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The contract includes additional oversight, as well. For example, trucks and other vehicles will have GPS transponders which enable real-time tracking from a remote location. Other features include panic alarm functions and topographical maps that show a supply column’s progress.

Details of the agreement were not released.

Contractors in Supply Hubs

In the early 1990s, Kuwait was on the front line. Now, almost 20 years later, this small Arab nation is no longer in the crosshairs. However, it is still a significant place. The U.S. learned the hard way that friendly nations in places like the Persian Gulf area are almost invaluable.

In 1979, Islamic fundamentalists toppled the pro-Western Shah of Iran. After he left the country essentially in exile, a group of students seized hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Most of them remained captive for over a year, at least partially due to a disastrous military rescue attempt.

Since the United States had no close allies in the region, President Jimmy Carter ordered a complex special forces operation that had lots of moving parts. Essentially, since the U.S. lacked a quick strike capability, the soldiers had to sneak up on the embassy under the cover of darkness. Things immediately began to go bad when one helicopter developed mechanical problems. Since the nearest supply depot was hundreds of miles away, a quick fix was not an option. Things when from bad to worse when two helicopters collided in the darkness as they took off from the Iranian desert floor.

Contrast that outcome with the surgical strike which took out al Qaeda frontman Osama bin Laden in 2011. This action was also a clandestine, overnight special forces raid against a heavily-guarded compound. But this time, SEAL Team Six took off from neighboring Afghanistan. Less travel time meant there were fewer opportunities for things to go wrong. The much different results speak for themselves.

So, Kuwait is basically a strike hub. After a U.S.-led coalition rebuffed Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein’s effort to annex the country, Kuwait’s leadership understandably felt a debt of gratitude to Americans. The DoD was only too happy to oblige by building a large military installation in the county. Today, some 10,000 servicemembers and 5,000 private military contractors are stationed in Kuwait.

There is more. Today, Kuwait is also basically a supply dump for U.S. forces in the MENA region. It is much more efficient to distribute supplies from a hub. Perched on the shore of the Persian Gulf, Kuwait is in an ideal location to fulfil this role.

What Contractors do

Even in “rear areas” like Kuwait, militant attacks are always a threat. After all, if such episodes can occur in San Bernardino, they can certainly happen in Kuwait City. So, private military contractors provide security. Their mere presence deters suicide attacks and other one-off acts of violence.

Moreover, the ongoing security they provide has many layers. For example, if a group wanted to penetrate a building’s defenses, it must figure out how to get past multiple checkpoints as well as an array of electronic surveillance. Only contractors provide that kind of protection.

Contractors in Kuwait and elsewhere also serve important non-military functions. Most of the supplies that arrive there come by ship. That means the base needs plenty of longshoremen and other dock workers. Try finding these kinds of individuals at a military academy. The expertise is simply not there.

Finally, contractors are politically important. Contractor levels usually do not count in the official census figures. So, the American presence in a place like Kuwait remains strong but looks weaker on paper. Stateside politicians can tell nervous constituents that only a few American boys are serving overseas. Local politicians can do the same thing to reduce anti-American sentiment. And there is still a lot of that these days.

Injury Compensation Available

If a visitor toured American military facilities in Kuwait, it might be difficult to distinguish regular servicemembers and private contractors. But there are a number of differences, and the injury compensation available is a good example. When servicemembers get hurt overseas, the DoD and the Veterans Administration are supposed to take care of them. When private contractors are injured overseas, the Defense Base Act almost always takes very good care of them. That is because these victim can have an experienced attorney advocating for them throughout the entire process.

Sometimes this process is quite brief, other times it is mind-numbingly long, and sometimes it is somewhere in between. The parties can settle an injury claim at any time, but most claims follow the same process.

Initially, the victim must report the illness or injury to a supervisor. That report needs to be in writing. The reporting process varies slightly according to the type of claim:

  • Trauma Injuries: Falls, gunshot wounds, and other such events are fairly straightforward. Fortunately, there is no need to include details, as the injury is often much more serious than victims believe at the time.
  • Occupational Disease: Things like respiratory problems due to burn pit exposure are a little more complex. It is difficult to determine when the condition really began and when the duty to report applies. If the insurance company raises questions, an attorney can usually use the injury discovery rule to clear up the matter on victim-friendly terms.

Next, there is usually a settlement conference. A hearing officer reviews the medical records and then tries to facilitate a settlement. These conferences hardly ever resolve the claim because they only scratch the surface.

Finally, there is a trial-like administrative hearing before an administrative law judge. Since the victim’s attorney may introduce evidence, make legal arguments, and otherwise act lawyerly, the prospects for a favorable resolution are high.

Contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel, P.A. for more information about available DBA benefits.