On January 22nd, ISOA held an early morning business forum in Washington, DC focusing on federal contracting trends. Attendees heard from two experienced speakers with backgrounds in the U.S. Department of State (DoS) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Alicia Rau is a former Contracting Officer and now a Senior Analyst with the State Department’s Critical Environment Contracting Analytics Staff (CECAS). Porter DeLaney works with a firm advising donor groups and brought a wealth of independent insights on USAID policies and recent reorganizations.
Ms. Rau’s presentation highlighted new DoS policies related to contractor protections. CECAS is charged with recognizing and mitigating contractor risks overseas. DoS understands the importance of maintaining healthy relationships with their contracting partners in contingency environments. It has vastly improved their policies reducing the risks contractors face supporting the Department.
DoS operates within several high-risk countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. These locations undergo annual risk assessments evaluating seven factors: housing, medical capabilities, local movements and others, and mitigates the most significant risks for their contractors. Are armored vehicles necessary for local transportation? Are evacuation contingencies adequate? Can local DoS procedures be altered to reduce risks? These policies signify a big shift for DoS dating back to requirements from the FY13 NDAA. Most notably, DoS will pay the costs associated with mitigating elevated risks.
DoS recognizes contractors’ critical role in DoS operations and the need for similar security arrangements to the Department’s own staff. Now contract winners for areas of high threat may get specialized training from the Department and seminars are provided online.
Along with improved security measures, the DoS places greater attention to medical standards. DoS already requires standardized pre-deployment medical screening for all contractor personnel deploying to Afghanistan. A third party provider reviews the medical results and provides recommendations about the medical fitness of an individual for deployment. DoS does not make the final decision about an individuals’ deployment to a DoS mission, but this procedure ensures companies are fully aware of any medical concerns that may arise during the deployment. The new medical screening program may eventually be launched in similar high threat environments.
Ms. Rau discussed current and upcoming Request for Proposals (RFP) on the larger DoS contracts. Diplomatic Platform Support Services (DiPSS), the re-compete for Medical Support Services Iraq (MISSI), the Worldwide Protective Services (WPS III), and projects from the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) involve base support and vehicle maintenance. She answered questions from the ISOA Members on the RFP and award schedules.
Porter Delaney offered insights into USAID’s reorganization discussing new policies. He highlighted funding to fragile states listing seven countries which receive more than half of all USAID efforts.
USAID recently introduced three funds of interest to the Stability Operations Industry. First, a “Complex Crisis Fund” (CCF) to “prevent and respond to emerging or unforeseen crises,” which allows funds to be shifted from formerly locked accounts. Second, a “Stabilization and Prevention Fund” focused on economic and development assistance, and third a “Partnership Development Fund” focused on building resilience in fragile countries.
To best respond to fragile countries, the Agency underwent massive restructuring. This process created a new Bureau for Conflict Prevention and Stabilization (CPS). CPS incorporates capabilities and expertise including the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) to help USAID better address the needs of weak and failing states. Humanitarian assistance is grouped into the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (HA) which will focus on emergency assistance and refugee relief.
80% of USAID funding is implemented by 75 organizations. The New Partnerships Initiative (NPI) seeks to expand this pool, especially in countries with ongoing operations. NPI is creating incubators to help small companies navigate the notoriously complex USAID implementer requirements. With USAID missions in more than 100 countries, mission directors have mandates to seek out more partners, and are looking to attract more small businesses and foreign partners.
After the presentations, the discussion focused on specific missions. ISOA Members asked questions pertaining to risk levels for contractors in Iraq, the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP), and the Prosper Africa initiative. Speakers noted the vast majority of foreign aid now comes from private sources, which is very different from the environment when USAID was first created.
ISOA events like this one are enormously valuable to companies in the Stability Operations Industry. These learning experiences allow companies to provide better services for their government clients. For taxpayers and the government, it means better value, better missions, and better policy results.
The speakers stayed around for some time to answer additional questions. Considering the warm reception and level of discourse it is likely the speakers will be in high-demand for future ISOA Member events.
Porter DeLaney founded the Kyle House Group in 2010 after more than a decade of senior-level work in the political and international relations spheres. Over the last 15 years, Porter has served as a senior advisor and strategist to Bono and his organization ONE and to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among other global development leaders. Porter has been a chief architect of lobbying and advocacy campaigns that resulted in multibillion-dollar increases in U.S. government funding for global development on issues ranging from HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB to vaccines, nutrition, agriculture, and international family planning. Porter also has advised a number of fortune 500 companies on their market access and corporate responsibility programs around the globe.
Since 2015 Alicia has served as a senior analyst with the State Department’s Critical Environment Contracting Analytics Staff (CECAS). In this role she implements the Department’s policy to identify and mitigate risk for contractors in support of embassy operations and staff in overseas contingencies and critical environments. Alicia joined the State Department in 2011 and previously served as a FAC-C Level III warranted contracting officer in the Office of Acquisitions Management. Prior to the State Department she worked for the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services.