Despite the 2010 congressional investigations and subsequent military findings that at least half of the eight firms participating in the Host Nation Trucking contract were involved in “a criminal enterprise or support to the enemy,” that contract was extended for six months in March.
Six of the companies are Afghan-owned or joint Afghan-international ventures. Two are described as U.S.-owned, including the Washington-based Sandi Group and NCL Holdings, whose founder and president, Hamed Wardak, is the son of Afghanistan’s defense minister. All served as brokers who subcontracted with Afghan trucking companies, and all used private Afghan security firms to guard the convoys.
The Pentagon is considering a controversial plan to replace traditional military pensions with a 401(k)-style plan, ultimately saving $250 billion dollars over the next two decades. (Aug. 15)
The senior military official said that he could not discuss whether the companies would be barred from future U.S. contracts — a process that often involves lengthy legal proceedings — or whether any would be prosecuted by the Justice Department.
One of the eight firms was told in June that it had been barred from the new contract for reasons that could not be determined. Several of the others were actively bidding on the new contract before being informed last week that they were not eligible.
Letters sent to the firms said that their new bids were technically acceptable and competitively priced. But the letters went on to say that they had been “excluded” from the competition under federal regulations requiring “a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics.”
Executives at several of the suspended companies expressed anger and disbelief about their suspension and said the new systems would do little to eliminate the problems of security or payoffs. The new contractors were largely the same truckers that the original firms had subcontracted, said John Christopher Turner, a principal in MG-EMA, a U.S.-Afghan venture that is one of the eight. “They have no clue,” Turner said of the military. “They’re not in the field at all.”
Said the head of another company who agreed to discuss the issue on the condition of anonymity: “Our prices were competitive, we were completely comfortable we were going to win this.”