By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Reacting to criticism that the United States has not provided the right equipment to Iraqi security forces, the Multi-National Command in Baghdad has been seeking a contractor to put armor on 1,300 American-made SUVs and pickup trucks used by the Iraqi National Police.
The awarding of the contract was scheduled for yesterday.
The program is being undertaken two years after Iraqis began to be recruited because the Iraqi National Police "have been losing policemen due to small arms fire and IEDs [improvised explosive devices] while operating in their patrol trucks," according to the solicitation for bidders published last month.
The planned work is to provide either steel or composite plates for the doors and undercarriage of the vehicles to protect against bullets of up to 7.62mm caliber, the ammunition fired by the AK-47s used by many of the insurgents.
The armoring will require the contractor to upgrade each vehicle's suspension system to support the added weight and to do the work in a way that leaves the driver and passenger in the front seat with the ability to see the rearview mirrors. In addition, the contractor has to provide space behind the cab of the pickup trucks for machine guns that can swivel a full 360 degrees.
Both the Iraqi government and the bipartisan Iraq Study Group have complained that the United States is not providing proper equipment for the country's forces to protect themselves. Similarly, it was not until the families of U.S. troops and members of Congress complained that the Pentagon began to put added armor on Humvees used by American troops in Iraq.
At an Oct. 6 news conference, Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson, commander of the Civilian Police Assistance Training Teams in Iraq, said that about 4,000 Iraqi police officers had been killed and 8,000 had been wounded since September 2004. There was no indication how many were members of the national police, but, numbering about 24,000, they make up a small portion of the 188,000 police officers in various units that the Pentagon has said are trained and equipped.
The request for contractor bids, which was made on Nov. 30, also requires the repainting of the 1,300 vehicles and 600 other national police vehicles so that they will all be white, with the hoods, front fenders and tailgates of the pickups to be painted in a color described as "Capri blue."
The successful bidder is required to start the job 45 days after the awarding of the contract, to undergo a first review after 90 days, and to complete the whole project in 240 days.
The details of the contract provide a clear illustration of the dangers of taking on any job in Iraq under present conditions. For example, the vehicles to be worked on are described as located at national police headquarters in the heavily protected Green Zone. One of the potential bidders got the military to agree that the work could be done inside the Green Zone if a working area could be found.
Under the contract, the bidder must be prepared to list all employees who are armed, describe any communications plan and method for notifying military forces to request assistance in case of attack, and explain how the contractor plans to coordinate all its transportation activities with the appropriate military authorities.
The solicitation also warns bidders that they must be prepared for the possible kidnapping of their employees. Included in the solicitation is a blank copy of the "Contractor Hostage Reporting Procedures" under the heading "Special Contract Requirement."
Among the details to be provided are the name of the person kidnapped; what happened; how the kidnapping took place; when, where and why it occurred; and whether there were witnesses. The form also calls for information on the hostage-takers, who else was aware of the kidnapping, whether the victim's next of kin had been informed, whether the kidnappers had contacted the contractor and if there had been any negotiations.
A rule built into the contract stipulates that employees are not to drink alcoholic beverages while carrying firearms "or within eight hours of next work period where they will be armed."