Last year, the Department of Homeland Security “awarded one of the most ambitious technology contracts in the war on terror — a 10-year deal estimated at up to $10 billion — to the global consulting firm Accenture.” After giving DHS advice on how to run the bidding process, Accenture won the contract; the firm “promised to create a ‘virtual border’ that would electronically screen millions of foreign travelers.” The project is under an “indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity contract,” which means that Accenture will be “paid for specific tasks along the way, even if the overall system ultimately doesn’t work.” Now homeland security experts worry that “[t]here’s no question we could end up spending billions of dollars and end up with nothing. It creates an illusion of security that doesn’t exist.”
The power handover from the government to a contractor has a disturbing sense of dƒ©jƒ vu to it, maybe because of its interesting connection back to Accenture.
Titan Corporation of San Diego, a partner of Accenture, was “among the companies identified by a U.S. military investigation as providing interrogators and interpreters at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.” In fact, their participation in and/or failure to report abuse of prisoners led to employees from Titan being referred to the Justice Department for prosecution. A key explanation of how the employees were able to get away with the abuse was revealed by an internal Army report that concluded: “in general, US civilian contract personnel (Titan Corporation, CACI, etc…), third country nationals, and local contractors do not appear to be properly supervised within the detention facility at Abu Ghraib … they wandered about with too much unsupervised free access in the detainee area.”
In providing personnel to Abu Ghraib prison, Titan worked with CACI International. Focusing on CACI, a Government Accountability Office inquiry shed a harsh light on what happens when the government hands over its oversight responsiblities. The report found that “government officials … all but abdicated their responsibility, leaving it to the private contractor to set terms for its work.” The power handover allowed “the contractor [to play] a role in the procurement process normally performed by the government. This in turn ‘[created] a conflict of interest and [undermined] the integrity of the competitive contracting process.’”