The Trump Administration’s pledge to expand the United States military’s presence in Afghanistan has resulted in an influx of thousands of U.S. troops throughout the country. Because of this building military campaign, various contracts and job possibilities have opened up to private government contractors, especially to companies run by individuals with expertise and experience in military operations in the Middle East. With contracts consistently being awarded in the area of logistics, maintenance, and security a government contract lawyer in Virginia encourages clients, many of which are veteran-owned businesses, to consider engaging in U.S. contracts in Afghanistan as it is a country in need of economic development, foreign investment, technical innovation, and oversight to aid in its growing peace process.
As a reminder contracting in Afghanistan can be challenging due to its increased security concerns, vendor vetting roadblocks, military personnel turnover, and host nation contractor negligence and /or mismanagement. This is why we have provided ten tips and strategies for private contractors to utilize when considering contracting with the U.S. Government in Afghanistan.
- Establish a Business Presence in Afghanistan – U.S. and foreign companies that are serious about winning a contract with the U.S. Government in Afghanistan will want to consider operating directly from Afghanistan. Companies and their employees benefit heavily in Afghanistan from their proximity to performance.
- Start Small – When first contracting in Afghanistan it is best to start small by entering into a subcontract with a prime contractor. This positioning will give your company time and opportunity to navigate Afghanistan’s market of goods and supplies and its ever-changing landscape. A subcontract will also give your company the ability to negotiate with host-nation subcontractors and employees with less contractual requirements and a minimized performance schedule.
- Hire American Consultants With Experience Working In Afghanistan. One of the major issues that many private contractors face when working in Afghanistan is a lack of access to a U.S. Military base. Host nation contractors and local employees have to engage in a tedious vetting process to achieve access to a U.S. military base. Your company can ensure more immediate face-to-face contact with the appropriate contractual authorities in Afghanistan by hiring an American consultant to lead performance and contract operations in-country.
- Engage In Detailed Vetting Of Employees/Subcontractors For Security Purposes. One lesson to be learned when contracting in Afghanistan is “never contract with the enemy.” If the U.S. military discovers a contractor is doing business with/or employing a member of the insurgency or related member of the insurgency, the contractor will most likely be deemed ineligible to access a base moving forward. Once deemed ineligible it is difficult to regain access as private contractors in Afghanistan are only considered for re-access every six months. The U.S. Government also has discretion to terminate all active contracts upon an ineligibility determination.
- Offer Job Training and Education to Local Employees. Many locals to Afghanistan want a chance of education and employment with the U.S. government to provide for their large families. Often times when contractors establish educational and training incentives for their employees they run into less conflicts and experience more production.
- Maintain Oversight Of Records/Conduct Monthly Audits On All Programs and Operations. Corruption is a major concern for contractors in Afghanistan and is a major deterrence to Afghanistan’s economic growth. By maintaining consistent oversight over your accounting and performing monthly audits, contractors can prevent potential false claims and better prepare themselves in case of a contract dispute.
- Ensure Ongoing Communication With Your Assigned Contracting Officer and/or Prime Contractor in Writing. U.S. Government personnel turnover in Afghanistan is consistent and has become a major problem. It often leaves private contractors wondering who has the proper authority to make final contract decisions. Under Federal Acquisitions Regulations (FAR), in most cases, the contracting officer is the only individual with actual authority to bind the government by contract. Make sure to maintain consistent communication with your contracting officer and/or prime contractor to avoid any future contract disputes.
- Provide All Employees with Appropriate Ethics Training Materials and Codes of Conduct for Review and Signature. A private contractor’s goal should be to operate its business in a way that meets its stated purpose and do so in a manner that is consistent with the morals of the Afghan and U.S. business communities. Corruption in Afghanistan is a constant threat and all employees need to be trained and understand their ethical obligations when working with the U.S. Government prior to/during/after employment.
- Confirm All Employees Entering Afghanistan Have Obtained An Afghan Visa. All U.S. and NATO contractor employees must have a valid national passport and Afghan visa at the time of entry into Afghanistan. Entry into an Afghan commercial or military airport without a visa is a violation of Afghan law and the entrant risks fines and/or deportation.
- Complete Required Registrations. To register as a vendor or business with the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, companies must obtain the following: (1) Data Universal Numbering System (“DUNS”) Registration, (2) System for Award Management (“SAM”) Registration, (3) Commercial and Government Entity (“CAGE”) Registration, (4) NATO Commercial and Governmental Entity Registration (“NCAGE”) Registration, (5) Joint Contingency Contracting System (“JCCS”) Registration, and (6) Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (“AISA”) Registration (for host nation vendors only).
Thanks to The Federal Practice Group for their insight into private contracting in Afghanistan.