1 March 2001: Add news report on aviation counternarcotics firefights.

1 March 2001
Source: http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?rptno=GAO-01-435R


United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548

February 28, 2001

The Honorable Charles E. Grassley
Chairman, Caucus on International Narcotics Control
United States Senate

Subject: Drug Control: The Department of State's Contract Award for Its Counternarcotics Aviation Program

Dear Mr. Chairman:

The Department of State's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs is responsible for implementing policies and programs to combat international narcotics and crime. As part of this effort, the Bureau operates a fleet of aircraft supporting foreign governments in their efforts to locate and eradicate drug crops. The Bureau's total budget for this program has grown to about $50 million annually, with current operations in the major coca-growing countries of Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru. The Bureau manages the aviation program from its office at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.

Since 1991, State has awarded two contracts to DynCorp Aerospace Technology for aviation services to support the Bureau's counternarcotics aviation program. Between the time when DynCorp's initial contract with State was scheduled to expire in 1996 and the current 5-year contract was awarded in 1998, State issued three interim sole-source contract extensions to DynCorp.

You expressed concern about whether State complied with applicable contracting requirements in making these awards. In response to your request, we determined whether State (1) followed applicable requirements in issuing the interim sole-source extensions to DynCorp and (2) properly awarded the current contract.1


1 As agreed with your staff, we will address other aspects of the Bureau's counternarcotics aviation program in a separate report to you.


State adhered to applicable contracting laws and regulations in issuing the three interim sole-source contract extensions to DynCorp. Although State had developed extensive plans to make a competitive award before DynCorp's existing contract expired, State determined that because of an ever-changing scope of work, it needed to prepare a completely new solicitation incorporating a different statement of work and various program changes. As a result, State could not award a new competitive contract before DynCorp's contract expired. The documentation shows that because of the contract's magnitude, DynCorp's past experience on the job made it the only qualified contractor able to provide the services without interruption. As required, State publicized each of its decisions to use noncompetitive procedures for the interim contract extensions to allow potential offerors2 to challenge the decisions, but no firms expressed interest in competing for the awards.


2 We use the term offerors to mean firms that offer proposals in response to a contact solicitation.

In awarding the current contract to DynCorp, State complied with the requirements for making a competitive award and also took discretionary steps to promote increased competition, such as holding a pre-proposal conference with potential offerors. Of the two proposals it received, State determined that DynCorp's was technically superior and cost less, thus representing the best value to the government.


In 1991, State awarded a 5-year aviation support services contract to DynCorp Aerospace Technology for approximately $99 million.3 Under this contract, DynCorp flew crop eradication missions and maintained fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters in countries along the Andean ridge and Guatemala. DynCorp also trained foreign government pilots, mechanics, and other support personnel for crop eradication and interdiction missions. The current contract has expanded these operations with emphasis on Colombia and deleted operations in Guatemala.


3The contract was awarded under solicitation number 2071-125123 for services in a base year (1991), with four 1-year options for renewal.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation covers the procedures agencies must follow in making competitive and noncompetitive (sole-source) awards.


4Full and open competition is defined as permitting all capable firms the opportunity to submit offers.


Although State had developed extensive plans to make a competitive award before DynCorp's initial contract expired, it determined more time was needed to include numerous major program changes in the solicitation. As a result, State issued three interim sole-source contract extensions to DynCorp to provide aviation services without interruption. Based on our analysis, State adhered to applicable contracting laws and regulations in making the extensions.

About 2 years before DynCorp's 1991 contract was due to expire on June 1, 1996, State began planning for awarding a competitive contract to continue the aviation support services. Specifically, State revised numerous sections of the solicitation under which DynCorp's first contract was awarded. However, in early 1996, a new contracting officer determined that the solicitation's statement of work did not adequately reflect the current program requirements and needed to be rewritten.5 The solicitation also did not tailor the elements of the contract in sufficient detail with regard to the allocation of funds. To address these problems, the contracting officer decided it was necessary to describe in detail the specific operations to be performed at each operational site6 and establish a section that tied specific funding to specific country programs.


5 The officer who replace the previous contracting officer had also worked on the original solicitation before determining it was inadequate.

6 Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru and at the Bureau's aviation program office at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.

This approach required the contracting officer to write a new solicitation rather than simply amend the earlier one. At this point, however, State did not have sufficient time to obtain the services needed through a competitive award before DynCorp's contract expired. State determined that DynCorp was the only firm that could provide the interim services to continue its operations. In May of 1996, State issued a justification and approval document to extend DynCorp's contract for 9 months, with a 3-month option to extend the contract again.

On August 2, 1996, State issued a solicitation for a competitive award. However, State subsequently issued several amendments to this solicitation to reflect program changes and an increased scope of work. For example, the use of five OV-10 aircraft -- a completely new type of aircraft -- was added to the solicitation. In addition, the operations in Colombia were increased to include requirements for two forward operating locations and security and medical support. While State was conducting this competitive procurement, which lasted about 19 months, it needed to issue two additional short-term extensions to DynCorp's contract to continue the aviation support services. State made a competitive award on January 30, 1998.

As required, State explained in three justification and approval documents that only DynCorp, as the incumbent contractor, had the corporate experience, the pilots and aircraft maintenance personnel, and knowledge of the substantial technical assistance and logistics support requirements to continue the work without interruption. Also as required, State published in the Commerce Business Daily its decision to award DynCorp the interim sole-source contracts before issuance of each of these justification and approval documents. Although potential offerors had the opportunity to challenge State's decision by showing they were capable of competing for the contracts, the record shows that none did.


State took both required and discretionary actions to ensure adequate competition for the 1998 contract award to DynCorp.7 Specifically, it published in the Commerce Business Daily a synopsis notifying all potential offerors of the solicitation's requirements. State sent copies of the solicitation to potential offerors that requested it and to all other firms already included on its offerors' mailing list.8 State then took several discretionary steps to promote competition. For example, State held a pre-proposal conference with all potential offerors to answer any questions about the solicitation's requirements.


7 The contract was awarded under solicitation number S-OPAQ-96-R-05454 for services in a base year (1998), with four 1-year options for renewal.

8 State sent solicitation notices to 155 firms.

State's solicitation provided that the award would go to the firm offering the best value to the government based on technical merit (technical and management factors) and cost, with technical merit considered substantially more important than cost. Offerors were required to submit both cost and technical proposals.

In response to its solicitation, State received only one offer other than DynCorp's. The record shows State determined that both DynCorp's technical and cost proposals were superior to the other offeror's proposals. With regard to the technical proposals, the technical evaluation team determined that DynCorp's proposal, which received an overall rating of "exceptional," had no significant weaknesses, while the other offeror's proposal, which received an overall rating of "acceptable," had many significant weaknesses. For example, the record shows that DynCorp's proposal offered more relevant past experience and a more detailed management approach for meeting the contract requirements than the other offeror's. Regarding the cost proposals, DynCorp's total cost of about $170 million (for 5 years) was slightly lower than the other offeror's cost.

After being notified that DynCorp had won the award, the unsuccessful offeror did not request a debriefing on the evaluation of its proposal or take any other action to protest the decision. State nevertheless informally debriefed the unsuccessful offeror on why it failed to receive the award.


To determine whether State complied with applicable contracting laws and regulations in awarding the contracts to DynCorp, we spoke to cognizant officials at State's Office of Procurement and Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in Washington, D.C., and reviewed applicable laws and regulations. We also interviewed the administrative contracting officer and other cognizant officials at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, and reviewed the historical contract files stored there.

Our review was conducted from November 2000 through January 2001 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.


In oral comments on a draft of this report, State's contracting officer and the Chief of the aviation program's Administration, Maintenance, and Logistics Division agreed with our overall observations and the facts as we presented them.

We are sending copies of this letter to the Honorable Colin L. Powell, the Secretary of State, and appropriate congressional members. We will also make copies available to others upon request.

If you or your staff have any questions concerning this report, please contact me on (202) 5124268. Other GAO contacts and staff acknowledgments are in the enclosure.

Sincerely yours,

Jess T. Ford
Director, International Affairs and Trade





A.H. Huntington, III (202) 512-4140
William T. Woods (202) 512-8214


In addition to those named above, Sylvia Schatz and Jim Strus made key contributions to this report.


Transcription and HTML by Cryptome.

Date: Thu, 1 Mar 2001 16:38:39 -0600 (CST)
From: William Knowles <wk@c4i.org>
To: John Young <jya@cryptome.org>
Subject: Colombian guerrillas fire on U.S. rescuers 

I saw that you posted the State Dept. Aviation Counternarcotics
Contract, and I was curious if you had seen or heard of this?



BOGOTA, Colombia -- An armed rescue team that included several
American civilians came under fire when the rescuers plucked the crew
of a downed police helicopter from the middle of a firefight with
guerrillas Sunday, Colombian officials have confirmed.

It was the first of four police helicopters on counter-narcotics
missions disabled by rebel gunfire in the last four days, reflecting
the increased peril as Colombia steps up its two-month-old campaign to
spray herbicides on coca fields. A $1.3 billion U.S. aid package is
paying for many of the helicopters.

The helicopter-borne search and rescue team, known as SAR, working
under a contract with the U.S. State Department landed in a coca field
to evacuate the crew of the downed Huey II and took off unharmed, the
officials added.

Two other helicopters that fired on rebel positions as the rescue took
place were also piloted by American contract workers, Capt. Luis
Fernando Aristizabal, one of the copilots, told The Associated Press.
Rescue team members were armed with M-16 assault rifles and stayed on
the ground long enough to remove the aircraft's machine guns and
radios to keep them from falling into rebel hands, the wounded pilot
of the helicopter said.

The incident underlined the dangers facing the estimated 30 American
civilians working with Colombian security forces -- as consultants,
crop-duster pilots, mechanics and SARs. Unlike the 200 U.S. military
trainers in the country, they are not covered by orders to avoid

While it was not the first time that SAR crews, hired by the
Virginia-based DynCorp Inc., landed in the middle of combat, the
intensification of the drug eradication program has clearly raised the
risks for the U.S. crews.

"It's just a matter of time before . . . someone is killed," said a
police official. "The first part of the spray campaign went better
than expected, but we knew things would get tough as we moved on."

Launched Dec. 12, the offensive known as Plan Colombia initially ran
into little ground fire because it focused on the southern state of
Putumayo, dominated by right-wing paramilitary squads friendly to the


But the campaign ran into curtains of bullets when it moved Feb. 2 to
the neighboring state of Caquet, controlled by Colombia's largest
leftist rebel force, the 17,000-strong Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia, or FARC.

On the first day of spraying in Caquet, an OV-10 ``Bronco''
crop-duster took 11 bullet hits in its tail but returned to base. Most
of the aircraft used on counter-drug missions are owned by the State
Department's Air Wing and on loan to the police.

The campaign became more dangerous Sunday as two crop-dusters and six
helicopters -- four Huey II gunships, a command craft and the SAR's
Bell 212 -- sprayed coca fields near the Caquet town of Curillo, 265
miles south of Bogota.

Gunship pilot Capt. Giancarlo Cotrino said he was escorting a
crop-duster on a six-mile spray pass when a guerrilla bullet hit him
in the right leg and forced him to make a controlled crash landing on
a coca field.

"The FARC were 100 to 200 yards away," Cotrino said. "We fought for
seven or eight minutes -- one of my crewmen had a grenade launcher and
I had a pistol -- until one of the other gunships picked me up.

"Then the SAR came in behind us, landed and picked up my three
crewmen in the middle of a very hot firefight," he said in an
interview Monday from his bed at the Police Hospital in Bogot.

Police officials said the SAR team included four U.S. citizens and two
Colombians, all armed with M-16s, and that the team's rescue
specialists had been on the ground for about 10 minutes.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said only that a
State Department-owned helicopter "with a mixed U.S.-Colombian crew
provided search and air rescue capacity during the emergency

SAR teams are believe to have engaged in about 15 rescues during the
past six years, about half of them "hot extractions" from combat
areas where team members have been at risk, a source Bogota said.

It was not known whether the SAR team returned the guerrilla fire
during the incident Sunday.

The teams usually include a pilot, copilot, a paramedic, a door gunner
and two rescue specialists.

SAR teams are largely composed of former U.S. special forces and
normally stay in Colombian military or police compounds, working for
several weeks and then taking 15 days off.

They are under orders from DynCorp and U.S. officials to avoid

A Soviet-made M-17 "flying crane" helicopter picked up Cotrino's
helicopter Monday, but ground fire hit two other Hueys flying cover,
wounding a police lieutenant and forcing the two aircraft to land in

The M-17 picked them up later Monday and flew them to a nearby army

And the next day, a police UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter took a bullet
through its fuel tank during a counter-narcotics operation in northern
Bolivar state but returned safely to base, police said.

A spokeswoman for DynCorp in Reston, Va., said the firm's contract
with the State Department's International Narcotics and Law
Enforcement Buro forbids it from making statements to the media.

Trying to avoid a direct involvement in Colombia's decades-old war,
the Pentagon has forbidden the estimated 200 U.S. military trainers
here from entering combat areas or joining police or military
operations that could result in clashes with guerrillas or


But no such restrictions apply to the American civilians working for
DynCorp or another Virginia firm, Military Professional Resources
Inc., known as MPRI, both under contract to help Colombian security

MPRI, hired by the U.S. Defense Department, has a team of about 10
retired U.S. military officers in Bogot to advise the military on
strategic and logistical issues.

The company has steadfastly declined to comment on their exact number
or work.

But DynCorp employees regularly face danger as crop-duster pilots,
mechanics and SAR teams.

Three DynCorp pilots have died in recent years, all in crashes blamed
on pilot error. A DynCorp paramedic identified only as Michael Demons,
34, died last October, apparently of a heart attack suffered at an
army base.

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without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
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