WASHINGTON - The State Department has problems managing dozens of planes and helicopters it uses in the fight against illegal drugs in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to a new Inspector General's report.
The report, made public this week, focuses on the operations of the little-known air wing of the State Department in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with more than 30 aircraft and hundreds of contract employees. It praises the overall effectiveness of the counter-narcotics operations but says the department needs better oversight to stop cost over-runs, management problems and inefficiencies. The air wing's duties run from poppy eradication in Afghanistan to airlift missions for the Pakistan government.
The State Department contracts with the Virginia-based private security firm, DynCorp International, to run the dozens of helicopters and fixed-wing planes it uses for its worldwide counter-narcotics program. That contract was worth a total of $1.07 billion dollars between 2005 and 2009. That included $356 million for the program in Afghanistan and $32 million in Pakistan.
The report focused on the State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, known by its initials, INL.
"INL's performance-based contract for DynCorp to provide aviation services has resulted in significant cost overruns and performance management problems," the Inspector General's report says.
The Inspector General recommends that the State Department change the contract to allow better tracking of staffing levels and expenditures.
"The current contract does not include any meaningful cost-related requirements. In fact, the cost tracking system fails to control costs, resulting in more than $10 million in cost overruns and charges," the report said.
The report says the State Department should hire federal government employees, instead of relying on contractors, to provide better supervision and avoid what it calls "a lack of clearly defined requirements and significant cost control issues."
Overall the report praises the company's operations in Afghanistan.
"DynCorp has carried out its aviation services without any major accidents or casualties, meets contract operational requirements, employs qualified staff, and properly inventories U.S. government-furnished equipment," the report says. The report raises questions about the operations inside Pakistan and questions what it calls Pakistan government "reticence" in providing information about the flights.
DynCorp did not respond to requests for comment.