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Committee acts to stop contractors from enabling human trafficking

Joe Davidson – (Washington Post) – June 27, 2012 – A Senate committee wants to make sure Uncle Sam doesn’t act as an inadvertent enabler for international human traffickers and pimps.

With a voice vote Wednesday, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee preliminarily approved legislation designed, as its title says, to “End Trafficking in Government Contracting.”

When contractors submit proposals for government work overseas, they don’t include provisions for trading in humans or indentured servitude. But that apparently has been the case with some private firms operating on U.S. military bases in foreign countries.

“Modern-day slavery by government contractors — unknowingly funded by American taxpayers — is unconscionable and intolerable,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), prime sponsor of the bill. “Current law prohibiting human trafficking is insufficient and ineffective, failing to prevent or punish abuses.”

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New Legislation Includes POGO’s Recommendations for Ending Human Trafficking in U.S. War Zones

Dana Liebelson – (POGO) – March 28, 2012 – U.S. taxpayers unknowingly fund human trafficking in Iraq and Afghanistan because of poor contractor oversight–but bipartisan Members of Congress are cracking down on this deplorable crime. A new bill introduced on Monday in the House and the Senate incorporates many of POGO’s recommendations for stopping U.S. contractors and subcontractors from getting away with modern-day slavery. Some contractors may complain, but both versions of the bill deserve resounding support from the public.

The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act (S. 2234 and H.R. 4259) is sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) respectively, along with many notable cosponsors. The legislation is the long-awaited response to a variety of reports from war zones over the course of several years—including the Commission on Wartime Contracting’s final report, which found “tragic evidence of the recurrent problem of trafficking in persons by labor brokers or subcontractors of contingency contractors.”

POGO Director of Investigations Nick Schwellenbach testified before a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on this issue in November.

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GOP, Dems come together to fight human trafficking by contractors in Iraq, Afghanistan

Pete Kasperowicz – (The Hill) – March 27, 2012 – A bipartisan group of members from the House and Senate proposed legislation on Monday that seeks to crack down on human trafficking by contractors that the U.S. military hires for work in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act is a reaction to reports from the Commission on Wartime Contracting and the inspectors general of the Defense and State departments that overseas contractors are known to engage in practices that are illegal under U.S. employee rights standards. These include seizing workers’ passports to trap them at a work site, lying about compensation, engaging in sexual abuse and generally keeping workers in a state of indentured servitude.

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Senators want automatic suspension of contractors

While this article seems to point out the negative aspects of  the automatic suspension of contractors there obviously needs to be consequences for illegal activity.  The blatant fraud, waste and abuse of tax dollars have gone on far too long. 

The automatic suspension requirement is a bad idea in the eyes of many experts. The Wartime Contracting Commission, backed off its earlier support for the automatic action in its final report. Commission members had concerns that the government doesn’t use its suspension authority enough. Early on, commissioners had said that the government needed to mandate suspensions.

The “sweep it under the rug” technique of oversight has only encouraged and bolstered the bravado of those with criminal intent.   Until accountability is enforced and there are tangible repercussions for those who commit crimes, nothing will change.   Punishment in the form of fines doesn’t seem to have an effect.   Then again it is hard to ignore the fact that when a contractor incurs a monetary penalty the Pentagon generally turns around and awards them a new contract to offset the loss, sometimes on the same day a punishment is announced.  I have to wonder if there isn’t an “in case we get caught” clause factored into bid proposals, to cover fines and legal fees.

If suspension and debarment are not the answer, then give us an effective alternative!

Matthew Weigelt – (Washington Technology) – March 19, 2012 – Four Democratic senators are advocating an unrelenting crackdown on defense contractors through automatic suspensions for allegations of bad behavior related to an overseas contingency operation.

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