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CALL Newsletter 04-13
Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)
CAAT II Initial Impressions Report (IIR)

Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)
CAAT II Initial Impressions Report (IIR)

Chapter 3: Engineer
Topic D: Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) Contracts and Construction

Observation Synopsis

Stability and support operations (SASO) will continue to be the primary missions in Iraq for the foreseeable future. When stability operations began, commanders were delegated CERP funds to complete local projects that would provide immediate benefits to the communities. This program proved to be a force multiplier in that it provided the local commander with tools to address immediate community needs. Iraqi citizens/contractors were hired and paid for by Coalition forces to complete civil works projects that would have an immediate impact on the health and well-being of the community. Unfortunately, commanders lacked the skilled personnel to professionally define the projects they were asked to do. These projects originated locally from neighborhood action councils (NACs). Personnel on these councils had high expectations as to the quality of work and materials incorporated into the completed project. Their expectations were rarely met.

Throughout OIF, contractors selected for construction projects repeatedly failed to meet customer quality standards and delivery dates. Written contracts that defined the scope of work, construction standards, and delivery dates were not used because contract specialists were not available. Engineer staffs in theater were not prepared to take over design-build missions because their focus remained in the warfighting arena. In addition, commanders have not had access to personnel with contract writing ability. A contract agent is available at the division level, but in most cases is so busy with division level contracting that writing and approving contracts for CERP funded projects gets relegated to a "wait in line" scenario. CERP projects need to move quickly to help develop communities and build rapport with the Iraqi people. Because of these problems, money from CERP funds was not utilized to its fullest potential.

To utilize CERP funds, or any funds available in theater to their fullest extent, plans and specifications need to be developed that govern construction or the quality expected when items are purchased and installed. In addition, time lines toward completion are essential in that they determine how much and when a contractor/supplier will receive payment for goods and services delivered. This is not how things began happening in Iraq, but how things should be happening today. Boiler plate contract documents would be useful for small projects and for purchases that are repeated over and over. For large projects, construction contracts need to be written with specifications that can be clearly understood, supplies and provisions should be bought using structured purchase orders that specify quality and delivery times, and projects should be paid for based upon having met contract specifications and specific delivery criteria. One final comment concerning specifications is that Iraqi construction standards are not comparable to Continental U.S. (CONUS) construction standards, and justifyably, the cost of construction to Iraqi standards is not and should not be equal.

The development of the Iraqi forward engineer support team (I-FEST) at the division level helped in the development of large dollar projects. The I-FEST has been very successful in coordinating work through both the engineering community and Iraqi contractors. Both have been found to be very competent and have the ability to complete quality work. In order to insure quality control and quality assurance on these projects, the I-FEST has also had the mission of providing for construction inspection. This has been accomplished by hiring quality Iraqi engineering firms to complete the mission. This has been a successful program after firms with limited experience have been weeded out. The same goes for contractors. Contractors that do a poor job have been eliminated from the contractor pool.

At the battalion level and lower, contracting with local construction companies has been a challenge. It seems that anyone who wants to be a contractor rolls in his wheelbarrows and makes an attempt to go to work. High level community figures have been eager to help assign work to contractors who turn out to be part of their families. These firms have little or no construction experience and are soon weeded out and not used in future projects. Design firms have been hard to find, but once found, have provided quality work. A knowledgeable interpreter is the key to finding quality firms for both design and construction.

Lessons Learned

  • Engineering firms and construction firms are located anywhere but may be limited in their ability to provide a quality product. A manager must be cautious in chosing the right firms because many are unable to complete the quality of work expected.
  • Work must be closely monitored for quality control and quality assurance.
  • An I-FEST team with a knowledgable interpreter has little or no trouble finding the best engineers and contractors.
  • Standards for project delivery were not developed adequately in the contract documents.
  • Commanders, in most cases, did not have access to contract agents that were familiar with the required documentation that would insure a quality project within a specified period of time.
  • Iraqi construction standards are not comparable to American construction standards for the most part. The correct construction standard needed to be specified to eliminate paying more than the project was worth.
  • Develop boiler plate contracts suitable for small project construction.

Table of Supporting Observations


Observation Title CALLCOMS
File Number
Construction workforce available in the AOR 10000-29348
Contractor Standards 10001-37445

Table of Contents
Chapter 3-Topic C: EOD, UXO, Captured Enemy Ammunition Mission
Chapter 3-Topic E: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)




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