Frustrating FOO

AF SrA dons rain gear before crawling in turret.

To hear the WUSF radio interview aired Dec 1 & 2 in Tampa, FL, regarding this blog entry, please click on this link:

My Last Tour: FOO Money

Perhaps last night’s downpour of rain or the continual drizzle this morning should have been an indicator for today’s mission.  But a little bit of rain wasn’t going to deter us from fulfilling our mission.  Our plan today was to turn in a HMMVW, get an M-240 machine gun inspected, and clear the FOO account.  My focus was on clearing the FOO

ETT Teammates before mission.

(Field Ordering Official) or special project funds so I can go on leave and meet up with my wife in Germany.  Every month I have to account for $15,000 worth of expenditures.  If I don’t spend all the money, it takes even longer to clear the account and return the money.

Most of my ETT teammates and I wore our rain gear today.  I was really surprised that it rained most of the night and was still sprinkling in the morning.  It was going to be a wet day for the gunners in the turrets.  The seals in the turret hatches are virtually worthless and the rainwater seeped in and soaked my driver’s seat along with the interior.  By the time are turret covers arrive, I will be finished with this deployment.  One would think if you pay several hundred thousand dollars for a vehicle, it wouldn’t leak.   But if it does, then you can pay “additional money” to order turret covers.

Giant mosque in Kabul.

Traffic was pretty normal as we traveled through the city now that the Eid holiday is over.  We encountered a little bit of traffic near a giant blue-colored domed mosque.  But we weren’t in any rush, so I tried to take some pictures.  The rain, mud, and several inches of protective glass tend to distort many of my photographs.

It took us about an hour to reach our destination of Camp Phoenix.  The rain had stopped and it appeared to be a promising and productive day.  My first stop was the contracting office.  I had scheduled an appointment, but when I showed up, I was informed to return in an hour.  So like a compliant airman, I returned in an hour and was able to drop off my paperwork and was told to return in 30 minutes.  After lunch we returned.  The nonverbal gestures displayed by the contracting officer said it all.  We had problems.

I must preface this with a little bit of my background.  I have 2 Associate degrees and a Bachelor of Science degree in management, and I am working on a Graduate degree, along with 26 years of purchasing items for the government.  I have bought everything from administrative supplies to indigenous vehicles, special fountain pens and stainless steel pool liners for general officers and familiar with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), but I am not a certified contracting officer.  Albeit, I probably know more about the legal loopholes of the FAR to bypass congressionally mandated sources to purchase items and expedite the process, then the average person.

Now back to the “problems”.  The rules changed again this month and now we need an O-5 (Lt Col) to sign a memorandum stating they reviewed all of our purchases.  In my mind, I am thinking this is a minor setback, just wished I had received the policy change before traveling here.  The next problem was with the electrical work and repairs we had done.  Two of our ANA B-huts were destroyed by insurgent rockets and we scrambled to find shelter to protect them against the subfreezing weather.  Note:  If we wait for the Ministry of Defense, it might be several months until any action is taken. We used a base contractor to assist with the electrical work with hooking up heater systems in the tents.  Several soldiers in Iraq have died due to shoddy electrical work and have caused a micro-scrutiny on all contracts involving electricity.  So now I have to provide evidence this contractor is NEC (National Electric Code) certified.  As a result of this new scrutiny, new concrete buildings have been built but have no electricity and there are few certified US electricians in the country.  As a result, military personnel will have to remain in tents and wooden shelters.  No local Afghan is NEC certified.  The problem is with these giant sized contractors that they subcontract all of the work out and this contract is subsequently subcontracted out several times.  Eventually you get a local contractor who gets paid $10-$15 a day to do the work.  Meanwhile these corporate goliaths maximize profits because they charge the US taxpayers an exorbitant rate for these services and pocket the difference by hiring local civilians at below US minimum wages.  Somehow I was able to resolve this by using a copy of the contract the contractor has with the government stating he is qualified for electrical work.  But it probably won’t work in the future without the NEC certification.

My next stop was the Finance office.  They were eating lunch, but the girl behind the desk asked if “Rex” was my first name.  I was a bit caught off guard and inquired how she knows my first name. It’s because she looks at her listings daily and I am several days late.  Anyhow, I can’t clear the Finance office until I get the clear letter from Contracting.  I told them I was going on leave in a few days and they said it could be delayed until I clear.  I informed them nothing was going to keep me from seeing my wife.  Finance said if I leave, they would initiate paperwork to take money from my paycheck.  I wasn’t in the mood for threats, so I turned the tables and exclaimed I would write them a check right now for $15,000 if they wanted.  Everyone in the office stopped what they were doing and stared at me.  They were speechless and asked if I was serious.  I said “Yes”! I knew it was a hollow threat and even if they did take my money, I would get it back because my paperwork is in order.  Except now they want a document with my original signature.  They won’t accept a scanned electronic copy.  Yet, when they receive this document, they scan it and send it electronically to the people who approve the money and expenditures.  So now maybe you can sense my frustration with the layered bureaucracies of this process.  Yet my government can send millions and billions of taxpayers’ dollars to this country and there is no accountability.  But for this small measly sum, I have to jump through hoops and convoy with 8 other people and drive an hour in traffic and expose ourselves to any dangers outside the wire (OTW) to deliver a piece of paper with an original signature so it can be scanned electronically.  I question the logic and common sense of this process.

We arrived back to base without incident.  I conducted my weekly interview with WUSF Bobbie O’Brien.  So if you listen to the recording, you will sense my frustrations.  I really need a vacation!!


4 Responses

  1. Rex i feel for you. i don’t miss it at all.

  2. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 12/02/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  3. Rex, I just found your site and having a husband who just arrived there, I was excited to see and read all about the area and your day to day life there. This is my husbands 3rd tour, but first to Afghan land. Thanks for your postings and I will be sad when it is no more. Thank you for your service and dedication. I hope your retirement in long, happy and full of good health. You and your family deserve it. God Bless.

  4. On top of all of this, technically … how can a local contractor be NEC (National Electric Code) certified in Afghanistan if the certification is National ?
    Is there a National Electric Code exisiting in Afghanistan ?

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