Contracting in Complex Operations: Toward Developing a Contracting Framework for Security Sector Reconstruction and Reform

Report Number: SYR-CM-14-185

Series: Contract Management

Category: Contingency Contracting

Report Series: Sponsored Reports

Authors: Nicholas Armstrong and David Van Slyke

Title: Contracting in Complex Operations: Toward Developing a Contracting Framework for Security Sector Reconstruction and Reform

Published: 2014-11-01

Sponsored By: Acquisition Research Program

Status: Published--Unlimited Distribution

Research Type: Other Research Faculty

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Keywords: contingency contracting; private military and security contractors; security sector reform; security assistance; military advisors; Afghanistan


Scholarship on private military and security companies largely focuses on their regulation and oversight as security and reconstruction service providers. It gives scant attention, however, to their role as institutional reformers, advisors, and trainers. This report presents findings of an in-depth case study on the challenges of procuring advising and training services in Afghanistan. The study is grounded in the analysis of 77 confidential, semi structured interviews with elite and mid-level officials embedded within the Afghan defense and interior ministries, national army, and national and local polices forces and further supported by 261 Afghanistan training and advising contract documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act request. We evaluate an existing contracting framework for the purchase and integration of complex products with this data and find that rules, relationship strategies, governance mechanisms, and mutual understanding are critical in security sector reform (SSR) training and advising contracts. However, reliance on the private sector to provide these services will likely remain high, thus, a sharper focus is necessary on mutually beneficial outcomes that retain flexibility and accountability over the long run. To achieve these outcomes, greater attention is needed to hiring the right people, contract design must balance requirements specificity with flexibility, and contract management activities must seek to bridge gaps among the critical actors involved with respect to roles, responsibilities, and critical capabilities. Successful outcomes will ultimately depend on hiring the right people, continuous communication and coordination, clearer metrics of performance, and greater accountability for fulfilling core mission goals.