Casey Continues Oversight Of Overseas Military Bases to Secure Safety of U.S. Troops

Following Electrocution Deaths of U.S. Troops in 2008, Casey Began Effort to Reform System to Keep Soldiers Safe / Since Casey Effort Began, Thousands of Inspections Have Taken Place at Overseas Facilities but More Work to be Done

Casey Continues Oversight Of Overseas Military Bases to Secure Safety of U.S. Troops

Washington, DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that he has sent letters to U.S. Central Command’s General Lloyd Austin and the Defense Department’s Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, continuing his oversight of the safety of overseas U.S. military installations. Since 2008, Senator Casey’s efforts to make military installations more secure for U.S. troops have resulted in thousands of inspections to protect servicemembers from electrical fires among other hazards. After years of progress, Casey’s letters pushes the government to complete additional work that needs to be done.

“Since 2008 the government has taken important steps to ensure our servicemembers are safe at U.S. military installations,” Senator Casey said. “There’s no doubt this work has had a significant impact, but there’s still more work to be done. Every servicemember and their family should have the peace of mind in knowing that safety of their loved ones is a priority at our military installations abroad. This is an ongoing effort that I will continue to push the Department of Defense on.”

The full text of Senator Casey’s letters can be seen below:

General Lloyd J. Austin III

U.S. Central Command

Dear General Austin:

Since 2008, I have worked to improve oversight of electrical safety at our overseas military installations to address safety deficiencies that needlessly put our troops at risk. As you know, I authored an amendment to the FY2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on the issue.  Progress has been made since its passage, especially through Task Force SAFE and Task Force POWER, but I am disappointed and frustrated that the Department of Defense Inspector General revealed in a July 2013 report (DODIG-2013-099) that deficiencies remain.  In light of this report, I am writing to request an update on actions you have taken to correct these deficiencies and ask how your Command will institutionalize the lessons learned during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to prevent these issues in the future. 

Pennsylvania has felt the terrible effects of poor installation and maintenance of electrical facilities at our bases abroad.  In January 2008, Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth was electrocuted while showering in his quarters at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex, Iraq.  In September 2009, Adam Hermanson, a defense contractor working for Triple Canopy at Camp Olympia, Iraq, died under similar circumstances.  In both cases, official reports found that these unnecessary deaths resulted from the failure of multiple systems and organizations. 

Since their tragic deaths, I have worked to improve the conditions for our servicemembers deployed overseas.  I wrote several letters to the Department of Defense Inspector General Office, former General David Petraeus, former Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn, and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.  I also met with several uniformed and civilian defense leaders including General Petraeus, then Commanding General of the Multinational Force in Iraq, Lieutenant General David Huntoon, then the Director of the Army Staff, and Mr. William Utt, the Chief Executive Officer of KBR, Inc.  These efforts culminated in my amendment to the FY2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which requires the Department of Defense to inspect the safety and habitability of structures prior to usage, and that such facilities “be brought into compliance with generally accepted standards for the safety and health of personnel.” 

Each of these leaders assured me they were taking steps to address the issue, and indeed, numerous inspections were completed and thousands of deficiencies identified.  I am gratified by CENTCOM’s efforts to shine a spotlight on this issue, in response to my amendment. Thanks to the creation of TF SAFE and TF POWER and the Department’s cooperation in executing the intent of Section 807 of the FY2010 National Defense Authorization Act, incidents of electrocution have declined substantially in both Iraq and Afghanistan. 

It is clear, however, there is much more to be done.  In May 2013, the Marine Corps confirmed the results of an internal investigation into an electrical fire Afghanistan at Camp Lawton in 2011, which tragically cost the life of Marine Staff Sergeant Patrick Dolphin and Marine Sergeant Christopher Wrinkle.

I was also disappointed to learn that DODIG-2013-099, issued on July 18, 2013, discovered 1,089 incidences of deficient electrical installations or unsafe facilities in our two largest installations in Afghanistan, Kandahar Air Field (KAF) and Bagram Air Field (BAF).  After reviewing the report, I am concerned that the momentum and attentiveness initiated by the FY2010 NDAA amendment has waned and your command has not continued to appropriately prioritize this issue. DoD cannot afford to take its eye of the ball when it comes to protecting our servicemembers.

Also from DODIG-2013-099, I learned that CENTCOM agreed to all but two recommendations for corrective actions.  These two items both recommended that the office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics for Installations and Environment (AT&L (I&E)) approve and coordinate the risk management plans that CENTCOM develops to address and prioritize 649 fire and 440 electrical deficiencies.  CENTCOM did not concur with seeking external coordination because it would fail, “to address the remaining deviations in a timely manner.”  AT&L (I&E) holds the institutional expertise to not only lend their knowledge to address the most recent issues, but they can also ensure that this knowledge is applied to current and future contingency operations outside of the CENTCOM area of operation. I strongly urge you to work with AT&L (I&E) to preserve the lessons learned from these tragic accidents in Afghanistan and Iraq so that we can prevent them during future operations in any part of the world.

I respectfully request answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the current status of correcting the 649 fire and 440 electrical deficiencies on KAF and BAF? 
  2. Based on the alarming number of deficiencies on both KAF and BAF, has CENTCOM taken additional action to re-inspect smaller bases in Afghanistan? 
  3. What tools exist to ensure that another tragic event does not take place as it did at Camp Lawton? How can CENTCOM best provide oversight for structures not on a “density list” of contracted facilities? 
  4. Two of the recommendations from the IG’s report stated that the office of the Undersecretary of Acquisition, Defense, & Logistics (Installations & Environment) approve and coordinate any plan to fix deficiencies.  Please explain CENTCOM’s rejection of that recommendation. 
  5. Has CENTCOM considered how it might best record and share its lessons learned to other geographic and functional combatant commands? 
  6. What plans are CENTCOM considering to ensure that service members are adequately protected against base environmental hazards during the drawdown in Afghanistan?

Thank you for taking time to address my concerns in ensuring that our servicemembers, who sacrifice so much on the battlefield, are not exposed to unnecessary danger on their bases. I am sending a similar letter to the Honorable Frank Kendall, Undersecretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) regarding the Inspector General’s opinion that AT&L (I&E) provide greater oversight to your command on this issue.  Thank for you for your service to our great country.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

The Honorable Frank Kendall

Undersecretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics)

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Since 2008, I have worked to improve oversight of electrical safety at our overseas military installations to address safety deficiencies that needlessly put our troops at risk.  As you know, I authored an amendment to the FY2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on the issue.  Progress has been made since its passage, especially through Task Force SAFE and Task Force POWER, but I am disappointed and frustrated that the Department of Defense Inspector General revealed in his July 2013 report (DODIG-2013-099) that deficiencies remain.  As combat troops have departed Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan is underway, I urge you to take responsibility for institutionalizing the lessons learned during these engagements to protect our men and women in uniform from electrical hazards in current and future conflicts across the globe. 

Pennsylvania has felt the terrible effects of incompetent installation and maintenance of electrical facilities at our bases abroad. In January 2008, Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth was electrocuted while showering in his quarters at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex, Iraq.  In September 2009, Adam Hermanson, a defense contractor working for Triple Canopy at Camp Olympia, Iraq, died under similar circumstances. In both cases, official reports found that these deaths resulted from the failure of multiple systems and organizations. 

Since their tragic deaths, I have worked to improve the conditions for our servicemembers deployed overseas. I wrote several letters to the Department of Defense Inspector General Office, former General David Petraeus, the former Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn, and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.  I also met with several uniformed and civilian defense leaders including General Petraeus, then Commanding General of the Multinational Force in Iraq, Lieutenant General David Huntoon, the former Director of the Army Staff, and Mr. William Utt, the Chief Executive Officer of KBR, Inc.  These efforts culminated in my amendment to the FY2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which requires the Department of Defense to inspect the safety and habitability of structures prior to usage, and that such facilities “be brought into compliance with generally accepted standards for the safety and health of personnel.”  In response, DoD developed the Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) 1-201-01 (last updated January 1, 2013).  UFC 1-201—1 establishes, “the minimum requirements for life safety and health of personnel consistent with the requirements of military operations,” for structures overseas.

Each of these leaders assured me they were taking steps to address the issue, and indeed, numerous inspections were completed and thousands of deficiencies identified.  I am gratified by CENTCOM’s efforts to shine a spotlight on this issue, in response to my amendment. Thanks to the creation of TF SAFE and TF POWER and the Department’s cooperation in executing the intent of Section 807 of the FY2010 National Defense Authorization Act, incidents of electrocution have declined substantially in both Iraq and Afghanistan. 

It is clear, however, there is much more to be done.  In May 2013, the Marine Corps confirmed the results of an internal investigation into an electrical fire Afghanistan at Camp Lawton in 2011, which tragically cost the life of Marine Staff Sergeant Patrick Dolphin and Marine Sergeant Christopher Wrinkle.

I was also disappointed to learn that DODIG-2013-099, issued on July 18, 2013, discovered 1,089 incidences of deficient electrical installations or unsafe facilities in our two largest installations in Afghanistan, Kandahar Air Field (KAF) and Bagram Air Field (BAF). 

After reviewing the report, I am disappointed that the command emphasis that led to the establishment of TF SAFE in Iraq and TF POWER in Afghanistan has decreased and that the momentum and attentiveness initiated by the FY2010 NDAA amendment has waned. DoD cannot afford to take its eye of the ball when it comes to protecting our servicemembers.

From DODIG-2013-099, I learned that CENTCOM fully agreed to all but two of the recommendations for corrective actions.  These two items both recommended that the office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics for Installations and Environment (AT&L (I&E)) approve and coordinate the risk management plans that CENTCOM develops to address and prioritize 649 fire and 440 electrical deficiencies.  CENTCOM did not concur with seeking external coordination because it would fail, “to address the remaining deviations in a timely manner.”  AT&L (I&E) holds the institutional expertise to not only lend their knowledge to address the most recent issues, but they can also ensure that this knowledge is applied to current and future contingency operations outside of the CENTCOM area of operation.  This knowledge could also be utilized to revise UFC 1-201-01 because it is, by design, a “living document.”  I am recommending to General Austin that CENTCOM work with AT&L (I&E) to institutionalize the lessons learned over the past twelve years, and I urge you to conduct thorough oversight of AT&L (I&E) to ensure it has the resources necessary to become the repository of these lessons. 

I respectfully request answers to the following questions:

  1. How can AT&L (I&E) provide expertise in overseeing corrective actions undertaken by various functional and geographic combatant commands?  Are there any unforeseen obstacles that may impede AT&L (I&E) from assuming this role? 
  2. Has AT&L (I&E) consolidated the lessons learned from these tragic accidents?  How would AT&L (I&E) consider sharing this knowledge throughout all geographic and functional commands for use during future contingency operations?
  3. What is your assessment of the discoveries and recommendations in DODIG-2013-099? Has AT&L (I&E), or the Unified Facilities Criteria Program, reviewed the incidents surrounding the aforementioned deaths of three Marines at Camp Lawton Afghanistan?
  4. In reviewing the Camp Lawton fire and speaking to the Inspector General team that compiled DODIG-2013-099, there appears to be inadequate cooperation between CENTCOM and SOCOM with regard to enforcing fire and electrical safety standards.  What can DoD do to resolve conflicts between functional or combatant commands to ensure bureaucracy does not impinge on the safety of our troops?

Our servicemembers sacrifice so much on the battlefield; they should not be exposed to unnecessary, preventable dangers on their bases.  I am sending a similar letter to CENTCOM asking for a status update to address the concerns in the aforementioned IG report.  Thank you for taking the time to address my concerns and for your service to our great country.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

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