Thursday, July 24, 2008

Iraq Contractors and The Missing Persons Act

Editor's note: the following is based on information available at the time of writing in 2008 and may not accurately reflect procedures and policies in place in the fall of 2003.

As an American civilian contractor working in support of US Army operations in Iraq, Kirk von Ackermann should have been covered under legislation commonly known as the Missing Persons Act. His family should have received notification that counsel was appointed to represent his interests within 45 days of his disappearance. By Day 100, an unclassified summary report should have been provided to von Ackermann's family. At the one year anniversary, Day 365, they should have received notification of the meeting of a Board of Inquiry. If that board reached no definitive conclusion as to his whereabouts, additional inquiries should have been held which the family would have had the right to attend. The von Ackermann family could have passed concerns to the counsel as well as provide information and/or objections to any recommendations by the Board of Inquiry.

But, that's not what happened....something went awry after the Battalion Commander in Tikrit first reported von Ackermann missing.

This post and the following chart are an attempt to recreate the flow of reports and information in 2003 and 2004.


The Missing Persons Act

The Missing Persons Act was first established in 1942, the same year as the Defense Base Act. At the time, the primary purpose of the legislation was to alleviate financial hardship suffered by the dependents of servicemen reported as missing [ref]. Over the years, The Missing Persons Act has been amended.

§ 1501. System for accounting for missing persons

(1) The Secretary of Defense shall establish within the Office of the Secretary of Defense an office to have responsibility for Department of Defense policy relating to missing persons. Subject to the authority, direction, and control of the Secretary of Defense, the responsibilities of the office shall include­­
(A) policy, control, and oversight within the Department of Defense of the entire process for investigation and recovery related to missing persons (including matters related to search, rescue, escape, and evasion); and

(B) coordination for the Department of Defense with other departments and agencies of the United States on all matters concerning missing persons.
In 1996, a new provision was added allowing the Department of Defense to designate a missing person as deceased without proof. In addition, the new changes allow government agencies to withhold information on missing persons without penalty. [ref] The 1996 amendments were controversial with some veterans groups who, unsuccessfully, attempted to have them removed.

Reporting

The status of 'missing,' both hostile and non-hostile, is considered a casualty. The Army Casualty Program publication Army Regulation (AR) 600-8-1 outlines the general steps and time frame for reporting procedures for missing persons.
AR 600-8-1
Chapter 13
Procedures for Casualties Involving Missing Persons (Non-Hostile and Hostile)
May 15, 2007
Casualty Assistance

Casualty Assistance Centers (CACs) noted in the above chart "... accomplish the administrative functions of the casualty operations, mortuary affairs, and line of duty programs, the key subcomponents of the Army Casualty Program. They account for, report, and document all casualties. The Casualty and Memorial Affairs Operations Center (CMAOC), U.S. Army Human Resources Command (AHRC-PEZ), has technical supervision over CACs worldwide. "

A general overview of procedural responsibility of CAC's can be found at the DoD Instruction 1300.18 - "Personnel Casualty Matters, Policies, and Procedures" - which describes the responsibilities of the Casualty Assistance Officer.

6.1.4. Casualty Assistance

6.1.4.1. DUSTWUN, EAWUN, Missing, or Deceased Cases. In all cases involving DUSTWUN, EAWUN, missing, or deceased casualties, the DoD Component concerned shall appoint a casualty assistance officer who will initiate contact with the [primary next of kin] PNOK within 24 hours following initial notification. Within the guidelines established by each DoD Component, the casualty assistance officer may be the notification officer. The casualty assistance officer, to the extent the PNOK desires, shall provide guidance and assistance for such matters as pay, allowances and benefits, veteran benefits, social security benefits, and income tax refunds or exclusions whenever section 692 of title 26, U.S.C. (Reference (r)) applies to the particular case. Assistance to civilian personnel will be coordinated through the designated civilian personnel office or civilian benefits center. The casualty assistance officer shall provide points of contact or information regarding autopsy reports, all known reports of inquiry or investigations, as applicable, and other governmental or non-DoD agencies that may be involved in a particular case. The casualty assistance officer shall maintain contact with the PNOK to keep them informed until all matters relating to the case have been answered and all entitlements and benefits are received.
I admit to being confused here. The commander, who in theory first reported von Ackermann as missing, was in the US Army. The DoD Component within which Iraq falls, Central Command (CENTCOM), reports civilian casualties to a Designated Military Service, in this case, the US Air Force, at HQ Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC/DPFCS) at Randolph AFB in Texas.
E6.2.1.1. Casualty reports will be submitted without delay to the appropriate Military Service Headquarters Casualty Office within 24 hours of a Component learning of the casualty.
The following sample report, "DoD Component Civilian Casualty Report," referred to as "Enclosure 6," is used to input data into the Defense Casualty Information Processing System (DCIPS) which, in theory, maintains data on all casualties including civilian contractors.

From this Casualty Report, DCIPS will generate DD Form 1300, "Report of Casualty."

Commander's Report - DD Form 2812

In order to complete the above steps, an initial report of a missing person, DD Form 2812, is prepared within the first 10 days by the appropriate commander. The commander also completes a short casualty checklist known as a "casualty feeder card" (DA Form 1156).



§ 1502. Missing persons: initial report

(a) Preliminary assessment and recommendation by commander.-- After receiving information that the whereabouts and status of a person described in section 1501(c) of this title is uncertain and that the absence of the person may be involuntary, the commander of the unit, facility, or area to or in which the person is assigned shall make a preliminary assessment of the circumstances. If, as a result of that assessment, the commander concludes that the person is missing, the commander shall­­
(1) recommend that the person be placed in a missing status; and

(2) not later than 10 days after receiving such information, transmit a report containing that recommendation to the Secretary concerned in accordance with procedures prescribed under section 1501(b) of this title.
(b) Transmission of advisory copy to theater component commander.-- When transmitting a report under subsection (a)(2) recommending that a person be placed in a missing status, the commander transmitting that report shall transmit an advisory copy of the report to the theater component commander with jurisdiction over the missing person.

(c) Safeguarding and forwarding of records.-- A commander making a preliminary assessment under subsection (a) with respect to a missing person shall (in accordance with procedures prescribed under section 1501 of this title) safeguard and forward for official use any information relating to the whereabouts and status of the missing person that results from the preliminary assessment or from actions taken to locate the person.

When Safa Shukir called John Dawkins to tell him he had found Kirk von Ackermann's vehicle abandoned on an isolated road, Shukir had reached Dawkins in the contracting office at a US Army base in Tikrit. The battalion commander at the time was LTC Steven Russell who would have relied on Department of Defense Instruction (DODI) 2310.5 for guidance.

DODI 2310.5 is applicable to both military and civilian personnel and details steps for filing DD Form 2812, "Commander's Preliminary Assessment and Recommendation Regarding Missing Person" sometimes referred to as a Commander's Report.

To create the report, the commander is likely to initiate an informal investigation known as an AR 15-6 investigation. The commander assigns an investigating officer who compiles a preliminary report, DA Form 1574, "Report of Proceedings by Investigating Officer." DA Form 1574 includes a chronology, witness statements, exhibits with an index indicating what evidence there is and where it is stored.
DODI 2310.05 [2310.5]

Accounting for Missing Persons (PDF) - Boards of Inquiry
COMMANDER'S PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT AND RECOMMENDATION
Department of Defense, Army Publishing Directorate
January 31, 2000 with administrative changes March 1, 2008
Page 15 - 23

E3.1. PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT AND RECOMMENDATION BY COMMANDER

E3.1.1. A flow chart diagramming the elements of the commander's preliminary assessment and recommendation, together with the elements of an initial board of inquiry that would follow that assessment, is found at attachment E3.A1. of this enclosure.



E3.1.2. Information may be received showing that the whereabouts and status of a covered person are uncertain and that the absence of the person may be involuntary. If so, the commander of the unit, facility, or area to or in which the person is assigned shall make a preliminary assessment of the circumstances. When the circumstances of the involuntary absence are questionable, i.e., whether the absence resulted from hostile action, the commander of the unit, facility, or area to or in which the person is assigned shall submit a preliminary assessment and recommendation. Attachment E3.A2. of this enclosure contains a checklist of those items, as applicable, that the commander may wish to consider when preparing the assessment. If, as a result of that assessment, the commander concludes that the person is missing, the commander shall:

E3.1.2.1. Recommend that the person be placed in a missing status; and

E3.1.2.2. Transmit a report containing the recommendation to the Secretary concerned in accordance with procedures prescribed by that Secretary not later than 10 days after receiving such information.

E3.1.3. DD Form 2812, "Commander's Preliminary Assessment and Recommendation Regarding Missing Person," is found at attachment E3.A3. of this enclosure.


E3.1.4. Transmission of a DD Form 2812 is not always required. For instance,
evidence regarding a covered person may be received through news coverage or
discovered through diplomatic channels. That evidence may be sufficient to enable the commander to make a preliminary assessment regarding the covered person's whereabouts and status and whether the absence of the person is involuntary. In all cases, however, the evidence upon which this determination is made shall be recorded and preserved. Receipt of additional evidence could require the commander to submit a preliminary assessment and recommendation. Such evidence could include cessation of hostilities without the return of the covered person or a complete lack of further evidence that, without additional information, could create a doubt concerning the whereabouts and status of the covered person. A preliminary assessment and recommendation is required whenever evidence is received or discovered that may cause the whereabouts and status of the covered person to be uncertain and indicates that the absence of the person may be involuntary.

E3.1.5. Persons who are "covered persons" (defined herein at paragraph E2.1.7.) are limited to those whose involuntary absence arises as a result of a hostile action or under circumstances suggesting that the involuntary absence is a result of a hostile action and whose status is undetermined or who is unaccounted for. A case resolution file will be created and maintained on a covered person and an initial board of inquiry will be convened to inquire into the whereabouts and status of the person. The Under Secretary of Defense for Policy shall determine, with regard to a pending or ongoing military operation, the specific employees, or groups of employees, of contractors of the Department of Defense to be considered to be covered persons. In appropriate circumstances, the USD(P) may expand coverage to non-U.S. citizen civilian officers and employees of the Department of Defense.

E3.1.6. The scope of persons for whom the United States will undertake Personnel Recovery is not limited to situations involving hostile action or circumstances suggestive of hostile action. Personnel Recovery measures may be initiated for personnel (U.S., allied, or coalition) who become unaccounted for as a result of training exercises, operations other than war wherein hostile action is not involved and operational environments not involving hostile action. The specific persons for whom Personnel Recovery may be initiated will vary based upon the circumstances unique to each situation. Located at attachment E3.A4. of this enclosure is a graph depicting the relationship of "covered persons" for whom case resolution files and boards of inquiry apply and those to whom Personnel Recovery applies. For further information on Personnel Recovery, refer to DoD Directive 2310.2, "Personnel Recovery" (reference (d)).

E3.2. TRANSMISSION OF ADVISORY COPY TO THEATER COMPONENT COMMANDER

The Commander of the unit, facility, or area to or in which the person is assigned shall, when recommending that a person be placed in a missing status, transmit an advisory copy of the preliminary assessment and recommendation to the theater Component Commander having jurisdiction over the missing person.

E3.2. TRANSMISSION OF ADVISORY COPY TO THEATER COMPONENT COMMANDER

The Commander of the unit, facility, or area to or in which the person is assigned shall, when recommending that a person be placed in a missing status, transmit an advisory copy of the preliminary assessment and recommendation to the theater Component Commander having jurisdiction over the missing person.

E3.3. SAFEGUARDING AND FORWARDING OF RECORDS

In accordance with procedures prescribed by the Secretary concerned, a Commander
making a preliminary assessment and recommendation with respect to a missing person shall:

E3.3.1. Safeguard and forward, to the Secretary concerned for official use, any
information relating to the whereabouts and status of the missing person that results from the preliminary assessment and recommendation or from actions taken to locate the person.

E3.3.2. Attachment E3.A2. of this enclosure contains a checklist of those items, as
applicable, that the commander may wish to safeguard and forward.
For the most part, E3.A2 relates to recordings, vehicles, weapons and ordinance (think plane crash as a result of missile fire). It does not list personal effects.

Once the Commander's Assessment and Recommendation is filed with The Adjutant General and Theater Component Commander, usually within 10 days of the initial incident, and as authority passes to a Board of Inquiry, jurisdiction over any future investigation becomes unclear. Which may explain why an aggressive and formal investigation into the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann, once properly accounted for as a missing person, was seemingly forgotten. That is, until his colleague Ryan Manelick was murdered shortly after alleging fraud at Ultra Services.

So, what happened?

Was there a Board of Inquiry? Is Kirk von Ackermann listed in the DCIPS? Was a Casualty Assistance Officer assigned to his case? Did the Missing Persons Act fail to protect the legal rights of Kirk von Ackermann as a missing person and if so, what steps need to be taken to prevent that from ever happening again? At what point did the system break down?

Changes Since 2003

In the summer of 2004, the US Department of State Hostage Working Group was organized by the US Embassy in Baghdad to monitor hostages in Iraq. The Group is sometimes referred to as the Office of Hostage Affairs. According to news reports, the group meets weekly bringing together officials from the FBI, the Defense Department, the State Department and the Iraqi government.

Between January 2006 and January 2007, a Hostage Reporting contract clause was added to Joint Contracting Command (JCC) Acquisition Instructions. The clause is intended for construction and service contracts, and does not address the gray area of service incidental to supply of supply contracts. Contracting officers are now responsible for gathering the very first details of an incident and submitting the information to JCC.
See: Acquisition Instruction (AI), Part 52.2, 01 May 2007

Additional Reading

Army Publishing Directorate - regulations and so much more including a complete list of Department of Defense Issuances (DODI)

DoD Instruction 1300.18 - Personnel Casualty Matters, Policies, and Procedures from the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness from January 8, 2008

DoD Directive 1300.22 - from the Joint Mortuary Affairs Office, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, on Personal Effects from February 3, 2000 current as of November 21, 2003

Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) responsibility for Personnel Recovery after the conclusion of hostilities
Try this link: http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/faq/

Military Assistance Program includes information from Mortuary and Casualty Affairs

General Information

Casualty: There are six casualty statuses: (1) deceased; (2) duty status – whereabouts unknown (DUSTWUN) for military, or excused absence – whereabouts unknown (EAWUN) for civilians; (3) missing; (4) very seriously ill or injured (VSI); (5) seriously ill or injured (SI); and (6) not seriously ill or injured (NSI). At the DoD Component’s discretion, an additional casualty status of Special Patient (SPECPAT) or Special Category (SPECAT) may be used. POW is not a casualty status for reporting purposes, rather status and category are "missing-captured."

Civilian: A person who is not a member of the armed forces, including a member of the general public, U.S. and non-U.S., a defense contractor, a DoD civilian employee, non-DoD Federal employees, or military dependents.

Contractor: An individual or employee of a private business who contracts to furnish supplies [supply] or perform work [construction or service] at a certain price or rate.

Defense Casualty Information Processing System (DCIPS): The system of record for the "Report of Casualty" DD Form 1300 and other documents and reports. The DCIPS Configuration Control Board (CCB) governs changes within this system. DCIPS is an electronic system used in the collection and management of casualty data and produces the DD Form 1300 and other documents and reports.

3 comments:

Megan said...

Phew - Susie you always amaze me with your ability to discover this stuff and then condense it down into something understandable! I'm sorry not to have gotten back to you with detailed information on what we were told when (been coping with veeeery annoying computer issues for the last week or so!) but I will definitely do so.

Susie Dow said...

I'd love to speak with someone who understands the nuances of the Missing Persons Act. There is too much I just don't understand no matter how many times I read the appropriate policies, etc.

And what surprises me is that given the sheer size of the civilian contractor force in Iraq, better casualty guidance hasn't been written just for them.

Greg said...

Iraq is one of the most dangerous country or most terrorism country. It's very common for missing anyone in this country. For missing persons, the commando should take action to rescue. God bless all~ Greg from missingpersonsinaustralia.com.au