Chapter 8: Cross-Cultural Competence and Situational Awareness

Table of Contents

  1. Key Points
  2. Introduction
  3. Cross-Cultural Competence
  4. Situational Awareness
  5. OPSEC
  6. Communication with Vendors (Elicitation, Espionage, and Subversion)
  7. Antiterrorism and Security
  8. Personal Security and Situational Awareness
  9. Personnel Recovery
  10. Additional References

Key Points

  • Contracted support can have a direct strategic impact on civil aspects of the operation. Contingency contracting officers (CCOs) control, directly or indirectly, a significant amount of spending that can be targeted to improve economic conditions on the ground.
  • The purpose of cross-cultural competence is to enable the CCO and deployed forces to be more effective operating in cross-cultural situations. Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across different cultures.
  • CCOs must be familiar with the statutes, directives, treaties, and agreements that will affect contracting operations when they are deployed.
  • CCOs are a valuable member of the team, who engage with leadership, customers, contractors, and local nationals.
  • As a CCO you may be assigned to an agency or Service outside your own. You must learn the culture of the agency you support.
  • Most contractor business overseas is conducted by negotiation. Therefore, negotiating for lower prices is a normal business practice.
  • CCOs must be aware of antiterrorism countermeasures and security. Mobility and adaptability are key in performing CCO duties, which can include traveling outside the wire in hostile areas.
  • CCOs must be aware of the risks associated with contracting in contingency environments. For example, they must maintain information on operations security (OPSEC) during all activities.
  • Contracting is an integral part of counterinsurgency (COIN). One of the most important contributions a CCO makes is impacting the human terrain and building habitual relationships with the local community.
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As a CCO, you travel to many places around the globe to support the assigned mission. This chapter addresses the nuances of supporting contracts in foreign environments, including business advisor considerations, antiterrorism and security, antiterrorist countermeasures, and OPSEC. These issues often are inherent in doing business in a foreign country.

Cross-Cultural Competence

Cultural competence comprises four elements: (1) awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, (2) attitude toward cultural differences, (3) knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and (4) cross-cultural skills. The cognitive ability of a CCO to recognize and practice these skills helps achieve the cross-cultural effectiveness critical in expeditious contract support in contingency environments. Cross-cultural competence challenges a CCO to learn the societal worldview of the host nation (HN) and find ways to put any cultural differences aside in order to work as a unified team to achieve unity of effort.

Cross-cultural competence. As noted, CCOs should try to learn as much as possible about the country in which they will be deployed. The J2 (Intelligence), Department of State (DOS), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other organizations can support the CCO in understanding HN cultures, customs, business practices, and laws before deployment.

A CCO can better operate in an unfamiliar foreign environment by doing the following:

  • Humble yourself as a guest and respect the HN and its customs. As a CCO, part of your mission is to be an ambassador, build trust, and form habitual relationships with the local nationals the United States is supporting.
  • Try to understand the culture and customs. Learn the local language for pleasantries such as “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” and emergency phrases such as “I need a policeman,” “I need a doctor,” “help,” and “fire.”
  • Learn about the business environment and infrastructure in which you are operating. For example, some cultures rarely perform business functions early in the day, so plan your meeting times to accommodate them. Also, realize that your sense of urgency does not always translate to those in other cultures. As a CCO, you must respect this difference but still find ways to ensure supplies and services are delivered on time.
  • Recognize that an informed visitor is a safer visitor.
  • Recognize that other nations might not have lifestyles and habits similar to those of the United States. Resist the temptation to make value judgments or criticize.
  • If you are a female CCO, recognize that contractors may resist or even refuse to conduct business with you because of gender. (Gender equality is not recognized internationally, and this issue is prevalent in the Middle East.) Although the situation is unfair and burdensome, try to find ways to work around this cultural difference. Try using a male interpreter.
  • Establish a genuine rapport with local nationals, who can forewarn you of suspicious activities and impending attacks, and can assist in preventing grave social errors that could offend other local nationals and negatively impact operations. If you receive information, take it seriously and ensure you know how to report it; your life and those around you may depend on it.
  • Avoid becoming involved in local politics, and steer clear of civil disturbances.
  • When able, carry a cell phone or radio with you and travel in teams. Learn how to use local telephones, and keep sufficient pocket change on hand to use them.
  • Try to blend in with the local environment as much as possible, including your clothing and mannerisms (do not talk loudly or use hand gestures). For example, rather than going to popular restaurants and establishments frequented by U.S. personnel, try local establishments (if authorized) suggested by trusted local national advisors and approved by your chain of command. Tourist attractions can become targets for trouble.
  • Be aware of forbidden areas posted by your supporting intelligence agency. If major attractions in the country have security problems, stay away. Instead, try to keep a low profile by visiting less frequented places.
  • Get to know all mission partners and nonpartners operating in the operational area, including interagency and interorganizational ones. Understand the operational environment and strategy to meet mission goals and objectives, as well as the business environment and infrastructure, to ensure activities and events are applied in a manner that is culturally appropriate and leads to positive results.

Ethics. Ethical standards in the United States differ from those in other parts of the world. Another nation’s common business practices can get a CCO into trouble. When ethical or procurement integrity requirements conflict with local practices, you should explain to contractors the restrictions placed on U.S. procurement officials. All personnel, not just CCOs, must be conscious that many business cultures expect kickbacks, “finder’s fees,” exchanges of gifts, or other gratuities illegal for U.S. personnel to provide or accept. Review and become very familiar with Department of Defense (DoD) 5500.07-R, Joint Ethics Regulation, and other laws and regulations as depicted on the DoD Office of the General Counsel’s website. The mission depends on your ability to legally and ethically provide goods and services to the warfighter regardless of your environment.

Foreign business practices. Many foreign business cultures encourage the use of deceptive techniques during negotiations. Be aware of this and document all transactions and correspondence, as corruption levels often influence outcomes. For example, you may discover that a contractor has restricted competitors by bribing or threatening them. Furthermore, contractors might promise more than they can deliver or faster timelines than are actually possible. Always ask for specific details about delivery capabilities and ask the contractor to provide a delivery plan and schedule. Also, you should inspect sites and physically observe the procured items when possible, ensuring they meet the specifications in the contract. Be familiar with how deliveries are made at your location and ensure a viable system is in place that has been vetted through leadership and security. Last, ensure payments are made for legitimate supplies and services only in accordance with contract terms and conditions. See Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 25 and Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) Part 225 for more information on executing foreign acquisitions.

Negotiating practices. Like other business elements, negotiation practices can vary greatly depending on the area in which you are deployed and supporting. When obtaining the price of an item or service, keep in mind that the first price quoted is usually only a contractor’s starting position. Foreign contractors with which CCOs conduct business can be shrewd negotiators; understand that negotiating for lower prices is often viewed as a normal business practice. Setting a pre-negotiation objective and conducting several exchanges with the vendor can help reduce prices and obtain services and supplies quickly. Regardless of the negotiation scenario, CCOs must remember that they are responsible for determining fair and reasonable prices before award. Further, negotiations must be documented (see Chapter 6).

In determining price reasonableness, the CCO must consider the following:

  • Availability of the needed supply or service in the local marketplace
  • Feasibility of meeting the need from outside the local area
  • Issues with customs or clearing agencies for deliveries
  • Ability to secure delivery within the requested time frame
  • Urgency of the requirement
  • The need to build the local economy (you may be tasked with local “country-first” procurement programs, similar to U.S. Central Command’s (CENTCOM’s) previous procurement initiative to procure from the Central Asian States, as prescribed in DFARS 225.7703 and CENTCOM Policy Letter 40, “Acquisition of Products and Services in Central Asian States(1).

(See FAR 13.106-3(a), 15.405, and 15.406 for more specific information on price negotiation and determining price reasonableness depending on the type of acquisition procedures used. See also Chapter 5 for additional information on negotiating practices.)

Oral agreements. The prevalent practice in many countries is to conclude an agreement or contractual understanding with nothing more than a handshake. This approach may be used at the outset of the contingency, humanitarian assistance, or peacekeeping operation, but should be followed quickly with a written contract. Vendors can view contracts written in English with suspicion and sometimes anger. Obtaining a vendor’s signature on a contract can become a challenge. When a local vendor refuses to sign contractual documents, the ordering officer (OO), field ordering officer (FOO), and CCO must either document the file with a memorandum for the record or annotate the unsigned contractual document. CCOs, OOs, and FOOs should ensure that another U.S. Government official countersigns the document. Once a contract is performed and the contractor is paid, relations between vendors and government representatives (the CCO and the government team) should improve. CCOs should remember to always keep oral communications simple and straightforward. Light-hearted joking and sarcasm can sometimes be misinterpreted through translation and can be insulting to some cultures.

Local business practices. Local business practices in a less-than-stable environment and the contractor’s lack of knowledge of DoD payment procedures might require CCOs to arrange for immediate payment after completion and acceptance of work. (Chapter 5 describes payment procedures.) CCOs should understand that interaction with local nationals often requires patience and lengthy conversations. Plan to engage in discussions in unfamiliar areas but be mindful of OPSEC. Be aware of your surroundings and who might be listening to the conversation, and take care not to reveal the details of your mission.

Interpreter services. CCOs should be prepared to deploy to locations where the local contractors speak little or no English. In these situations, CCOs need the services of interpreters. The CCO, in consultation with the requiring activity, deems some interpreters as mission-essential contractor employees. Mission-essential interpreters have managerial or technical skills not commonly found in the general population. CCOs should contact the embassy for a list of approved interpreters. In the absence of embassy support, CCOs may check with hotels, telephone books, or bus drivers for tour operations. Contacting local schools and colleges for assistance in locating interpreters is another option. You should, however, be cautious about using interpreter services from unapproved sources and, where applicable, vet interpreters through the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), Criminal Investigation Command (CID), Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), or the embassy for security approval. Be respectful of the interpreters’ time, as they can become overwhelmed. Get to know the interpreters and notice whether their behavior changes around certain contractors or locations. This can be useful awareness to have when conducting business transactions and considering OPSEC procedures.

Limitations. Deployed CCOs do not have the authority to negotiate or enter into agreements with foreign governments. For example, as a CCO you cannot enter into a contractual agreement with the Philippines Government to provide interpreter services. That level of contracting is handled by DOS and senior DoD officials. If an HN agreement with a foreign government is in place already, you may be able to place an order against it. You should obtain authority through the head of the contracting activity (HCA) to work with the HN support office to write priced delivery orders against the agreement. If a new agreement is needed, you may request its creation through the HN support office.

Multinational programs. A deployment is highly likely to involve coalition forces and capabilities coming from interagency, intergovernmental, and nongovernmental partners, with emphasis on a multinational perspective. The CCO should know that the international environment is governed by a myriad of statutes, directives, treaties, and implementing arrangements for conducting transactions. Guidance on these matters should be sought from the HN support team, combatant command J4 (Logistics), joint interagency coordination group or directorate responsible for interagency coordination, and U.S. Embassy. For contingency and exercise operations in a foreign country (and acquisitions under provisions of mutual support logistics between the U.S. Government and the government of eligible countries), options include HN support agreements, assistance-in-kind agreements, status of forces agreements (SOFAs), and acquisition and cross-servicing agreements (ACSAs) (see Chapter 4 for a discussion of ACSAs). CCOs must understand the role of each of these types of agreements, their function, and their advantages and disadvantages.

Customs and taxes. Many times, SOFAs address contracting support related to legal obligations (such as taxes and customs), as well as the process and documentation needed for an exemption. Issues arising from problems with customs can be burdensome. The better the CCO understands the process and the political climate, the easier it is to work with the customs agents. Too often, supplies that require delivery through an HN entry port become frustrated freight, and the delays can be critical to the mission. You may have to seek help from higher authorities to help remedy the release of frustrated deliverables. Contact the customs office or U.S. embassy for additional guidance, especially if local procedures do not exist.

Additional Resources. The resources below can help CCOs become familiar with the host nation, especially during initial operations in unfamiliar areas:

  • The CIA offers a World Factbook, which contains information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities.
  • The WorldSmart Resource Center offers global information, including currencies, gestures, measurements, telephone codes, and voltages.
  • The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center offers culturally based education in more than 40 languages. The center’s website offers downloadable products for predeployment training, deployment use, or refresher training.
  • The U.S. Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL) contains information on regional cultures and languages to support planning and operations in a joint expeditionary environment. The CAOCL website includes specific cultural links related to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), United States Pacific Command (PACOM), United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), and CENTCOM.
  • The Air Force Air University website offers sociocultural and language resources.
  • The Defense Language Institute’s Foreign Language Center offers “Country in Perspective” and cultural orientation videos.
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Situational Awareness

Situational awareness involves never letting your guard down while constantly observing and understanding your surroundings. CCOs should remain situationally aware at all times, trusting their instincts and relying on their training. Especially during initial contingency operations, CCOs may travel outside the wire in convoys or with personal security details (PSDs) to visit sites, attend meetings, meet with local contractors, and handle cash-and-carry transactions. They must understand local security procedures and protocols. Include others from the acquisition team when feasible, and do not hesitate to request security assistance while in hostile areas. Seek out secure locations to meet with contractors. For example, if you are supporting a mission not located at an established forward operating base (FOB), you may not have an office or established meeting area. Work with the supporting security personnel to determine a safe location for meeting and communicating with contractors. Check local standard operating procedures (SOPs) and acquisition instructions (AIs), if developed, for additional information on these types of situations.

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Awareness. Awareness of security fundamentals allows CCOs to focus their attention on the security measures needed during emergencies and in certain peacetime operations. OPSEC is a broad-based security program designed to prevent all types of sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands. Such information can be extremely valuable to adversaries of the United States. It can provide intelligence indicators of daily operations and, more important, future plans and activities. For example, if you are expected to conduct missions away from your base or embassy and overnight accommodations are needed, contact joint staff intelligence (J2) for information on areas been vetted for various security and intelligence concerns. Also, contact J2 to receive the most recent threat brief, which will provide critical information for you to keep in mind.

Definition. OPSEC is the process of identifying critical information and subsequently analyzing friendly actions attendant to military operations and other activities to accomplish the following:

  • Identify actions that can be observed by adversary intelligence systems.
  • Determine indicators that an adversary’s intelligence operatives might obtain that could be interpreted or pieced together to produce critical information (in time to be useful).
  • Select and execute measures that eliminate (or reduce to an acceptable level) the vulnerabilities of friendly actions to adversary exploitation.

The key to successful OPSEC is identifying indicators that are tipoffs of impending activities, such as stereotyped SOPs or, in some cases, observable deviations from normal operations.

Process. OPSEC is a continuous, systematic process involving security and common sense. It is used to analyze operational plans or programs to detect any weakness that could give useful information to adversaries or potential adversaries. The most important steps in the process are as follows:

  • Knowing the unit’s mission
  • Recognizing the adversary’s intelligence threat to the unit
  • Being aware of the unit’s critical information (essential elements of friendly information)
  • Identifying indicators that might disclose or point to this information
  • Developing protective measures to eliminate these indicators
  • Being constantly alert for vulnerabilities in the unit.
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Communication with Vendors (Elicitation, Espionage, and Subversion)

Over time, CCOs develop a rapport with most of the foreign contractors with whom they deal. However, CCOs must be wary of statements to even the most trusted of contractors. A CCO might find that contractors are soliciting information of possible intelligence value. For example, a CCO might be asked about the likelihood that an exercise will be conducted soon, number of people on the base, or when additional personnel will arrive. CCOs must immediately report any suspicious activities to the

CCOs must always be mindful of what is discussed with the contractor base. Likewise, information in contract requirement documents should be secured to the maximum extent practicable. Information should be limited only to people who have a need to know. Disclosure of certain contractual information (such as completion dates, troop movement, and delivery locations) could harm the operational mission. Be cautious of how your documents are disposed of, and ensure you follow proper disposal protocol for your location and mission.

CCOs also should be cautious when using satellite communications, cellular phones, and e-mail. These methods of communication generally are not secure and should be used with the understanding that the information can be intercepted. Ensure all communications are secured in accordance with the level of classification of your documents and mission.

Gaining the trust of the local communities, especially the contractors that supply needed goods and services, is vital to the success of your contracting mission. Remember, the presence of danger is very real for the local nationals as well as the deployed force. Many contractors live in the local area, and doing business with the U.S. Government can be dangerous for them and their families. CCOs must take all precautions to ensure that a contractor’s personal information is protected. In addition, CCOs should consider the possibility that local contractors might need to be billeted on the base to reduce the security risk to themselves and their families, thus changing their status to contractors authorized to accompany the forces (CAAF). See DFARS Part 225 for additional information on foreign acquisition requirements. Before publicizing award notifications and other contracting data, CCOs should check the local policy and procedures regarding the public posting of information. In austere and hostile locations, postings may not be authorized.

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Antiterrorism and Security

Threat factors. CCOs should ask the following eight questions to understand threats in the local environment:

  1. Do terrorist groups operate in the area?
  2. Are they violent?
  3. Do they attack U.S. personnel?
  4. How active are they?
  5. How sophisticated are they?
  6. How do they operate?
  7. How much popular support do they enjoy?
  8. Do they use common tactics?

DOS publishes annual Country Reports on Terrorism, which identify terrorist groups and describe their actions against U.S. citizens and personnel. Your intelligence officer and chain of command are also sources of information on terrorist groups in the area. In addition, CCOs should monitor stories in the newspaper, on radio, and on television.

If terrorist groups are operating in the area, the CCO needs to know their level of sophistication—whether they use highly targeted, carefully planned attacks or simply explode bombs randomly in public places. Knowing how the terrorist groups operate will enable the CCO to avoid danger spots and detect evidence of an attack before it occurs. For example, some terrorists study their targets for a month or more to carefully plan an attack. If CCOs know how to detect this type of surveillance, they can take protective steps and report the information to the intelligence officer.

Knowing whether a terrorist group has local popular support is also important. If not, the local population is more likely to warn U.S. personnel about events leading up to an attack. DoD and agencies of the U.S. Government study these factors to help protect U.S. forces. The CCO’s personal awareness can contribute to these efforts. CCOs must always be attentive to their surroundings and ready to react at the first sign of danger.

Target selection and identification. A useful exercise for the CCO is trying to take the terrorist’s view and determining whether the CCO stands out as a U.S. military official, spends time with large groups of U.S. troops in public, behaves (individually or in groups) in a way that draws attention, or appears to be an important person. Large groups of U.S. personnel can be an inviting target. Terrorists also identify and target specific individuals by name, so personal CCO information must be protected to minimize exposure. Moreover, terrorists might target people who appear to be important, whether they agree with that assessment or not. Before launching an attack, terrorists must perceive the CCO, associates, or location as a target. Thus, CCOs must make every effort not to be an easy target.

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Personal Security and Situational Awareness

As mentioned, CCOs may be required to travel outside of the installation, putting themselves at risk. OSI, CID, NCIS or other security forces personnel can brief you on potential risks and may even accompany you and your convoy as part of standard force protection practices. You should also consider the following:

  • Maintain mapped-out routes—with Global Positioning System (GPS) grid coordinates if possible—to nearby U.S. Embassy or Consulate offices, other ally-nation embassies, local police stations, hospitals, and other safe havens.
  • Enroll in the DOS Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and warnings via e-mail for specific regions, countries, and cities.
  • Carry a “drop wallet” or briefcase that contains newspapers or other non-value items. The wallet or case should not contain any personally identifiable information (PII), but may contain a nominal amount of local currency funds. This can be passed off as your personal wallet or case to an assailant should you find yourself in a burglary, pirate, or theft situation.
  • Limit your communications involving currency and funding. Publicly discussing this information can make you a target.

Real-World Example:

In recent operations, local contractors gave members of the deployed force valuable intelligence, such as the location of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) along the roadside.

The Bottom Line:

Building solid professional relationships with support contractors can help strengthen your situational awareness. Build strong relationships, but do so with a watchful eye.

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Personnel Recovery

“Personnel recovery” is the sum of military, diplomatic, and civil efforts to prepare for and execute the recovery and reintegration of isolated personnel.

Isolated personnel. “Isolated personnel” are U.S. military personnel, DoD civilians, and contractor personnel (and others designated by the President or Secretary of Defense) who are separated from their units (as an individual or group) while participating in a U.S.-sponsored military activity or mission and are (or may be) in a situation where they must survive, evade, resist, or escape.

Personnel recovery requirements. The geographic combatant commander and subordinate commands must plan for the possible isolation, capture, or detention of contractors by adversarial organizations or governments. Contractors must be included in the personnel recovery plan, as demonstrated in the Joint Operation Planning and Execution System (JOPES), subordinate operational orders and plans, and contractor integration plans. Regardless of the threat environment, contracts should require contractors to complete training in personnel recovery, prepare DoD Form 1833, “Isolated Personnel Report (ISOPREP) Instructions,” and prepare an evasion plan of action. Contracts also should clearly identify the organization and responsibility for (1) ensuring that personnel recovery training is accomplished and ISOPREPs and evasion plans of action are included in the theater personnel recovery plan, and (2) recovering and reintegrating isolated contractors. Reference FAR clause 52.225-19, “Contractor Personnel in a Designated Operational Area or Supporting a Diplomatic or Consular Mission Outside the United States,” and DFARs Clause 252.225-7040, “Contractor Personnel Supporting U.S. Armed Forces Deployed Outside the United States,” in the contract’s personnel recovery section.

(Joint Publication 3-50 and DoD Directive 2310.2 focus on personnel recovery and contain additional information on personnel recovery planning and development of ISOPREPs and evasion plans of action. Chapter 4 includes additional information on personnel recovery as related to planning.)

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Additional References

The following references were not mentioned in this chapter but offer additional information related to cross-cultural competence and situational awareness:

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1. CENTCOM Policy Letter 40, “Acquisition of Products and Services Produced in the Central Asian States (CAS),” June 26, 2012.

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