East Timor Flag Contingency Contracting in East Timor

by Brigadier General Philip M. Mattox and Lieutenant Colonel William A. Guinn

In supporting an international force sent to restore and maintain order in a strife-torn East Asian nation, the U.S. Pacific Command used contractors to reduce the U.S. military presence and provide targeted support.

The geographic area of responsibility of the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) far exceeds that of the other unified commands. At 105 million square miles, it covers 52 percent of the Earth's surface and encompasses 43 different and diverse countries. With responsibility for commanding U.S. forces over such a huge area and for dealing with so many countries, USPACOM always finds that accomplishing its assigned missions is challenging and interesting. The recent U.S. involvement in East Timor underscored that reality. In its use of contractors, USPACOM's mission in East Timor also may have illustrated an important aspect of logistics support in the future.

East Timor is located on the eastern half of the island of Timor, which is at the bottom center of the map. It is 400 miles north of Darwin, Australia.
East Timor is located on the eastern half of the island of Timor, which is at the bottom center of the map. It is 400 miles north of Darwin, Australia.

East Timor Mission

East Timor originally was a Portuguese colony occupying the eastern portion of the island of Timor. The remainder of the island was part of the Dutch East Indies, which in 1949 became the independent nation of Indonesia. Following the collapse of Portugal's overseas empire, Indonesia assumed control of East Timor in 1975.

In August 1999, the people of East Timor, in a referendum sponsored by the United Nations, voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Indonesia. Unfortunately, following the announcement of the referendum's results, armed militias opposed to the independence movement went on a countrywide rampage. East Timor's infrastructure was looted, then burned and gutted. Basic services such as water and food distribution and communications were disrupted and destroyed. Thousands of East Timorese fled their homes as the militias continued their assaults. With East Timor in chaos—no working infrastructure, tremendous numbers of internally displaced people, and continued lawlessness—the situation looked bleak.

The United Nations responded by authorizing an Australian-led coalition called International Forces East Timor (INTERFET). Eighteen countries besides Australia eventually supported INTERFET: Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In Operation Warden, INTERFET conducted peacemaking operations to end the violence. That mission quickly transitioned to the peacekeeping mission of Operation Stabilise.

The U.S. mission in East Timor had definite goals and parameters. First, we were determined that INTERFET would succeed in restoring order. Second, we would maintain a minimal U.S. military presence on the ground and limit USPACOM's contribution to INTERFET to capabilities that only the United States could provide effectively. Third, we would work to ensure the transition of U.S.-provided support to the United Nations and other appropriate agencies as soon as it was prudent to do so.

To accomplish this mission, USPACOM established U.S. Forces INTERFET (USFI). USFI was commanded by a Marine Corps brigadier general and eventually included personnel from all of the armed services. The mission of USFI's small headquarters was to execute U.S. support to INTERFET within the special parameters given by the Joint Staff.

USPACOM planners devised a joint effort in which USPACOM's component commands—U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC), the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pacific Air Forces, and Marine Forces Pacific (MARFORPAC)—provided personnel and equipment to USFI to use in supporting INTERFET. This support consisted of command and control systems, strategic lift, and logistics and civil affairs support, as well as planners. One of the most critical items provided was heavy-lift helicopter support.

Helicopter Support

East Timor is a rugged, heavily mountainous island. The existing road network is minimal and often in a poor state of repair. The monsoon season, which was approaching as INTERFET prepared to deploy, would make existing dirt roads nearly impassible for INTERFET peacekeepers, representatives of nongovernment organizations, and the local East Timorese alike. Clearly, helicopter support would be critical to establishing a peacekeeping operation and quickly stabilizing the situation.

At the time, Australian CH-47 Chinook helicopters were inoperative because of systemic transmission problems, and other INTERFET partners had not deployed any medium- or heavy-lift helicopters. In keeping with USPACOM's commitment to provide only U.S.-unique support, the Australian joint headquarters command—known as Australian Theater (AST)—requested heavy-lift helicopter support from USPACOM.

The U.S. heavy-lift helicopter support initially was provided by four CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters from MARFORPAC's 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). They later were replaced by helicopters from the 11th MEU. The 31st MEU's helicopters flew off the USS Peleliu, while those of the 11th MEU flew from the USS Belleau Wood. These general-purpose amphibious assault (LHA) vessels functioned as forward operation bases for the helicopters. They also provided a visible U.S. presence without adding to the U.S. footprint on the ground. Supporting the heavy-lift helicopter mission in this manner required that several thousand marines and sailors man the needed ships and equipment, which obviously was not an ideal situation for the long term.

Decision to Contract

By October, in order to free units for other missions and reduce personnel and operating tempo, USPACOM began to explore alternative courses of action for providing helicopter support. A variety of ideas were explored—everything from using commercial offshore "lily pad" platforms to continued military rotations. Eventually, it was decided to explore the possibility of contracting with commercial sources for the needed support. After looking at various contracting possibilities, USPACOM settled on the Army Materiel Command's Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) as the best source of support for this mission.

LOGCAP is based on a standing, umbrella-type services contract that takes advantage of what civilian industry does best to augment U.S. forces in the continental United States and abroad. Since 1992, the Army has deployed the LOGCAP contractor in support of major missions in Somalia, Southwest Asia, Italy, Haiti, the Balkans, and East Timor. The program is intended to act as a force multiplier while conserving uniformed forces for potential higher priority missions.

The Army's LOGCAP manager and the LOGCAP contractor, DynCorp, proved to be very flexible. Within 2 days of being contacted, they deployed representatives to USPACOM headquarters at Camp H. M. Smith Marine Corps Base, Hawaii. LOGCAP planners proved invaluable in assisting with the development of the helicopter support contract.

In early November, after receiving authorization from the Joint Staff, USPACOM initiated a LOGCAP contract to replace the MEU's ship-based helicopters. It also was decided that the commercial helicopters obtained under this contract would operate out of the Dili airfield in East Timor. (Dili is the capital and largest city of East Timor.) The U.S. Pacific Fleet funded the commercial helicopters after weighing the costs of deploying another ship-based rotation to provide support to INTERFET against the cost of the contract.

The LOGCAP contractor employed dozens of local nationals. Here, they assist in pouring concrete for the fuel point.
The LOGCAP contractor employed dozens of local nationals. Here, they assist in pouring concrete for the fuel point.

Arranging for Contract Support

The LOGCAP contract was for use of four helicopters. After considering several possible options, USPACOM chose to accomplish the mission with two Mi-8 medium-lift and two Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopters. These helicopters would deploy from locations in Russia and Bulgaria along with their own air and maintenance crews. The helicopters and crews were all part of a subcontract to DynCorp. Overcrowding at the Dili airfield and the need to guarantee all-weather operations during the upcoming monsoon season required that hardstand helipads be constructed as part of the LOGCAP contract. DynCorp was given 2 weeks to be on station and operational.

In the next several days, USPACOM and USFI planners solved airspace clearance, customs clearance, life support, and fuel support problems in East Timor, as well as many status-of-forces-agreement and force-protection issues with INTERFET. The most pressing need was determining how to provide life and fuel support to the 100 incoming aircrew and construction personnel. With a minimal U.S. military presence in East Timor, we could not count on the availability of U.S. military support for this mission.

Fortunately, USPACOM already had an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement (ACSA) with Australia to support our forces operating out of Darwin, in northern Australia. The ACSA and the resulting support from our Australian allies proved invaluable over the next several months. Using the ACSA, USPACOM and Headquarters AST arrived at an arrangement that proved beneficial to both parties. With some assistance from U.S. contractors, AST would provide all food and fuel support for U.S. personnel in return for USFI helicopter support in East Timor.

Planning and execution of contingency contracting were new to this theater, and legal issues were a great concern. USPACOM had to coordinate with INTERFET to ensure that our contractors were afforded the same protection and benefits as military personnel. Immigration and customs arrangements for contractor personnel and their equipment and sustainment supplies were also a concern for the operation. Many of our personnel and their equipment would be moving through the USPACOM staging base in Darwin. Clearing Australian customs and immigration could have caused delays in our deployment to East Timor. Again, AST was very helpful in assisting USFI. In the end, this coordination ensured that we did not experience any delays in our deployment or replenishment efforts.

Helicopter Operations

The contracted helicopter operation in East Timor was a tremendous success. Given a very difficult mission, the LOGCAP team of reserve component personnel, Government civilians, and contractors was superb. The LOGCAP personnel overcame many obstacles to accomplish the mission.

One of the two Mi-8 medium-lift helicopters from Bulgaria is unloaded from a Russian AN-124 transport. One of the two Mi-8 medium-lift helicopters from Bulgaria is unloaded from a Russian AN-124 transport.
One of the two Mi-8 medium-lift helicopters from Bulgaria is unloaded from a Russian AN-124 transport. Right, contract helicopters are used to relocate thousands of East Timorese and their belongings.

The process of constructing the helipads offers an example of the difficulties encountered in establishing helicopter operations in East Timor. That project proved much more difficult than planned. East Timor lacked concrete production facilities, serviceable construction equipment, trained operators, and even the sand and aggregates needed to mix concrete. Almost everything needed to build concrete helipads and support facilities had to be imported into the country.

The two Mi-8's deployed from Bulgaria aboard a giant Russian-made AN-124 cargo plane, which also brought in all spare parts and a fuel tanker. The Mi-26's were flown directly to East Timor over a period of 10 days, traveling halfway around the world. The contractor arranged all flight clearances. USPACOM assisted by making several calls to U.S. embassies along the route to ensure that the deployment moved as fast as possible.

Despite these challenges, the contract helicopters performed their missions extremely well. They were invaluable in moving INTERFET personnel and equipment within East Timor. They also were employed heavily in humanitarian assistance missions, moving tons of food and supplies to alleviate suffering. After the situation stabilized, the helicopters were used to transport thousands of internally displaced persons as they were returned to their homes.

Overall, the contract helicopters made a substantial U.S. contribution to INTERFET's mission. Many of the U.S. helicopter pilots commented on the professionalism and competence of the contracted aircrews and their operations. In the 3 months that the 4 LOGCAP helicopters operated, they moved over 6,400 passengers and 845 tons of cargo. They also flew more than 475 hours without an in-flight safety mishap.

Transition To UNTAET

In late February 2000, INTERFET completed its peacekeeping mission. At the same time, the United Nations Transition Authority East Timor (UNTAET) was established to complete East Timor's transition to independence. The change from INTERFET to UNTAET ended the U.S. contract helicopter support mission. However, it did not end U.S. involvement in East Timor.

At the same time that UNTAET was activated, USPACOM stood up U.S. Support Group East Timor (USGET). Composed of personnel from all of USPACOM's component commands, USGET's mission was to coordinate the rotation and employment of U.S. military medical, dental, and engineer units into East Timor while providing technical assistance as needed to the UNTAET staff.

Contract helicopters are parked at the Dili airfield. Note the size of the Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopter in the center of the photo compared to the C-130 Hercules transport to its right. Left, contract helicopters are parked at the Dili airfield. Note the size of the Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopter in the center of the photo compared to the C-130 Hercules transport to its right. Below, moored in Dili Harbor, the hotel barge Amos W. provides life support for USGET.

Moored in Dili Harbor, the hotel barge Amos W. provides life support for USGET.

Like the helicopter contractors, the USGET staff and rotational units would need life support, vehicles, fuel, and communications. However, with Australian forces relinquishing primary responsibility for the East Timor mission to UNTAET, we had to find a substitute for Australian support for USGET. Once again, contingency contracting appeared to be the best way to support a limited mission.

USPACOM modified the LOGCAP contract to include the procurement of a large commercial hotel barge already moored in Dili Harbor. By using the barge and its crew, USGET personnel would be provided with billeting, food, water, and even laundry services, as well as exercise and recreational facilities. Additional contract modifications were used to obtain onsite medical care, commercial vehicles, drivers, fuel, maintenance, and communications support for USGET and the rotational units. Again, USPACOM had to determine how to fund this new USGET contract. After weighing the service components' requirements and missions, USPACOM directed that funding of the hotel barge contract be split evenly between its two major users—USARPAC and MARFORPAC.

USPACOM's experience with contingency contracting in East Timor has been very positive. In multinational operations like this, in which the United States is a junior partner, contingency contracting can be a viable course of action. It provides a meaningful U.S. presence and contribution while maintaining a minimal military footprint.

The LOGCAP contractors have performed superbly. Clearly, with current pressures on operating and personnel tempo, contingency contracting has gained favor as a means of supporting U.S. forces. USPACOM's use of contingency contracting demonstrates another way of providing U.S. support to coalition allies. It is a model for consideration when planning future contingency operations. ALOG

Brigadier General Philip M. Mattox is the Director for Logistics, Engineering, and Security Assistance, J4, at the U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii. He previously served as Assistant Chief of Staff, G4, of III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas. He holds a B.S. degree in physical education from North Georgia College and is a graduate of the Armor Officer Basic and Advanced Courses and the Army Command and General Staff College.

Lieutenant Colonel William A. Guinn is the Deputy for the Logistics Resources Division, Office of the J4, U.S. Pacific Command. He has a B.A. degree in sociology from California State University and M.S. degrees in industrial relations from Iowa State University and in resourcing national security strategy from the National Defense University. He previously served as Commander of the 123d Main Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division. He is a graduate of the Ordnance Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Army Command and General Staff College, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.