September 25, 2021


News Network

Request for Statements of Interest: DRL FY20 Iraq Programs

37 min read

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

I. Requested Objectives for Statements of Interest

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) announces a Request for Statements of Interest (RSOI) outlining project concepts and capacity to manage programs in Iraq that will: strengthen effective governance; increase political participation and civic activism; promote fundamental freedoms; and support atrocity prevention, accountability, and reconciliation.

PLEASE NOTE: DRL strongly encourages applicants to immediately access SAMS Domestic or in order to obtain a username and password.  For instructions on how to register with SAMS Domestic for the first time, please refer to the Proposal Submission Instructions for Statements of Interest at:

The submission of a SOI is the first step in a two-part process.  Applicants must first submit a SOI, which is a concise, 3-page concept note designed to clearly communicate a program idea and its objectives before the development of a full proposal application.  The purpose of the SOI process is to allow applicants the opportunity to submit program ideas for DRL to evaluate prior to requiring the development of full proposal applications.  Upon review of eligible SOIs, DRL will invite selected applicants to expand their ideas into full proposal applications.


U.S. human rights and democracy assistance in Iraq will be tailored to promote governance based on democratic principles, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and peaceful coexistence.  It will also provide for the protection of and advocacy for the rights of the most vulnerable, including youth, women, and religious and ethnic minorities, and mitigate the impact of conflict on Iraqi communities.

Proposed programming must be responsive to immediate needs in-country; flexible in its ability to respond to the shifting context; and in line with the U.S. Government’s democracy, governance, and human rights goals for Iraq.  Programming should also contribute to and support Iraqi efforts where possible.  Helpful resources for applicants include the annual Iraq Human Rights Report, International Religious Freedom Report, and Trafficking in Persons Report (

Applicants must clearly designate under which category the SOI is being submitted for consideration, in addition to organization name, proposal title, budget amount, program length, and point of contact.

With the above in mind, DRL invites organizations to submit statements of interest for programs in the following areas:

EFFECTIVE GOVERNANCE, POLITICAL PARTICIPATION, AND CIVIC ACTIVISM.  Programming should promote inclusive, transparent, and responsive governance and should focus on one or more of the following areas.  Elections-related programs should consider not only the anticipated general/national elections, but also promote the establishment of best practices and inclusive institutional policies for future elections, including provincial and regional elections:

I. Promoting Effective Governance

  • Empower officials at the national and local levels to engage on and be responsive to human rights concerns, including the rights of marginalized communities. Increase the capacity and awareness of non-traditional and community leaders to adequately, inclusively, and effectively represent their communities/constituents in governance mechanisms, and to engage with and address the needs of diverse segments of Iraqi society in formal governance processes.
  • Enhance the accountability and responsiveness of the Government of Iraq (GOI) and/or Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to demands for anti-corruption efforts. Program activities may include: supporting advocacy and watchdog NGOs to collaborate with and/or encourage government transparency and responsiveness to anti-corruption efforts; supporting journalists to further their engagement and reporting on corruption; and supporting independent and citizen media outlet oversight and integrity in reporting, including fact-based reporting and independent media reporting on corruption and transparency.
  • Address the spread of disinformation, particularly where disinformation campaigns target electoral processes and civic activists. Program activities should strengthen the capacity of local stakeholders to address vulnerabilities in information security; identify and report on bot activity and other disinformation tactics targeting electoral processes and civic activists; and raise awareness of disinformation threats designed to hinder political participation and citizen engagement.  Programming should also facilitate the adaptation of tools to the Iraqi context.
  • Address labor concerns within Iraq and increase access to improved employment by promoting adherence to Iraqi labor laws and international labor conventions. Programs should assist worker organizations or worker-focused institutions in representing worker interests in Iraqi democracy and in advocating for decent and safe jobs, free from discrimination and harassment, the ability to collectively bargain, and freedom of association.  Programs may also assist democratic worker organizations in improving their operations to better represent their diverse operations to better represent their members, sustain outreach to Iraqi workers, and ensure accountability to Iraqi laws in order to prevent labor exploitation.  Programming focused on supporting women workers, workers with disabilities, or other traditionally marginalized groups is encouraged.

II. Increasing Political Participation

  • Strengthen Iraqi citizens’ ability to engage their representatives at the local and national level on social, political, and economic issues, with a particular focus on increasing civil society engagement with the GOI. Applicants should facilitate and sustain locally-driven coalition-building efforts within Iraqi civil society where possible to aggregate and more effectively vocalize citizen concerns.
  • Promote the participation and leadership of women and minorities in decision-making institutions, including federal, provincial, and local government, as well as cross-cutting institutional bodies and political parties.
  • Promote full participation in Iraq’s civic processes, such as elections, particularly addressing barriers to access resulting from specific vulnerabilities (i.e., internally displaced persons, those lacking civil documentation, those with low literacy or mobility issues, etc.). Applicants should facilitate the outreach, education, and championing of IDP-specific interests in elections, particularly as they relate to electoral districts, ID requirements, and voting ability.
  • Promote increased transparency and accountability in electoral processes by preventing voter intimidation and electoral violence – especially against traditionally marginalized populations – and supporting legal efforts that enfranchise voters and compel adherence to electoral laws. Programs should focus on supporting transparency in the pre- and/or post-election environment ensuring a peaceful and inclusive transition of power and demonstrating that elections processes are free, fair, and transparent.
  • Engage workers and worker organizations in strengthening freedom of association initiatives and democracy best practices. Programs should clearly demonstrate links between community demands and worker-derived solutions for feeding into public policy and advocacy.  This may include linking worker groups and rank-and-file workers to tripartite dialogues, supporting worker-centered approaches to problems of national importance, and assisting worker organizations in upholding or advancing human rights and democratic norms both inside their institutions and at the governmental level.  Programs should include traditionally marginalized worker voices like those of women, young workers, unemployed workers, or people with disabilities.

III. Supporting Civic Activism

  • Build the capacity of Iraqi activists by: providing basic skills and training in democratic activism, including advocacy, community organizing, coalition-building, non-violence, conflict resolution, and accountability capabilities; providing ongoing mentoring, coaching, and networking opportunities to participating activists and organizations; developing sustainable tools and approaches to achieve impact on policy outcomes and political freedoms. Activities should focus on the design, organization, and implementation of public advocacy campaigns on specific topics rather than general training programs directed to basic organizational capacity.
  • Create and deepen linkages between emerging democratic activists and watchdog civil society groups towards the goal of building a national network of likeminded individuals and groups.
  • Respond to protestor demands to address corrupt practices and grievances around poor governance related to pollution and environmental issues. Activities should promote a culture of respect for the environment within Iraq with the recognition that a safe and clean environment is a fundamental human right, and that corrupt practices and lax regulations have served as a launching point for peaceful democratic protests. Activities should also focus on improving community awareness of pollution and environmental issues, support to communities advocating for environmental justice, and the passage and enforcement of environmental protection legislation.
  • Improve and enforce national social safety net programs and engagement between the private and public sector in line with Iraqi law. Advance multi-stakeholder partnerships that target cross-cutting issues of human rights. Examples may include advocacy by labor-business partnerships to reduce environmental degradation in Iraq or business’s adherence to legal frameworks regarding occupational safety, health, and taxation. Programs that bring diverse coalitions together to engage on common social issues or issues concerning renewal of the country’s democratic social contract are encouraged. Support civil society in Iraq via targeted small grants and technical assistance.
    • DRL will award this program as a cooperative agreement. The applicant must demonstrate strong ties to local NGOs across Iraq that can serve as local partners, and demonstrate an ability to effectively manage sub-grants, sub-awards, and subcontracts.  DRL will negotiate with the recipient the conditions and criteria under which these small grants will be awarded.  Both DRL and the lead implementer may propose small grants and partners for activities under this program.  Successful candidates will demonstrate the ability to support a wide range of activities, from advocacy to direct assistance.  DRL may request that the recipient provide targeted assistance to other NGOs or individuals operating in Iraq, either through direct technical assistance or as financial support for these services provided through a small grant.   DRL will award this program as a cooperative agreement.

FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS.  Programming should protect and advance fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press, expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and should focus on one or more of the following areas:

I. Freedom of Expression

  • Build the independence of Iraqi media, including by strengthening professionalism, specialization, sustainability, editorial independence, advocacy, and/or management of regulatory relationships. Address problematic legislation, including interpretation and implementation of existing legislation that restricts the fundamental freedom of expression and promotes freedom of expression without fear of retaliation.
  • Expand and protect Internet freedom in Iraq by enabling civil society to safely access the open, secure, interoperable, and reliable global Internet through support for proven and next generation technical solutions that provide access to the uncensored Internet during periods of blocking and Internet shutdowns.
  • Empower civil society to engage in domestic and regional advocacy to support the development of laws and regulations that protect the exercise of human rights online. This may include building the capacity of local advocates to encourage policy reform; supporting regional advocacy networks to enhance coordination; and fostering like-minded coalitions to unite civil society, the private sector, technical communities, and other Internet freedom stakeholders.
  • Provide targeted digital security and safety capacity-building support to assist civil society organizations, human rights defenders, and journalists to stay safe online. This may include training for at-risk individuals; training of digital safety trainers; organizational security audits; public awareness-raising campaigns on online risks and harms; online and mobile training resources; and emergency response services to provide rapid assistance to human rights defenders, particularly women human rights defenders, who are attacked for their online activities.

II. Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly

  • Provide broad-based support to civil society groups and activists in Iraq’s southern provinces. Proposals should take into consideration both the difficult operating environment for CSOs operating in southern provinces pre-2019 as well as the increasingly difficult situation facing those organizations in the current context.
  • Address problematic legislation restricting fundamental freedoms through advocacy and reform efforts, and support implementation of existing laws that promote equitable status and rights. Programming should include raising awareness within communities on human rights according to Iraqi law.  Programming may also include support to lawyers targeted for their casework and advocacy on human rights issues.
  • Support government efforts to ensure equitable access to decent and safe work through skills training to formal and informal sector workers. Programming should include knowledge training for workers regarding key Iraqi legal frameworks like adherence to the labor law, social security law, and other statutes governing worker rights and obligations.  Programming may also work on barriers that prevent specific populations from accessing and participating in public life.  Examples may include barriers to women’s participation in certain types of careers or the ability of youth to access and exercise their fundamental right to peaceful assembly.

ATROCITY PREVENTION, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND RECONCILIATION.  Programming should support inclusive efforts to protect human rights, reduce and prevent violence, and rebuild trust within and between communities and between citizens and the state, and should focus on one or more of the following areas:

I. Atrocity Prevention

  • Provide personal safety counseling, psychosocial support, and digital safety skills to strengthen the self-protection capacity and resiliency of activists, journalists, lawyers, and civil society organizations.
  • Provide psychosocial support and awareness around violence and healing from violence. Programs may assess needs, plan treatments, and build referral pathways, and train community practitioners/community development workers to work with those affected by violence, either at the community level or in detention centers.
  • Support survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), including access to protection (e.g., shelters, either government-run or otherwise) and access to services; activities designed to change societal attitudes and address harmful gender norms that normalize gender-based violence (GBV) or stigmatize and shun survivors , prevent individuals from safely accessing assistance and reporting crimes, and relegate issues of violence against women outside of established justice processes; and promote survivor protection and dignity by providing sensitivity training and technical expertise to advocacy groups. Programs that engage men and boys and include family- and community-based approaches will be viewed favorably.
  • Establish a context-specific, flexible response mechanism to provide emergency support to survivors of GBV and technical support to organizations working to prevent and respond to GBV in Iraq. The mechanism must advance local solutions for addressing GBV and survivors’ needs, and be able to operate nationwide.  Applicants must demonstrate strong ties with local NGOs working on GBV issues across Iraq, and an ability to effectively manage sub-awards and direct cash assistance to individuals.  Coalitions of organizations with nationwide reach, who identify one organization as the lead applicant, will be viewed favorably.  DRL will award this program as a cooperative agreement.
  • Address the systemic, legal, religious, and cultural barriers preventing the safe, dignified, and voluntary return and reintegration of former ISIS captives and their children, including Turkmen and Yezidis. Programming should consider the needs and vulnerabilities of Iraqi women and children facing barriers to return and reintegrate safely into Iraq from outside the country.
  • Address issues that give rise to intercommunal conflict, including political and social marginalization, impunity and lack of access to justice, violence against women and girls, and other early warning indicators and risks that could potentially lead to escalation of atrocities. Develop and use innovative and sustainable methods to identify and map vulnerable communities and create early warning mechanisms for potential atrocities.
  • Enable Iraqi civil society and advocacy groups to engage constructively and collaboratively with security forces, particularly on inclusive security sector reform and/or oversight to ensure that all parties promote security in a manner that protects all civilians, minimizes the impact of conflict on communities, respects human rights, adheres to the rule of law, and facilitates accountability for atrocities committed against Iraqi communities.

II. Accountability

  • Advance accountability for atrocities committed in Iraq through available legal avenues for justice, including those in third countries, by providing legal, psychosocial, and other types of assistance to victims of abuses.
  • Monitor, track, and document the targeting of civil society organizations, activists, journalists, women human rights defenders, and other vulnerable groups, as well as politically motivated attacks including media incitement of violence.
  • Document and promote accountability for human rights abuses, with a focus on abuses committed by security forces. Combat impunity for human rights violations through legal advocacy and other channels, with consideration given to the unique needs of women and girls.
  • Monitor juvenile and adult detention facilities and judicial proceedings, including gender-sensitive documentation of treatment and anti-torture measures, as well as advocacy for access to information and legal representation. Programs that include activities in pre-trial detention facilities will be viewed favorably.
  • Support to national-level governmental bodies responsible for human rights monitoring, documentation, and reporting.
  • Build the technical capacity of GOI and KRG stakeholders focused on the search and identification of missing and disappeared persons based on international best practices; support the collection, standardization, and preservation of information and potential evidence on the missing and disappeared for a range of accountability and other transitional justice processes; create and manage public education and awareness-raising campaigns that also build trust with local communities, especially families of the missing and disappeared; map and secure mass graves; and support the recovery of victims’ remains and accurate victim identification for justice, truth, and accountability efforts.

III. Reconciliation

  • Promote the rehabilitation, reintegration, and protection of conflict-affected youth, particularly children in detention centers. Programs may include community reintegration, protection of civil rights, provision of or access to legal assistance, psychosocial support, and advocacy with the government on juvenile detention issues.
  • Help restore the relationship between citizens and the state in areas where violence or mistrust has or continues to impact individual and community participation in democratic processes.
  • Support targeted, community-based dispute resolution, conflict management, and non-violent coexistence programs. Programs may include non-humanitarian assistance to help displaced persons integrate in host communities and/or reintegrate should they voluntarily return home; efforts to promote reintegration and non-violent coexistence with those who are negatively impacted by perceived affiliations based on family, tribe, religious or ethnic identity, and area of origin, or between citizens and the state; and advocacy for acknowledgment and recognition of atrocities.  Programs that leverage and support women’s participation are encouraged.
  • Engage tribal leaders and communities in the peaceful, gender-responsive, and sustainable reintegration of individuals and families with actual or perceived former ties to ISIS.


Projects should aim to have impact that leads to democratic reforms and should have the potential for sustainability beyond DRL resources.  DRL’s preference is to avoid duplicating past efforts by supporting new and creative approaches.  This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way.

Applicants should conduct program activities throughout Iraq, including within the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR), and where security conditions allow, activities should take place within the beneficiaries’ communities. Travel outside of Iraq for civil society representatives in furtherance of a program’s objectives will be considered on a case-by-case basis.    Additionally, programs proposing activities inside IDP/refugee camps or targeting Syrian refugees in Iraq will not be deemed competitive.  Training or workshops may be used as a tool to a larger goal but should not be the main focus of a program.  Projects for which assessments have already been completed that support certain targeted activities or interventions will be viewed favorably.  Projects that have a strong academic, research, or conference focus will not be deemed competitive.

Activities that are not typically considered competitive include, but are not limited to:

  • The provision of humanitarian assistance.
  • English language instruction.
  • Development of high-tech computer or communications software and/or hardware.
  • Purely academic exchanges or fellowships.
  • External exchanges or fellowships lasting longer than six months.
  • Off-shore activities that are not clearly linked to in-country initiatives and impact or are not necessary due to security concerns.
  • Theoretical explorations of human rights or democracy issues, including projects aimed primarily at research and evaluation that do not incorporate training or capacity-building for local civil society.
  • Micro-loans or similar small business development initiatives.
  • Initiatives directed towards a diaspora community rather than current residents of targeted countries.
  • Activities that go beyond an organization’s demonstrated competence or fail to provide clear evidence of the ability of the applicant to achieve the stated impact.

Applicants should request not less than $750,000 and not more than $4,000,000.  The target period of performance for projects must be between 18 and 48 months, but upon review of the SOI, DRL may request that the period of performance be extended to ensure safe and effective implementation of proposed program activities.  Applicants must develop unique objectives that speak to the categories outlined in this request.

A proven ability to implement programs in Iraq must be demonstrated.  All proposed program objectives must impact Iraqis inside the country, and working with local partners should be a central aspect of any proposed program.  Proposed programs should also thoughtfully and specifically address the participation and integration of women, persons with disabilities, ethnic and religious minority communities, and other marginalized populations in all program elements, where relevant and possible.  SOIs that utilize technology in safe and creative ways where possible to shape innovative program strategies will be viewed favorably.

DRL is conscious of the ever-changing security situation in Iraq.  SOIs must realistically address the challenges and limitations the applicant would likely face implementing this program, both within the current context in Iraq and in anticipation of a further evolving landscape.

Applicants invited to submit full proposals upon completion of the SOI process will also be requested to submit:

  • A security plan in order to demonstrate situational awareness and preparedness.
  • Contingency plans for proposed activities.
  • Lessons learned from past programs in Iraq that demonstrate how the implementer has safely operated and responded to challenges, learning from both successes and failures, in the operating environment.
  • A section in the proposal and budget to reflect appropriate resources and support for the psychosocial health of staff (i.e., activities can range from access to educational materials and training opportunities to counseling services to other contextually-relevant support).
  • A gender analysis that clearly articulates how the program’s design will address the different considerations for men, women, boys, girls, and the marginalized groups within these populations throughout implementation.

To maximize the impact and sustainability of the awards that results from this RSOI, DRL reserves the right to execute non-competitive continuation amendments.  The total duration of any award, including a potential non-competitive continuation amendment(s), shall not exceed 60 months or five years.  Any non-competitive continuation is contingent on performance and availability of funds.  A non-competitive continuation is not guaranteed; the Department of State reserves the right to exercise or not exercise the option to issue non-competitive continuation amendment(s).  Additionally, DRL may ask successful applicant(s) to incorporate coordination of a stakeholder meeting into the Scope of Work of the final project.  DRL will discuss this possibility with particular applicant(s) during the proposal negotiation phase.

II. Eligibility Information

Organizations submitting SOIs must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a U.S.- or foreign-based non-profit/non-governmental organization (NGO), or a public international organization; or
  • Be a private, public, or state institution of higher education; or
  • Be a for-profit organization or business (noting there are restrictions on payment of fees and/or profits under grants and cooperative agreements, including those outlined in 48 CFR 30, “Cost Accounting Standards Administration”, and 48 CFR 31, “Contract Cost Principles and Procedures”); and
  • Have existing, or the capacity to develop, active partnerships with thematic or in-country partners, entities, and relevant stakeholders including private sector partner and NGOs; and
  • Have demonstrable experience administering successful and preferably similar programs. DRL reserves the right to request additional background information on organizations that do not have previous experience administering federal awards.  These applicants may be subject to limited funding on a pilot basis.

Applicants may form consortia and submit a combined SOI.  However, one organization should be designated as the lead applicant with the other members as sub-award partners.

DRL’s preference is to work with non-profit entities; however, there may be occasions when a for-profit entity is best suited.  For-profit entities should be aware that its application may be subject to additional review following the panel selection process, and that the Department of State generally prohibits profit under its assistance awards to for-profit or commercial organizations.  Profit is defined as any amount in excess of allowable direct and indirect costs.  The allowability of costs incurred by commercial organizations is determined in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) at 48 CFR 30, Cost Accounting Standards Administration, and 48 CFR 31 Contract Cost Principles and Procedures.  Program income earned by the recipient must be deducted from the program’s total allowable costs in determining the net allowable costs on which the federal share of costs is based.

DRL is committed to an anti-discrimination policy in all of its programs and activities.  DRL welcomes SOI submissions irrespective of race, ethnicity, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or other status.

No entity listed on the Excluded Parties List System in the System for Award Management (SAM) is eligible for any assistance or can participate in any activities under an award in accordance with the OMB guidelines at 2 CFR 180 that implement Executive Orders 12549 (3 CFR 1986 Comp., p. 189) and 12689 (3 CFR1989 Comp., p. 235), “Debarment and Suspension.”    Additionally, no entity listed on the EPLS can participate in any activities under an award.  All applicants are strongly encouraged to review the EPLS in SAM to ensure that no ineligible entity is included.

Organizations are not required to have a valid Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) number—formerly referred to as a DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number—and an active registration to apply for this solicitation through SAMS Domestic.  However, if a SOI is approved, these will need to be obtained before an organization is able to submit a full application.  Therefore, we recommend starting the process of obtaining a registration as soon as possible.  Please note that there is no cost associated with UEI or registration.

III. Application Requirements, Deadlines, and Technical Eligibility

All SOIs must conform to DRL’s posted Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for Statements of Interest, as updated in September 2018, available at

Complete SOI submissions must include the following:

  1. Completed and signed SF-424 and SF424B, as directed on SAMS Domestic or (please refer to DRL’s PSI for SOIs for guidance on completing the SF-424); and,
  2. Program Statement (not to exceed three pages in Microsoft Word) that includes:
    1. A table listing:
      1. Name of the organization;
      2. The target country/countries;
      3. The total amount of funding requested from DRL, total amount of cost-share (if any), and total program amount (DRL funds + cost-share); and,
      4. Program length; and,
      5. SOI Category
    2. A synopsis of the program, including a brief statement on how the program will have a demonstrated impact and engage relevant stakeholders. The SOI should identify local partners as appropriate;
    3. A concise breakdown explicitly identifying the program’s objectives and the activities and expected results that contribute to each objective; and,
    4. A brief description of the applicant(s) that demonstrates the applicant(s) expertise and capacity to implement the program and manage a U.S. government award.

An organization may submit up to three (3) SOIs total for this solicitation.  Organizations may submit multiple SOIs within the same category.  Applicants must also clearly designate under which category the SOI is being submitted for consideration.  As a reminder these categories are: 1) Effective Governance, Political Participation, and Civic Activism; 2) Fundamental Freedoms; and 3) Atrocity Prevention, Accountability, and Reconciliation.  If your proposal addresses multiple categories, please designate a primary category.  Applicants must create separate applications for each SOI submitted.

SOIs that request less than $750,000 or more than $4,000,000 may be deemed technically ineligible.  Please also note that applicants who propose budgets of $4,000,000 must make a clear and compelling case for requesting the maximum amount of funding.  Organizations that do not provide adequate justification may be asked to reduce the amount of funding requested.   

Technically eligible SOIs are those which:

  1. Arrive electronically via SAMS Domestic or by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) on Friday, December 4, 2020 under the announcement titled “DRL Request for Statements of Interest: Iraq,” funding opportunity number SFOP0007345.
  2. Are in English;
  3. Heed all instructions and do not violate any of the guidelines stated in this solicitation and the PSI for Statements of Interest.

For all SOI documents please ensure:

  1. All pages are numbered;
  2. All documents are formatted to 8 ½ x 11 paper; and,
  3. All documents are single-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font, with 1-inch margins. Captions and footnotes may be 10-point Times New Roman font.  Font sizes in charts and tables can be reformatted to fit within one page width. and SAMS Domestic automatically log the date and time a submission is made, and the Department of State will use this information to determine whether it has been submitted on time.  Late submissions are neither reviewed nor considered unless the DRL point of contact listed in section VI is contacted prior to the deadline and is provided with evidence of a system error caused by or SAMS Domestic ( that is outside of the applicant’s control and is the sole reason for a late submission.  Applicants should not expect a notification upon DRL receiving their SOI.  It is the sole responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all material submitted in the SOI package is complete, accurate, and current.  DRL will not accept SOIs submitted via email, fax, the postal system, delivery companies, or couriers.  DRL strongly encourages all applicants to submit SOIs before Friday, December 4, 2020 to ensure that the SOI has been received and is complete.

IV. Review and Selection Process

The Department’s Office of Acquisitions Management (AQM) will determine technical eligibility for all SOI submissions.  All technically eligible SOIs will then be reviewed against the same four criteria by a DRL Review Panel: quality of program idea, inclusivity of marginalized populations, program planning, and ability to achieve objectives/institutional capacity.  Additionally, the Panel will evaluate how the SOI meets the solicitation request, U.S. foreign policy goals, and DRL’s overall priority needs.  Panelists review each SOI individually against the evaluation criteria, not against competing SOIs.  To ensure all SOIs receive a balanced evaluation, the DRL Review Panel will review the first page of the SOI up to the page limit and no further.  All Panelists must sign non-disclosure agreements and conflict of interest agreements.

In most cases, the DRL Review Panel includes representatives from DRL policy and program offices.  Once a SOI is approved, selected applicants will be invited to submit full proposal applications based on their SOIs.  Unless directed otherwise by the organization, DRL may also refer SOIs for possible consideration in other U.S. government related funding opportunities.

The Panel may provide conditions and/or recommendations on SOIs to enhance the proposed program, which must be addressed by the organization in the full proposal application.  To ensure effective use of limited DRL funds, conditions and recommendations may include requests to increase, decrease, clarify, and/or justify costs and program activities.

DRL’s Front Office reserves the right to make a final determination regarding all funding matters, pending funding availability.

Review Criteria

Quality of Program Idea

SOIs should be responsive to the program framework and policy objectives identified in the country/regional context, and should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to DRL’s mission of promoting human rights and democracy.  Projects should have the potential to have an immediate impact leading to long-term sustainable reforms. DRL prefers new approaches that do not duplicate efforts by other entities.  This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way.  In countries where similar activities are already taking place, an explanation should be provided as to how new activities will not duplicate or merely add to existing activities and how these efforts will be coordinated.  Proposals that promote creative approaches to recognized ongoing challenges are highly encouraged.  DRL prioritizes project proposals with inclusive approaches for advancing these rights.

Addressing Barriers to Equal Participation

DRL strives to ensure its projects advance the rights and uphold the dignity of all persons. As the USG’s lead bureau dedicated to promoting democratic governance, DRL requests a programming approach dedicated to strengthening inclusive societies as a necessary pillar of strong democracies.  Violence targeting any members of society undermines collective security and threatens democracy. DRL supports program models that assess and address the barriers to access created by violence and discrimination targeting individuals and groups based on their religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.  Applicants should describe how programming affects all of its beneficiaries, including support that specifically targets communities under threat of violence and discrimination.  This approach should be an integral part of both the concept and explicit design of all proposed project activities and objectives.  Strong proposals will provide specific analysis, measures, and corresponding targets as appropriate.  Stakeholders shall identify the difference between opportunities and barriers to access and design programs that do not perpetuate these inequalities but rather enhance programmatic impact by including all people in society.  The goal of this approach is to bring communities and those in power together in support of stable and secure societies.

Program Planning

A strong SOI will include a clear articulation of how the proposed program activities and expected results (both outputs and outcomes) contribute to specific program objectives and the overall program goal.  Objectives should be ambitious, yet measurable, results-focused, and achievable in a reasonable time frame. 

Ability to Achieve Objectives/Institutional Capacity

SOIs should address how the program will engage relevant stakeholders and should identify local partners as appropriate.  If local partners are identified, applicants should describe the division of labor among the applicant and any local partners.  SOIs should demonstrate the organization’s expertise and previous experience in administering programs, preferably similar programs targeting the requested program area or similarly challenging environments.

For additional guidance, please see DRL’s posted Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for Statements of Interest, as updated in September 2018, available at

V. Additional Information

DRL will not consider SOIs that reflect any type of support for any member, affiliate, or representative of a designated terrorist organization.

DRL may ask successful applicant(s) to incorporate coordination of an implementer and stakeholder meeting into the Scope of Work of the final project.  DRL will discuss this possibility with particular applicant(s) during the proposal negotiation phase.

Project activities that directly benefit foreign militaries or paramilitary groups or individuals will not be considered for DRL funding given purpose limitations on funding.

DRL requires U.S. government Risk Analysis Management vetting of all individuals programming in Iraq, which may include the board of directors from grantee and sub-award organizations, program staff, and any program participants receiving direct assistance through grant funds.  Depending on the type of vetting, the required information requested may include for each individual: full name, date of birth, place of birth, nationality, a government issued ID number (drivers licenses are not accepted for any country; if the individual is a U.S. person, a SSN is required), and one piece of contact information (phone number, email address, or Skype account (if Skype is submitted an email must accompany it).  Please keep these vetting requirements in mind when designing your program.

Restrictions may apply to any proposed assistance to police or other law enforcement.  Among these, pursuant to section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended (FAA), no assistance may be furnished to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country when there is credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.  In accordance with the requirements of section 620M of the FAA, also known as the Leahy law, program beneficiaries or participants from a foreign government’s security forces may need to be vetted by the Department before the provision of any assistance.

Organizations should be aware that DRL understands that some information contained in SOIs may be considered sensitive or proprietary and will make appropriate efforts to protect such information.  However, organizations are advised that DRL cannot guarantee that such information will not be disclosed, including pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or other similar statutes.

Organizations should also be aware that if ultimately selected for an award, the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards set forth in 2 CFR Chapter 200 (Sub-Chapters A through F) shall apply to all non-Federal entities, except for assistance awards to Individuals and Foreign Public Entities.  Please note that as of December 26, 2014, 2 CFR 200 (Sub-Chapters A through E) now applies to foreign organizations, and Sub-Chapters A through D shall apply to all for-profit entities.  The applicant/recipient of the award and any sub-recipient under the award must comply with all applicable terms and conditions, in addition to the assurance and certifications made part of the Notice of Award.  The Department’s Standard Terms and Conditions can be viewed on DRL’s Resources page at:

The information in this solicitation and DRL’s PSI for SOIs, as updated in September 2018, is binding and may not be modified by any DRL representative.  Explanatory information provided by DRL that contradicts this language will not be binding.  Issuance of the solicitation and negotiation of SOIs or applications does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the U.S. government.  DRL reserves the right to reduce, revise, or increase proposal budgets in accordance with the needs of the program evaluation requirements.

This solicitation will appear on, SAMS Domestic ( and DRL’s website

Background Information on DRL and DRL Funding

DRL has the mission of promoting democracy and protecting human rights globally.  DRL supports programs that uphold democratic principles, support and strengthen democratic institutions, promote human rights, prevent atrocities, combat and prevent violent extremism, and build civil society around the world.  DRL typically focuses its work in countries with egregious human rights violations, where democracy and human rights advocates are under pressure, and where governments are undemocratic or in transition.

Additional background information on DRL and the human rights report can be found on

VI. Contact Information

SAMS Domestic Help Desk:
For assistance with SAMS Domestic accounts and technical issues related to the system, please contact the ILMS help desk by phone at 1-888-313-4567 (toll charges for international callers) or through the Self Service online portal that can be accessed from Customer Support is available 24/7/365. Helpdesk:

For assistance with accounts and technical issues related to using the system, please call the Contact Center at 1-800-518-4726 or email  The Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except federal holidays.

See  for a list of federal holidays.

For technical questions related to this solicitation, please contact

With the exception of technical submission questions, during the solicitation period U.S. Department of State staff in Washington and overseas shall not discuss this competition until the entire review process has been completed and rejection and approval letters have been transmitted.

For reference to international guidance, please see the following: Core Humanitarian Standard Commitment 8.9 (http://redirect.state.sbu/?url=; and IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings Action Sheet 4.4 (http://redirect.state.sbu/?url=

More from: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

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    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) reporting on its principal Local Solutions indicator—the percentage of mission program funds obligated to local organizations in partner countries—lacks clarity, complicating the assessment of the agency's progress toward its fiscal year 2015 target of 30 percent. The March 2013 USAID Forward progress report states that these obligations increased from about 10 percent of mission program funds in fiscal year 2010 to about 14 percent in fiscal year 2012—a $465 million increase. However, the agency also has reported progress on the principal Local Solutions indicator in three other ways, depending on whether two key types of funding—cash transfers and certain qualifying trust funds—are included (see figure). These reporting differences make it difficult to compare the indicator from year to year and to quantify the progress needed to achieve the 30 percent target by fiscal year 2015. Moreover, USAID's approach to tracking the Local Solutions indicator has evolved since the launch of the initiative. For example, USAID included funds in Afghanistan and Pakistan, missions the agency previously had planned to exclude. If these missions are excluded, the percentage of mission program funds obligated to local organizations in fiscal year 2012, including qualifying trust funds and cash transfers, decreases by 10 percentage points. Reported USAID Mission Program Funds Obligated to Partner-Country Local Organizations, by Type of Funding Included, Fiscal Year 2012 USAID's principal Local Solutions indicator does not fully reflect activities the agency has undertaken to implement the initiative, and USAID does not have a means to track relevant mission-led evaluations of programs implemented by partner-country organizations. USAID relied primarily on its principal Local Solutions indicator to demonstrate progress. While this principal indicator reflects, to some degree, the steps missions are required to take before obligating funds to local organizations, it provides no information about the status of activities both prior to and following obligation of funds, such as assessing risk and monitoring programs. Furthermore, although USAID has laid some groundwork for evaluating the Local Solutions initiative, the agency does not currently have the means to determine the extent to which missions are conducting performance evaluations to assess the effectiveness of programs implemented through local organizations. Such evaluations can provide evidence needed to demonstrate progress toward the initiative's goals related to local partners' capacity, country ownership, and program sustainability. Why GAO Did This Study Since 2010, USAID has undertaken a series of reforms, collectively called USAID Forward. One key reform, the Local Solutions initiative, aims to shift program implementation from U.S.- based and international organizations to partner-country organizations, including governments and for-profit and nonprofit organizations. The three overarching goals of the initiative are to strengthen the capacity of partner countries, to enhance and promote country ownership, and to increase the sustainability of development efforts. GAO was asked to review the implementation of this initiative. GAO assessed the extent to which USAID (1) has demonstrated progress toward achieving its fiscal year 2015 target for the principal Local Solutions indicator, and (2) is tracking progress in achieving the initiative's goals related to local partners' capacity, country ownership, and program sustainability. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed funding data and documents and interviewed USAID officials.
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  • Military and Dual-Use Technology: Covert Testing Shows Continuing Vulnerabilities of Domestic Sales for Illegal Export
    In U.S GAO News
    Terrorists and foreign governments regularly attempt to obtain sensitive dual-use and military technology from manufacturers and distributors within the United States. Although the Department of State (State) or Department of Commerce (Commerce), or both, must grant approval to export sensitive military and dual-use items, publicly reported criminal cases show that individuals can bypass this requirement and illegally export restricted items such as night-vision goggles. In the wrong hands, this technology poses a risk to U.S. security, including the threat that it will be reverse engineered or used directly against U.S. soldiers. Given the threat, the subcommittee asked GAO to conduct undercover tests to attempt to (1) purchase sensitive dual-use and military items from manufacturers and distributors in the United States; and (2) export purchased items without detection by domestic law-enforcement officials. To perform this work, GAO used fictitious individuals, a bogus front company, and domestic mailboxes to pose as a buyer for sensitive items. GAO, in coordination with foreign law-enforcement officials, also covertly attempted to export dummy versions of items. GAO interviewed relevant agencies to gain an understanding of which items were in demand by terrorists and foreign governments. GAO actions were not designed to test controls of other countries. Relevant agencies were also briefed on the results of this work.GAO foundthat sensitive dual-use and military technology can be easily and legally purchased from manufacturers and distributors within the United States and illegally exported without detection. Using a bogus front company and fictitious identities, GAO purchased sensitive items including night-vision scopes currently used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify targets, triggered spark gaps used to detonate nuclear weapons, electronic sensors used in improvised explosive devices, and gyro chips used in guided missiles and military aircraft. Interviews with cognizant officials at State and Commerce and a review of laws governing the sale of the types of items GAO purchased showed there are few restrictions on domestic sales of these items. GAO was also able to export a number of dummy versions of these items using the mail to a country that is a known transshipment point for terrorist organizations and foreign governments attempting to acquire sensitive technology. Due to the large volume of packages being shipped overseas, and large volume of people traveling overseas, enforcement officials within the United States said it is impossible to search every package and person leaving the United States to ensure sensitive technologies are not being exported illegally. As a result, terrorists and foreign governments that are able to complete domestic purchases of sensitive military and dual-use technologies face few obstacles and risks when exporting these items. The table below provides details on several of the items GAO was able to purchase and, in two cases, illegally export without detection.
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  • Global War On Terrorism: Fiscal Year 2006 Obligation Rates Are Within Funding Levels and Significant Multiyear Procurement Funds Will Likely Remain Available for Use in Fiscal Year 2007
    In U.S GAO News
    Because of broad congressional interest, GAO is examining the costs of military operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) under the Comptroller General's authority to conduct evaluations on his own initiative. In September 2005, GAO reported the Department of Defense (DOD) cannot ensure reported GWOT obligations are complete, reliable, and accurate, and recommended improvements. In this report, GAO (1) compared supplemental and annual appropriations identified for GWOT in fiscal year 2006 to the military services' reported obligations as of June 2006 and their cost projections for the remainder of the fiscal year, and (2) examined DOD's efforts to improve the reliability of GWOT obligation data. For this engagement, GAO analyzed fiscal year 2006 GWOT related appropriations and reported obligations, and DOD's corrective actions.As of June 2006, which represents 9 months (75 percent) of fiscal year 2006, the military services have reported obligating about $51.6 billion (55 percent) of the $93.3 billion they received for GWOT in supplemental and annual appropriations for military personnel, operation and maintenance, and procurement. Our analysis of reported obligations and the military services' forecasts of their likely costs for fiscal year 2006 suggest that the rates of obligation for military personnel and operation and maintenance are within fiscal year 2006 GWOT funding levels and significant amounts of multiyear procurement funds will likely remain available for use in fiscal year 2007. The rates of obligation for military personnel are within funding levels for all military services except the Army, which plans to transfer about $591 million in funds from other appropriations accounts to cover its military personnel obligations. The rates of obligation for operation and maintenance are within funding levels for all military services. As of June, the military services reported obligating about 85 percent of military personnel funds and 60 percent of operation and maintenance funds. For various reasons, most notably being that supplemental funds were not appropriated until June 2006, the military services do not expect to obligate a large portion of procurement funds, which generally are available for multiple years, and therefore these funds will remain available in fiscal year 2007. The military services received about 32 percent ($6.8 billion) of procurement funding in annual appropriations and 68 percent ($14.7 billion) in the supplemental appropriation. As of June, the military services reported obligating about 68 percent of the procurement funds received in the annual appropriation. DOD and the military services have taken specific steps intended to improve the accuracy and reliability of their reported GWOT obligation data. Some problems remain with transparency over certain costs and inaccuracies in reported obligations. In response to GAO's prior recommendations, DOD now requires components to perform a monthly variance analysis to identify and explain significant changes in obligations and to attest to the accuracy of monthly obligation reports, and affirm it provides a fair representation of ongoing activities. Because these efforts are in the early stages of implementation, GAO has not fully evaluated their impact. Existing cost reporting procedures limit transparency of certain obligations because DOD continues to report large amounts in miscellaneous "other" categories. Also, DOD's cost reports for fiscal year 2005 understated total GWOT obligations for that year because they did not initially include about $1.1 billion in obligations tied to the training and equipping of Afghan and Iraqi security forces. Without transparent and accurate cost reporting, Congress and DOD will continue to be unable to reliably know how much the war is costing, examine details on how appropriated funds are being spent, or have historical data useful in considering future funding needs. On the basis of GAO's work, DOD updated its guidance on the reporting of obligations in miscellaneous "other" categories and revised its September 2005 cost-of-war report to more fully reflect past obligations.
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    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD) has made progress implementing initiatives to enhance capabilities that are used to identify friendly force locations during close air support (CAS) missions, but GAO identified additional actions that are needed to strengthen these efforts. Specifically, DOD has made limited progress in implementing 10 changes the department approved to address gaps in the interoperability of digital communications systems used to conduct CAS, hindering efforts to improve the speed and accuracy of information exchanges. DOD's efforts to assess the interoperability of digital systems used to perform CAS have been limited in scope. GAO found that DOD had formally assessed two out of 10 approved changes during joint service and multinational events, and these assessments were not conducted in a training environment that replicated capabilities of near-peer adversaries. DOD implemented a new capability in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to help identify the positions of friendly forces during CAS missions. However, GAO found that DOD did not provide adequate training for personnel who operate it or conduct an evaluation to resolve implementation challenges that have hampered its performance. DOD conducts evaluations of training programs for forces that participate in CAS missions, but GAO identified two areas where DOD can improve its efforts. First, the Army and Marine Corps have not systematically evaluated the effectiveness of periodic training for ground observers providing targeting information due to a lack of centralized systems for tracking training data and the absence of designated entities to monitor service-wide training. Second, the use of contract aircraft for training increased substantially between 2017 and 2019, but DOD has not fully evaluated the use of non-military contract aircraft to train air controllers for CAS (see fig.). GAO found that differences between U.S. military aircraft and contract aircraft (e.g., airspeed) can result in a misalignment of aircraft capabilities for certain types of training events. Without evaluating CAS training fully, DOD cannot have assurance that its forces are prepared to conduct CAS missions safely and effectively. Number of Hours Non-Military Aircraft Were Used to Train for Close Air Support for Fiscal Years 2017 through 2019 The use of ordnance delivered by aircraft to support U.S. military forces that are in close proximity to enemy forces on the ground requires detailed planning, seamless communications, and effective training. Mistakes in communications or procedures used to identify and maintain an awareness of the positions of friendly forces on the battlefield during CAS can result in the loss of U.S. military personnel. Senate Report 116-48 and House Report 116-120, accompanying bills for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, included provisions for GAO to evaluate issues related to friendly-force identification capabilities in CAS missions. Among other things, this report evaluates the extent to which DOD has (1) implemented initiatives to enhance friendly-force identification capabilities during CAS, and (2) evaluated training for forces that participate in CAS. GAO analyzed documentation and interviewed officials regarding DOD efforts to develop and implement friendly force tracking capabilities for CAS; reviewed CAS training programs; and analyzed training data, including the number of hours that DOD used non-military contract aircraft for CAS training from 2017 through 2019. GAO is making 11 recommendations to DOD, including that DOD implement and assess initiatives to improve the interoperability of digital systems used in CAS and take additional steps to evaluate the training for certain forces that participate in CAS missions. DOD concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431 or
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  • Military Readiness: Joint Policy Needed to Better Manage the Training and Use of Certain Forces to Meet Operational Demands
    In U.S GAO News
    Military operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism, particularly those in Iraq and Afghanistan, have challenged the Department of Defense's (DOD) ability to provide needed ground forces. Section 354 of the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act directed GAO to report on a number of military readiness issues. In this report, GAO addresses (1) the extent to which DOD's use of nonstandard forces to meet ground force requirements has impacted the force and (2) the extent to which DOD has faced challenges in managing the training and use of these forces, and taken steps to address any challenges. To address these objectives, GAO analyzed DOD policies, guidance, and data and interviewed department, joint, combatant command, and service officials as well as trainers and over 300 deploying, deployed, and redeploying servicemembers.The use of nonstandard forces--individuals in certain temporary positions, and units with missions that require the unit personnel to learn new skills or operate in different environments--has helped DOD fulfill U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) requirements that the Army otherwise would not have been able to fill, but these efforts have also caused challenges across the force. For certain Navy and Air Force occupational specialties, these nonstandard force deployments have challenged the services' abilities to (1) balance the amount of time their forces are deployed with the amount of time they spend at home, and (2) meet other standard mission requirements. Some of the communities that have been most affected by nonstandard force deployments include the engineering, security force, and explosive ordnance disposal communities. In addition, the services have been challenged by emerging requirements for capabilities which do not exist in any of the services' standard forces, such as the transition teams that train local forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. These requirements are particularly taxing because the teams are composed primarily of officers and senior noncommissioned officers. Because standard forces do not exist to meet these leadership requirements, the services are forced to take leaders from other commands, which must then perform their missions without a full complement of leaders. The steps that DOD has taken to increase coordination between the services and CENTCOM have helped DOD manage challenges related to nonstandard forces, but additional steps are needed to ensure consistency in training and using these forces. Nonstandard forces face more complex relationships than standard forces, making coordination of their training and use more challenging. Specifically, their training requirements are established by both the services and theater commanders and training may be conducted by trainers from another service. In addition, while deployed, these forces often report to commanders from two different services. Furthermore, authorities concerning the training and use of forces do not specifically address the training and use of nonstandard forces. DOD has taken significant steps to coordinate the training of its nonstandard forces through regular conferences at which CENTCOM and service officials develop detailed training plans for some nonstandard forces. However, the training of individual augmentees has not been fully coordinated. As a result, individuals who perform the same types of tasks may receive different levels of training. Also, the services waive training requirements without consistently coordinating with CENTCOM, so CENTCOM lacks full visibility over the extent to which all of its forces have met requirements. To increase support and oversight of the use of nonstandard forces in theater, the services have taken steps to improve coordination, which have reduced instances where nonstandard forces' missions, tasks, or organization are modified. However, the services do not have full visibility over their nonstandard forces and view the authority of ground force commanders differently, which has sometimes led to differences in their use of nonstandard forces.
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  • Defense Contracting: Actions Needed to Explore Additional Opportunities to Gain Efficiencies in Acquiring Foreign Language Support
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO FoundDOD has taken some steps to gain efficiencies in its approach to contracting for certain types of foreign language support services and products, but its contracting approach for other types remains fragmented across multiple components, and DOD has not explored whether additional opportunities exist to gain efficiencies across this broader range of contracting activity. In 2005, DOD sought to centralize and standardize contracting efforts for foreign language support by designating the Army as an executive agent to manage contracting in this area. In performing its responsibilities, the executive agent has focused its efforts solely on arranging for contracts to acquire translation and interpretation services for contingency operations because of the rapidly increasing requirements for these services. Specifically, from fiscal year 2008 through 2012, the Army, as executive agent, obligated about $5.2 billion for contracts to provide DOD components with translation and interpretation services for contingency operations. During the same time period, we found that multiple DOD components contracted independently for foreign language support outside of the executive agent's management. Specifically, to support the needs of contingency operations, predeployment training, and day-to-day military activities, we identified 159 contracting organizations in 10 different DOD components that obligated approximately $1.2 billion on contracts for foreign language support outside of those managed by the executive agent. In some cases, DOD has gained efficiencies by centralizing contracting for certain foreign language support contracts under an executive agent, but DOD has not comprehensively assessed whether additional opportunities exist to gain efficiencies across a broader range of foreign language support contracts. Best practices for service acquisition suggest that DOD's acquisition approach should provide for an agency-wide view of service contract spending and promote collaboration to leverage buying power across multiple organizations. Implementing such an approach requires an analysis of where an organization is spending its money, which should be the starting point for gaining knowledge that can assist agencies in determining which products and services warrant a more coordinated acquisition approach.8 In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD agreed with our recommendations. DOD also provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which we incorporated, where appropriate. However, DOD has not conducted an analysis of this type to evaluate the whole range of services and products that are currently managed outside the executive agent and determine whether additional efficiencies could be gained. Without a more complete understanding of where the department is spending resources on foreign language support contracts, DOD does not have all of the information it needs to make informed decisions about the types of services and products that could be managed by the executive agent and does not have reasonable assurance that it is fully leveraging its buying power for foreign language support.Why GAO Did This StudyAccording to the Department of Defense (DOD), the ability of U.S. military personnel to communicate and interact with multinational partners, security forces, and local indigenous populations can be critical factors to mission success, as evidenced by operational experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. DOD utilizes language professionals and regional experts within its ranks of military personnel to provide foreign language support, such as foreign language skills, regional expertise, and cultural awareness capabilities needed to execute missions, as well as contracted interpreters and translators who provide this support. To meet increased demands on the need for foreign language support from ongoing contingency operations, DOD has relied on contactors to supplement the capability provided by military personnel. For example, the number of contractor personnel required to provide foreign language translation and interpretation services for contingency operations more than tripled from 2004 to 2010 (from about 4,000 to about 14,000). As of November 2012, the number of contractor personnel required by DOD was approximately 9,000. As a result, DOD has made considerable investments in providing contract support. For example, DOD obligated about $6.8 billion from fiscal years 2008 through 2012 to acquire a variety of foreign language-related services and products to support its forces.We have identified opportunities for DOD to improve its approach to contracting from a broad perspective as well as in areas related to foreign language support. For example, DOD contract management is on our list of high-risk areas in the federal government. In 2013, we noted that DOD needed to take steps to strategically manage the acquisition of services, including developing the data needed to define and measure desired outcomes to improve outcomes on the billions of dollars that DOD spends annually on goods and services. Furthermore, since 2009 we have identified a number of management challenges that DOD has faced in developing a strategic planning process to transform foreign language and regional proficiency capabilities, identifying training requirements, and reducing unnecessary overlap and duplication in foreign language and cultural awareness training products acquired by the military services.We conducted this work in response to a congressional mandate set forth in Section 21 of Public Law 111-139. That legislation requires that we identify government programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives with duplicative goals and activities and report our findings to Congress. Our objective for this report was to determine the extent to which DOD has taken steps to achieve efficiencies in its approach to contracting for foreign language support, and whether additional opportunities exist to gain further efficiencies.
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