WASHINGTON — A little known Defense Department office is working to ensure the fair treatment of workers by employees and contractors in countries all over the world.
The Combating Trafficking in Persons Program Management Office is tasked with ensuring that U.S. taxpayer dollars do not contribute to trafficking in persons. As the largest single purchaser of goods and services in the world, the United States has long had a zero-tolerance policy regarding government employees and contractor personnel engaging in any form of trafficking in persons. In 2006, the DoD established the CTIP Program Management Office with a dedicated program manager.
CTIP program managers in Afghanistan have helped thousands of workers since 2014. Recently, a worker wrote to express gratitude for the program manager’s help collecting pay that was owed him and fellow workers for time they spent in COVID-19 quarantine.
“I don’t have enough words in my vocabulary to thank you appropriately,” the worker wrote. “Money is important to all of us, but it will not last forever but the soothing feeling you get once you realize that you have been recognized and the justice has been served will last forever in our lives. Thank you so much for everything.”
The program manager said the incident — and outcome — are the reasons CTIP exists.
On any given day, the program manager might be updating policies and training requirements; answering inquiries from Congress, the DoD inspector general or the Government Accountability Office; and collaborating with other federal agencies in the fight against people trafficking.
In some ways, program managers deployed on overseas bases are ombudsmen for the thousands of workers employed by the U.S. government through private contractors or subcontractors. Their duties include:
• Performing audits of “other country nationals” to ensure adequate working and housing conditions.
• Training personnel about the laws, regulations and policies on trafficking in persons.
• Interviewing workers to ensure no force, fraud or coercion is taking place and that OCNs are being treated well and paid for their work.
• Troubleshooting worker problems.
• Providing information and training so that contractors understand not to purchase sex or engage in other forms of sex trafficking prohibited by the Federal Acquisition Regulation.
To deter trafficking in persons from taking place through DoD contracts, the program manager must also gain the trust of the workers and develop a working relationship with contracting officers, contracting officer representatives, contractors, subcontractors and other relevant parties.
The CTIP program manager is charged with issuing the DoD Self-Assessment Report on Combating Trafficking in Persons annually to assess CTIP efforts by the department’s various components. The report includes details of violations of the federal laws, rules and regulations on trafficking in persons. In part, annual reporting helps contracting officers hold contractors and subcontractors accountable for abiding by federal acquisition regulations pertaining to combating trafficking in persons.
The CTIP program manager is working every day to help DoD personnel and U.S. government contractors and subcontractors fully comply with anti-trafficking laws and policies. Compliance with TIP laws and regulations ensures that workers are protected from sex and labor exploitation. It also ensures that vulnerable workers can perform vital services and manufacture goods procured by the United States; promotes economy and efficiency in government procurement; and increases stability and productivity in federal contracting.