Mission Essential Personnel
Mission Essential Personnel Type Private Industry Language, training, technical support, intelligence Founded Columbus, Ohio (2004) Headquarters Columbus, Ohio Area served Afghanistan, Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, U.S. Key people Chris Taylor, CEO, Marc Peltier, COO, Sunil Ramchand, COS Revenue $375 million (2009) Employees 8,200 Website Missionep.com
Mission Essential Personnel (MEP) is an American professional services corporation offering human-capital solutions and program support to government and corporate clients. MEP is the U.S. government’s primary provider of translators and interpreters for the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan. The company is based in the Easton Area of Columbus, Ohio.
Products and services
MEP provides translators, interpreters, and cultural advisors to the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, where more than 80 percent of its approximately 8,200 personnel work. Outside the U.S., the company has a presence in 13 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe. MEP linguists serve on bases, in hospitals, and with members of the armed forces on patrol, playing a key role in coalition efforts to communicate with local populations. Regarding MEP’s language experts, Reuters reported that, “The ‘terps,’ as the soldiers call them in military slang, don’t just do literal translations, they provide insights into local culture and customs that are key to any attempt to win the people over. And above all, their ability to read the situation on the ground can often save lives.”
In August 2010, the U.S. Army named MEP as a winner of a five-year, Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity Intelligence Support Services contract, with a ceiling of $492 million. CEO Taylor described it as a “great win for MEP and for our new Intelligence Services business unit.”
MEP also provides training/technical support to its clients. In spring 2010, it won a contract to teach the Air Force’s Combat Airman Skills Training program, where instructors train airmen and women in basic skills including marksmanship, land navigation, convoy operations/vehicle roll over procedures, Survival Escape Resistance and Evasion (SERE), radio procedures, and squad level battle drills. MEP coordinates disaster response operations between military and civil authorities at the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. Justice Services International, a joint venture MEP formed, contributes to development missions overseas for the Departments of State, Defense, and Justice, and the US Agency for International Development.
In summer 2010, when CEO Chris Taylor testified before the Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC), he said:
“ Unlike the relatively straightforward conflicts of the 20th Century, the global war on terror is a conflict where communication is a more important force multiplier than weaponry. … The United States needs reliable communication to share our message of goodwill with those we can help while deciphering the hidden messages of those who seek to do us harm. Mission Essential Personnel is honored to contribute to this effort and will continue to serve the U.S. Government in this capacity for as long as is our privilege ”
MEP manages about 60 delivery orders for the U.S. government globally, under prime contracts for support in Afghanistan and Iraq. With the Afghanistan troop surge of troops into Afghanistan under U.S. Generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus, the need for language support has increased. The majority of MEP’s language experts have ties to the areas where they work. The Columbus Dispatch profiled one U.S.-hired MEP translator, who said that while the work is often dangerous, "The belief in the cause and what I was working for undermined that fear." He continued that, "This is the process that will take us to a greater future and a better life for my people. Going back [to Afghanistan] is an opportunity to help this happen."
The primary languages needed by the military in Afghanistan are Dari and Pashto. Recruiting U.S. citizens for security-cleared positions presents unique challenges because the last major wave of Afghan immigration to the U.S. was during the early 1990s. According to the 2000 Census, only 7,700 U.S. citizens speak fluent Pashto, and of those, MEP says about half meet health and other clearance requirements. The company employs more almost 1,000 of these citizens. To fill the rest of the military’s requirements, MEP also relies on more than 4,000 Afghan local national linguists. The Washington Post profiled MEP’s domestic recruiting at the Afghan Cup, an annual soccer tournament in the Washington area, where the company recruited 45 linguists in 2008 under the slogan "For America, For Afghanistan, For Me."
To protect linguists from Taliban reciprocity, MEP protects their identities and forbids media contact. When photojournalist Micah Garen published headshots of Afghan natives and coalition forces in Vanity Fair in 2010, he preserved a MEP linguist’s anonymity by photographing the back of his head.
Somali pirates incident
In April 2009, Somali pirates hijacked the Maersk vessel Alabama and took the ship's captain and crew hostage. An MEP interpreter served as the prime negotiator with the pirates during the crisis, alongside a Navy SEAL team. The linguist earned the pirates' trust, and after four days of negotiations, convinced the pirates to allow their boat to be towed behind the USS Bainbridge, until U.S. snipers ended the crisis.
MEP was founded in early 2004 by Army Special Forces veterans Chad Monnin and Greg Miller, who met during training at Ohio’s Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base. The pair recognized the need for improved language and cultural advising services in the Middle East and felt they could do a better job while treating linguists better. Later that year the pair was joined by Army Aviator Scott Humphrys who met Monnin and Miller in the army. Originally named Aegis Mission Essential Personnel, the company dropped “Aegis” in 2008.
The company started as a subcontractor providing a handful of linguists in Iraq, but the company’s turning point came in 2007, when Mission Essential Personnel won the $703 million Afghanistan language contract. Due to Afghanistan’s increased support requirements after 2008, the contract’s funding expired sooner than expected. In spring 2010, the Army increased MEP’s contract ceiling to ensure continuity of service while it prepared to re-compete the work later that year. According to MEP, due to the company’s performance the military has issued multiple Increased Levels of Effort for more than 1,500 linguist positions. The company also says the military has awarded it seven consecutive quarterly “outstanding” performance ratings. According to a company fact sheet, MEP “has reached a fill rate for translator positions as high as 97 percent. The previous incumbent [on the contract] was never able to surpass a 43 percent fill rate.”
Members of the Commission on Wartime Contracting have observed MEP’s significant growth: Co-chairman Michael J. Thibault said, “In 2006, they were a $70 million company ... By 2008 they were a $250 million company of actual costs subject to audit. That's pretty good growth. And this year it's estimated that it will be $430 million. And they were just awarded a $1.5 billion contract. Now, that's a great American success story.” Commissioner Dov S. Zakheim told CEO Taylor, “You’re growing like hotcakes.”
Military veterans make up the bulk of MEP’s leadership. Chris Taylor, who became CEO in September 2009, is a 14-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, having served as an enlisted man. He holds an MBA from the College of William & Mary and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School, where he was director of the Harvard Defense and Security Initiative.
The company’s COO, Marc Peltier, is a former Army intelligence officer, with an MA in national security from Georgetown University and a BA from the Virginia Military Institute. Peltier is a retired Army Intelligence Officer with more than 20 years of experience in Signals Intelligence, Human Intelligence, and program management.
MEP’s CFO, Michael Jakobowski, has more than 25 years of experience in corporate finance and public accounting, and previously served as CFO of Cambridge Information Group, overseeing a portfolio of information technology companies with revenues in excess of $600 million.
MEP’s chief of staff, Sunil Ramchand, served at the White House Military Office (WHMO) during the presidencies of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, including as executive director of the WHMO’s Policy, Plans, and Requirements directorate. He is a veteran surface warfare officer of the U.S. Navy and holds degrees from the U.S. Naval Academy and the Harvard Kennedy School.
MEP’s senior vice president for global growth, Peter Bloom has 30 years of experience in executive management, having built and led numerous technology businesses and teams in the U.S. and Europe. He earned an MBA from Marymount University and a bachelor's in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He served six-and-a-half years as a surface warfare officer with the U.S. Navy and is a retired Naval Reserve Officer.
The company’s general counsel, Susan Zidek, has nearly 20 years of legal experience. She is admitted to practice in all Ohio courts, the northern and southern district courts of Ohio, the Sixth Circuit Court, the US Court of Federal Claims, and the US Supreme Court. She has also served as judicial staff attorney for the Ohio Court of Appeals for the Fourth District. She earned her bachelor’s from Wittenberg University and her law degree from the Ohio State University. She is also a graduate of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy program and the American University national government program.
In September 2009, MEP’s owners, including Monnin, Miller, and Humphrys, left day-to-day management to serve on the company’s Board of Directors.
MEP also has a four-person Board of Advisors to guide its strategic planning. The board consists of Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, a senior American diplomat and the president of Washington College; Sarah Sewall, a lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School and member of the Secretary of Defense’s Defense Policy Board; Dr. David Kilcullen, former Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor, Multi-National Force – Iraq, to General Petraeus; and Dr. John Nagl, President of the Center for a New American Security.
MEP has corporate headquarters in Columbus, Ohio; a national capital region office in Chantilly, Virginia; recruiting offices in New York and California; and support facilities in Georgia, North Carolina, and Maryland. It also has offices in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
In July 2010, Taylor was elected to the Board of Trustees of the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul, noting that, “Developing nations like Afghanistan often suffer from ‘brain drain,’ where individuals leave the country to receive their education – and then never come back. Institutions like AUAF turn around this cycle by empowering locals who can then empower their own communities. The key to lasting peace in Afghanistan is education.” In fall 2010, MEP announced creation of a scholarship program at the AUAF to provide full tuition, room, and board for six students.
MEP is involved in other charity work with various organizations, including the Veterans First Foundation and Wounded Warrior, and it has performed company-wide clothes drives for Afghanistan.
Care for linguists
MEP has been the subject of critical media reports. In 2009, Corpwatch, a non-profit foundation focused on oversight of government contractors, accused the company of failing to care adequately for wounded local national linguists, including being slow to pay insurance benefits. MEP countered that it “files all claims and intervenes on behalf of our linguists with insurance companies and claims investigators. … In cases where insurance payments are delayed, we directly intervene on behalf of our linguists to ensure our professionals get what they are due. When complaints of delayed payments first arose in 2009, MEP deployed Defense Base Act (DBA) insurance subject matter experts to Afghanistan to respond. At that time, there were 170 outstanding insurance claims. As of July 2010, there were 28. MEP’s goal is always zero outstanding claims.” In fall 2010, Corpwatch’s Pratap Chatterjee told Columbus Monthly, “I personally believe that MEP cares about the translators and tries to do a good job for them. The reality is beyond Chris Taylor’s control.”
Payment of linguists
Corpwatch also claimed MEP underpays its local national linguists (LNLs). In a fact sheet, the company said, “Local nationals are paid well by the standards of their community. MEP’s LNLs are compensated better than doctors and cabinet-level officials in Afghanistan. MEP presently has a backlog of more than 600 Afghan nationals waiting to become linguists.”
On The World of Troubles blog, journalist Jim Foley wrote that MEP was withholding pay from some linguists in dangerous areas. MEP responded that government regulations require a sometimes “cumbersome process which requires signatures from both MEP managers and military points of contact” and without those, pay cannot be disbursed. MEP further noted that the payroll problem had been successfully noted and resolved before Foley published his article.
Qualifications of linguists
MEP has also been charged with deploying interpreters who were old or otherwise physically unfit. MEP’s response was that it recruits, vets, and trains linguists according to the military’s specifications, but does not control their final assignments throughout Afghanistan. According to MEP literature, “Each linguist must pass a physical exam and comply with pre-training requirements. As of July 2010, 84 percent of U.S.-hired linguists and 99 percent of local linguists are 55 or younger.”
ABC News report/lawsuit
In September 2010, ABC News’ Brian Ross quoted a former MEP employee who alleged in a whistleblower lawsuit that the company had sent unqualified linguists to Afghanistan two years earlier. Disparate commentators criticized ABC’s coverage of the story. The Huffington Post’s David Isenberg pointed out Ross’s use of “weak, secondary sources,” and the former employee’s financial motives in bringing the case. The American Spectator’s Jed Babbin said Ross had “cobbled together information from irrelevant or financially interested sources.” Two weeks after the original report aired, the network published a follow-up on its website when U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema dismissed the case against MEP without prejudice. At the time, MEP CEO Chris Taylor said, "We are pleased with this favorable outcome which underscores our belief that the allegations failed to state a plausible claim against the company." When the case was refiled in November 2010, the same judge allowed the case against MEP to move forward. On February 10, 2011, the lawsuit was dismissed. The company released a statement saying, "The dismissals with prejudice result from a confidential negotiated agreement under which MEP will not make any payment to the Relator or the United States regarding the False Claims Act fraud allegations."
In 2006, Ernst & Young named MEP’s founders Entrepreneurs of the Year for Emerging Markets at the regional level and as national finalists. In 2007, the company was ranked #1 on the Business First Fast Fifty list of fastest-growing companies in Central Ohio. In 2008, the company placed #6 on the list.
In 2009, the American Small Business Coalition presented MEP with its Founders Award for rapid growth and success serving U.S. Government personnel overseas. That year, Inc. Magazine included MEP on its Inc. 500 roll of the fastest growing companies, at #8 in the Government Services category. MEP made the list again in 2010 and 2011. Washington Technology listed the company among its Top 100 Government Contractors for 2009 at #82. MEP moved up to #62 in 2010 and #42 in 2011.
In 2010, MEP’s print and video ad campaigns won awards from the Columbus Society for Communicating Arts. In 2011, MEP was named the #1 language services provider by the Common Sense Advisory Board and the #1 government contractor in Central Ohio by the Columbus Business Journal.
- ^ “Half a billion dollars for Afghan interpreters”, “Reuters,” May 16, 2010
- ^ "Mission Essential Personnel Wins $492 Million INSCOM Omnibus III Contract" (Press release). Mission Essential Personnel. 11 August 2010. http://missionep.com/news/press-release?id=22. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- ^ Wilson, Zachary. “Eagle Flag exercise expands, achieves new milestones”, “U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center,” August 5, 2010
- ^ "Justice Services International official website". http://www.justice-si.com/. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- ^ a b "Subcontracting: Who’s minding the store?". Hearing transcript. Commission on Wartime Contracting. 26 July 2010. http://www.wartimecontracting.gov/docs/hearing2010-07-26_transcript.pdf. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- ^ a b Wartenberg, Steve (November 8, 2009). "The language of war". The Columbus Dispatch. http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/business/stories/2009/11/08/Mission_Essential.ART_ART_11-08-09_D1_FCFIUBU.html. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
- ^ a b c d e “Setting the Record Straight: Commentary Regarding MEP”, “Missionep.com,” August 5, 2010
- ^ Sieff, Kevin. “At Afghan Cup in Virginia, recruiters offer big money for interpreters”, “The Washington Post,” July 11, 2010
- ^ Garen, Micah. “Marja's Hearts And Minds”, “Vanity Fair,” July 26, 2010
- ^ "Subcontracting: Who’s minding the store?". Hearing transcript. Commission on Wartime Contracting. 26 July 2010. http://www.wartimecontracting.gov/docs/hearing2010-07-26_transcript.pdf. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- ^ "Contracts for Monday, May 10, 2010" (Press release). Defense.gov. 10 May 2010. http://www.defense.gov/contracts/contract.aspx?contractid=4277. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- ^ a b c "Mission Essential Personnel Announces New CEO, COO -- Founders to form Board of Directors" (Press release). Mission Essential Personnel. 2009-09-15. http://www.missionep.com/news/press-release?id=7. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
- ^ "Mission Essential Personnel Hires Seasoned White House Official as Chief of Staff" (Press release). Missionep.com. 2009-09-29. http://missionep.com/news/press-release?id=1. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
- ^ "Senior Vice President, Global Growth: Peter Bloom" (Press release). Missionep.com. http://missionep.com/company/leadership/peter-bloom. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
- ^ "Senior Vice President and General Counsel: Susan Zidek" (Press release). Missionep.com. http://missionep.com/news/press-release?id=38. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
- ^ "Center for a New American Security President Dr. John Nagl Joins MEP Board of Advisors" (Press release). Missionep.com. 11 November 2010. http://missionep.com/news/press-release?id=36. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
- ^ "Mission Essential Personnel Affiliations with International Peacekeeping Organizations". Missionep.com. http://missionep.com/company/affiliations. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
- ^ "MEP CEO Chris Taylor Joins American University Of Afghanistan" (Press release). Missionep.com. July 16, 2010. http://www.missionep.com/news/press-release?id=19. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- ^ "Mission Essential Personnel Announces Scholarships For American University of Afghanistan" (Press release). Missionep.com. September 15, 2010. http://missionep.com/news/press-release?id=27. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- ^ "MEP Giving Back". Missionep.com. http://missionep.com/company/giving-back. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- ^ Chatterjee, Pratap. “Mission Essential, Translators Expendable”, “Corpwatch.org,” August 11, 2009
- ^ Maag, Christopher. “War of words”, “The Columbus Monthly,” November 2010, p. 105-106
- ^ "Response to A World of Troubles blog, "Afghan Interpreters Worked In Most Dangerous Areas For No Pay."" (Press release). Missionep.com. December 1, 2010. http://www.missionep.com/news/media-responses/awot. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- ^ Schachtman, Noah. “Unlimited Talk, Only $679 Million: Inside the No-Bid Deal for Afghan Interpreters”, Wired, May 12, 2010
- ^ Mosk, Matthew, Ross, Brian and Rhee, Joseph. “Exclusive: Whistleblower Claims Many U.S. Interpreters Can't Speak Afghan Languages”, “ABC,” September 8, 2010
- ^ Isenberg, David. “ABC J'accuse MEP: There is no there there”, “The Huffington Post,” September 14, 2010
- ^ Babbin, Jed. “ABC News' Credibility 'Lost in Translation'”, “The American Spectator,” September 22, 2010
- ^ Mosk, Matthew, Ross, Brian and Rhee, Joseph. “Translator Lawsuit Dismissed, But Whistleblower Allowed To Refile”, “ABC News,” September 23, 2010
- ^ Mosk, Matthew. “Judge: Lawsuit Alleging Firm Supplied Army With Unqualified Translators Can Proceed”, “ABC News,” November 9, 2010
- ^ "Mission Essential Personnel Statement On Court Case Dismissal" (Press release). Mission Essential Personnel. 10 February 2011. http://missionep.com/news/press-release?id=39. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
- ^ "Finalists for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year(R) Award Announced in Louisville, Kentucky" (Press release). Ernst & Young. June 29, 2006. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Finalists+for+the+Ernst+&+Young+Entrepreneur+Of+The+Year(R)+Award...-a0146082625. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- ^ “Business First announces Fast 50”, Columbus Business Journal September 14, 2007
- ^ “Fast 50 Awards Luncheon”, Columbus Business Journal, October 2008
- ^ "Mission Essential Personnel, LLC to receive Founders' Award from Guy Timberlake at ASBC5 on April 23rd" (Press release). The American Small Business Coalition. April 5, 2009. http://www.theasbc.org/news/24682/Mission-Essential-Personnel-to-receive-Founders-Award-from-Guy-Timberlake-at-ASBC5-on-April-23rd.htm. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- ^ "No. 52 - Mission Essential Personnel". Inc.com. http://www.inc.com/inc5000/2009/company-profile.html?id=200900520. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- ^ "No. 162 - Mission Essential Personnel". Inc.com. http://www.inc.com/inc5000/profile/mission-essential-personnel. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- ^ "No. 235 - Mission Essential Personnel". Inc.com. http://www.inc.com/inc5000/profile/mission-essential-personnel. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
- ^ "2009 Top 100". Washington Technology. http://washingtontechnology.com/toplists/top-100-lists/2009.aspx. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- ^ "8 Mission Essential Personnel LLC". Washington Technology. http://washingtontechnology.com/fast50lists/fast-50-lists/2010/mission-essential-personnel.aspx. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- ^ "8 Mission Essential Personnel LLC". Washington Technology. http://washingtontechnology.com/toplists/top-100-lists/2011/mission-essential-personnel-llc.aspx. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- ^ Jeff Selsar (November 18, 2010). "Mission Essential Personnel: "We Don’t" campaign". Columbus Society for Communicating Arts. http://www.flickr.com/photos/cscarts/5211759797/in/set-72157625479820382/. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- ^ "Market for Outsourced Language Services and Technology to Surpass US$31 Billion in 2011" (Press release). Common Sense Advisory Board. May 31, 2011. http://www.commonsenseadvisory.com/Default.aspx?Contenttype=ArticleDet&tabID=64&moduleId=392&Aid=1431&PR=PR. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
- ^ “Leading the List: Federal government contractors”, Columbus Business Journal, 8 June 2011
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