Chantilly, VA – Mission Essential Personnel today released the following statement in response to the ABC News story “Whistleblower Claims Many U.S. Interpreters Can't Speak Afghan Languages.”
MEP is an American success story and a responsible partner to the U.S. Government and to service members around the world. Our linguists play a critical role in sharing the United States’ message of goodwill and deciphering the hidden messages of those who seek to harm Americans. MEP’s linguists risk their lives each day to accompany brave troops into the field, and many have made the ultimate sacrifice to advance the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, while saving many lives. While there are always challenges on a changing battlefield, MEP, in partnership with the U.S. military, has helped bring a greater level of peace and stability to Afghanistan.
Prior to airing this erroneous story, MEP provided ABC extensive information on the record – both in-person and in writing. With willful disregard, ABC chose to ignore the facts, doing a grave disservice to the public, and to many good people in the field. We have the following three objections to ABC’s story:
Mr. Funk has no credibility. The primary source for this story is a former MEP employee, Paul Funk, who resigned in 2008. He claims his resignation was a matter of conscience, but this claim is untrue. He resigned due to financial improprieties in his office. On multiple occasions over the next two months after he resigned, Mr. Funk demanded his job back, and threatened the then-CEO that if he did not respond, Funk would “cross the Rubicon,” i.e. wage war on the company. How much could his conscience have been bothering him? Obviously, MEP refused to rehire Mr. Funk, who has since made good on his threat and is suing the company. He filed a self-serving lawsuit against MEP based on false allegations. While it is clear Mr. Funk is using ABC News to further his litigation, we will not litigate this in the media. We have great confidence in our judicial system where we have moved for dismissal of this case. We are confident we will prevail. Even describing Mr. Funk as a “whistleblower” is inaccurate and a disservice to ABC’s viewers, given that a whistleblower is someone who takes a moral stand to protect the public good – not a self-serving litigant with an obvious conflict of interest.
MEP’s commitment to excellence. MEP has made a commitment to serve the U.S. Government, the American taxpayer, and above all the warfighter. Over the course of nearly three years, government requirements for linguists have increased nearly 1300 percent. MEP has met and exceeded the government’s expectations each time. Our company has received “outstanding” performance ratings – the highest possible – from the U.S. Government for seven consecutive quarters. We are transparent and routinely survey our customers to ensure quality of services. Regarding allegations against our testing protocols, MEP has the strongest and most comprehensive language testing and pre-deployment screening of any company providing linguists in the world. MEP’s language testing program has three components with built-in safeguards designed to be independent and verifiable: an initial phone test, a written test administered by an autonomous outside vendor, and an integrity test that occurs by video conference or in person. The phone tests and written tests are catalogued and saved for review by the military. MEP’s language testing programs were audited in 2008 and 2010.
Questions of accuracy in reporting. Beyond just Mr. Funk’s conflict of interest, this story teems with inaccuracies. For example, his allegations center around U.S.-hire linguists, but the vast majority of linguists supporting troops in the field are Local Nationals. Many reasons exist for translation challenges, such as regional and valley differences in dialects, English colloquialism, and slang. These nuances deserved to be mentioned in this story.
ABC has grossly over-simplified complex situations. ABC’s premise is that there are challenges with linguists in Afghanistan. MEP employs the majority of linguists in Afghanistan. Therefore, the majority of linguist issues must be MEP’s. False. An example is ABC’s citation of The Guardian video, which does not depict an MEP linguist, yet is included in the story on MEP. Ironically, MEP uses the same Guardian video in its own linguist training classes as an example of what not to do.
MEP is the leader in translation and interpreter services to the U.S. Government, and we are proud of our performance. We were founded by service-disabled veterans, we are run by veterans, and we serve as proud veterans. We are undaunted by those who seek personal gain at the expense of those in harm’s way, and we will continue to lead with our core values and guiding principles to support the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
MEP is a global professional services company that provides and manages turnkey human-capital solutions and program support to government and corporate clients worldwide. Currently, MEP is the US government’s leading provider of translators, interpreters and cultural advisors, with more than 6,000 personnel in 13 countries across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. In addition to language services, MEP provides intelligence support, training and technical services to the US Department of Defense, intelligence agencies and international development organizations. Regardless of a mission’s size or complexity, MEP finds professionals with the skills to support it.