||This article appears to contain a large number of buzzwords. (May 2012)|
|Industry||Language, training, technical support, intelligence|
|Founded||Columbus, Ohio (2004)|
|Area served||Afghanistan, Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, U.S.|
|Key people||Peter Horvath, CEO, Sunil Ramchand, EVP, Paul Clemens, SVP, Operations Albert Campbell, CFO, Jon Ricker, EVP, Dave LaRocca, SVP HR|
|Revenue||Less than $1 billion|
|Employees||More than 7,000|
Mission Essential (formerly Mission Essential Personnel or MEP) is an American professional services company offering integrated solutions to government and corporate clients. The company supports conventional and special operations troops, providing linguists, intelligence analysts, cultural advisors and operational support staff. Mission Essential is the U.S. government's primary provider of translators and interpreters. The company is based in the Easton Area of Columbus, Ohio with a significant office in Dulles Corner, Virgnia.
- 1 Products and services
- 2 Company profile
- 3 Controversies
- 4 Awards
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Products and services
Mission Essential provides translators, interpreters, and cultural advisors to the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, where more than 80 percent of its approximately 8,300 personnel work. Outside the U.S., the company has a presence in 13 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Mission Essential 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. According to Reuters, "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 Mission Essential as a winner of a five-year, Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity Intelligence Support Services contract, with a ceiling of $492 million. Then-CEO Taylor described it as a “great win for Mission Essential and for our new Intelligence Services business unit.”  In September 2010, Mission Essential won a spot on the multi-million dollar Intelligence Support Services – Afghanistan (ISS-A) contract vehicle providing MULTI-INT operations in support of CENTCOM. 
Mission Essential 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. Mission Essential 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 Mission Essential formed, contributes to development missions overseas for the Departments of State, Defense, and Justice, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
In summer 2010, when then-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.
Mission Essential manages delivery orders for the U.S. government globally, under prime contracts for support in Afghanistan and Iraq. With the troop surge into Afghanistan, the need for language support increased. The majority of Mission Essential’s language experts have ties to the areas where they work. The Columbus Dispatch profiled one U.S.-hired Mission Essential 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, Mission Essential says about half meet health and other clearance requirements. The company employs more than 1,000 of these citizens. To fill the rest of the military’s requirements, Mission Essential also relies on more than 4,000 Afghan local national linguists. The Washington Post profiled Mission Essential’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 attacks, Mission Essential 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 Mission Essential linguist’s anonymity by photographing the back of his head.
Given the rarity of Afghan-language speakers in the United States, Mission Essential opened a Language Academy to help those with limited proficiency in Pashto, Dari, and English improve their skills as interpreters and translators. The Language Academy's flagship is in Pleasanton, California; classes are also offered in New York. Since 2008, MEPLA has trained more than 700 linguists.
Somali pirates incident
In April 2009, Somali pirates hijacked the Maersk vessel Alabama and took the ship's captain and crew hostage. An Mission Essential interpreter assisted negotiation 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 killed three of the pirates and captured a fourth, Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, rescuing the hostages and ending the crisis.
Mission Essential 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 Mission Essential’s contract ceiling by $78.5 million to ensure continuity of service while it prepared to re-compete the work later that year. The ceiling was raised an additional $525 million in March 2011, then another $330 million in February 2012.
According to Mission Essential, 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, Mission Essential “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 Mission Essential’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.”
In February 2012, Peter Horvath became the company’s interim CEO. Horvath, who had previously served on Mission Essential’s Board of Advisors and as chairman of the Board of Managers, replaced Chris Taylor, who stepped down as CEO. Before joining Mission Essential, Horvath was COO and executive vice president of Victoria's Secret, president of DSW, Inc, and an executive with Limited Brands.
Mission Essential’s executive vice president, Sunil Ramchand, served at the White House Military Office (WHMO) during the presidencies of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, including as executive director of 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.
The company’s general counsel, Susan Zidek, has 20 years of legal experience. 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, Mission Essential’s owners, including Monnin, Miller, and Humphrys, left day-to-day management to serve on the company’s Board of Directors.
Mission Essential has corporate headquarters in Columbus, Ohio; a national capital region office in Dulles Corner, Virginia; recruiting offices in New York and California; and support facilities in Georgia, Indiana, and Maryland. It also has offices in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
Charity and professional associations
Mission Essential is a member of the UN Global Compact and International Stability Operations Association. Mission Essential has also sponsored events for the Aspen Security Forum, Center for a New American Security, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Harvard Kennedy School's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.
Mission Essential 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.
Mission Essential became the first company to achieve 100 percent participation with Pelotonia, the annual grassroots, bicycle ride that benefits cancer research at Ohio State University. To help raise money, 100 percent of the employees in Mission Essential’s Columbus HQ signed up to become virtual riders, riders, or volunteers.
In January 2013, Mission Essential presented a $26,000 check to the Wounded Warrior Project office in Fayettville, NC as a result of organizing the largest charity run in Afghanistan with more than 1,400 runners at U.S. military bases in Bagram and Kandahar. "As partners with the U.S. military, MEP recognizes their sacrifices, and the importance of supporting those who truly enable freedom," said Paul Clemens, Mission Essential senior vice president for operations and Army veteran. "In one form or another, MEP has contributed to several Wounded Warrior Project events, but none as impressive as this." 
Care of linguists
MEP has been the subject of some 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.”
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.
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 January 2010, linguist Ahmad Nasir Ahmadi fired on U.S. personnel in Afghanistan, killing two soldiers and wounding a third before an alert Army sergeant killed him. Nearly 18 months later, the survivor and family members of the deceased soldiers filed a lawsuit against MEP.
In response, MEP released a statement saying that the Army had conducted a thorough investigation of the incident and found the shooting was “the result of the unforeseeable criminal acts” of the shooter, who had been vetted and approved by the US Government. MEP also noted that it had not issued Ahmadi a weapon nor authorized him to use one.
In 2006, Ernst & Young named Mission Essential’s founders Entrepreneurs of the Year for Emerging Markets at the regional level and as national finalists. In 2007, the company was ranked No. 1 on the Business First Fast Fifty list of fastest-growing companies in Central Ohio. In 2008, the company placed No. 6 on the list.
In 2009, the American Small Business Coalition presented Mission Essential with its Founders Award for rapid growth and success serving U.S. Government personnel overseas. That year, Inc. Magazine included Mission Essential on its Inc. 500 roll of the fastest growing companies, at No. 8 in the Government Services category. Mission Essential made the list again in 2010 and 2011. Washington Technology listed the company among its Top 100 Government Contractors for 2009 at #82. Mission Essential moved up to No. 62 in 2010, No. 42 in 2011, and No. 37 in 2012.
In 2010, Mission Essential’s print and video ad campaigns won awards from the Columbus Society for Communicating Arts. Mission Essential was named the No. 1 language services provider by the Common Sense Advisory Board in 2011 and again in 2012.
In 2011, the Columbus Business Journal named Mission Essential the No. 1 government contractor in Central Ohio. In 2012, Defense News named Mission Essential as #86 on their list of Top 100 defense contractors.
The Association of the United States Army named Mission Essential its member company of the month for July 2012, noting "For the current conflicts with which the U.S. Army is involved, communication can be more valuable than weaponry: so the United States can share its message of good will with those we can help while deciphering the message of those who would do us harm."
- "Half a billion dollars for Afghan interpreters" (May 16, 2010). Reuters.
- "Mission Essential Personnel Wins $492 Million INSCOM Omnibus III Contract" (Press release). Mission Essential Personnel. March 20, 2012. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
- "Mission Essential Personnel Wins Three New Task Orders With CENTCOM" (Press release). Mission Essential Personnel. March 20, 2012. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
- Wilson, Zachary. “Eagle Flag exercise expands, achieves new milestones”, “U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center,” August 5, 2010
- "Justice Services International official website". Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- "Subcontracting: Who’s minding the store?". Hearing transcript. Commission on Wartime Contracting. July 26, 2010. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- Wartenberg, Steve (November 8, 2009). "The language of war". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
- “Setting the Record Straight: Commentary Regarding Mission Essential”, “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
- Jordan, Robert. “Translating A Lucrative And Sometimes Scary Proposition”, “Contra Costa Times,” October 30, 2011
- "Subcontracting: Who’s minding the store?". Hearing transcript. Commission on Wartime Contracting. July 26, 2010. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- "Contracts for Monday, May 10, 2010" (Press release). Defense.gov. May 10, 2010. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- Pincus, Walter. “Fine Print”, “The Washington Post,” February 22, 2012
- "Mission Essential Personnel Hires Seasoned White House Official as Chief of Staff" (Press release). Missionep.com. September 29, 2009. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- "Senior Vice President and General Counsel: Susan Zidek" (Press release). Missionep.com. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
- "Mission Essential Personnel Affiliations with International Peacekeeping Organizations". Missionep.com. Retrieved March 20, 2011.
- "Mission Essential Personnel Announces Scholarships For American University of Afghanistan" (Press release). Missionep.com. September 15, 2010. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- "MEP Giving Back". Missionep.com. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- "MEP Rides In Full Force With 100 Percent Corporate Participation In Pelotonia". Missionep.com. August 9, 2012. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
- 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. 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. February 10, 2011. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
- Lardner, Richard. “Mission Essential Personnel, U.S. Defense Contractor, Accused Of Negligence After U.S. Soldiers' Death”, “The Associated Press,” July 12, 2011
- "MEP Statement on January 2010 Afghanistan Shooting Incident" (Press release). Missionep.com. July 11, 2011. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
- "Finalists for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year(R) Award Announced in Louisville, Kentucky" (Press release). Ernst & Young. June 29, 2006. 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. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- "No. 52 – Mission Essential Personnel". Inc.com. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- "No. 162 – Mission Essential Personnel". Inc.com. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- "No. 235 – Mission Essential Personnel". Inc.com. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
- "2009 Top 100". Washington Technology. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- "8 Mission Essential Personnel LLC". Washington Technology. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- "8 Mission Essential Personnel LLC". Washington Technology. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
- "8 Mission Essential Personnel LLC". Washington Technology. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- Jeff Selsar (November 18, 2010). "Mission Essential Personnel: "We Don’t" campaign". Columbus Society for Communicating Arts. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- "Market for Outsourced Language Services and Technology to Surpass US$31 Billion in 2011" (Press release). Common Sense Advisory Board. May 31, 2011. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
- "Market for Outsourced Translation and Interpreting Services and Technology to Surpass US$33.5 Billion in 2012" (Press release). Common Sense Advisory Board. May 31, 2012. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- “Leading the List: Federal government contractors”, Columbus Business Journal, June 8, 2011
- “Defense News Top 100 for 2011”, Defense News, June 18, 2012
- “Mission Essential Personnel”, Association of the US Army, July 1, 2012