Publicly Released: September 28, 2020
The objective of this audit was to determine whether the Air Force implemented screening and quarantine procedures for personnel entering Al Udeid Air Base (AUAB), Qatar, in accordance with applicable guidance in response to the coronavirus disease–2019 (COVID-19). We were able to determine whether screening and quarantine procedures were developed; however, because no one failed the initial screening during our observations, we could not verify how effectively the quarantine procedures were implemented.
The 379th Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW) is located at AUAB and comprises several groups, including the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group (Medical Group) and the 379th Expeditionary Mission Support Group. The Mission Support Group includes the Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron (Security Squadron) and the Expeditionary Forces Support Squadron (Support Squadron).
The Security and Support Squadrons operate and conduct screening of arriving personnel at the North Gate and the AUAB air terminal, respectively. The Medical Group is responsible for additional medical assessment and potential quarantine determinations, if necessary, at both locations.
On March 11, 2020, the Director-General of the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and on March 20, 2020, the AUAB Installation Commander declared a Public Health Emergency on AUAB related to COVID-19.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 379th AEW took several actions. The Security Squadron developed screening procedures for arriving personnel at the North Gate, which includes checking COVID-19 travel passes. The Security Squadron also established screening procedures for other country nationals arriving at AUAB. The Support Squadron began performing screening procedures for arriving personnel at the air terminal. The Medical Group initiated training for screening procedures at all U.S.-operated entry points for AUAB.
The 379th AEW Security and Support Squadrons developed screening and quarantine procedures for personnel entering AUAB in accordance with applicable guidance in response to COVID-19. The Squadrons implemented most procedures, but improvements are needed. Specifically, based on our observations, Security and Support Squadron personnel [REDACTED] of all personnel entering AUAB and implemented all screening procedures for incoming air terminal passengers. Additionally, Security Squadron personnel [REDACTED] except in one instance. However, when conducting screening at the North Gate, Security Squadron personnel did not consistently check travel passes that were required for each person’s re-entry, or require that [REDACTED]. The lack of consistently implemented screening procedures for personnel entering AUAB occurred because screening procedures and a requirement to conduct training, developed by the 379th AEW in March 2020, were still evolving and had not been formally documented. Additionally, the initial training provided to personnel performing screenings did not include all of the required screening procedures. Furthermore, Squadron Commanders did not require screening personnel to take refresher training when COVID-19 screening procedures changed or when returning to screening duties after an extended period.
If screening procedures are not consistently applied to all personnel entering AUAB, there is a risk that U.S. military, civilian, and contractor personnel may contract and spread COVID-19. If a surge in COVID-19 cases develops, ongoing operations and exercises in Qatar and the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility could be canceled, postponed, or impacted by staffing shortages caused by rapid increases in infected personnel.
We recommend that the 379th AEW Commander formalize, through issuance of official documentation with signature, the training, screening, and quarantine procedures.
We recommend that the 379th Security Squadron Commander provide refresher training to ensure that Security Squadron personnel require individuals entering AUAB to display entry documentation for verification of their ability to access the base.
Management Actions and Our Response
On August 21, 2020, the 379th AEW Public Health Emergency Officer issued a memorandum formally documenting standardized COVID‐19 screening procedures for personnel entering the installation through the North Gate and air terminal. According to the guidance, Medical Group personnel will train Security Squadron personnel, and documentation will be retained to support that training was provided. Additionally, the guidance states that the 379th AEW will submit lessons learned to U.S. Air Forces Central Command/A9. As of July 17, 2020, the Security Squadron Commander began requiring Security Squadron Flight Chiefs to provide refresher training on both Medical Group‐recommended procedures and travel pass procedures. The Security Squadron documented the Medical Group‐provided COVID-19 training using sign‐in rosters, and provided them to demonstrate to us that all posts and patrols were briefed on COVID-19 procedures weekly. The training includes procedures for checking travel passes for personnel entering AUAB through the North or East Gate.
The actions taken by management address the deficiencies we identified during the audit by formally documenting the screening and quarantine procedures and training requirements, and by performing refresher training on COVID-19 screening procedures for the gate. The actions taken address the specifics of Recommendations 1.a, 1.b, and 2. Therefore, Recommendations 1.a, 1.b, and 2 are closed.
This report is the product of Proj. No. D2020-D000RJ-0123.000