Vetted International, Ltd. (www.vetted-intl.com) has announced that it has launched new capabilities in Kuwait to provide & manage medical care for injuries covered under the Defense Base Act (DBA).
Raleigh, NC (PRWEB) February 25, 2010 — Vetted International, Ltd. (www.vetted-intl.com) has announced that it has launched new capabilities in Kuwait to provide & manage medical care for injuries covered under the Defense Base Act (DBA).
Civilian contractors in support of United States strategies abroad are covered by a 1941 law titled the Defense Base Act (DBA). . The DBA covers civilian contractors in a similar fashion as a traditional state worker’s compensation policy; however, there are many challenges that are difficult to overcome without a physical presence in the areas in which losses occur. Vetted initially provided that presence throughout the world to act as liaisons to expedite claims handling. As those challenges became more evident, Vetted expanded its services to include medical management and treasury services.
Numerous companies supporting coalition contracts to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure logistically supported those operations from Kuwait. Workers injured during these activities require ongoing care in Kuwait. While Kuwait has suitable medical facilities to handle illness and injuries, not all facilities are familiar with the Defense Base Act or the American Medical Association Guides on the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.
Vetted International has maintained certification in their proficiency of those required AMA guidelines from the American Board of Independent Medical Examiners (ABIME). Vetted International is recognized as the industry subject matter expert in DBA medical management and understands the complexities of evaluating impairment per American Medical Association (AMA) Guidelines.
“We have implemented a program in Kuwait to successfully assist DBA insured patients while obtaining care from providers that subscribe to the requirements within the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment,” said Brian Sjostedt, Vetted President & CEO.
“Regardless of nationality, insured patients can now expect that they can obtain care with reporting that will assist insurers with addressing losses under the Defense Base Act.”
About Vetted International:
Vetted International is a corporate and government solution based company headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. Vetted utilizes a global network of integrity driven local national professionals to minimize risk and implement responsive action plans in various permissive & non-permissive environments. Foreign and domestic insurance companies, financial institutions, government departments & ministries, government agencies & contractors, and healthcare organizations have relied on Vetted’s unique capabilities in over 40 countries worldwide.
Vetted International has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau in that it meets all standards including a commitment to make good faith efforts to resolve consumer complaints.
For more information, contact:
Mark Pauley One Renaissance Center 3301 Benson Drive, Suite 545 Raleigh, North Carolina 27609 919-518-9200 877-838-8331 – Toll Free
Media Contact: Vetted International, Ltd. Mark Pauley 919-518-9200 877-838-8331 – Toll Free
by Spencer Ackerman
Employees of the CIA-connected private security corporation Blackwater diverted hundreds of weapons, including more than 500 AK-47 assault rifles, from a U.S. weapons bunker in Afghanistan intended to equip Afghan policemen, according to an investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee. On at least one occasion, an individual claiming to work for the company evidently signed for a weapons shipment using the name of a “South Park” cartoon character. And Blackwater has yet to return hundreds of the guns to the military.
A Blackwater subsidiary known as Paravant that until recently operated in Afghanistan acquired the weapons for its employees’ “personal use,” according to committee staffers, as did other non-Paravant employees of Blackwater. Yet contractors in Afghanistan are not permitted to operate weapons without explicit permission from U.S. Central Command, something Blackwater never obtained. A November 2008 email from a Paravant vice president named Brian McCracken, obtained by the committee, nevertheless reads: “We have not received formal permission from the Army to carry weapons yet but I will take my chances.”
|by Pratap Chatterjee, Special to CorpWatch
February 26th, 2010
Afghan police are widely considered corrupt and unable to shoot straight; they die at twice the rate of Afghan soldiers and NATO troops. After $7 billion spent on training and salaries in the last eight years, several U.S. government investigations are asking why?
Some answers are obvious: Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries of the world, with extremely low literacy and a serious drug problem: One in five police recruits tests positive for drugs, and fewer than one in 10 can read and write. Unofficial estimates suggest that the Taliban pays twice as much as the government, luring away many candidates from law enforcement careers.
But another rather surprising answer was offered in a little-noticed report published earlier this month after a high-level investigation by two major U.S. government agencies. The report — “DOD Obligations and Expenditures of Funds Provided to the Department of State for the Training and Mentoring of the Afghan National Police” — says that the U.S. State Department has completely failed to do any serious oversight of private contractors they paid $1.6 billion to provide police training at dozens of sites around Afghanistan.
DynCorp’s International Police Training Program, run out of Fort Worth, Texas, has won the bulk of the contracts that have been overseen by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). The company, which has annual revenues of $3.1 billion, has followed a series of wars to run lucrative police training contracts from Bosnia in the 1990s to Iraq in 2003.
DynCorp’s work with Kabul began in 2003, almost two years after the fall of the Taliban. It was expanded in 2004 when the State Department issued it a contract to build seven regional training centers, and provide 30 police advisers across Afghanistan. This initial contract was replaced by a series of related contracts beginning on August 15, 2005, under which DynCorp today employs 782 retired U.S. police officers and an additional 1,500 support staff. The contracts expired January 31, 2010, but have temporarily been extended through March.
The cost of hiring contractors to train police is high: Each expatriate police officer makes six figure U.S. salaries — at least 50 times more than an Afghan police officer. Many experts, including the authors of this new report, have questioned the utility of sending police officers–many from small town America–to teach handcuffing and traffic rules to recruits caught in a war zone.
“The DOS [State Department] Civilian Police Program contract does not meet DOD [Pentagon]‘s needs in developing the ANP [Afghan National Police] to provide security in countering the growing insurgency in Afghanistan,” says the report signed by Pentagon Deputy Inspector General Mary L. Ugone and State Department Assistant Inspector General for the Middle East Richard “Nick” Arntson. The report concludes that the State department-led training “hampers the ability of DOD to fulfill its role in the emerging national strategy.”
That the government awarded billions to DynCorp when it was not qualified to teach Afghans how to fight a counter-insurgency is only part of the problem. What the investigators want to know is why the State Department failed so miserably at keeping track of the company.
The inspector generals have a long list of complaints:
– State Department officials take as long as six months to implement training requirement changes requested by the Pentagon.
–The State Department failed to draw up any means of assessing DynCorp’s work. “The current task orders do not provide any specific information regarding what type of training is required or any measurement of acceptability. …Additionally, the current contract does not include any measurement of contractor performance.”
– Oversight of invoices and receipts submitted by the contractor was virtually non-existent.
– The description of the State department’s seven-member oversight team as “in country” is “misleading.” Only three of the seven “in-country” State Department officials officially in charge of overseeing DynCorp contract were based in Afghanistan. (Three were U.S-based and the seventh worked on an entirely different contract.) Indeed some $675 million had been approved for spending as of early 2008, without any evidence of an in-country supervisor actually present in Afghanistan. The report questioned how “performing product and service inspection, accepting work on behalf of the Government, and maintaining inventory lists of Government-furnished property” could be even possible without “a physical presence at the place of performance.”
– Much of the equipment provided by the U.S. for training had gone missing. During site visits to three police training centers in Bamiyan, Herat, and Kandahar, the inspectors randomly selected 123 items from an inventory list of vehicles, weapons and electronics, but could only locate 34. In Kandahar, nine “sensitive items” — pistols, rifles, and scopes — could not be located. A subsequent check at DynCorp’s headquarters in Kabul, showed that the weapons were signed out by company personnel. Of 89 non-sensitive items, only two could be located. The Kandahar site coordinator explained that the list was inaccurate and out-of-date.
– Money, too, was unaccounted for or misappropriated: Inspectors quoted a preliminary audit that identified $322 million in invoices for the State department’s global police training program that were approved “even though they were not allowable, allocable, or reasonable.” Roughly 50 percent of the approved invoices that the inspectors reviewed had errors. The inspectors general recommended that the State Department should return a “minimum” of $80 million from the Afghanistan budget to the Pentagon.
Curiously the company has also recently taken aim at its paymasters, stating that the lack of oversight in the field impeded the contractor. At a December hearing of the Congressionally mandated Commission on Wartime Contracting, Donald Ryder, program manager for the DynCorp’s Afghanistan police program, told commissioners: “It is impractical for the contracting officer to oversee, monitor, and direct a contract from a location in the US, many time zones away from the work, without a visceral understanding of combat conditions.”
Douglas Ebner, a company spokesman, emailed CorpWatch to say that DynCorp “welcome[d] the emphasis on oversight and accountability,” and that its inventory system had been approved by the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA). “Sensitive items are inventoried and documented on a monthly basis. The audit report notes that sensitive items in fact were accounted for as being properly signed out by contractor personnel,” wrote Ebner.
The State department acknowledges many of the problems with oversight. “We agree with report recommendations to station more contracting officer representatives in country for oversight and are moving forward,” said Susan R. Pittman, a State Department spokesperson. The State Department, she added, was developing “standard operating procedures [specifically] identifying duties and responsibilities” for the oversight officials.
But Pittman took issue with the inspector general conclusion that there was an $80 million over-charge, noting that the State Department was conducting an audit to determine “how much we can return.”
Even if it turns out that the U.S. does not have to pay the overcharge, “in the long run,” Nick Arntson told CorpWatch. “they should still have the documents to show where the $80 million went.”
Yet the report on Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs’s (INL) failures in Afghanistan is not unprecedented. In January, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), came out with an equally critical report about how the agency had failed to properly oversee a $2.5 billion contract with DynCorp to conduct police training in Iraq beginning in 2004.
SIGIR says it has “no confidence in the accuracy of payments of more than $1bn to DynCorp” during the early stages of the contract. “Poor contract management which plagued the early years of the contract” have largely continued because the bureau’s initiatives to improve performance have “fallen short.”
Just as in Afghanistan, the SIGIR report documented that INL paid DynCorp for questionable work. In Iraq, a DynCorp security team got $4.54 million per year to protect six prison instructors even though the instructors already had another security team that cost just $546,000 per year. INL also paid seven times more than the U.S. embassy did to lease facilities for DynCorp.
INL chief David Johnson called the SIGIR’s key findings “unfounded.”
While the inspectors general have criticized the lack of State Department oversight, they have not found fault with DynCorp. “Based on what the contract stated, we saw no problem with the contractor,” report co-author Arntson told CorpWatch.
Yet, if the measures used to track the capabilities of the Afghan police are any guide, the contract has not been a resounding success.
All told, as of December 31, 2009:
– the Afghan National Police had on its rolls 94,958 personnel organized into 365 police districts, but only about one quarter have actually completed formal training, according to Pentagon records.
– Just 17 percent of the 64 police districts reviewed by the inspectors general had sufficient equipment and were capable of conducting law enforcement operations by themselves.
–Half of the police districts were classified as “present in geographic location” with up to a level of 69 percent of equipment and personnel and “partially capable of conducting law enforcement with coalition support.”
And recent statistics appear to show that the success rate is sliding backward, despite a March 2009 promise by the Obama administration to devote more resources to standing up the Afghan security forces. This poor record bodes ill for Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who has been asking for permission to expand the police force to 160,000.
Figures tucked away in a January 2010 Special Inspector General for Afgahnistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report, for example, displayed some alarming trends.
–A review that covered 97 police districts, assessed just 12 percent as capable of independent operations.
–Between the third and fourth quarter of 2009, the number of police districts that were considered incapable of conducting law enforcement operations, rose from 13 to 21 percent.
–Making matters worse, a quarter of the trainees quit every year, according to official statistics. Thus, if recruitment and training were to stop tomorrow, Afghanistan would have virtually no police force left in five years.
Battle of the agencies
Also unstated in the report is a fierce clash between the State Department
– a civilian agency that deals with the complexities of foreign relations and long-term economic development, and a Pentagon that sees enemy targets everywhere and believes in short-term counter-insurgency style change.
While this philosophical conflict between U.S. government agencies is long-standing, it spilled into the open when the U.S. invaded Iraq. The Coalition Provisional Authority, staffed partially by State Department officials, commissioned dozens of huge, corruption-riddled projects in 2003 and 2004 that were abject failures, including a very similar police training program run by DynCorp. Eventually, under orders from Gen. David Petraueus the Pentagon took charge of police training as well as all reconstruction projects in Iraq.
Today, the same is about to happen with the Afghanistan police training project. The State Department and DynCorp have been given an extra two months to wrap up work, at which point full control will revert to the newly-created NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan run by Lieut. Gen. William Caldwell IV, a West Point classmate of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, under orders from Petraeus.
“This was based on a mutual recognition by the two departments that the lack of a single, unified chain of command for police training had resulted in confusion and unnecessary delays in modifying and implementing the program,” Kenneth P. Moorefield, assistant inspector general for Special Plans & Operations for the Global War on Terror and Southwest Asia at the Pentagon told the December meeting of the Commission on Wartime Contracting.
DynCorp is not being considered for a new billion dollar training contract by the Pentagon office in charge — the Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office (CNTPO) in Dahlgren, Virginia. Instead CNTPO plans to select from five pre-approved vendors: Xe (formerly Blackwater), Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and ARINC Engineering Services.
DynCorp is not taking this exclusion lying down. The company has filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office, alleging that the approach is “procedurally and legally flawed.” A decision is expected by March 24, 2010.
Ryder continues to insists that DynCorp is the most qualified to do police training. “[N]either our military nor European National police were formed or trained to teach basic law enforcement skills,” he told the Commission on Wartime Contracting. “At DynCorp International we do not build satellites. We do not design aircraft. We do training and mentoring. That is our core competency — and this competency is represented in the DNA of our 30,000 employees worldwide.”
Others disagee. “DynCorp and INL squandered six years of training by focusing on quantity and neglecting quality, especially the quality of leaders, who are much harder to produce than rank-and-file policemen,” wrote Mark Moyar, professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Marine Corps University in The Daily Beast, after a visit to Afghanistan last month. “DynCorp and INL were supposed to have turned over all police training to the NATO training mission by now, but the transition has been suspended by an appeal from DynCorp. The suspension threatens to set the training effort back by months, if not years.”
* This article was produced in partnership with Inter Press Service News Agency. Pratap Chatterjee may be reached at “firstname.lastname@example.org”
A German waste disposal company working with troops in Afghanistan is under investigation by NATO for illegal activities, including drug smuggling, state NDR radio reported Friday.
Egon Ramms, a four-star general heading a NATO command, told the radio station there was a ‘danger that possibly drugs, or similar things, have been smuggled’ and showed the broadcaster documents linking the company to organized crime.
Dusseldorf-based Ecolog AG, one of several companies owned by an influential Macedonian-Albanian family, rejected the allegations.
A German interior ministry spokesman would not confirm or deny the allegations, but said Germany’s military would not approve of such activities.
Ramms said Nato was currently checking two active contracts, to see, ‘whether Ecolog is still a suitable business partner for us.’
The general told NDR that Ecolog has been working for Nato since 2003. The service provider is reportedly running a laundry service, delivering diesel and disposing of rubbish at several Afghan ISAF bases, including Kabul military airport and the ISAF headquarters.
The investigation was reportedly launched after similar charges emerged from NATO’s Kosovo mission, KFOR.
February 27, 2010 — Ms Sparky
The long awaited announcement of the first LOGCAP IV task order to be awarded in Iraq has been made.
KBR has been awarded Task Order 2 under KBR’s LOGCAP IV contract W52P1J-07-D-0009 for the Iraq CTP (Corp Logistics/Transportation/Postal) effort in the amount of $2.345B.
Work is to begin under this Task Order on March 1, 2010.
Interesting…just four days ago KBR received a ZERO award fee for unsatisfactory work and is now awarded a $2.3B contract. Is anyone else gong “What the hell?”
For a list of other LOGCAP IV Task Order awards click HERE
As the military death toll in Afghanistan nears one thousand, T. Christian Miller reports on the sad plight of the non-soldiers who support our troops there.
by T Christian Miller at The Daily Beast
REDDING, Calif. — Wade Dill does not figure into the toll of war dead. An exterminator, Dill took a job in Iraq for a company contracted to do pest control on military bases. There, he found himself killing disease-carrying flies and rabid dogs, dodging mortars and huddling in bomb shelters.
Dill, a Marine Corps veteran, was a different man when he came back for visits here, his family said: moody, isolated, morose. He screamed at his wife and daughter. His weight dropped. Dark circles haunted his dark brown eyes.
Three weeks after he returned home for good, Dill booked a room in an anonymous three-story motel alongside Interstate 5. There, on July 16, 2006, he shot himself in the head with a 9 mm handgun. He left a suicide note for his wife and a picture for his daughter, then 16. The caption read: “I did exist and I loved you.”
More than three years later, Dill’s loved ones are still reeling, their pain compounded by a drawn-out battle with an insurance company over death benefits from the suicide. Barb Dill, 47, nearly lost the family’s home to foreclosure. “We’re circling the drain,” she said.
While suicide among soldiers has been a focus of Congress and the public, relatively little attention has been paid to the mental health of tens of thousands of civilian contractors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. When they make the news at all, contractors are usually in the middle of scandal, depicted as cowboys, wastrels or worse.
No agency tracks how many civilian workers have killed themselves after returning from the war zones. A small study in 2007 found that 24 percent of contract employees from DynCorp, a defense contractor, showed signs of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after returning home. The figure is roughly equivalent to those found in studies of returning soldiers.
If the pattern holds true on a broad scale, thousands of such workers may be suffering from mental trauma, said Paul Brand, the CEO of Mission Critical Psychological Services, a firm that provides counseling to war zone civilians. More than 200,000 civilians work in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the most recent figures.
“There are many people falling through the cracks, and there are few mechanisms in place to support these individuals,” said Brand, who conducted the study while working at DynCorp.”There’s a moral obligation that’s being overlooked. Can the government really send people to a war zone and neglect their responsibility to attend to their emotional needs after the fact?”
The survivors of civilians who have committed suicide have found themselves confused, frustrated and alone in their grief.
“If I was in the military, I’d at least have someone to talk to,” said Melissa Finkenbinder, 42, whose husband, Kert, a mechanic, killed himself after returning from Iraq. “Contractors don’t have anything. Their families don’t have anything.”
Some families of civilian contractors who have committed suicide have tried to battle for help through an outdated government system designed to provide health insurance and death benefits to civilian contractors injured or killed on the job.
Under the system, required by a law known as the Defense Base Act, defense firms must purchase workers’ compensation insurance for their employees in war zones. It is highly specialized and expensive insurance, dominated by the troubled giant AIG and a handful of other companies. The cost of it is paid by taxpayers as part of the contract price.
If the pattern holds true on a broad scale, thousands of war zone workers may be suffering from mental trauma, said Paul Brand, the CEO of Mission Critical Psychological Services, a firm which provides counseling to war zone civilians.
But the law, which is designed to provide coverage for accidental death and injury, blocks payment of death benefits in the case of almost all suicides. Cases linked to mental incapacity are the lone exception, judges have ruled.
A joint investigation last year by ProPublica, ABC News and the Los Angeles Times revealed that contract workers must frequently battle carriers for basic medical coverage. While Congress has promised reforms, there has been no discussion of changing the law when it comes to suicides involving civilian defense workers.
The military, by contrast, allows survivors to receive benefits in cases in which a soldier’s suicide can be linked to depression caused by battlefield stress.
Hundreds of soldiers have committed suicide since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, according to studies by the Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In response, the Defense Department has become more active in trying to prevent suicide than its hired contractors, military experts said.
The military is “aggressively trying to reach people and do intervention beforehand and set up suicide awareness programs,” said Ian de Planque, a benefits expert at the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group. “Awareness of it has increased. I don’t know that it’s transferred over to the civilian sector at this point.”
Birgitt Eysselinck has spent years trying to prove that her husband’s death in Iraq was related to stress from his job with a company specializing in the removal of land mines and explosive ordnance. So far, courts have sided with the insurance firm, Chicago-based CNA, in denying Eysselinck’s claim. (CNA declined to comment, citing privacy reasons.)
Eysselinck, 44, said that neither federal judges nor insurance adjusters understand that civilian contractors face many of the same risks in Iraq and Afghanistan that soldiers do. Her husband, Tim Eysselinck, endured mortar attacks and frequently traveled across Iraq’s dangerous highways, she said.
“There is a huge percentage of contractors who are silently suffering,” Eysselinck said. “That obviously puts them and their families at risk. Communities are bearing the brunt of this, especially the families.”
Wade Dill was working at a local pest control company when he decided to take a job with KBR in Iraq in late 2004. The money was good—almost $11,000 a month for handling extermination and hazardous material disposal, more than double his normal salary.
“He said this was our opportunity,” Barb Dill said. “He could start a college fund for our daughter, pay off the mortgage and have a nice retirement. He told me at his age, 41, he didn’t know if he had enough years left in him to give us what he wanted.”
Wade started that December, working on bases in central and northern Iraq. Violence was ever present. A base near Mosul was shelled frequently. He told Barb that a mortar landed close enough to temporarily deafen him. Once, he called her sobbing.
My husband never cried, ever,” she said. “Marines don’t cry. A young man, a soldier, had put a pistol to his head and blown his brains out. And Wade had to go in and clean up after they removed the body—he had to clean up brain matter and blood. It really upset him.”
Barb Dill noticed a change in her husband when he returned home for a visit in December 2005. The couple had been high school sweethearts, married for 15 years. They had troubles, but had always worked them out. Now, he seemed moody and often angry, lashing out at her and their daughter, Sara.
“He would say hateful things to me and our daughter—things he had never said before.” Dill said. “This was a man that loved his little girl and his wife. He always called us his girls.”
When Wade returned for another visit in June 2006, he abruptly quit his job and began acting erratically, Dill said. He ripped the wiring out of appliances, smashed mirrors and poured lighter fluid on their furniture.
After a few weeks, Wade took a room at a local motel. On July 15, he asked Barb to come see him. Their conversation spiraled into a confrontation. Frightened and angry, Barb sped off in her car. The next day, the Shasta County coroner’s office called to tell her that Wade’s body had been found in the room.
“He told me that he was sick and needed help,” Dill said. “I told him to get help and then we would talk. The last time I saw him was in my rearview mirror.”
Dill soon found herself in financial difficulty. Her husband had always taken care of the bills. He had spent lavishly with his higher salary, buying two BMWs during trips home. Now, Dill discovered the couple was $300,000 in debt on their mortgage and car loans.
She plunged into depression, struggling to cope with her daughter’s grief and the sense that she had failed her husband in his time of need. She sold the cars and nearly lost her home after falling behind on mortgage payments.
She suffered mostly by herself. Except for a handful of Web sites, no support groups exist for widows of civilian contractors. The federal government offers no counseling for civilians returning from work in war zones.
Dill said that she felt abandoned by everyone: her husband’s employer, the insurance company and especially the federal government, which oversees the Defense Base Act system through the Labor Department.
“Shouldn’t our government be responsible for the companies they hire?” Dill said. “Shouldn’t our government take care of its own people, who are doing jobs our government, ultimately, wanted them to do?”
Survivors of civilian contractors whose death is related to their work in Iraq have the right to apply for compensation benefits that pay up to $63,000 a year for life.
Dill applied, asserting that her husband’s PTSD made him an exception to the rule against payments in suicide cases. Her claim was denied by AIG, KBR’s insurance provider.
She protested, sending her claim into a dispute resolution system run by the Labor Department. Her case is still grinding its way through the system, which can take years to produce a final result.
Experts hired by the family and the insurance company differed on what led to Wade Dill’s suicide.
psychiatrist hired by her attorney found that job stress in Iraq was one of the factors that drove Wade to suicide: “The bottom line is that the combination of physical separation and work-related stress resulted in increasingly emotional distance, greater distortion of the relationship, increasing emotional intensity, and a pattern of increasing erratic behaviors that culminated in suicide,” wrote Charles Seaman, an expert in PTSD.
A Labor Department examiner recommended that AIG pay the claim, but the company refused. AIG and KBR declined comment about the case. In court filings, AIG has argued that the Defense Base Act does not cover suicides.
AIG attorneys also have said that Wade Dill’s actions were related to marital and family problems. A psychiatrist hired by AIG testified at a hearing in San Francisco in January that he had performed a “psychological autopsy” on Wade Dill based on interviews with his family and court documents.
The psychiatrist, Andrew D. Whyman, said his evaluation led him to conclude that Dill suffered from depression and that his suicide was unrelated to the violence he witnessed in Iraq.
“Take out the Iraq experience, (the suicide) would have happened,” Whyman testified. “He had a choice. … He could have chosen not to do that.”
Barb Dill insists her husband came back from Iraq a changed man.
“No matter how strained our relationship could get at times, we always pulled out of it with no problem,” Dill said. “Iraq changed all that.”
Now, she said, she is trying to hold her life together. A final decision in her case is not expected for months.
“We’re just slowly sinking,” she said. “It’s hard to be strong.”
T. Christian Miller is a senior reporter for ProPublica. He reported for the Los Angeles Times from 1997-2008. He won the 2010 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting for his work on insurance coverage for defense contractors deployed in war zones. Miller is the author of Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq. “For more information on contract workers killed and injured in war zones, please visit www.propublica.org/contractors”
Former officials familiar with the deal say that Blackwater is likely to get a Defense Department-issued contract worth several hundred million dollars to train and mentor the Afghan police.
The police training contract, known as TORP 150, is supposed to be decided next month, and the company has not been officially notified that it will get it. But the only competing bid for the police training contract, submitted by Northrup with MPRI, has been disqualified, a former official knowledgeable about the contract said.
We have no knowledge that the contract will be awarded to us, Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Blackwater, now known as Xe, told POLITICO Thursday.
Lockheed, meantime, is likely to be awarded an associated logistics contract to support the Afghanistan police training effort (a contract known as TORP 166), for which Blackwater also bid, the former officials said.
While a Blackwater subsidiary’s activities in Afghanistan were the subject of a scathing hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, U.S. Central Command and top U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal are said to be very happy with Blackwater’s work in Afghanistan, the former official familiar with the contracting deal told POLITICO. Blackwater has contracts to do intelligence support, counter-narcotics support with the Drug Enforcement Agency, and Afghan border security work, with which Centcom has been pleased, the former official said.
So Gen. McChrystal has pushed for the Defense Department to issue the Afghan police training contract, rather than the State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement bureau (INL), the former official said. The DoD has five “primes” — companies eligible to bid on contracts in Afghanistan: Raytheon, Lockheed, Northrup, Arinc (owned by Carlyle), and Blackwater.
Of those five, only Blackwater bid for both Afghan police training contract components — the training/mentoring and the logistics. Its only competitor for the police training and mentoring contract, Northrup with MPRI, was disqualified, the former official said. Its only competitor for the logistics contract is Lockheed. The source said the Army had Lockheed re-write and re-submit its proposal to make it more suited to receive the logistics contract.
DynCorp International, a Falls Church, Va.-based defense contractor, has filed a protest that only the five DoD “primes” were made eligible to bid for the Afghanistan police training contract, the Huffington Post Investigative Fund’s Christine Spolar reported this week. (DynCorp itself is in the process of being made a “prime,” the sources said.)
Meantime, DynCorp got some good news on the Afghan contract front. Last week, it beat out MPRI to win a $232.4 million contract to train and mentor Afghan Ministry of Defense forces.
The contract was issued by the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. Of note: that on DynCorp’s board is retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker, former U.S. Army chief of staff. Also on the DynCorp board, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who recently wrote an Afghanistan assessment commissioned by Centcom commander Gen. David Petraeus. Among McCaffrey’s findings, lavish praise for the military brilliance of Petraeus and McChrystal, and that there would be no meaningful civilian “surge” to Afghanistan.
The former official who spoke to POLITICO about the police training contracts, who is not associated with MPRI, said that MPRI is widely considered to have more experience doing military training and said that MPRI’s bid came in at 25 percent less the cost of DynCorp’s.
Congressional sources said they were not yet aware of the Afghan police training contract award. But yesterday, Sen. Carl Levin (D.-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, slammed the activities of a Blackwater “shell” company in Afghanistan — Paravant — for its “reckless use of weapons, its disregard for the rules governing the acquisition of weapons” and lack of vetting resulting “in those weapons being placed in the hands of people who never should have possessed them,” POLITICO’s Marin Cogan reported.
By AUGUST COLE
Military contractors in Afghanistan affiliated with the security company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide regularly carried unauthorized weapons and engaged in “reckless” behavior that included the accidental shooting of a fellow contractor, a Senate investigation has found.
Investigators from the Senate Armed Services Committee also found weak oversight by the U.S. Army and Raytheon Co., which had hired the contractors from Paravant LLC to train Afghan forces. Paravant was a special unit set up by Blackwater to work for Raytheon on the contract.
The problems reveal a potential weak link in the Obama administration’s strategy to build up Afghan forces to secure the country, an approach that relies heavily on defense firms to conduct training missions that are difficult to oversee and often dangerous. It also reveals the risk big defense companies, such as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp., court as they consider whether to bid on what will amount to billions of dollars in future training contracts in war zones in the coming years. Xe Services LLC, which is the new name for the parent company of Blackwater Worldwide, is continuing to vie for such work.
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.) said misconduct by contractors in Afghanistan undermines U.S. efforts there. The Defense Department and civilian agencies are intent on winning over the Afghan populace to help stabilize the war-ravaged country. “If we are going to win that struggle we need to know that our contractor personnel are adequately screened, supervised, and held accountable, because in the end the Afghan people will hold us responsible for their actions,” said Mr. Levin at a briefing with reporters ahead of a Senate hearing Wednesday on the Paravant contract.
The Justice Department indicted two former military trainers working for Paravant in January for their alleged role in a May 2009 shooting in Kabul that left two Afghan civilians dead and another injured. The men were charged with second-degree murder, attempted murder and weapons charges. The men have said they acted in self-defense after a traffic accident.
In a statement, Xe said the company’s new management, brought in early last year, “was taking steps to address shortcomings in the Paravant program” at the time of the May 2009 incident. Xe also said that Raytheon and the Defense Department knew that Paravant contractors carried unauthorized weapons, and said they shouldn’t have been doing so without official approval, which was being sought. The two contractors involved in the May shooting “clearly violated clear company policies,” Xe said.
Prior to that incident, Senate investigators uncovered a December 2008 shooting that involved a senior Paravant trainer accidentally shooting a colleague during an impromptu practice session of firing assault rifles from moving vehicles. A Paravant executive wrote in a memo after the incident that “everyone on the team showed poor judgment.” There were about 72 trainers on the contract, but it was frequently undermanned, according to committee staffers. The Army was notified of the incident by Raytheon, but didn’t investigate it.
The trainers were not authorized to carry weapons. Yet Blackwater contractors had already taken hundreds of AK-47 rifles from a supply intended for use by the Afghan National Police, which was also where the Paravant trainers acquired their assault rifles, according to committee staffers. The company has yet to account for all of the weapons it removed from the depot, they said.
In September 2008, more than 200 assault rifles guns were signed out to “Eric Cartman,” which is the name of a character on the animated television show “South Park.” The company said it had no contractors by that name, according to committee staffers.
Mr. Levin was particularly critical of the companies, as well as the Army. He said of Raytheon’s supervision of Paravant: “They weren’t minding the shop at all.”
Raytheon declined to comment ahead of the hearing.
According to the committee, the Paravant subcontract was valued at about $20 million over two years as part of Raytheon’s approximately $11 billion U.S. Army training contract that stretches over 10 years.
Raytheon replaced Paravant with MPRI, a unit of L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., last year.
A spokesman for the U.S. Army office overseeing the training program declined to comment ahead of the hearing.
Mr. Levin was especially critical of Blackwater, who he said “misrepresented the facts” during the committee’s investigation and who he accused of operating with “carelessness and recklessness” in Afghanistan.
Raytheon and Xe executives are expected to appear as witnesses at Wednesday’s hearing.
he Army broke federal procurement rules in 2004, when two commanding generals improperly directed a contracting officer to pay millions of dollars in fees to KBR Inc., according to a report released on Monday by the Defense Department inspector general.
Under the Federal Acquisition Regulation, the Army Sustainment Command should have withheld 15 percent of its payments to KBR under a cost-reimbursement task order through the massive Logistics Civil Augmentation Program III, because terms and price had not been finalized.
But when a contracting officer tried to withhold the funds, she was overruled by Army leaders who said KBR warned the move could hurt battlefield operations.
“The decision to postpone enforcement of the clause was influenced by contractor claims that withholding of funds might adversely affect vital support services provided to the troops,” the IG report said. “ASC’s failure to enforce the clause from inception of the contract and develop a contingency plan for obtaining LOGCAP III services from other sources put the government at significant risk of overpayment.”
In its written response, the Army disagreed with many of the report’s conclusions, noting that the service had legal authority to suspend the withholding of funds and that top officials, including the assistant Army secretary, agreed with the decision.
“The review also fails to recognize that LOGCAP III is the contingency contract for use by the Army during times of crisis to ensure continuation of essential services,” said Teresa Gerton, the Army’s acting executive deputy to the commanding general.
KBR officials said they still are reviewing the report and aren’t in a position to comment specifically.
Many of the key findings outlined in the report, which was requested by the Senate Armed Services Committee, are not new. But the report does shed light on the timeline of events leading up to the controversial payments to Houston-based KBR, the largest contractor in Iraq.
The Army Sustainment Command awarded the 10-year sole-source LOGCAP III contract in December 2001. KBR was responsible for providing support services such as fuel, food, water and shelter to troops. The firm still operates exclusively in Iraq under the LOGCAP contract, although the Army is planning to compete the work among three firms. The service already has awarded task orders under the revamped LOGCAP IV contract for Kuwait and Afghanistan.
During the initial years of the Iraq war, the Army depended almost exclusively on the former Halliburton subsidiary to take care of troops in theater. And to meet urgent operational needs the Army frequently authorized KBR to begin work before individual task orders were set in stone.
Although “undefinitized” task orders allow contractors to begin work earlier, investigators said they carry major risks to the government. To reduce those risks, the FAR mandates that no more than 85 percent of fees can be paid to a contractor on a reimbursement contract until the terms are finalized.
It was not until February 2004 — more than three years after awarding the contract — that the Army discovered it had failed to comply with the 15 percent rule. After some initial delays, the contracting officer moved to correct the mistake and withhold future funds.
KBR opposed the decision and lobbied the Army to reverse it, saying it would cost the company $60 million per month, the IG report said.
“The contractor warned the Army that it would pass the withholding of funds to its subcontractors, which could cause a severe disruption of vital support services provided to the troops,” the report said. “Two officials, one from ASC and one from the Army Materiel Command, testified that a contractor representative had even threatened to initiate a lawsuit against them personally as well as the Army over any withholding of funds.”
While officials at the Defense Contract Audit Agency and the Defense Contract Management Agency dismissed KBR’s claims of financial hardship, the Army apparently took the company’s threats seriously. ASC leadership began expressing concern that imposing the clause “could seriously jeopardize battlefield operations,” the report said.
After postponing enforcement of the clause for several months in 2004, the Army eventually asked the director of defense procurement and acquisition policy to grant a waiver that would allow them to reimburse KBR for all allowable costs.
But the request lacked key information, such as proof that the Army had considered alternatives in obtaining the LOGCAP III services, the report said. Nonetheless the waiver was granted in February 2005.
“We are not questioning the consequences that might have occurred if the LOGCAP contractor was unable to financially support the Army,” the report said. “We previously stated the Army could not risk a significant disruption of LOGCAP III support services given the critical nature of those services. However, we do question why the Army cited some of the contractor’s financial hardship claims without verifying them.”
The IG also found there was not enough evidence to prove that the Army reassigned Charles Smith, the former chief of the Field Support Contracting Division for the then-Army Field Support Command, because he supported the 15 percent hold.
Smith told a congressional panel in 2008 that he was verbally attacked by then-Brig. Gen. Jerome Johnson, the head of the Army Sustainment Command who later relieved Smith of his duties, at KBR’s offices in June 2004. Smith said he was then told to draft a letter to KBR that would not implement the 15 percent hold.
But the IG said it appeared that the Army wanted to go in a new direction with the LOGCAP contract and that the 15 percent withholding dispute likely was not a primary factor in his reassignment.
Let’s concede the obvious; the U.S. military cannot function, either in peacetime or wartime, without heavy dependence on private contractors.
Let’s also acknowledge another fact; namely, that this situation is not going to change anytime soon.
So rather than engage in futile debates about getting rid of such dependence we should be focusing on solving problems in the current government-contractor relationship. At this point in time it should be uncontroversial for both supporters and critics of private contractors to say that they have done many things well and some things not so well. After all, as the saying goes, only God is perfect and the last time I checked nobody was saying private contractors were the Supreme Deity.
With that in mind let’s take a look at a just released report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq (SIGIR).
This report, titled “Applying Iraq’s Hard Lessons to the Reform of Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations” elaborates on the key conclusions of its February, 2009, lessons-learned report “Hard Lessons: The Story of Iraq Reconstruction.”
The report contains a number of specific recommendations, including one to establish a new entity that would be accountable for planning and executing stability and reconstruction operations (SRO). Private military contractors have long claimed that they can bring unique expertise and experience to such an area. Certainly, ongoing relief efforts in Haiti give them the latest opportunity to make their case.
Looking at private contractors past performance in Iraq the SIGIR report notes past
Regardless of incentives, federal civilians will not be available in sufficient numbers to ensure an adequate civilian workforce for future SROs. Contractors thus will continue to fill essential roles. Given this reality, the U.S. government should better prepare to deploy qualified and properly overseen contractors from the outset of an SRO. (p. 17)
Thus, we can’t do without contractors but government is not yet where it should be in terms of being able to do proper oversight of them. In case that is not clear enough the report says in the very next paragraph:
SIGIR’s reports repeatedly documented contingency contracting weaknesses in Iraq, from poor compliance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to ad hoc oversight systems that could not keep track of contracts. SIGIR found contracting entities that improvised systems and procedures to monitor contracts, and produced poor and incomplete contracting and procurement histories. These weaknesses led to fraud, waste, and abuse. As Secretary Gates aptly observed, “Contracting in Iraq was done willy-nilly.” The Commission on Wartime Contracting underscored this point, noting that the “weaknesses in the federal contract management and oversight systems created plentiful opportunities for fraud, waste, and abuse.”
That is a noteworthy statement, considering how often private military companies which get in trouble claim they follow all the provisions in the FAR.
Why does government do such a lousy job on contracting oversight? The answer has long been obvious and it has nothing to do with Dick Cheney and Halliburton conspiracies.
One of the chief causes of the contracting problems in Iraq stemmed from a decision that far pre-dated the invasion. During the 1990s, the Army reduced its acquisition workforce by 25 percent, while, during the same period, its contracting actions increased sevenfold. This left the Army with a shortage of warranted contracting officers just when the largest overseas contracting program in U.S. history was beginning in 2003. (p. 18)
Of course, poor contractor oversight is not just a problem for the Defense Department
The State Department experienced unprecedented contracting burdens in Iraq. In 2000, State spent $1.2 billion on federal contracts, but, by 2005, its spending had risen to $5.3 billion, a jump of 332 percent. As Secretary Clinton noted, “Contractors are there to support, not supplant. USAID and the State Department must have the staff, the expertise, and the resources to design, implement and evaluate our programs.” State, however, does not currently have sufficient staff or systems to oversee its growing contracting responsibilities. (pp. 18-19)
Now, given all the years that people have been saying over and over and over again how important oversight is the following is going to shock even veteran observers:
Oversight is a critical core governmental function; but oversight of SROs has been an ad hoc process. Despite recognition that a convergence of hazardous conditions in SROs-including a cash environment, the desire for quick results, and unstable working conditions-create vulnerabilities for fraud, waste, and abuse; no permanent system for SRO oversight currently exists. The U.S. government began spending huge sums of money in Iraq in 2003 without sufficient accounting processes in place. The significant fraud, waste, and abuse that ensued might have been deterred or detected had there been a robust oversight capability in place from the outset. In 2003, the Congress created an office of inspector general to oversee the CPA’s [Coalition Provisional Authority] activities. This office became SIGIR in 2004, with the Congress gradually extending its mandate to include oversight of all U.S.-funded Iraq reconstruction activities. By contrast, no Special Inspector General was created for Afghanistan until 2008-$38 billion and seven years into the program.
What does SIGIR think should be done? It says the “challenges inherent in operating in SRO environments, the specialized nature of contingency contracting, and the sheer number of programs and projects requiring review militate in favor of creating a single standing oversight capability for all SROs. Because these contingency operations are necessarily interagency enterprises, the body charged with overseeing them should possess a mandate enabling it to audit, inspect, evaluate, and investigate programs and projects conducted by any agency present in theater.”
Specifically it calls for the creation of a new office to manage SROs-the U.S. Office for Contingency Operations, which could significantly enhance SRO planning and execution.
SIGIR notes that::
The seven-year Iraq stabilization and reconstruction program-the largest ever undertaken by the United States-began without a sufficiently established management structure capable of executing the unprecedented effort. In mid-2003, the U.S. government undertook a massive reconstruction mission-much larger than planned and now exceeding $53 billion-with an ad hoc management system. Some projects met contract specifications, but the many unacceptable outcomes stemmed chiefly from the lack of a clear, continuing, and coherent management structure (as opposed to a paucity of resources or poor leadership). Hard experience has shown that the United States did not have the financial, personnel, information technology, or contracting systems in place necessary to execute what became the most extensive and most expensive SRO in history. It is thus not surprising that the Iraq program failed to achieve its goals. (p. 23).
Putting aside for now the larger issue of whether the U.S. should be engaging in SRO operations, which often is a euphemism for war and conflict, the lesson of the past twenty years is clear. The current government contracting relationship does not work nearly as well as it should.
To its credit private industry has often been very clear and articulate in saying just that. The SIGIR recommendation offers a possible way to improve the status quo. It will be interesting to see whether private industry steps up to the plate and offers its support to help make it happen.
The biggest portion of U.S. private military contractors has always been, by far, on the logistics, not the weapons bearing security side.
These contractors deliver fuel and supplies, construct bases, prepare meals at the DFAC (Dining Facility), clean laundry, provide interpreters, and a host of other unglamorous but vital jobs.
Most of the time they do it very well, under very difficult conditions. Many of their supporters herald this as an unprecedented achievement in American military history. Such a view has long been the sound bite for which Doug Brooks, head of the International Peace Operations Association, a leading industry trade group, is best known for, i.e., “We have the best supported, supplied military in any military operation in history.” Indeed, if you search online for Doug Brooks and that phrase you get 1,400,000 hits.
That is why this article in the Los Angeles Times earlier this week grabbed my attention. It described how numerous returning veterans have reported leukemia, lymphoma, congestive heart problems, neurological conditions, bronchitis, skin rashes and sleep disorders — all of which they attribute to burn pits on dozens of U.S. bases in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Items burned in the pits have included medical waste, plastics, computer parts, oil, lubricants, paint, tires and foam cups, according to soldiers and contractors.
The Pentagon operates at least 84 burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Rep.
Timothy H. Bishop (D-N.Y.), who cosponsored legislation last fall that prohibited burning hazardous and medical waste unless the military showed it had no alternative. The law also requires the Defense Department to justify burn pits, develop alternatives and improve medical monitoring.
What does this have to do with private military contractors? Well, simply put, military contractors burned nearly every bit of waste from military bases
Military leaders originally saw the pits as temporary, the simplest way to dispose of trash before troops quickly exited Iraq. But as the war continued, they burned because it saved money, according to subsequent lawsuits, allowing U.S. contractors to avoid having to install costly incinerators.
It is KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown & Root) which ran the pits. Last October a class action suit combining 22 lawsuits from 43 states was filed in US District Court in Maryland against KBR, Halliburton, and other military contractors for damages to health from open air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to plaintiffs’ lawyers KBR had been paid millions of dollars to safely dispose of waste on bases but negligently burned refuse in open pits, spewing toxins, including known carcinogens, into the air.
What was KBR’s defense? Earlier this month it sought to challenge its liability for any ensuing problems. According to KBR’s press fact sheet on the suit, the Army, not KBR, decides if a burn pit or an incinerator will be used, where it will be built in relation to living and working facilities, and what it can burn. KBR insists it was and is still just “performing under the direction and control of military commanders in the field.” In short, they were only following orders. Where have we heard that before?
Still, it is a blatant blemish on the otherwise often commendable performance of private contractors that it is still going on. I am sure that Doug Brooks and IPOA don’t think that increasing the risk that a returning veteran will contract lung cancer or cardiovascular disease is what they have in mind when they say the American military is the “best supported” in history.
I noted in a January post that an article published last fall in Military Law Review contests legal popular wisdom that the “political question doctrine” means that tort claim cases by military members and U.S. civilians injured in Iraq and Afghanistan must not proceed.
A more recent article “Revisiting and Revising the Political Question Doctrine: Lane v. Halliburton and the Need to Adopt a Case-Specific Political Question Analysis for Private Military Contractor Cases” in the Mississippi College Law Review examines Lane v. Halliburton, a decision handed down in the Fifth Circuit reversing three decisions by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas [KBR's corporate offices are in Houston] which dismissed as nonjusticiable [meaning not appropriate or proper for judicial consideration or resolution ] political questions three suits, brought by former employees of KBR and their survivors for injuries sustained as a result of the alleged negligence and fraud of KBR.
The article concludes:
The judiciary has returned to an earlier era and begun strongly favoring judicial review once again. After all, a majority of the Supreme Court has only found two cases that constitute a political question since Baker. The Court has not ruled on a PMC case, but the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Lane 2 falls in line with the re-emerging trend of favoring judicial review. The need for predictability in this area is great. In fact, one of the rationales for political question treatment in PMC cases – i.e. that adjudication would require judging the Executive branch’s policy of using military contractors, and thus would lead to the demise of PMCs – is actually undercut by a body of case law that is so unpredictable. It is generally understood that businesses prefer the known to the unknown, whether the known is good or bad, because it allows for proper planning.
KBR performance, or lack thereof, on the burn pits should be considered with respect to the argument that private military contractors make, namely that they are more efficient than the public sector counterparts. Efficiency in the free enterprise marketplace is, at least in part, based on competition. KBR has been and still is part of the Army’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP). But as Martha Minow wrote in the edited work Government by Contract: Outsourcing and American Democracy, published last year, there is no real competition for the initial award, and there is also a serious constraint on the effectiveness of subsequent monitoring because the government cannot afford to terminate the contract. Second, the private contractor’s employees cannot be fully monitored or controlled because they lie outside the hierarchical structure that is so central to military discipline, and are thus exempt from many of the rules that constrain military personnel. Third, legal and moral norms can never be fully imposed on private contractors because private firms lack the democratic accountability of public agencies.
by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica – February 18, 2010 1:08 pm EST
Falls Church, Va. — A former sheriff’s deputy from South Dakota named Tate Mallory got a medal for service to his country on Wednesday, but it didn’t get much attention.
There was no top military brass at the ceremony, no long line of politicians waiting to shake his hand. Instead, Mallory stood on a dais in an anonymous hotel room in suburban Washington, D.C., looking pleased and slightly embarrassed as he was handed a Defense of Freedom medal.
“I thought that if someone was going to get hurt, it was going to happen to somebody else,” he told the audience, which included friends, family, co-workers, State Department officials and representatives from a congressional office or two.
Mallory was a civilian contractor who worked for DynCorp , a large defense firm that helps train police in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in western Iraq in 2006, punching a hole in his gut. He almost bled to death until U.S. Marines saved him.
He is one of thousands of civilians whose deaths and injuries are not included in the Pentagon’s official list  (PDF) of casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A joint investigation  by ProPublica, ABC News and the Los Angeles Times found that injured civilian contractors routinely face drawn-out battles to get medical treatment paid for under a taxpayer-financed federal system known as the Defense Base Act.
The Labor Department, which tracks injuries to contract workers abroad, recently updated the tally : Since 2001, more than 1,700 civilian contractors have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and nearly 40,000 have been reported injured.
More than a hundred contract workers have been given the Defense of Freedom medal  (PDF), a Pentagon citation that is the civilian equivalent of the military’s Purple Heart. Still, it’s difficult to track who receives the medal, which was created by the Defense Department after 9/11. Typically, corporations such as DynCorp or Houston-based KBR  nominate their workers, with the Pentagon approving the final award. But there is no centralized record of recipients, nor are the award ceremonies  (PDF) usually publicized.
Several of those at Wednesday’s ceremony, which was sponsored by DynCorp, lamented the lack of attention. They noted that contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan usually get in the news for bad behavior — such as wasting taxpayer money or the killing of innocent civilians.
Ken Leonard, a former DynCorp employee who was also recognized for valor on Wednesday, said Americans are not always aware of the contribution made by civilian contractors at work in the war zones. Leonard had both legs amputated after being injured by a roadside bomb in 2005. After 18 months of surgeries and rehabilitation, he returned to work as a police officer in High Point, N.C. 
“I’d say there was a public misunderstanding. I was there to work with the military,” Leonard said. “There’s a perception that we’re all gun-crazy, trigger-happy cowboys. That’s not the case.”
Write to T. Christian Miller at T.Christian.Miller@propublica.org
The trial of a British security contractor accused of fatally shooting two colleagues has been postponed for a third time.
Danny Fitzsimons appeared briefly in an Iraqi court Thursday, only to be told to return on April 7.
It’s the third time the court hearings have been pushed back since Fitzsimons first appeared before a judge last November.
His lawyer, Tariq Harb, told The Associated Press that the latest delay was requested by the victims’ attorneys. It was not immediately clear why.
Fitzsimons is accused of shooting two colleagues, a Briton and an Australian, during a fight in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone last summer.
All three men were working for the British security firm ArmorGroup Iraq.
SEABROOK, Texas—A Seabrook resident who worked as a civilian defense contractor for a subsidiary of KBR in Iraq is going prison for possession of child pornography, officials announced Wednesday.
Michael Anthony Grabar, 44, was sentenced to 50 months in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender.
The charges against Grabar are the result of an investigation that began on May 2, 2008, in Fallujah, Iraq.
Officials at Camp Fallujah, a U.S. Marine Base, were notified about a thumb drive that was found in laundry at the camp’s laundry facility.
When KBR security officials viewed the contents in a bid to find the thumb drive’s owner, they said they found images of child pornography.
Other documents on the thumb drive identified Grabar as the owner.
KBR security officials searched Grabar’s quarters and seized computers and additional storage devices, which they turned over to agents with Naval Criminal Investigative Services.
Grabar was working as a forklift operator for a subsidiary of KBR at the time. After the images were found, he was fired and sent back to the U.S.
The seized media were sent to a lab in the U.S. for analysis. Officials said they found a total of approximately 500 pictures and 73 videos containing child pornography.
U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison said Grabar’s prison term will be followed by a life term of supervised release, in which Grabar will have to comply with a number of conditions intended to protect children and the general public.
Specifically, Grabar must participate in a sex offender treatment program, cannot work or reside within 100 feet of places primarily used by children, cannot have contact with persons under that age of 18 and cannot have Internet access. Original here
February 17, 2010, 4:10PM
A former Army sergeant turned civilian contractor from Georgia pleaded guilty today for his role in a far reaching, complex bid-rigging scheme that netted him $21 million and involved shell companies in Madison County, communicating in code with co-conspirators and overseas bank accounts.
Terry Hall, of Snellville, Ga., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to committ bribery and money laundering charges in Birmingham federal court. Prosecutors will seek the forfeiture of $15.8 million, a home in Florence and a $20,000 Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Hall was indicted last year along with Madison County Army Maj. Eddie Pressley and his wife, Eurica. The Pressleys are charged in connection with accepting $2.8 million in bribes from Hall.
In all, Hall admitted to paying more than $3 million in bribes to corrupt Army officials which led to his companies receiving $21 million from the Department of Defense between 2005 and 2007.
According to court records, Eddie Pressley arranged for Hall to receive a blanket purchase agreement. That means the Department of Defense agreed to pay a contractor a specified price for supplies as needed. Hall’s agreement called for him to supply bottled water and security fencing for the Army in Kuwait and Iraq.
The Halls are scheduled for trial on April 5. Original here