Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Hearings Reveal Lapses in Private Security in War Zones

By Pratap Chatterjee*

WASHINGTON, Jun 21, 2010 (IPS) – Jerry Torres, CEO of Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, has a motto: “For Torres, failure is not an option.” A former member of the Green Berets, one of the elite U.S. Army Special Forces, he was awarded “Executive of the Year” at the seventh annual “Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards” in November 2009.

On Monday, Torres, whose company provides translators and armed security guards in Iraq, was invited to testify before the Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC), a body created in early 2008 to investigate waste, fraud and abuse in military contracting services in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Torres was asked to testify about his failure to obtain the required clearances for “several hundred” Sierra Leonian armed security guards that he had dispatched to protect Forward Operating Base Shield, a U.S. military base in Baghdad, in January 2010.

Torres didn’t show up.

An empty chair at the witness table was placed ready for him together with a placard with his name on it next to those for representatives of three other companies working in Iraq – the London-based Aegis, and DynCorp and Triple Canopy, both Virginia-based companies.

“This commission was going to ask him, under oath, why his firm agreed in January to assume private security responsibilities at FOB Shield with several hundred guards that had not been properly vetted and approved,” said Michael Thibault, one of the co-chairs of the commission and a former deputy director of the Defence Contract Audit Agency.

“This commission was also going to ask Mr. Torres why he personally flew to Iraq, to FOB Shield, and strongly suggested that Torres AES be allowed to post the unapproved guards, guards that would protect American troops, and then to ‘catch-up the approval process’.”

Instead, a lawyer informed the commission staff that Torres was “nervous about appearing”.

The failure of a contractor to appear for an oversight hearing into lapses was just one example that the use of some 18,800 armed “private security contractors” in Iraq and another 23,700 in Afghanistan to protect convoys, diplomatic and other personnel, and military bases and other facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq was not working.

Blackwater’s new Afghan contract

Perhaps the most famous private military contractor in Afghanistan and Iraq – North Carolina-based Blackwater – was not invited to sit at the witness table either, despite the fact that the company had been the subject of several investigations into misconduct.

For example, in September 2007, security guards from North Carolina-based Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.

Blackwater staff have also been accused of killing other private security contractors – in December 2006, Andrew J. Moonen, was accused of killing a security guard of the Iraqi vice president, Adel Abdul Mahdi. And as recently as May 2009, four Blackwater contractors were accused of killing an Afghan on the Jalalabad road in Kabul.

Members of the commission noted with astonishment that the State Department had awarded Blackwater a 120-million-dollar contract to guard U.S. consulates in Heart and Mazar-i- Sharif in Afghanistan this past Friday.

Asked to explain why Blackwater was awarded the contract, Charlene R. Lamb, deputy assistant secretary for international programmes at the State Department, stated that the competitors for the contract – DynCorp and Triple Canopy – weren’t as qualified.

Yet Don Ryder of DynCorp and Ignacio Balderas of Triple Canopy testified that they were both qualified and able to do the contract. The two men said that they would consider lodging a formal protest at the State Department Tuesday after a de-briefing with the government.

The choice of Blackwater, which has been banned by the government of Iraq, left the commissioners with little doubt that the contract award system was flawed. “What does it take for poor contractual performance to result in contract termination or non-award of future contracts?” wondered Thibault.

Inherently Governmental

At a previous hearing of the commission last week, John Nagl, president of the Washington, DC-based Centre for a New American Security, submitted a report on the subject that explained why the government was turning to these companies: “Simple math illuminates a major reason for the rise of contractors: The U.S. military simply is not large enough to handle all of the missions assigned to it.”

Yet it appears that the government does not even have the oversight capability to police the companies that it has hired to fill the gap.

Some witnesses and experts said that by definition this work should not be handed out to private contractors in war zone.

“Private security contractors are authorised to use deadly force to protect American lives in a war zone and to me if anything is inherently governmental, it’s that,” said Commissioner Clark Kent Ervin, a former inspector general at both the State Department and the Homeland Security Department. “We don’t have a definitional problem, we have an acknowledgement of reality problem.”

Non-governmental expert Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), said: “It has become clear to POGO that the answer is yes, PSCs are performing inherently governmental functions. A number of jobs that are not necessarily inherently governmental in general become so when they are conducted in a combat zone. Any operations that are critical to the success of the U.S. government’s mission in a combat zone must be controlled by government personnel.”

*This article was produced in partnership with CorpWatch – http://www.corpwatch.org.

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, DynCorp, Iraq, NATO, Private Security Contractor, State Department, Triple Canopy | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taliban takes U.S. funds, report says


WASHINGTON — Taliban and Afghan warlords are extorting some of the $2.16 billion the Defense Department has paid to local contractors who transport food, water, ammunition and fuel to U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, according to a House investigation to be released Tuesday.

Trucking contractors say they pay as much as $150,000 a month to warlords in “protection” money, and investigators concluded that payments for safe passage are a significant source of Taliban funding, according to a report by the staff of Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., who heads the House national security and foreign affairs subcommittee.

In a letter to subcommittee members, Tierney criticized the Pentagon for a contract “that put responsibility for the security of vital U.S. supplies on contractors and their unaccountable security providers.”

He wrote, “This arrangement has fueled a vast protection racket run by a shadowy network of warlords, strongmen, commanders and corrupt Afghan officials, and perhaps others.” He said the payoffs violate the law and appear “to risk undermining the U.S. strategy for achieving its goals in Afghanistan.”

Defense Department officials are scheduled to discuss the findings with the subcommittee today. Cheryl Irwin, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the Defense Department is looking into the allegations.

Eight contractors control about 70% of the transportation business in Afghanistan and serve more than 200 U.S. military bases. They work with Afghan security contractors, who cut deals with warlords and the Taliban to allow convoys to pass, the report says.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., questioned the inquiry’s thoroughness, noting that the only record of the interviews is handwritten notes.

The report cites e-mails, interviews with contractors and other documents that indicate payoffs are part of doing business.

A program manager for one trucking company told subcommittee investigators that Commander Ruhullah, a warlord who works with a private security company and controls a critical stretch of road between the capital city of Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar, works closely with the Taliban. Ruhullah denied it.

The report said contractors repeatedly raised their concerns to the U.S. military about payoffs, sometimes as much as $15,000 per truck.

One contractor wrote to the Army unit overseeing trucking contractors, “I also believe that most involved in this contract knew that cash money is often the most effective security, but I do not think it was anticipated how the market would drive these prices and that cash security and special security forces would so often be the only option.”  Original here

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Pentagon | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

RELYANT gets demining contract

UPDATED

Relyant is only one of several companies who were awarded this IDIQ Contract though it does not say so here.

Formerly Critical Mission  Support Services

UPI Published: June 21, 2010 at 5:27 PM
MARYVILLE, Tenn., June 21 (UPI) — RELYANT LLC, a Tennessee firm providing strategic support services, won a contract (USACE) to help with mine clearance and unexploded ordnance disposal in Afghanistan.
The company expects to hire 200 additional people to work in Afghanistan and at its headquarters as a result of the award, which is worth $49 million.

The contract, it said, has two 1-year renewal option periods following the initial 1-year base period.

The United Nations says there are more than 10 million land mines and other explosive items littering Afghanistan, many of them from the period of Soviet occupation in the 1980s and the guerrilla war against the Soviets.

“RELYANT’s work under this contract will provide a safer environment for all stakeholders in the ongoing efforts to stabilize and rebuild the country,” the company said.

Other RELYANT services in Afghanistan include insulating troops housing on bases, escorting third-country nationals, life-support services for troops, convoy and secure trucking of supplies and vehicle maintenance.

In addition to offices in Tennessee, the company has presences in Iraq and Uganda  Original Here

Warning to prospective new employee’s and current as well:  If you are injured while working this contract your future will be in the hands of CNA the USACE’s DBA Insurance Company.  Your life will be a living hell.

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Contract Awards, Contracts Awarded, Demining | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DynCorp plans $455M debt sale

Washington Business Journal – by Jeff Clabaugh

Modified: Monday, June 21, 2010, 3:00pmFalls Church-based DynCorp International Inc., in the process of being acquired by Cerberus Capital Management LLP, says it will sell $455 million in new debt as part of the pending acquisition.

DynCorp will offer the debt in the form of seven-year senior notes. It plans to use the proceeds to refinance existing debt and finance costs associated with the Cerberus deal.

DynCorp (NYSE: DCP) agreed in April to be acquired by Cerberus for $1.5 billion in cash and stock. The merger is expected to close later this year.

DynCorps’s fiscal fourth-quarter net income was $24.5 million, up 27 percent from a year earlier. Revenue rose 31 percent to $1.06 billion, led by the acquisitions of Phoenix Consulting Group and Casals & Associates Inc., as well as new work in Afghanistan.  Original Here

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Civilian Police, Contractor Corruption, DynCorp | , , , | Leave a comment

South African man gets longer sentence

Erika Gibson, Beeld  News 24

Pretoria – A South African man who appealed against his five-year prison sentence in Afghanistan was given even worse news when his imprisonment was extended to 16 years.

Security specialist Philip Young was devastated by the news, his brother Pat Young said.

“My brother is dismayed, angry and frustrated.”

His brother was arrested in September last year when he shot dead an Afghan security guard who had threatened to shoot him and some of his other colleagues with an AK47.

Self defence

This was after the guard had already fired a shot into the ground from which shrapnel had hit Phil’s hand.

But the State felt Phil’s response in self-defence exceeded the actions of the security guard.

After the incident, Phil was arrested along with an Afghan colleague.

He was working as a security specialist for the American company Anham as part of the American government’s counternarcotics initiative in Afghanistan.

“We knew the appeal could go wrong. The prosecutor after all, in the beginning of the case, asked for the death penalty.

“He was extremely dissatisfied when Phil was only given five years on a lesser charge.

“He as well as my brother had to sign documents after sentencing in which they protested against the sentence.

“Now it would appear as if the State’s protest carried the most weight.

Hopes for presidential pardon

“This is not the end – we can also appeal in the high court – but I don’t know how long this process will take.”

Phil’s appeal was postponed six times without reason before it was suddenly heard on Wednesday.

Pat had earlier travelled to Afghanistan to gather facts for the case, precisely because the country’s legal system was chaotic and unpredictable.

He then established that certain key evidence was never handed in or witnesses weren’t found.

Pat hopes that a presidential pardon could help if they run out of legal options.

He has already sent a petition to Afghan President Hamid Kharzai on behalf of himself and his brothers’ three children, but has not heard anything back yet.

Please see this Call To Action at  Feral Jundi

Free South African Security Contractor Philip Young from Afghanistan Prison!

One operator said Phil Young had shot the Afghan guard in order to stop the bloodbath. According to the operator, the dead man’s brother was well-known in Taliban ranks. His family lived in a Taliban stronghold on the Pakistani border.

Trouble maker. The guard had apparently been a troublemaker for some time and was about to be fired. The six guards had apparently been conspiring for some time to kidnap or kill the foreigners on a certain day early in October. Young and the guards worked for the American company Anham, which is linked to the American government’s Counternarcotics Advisory Teams (CNAT), in Lakshar Gah. The Macedonian guard commander apparently knew of the plot but did nothing to stop it.

“Phil and some of his colleagues returned that day from a mission and when he saw the six in civilian clothes but armed with AK47s, he immediately suspected trouble,” said the operator. ”He confronted the men, upon which one aimed a weapon at Phil and fired a shot.” The shot missed Young and in self-defence, he fired three shots at the guard as he apparently realised that the lives of many of his colleagues would be in danger if all six of the men started firing at them. According to the operator, the central government in Afghanistan had rules and regulations for security guards, which stated that a person could fire back if he was being shot at.

*****

This makes me sick.  All of these contractors that I have posted lately who are currently imprisoned in Afghanistan, are at the mercy of a corrupt government and pathetic justice system.  Just look at the facts with Philip Young’s case?  He should be given a medal and not a prison sentence. From the sounds of it, his actions probably saved the lives of his fellow contractors on that day, and yet he is currently being jerked around by a pathetic justice system in Afghanistan.

So what can we do?  First, pass this around to everyone.  Second, write to the British Embassy in Kabul and let them know how you feel.  South Africa does not have diplomatic representation in Afghanistan, and the British government has agreed to help.  I say write the US Embassy as well, because what is going on with this man is just plain wrong. Thanks to Cassie for giving me the heads up on this. –Matt

Facebook for British Embassy in Kabul here.

Facebook for Philip Young here

Address: British Embassy, 15th Street Roundabout, Wazir Akbar Khan,PO Box: 334 Kabul, Afghanistan

Opening Hours: Sunday – Thursday  08:30  to 16:30

Telephone:  (93)  (0) 700 102 000 (Switchboard)

Fax:  (93)  (0) 700 102 250  (Management)

E-mail: BritishEmbassy.Kabul@fco.gov.uk

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Military Task Force Tackles Thorny Issue of Contractors in Afghanistan

Task Force 2010 Will Oversee Billions in Pentagon Contracts

By Spencer Ackerman 6/21/10 6:00 AM Washington Independent

It has an uncertain budget, a team of fewer than two dozen military officers and civilians, and barely a year to make its mark on counterinsurgency in Afghanistan before the U.S. begins its transfer of security responsibilities to Afghans. In that time, a new military task force will attempt to get a handle on one of the thorniest aspects of the way the U.S. military fights its wars: its relationship with the small army of contractors it hires for support.

The brainchild of Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and South Asia, and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the new task force in Afghanistan, known as Task Force 2010, will “follow the money,” as Petraeus testified to a Senate panel on Wednesday, to ensure that billions of dollars’ worth of Pentagon contracts dispersed to U.S., Afghan and foreign companies don’t end up in the hands of U.S. adversaries or otherwise subvert U.S. strategy.

Task Force 2010 is led by Rear Adm. Kathleen Dussault, a longtime Navy logistics officer who served as senior contracting overseer when Petraeus commanded the U.S. war in Iraq. Dussault arrived in Kabul last week after meeting the week before with John Brummet, the head of audits for the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, for a briefing on “forensic audits,” something Brummet described as a “data-mining effort to look at financial transaction data” for “various anomalies” indicating waste, fraud or abuse.

While it’s too new to have a specific agenda delineated yet, U.S. officials who would not speak for attribution described Task Force 2010 as focusing on the intersection of contractor money and political power in southern Afghanistan, and giving senior military officers a greater amount of visibility into murky networks of subcontractors using taxpayer dollars than they currently have. Among its areas of focus are the private security companies outside of McChrystal’s operational control whose independent activities have sometimes proven problematic for the U.S. in Afghanistan. The task force has established an Armed Contractor Oversight Division to help advise Stanley McChrystal, the commanding general of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, on how to deal with the companies.

“It’s not just about illegal activity for this task force,” said a U.S. military officer familiar with Task Force 2010’s work. “There’s also perfectly legal activity undercutting what we’re trying to do in Afghanistan. Whether it’s prime [contractors] or subs, getting down to power brokers and money lords, it’s absolutely undercutting what we’re trying to do.”

Expect to hear the term “power broker” a lot with regard to Task Force 2010. It’s a politically neutral euphemism for one of the most complex problems that the U.S. faces in Afghanistan, and particularly in southern Afghanistan: how U.S. contract money entrenches local political dynasties, some of which raise or hire independent security forces and can have transactional relationships with the Taliban. Some use their contract money to consolidate their hold on power by providing jobs, thereby emerging as potential obstacles to the overarching U.S. strategy of expanding the Afghan government’s reach, capability and relevance, which McChrystal considers pivotal for securing U.S. interests in the country.  Read the full article here

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Pentagon, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , | Leave a comment