Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

The Iraq War Ain’t Over, No Matter What Obama Says

Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room  October 21, 2011

President Obama announced on Friday that all 41,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq will return home by December 31. “That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end,” he said. Don’t believe him.

Now: it’s a big deal that all U.S. troops are coming home. For much of the year, the military, fearful of Iranian influence, has sought a residual presence in Iraq of several thousand troops. But arduous negotiations with the Iraqi government about keeping a residual force stalled over the Iraqis’ reluctance to provide them with legal immunity.

But the fact is America’s military efforts in Iraq aren’t coming to an end. They are instead entering a new phase. On January 1, 2012, the State Department will command a hired army of about 5,500 security contractors, all to protect the largest U.S. diplomatic presence anywhere overseas.

The State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security does not have a promising record when it comes to managing its mercenaries. The 2007 Nisour Square shootings by State’s security contractors, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed, marked one of the low points of the war. Now, State will be commanding a much larger security presence, the equivalent of a heavy combat brigade. In July, Danger Room exclusively reported that the Department blocked the Congressionally-appointed watchdog for Iraq from acquiring basic information about contractor security operations, such as the contractors’ rules of engagement.

That means no one outside the State Department knows how its contractors will behave as they ferry over 10,000 U.S. State Department employees throughout Iraq — which, in case anyone has forgotten, is still a war zone. Since Iraq wouldn’t grant legal immunity to U.S. troops, it is unlikely to grant it to U.S. contractors, particularly in the heat and anger of an accident resulting in the loss of Iraqi life.

It’s a situation with the potential for diplomatic disaster. And it’s being managed by an organization with no experience running the tight command structure that makes armies cohesive and effective.

You can also expect that there will be a shadow presence by the CIA, and possibly the Joint Special Operations Command, to hunt persons affiliated with al-Qaida. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has conspicuously stated that al-Qaida still has 1,000 Iraqi adherents, which would make it the largest al-Qaida affiliate in the world.

So far, there are three big security firms with lucrative contracts to protect U.S. diplomats. Triple Canopy, a longtime State guard company, has a contract worth up to $1.53 billion to keep diplos safe as they travel throughout Iraq. Global Strategies Group will guard the consulate at Basra for up to $401 million. SOC Incorporated will protect the mega-embassy in Baghdad for up to $974 million. State has yet to award contracts to guard consulates in multiethnic flashpoint cities Mosul and Kirkuk, as well as the outpost in placid Irbil.

“We can have the kind of protection our diplomats need,” Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough told reporters after Obama’s announcement. Whether the Iraqi people will have protection from the contractors that the State Department commands is a different question. And whatever you call their operations, the Obama administration hopes that you won’t be so rude as to call it “war.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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October 21, 2011 Posted by | CIA, Civilian Contractors, Civilian Police, Contractor Oversight, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Left behind in Iraq: thousands of contractors

By National Security Producer Jamie Crawford at CNN Security Clearance  Oct 21, 2011

With the removal of all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year looking more likely, absent an agreement to extend legal immunity, a large contingent of U.S. contractors will still remain facing their own legal and logistical ambiguities and challenges.

The complexity of the situation is not lost on top officials at the State Department who are busy preparing to assume control of every U.S. responsibility in Iraq – including contracting operations.

“The State Department is doing something that quite frankly we have never done before, this is not going to be easy and I think we all understand that,” Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides told CNN.

“We owe it to the families (who have lost loved ones in Iraq), and to the taxpayers to get this transition done correctly,” he added.

For years, thousands of civilian contractors have worked in Iraq operating in a variety of military and support functions. But they have always lacked the same criminal immunity from Iraqi laws that the U.S. military enjoys under existing agreements between the two countries. And for the most part, they operated under the purview of the Defense Department.

While contractors would be subject to the Iraqi criminal justice system as they always have, ambiguities will still exist as to how they would also be held accountable under U.S. law if a situation similar to the 2007 incident involving contractors working for Blackwater (now operating as Xe Services) were to occur.

The issues surrounding their presence in Iraq are likely to become only more complex when U.S. troops do pull out and leave the oversight of the entire contracting force to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

“What the State Department does is diplomacy, and you’re going to have the State Department managing contractors that are going to be flying helicopters, driving MRAP’s, medevac-ing wounded personnel,” Richard Fontaine, and expert on contracting issues with the Center for a New American Security, told CNN.

“This is the kind of thing that the State Department has very little in-house experience in managing,” he said

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October 21, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Iraq, Politics, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , | 1 Comment

DoD Report Shows Since 2001, $1.1 Trillion In Contracts Awarded to Companies Who Committed Fraud

The Economic Populist   October 20, 2011

One would think once a company had been convicted of defrauding the government, they wouldn’t see another dime. Not so, shows a new DoD report. Believe this or not, the DoD has awarded over $1.1 trillion dollars in defense contracts to companies have been convicted, found liable, or settled fraud charges earlier with the DoD since 2001.

Senator Bernie Sanders summed up some of the numbers buried in the report:

Over the past ten years, DOD awarded $254,564,581 to companies that were convicted of a crime in connection with a DOD contract during that same period of time. To make matters worse, DOD awarded $33,079,743 of that to convicted companies after they had been convicted.

Over the past ten years, DOD awarded $573,693,095,938 to companies that were found liable or settle charges of a civil wrong in connection with a DOD contract during that same period of time. To make matters worse, DOD awarded $398,081,775,397 of that to those companies after they settled the charges or were found liable.

The numbers become increasingly shocking if you look at company affiliations. Over the past ten years, DOD awarded $1,104,423,438,564.10 to entities affiliated with companies that have a history of fraud

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October 21, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contract Awards, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Contracts Awarded, Department of Defense, Government Contractor | , , , , | Leave a comment