Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

‘Do not go to Iraq’ says Mark Fisher of Triple Canopy

 The Fiji Times  January 1, 2012

FORMER soldier and current employee of United States security contractor Triple Canopy Incorporated (TCI), Mark Fisher, who was detained by the Iraqi military for 18 days is warning locals of the dangers associated with employment in the trouble-stricken country.

Mr Fisher said anyone seeking work as a security contractor needed to understand the real dangers of the job and the fact that he and his team were practically abandoned by TCI during their detainment.

“I am never going back there and I urge anyone considering a job as a security contractor to think twice because no amount of money is worth what me and my men went through.

“TCI did not contact my wife to inform her of what had happened.

“It was only after she threatened to go to the media that they formulated a response that basically said TCI officials were in constant contact and visiting us daily, we were being given proper meals and kept in warm and comfortable cells.”

“However, the reality was that we were fed food thrown on the floor and despite it being winter, there were no mattresses, pillows or blankets and at no time were we visited by anyone from the company,” he shared.

Mr Fisher said the sense of abandonment and a real threat of imminent death at any time played havoc with his mind.

“The situation was such that we did not know what was going to happen at any given time and we all had trouble sleeping,” recalled Mr Fisher.

“Luckily one of my team members was a medic and he had a supply of sleeping pills, which we all took at 9pm every night to help us sleep.”

The former Republic of Fiji Military Forces sergeant was heading a team of seven men, which included Americans and Iraqi nationals ù clearing equipment from forward operating bases (FOB) in Iraq when they were detained by Iraqi military forces.

Abandoned by their employer, the team’s release was finally secured on December 27 by US Congressman Peter King.

During their 18 day ordeal at the hands of the Iraqi military, Mr Fisher and his team were ordered to kneel facing a wall with their hands behind their heads by heavily armed soldiers.

“At that point I thought this was it. God, prayers and thoughts of my wife and kids kept me going,” he said.

TCI is contracted by the US State Department to remove sensitive equipment from FOBs after the US military pull out from Iraq.

No comments could be obtained from the company

Please read the original here

January 1, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractors Held, Contractors Kidnapped, Department of Defense, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, State Department, Triple Canopy | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Triple Canopy PSC, Mark Fisher, Never Going Back to Iraq

The Fiji Times  December 31, 2011  See Also at MsSparky

MARK Fisher is never going back to Iraq. Eighteen days of mental torture at the hands of the Iraqi military and the real threat of being executed at any time still replays through his mind.

Mr Fisher, who was freed by the Iraqi military after US intervention and flew home on Thursday, said he thought his life was over when soldiers ordered him and his team to kneel facing a wall and to put their hands behind their heads.

“I thought, ‘this is it’. The only thoughts going through my head were non-stop prayers. No amount of money is worth going through what happened to me and my team and no amount of training can ever prepare a person for what we experienced,” he said in the safety of his Votualevu home in Nadi yesterday.

Despite being set free on December 27, after spending Christmas in an Iraqi military cell, Mr Fisher has trouble sleeping.

The former Republic of Fiji Military Forces sergeant began working in 2009 as a contractor with Triple Canopy Incorporated ù a private company contracted by the US State Department to remove military equipment from forward operating bases (FOB) in Iraq after the US military pullout.

“That’s what we were doing when we got detained. We had just cleared a FOB when we were stopped five minutes down the road and taken to a military camp. Our captors said they had to make sure that we had the authority to remove the equipment we had with us,” the 41-year old explained.

“As far as we were concerned, we had the green light and the appropriate clearance to do so but the Iraqis thought otherwise.”

During the ordeal, Mr Fisher and his team of seven men, which included Americans and Iraqi nationals, were ordered to eat food that was thrown on the floor.

“We refused to eat it because the cell was filthy. Instead we ate fruits and bribed some of the soldiers to give us chocolates,” he said.

Although their phones were confiscated, Mr Fisher said a colonel, who was sympathetic towards them after experiencing being detained by Saddam Hussein’s regime, allowed them the use of his telephone to contact friends and relatives.

“The Americans called their embassy but I called my wife, Mariah and informed her of what had happened,” said Mr Fisher.

Mrs Fisher said she grew concerned after not hearing from her husband for a few days.

“We normally communicate via texting and when I hadn’t received anything from him for a few days, I knew something was up. When he called and told me he was detained and no one from Triple Canopy had come to see him and his men, I got really angry,” she said.

When she was finally contacted by Triple Canopy, an official said Mr Fisher and his men had been detained but they were being well looked after and housed in warm quarters.

“We were in a cold cell with no mattresses on the floor and it was winter,” Mr Fisher said.

“There was no heating and no blankets and we had to huddle to keep warm.”

When asked what got him through the 18-day ordeal and mental torture, the father of five said it was God and his family.

“The prayers and my faith plus the thoughts of my wife and five children kept me going, hoping for freedom,” he said.

The Triple Canopy team was released after US Congressman Peter King took up the case.

“If it wasn’t for him, I think we would still be there or worse still, who knows what could have happened to us.”

December 31, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractors Held, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, Triple Canopy | , , , , | Leave a comment

Triple Canopy Appoints New Chief Operating Officer

Jay Christy to Lead Operations at Security and Mission Support Company

RESTON, Va., Dec. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Triple Canopy, Inc., a leading provider of security and mission support services, announced today the appointment of Harold “Jay” Arthur Christy, Jr. as Chief Operating Officer (COO), effective Dec. 27.

Christy will be responsible for directing global operations and overseeing daily activities at Triple Canopy. He is taking over the position from Kelvin Kai, who has made the decision to step down in order to spend more time with his family.

“I would like to thank Kelvin for his leadership and appreciate everything he has done for the company during his time as COO,” said Triple Canopy CEO Ignacio “Iggy” Balderas. “I anticipate a smooth transition of responsibilities over the course of the next few weeks, and look forward to working closely with Jay as we continue to grow and diversify Triple Canopy.”

A certified security professional, Christy brings a combination of program management, business development and military experience to the position. “Having worked at both corporate headquarters and in the field for Triple Canopy, I now look forward to leading operations and working with the fine men and women whose individual contributions have made this company what it is today,” said Christy

Please read the entire Press Release here

December 6, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Triple Canopy | , , , , | Leave a comment

Civilian Contractor Sean Ferguson, Triple Canopy, dies in Iraq

VISALIA, Calif. (KMPH) –

A Visalia family is mourning the loss of their son in Iraq.

29-year-old Sean Ferguson received two Purple Hearts while serving our country. He joined the U.S. Army in August 2001 and retired eight years later as a Staff Sergeant after he was hurt in combat.

He returned to Baghdad to work for Triple Canopy, a private contractor that provides security and mission support services to government agencies and other organizations.

In 2005, he got a visit from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a combat surgical hospital in northern Iraq after he was hit by a sniper the day before.

Sean was born in San Diego on July 7, 1982. He was a 2001 graduate of Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia.

The Ferguson family was notified by the U.S. Consul of Sean’s death. According to a statement obtained by KMPH News, Sean died of natural causes.

A memorial service will be held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel located at the corner of Caldwell Ave. and Chinowth St. in Visalia on Saturday, November 19, at 10 a.m.

November 14, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Private Security Contractor, Triple Canopy | , , , , | 2 Comments

Triple Canopy to Present International Code of Conduct at ASIS 2011

Mark DeWitt to Discuss the Security Industry’s New Benchmark for Quality

RESTON, Va., Sept. 14, 2011 — /PRNewswire/ — Triple Canopy, Inc., a global provider of security and mission support services, announced today that Mark DeWitt, vice president of government and regulatory affairs, will speak at this year’s ASIS International 57th Annual Seminar and Exhibits, scheduled for Sept. 19 to 22 at the Orlando County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

DeWitt will present a session on what the International Code of Conduct (ICoC) for Private Security Contractors signifies for security directors worldwide, along with the related management system standard underdevelopment by ASIS. Established in November 2010, the ICoC aims to set global standards for the private security industry and establish independent mechanisms for effective governance and oversight.

“We need to educate our clients on the strengths and benefits of the ICoC and what it can do and will do to improve the quality of service that private security companies provide,” DeWitt said. “Security directors, managers and others with a stake in securing their organizations should look to the ICoC and the ASIS-developed management standard as a new benchmark for quality.”

In his presentation, DeWitt will discuss how the ICoC and the ASIS-developed management standard will translate into greater confidence in the industry as a whole. “The Code allows security providers to deliver their services in a more transparent manner, and as a result, will help instill trust and create a better understanding of the way in which security services are provided,” explained DeWitt.

A founder signatory of the Code, Triple Canopy has focused on ways to improve the quality of service the security industry provides since the company was founded in 2003. The company also participated in efforts to establish an international code of conduct following the signing of the Montreux Document in 2006. According to DeWitt, who currently sits on the ICoC Temporary Steering Committee, “The ICoC has become an essential tool in our ongoing efforts to create a better and more transparent set of industry standards.”

Please read the entire Press Release here

September 14, 2011 Posted by | Contractor Oversight, Private Security Contractor, Triple Canopy | , , , , | Leave a comment

Kabul may oust security firms

By Joshua Partlow Washington Post Kabul

THE Afghan government has accused several prominent private security companies, including some that work with the US government, of committing ”major offences” – a move that US officials fear could hasten their departure.

A list compiled by Afghan officials cites 16 companies, including several US and British firms, for unspecified serious violations and seven others for having links to high-ranking Afghan officials.

A decision to ban the major violators would affect companies that provide about 800 guards for the US Agency for International Development and about 3000 who work on military construction projects.

”We’re wringing our hands over this,” said a senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity. ”We’re waiting to hear which companies will get disbandment notices and when they will have to disband.”

Among those listed as major offenders are Triple Canopy, based in Virginia, Washington-based Blue Hackle, and British company G4S, the parent company of ArmorGroup North America, which provides security for the US embassy in Kabul.

Also listed are British companies Global Strategies Group, which guards Kabul airport, as well as Control Risks and Aegis.

The list included nine companies deemed ”medium” offenders, 11 with ”minor” offences and nine, including Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater, with no offences detected.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has yet to approve the list or indicate whether these companies face expulsion. A senior Afghan official said no decision had been made, and suggested many companies were on the list for tax evasion.

A NATO official said G4S owed the Afghan government $US8 million in taxes. The company declined to comment.

For the past six months, Mr Karzai has sought to push out the companies and replace them with government guards. US officials believed they had reached a compromise in December that would protect key operations and give the companies more time before they would have to depart.

”We thought it was pretty much on ice. All of a sudden, it isn’t any more,” the senior US official said. USAID has put several new programs on hold while it waits for a resolution to the issue.

Please read more and see the original here

January 23, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, G4S, NATO, Pentagon, Private Security Contractor, State Department, Triple Canopy | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Contractors’ bad behavior _ public drunkenness, teen hired to dance_ mean headaches for US

Richard Lardner Associated Press at the LA Times

WASHINGTON (AP) — At two in the morning on Sept. 9, 2005, five DynCorp International security guards assigned to Afghan President Hamid Karzai‘s protective detail returned to their compound drunk, with a prostitute in tow. Less than a week later, three of these same guards got drunk again, this time in the VIP lounge of the Kabul airport while awaiting a flight to Thailand.

“They had been intoxicated, loud and obnoxious,” according to an internal company report of the incident, which noted that Afghanistan’s deputy director for elections and a foreign diplomat were also in the lounge. “Complaints were made regarding the situation.” DynCorp fired the three guards.

Such episodes represent the headaches that U.S. contractors can cause in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. They are indispensable to the State Department‘s mission overseas, handling security, transportation, construction, food service and more. But when hired hands behave badly — or break the law — they cast a cloud over the American presence.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act describe previously undisclosed offenses committed by more than 200 contract employees in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries between 2004 and 2008. They were working under a broad State Department security services contract shared by DynCorp of Falls Church, Va., Triple Canopy of Reston, Va., and the company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide — Xe Services of Moyock, N.C.
Most of the infractions, which include excessive drinking, drug use, sexual misconduct, and mishandling weapons, were violations of corporate and U.S. policies that probably went unnoticed by ordinary Afghans and Iraqis. But other offenses played out in public, undermining U.S. efforts in both countries and raising questions about how carefully job candidates are screened.

Despite complaints from foreign capitals about reckless behavior and heavy-handed tactics, U.S. contractors are more important than ever.

In Iraq, the departure of U.S. combat forces has left a security and logistics support vacuum to be filled by the private sector. In testimony to the independent Wartime Contracting Commission in June, a State Department official said as many as 7,000 security contractors — more than double the current number — will be needed to guard the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and other offices across Iraq.

Karzai had to back away from the Friday deadline he had set to ban security contractors after Western diplomats said the move threatened the completion of billions of dollars worth of critical reconstruction projects that need to be protected from insurgent attacks.

Please read the entire story here

December 19, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, ArmorGroup, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, DynCorp, Iraq, Private Security Contractor, Ronco, Safety and Security Issues, State Department, Triple Canopy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MsSparky’s 1000th Blog Post

Cross Posted from MsSparky

Oh my! 1000 published blog posts! Who would have figured after 30 months of investigative blogging I would still be at it. 1000 published posts is a huge accomplishment for any blogger. I’m very proud of this milestone!

One would think I would have run out of things to write about regarding Defense contracting fraud and Pentagon incompetence, but it just keeps spewing forth. It’s like the Defense Departments very own “Old Faithful” geyser of crap! It just keeps blowing! I have to thank companies like Fluor, Dyncorp, CSA, SBH, Blackwater, ArmorGroup, Agility and mostly….(tearing up) KBR for making stupid management decisions that always give me something to write about. I will be forever grateful (sniff sniff).

I couldn’t have met this milestone without the support of my friends and family, my regular readers, guest writers, other collaborating bloggers, published authors, investigative reporters, super sleuths, whistle blowers, attorneys, concerned citizens, former and current defense contractor employees, widows, spouses, parents and most importantly………

I have to say, this has been a most amazing journey with the most interesting twists and turns along the way. Blogging at is not like any 9-5 job I’ve ever had. I can’t really plan my day. I may THINK I know what I’m going to be doing after I get that first cup of coffee, but then reality sets in when I open my email and there’s some little (or big) gem of information. I just get all excited like a kid on Christmas morning! 2010 has been an interesting year because the majority of my work has been unpublished and behind the scenes. It doesn’t pay much in dollars, but I think this is the most rewarding and satisfying job I have every had!

One of the hardest, but most rewarding parts of this job is watching victims prevail as they doggedly pursue justice not only for themselves but for others. I’ve watched victims overcome tragedy and turn their pain and grief into something positive for those still suffering. I’m in constant awe of the strength and determination of the human spirit.

Without a doubt, the very best part of this job are the friends I’ve made along way.  Some, I’ve never met in person. Some, I never will, but friends just the same. I am truly blessed!

Thank you for the FIRST 1000 posts!

Please see the original with comments at MsSparky

December 15, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, ArmorGroup, Blackwater, Burn Pits, Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contractor Corruption, DynCorp, EODT, G4S, Halliburton, Iraq, KBR, LOGCAP, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, Triple Canopy, Wackenhut | , , , | 1 Comment

New Report: US Taxpayers Are Wasting Millions On Contractors To Train Explosive Sniffing Dogs

Be Informed

The US State Department (DOS) spends millions on it’s explosives detection canine services program in Iraq and Afghanistan. The dogs are trained to sniff explosives to ensure safety of US as well as foreign personnel on the ground. The program is operated through contractors like the DC based RONCO Consulting Corporation, which further sub-contracts the work to others like the ArmorGroup of North America, Triple Canopy etc. According to a report recently published by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), this program is seriously mismanaged, as contractors are neither doing their job properly, nor are they supervised.

The OIG reviewed three specific explosives detection canine programs managed by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) in South Asia and the Middle East, and reached the following conclusions. Here’s an excerpt from the report:

  • All of the Department’s explosives detection canine services are part of various security-related contracts in South Asia and the Middle East. These contracts include the embassy security force contracts in Baghdad and Kabul and task orders of the Worldwide Personal Protective Services contract in Baghdad, Tallil, and Erbil in Iraq and Kabul, Afghanistan. Canines in these programs regularly conduct searches and inspect vehicles, packages, and luggage.
  • Given that the Department employs nearly 200 canines and handlers for these services, the expenditures for canine services can be considerable. For example, the Department pays over $24 million per year for canine services associated with the Baghdad Embassy Security Force.
  • The ability of a canine to recognize explosive scents is the foundation for any explosives detection canine program, and canines should be able to recognize common explosives. Canines under Department contracts must comply with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Odor Recognition Proficiency Standard for Explosives Detection Canines. This standard includes testing for six mandatory scents of the most commonly encountered explosives.
  • During its review of these three programs, OIG found systemic weaknesses in canine test procedures that call into question the ability of the canines to effectively detect explosives. The contractors do not test for all mandated scents and use old materials to train and test the canines, although fresh materials are required. Additionally, the improper method of storing these materials may be leading to cross-contamination (which violates the standards laid out by the Treasury, which specifically prohibits cross-contamination of scents of explosives, so as to ensure that the dogs are accurately trained).
  • At the time of OIG’s field work, no independent expert had validated the detection abilities of the canines or determined whether the contractors comply with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Odor Recognition Proficiency Standard for Explosives Detection Canines since the award of the contracts.
  • The Department of the Treasury’s standard requires that fresh explosives be used for each testing session and that testing be done annually. At none of the locations could contractors verify the age of the testing materials. One contractor reported using testing material obtained over three years ago from the previous security contractor. Other contractors indicated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell or the Department of Defense’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit provides the testing explosives, many of which are collected from unexploded improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan and are of indeterminate age.
  • Canines undergo regular scent recognition testing under which they must be able to recognize six mandatory scents. In two programs, contractors did not possess all testing substances. In a third program, the contractor reported that it tested for all six scents, but could not verify to the OIG team that the materials used were actually the required testing substances. No contractor had reliable documentation to validate either the receipt or composition of testing materials. Contractors with all three programs reported that they either did not know how to ship in fresh testing materials or were incapable of doing so.
  • Certain explosive testing materials must be stored separately as they tend to readily cross- contaminate with other explosives. However, the OIG team observed that in all three programs, contractors stored these particular materials with other explosives, which may result in contaminated testing materials. Contractors with all three programs stated at the time of OIG’s fieldwork they did not have the space to store materials separately.
  • During field work in Iraq and Afghanistan, the OIG team did not encounter any DS personnel with expertise in explosive detection canines. Instead, according to DS staff members, they depended upon the knowledge and expertise of the contractors to ensure all contractual requirements and other standards were met. The contractors responsible for the canines reported to OIG that no outside organization with expertise in explosive detection canines had ever reviewed their operations in Iraq or Afghanistan

The OIG’s conclusion: “OIG’s examination of three explosive detection canine programs revealed systemic problems that directly affect the safety and security of U.S. Government personnel and installations. In the three programs OIG reviewed, the contractors, rather than DS, were responsible for implementing the program and ensuring that contractually required procedures were being followed. Contractors are not testing for all scents, are using possibly expired or contaminated materials to test canines, and are storing materials in a manner that may be leading to cross-contamination.”

The Center for Public Integrity has this to say about the RONCO Consulting Corporation, the contractor in charge of this mess: “On March 14, 2003, Ronco was awarded a contract by the U.S. Defense Department worth more than $419,000 to come up with a plan to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate the Iraqi armed forces, as well as national and regional militias. The State Department contracted with Ronco to perform two main functions in the landmine clearance activities in Iraq.

Ronco received a six-month contract from the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives’ Afghanistan Political Transition Grant Project. To fulfill this contract, Ronco established offices in Afghanistan to coordinate the disbursement of grants designed to rehabilitate Afghanistan’s social and economic infrastructure. According to USAID, Ronco is in charge of creating “a broad operational platform for the entire USAID effort in Afghanistan.” Toward the end of the initial six months, USAID extended the contract to one year for a total value of $5.65 million.

Ronco has also been involved in Afghanistan’s demining efforts. The company provides training and assistance to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance and the Mine Action Program Afghanistan. In January 2002, the State Department provided approximately $3.1 million to support the salaries and expense costs of 15 Ronco staff members stationed in Afghanistan to train Afghan mine clearance personnel, according to a State Department fact sheet.

Among Ronco’s full-time staff of 90 U.S. and 300 host country personnel, the company boasts on its Web site of employing many ex-government officials, including “a former USAID deputy assistant administrator, mission directors [and] senior military personnel.” Among the former USAID employees is Larry Crandall, who is currently Ronco’s vice president for International Programs. Crandall was mission director of USAID’s operations in Haiti. According to USAID’s presentation to Congress in 1997, Ronco was a contractor in Haiti while Crandall was mission director in that country.”

RONCO has been awarded even more contracts worth millions by the DOS beside the $3.1 million contract mentioned above. We are not only wasting millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money but this puts at risk those who depend on these explosive detecting services for their safety. The only ones benefiting from this mismanaged program are the contractors who are paid handsomely for their (lack of) services.

~ Gauri   Please see the original article at Be Informed

October 12, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, ArmorGroup, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Demining, Private Military Contractors, Ronco, Safety and Security Issues, State Department, Triple Canopy, Wackenhut | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) Sept 29 Contract Awards

The Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) program provides comprehensive protective security services to support U.S. Department of State operations around the world.

Solicitation Number: SAQMMA10R0005-A
Agency: U.S. Department of State
Office: Office of Logistics Management
Location: Acquisition Management

Award Notice

September 29, 2010


10,000,000,000.00 Maximum Program Value


United States

Added: Sep 30, 2010 9:40 pm

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) made the following eight base contract awards for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security – Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) Program resulting from solicitation: SAQMMA10R0005 (-a) on September 29, 2010.  The maximum program value is $10,000,000,000.00 USD.  The maximum value is cumulative and includes all work performed by all contractors during the WPS program period of performance, including all option periods.

The base contracts include a one year base period of performance with four one year option periods.  DOS included the minimum guarantee of $5,000.00 for each WPS contractor with each base contract award.

Please see section M of solicitation: SAQMMA10R0005 (-a) for more information on the evaluation criteria that DOS used to select the firms listed below for base contract awards.

SAQMMA10D0094 :  Aegis Defense Services, LLC
SAQMMA10D0095 : DynCorp International, LLC
SAQMMA10D0096 : EOD Technology, Inc.
SAQMMA10D0097 : Global Strategies Group (Integrated Security), Inc.
SAQMMA10D0098 : International Development Solutions, LLC
SAQMMA10D0100 : Torres International Services, LLC
SAQMMA10D0104 : Triple Canopy, Inc.

P.O. Box 9115
Rosslyn Station
Arlington, Virginia 22219



United States

Thomas C. Lemole,
Administrative Contracting Officer
Phone: 1-571-345-7908

Sharon D James,
Contracting Officer
Phone: 7038756077
Fax: 7038755272

October 3, 2010 Posted by | Aegis, Afghanistan, Africa, Civilian Contractors, Contract Awards, DynCorp, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, State Department, Triple Canopy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ms. Sparky aims at KBR, electrifies war-contractor scrutiny with blog

Debbie Crawford was playing with her grandson at her Battle Ground home two years ago when she heard a news report on a Green Beret who died in Baghdad. The water pump in his Army shower was not properly grounded, and when he turned the faucet, a jolt of electricity killed him.

Crawford cried, her worst professional fear realized. She went to her laptop and began to type:

“As a licensed electrician who worked for KBR in Iraq for two years, I find this UNACCEPTABLE!!!! How did this happen? Let me give you my opinion from first-hand experience….”

Five weeks later, after a Senate staffer saw her post, Crawford testified before Congress to poor management and poor workmanship by Kellogg, Brown & Root in Iraq, including subcontracting electrical work to locals not skilled to U.S. standards and failing to check electricians credentials.

Two years later, the blog she started that 2008 day —mssparky.com – is the largest online catalog of news articles, opinion, leaks and lawsuits regarding war contractors. The site has drawn more than 10.8 million page hits since Jan. 1.

When Oregon veterans of the Iraq war appear in federal court in Portland today in their chemical-exposure lawsuit against KBR, they join a wide group of plaintiffs suing KBR — over electrocutions, burn pits and sexual assault.

Much of what connects them all is Ms. Sparky.

“She’s allowed people to speak that otherwise would be too afraid to do so,” says Todd Kelly, a Houston attorney who represents six clients suing KBR alleging they were sexual assaulted while working in Iraq. “I would characterize her as pretty courageous in her own right, being willing to blog about the things she’s willing to blog about. She has the sense that someone has to speak out.”

Crawford says, “This just took on a life of its own. My blogging is the least interesting part about it .”

Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, the federal government has paid private companies $150 billion to do what the military once did — support daily life for the troops. KBR has been the single largest provider of meals, housing, recreation, mail delivery, laundry and fuel.

KBR maintains there is no evidence that its work caused or contributed to the Green Beret’s electrocution and that its military contract for his building was for on-call repairs, not preventative maintenance and inspections. KBR also denies responsibility for exposing troops or employees to carcinogens at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant, “There was no hazardous exposure and there has been no documented illness related to the facility.”

Today, Magistrate Judge Paul Papak will hear arguments on whether an Oregon Army National Guard veterans’ case against KBR should go forward in U.S. District Court in Oregon. Twenty-six Oregon vets — and soldiers in three other states — have sued, saying they were sickened by hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing chemical, as they guarded KBR employees working to restore Iraqi oil in 2003.

Crawford has assembled an online library about the suits.

“This wasn’t done so a child could drink safe water. This was done to pump water into wells to get oil flowing. All these soldiers and civilians exposed, for oil.”

To meet Ms. Sparky — the slang for female electrician — drive past Vancouver’s suburban blocks to the hobby farms beneath Mount St. Helen. The 49-year-old wife, grandmother and blogger answers the door in black jeans and a pink plaid cotton top. She homeschools her 7-year-old grandson and takes Tae Kwon Do lessons with him.

Crawford says she is not a disgruntled KBR employee. The journeyman electrician says she went to Iraq four years ago out of patriotism and the same spirit of adventure that took her to contract jobs in Antarctica and China. She did not realize until she returned that problems she saw in Iraq were systemic, including what she saw as poor management and a lack of government oversight.

Growing up near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, Crawford applied for an electrical apprenticeship after graduating Benton City High and became the first female journeyman out of IBEW Local 112 in Kennewick. She met her husband, Cal Crawford, at Hanford and talked him into moving to Seaside, then to Portland where she is a member of Local 48.

Crawford liked the math and technology in being an electrician and working with people who can visualize a problem and design solutions. She also liked that she could get a job anywhere. She spent 10 months in Antarctica, then traveled the country with her husband performing maintenance on nuclear plants.

They signed on in 2004 for Iraq. At $14.90 an hour, the salary was less than half what she made at home, but she felt she could contribute to the war effort.

“I thought I was doing the right thing,” Crawford says.

The couple were housed at different camps. Both threw themselves into their work, surviving rocket and mortar attacks, heat and family disapproval. (Both of Crawford’s parents died while she was overseas and her only daughter Tiffany went in prison for burglary.) Cal returned home after a year, but Crawford reupped for a second, with a raise and management opportunities. She returned to the Northwest July 28, 2008.

She was blogging about her travels and struggles with her daughter, when she heard the news report about Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth’s  death. Since then, Crawford’s writing has almost exclusively focused on war contractors.

She rises every morning at 4:30 and logs on, often working well after her husband and grandson she is raising go to bed. Crawford posts anonymous tips, aggregates related news and videos, expresses her opinion, tips journalists and breaks news such as the death of State Department contractor who was electrocuted in his shower in Iraq in 2009. Categories on her website include “Chemical and other Exposures”; “Contractor Deaths”; “Electrocutions/”; “Indictments, Convictions and Arrests”; “Human Trafficking”; “Rape, Hazing, Discrimination and Harassment”; and “Rants.”

Crawford has expanded her scrutiny to include contractors DynCorp, Fluor and Triple Canopy.

She works without pay but takes donations and advertisements on her website. She has had to bring on another person to handle the information flowing through the site. Still, she says the biggest payoff has been meeting all the special people affected by their service or work in the war zones.

Jill Wilkins was a young Florida widow desperate for information after her Air Force reservist husband, a registered nurse, died of a brain tumor in 2008. Wilkins found Ms. Sparky and within weeks of posting her questions about her husband’s exposure to burn pits in Iraq on mssparky.com, Wilkins was featured on CNN, found other plaintiffs suing over the use of burn pits and was awarded her husband’s veterans benefits.

“It was a lifeline,” says Wilkins, who was so inspired she started her own Facebook site on burn pits.

Crawford says what she wants most is for the federal government to police war contractors.

“I have a 7-year-old who is bound and determined to be a soldier and I have to get this fixed before he is in the Army.”   Read the original story at Oregon Live here

July 12, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Defense Base Act, DynCorp, KBR, Safety and Security Issues, Triple Canopy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CIA gives Blackwater firm new $100 million contract


The Central Intelligence Agency has hired Xe Services, the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, to guard its facilities in Afghanistan and elsewhere, according to an industry source.

The previously undisclosed CIA contract is worth about $100 million, said the industry source, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the deal, which is classified.

“It’s for protective services … guard services, in multiple regions,” said the source.

Two other security contractors, Triple Canopy and DynCorp International, put in losing bids for the CIA’s business, the source said.

The revelation comes only a day after members of a federal commission investigating war-zone contractors blasted the State Department for granting Blackwater with a new $120 million contract to guard U.S. consulates under construction in Afghanistan.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano stopped short of confirming the contract, saying only that Xe personnel would not be involved in operations.

“While this agency does not, as a rule, comment on contractual relationships we may or may not have, we follow all applicable federal laws and regulations,” Gimigliano said.

The spokesman added, “We have a very careful process when it comes to procurement, and we take it seriously. We’ve also made it clear that personnel from Xe do not serve with CIA in any operational roles.”

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Erik Prince, chairman of the board at Xe and owner of Prince Group — which owns Xe — said the firm would have no comment.  Original Story here

June 23, 2010 Posted by | Blackwater, CIA, Civilian Contractors, Contract Awards, Contracts Awarded, DynCorp, Private Security Contractor, Triple Canopy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Do Armed Contractors Belong in War Zones?

By Pratap Chatterjee* at IPS News

WASHINGTON, Jun 16, 2010 (IPS) – Should private contractors like Blackwater be allowed to continue to provide armed security for convoys, diplomatic and other personnel, and military bases and other facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq? A bipartisan U.S. Congressional commission will spend two days cross-examining 14 witnesses from academia, government and the companies themselves to come up with an answer.

“Some security tasks are so closely tied to government responsibilities, so mission-critical, or so risky that they shouldn’t be contracted out at all,” says Christopher Shays, a former Republican member of Congress from Connecticut.

Shays is the co-chair of 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.

The commission is expected to reveal results from a seven day fact-finding trip to Iraq last month in which spot checks on four military bases turned up a contracting company hired to protect a military base that had not been vetted even though they had dispatched hundreds of employees. At another base, individual security guards were identified who had not undergone proper background checks.

The thorny question of what is “inherently governmental” and what can be turned over to contractors was singled out for attention by President Barack Obama in March 2009, when he ordered the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), a department within the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, to come up with an answer.

Read the full article here

June 20, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, ArmorGroup, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, DynCorp, G4S, Legal Jurisdictions, Pentagon, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, State Department, Triple Canopy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Use of Armed Private Security Contractors in Iraq Draws Mixed Reviews

RAND News Release June 16, 2010

While U.S. government officials working in Iraq believe the use of armed private security contractors has been a useful strategy, many worry that the contractors have not always had a positive effect on U.S. foreign policy objectives, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

A survey of staffers from the U.S. military and the U.S. State Department who worked in Iraq during 2003 to 2008 found that a sizeable minority viewed the widely reported abuses of power and the killing of civilians by security contractors as potentially detrimental to the overall American mission in the country.

“While U.S. government workers don’t believe these armed private security companies are ‘running wild’ in Iraq, they do have serious concerns about behavior that is unnecessarily threatening or belligerent,” said Molly Dunigan, an author of the study and an associate political scientist with RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

Most U.S. officials surveyed said they had not witnessed power abuses by contractors, but having even a few officials observe such behavior is troubling, particularly in the context of a continuing stability operation in which poor contractor behavior can very quickly become detrimental to U.S. goals.

“Our research found evidence to support the view that, extrapolating from their experiences with private security contractors, Iraqis may take a negative view of the entire military occupation and coalition forces,” Dunigan said. “However, we also found that certain private security firms were able to be flexible in their standard operating procedures and keep a ‘low profile’ among local civilians.”

The largest clients for armed security contractors in Iraq have been the U.S. Department of State, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development. In addition, news media companies, reconstruction contractors and nongovernmental organizations also hire contractors to fill security needs.

However, there have been numerous reports of private security contractors committing serious and sometimes fatal abuses of power in Iraq, raising questions about the strategy.

RAND researchers surveyed workers from the U.S. military and State Department who had been deployed to Iraq at least once between 2003 and 2008 to find out the extent to which armed private security contractors impose costs on the U.S. military effort, whether the costs are tempered by benefits, and how the use of private security contractors has affected military operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Armed private security contractors or similar forces have been used by the U.S. military in conflicts dating back to the American Revolution, but the extent of their use in the Iraq war has been unprecedented. The number of armed contractors employed in Operation Iraqi Freedom grew from approximately 10,000 in 2003 to 30,000 in 2007 before receding to 10,422 in 2009. At times, the number of all types of contractors—armed and unarmed—has exceeded the number of U.S. military personnel in the country.

After a shooting incident in 2007 at Nisour Square where 17 Iraqis were shot and killed by an armed personal security detail working for Blackwater Worldwide, U.S. government officials improved oversight of contractors. Despite several reasons for skepticism about the impact of these measures, they do appear to have had at least somewhat of a beneficial effect thus far, Dunigan said.

“We discovered much of the problem is that the international law covering these kinds of operations is murky—from 2003 to 2008, these firms were essentially legally immune to prosecution in Iraq,” Dunigan said. “The 2009 Status of Forces Agreement between Iraq and the United States has given Iraq jurisdiction over these contractors, but they still are thought to, in effect, be legally immune from prosecution under U.S. law.”

Based on the findings, Dunigan and her colleagues said there are several things the U.S. could do to improve relations with the military and private security contractors. Since the survey findings indicate that contractors’ higher pay relative to military employees has had a negative effect on military morale, the researchers recommend that the military pre-deployment training regimen could be improved to give more information on contractor functions, in an effort to increase the level of understanding and cohesion between contractors and the military in the field.

Given the United States’ counterinsurgency goals in Iraq, disconcertingly high numbers of surveyed Department of State personnel believed that contractors do not respect local and international laws and do not display an understanding of and sensitivity to the Iraqi people and their culture, Dunigan said. Further legal regulation via contract law, or a heightened determination on the part of the Department of Justice to utilize existing regulations to hold private security contractors accountable for their actions, might help alleviate the problems associated with contractor recklessness.

Likewise, coordination between contractors and the military in Iraq could be improved by streamlining communication systems between the military and all contractor teams in theater.

The study, “Hired Guns: Views About Armed Contractors in Operation Iraqi Freedom,” can be found at http://www.rand.org.

June 16, 2010 Posted by | ArmorGroup, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracing, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, DynCorp, G4S, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, Triple Canopy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment