Defense firm links with Va.-based Sterling
An East Tennessee defense contractor has joined forces with a Virginia firm.
EOD Technology announced Wednesday that it has merged with Reston, Va.-based Sterling International to form Sterling Global Operations.
The new company will be based in Lenoir City, and EODT CEO Matt Kaye will serve as president and CEO of the new venture.
Kaye said Wednesday that the combined companies form “the world’s preeminent conventional munitions disposal organization.”
Asked about the benefits of the deal for EODT, Kaye said: “It really diversifies our customer base. It strengthens our footprint around the world and provides us greater breadth and depth of resources.”
EODT got its start in 1987 as a company specializing in explosive ordnance disposal, and for years specialized in cleaning up contamination at former U.S. military sites. During the George W. Bush administration, EODT branched out into security operations and eventually became a major player in that market.
The company has also received some unwelcome scrutiny in connection with that work, however. In 2010, a U.S. Senate committee criticized EODT for its hiring practices in Afghanistan, and the following year it was revealed that the U.S. State Department had fired the company from a contract to guard the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
EODT was raided by federal agents in 2010, although no charges have been filed in connection with the raid.
According to a news release, EODT’s employee stock ownership plan acquired Sterling International. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The release said Sterling manages a $175 million weapons removal and abatement program for the State Department, and Kaye said that in comparison to EODT, the Virginia firm is more involved in the work of nonproliferation.
“While the activities that (EODT does) are nonproliferation, they’re much more in a mass-quantity stockpile reduction,” he said. “Sterling is on the forefront of … assisting countries with treaty compliance (and) establishing mine action centers.”
Kaye said Sterling has approximately 150 employees, and the new company will have about 3,500 employees.
After a round of layoffs earlier this year, EODT said it had 250 American employees and 3,000 foreign nationals.
Kaye said Sterling International’s program manager for conventional weapons destruction will remain in that position with the new company.
Sterling’s website does not identify the company’s top executives, and Kaye declined to identify the founder or CEO of the company. “He’s asked not to be named,” Kaye said, adding that the individual would stay on as an executive adviser.
The release said the combined companies will continue to serve existing customers, but will also expand into markets including energy exploration and development, and judicial and criminal justice support.
The new company will have annual revenues of $150 million.
Private security firms won lucrative contracts to supply support staff and security guards to back up US forces in Iraq. They recruited Ugandans and pushed them to the limit, on low pay and no benefits
Like all foreign nationals working for PMCs under contract to the Pentagon, sick or wounded Ugandans repatriated from Iraq are, in principle, covered by the Defense Base Act, which guarantees that their employer’s insurer will reimburse their medical expenses. It also provides for disability pay for the most unfortunate. “But, all too often, the Ugandans do not receive the medical care and disability that they are supposed to,” American lawyer Tara K Coughlin told me.
by Alain Vicky LeMonde Diplomatique May 6, 2012
“I realised immediately that I’d just made the worst mistake in my life. But it was too late. I’d signed up for a year. I had to take it like a man,” said Bernard (1), a young Ugandan who worked for an American private military company (PMC) operating in Iraq. He was part of the “invisible army” (2) recruited by the US to support its war effort. Bernard returned to Uganda last year. He is ill, but has been denied the welfare and healthcare benefits promised in his contract.
White recruits — from the US, Israel, South Africa, the UK, France and Serbia — hired by PMCs that have won contracts with the Pentagon (worth $120bn since 2003) have received substantial pay, often more than $10,000 a month; “third country nationals” (TCNs) like Bernard have been treated badly and their rights as employees have been abused. Some, sent home after being wounded, get no help from their former employers.
In June 2008, when the US began its withdrawal from Iraq, there were 70,167 TCNs to 153,300 regular US military personnel; in late 2010 there were still 40,776 TCNs to 47,305 regulars. TCNs (men and women) were recruited in the countries of the South to work on the 25 US military bases in Iraq, including Camp Liberty, an “American small town” built near Baghdad, which at its peak had a population of over 100,000. They made up 59% of the “basic needs” workforce, handling catering, cleaning, electrical and building maintenance, fast food, and even beauty services for female military personnel.
Some, especially African recruits, were assigned to security duties, paired up with regular troops: 15% of the static security personnel (guarding base entrances and perimeters) hired by the PMCs on behalf of the Pentagon were Sub-Saharans. Among these low-cost guards, Ugandans were a majority, numbering maybe 20,000. They were sometimes used to keep their colleagues in line: in May 2010 they quelled a riot at Camp Liberty by a thousand TCNs from the Indian subcontinent.
The high ratio of Ugandans was due to the political situation in central Africa in the early 2000s. In western Uganda the war in the Great Lakes region was officially over. In northern Uganda the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels had been brought under control. In neighbouring Sudan the civil war was over, opening up the way to independence for the south (3). More than 60,000 Ugandan troops were demobilised; Iraq seemed like an opportunity. The Ugandan government, a key ally of the US in central Africa, was one of the few to support the Bush administration when the Iraq war began in 2003. US and Ugandan armed forces have collaborated since the mid-1980s. Ugandan journalist and blogger Angelo Izama (4) told me that in 2005 the US needed more paramilitary security — “They were looking for reliable labour from English-speaking countries, veteran labour” — and turned to Uganda.
Knoxville Biz February 28, 2012
Lenoir City defense contractorEOD Technology said Tuesday it is laying off 48 headquarters employees.
In a news release, the company said it was restructuring its business model in response to federal budget cuts, especially those associated with its work in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The release said several government contracts to protect U.S. troops and manage explosive ordnance were expected to extend well into 2012, but have ended earlier than expected because of accelerated U.S. troop withdrawal plans. Following the layoffs, EODT will have 250 American employees and 3,000 foreign nationals. The company said employees who are laid off will be offered severance packages.
“Our employees are remarkable, highly skilled people who are part of protecting the lives of American troops and foreign nationals,” Matt Kaye, EODT’s CEO, said in the release. “As any organization that works with government understands, we recognize that the budget environment is always changing, sometimes unexpectedly. Unfortunately, we must take this action, as many companies have been forced to do, to remain competitive.”
The company said it is boosting its emphasis on land mine removal and disposal, and expanding its work with the oil and gas industry.
Knoxville Biz . com March 27, 2011
LENOIR CITY – The transformation of EOD Technology started with a phone call.
As Matt Kaye recalls, his Lenoir City company was contacted by the U.S. Army in early 2003 with a vague but simple message: ” ‘We’re going to a place that we can’t really tell you about, and we need you to do some things that we can’t really tell you what they are, but want to know if you’d be interested in hearing about it.’ And so we said, ‘Yeah.’ “
The mission wasn’t hard to figure out. The U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003, and EODT already had established itself as a leader in explosive ordnance disposal, a skill set that could be invaluable in a war zone potentially riddled with land mines and booby traps.
But the Iraq War also opened the door for EODT to expand its mission. The company eventually moved into security operations, and by 2010 had established itself as one of the leading private security contractors for the U.S. government, even landing a high-profile contract to guard the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON — The State Department has fired a contractor hired to provide security at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, less than six months after the company won the $274 million job.
The department ended its agreement for embassy security with EOD Technology of Lenoir City, Tenn., because the company was not going to be able to start work on May 1, as the contract required, the State Department said Thursday in a statement.
ArmorGroup North America will continue to guard the embassy for at least the next four months until a replacement for EOD Technology is found.
The State Department said in 2009 that it would not renew its contract with ArmorGroup after its guards were caught engaging in lewd behavior and drinking excessively at their living quarters.
“The failure of a competitor to take on security at the US Embassy in Kabul will see G4S stay on at the expense of the failed incumbent, at an improved rate.
(“improved” over that 1 million a month they were losing due to allegedly underbidding the contract)
Gordon’s lawsuit alleges that Michael O’Connell, ArmorGroup North America’s vice president of operations, emailed Sauer on March 11, 2007, “AGNA bid this at a very low price and a very low margin,” adding the next day that the timelines and resources given to State in its proposal “don’t match up,” but it wasn’t “a big deal unless” the State Department contracting officer’s representative “calls us on it”.
The contract rollover has been won in spite of controversy over the recruitment and behaviour of staff by ArmorGroup, a subsidiary acquired by G4S in 2008, which led to a critical report by the US State Department over the running of the contract.
ArmorGroup caused an international scandal and lost its State Department contract. Why’s the company still protecting one of America’s most dangerous diplomatic outposts?
“If there’s a better argument for making this mission an inherently governmental function, this situation is it,” she says. “We’ve got one discredited company to be replaced by another discredited company.”
More than a year has passed since the State Department decided to drop its contract with the security firm protecting the US embassy in Kabul, following an international scandal featuring drunken debauchery fit for a Van Wilder flick. But the company that introduced the world to vodka butt-shots is still on the job—and it doesn’t seem to have plans to stand down anytime soon. Long after the expiration of its initial contract, in fact, ArmorGroup North America is currently hiring more guards to protect the Kabul embassy.
The firm sparked controversy in September 2009, when a Washington-based watchdog group sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighting a list of violations by the company, from a chronic guard shortage to the hiring of personnel who couldn’t speak English and would be unable to communicate with their colleagues in an emergency. But the most shocking charges concerned what the Project on Government Oversight called a “Lord of the Flies environment”—hazing and wild partying depicted in a series of graphic photographs showing members of the Kabul embassy security force drunk, half-naked, and engaged in an array of NSFW behavior.
Embassygate tainted not just ArmorGroup North America (AGNA) and its parent company, the security conglomerate G4S, but the State Department, too, leading to investigations by Congress and State’s inspector general. In the years leading up to the scandal, it turned out, the State Department had repeatedly found fault with the company’s performance—at one point stating in an internal memo that “the security of the US Embassy in Kabul is in jeopardy” as a result—but failed to fire AGNA. A former high-level AGNA employee also came forward to say that he’d warned the State Department about “lewd, aberrant, and sexually deviant behavior” by the company’s recruits more than two years before this conduct made global headlines. Again, no action was taken.
In December 2009, deeply embarrassed by the controversy, the State Department said it planned to axe AGNA once its contract came up for renewal that summer. But when that time came, the agency ended up extending the firm’s contract for another six months while it brought in another security provider. “Because the current KESF [Kabul Embassy Security Force] contract can only be extended through December 30th, we must have the company on the ground and operating by then,” a spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security told Mother Jones last summer.
In late September, the agency selected the Tennessee-based firm EOD Technology to take over the contract. But December 30 came and went with no changing of the guards. And AGNA apparently believed it was staying put, at least for a while. In mid-January, the company posted a job ad on Careerbuilder noting that it was “recruiting Protective Security Specialists to provide security to the U.S. Embassy in, Kabul, Afghanistan.”
A spokeswoman for AGNA, Susan Pitcher, confirmed that the firm is still protecting the embassy, but declined to comment further, citing a State Department policy about contractors speaking to reporters. EODT also declined to comment. But a Diplomatic Security spokesman told Mother Jones that the transition has been delayed. Now, he said, the handover won’t happen until May. “In order to provide EODT with adequate time to make an orderly transition, it has been given 120 days from the end of AGNA’s contract,” the spokesman said.
Sources familiar with the security force contract questioned whether the delay has anything to do with the transition process; one suggested that the State Department may merely be stalling after unwittingly selecting a replacement for AGNA that also has a controversial background.
In October, a week after the agency chose EODT for the job, the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has conducted a years-long investigation into private security firms in Afghanistan, released a report leveling serious allegations at both EODT and AGNA. It accused the companies of relying on local warlords to staff their guard forces—strongmen with unclear allegiances and possible Taliban ties. In one case, according to the report, EODT hired a group of Afghans who had recently been fired by ArmorGroup for “providing sensitive security information to…a Taliban-affiliated warlord.” (In response, EODT claimed that “all leaders which EODT utilized were made known to the US military at every stage of mobilization.” AGNA countered that it only relied on Afghans who had been recommended by special operations troops.)
Making matters worse for EODT, federal agents raided its offices in early December in connection with an investigation into potential export violations involving the transit of weapons or other military-grade materials. The company has said it is cooperating with the investigation and has denied any wrongdoing. “We obviously would not have been selected for some of the sensitive and important projects we handle for our country around the world had we not been thoroughly investigated before and found to be trustworthy,” the firm said in a statement. A State Department official said the agency was unaware the company was the subject of a federal investigation until stories about the raid appeared in the press, and insisted the probe “has not held up the transition.”
For Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, the fact that the State Department handed the embassy job to a company saddled with its own serious baggage illustrates the flawed logic of placing contractors in roles that she believes should be performed by US government personnel. “If there’s a better argument for making this mission an inherently governmental function, this situation is it,” she says. “We’ve got one discredited company to be replaced by another discredited company.”
Federal agents raided the Tennessee headquarters of a security contractor involved in Afghanistan and Iraq on Wednesday on warrants that officials said were related to alleged violations of defense-related export controls.
The contractor, EOD Technology Inc., provides security and other services for the State and Defense departments. It was selected in late September to take over security for the U.S. Embassy compound in Kabul.
One federal official said the alleged offenses fell under a law known as International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which governs the export and import of certain defense-related items. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation, would not specify the items in question but said the case involved exports to Iraq.
Reached by telephone Thursday, an EODT receptionist said that senior officials were all in a meeting and were unavailable for comment. On Wednesday, a company statement said that “this event came as a complete surprise to us. We are a responsibly run company, and adhere to the highest ethical standards. We are unaware of anything that could have triggered this event.”
The raid, directed by the U.S. attorney for eastern Tennessee, included agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service. Court documents related to the action were sealed and law enforcement officials said they would make no public comment on what they described as an ongoing investigation begun more than a year ago by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
EODT was cited in an October report issued by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for concerns about Afghan guards it had hired that “have been involved in activities at odds with U.S. interests in the region,” including providing information to Iran. In its response to the committee, the company said that all its employees had either been recommended or vetted by the U.S. military.
The company is also the subject of a lawsuit filed in October by a Kuwait-based subcontractor who alleges that armed EODT employees broke into its compound in Kabul, threatened personnel there, and stole contract goods.
In both Iraq and Afghanistan, many of the company’s contracts relate to “point security” – providing guards outside military forward operating bases and construction projects. Over the past several months, it has won Defense Department contracts to provide security at bases in southern and eastern Afghanistan.
Selection as one of eight security companies eligible to bid on task orders under the State Department’s Worldwide Personal Protective Services contract – and its winning bid to provide security for the Kabul Embassy – lifted EODT into the big leagues of security contracting.
A State Department official said “we did not know” that EODT was under federal investigation when the selection was made. While lists of companies who have been “debarred” from contract competition are reviewed before awards are made, the official said, “there is no register of companies that are under investigation.”
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that “we’re reaching out to the federal agency involved” in the case “to obtain more information.”
Every five years, the State Department sets a target amount for what it will cost to protect its installations abroad and selects companies eligible to bid on individual task orders. In its previous two iterations, the worldwide security contract granted eligibility to only a handful of companies, including Dyncorp International, Triple Canopy and Blackwater, now known as Xe Services.
When selecting companies for the current five-year contract, completed in September, “we wanted a greater range to choose from” and “qualified more companies than in the past,” including EODT, the State Department official said. Costs under the contract have also ballooned, with an increased U.S. civilian presence in Afghanistan and the anticipated withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq at the end of next year. The current contract sets a cap of $10 billion for all task orders until its expiration in 2015.
Founded by two retired Marine sergeants in 1987, EODT focused its operations for many years on munitions management, including the clearance of ordnance, hazardous materials and chemical-warfare material. Like many similar small firms, it moved into the mushrooming area of private security contracting with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the expansion of operations in Afghanistan Please see the original here
EODT took advantage of situation in Iraq, inspector general says
A federal watchdog indicated Thursday that this week’s raid on a local defense contractor is aimed at bringing accountability to those who have tried to take advantage of the situation in Iraq.
Stuart Bowen is the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, a position created by Congress in 2004 to provide accountability for the use of funds for Iraq relief and reconstruction. In an interview Thursday, Bowen said his office has more than 100 ongoing cases, including a case related to Wednesday’s raid on Lenoir City contractor EOD Technology.
The IG said most of the cases are executed through task forces, such as the one that participated in the Wednesday raid. He added that the U.S. Army’s criminal investigation division ‘played a major role’ in getting that case put together. Bowen, a graduate of the University of the South, said his agency also works closely with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, which is an arm of the Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General.
‘This is not the first, and it won’t be the last, time that we work with those agencies … as well as (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to hold accountable those who have taken advantage of the chaotic situation in Iraq for their criminal, personal benefit,’ said Bowen.
Asked if that’s what he believes happened in the case of EODT, Bowen replied, ‘Yes, that is why the search was carried out.’
In a statement issued Wednesday, EODT officials said they didn’t know of anything that could have triggered the raid. ‘We obviously would not have been selected for some of the sensitive and important projects we handle for our country around the world had we not been thoroughly investigated before and found to be trustworthy,’ the statement said.
Federal agents, assisted by the Lenoir City Police Department, raided EODT’s three-building campus on Old Highway 95, in Lenoir City, and an EODT facility in Roane County on Wednesday, and were seen carrying paperwork between buildings and escorting occupants of the buildings to their vehicles. By Thursday morning, activity at both sites appeared to be at an end.
In recent years, EODT has faced scrutiny in court, in Congress and by military officials. In September, a report from the Senate Armed Services Committee alleged that EODT ‘partnered with local strongmen’ to support its operations in Adraskan, a village in Afghanistan’s Herat Province. The report said EODT had garnered a contract worth nearly $7 million to provide security at a facility in the village, and that the company assigned quotas to local strongmen or ‘notables’ to staff its guard force. Among those who recommended men for hire, the report said, was ‘General’ Said Abdul Wahab Qattili, who allegedly recommended some men who had previously been fired by another contractor for reportedly providing sensitive security information to a Taliban-affiliated warlord.
In a press release, EODT said its contract required the company to use Afghan personnel from the area surrounding the contract location. ‘The local leaders which EODT sought out to assist in hiring personnel were persons made known to EODT by the U.S. military or were commonly known leaders within that area,’ the release said. ‘In any event all leaders which EODT utilized were made known to the U.S. military at every stage of mobilization.’
The company also said the name of any Afghan hired by EODT was provided to the appropriate person, as designated by the contract, for approval of the hire.
In October, a Kuwaiti manufacturer of temporary housing was among the plaintiffs that sued EODT in U.S. District Court, alleging that the company stole more than $1 million worth of prefabricated shelters. Neither EODT nor its officials named in the lawsuit could be reached for comment at the time.
EODT has also clashed with some of its former employees. In 2009, the company sued five former employees for $80 million, and accused them of stealing company secrets to form a competing company. That suit was later dismissed.
One of those former senior managers had been accused in a 2007 Army investigation of helping secure $2.5 million in contracts for EODT through inside information he received from an Air Force captain with whom he was having an extramarital affair. The Army threatened to ban EODT from government work because of allegations against the employee, but eventually decided against a suspension or debarment.
In March, one of the former employees sued by EODT filed his own suit against the company in Loudon County Chancery Court, alleging a wide variety of misconduct by the company, including the violation of federal arms export laws and overcharging on government contracts. The company responded by calling the claims ‘sensational, unsubstantiated, and untrue allegations (used) as a tactic to obscure the real issues of the case.’
Senate panel: U.S. money was funneled to Afghan warlords with links to violence
The leading Senate panel on military affairs has found that several private security contractors in Afghanistan funneled money from their Pentagon contracts to warlords and strongmen linked to murder, kidnapping and bribery.
The private security contractors at the center of the yearlong Senate Armed Services Committee investigation also used U.S. taxpayers’ money to pay off individuals who supported the Taliban or took action against NATO-coalition forces in Afghanistan, according to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the panel’s chairman.
One of the companies investigated, ArmorGroup, a subsidiary of the British company G4S, relied on Afghan warlords — some of whom were Taliban supporters — to provide manpower for the company’s guard force at an Afghan air base, the report said.
During the contract period with the U.S. Air Force, one of the warlords who provided security forces for ArmorGroup killed another warlord in a shootout at a bazaar, according to the report. A third warlord working with ArmorGroup was killed in a U.S.-Afghan military raid on a Taliban meeting at his home.
A second company, EOD Technology (EODT), relied on local powerbrokers to supply personnel for its guard force, including one individual said to have raised money for the Taliban. EODT also hired personnel that had previously been fired by ArmorGroup for passing sensitive information to a Taliban-linked warlord, according to Levin.
EODT is registered as a foreign corporation in Tennessee.
The investigation also looked into more than 125 Pentagon security contracts in Afghanistan that were in place from 2007 to 2009. The panel found that contractors did not properly vet their personnel or ensure they received adequate training. The investigation revealed wasted resources and “wide gaps in government” oversight that allowed “dangerous” failures to take place, Levin said.
EODT Becomes Charter Signatory of International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers
LENOIR CITY, Tenn., Nov. 12, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- EOD Technology, Inc. (EODT), a professional services company providing strategic stability operations support worldwide, was one of 45 international firms to become Charter Signatories to the International Code of Conduct (ICoC) for Private Security Service Providers. The ICoC establishes global standards for the private security industry and sets the stage for eventual company certification and oversight mechanisms.
The signing ceremony was hosted by the Swiss Government in Geneva on Nov. 9. The ICoC is the result of a 15 month multi-stakeholder process including private security companies, industry associations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)/civil society, with the assistance and support of the US, UK, and Swiss Governments. The signing ceremony was followed by several events which continued through the next day, largely focusing on initiating the next steps spelled out in the ICoC.
EODT President and CEO Matt Kaye, signing the ICoC on behalf of EODT, attended this ceremony and corresponding events alongside representatives from the US Department of State, US Department of Defense, the UK Government, Swiss Government, civil society, and the leaders of the other 45 security companies. EODT General Counsel Erik Quist, who was one of the key private security industry representatives involved in drafting the ICoC, also attend and was chosen to participate on a select panel of security industry, government, and civil society members to discuss independent mechanisms for governance and oversight. Going forward, EODT will be working with and providing assistance to the group charged with initiating the ICoC’s next steps. “This Code is a strong document and an important step in building an effective scheme for improving this industry’s human rights performance,” said Human Rights First’s Devon Chaffee, who spoke at the signing ceremony.
“As a market leader, EODT has worked for nearly five years with the International Stability Operations Association and other groups to establish enforceable operational and ethical standards as the benchmark for private security contractors,” said EODT’s President and CEO Matt Kaye. “EODT is delighted to be among the Charter Signatories of the ICoC. The signing of this historic International Code of Conduct is a great first step toward ensuring that all security companies adhere to the same high standards that EODT always has. We look forward to the US and UK Governments finalizing their efforts to require ICoC compliance as a condition to the award of their security contracts, as well as the general continuation of this process to gain widespread acceptance of the ICoC and ensure all security contractors embrace the accountability, transparency, and oversight it will require.”
The State Department Office of the Inspector General (OIG) today released a damning performance evaluation of ArmorGroup North America (AGNA), the contractor responsible for guarding the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Among the revelations from today’s OIG report:
- AGNA employed, and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security failed to scrutinize, “Nepalese guards without verifiable experience, training, or background investigations in violation of its contract.”
- “AGNA cannot account for 101 U.S. Government-furnished weapons that have been missing since 2007. AGNA used U.S. Government-furnished weapons for training rather than required contractor-furnished weapons.”
- “AGNA regularly allows individuals who are not vetted by Embassy Kabul’s regional security office unescorted access to Camp Sullivan, a U.S. Government-owned camp containing sensitive materials.”
The report confirms and expands on the findings of our investigation last year, which pulled back the curtain on a “Lord of the Flies environment” that had taken hold of the Embassy security guard force.
Lewd and obscene photos of AGNA security guards helped our investigation garner considerable attention—but the key revelation, as detailed in our letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was that the State Department was failing to conduct oversight of a contractor performing an incredibly important service. Today’s OIG report is just one more piece of evidence demonstrating that the State Department continues to struggle in its oversight of private security contractors.
Find statements by POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian and POGO investigator Jake Wiens here.
ArmorGroup’s contract expired on June 30, 2010, but the company will continue to guard the Embassy through the end of 2010. The State Department has selected EOD Technology, Inc. (EODT) to take over security at the Embassy.
— Bryan Rahija
- Testimony of Danielle Brian before the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan Regarding Private Security Contractors
- Senate Report Says ArmorGroup Funded Warlords In Bed With the Taliban
- Did Triple Canopy Instruct Its Guards to Lie to State Department Investigators?
- Kabul Embassy Deja Vu
- Kabul Embassy Guards Back in the Spotlight
- POGO Letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding U.S. Embassy in Kabul
Posted October 24, 2010 at 11:19 p.m.
Afghanistan isn’t the only place where EOD Technology is facing conflict with foreign forces.
The Loudon County-based defense contractor finds itself under attack in a Knoxville federal court, accused of stealing at gunpoint more than $1 million worth of prefabricated shelters made from shipping containers used at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.
The incident allegedly occurred in the early morning hours of Oct. 23, 2009, when EODT security personnel stormed a compound used by a Kuwaiti prefab housing manufacturer in Kabul, Afghanistan. The lawsuit, which said the Kuwaiti company was paying EODT to protect the Kabul manufacturing compound, also claimed the EODT security guards loaded “housing modules” on 15 flatbed trucks while holding employees of the Kuwaiti manufacturer at gunpoint before leaving.
The suit, filed late last week in U.S. District Court, further stated that EODT’s paramilitary personnel delivered some 90 housing modules to Bagram Air Field, where they are being used by U.S. service personnel, before Afghan police “halted further thefts.” EODT is a contractor to the U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan.
Kuwaiti temporary housing manufacturer MAKS Inc. General Trading & Contracting Co. and co-plaintiffs Gopalakrishna Pillai Ajeesh Kumar Kammarayil and Mohammed Azad Shabbir – who are India natives and MAKS employees – and three unidentified Afghan employees of MAKS are seeking compensatory and punitive damages of at least $3 million in the 11-count suit that accuses EODT of, among other things, assault, false imprisonment, negligence and breach of contract.
EODT contracted with MAKS to build and transfer 224 prefab housing modules and MAKS is awaiting payment of more than $2 million, the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs say EODT and its subsidiary EODT General Security Co., EODT officials Matt Kaye and Mark Anderson and three unidentified security guards are responsible for launching the military-style invasion of their Kabul construction facility.
Neither EODT nor its officials named in the lawsuit could be reached for comment.
In the lawsuit, MAKS said EODT contracted with it in February 2009 to provide the temporary housing modules and then in June 2009 MAKS contracted with EODT General Security Co. to provide security for the Kabul construction facility. MAKS describes the plaintiffs as incompetent in carrying out their duties of providing proper management and security oversight in the construction of the housing units.
MAKS acknowledges that EODT raised objections to MAKS’s fabrication of the housing units in Kuwait and some of the materials used before they were shipped to Afghanistan. Original story here
By JAMES GLANZ and ANDREW W. LEHREN Published: October 23, 2010
The first shots sailed past Iraqi police officers at a checkpoint. They took off in three squad cars, their lights flashing.
It was early in the Iraq war, Dec. 22, 2004, and it turned out that the shots came not from insurgents or criminals. They were fired by an American private security company named Custer Battles, according to an incident report in an archive of more than 300,000 classified military documents made public by WikiLeaks.
The company’s convoy sped south in Umm Qasr, a grubby port city near the Persian Gulf. It shot out the tire of a civilian car that came close. It fired five shots into a crowded minibus. The shooting stopped only after the Iraqi police, port security and a British military unit finally caught up with the convoy.
Somehow no one had been hurt, and the contractors found a quick way to prevent messy disciplinary action. They handed out cash to Iraqi civilians, and left.
The documents sketch, in vivid detail, a critical change in the way America wages war: the early days of the Iraq war, with all its Wild West chaos, ushered in the era of the private contractor, wearing no uniform but fighting and dying in battle, gathering and disseminating intelligence and killing presumed insurgents.
There have been many abuses, including civilian deaths, to the point that the Afghan government is working to ban many outside contractors entirely.
The use of security contractors is expected to grow as American forces shrink. A July report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a panel established by Congress, estimated that the State Department alone would need more than double the number of contractors it had protecting the American Embassy and consulates in Iraq.
Contractors were necessary at the start of the Iraq war because there simply were not enough soldiers to do the job. In 2004, their presence became the symbol for Iraq’s descent into chaos, when four contractors were killed in Falluja, their bodies left mangled and charred.
Even now — with many contractors discredited for unjustified shootings and a lack of accountability amply described in the documents — the military cannot do without them. There are more contractors over all than actual members of the military serving in the worsening war in Afghanistan.
The archive, which describes many episodes never made public in such detail, shows the multitude of shortcomings with this new system: how a failure to coordinate among contractors, coalition forces and Iraqi troops, as well as a failure to enforce rules of engagement that bind the military, endangered civilians as well as the contractors themselves. The military was often outright hostile to contractors, for being amateurish, overpaid and, often, trigger-happy.
Contractors often shot with little discrimination — and few if any consequences — at unarmed Iraqi civilians, Iraqi security forces, American troops and even other contractors, stirring public outrage and undermining much of what the coalition forces were sent to accomplish.
The mayhem cropped up around Iraq, notably in one episode reported in March 2005 in which a small battle erupted involving three separate security companies.
At a notoriously dangerous checkpoint on the main road to the Baghdad airport, a cement truck entered a lane reserved for Department of Defense vehicles. A guard from Global, a British company, fired a warning shot, and when a man initially identified as an Iraqi opened the door and tried to flee, guards from a tower started firing, too. The man dropped to the ground. Then members of an Iraqi private security team parked nearby also opened fire, shooting through the chest not the driver but a worker from DynCorp International, an American security company.
When the truck driver was finally questioned, he turned out to be a Filipino named José who worked with yet a third company, KBR, the American logistics and security giant.
The conclusion drawn from this chaos was, “IT IS BELIEVED THE DRIVER ENTERED THE DOD LANE BY ACCIDENT.”
For all the contractors’ bravado — Iraq was packed with beefy men with beards and flak jackets — and for all the debates about their necessity, it is clear from the documents that the contractors appeared notably ineffective at keeping themselves and the people they were paid to protect from being killed.
In fact, the documents seem to confirm a common observation on the ground during those years in Iraq: far from providing insurance against sudden death, the easily identifiable, surprisingly vulnerable pickup trucks and S.U.V.’s driven by the security companies were magnets for insurgents, militias, disgruntled Iraqis and anyone else in search of a target.
Most of the documents are incident reports and match what is known of the few cases that have been made public, although even this cache is unlikely to be a complete record of incidents involving contractors. During the six years covered by the reports, at least 175 private security contractors were killed. The peak appeared to come in 2006, when 53 died. Insurgents and other malefactors kidnapped at least 70 security contractors, many of whom were later killed.
Aegis, a British security company, had the most workers reported killed, more than 30. Most of those were Iraqi drivers, guards and other employees. Not only the military, but journalists and aid workers as well relied on contractors to help protect them.
The security contractors seemed overmatched, often incinerated or torn apart by explosions their vehicles had no chance of warding off. In August 2004, the corpses of two men who had worked with Custer Battles were found charred and abandoned in a truck that was still burning on the road between Tikrit and Mosul, after it was struck by an improvised explosive device and fired upon from a Volkswagen, one report said.
In July 2007, another report said, two were killed when a gun truck operated by ArmorGroup, a British company, flew like a wobbling discus 54 yards through the air, flipping approximately six times, after a huge I.E.D. exploded beneath it in northern Iraq.
And in May 2009, three Americans, including a senior Navy officer, were killed outside Falluja when an I.E.D. overturned a vehicle escorted by Aegis contractors during a visit to a water treatment plant financed by the United States, according to another report and American government statements at the time.
Death came suddenly, from all sides, in all forms.
In late 2004 in Tikrit, seven men emerged from two Daewoo vehicles and mowed down Iraqi workers for Buckmaster, a company hired to destroy old munitions, as the workers got out of a bus, a report said. The gunmen did not flee until they ran out of ammunition, killing 17 and wounding 20 as two Iraqis saved themselves by hiding under seats in the bus.
There were suicide bombings, desert ambushes, aviation disasters and self-inflicted wounds, as when a Ugandan guard working for EOD Technology, an American company, shot and killed his South African supervisor and then himself in 2008 after being terminated, a report said.
A spokesman for EOD confirmed the incident and said that the investigation had been unable to determine “why this particular guard decided to take the actions that he did.”
“I think the only elaboration on this incident is to note that it was a very sad and unfortunate event,” said the spokesman, Erik S. Quist.
In another case, in Baghdad in the summer of 2009, a British contractor with ArmorGroup was reported to have shot and killed two co-workers, a Briton and an Australian, then run wild through the heavily fortified Green Zone in an attempt to escape. Finally, a coalition soldier tackled him, a report said, and another soldier “shot a directed-aimed warning shot into sand bags which immediately stopped resistance from suspect so that he could be brought under control.” Read the Document »
The alleged killer, Daniel Fitzsimons, is still being held in Baghdad while awaiting trial under Iraqi law.
The contractors also suffered horrific traffic accidents with multiple fatalities all over Iraq, seemingly as a side effect of driving at high speeds on bad roads where a threat can appear at any moment.
The threats were not limited to insurgents, the documents show: private security contractors repeatedly came under fire from Iraqi and coalition security forces, who often seemed unnerved by unmarked vehicles approaching at high speeds and fired warning shots, or worse. Even as the war dragged on, there seemed no universal method for the military to identify these quasi soldiers on the battlefield.
To cope, the contractors were reduced to waving reproductions of coalition flags from inside their vehicles, the documents show — but even that did not always work. After being shot at by an American military guard tower near Baiji in July 2005, contractors with Aegis first waved a British flag. When the shooting continued, the contractors, who said they were transporting a member of the American military at the time, held up an American flag instead. “THE TOWER KEPT SHOOTING,” a report said, although no one was injured in the episode.
But whatever the constellation of reasons — from war-zone jumpiness to outright disregard for civilian lives — the security companies are cited time after time for shootings that the documents plainly label as unjustified. This has blackened their reputation, even if it has not lessened the military’s dependence on them. “AFTER THE IED STRIKE A WITNESS REPORTS THE BLACKWATER EMPLOYEES FIRED INDISCRIMINATELY AT THE SCENE,” read one report from Aug. 22, 2006, referring to the company, now known as Xe Services, that the following year would become notorious for an apparently unprovoked killing of 17 Iraqis at Nisour Square in Baghdad.
In a written statement last week, Xe said, “While it would be inappropriate to comment on specific cases, we work closely with our government customers and cooperate fully in all investigations.”
In December 2004, just a few days after the confrontation with Iraqi security forces, another Custer Battles convoy fired into the windshield of a Humvee driven by American military police soldiers in a patrol that was approaching the convoy from behind on another road near Baghdad. The report noted laconically that the security contractors did not stop their convoy until they reached an American checkpoint, “WHERE THEY ADMITTED TO FIRING ON THE MP PTL,” the military police patrol.
Many of the companies apparently felt no sense of accountability. Contractors with a Romanian company called Danubia Global killed three Iraqis in Falluja in 2006, another report said, then refused to answer questions on the episode, citing a company policy not to provide information to investigators.
In 2007, a convoy operated by Unity Resources Group, based in Dubai, shot at an approaching vehicle near the Green Zone in Baghdad, wounded a bodyguard for President Jalal Talabani of Iraq and did not report the shooting until Mr. Talabani’s staff contacted the American authorities, one report said.
When asked about the incident last week, a Unity official, Jim LeBlanc, said that “in a time of numerous suicide vehicle attacks, a vehicle had presented itself in a profile that was consistent with the behavior of a suicide attacker.” Unity guards fired “carefully aimed warning shots” when the vehicle refused to stop, Mr. LeBlanc said, and the company did not initially believe that anyone had been hurt.
Only when contacted by American investigators did Unity realize that “an Iraqi security force member” had been struck by a ricochet, and from that point on, the company fully cooperated, Mr. LeBlanc said. After the investigation, he said, “all Unity members were cleared to immediately return to work.”
And still more recently, in July 2009, local contractors with the 77th Security Company drove into a neighborhood in the northern city of Erbil and began shooting at random, setting off a firefight with an off-duty police officer and wounding three women, another report said.
“It is assessed that this drunken group of individuals were out having a good time and firing their weapons,” the incident report concluded.
In many other cases, contractors cited what they considered a justifiable “escalation of force” as an Iraqi vehicle moved toward them and did not respond to “hand signals” and other signs that the driver should stop. At that point, the contractors would fire into the vehicle’s engine block or through the windshield.
The Iraqis who were shot at, and who the documents show were nearly always civilians, not surprisingly saw things differently. To judge by the disgust that seeps through even the dry, police-blotter language of some of the incident reports, American military units often had a similar perspective. That appears to be especially true of reports on “escalations of force” by Blackwater in the years leading up to the Nisour Square shooting, the documents show.
On May 14, 2005, an American unit “OBSERVED A BLACKWATER PSD SHOOT UP A CIV VEHICLE,” killing a father and wounding his wife and daughter, a report said, referring to a Blackwater protective security detail.
On May 2, 2006, witnesses said that an Iraqi ambulance driver approaching an area struck by a roadside bomb was killed by “uncontrolled small arms firing” by Blackwater guards, another report noted.Read the Document »
On Aug. 16, 2006, after being struck by an I.E.D. in the southbound lane of a highway, Blackwater contractors shot and killed an Iraqi in the back seat of a vehicle traveling in the northbound lane, a report said. At least twice — in Kirkuk and Hilla — civilian killings by Blackwater set off civilian demonstrations, the documents say.Read the Document »
And so it went, up to the Sept. 16, 2007, Nisour Square shooting by Blackwater guards that is again noted as an “escalation of force” in the documents. Little new light is shed on the episode by the documents, although in a twist, the report indicated that the street from which the Blackwater convoy charged into the square went by the military code name Skid Row.
The last reference to Custer Battles, which eventually lost a $10 million whistle-blower case in which it was claimed that the company defrauded the United States on billing invoices for the company’s work in Iraq, appears in a report dated March 15, 2005, describing an I.E.D. strike on an exit ramp in western Baghdad. An Iraqi driver for the company received shrapnel wounds in the face from the bomb and was wounded in the chest by gunfire that broke out after the explosion. The driver was taken to a local hospital, ultimate fate unknown. Please read the original story here
The Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) program provides comprehensive protective security services to support U.S. Department of State operations around the world.
Office: Office of Logistics Management
Location: Acquisition Management
SEE DESCRIPTION, SEE DESCRI
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
SAQMMA10D0099 : SOC, LLC
SAQMMA10D0100 : Torres International Services, LLC
SAQMMA10D0104 : Triple Canopy, Inc.
Arlington, Virginia 22219