Wired’s Danger Room November 21, 2012
Inside a compound in Kabul called Camp Integrity, the Pentagon stations a small group of officers to oversee the U.S. military’s various operations to curb the spread of Afghanistan’s cash crops of heroin and marijuana, which help line the Taliban’s pockets. Only Camp Integrity isn’t a U.S. military base at all. It’s the 10-acre Afghanistan headquarters of the private security company formerly known as Blackwater.
Those officers work for an obscure Pentagon agency called the Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office, or CNTPO. Quietly, it’s grown into one of the biggest dispensers of cash for private security contractors in the entire U.S. government: One pile of contracts last year from CNTPO was worth more than $3 billion. And it sees a future for itself in Afghanistan over the long haul.
Earlier this month, a U.S. government solicitation sought to hire a security firm to help CNTPO “maintain a basic, operational support cell” in Kabul. Army Lt. Col. James Gregory, a Pentagon spokesman, explains that “cell” doesn’t kick in the doors of any Afghan narco-kingpins. It handles the more mundane tasks of overseeing the contracts of the Pentagon’s counter-narcotics programs, from “training and linguists, and [providing] supplies, such as vehicles and equipment.” The solicitation, however, indicates those services aren’t going anywhere: When all the options are exercised, the contract extends through September 29, 2015, over a year past the date when Afghan soldiers and cops are supposed to take over the war. And the “government preferred location” to base CNTPO? Camp Integrity.
The envisioned Pentagon counter-narco-terrorism staff is pretty small: only two to four personnel. But protecting them at Camp Integrity is serious business. The November 6 solicitation calls for a security firm that can “provide a secure armory and weapons maintenance service, including the ability to check-in and check-out weapons and ammunition,” particularly 9 mm pistols and M4 rifles; and to provide “secure armored” transportation to the CNTPO team — primarily “in and around Kabul, but could include some remote locations.”
CNTPO has a longstanding relationship with Blackwater, the infamous security firm that is now known as Academi. In 2009, it gave Blackwater a contract to train Afghan police, and company employees used that contract to requisition guns from the U.S. military for their private use. Although that contract was ultimately taken out of CNTPO’s hands, the office’s relationship with Academi/Blackwater endures. Last year, Academi told Danger Room it has a contract with CNTPO, worth an undisclosed amount, to provide “all-source intelligence analyst support and material procurement” for Afghanistan. An Academi spokeswoman, Kelley Gannon, declined to comment on Academi’s relationship with CNTPO, or whether it’ll bid on the new contract
Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room November 2, 2012
Just days after an inspector general report revealed that a giant Pentagon contractor performed “unsatisfactory” work in Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force awarded the firm another multimillion-dollar pot of cash.
Virginia’s DynCorp, which performs everything from private security to construction for the U.S. military, has re-upped with Air Force to help pilots learn basic flying skills on the T-6A/B Texan II aircraft, a training plane. The deal is only the latest between DynCorp and the Air Force on the Texan II: In June, the Air Force Materiel Command gave the company a deal worth nearly $55 million for training services. The latest one, announced late Thursday, is worth another $72.8 million, and lasts through October 2013.
But the Air Force’s lucrative vote of confidence in DynCorp comes not even a week after the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction blasted the company for performing “unsatisfactory” construction work at an Afghan Army base in Kunduz. The base was “at risk of structural failure” when the watchdogs initially inspected, but the Army Corps of Engineers chose to settle DynCorp’s contract, a move that awarded the company “$70.8 million on the construction contracts and releas[ed] it from any further liabilities and warranty obligation.” (.pdf)
A DynCorp spokeswoman, Ashley Burke, told Bloomberg News that the company disputed the special inspector general’s findings. For its part, the special inspector general took to tweeting photographs of what it called “DynCorp’s failed work at #Afghan #Army Base in #Kunduz.
Arabian Business June 26, 2012
Dubai-based military contractor Anham has won a contract worth an estimated US $8.1bn to provide food to US troops serving in Afghanistan.
Anham will succeed present contractor Supreme Foodservice after it became embroiled in a billing dispute with the Pentagon.
“We have a long track record of conducting large-scale, successful operations in the most demanding conditions,” said Anham in a statement. “Whether it is our support of the US troops and state department in Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan or the US army in Afghanistan, we deliver the best services on time and within budget.”
The present contract with Supreme Foodservice was inked in 2005, costing the US government nearly US$6.8bn.
This year, however, payments to Supreme Foodservice have been reduced, following claims by the Pentagon that they have overpaid the supplier by US$750m.
USA Today June 11, 2012
WASHINGTON – Pentagon criminal investigators have launched a full probe into the military’s top propaganda contractor in Afghanistan regarding taxes paid by its owners and treatment of its Afghan employees, according to a letter obtained by USA TODAY.
The paper revealed in February that the owners of Leonie Industries had owed more than $4 million in back taxes to the federal government. That debt was settled in March, federal records show. The company has received at least $120 million in Pentagon contracts since 2009.
Rep. John Tierney, a Massachusetts Democrat and a senior member of the oversight committee, requested the Pentagon Inspector General investigation of Leonie in March. He praised the Defense Criminal Investigative Service‘s decision to move beyond its initial inquiry and launched a more formal investigation.
USA Today March 8, 2012
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon should garnish payments made to defense contractors who fail to pay their federal income taxes, say a bipartisan pair of senators in a letter sent to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The article detailed how two owners of Leonie Industries, the Pentagon’s largest such contractor in Afghanistan, owe more than $4 million in unpaid federal taxes since 2006.
Unfortunately, the apparent lack of effective contractor oversight and accountability led to a situation where the Army awarded at least one of these contracts — valued at $20 million — to a company for ‘marketing and media services’ even after the federal government placed a federal tax lien on the company’s two owners for nearly $4.5 million in delinquent federal taxes,” Carper and Coburn wrote in the letter sent Tuesday evening.
Carper is the chairman of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security, and Coburn is a member of the subcommittee.
“As you know, when U.S. military personnel have delinquent debts, the Department of Defense can be ordered to garnish their wages until these debts have been settled,” Carper and Coburn write. “If our wartime contractors — or any of the Department’s contractors, for that matter — have accumulated sizable tax debts, then we believe that similar action should be taken against these contractors
By NICK SCHWELLENBACH at POGO January 26, 2012
It appears that Fiscal Year 2011 saw more Defense Department criminal investigations of alleged human trafficking by its contractor supply chain than in any one of the last five years, according to a Pentagon inspector general report publicly released today (it is dated January 17).
All three investigations involved or allegedly involved U.S. government contractors or subcontractors in Southwest Asia: Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.
“While not criminal prosecutions, there have been some civil and administrative actions recently. Earlier this year, the Justice Department joined a whistleblower qui tam lawsuit that alleged that ArmorGroup North America had not reported trafficking-in-persons violations by its personnel as required by its contract. ArmorGroup North America, which had a contract to defend the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, settled the lawsuit for $7.5 million. ArmorGroup North America’s parent company said in a statement that the settlement was made “to avoid costly and disruptive litigation—and that there has been no finding or admission of liability.”
The Pentagon is pressing one of the largest contractors in Afghanistan, Supreme Foodservice AG, to refund within 30 days overpayments of $756.9 million in unsupported transportation costs, according to a spokeswoman
by Tony Cappacio Bloomberg December 13, 2011
The Pentagon is pressing one of the largest contractors in Afghanistan, Supreme Foodservice AG, to refund within 30 days overpayments of $756.9 million in unsupported transportation costs, according to a spokeswoman.
The Defense Logistics Agency made the decision last week“after extensive negotiations, in which Supreme and the agency were unable to agree on final rates” for a contract first awarded in December 2005, said agency spokeswoman Mimi Schirmacher in a statement.
Supreme Foodservice of Ziegelbrucke, Switzerland, through Sept. 30 has been paid $5.5 billion since 2005 to supply and transport food, water, three-layered corrugated packing boxes and other non-food items to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It provides fresh fruits and vegetables to as many as 246 sites in Afghanistan under the agency’s “Subsistence Prime Vendor”program.
Schirmacher said the Defense Logistics Agency can’t break down the $756.9 million by category “since it involves proprietary pricing information.”
Company spokeswoman Victoria Frost said in an e-mail that the contested rates have been in negotiations for several years. The company “strongly disputes” the repayment request and will appeal, she said.
‘Just How Bad’
Pentagon Inspector General Gordon Heddell, whose auditors in a March report first highlighted Defense Logistics Agency oversight deficiencies, said at a Dec. 7 hearing that the original Supreme contract was “an example of just how bad it can get.” The contract “wasn’t well-designed” or “well-thought out.”
Only this year has the defense agency assessed final transportation rates for a contract awarded in 2005, Heddell said.
“We are just now determining what should have been the reasonable and fair prices to pay,” Heddell told a House oversight committee.
Supreme’s head of Washington-based operations is Robert Dail, a former Army Lieutenant General who headed the DLA between August 2006 and November 2008. He presented Supreme in January 2007 with the agency’s “New Contractor of the Year Award.” He joined Supreme in March 2009 as president of Supreme Group USA in Reston, Virginia
Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room November 22, 2011
An obscure Pentagon office designed to curb the flow of illegal drugs has quietly evolved into a one-stop shop for private security contractors around the world, soliciting deals worth over $3 billion.
The sprawling contract, ostensibly designed to stop drug-funded terrorism, seeks security firms for missions like “train[ing] Azerbaijan Naval Commandos.” Other tasks include providing Black Hawk and Kiowa helicopter training “for crew members of the Mexican Secretariat of Public Security.” Still others involve building “anti-terrorism/force protection enhancements” for the Pakistani border force in the tribal areas abutting Afghanistan.
The Defense Department’s Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office has packed all these tasks and more inside a mega-contract for security firms. The office, known as CNTPO, is all but unknown, even to professional Pentagon watchers. It interprets its counternarcotics mandate very, very broadly, leaning heavily on its implied counterterrorism portfolio. And it’s responsible for one of the largest chunks of money provided to mercenaries in the entire federal government.
CNTPO quietly solicited an umbrella contract for all the security services listed above — and many, many more — on Nov. 9. It will begin handing out the contract’s cash by August. And there is a lot of cash to disburse.
The ceiling for the “operations, logistics and minor construction” tasks within CNTPO’s contract is $950 million. Training foreign forces tops out at $975 million. “Information” tasks yield $875 million. The vague “program and program support” brings another $240 million.
That puts CNTPO in a rare category. By disbursing at least $3 billion — likely more, since the contract awards come with up to three yearlong re-ups — the office is among the most lucrative sources of cash for private security contractors. The largest, from the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, doles out a $10 billion, five-year deal known as the Worldwide Protective Services contract
By T Christian Miller and Joaquin Sapien at ProPublica July 11, 2011
If you want more explanation about the military’s troubles in treating troops with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress, read no further than two recent but largely unnoticed reports from the Government Accountability Office.
It turns out the Pentagon’s solution to the problems is an organization plagued by weak leadership, uncertain priorities and a money trail so tangled that even the GAO’s investigators couldn’t sort it out. The GAO findings on the Pentagon’s Defense Centers of Excellence (DCOE) echo our own series  on the military’s difficulty in handling the so-called invisible wounds of war.
“We have an organization that exists, but we have considerable concern about what it is that it’s actually accomplishing,” said Denise Fantone, a GAO director who supervised research on one of the reports. She added: “I can’t say with any certainty that I know what DCOE does, and I think that’s a concern.”
First, some background. After the 2007 scandal over poor care delivered to soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Congress ordered the Pentagon to do a better job treating soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. The Pentagon’s answer was to create DCOE . The new organization was supposed to be a clearinghouse to foster cutting-edge research in treatments.
DCOE was rushed into existence in late 2007. Since then, it has churned through three leaders, including one let go after alleged sexual harassment of subordinates . It takes more than five months to hire each employee because of the federal government’s glacial process. As a result, private contractors make up much of the center’s staff.
“DCOE’s development has been challenged by a mission that lacks clarity and by time-consuming hiring processes,” according to the first report in the GAO series , focusing on “management weakness” at DCOE.
Just as concerning, the GAO says that it can’t quite figure out how much money DCOE has received or where it has all gone. DCOE has never submitted a budget document that fully conformed to typical federal standards, according to a GAO report released last month . In one year, the center simply turned in a spreadsheet without detailed explanations.
How two American kids became big-time weapons traders — until the Pentagon turned on them
The e-mail confirmed it: everything was finally back on schedule after weeks of maddening, inexplicable delay. A 747 cargo plane had just lifted off from an airport in Hungary and was banking over the Black Sea toward Kyrgyzstan, some 3,000 miles to the east. After stopping to refuel there, the flight would carry on to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Aboard the plane were 80 pallets loaded with nearly 5 million rounds of ammunition for AK-47s, the Soviet-era assault rifle favored by the Afghan National Army.
Reading the e-mail back in Miami Beach, David Packouz breathed a sigh of relief. The shipment was part of a $300 million contract that Packouz and his partner, Efraim Diveroli, had won from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan. It was May 2007, and the war was going badly. After six years of fighting, Al Qaeda remained a menace, the Taliban were resurgent, and NATO casualties were rising sharply. For the Bush administration, the ammunition was part of a desperate, last-ditch push to turn the war around before the U.S. presidential election the following year. To Packouz and Diveroli, the shipment was part of a major arms deal that promised to make them seriously rich.
This article appears in the March 31, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available now on newsstands and will appear in the online archive March 18.
Reassured by the e-mail, Packouz got into his brand-new blue Audi A4 and headed home for the evening, windows open, the stereo blasting. At 25, he wasn’t exactly used to the pressures of being an international arms dealer. Only months earlier, he had been making his living as a massage therapist; his studies at the Educating Hands School of Massage had not included classes in military contracting or geopolitical brinkmanship. But Packouz hadn’t been able to resist the temptation when Diveroli, his 21-year-old friend from high school, had offered to cut him in on his burgeoning arms business. Working with nothing but an Internet connection, a couple of cellphones and a steady supply of weed, the two friends — one with a few college credits, the other a high school dropout — had beaten out Fortune 500 giants like General Dynamics to score the huge arms contract. With a single deal, two stoners from Miami Beach had turned themselves into the least likely merchants of death in history.
Congress’ Human Terrain Assessment Vanishes: Politically Charged Study Withdrawn from Military Website
The Center for Naval Analyses report (CNAR) on the US Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS) was available online at DTIC about 24 hours ago.
Now the CNAR report is MIA. Fortunately a download is available at this website:
Activating any of the links to the CNAR brings back these messages:
“The resource you requested has been withdrawn for administrative reasons. For additional information, contact the DTIC help desk at 800-225-3842 or firstname.lastname@example.org. No full text document exists for this AD Number.”
A call into the DTIC Help desk on 19 February (wait music featured WASH FM soft rock from the Average White Band, Casey and the Sunshine Band, Madonna, Seal, Lady Gaga, U2, Katie Perry, et al). After holding for 2 hours it was not possible to handle the recorded message “currently all agents are busy, please hold for the next available agent…” breaking into each song every 20 seconds or so. The last straw was the song “Shake Your Booty” mixed with “please hold for the next available agent.”
The CNAR is a huge file so the download time to retrieve the report was fairly lengthy. So it could be that there were too many requests and the DTIC network could not handle them all.
On the other hand, the CNAR report is as much a Washington, DC, political exercise as it is an “objective” technocratic assessment. Apparently the downloadable report is not the original document, that being far more critical of HTS and the TRADOC leadership led by General Martin Dempsey, US Army. Dempsey has been nominated for Chief of Staff of the US Army.
There are some that claim the CNAR FOIA request (filed by the author) to the Pentagon OSD/Intelligence (five month wait thus far) was delayed in order to soften the severely critical tone of the original document and time its release until after General Dempsey secured the US Army Chief of Staff position. He is also under fire for his handling of other programs within TRADOC.
Though his nomination seems assured by the US Senate, he should be made to answer for the operation of a $300 million program that was mired in public controversy for over two years and led to many senseless deaths/casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.
IN LAST week’s paper we reported that America’s fiscal crisis seemed to have put even the once-sacrosanct defence budget on the chopping block. But one of the surprising features of Barack Obama’s proposed budget is how little it reduces military spending (and Republicans seem just as reluctant to cut the Pentagon’s allowance). Instead, what Mr Obama has urged is greater efficiency in defence spending, including more competition for contracts. In the last fiscal year the Pentagon spent over half of its $366 billion contracting budget on projects that were awarded in an uncompetitive manner.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – Seventeen veterans, male and female, claim they were raped, sexually assaulted or harassed on active duty while officials turned a blind eye to the crimes and even promoted the assailants. “After plaintiffs and other victims reported the crimes against them, they were retaliated against, drummed out of the services, or, in some tragic cases, killed,” the veterans say.
The veteran-plaintiffs say Defense Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates “failed to investigate rapes and sexual assaults, prosecute perpetrators, provide an adequate judicial system as required by the Uniform Military Justice Act, and abide by congressional deadlines to implement congressionally ordered institutional reforms to stop rapes and other sexual assaults.”
The veterans say that military leaders “ran institutions in which perpetrators were promoted and where military personnel openly mocked and flouted the modest congressionally mandated institutional reforms.
Defendants ran institutions in which plaintiffs and other victims were openly subjected to retaliation, were encouraged to refrain from reporting rapes and sexual assaults in a manner that would have permitted prosecution, and were ordered to keep quiet and refrain from telling anyone about the criminal acts of their work colleagues.”
The 42-page complaint relates grisly tales of sexual assault.
US claims Davis has diplomatic immunity and acted in self-defense. However, reports by Pakistani media say that Davis was not a consulate official but an agent for the notorious US security firm, Blackwater.
Analysts say many questions have remained unanswered, including what the American national did at the US Embassy and why he was carrying a gun.
More suspicions have been raised about the case as Pakistan’s police have caught two US consulate vehicles holding fake license plates in Islamabad.
The drivers of the vehicles identified themselves as American consulate workers.
ISLAMABAD — The mystery surrounding a U.S. government contractor who shot dead two armed men in Pakistan last month deepened on Friday when police publicly questioned the claim that he acted in self-defense and confirmed they plan to formally charge him with murder.
Pakistani authorities have identified the man as Raymond Davis. But much about him – including what exactly he was doing in Pakistan – remains unclear.
The U.S. government insists he is covered by diplomatic immunity and Pakistan’s custody of him, and plans to charge him, is severely fraying relations between the two nations at a time when broader cooperation on counterterrorism is faltering.
Police have held Mr. Davis since the shooting in Lahore in late January. On Friday, a court in Lahore, the capital of eastern Punjab province, ordered Mr. Davis moved to Kot Lakhpat jail in the city and held for 14 days.
Aslam Tareen, Lahore’s police chief, said Friday that preliminary investigations showed Mr. Davis did not act in self-defense when he shot the two armed men, as claimed by the U.S. government.
Police are moving closer to formally charging Mr. Davis with murder, Mr. Tareen said. He gave no further details.