Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

EOD Technology merges with Sterling International

Defense firm links with Va.-based Sterling

An East Tennessee defense contractor has joined forces with a Virginia firm.

Knoxville Biz  October 25, 2012

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.

October 25, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, EODT, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Explosive Remnants of War, Government Contractor, Humanitarian Assistance, Landmines, Mine Clearance, State Department | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Were ArmorGroup Allegations Quashed?

CBS News  September 29, 2009

CBS News first reported this month on the hazing and humiliating of local employees and other serious breaches of ethics and policy by civilian security guards during wild parties at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Turns out, the State Department was warned that things weren’t right at the embassy, but nothing was done. Now there are troubling questions for the man once in charge of investigating those problems, reports CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

As inspector general for the State Department, Howard Krongard was supposed to be an independent watchdog.

It was his job to investigate the very type of misconduct alleged at the U.S. embassy in Kabul: forced sexual hazing of guards, contract fraud and waste of tax dollars.

CBS News has learned that serious allegations about the embassy reached Krongard’s office two years ago – where they apparently vanished into thin air.

How that could’ve happened is even harder to explain when you consider who made the complaint: Sen. Joe Lieberman, head of the Homeland Security Committee. His staffers say they notified Krongard’s office about security and fraud allegations made by high-level whistleblowers from inside ArmorGroup, the company that provides embassy security.

Asked if he remembers that, Krongard said, “No. I Have no knowledge of that whatsoever.”

Watch: Excerpt of Attkisson’s Interview with Krongard

But CBS News has learned Krongard had a special and controversial link to the company he should have been policing. His brother Buzzy, former executive director of the CIA, was on ArmorGroup’s board of directors.

March 8, 2012 Posted by | ArmorGroup, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Friendly Fire, State Department | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

USAID contractor work in Cuba detailed

AP IMPACT by Desmond Butler Associated Press  February 12, 2012

Piece by piece, in backpacks and carry-on bags, American aid contractor Alan Gross made sure laptops, smartphones, hard drives and networking equipment were secreted into Cuba. The most sensitive item, according to official trip reports, was the last one: a specialized mobile phone chip that experts say is often used by the Pentagon and the CIA to make satellite signals virtually impossible to track.

The purpose, according to an Associated Press review of Gross’ reports, was to set up uncensored satellite Internet service for Cuba’s small Jewish community.

The operation was funded as democracy promotion for the U.S. Agency for International Development, established in 1961 to provide economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of U.S. foreign policy goals. Gross, however, identified himself as a member of a Jewish humanitarian group, not a representative of the U.S. government.

Cuban President Raul Castro called him a spy, and Gross was sentenced last March to 15 years in prison for seeking to “undermine the integrity and independence” of Cuba. U.S. officials say he did nothing wrong and was just carrying out the normal mission of USAID.

Please read the entire story here

February 12, 2012 Posted by | Central America, CIA, Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Contractors Held, Safety and Security Issues, State Department, USAID | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Planning to Slash Iraq Embassy Staff by Up to Half

 primarily by decreasing the number of contractors needed to support the embassy’s operations.

The New York Times  February 7, 2012

BAGHDAD — Less than two months after American troops left, the State Department is preparing to slash by as much as half the enormous diplomatic presence it had planned for Iraq, a sharp sign of declining American influence in the country.

Officials in Baghdad and Washington said that Ambassador James F. Jeffrey and other senior State Department officials are reconsidering the size and scope of the embassy, where the staff has swelled to nearly 16,000 people, mostly contractors.

The expansive diplomatic operation and the $750 million embassy building, the largest of its kind in the world, were billed as necessary to nurture a postwar Iraq on its shaky path to democracy and establish normal relations between two countries linked by blood and mutual suspicion. But the Americans have been frustrated by Iraqi obstructionism and are now largely confined to the embassy because of security concerns, unable to interact enough with ordinary Iraqis to justify the $6 billion annual price tag.

The swift realization among some top officials that the diplomatic build-up may have been ill-advised represents a remarkable pivot for the State Department, in that officials spent more than a year planning the expansion and that many of the thousands of additional personnel have only recently arrived. Michael W. McClellan, the embassy spokesman, said in a statement, “over the last year and continuing this year the Department of State and the Embassy in Baghdad have been considering ways to appropriately reduce the size of the U.S. mission in Iraq, primarily by decreasing the number of contractors needed to support the embassy’s operations.

Please read the entire article here

February 7, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, State Department | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

State Department closed US Embassy in Syria

The Washington Times February 6, 2012

The State Department on Monday suspended operations at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria, and pulled all its staff, including Ambassador Robert Ford, out of the country.

The State Department cited the recent surge in violence for its decision.

“Bombings in Damascus on December 23 and January 6, has raised serious concerns that our Embassy is not sufficiently protected from armed attack,” the State Department said.

The government of President Bashar Assad did not respond “adequately” to security concerns raised by the U.S. and other diplomatic missions, it added

Please see the original and read more here

February 6, 2012 Posted by | State Department, Syria | , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. pursuing legal protections for contractors still in Iraq

Stars and Stripes  December 14, 2011

BAGHDAD — The United States is still pursuing an agreement with the government of Iraq that could provide defense contractors working for the U.S. State Department with some legal protections in 2012, U.S. embassy and military officials said last week.

While diplomats and service members working for the State Department are shielded by diplomatic immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law, the thousands of private contractors who will be working for the agency in have no such protections.

Contractors have lacked immunity from Iraqi law since 2009, when a new status of forces agreement excluded them.

However, with the pullout of the remaining 50,000 troops from Iraq this year, contractors say they now feel more vulnerable to danger, both from potentially corrupt Iraqi police and from anti-American groups.

“You have to cross a major Iraqi road and, should the [Iraqi police or Iraqi army] decide, they might begin detaining American personnel,” said one contractor, who asked for anonymity because his company has not authorized him to speak publicly.

It remains unclear whether a new agreement could include immunity, an idea which is highly unpopular in Iraq. Talks over allowing thousands of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq in 2012 collapsed in October after it became clear that Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki wouldn’t be able push immunity for troops through an Iraqi parliament vote.

Opposition to contractor immunity largely stemmed from a September 2007 incident, where 17 Iraqis died after a confrontation with Blackwater security contractors.

However, some legal protections for contractors could still be gained through a diplomatic chapeau agreement, State officials said

Please read more here

December 14, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Department of State Launches Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations

Fact Sheet

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 22, 2011

Today, the U.S. Department of State established a new Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) to focus on conflict prevention, crisis response, and stabilization activities. The bureau will subsume the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS).

For more information, please visit www.state.gov/g/cso.

November 23, 2011 Posted by | State Department | , , | Leave a comment

State Department Fixing the Facts Based on Policy in Iraq

State Department personnel in Iraq may be in danger as transition plans leave gaps in security and medical care

Peter Van Buren at HuffPost  November 22, 2011

Please see Peter Van Buren’s blog We Meant Well

The State Department can often times be so inward looking that it fixes the facts based on the policy need, making reality fit the vision whether that naughty reality wants to or not. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it can be tragic.

When I arrived at my second Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Iraq, we were told to call the area we worked in the “Sunni Triangle of Death.” The meme was “Look at us bad boys, reconstructing the nasty Sunni Triangle of Death. It proves State is not a sissy.” About six months later we were told to stop calling the place the “Sunni Triangle of Death,” because since we had been working for half a year, we needed to show some progress. “Triangle of Death” did not signify progress so the Embassy banned the term to fit the policy meme, even though nothing had really changed. No real harm done, I guess.

Around election time, the initial plan was for PRT staffers to observe the March 2010 voting up close, mostly so the Embassy could claim the election was legitimate based on the happy-talk reports we understood we were to file. That was part of the warp, but the real kicker was that to show our faith in Iraqi security, we were told we were not to wear body armor at the polling stations. The Embassy felt that photos of us all geared up, as we believed we needed to be based on local security conditions, would not play well with their PR campaign that all was well. There was a lot of back channel grumbling, and a few threats to refuse to observe, and the Embassy quietly just changed plans and canceled most of the rural observations. Again, narrowly, no real harm done.

Now, as the State Department rushes to replace all of the military support it needs to exist in still-dangerous Iraq without the Army, there are fears that the warping of reality may indeed endanger lives in Baghdad

Please read the entire post here

November 22, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Iraq, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , , | Leave a comment

With Troop Exit, a Civilian Phase for the U.S. in Iraq

Kathryn Brown at Bloomberg View  October 24, 2011

President Obama confirmed on Oct. 21 that the remaining 39,000 U.S. troops will leave Iraq at the year’s end. The war may be ending, but the size of the U.S. embassy in Iraq will double, from approximately 8,000 to 16,000 people.

This is uncharted territory for the State Department; it has never managed a mission this size before. The Obama administration is requesting $3.2 billion to cover the transition from civilian to military control, in addition to a core operational budget of $496 million. The embassy in Baghdad is a sprawling fortress, the largest the U.S. has ever built. Three provincial posts in Basrah, Erbil and Kirkuk will extend the U.S.’s diplomatic reach into northern and southern Iraq.

But roughly ten percent of this team will actually include diplomats. In addition to their traditional work, the State Department will assume over 300 activities that the U.S. military routinely performs, including air transport, force protection, medical aid and environmental cleanup.

They will require an extraordinary amount of contractor support. Inside the embassy will be the newly established Office of Security Cooperation that will be responsible for Pentagon assistance programs to the Iraqi security forces; it will include more than 900 civilians and uniformed military personnel, in addition to 3,500 contractors. A “general life support” team of about 4,500 employees will also cook, clean and run the embassy facilities

And 5,000 security contract employees will protect the roughly 1,700 American diplomats as they attempt to pursue U.S. policy and development goals in an immensely complex country where two explosions in a Shiite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad killed 17 civilians on Oct. 13, Turkish troops are fighting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in the north, and an eager Iran watches from the east.

All of this adds up to a new experiment in U.S. statecraft. Whether this civilian-run operation is too bloated, on target or under-resourced remains to be seen — but its successes and failures will help steer U.S. post-conflict strategies for decades to come.

Please see the original at Bloomberg View

October 24, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Civilian Police, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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

U.S. Sending More Contractors to Secure Libya’s Weapons Stockpile

The New York Times Africa  October 15, 2011

WASHINGTON — The State Department is sending dozens of American contractors to Libya to help that country’s fledgling efforts to track down and destroy heat-seeking antiaircraft missiles looted from government stockpiles that could be used against civilian airliners.

The contractors, weapons and explosives specialists, are part of a growing $30 million American program to secure Libya’s conventional weapons arsenal, which was ransacked during the fall of the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

American and other Western officials are especially concerned that as weapons slip from state custody, they can be easily sold through black markets to other countries, fueling regional wars or arming terrorist groups. Analysts are particularly worried about the dispersal of the SA-7, an early-generation, shoulder-fired missile in the same family as the more widely known Stinger.

“We are very concerned about the threat that’s posed,” Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told reporters on Friday after meetings in Brussels

Please read the entire article here

October 15, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Civilian Contractors, ERW, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Explosive Remnants of War, Libya, State Department | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US helping secure Libya arms stockpiles: White House

Carney said five contractor specialists were on the ground to work with the new Libyan leadership to secure weapons stockpiles.

The US State Department has provided $3 million to help destroy weapons and raised particular concern over the spread of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, also known as Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems (MANPADS), which could be used to target civilian aircraft.

AFP September 27 2011

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE — The United States is working closely with Libya’s new interim leaders to secure all arms stockpiles, amid concerns over weapons proliferation, the White House said Tuesday.

“Since the beginning of the crisis we have been actively engaged with our allies and partners to support Libya’s effort to secure all conventional weapons stockpiles including recovery, control and disposal of shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles,” spokesman Jay Carney said.

“We are exploring every option to expand our support,” he told reporters on Air Force One as President Barack Obama toured western states.

US General Carter Ham, who led the first stage of the coalition air campaign in Libya, said in early April that there were fears that militants could seize some of the estimated 20,000 shoulder-launched missiles in Libya, calling it “a regional and an international concern.”

The proliferation of arms raided from the vast stores of ex-strongman Moamer Kadhafi is raising fears not only for Libya’s future stability, but also that the weapons will fall into the hands of radical groups like Al-Qaeda

Please read the entire article here

September 27, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Explosive Remnants of War, Government Contractor, Libya, State Department | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Did CIA Rendition Flights Rely on Bogus State Dept. Letter?

State Dept. ‘Letter of Convenience’ for Rendition Flights

ProPublica  September 1, 2011

As the Washington Post and others have reported today, an obscure court case in New York state has led to the disclosure of new details on CIA’s extraordinary rendition program [1], in which the United States captured dozens of alleged terrorists [2] and sent them to secret prisons overseas.

About 1,700 pages of documents have been filed in the case, which involves a billing dispute between two charter companies [3] who had been hired to carry out the secret flights. The records include flight itineraries for Khalid Sheik Mohammed and others. As the head of one of the companies testified [4], “We were transporting government personnel and their invitees.”

But what really caught our eye are potentially forged State Department letters authorizing the flights. The letters were sent to each air crew before flights and were signed by a State Department official who may not exist.

The letters were all signed by “Terry A. Hogan.” (Here is one of them. [5]) But the Associated Press says there are indications that Hogan “was fictitious” [6]:

The AP could not locate Hogan. No official with that name is currently listed in State’s department-wide directory. A comprehensive 2004 State Department telephone directory contains no reference to Hogan, or variations of that name—despite records of four separate transit letters signed by Terry A. Hogan in January, March and April 2004. Several of the signatures on the diplomatic letters under Hogan’s name were noticeably different.

As the New York Times has detailed back in 2005, the CIA program relied on a host of “front companies and shell corporations [7].” Premier Executive Transport Services, Inc. was the owner of one plane used for rendition. But as the Washington Post noted, the company listed “directors and officers who appear to exist only on paper [8].”

Asked about the letters, a State Department spokesman told the AP it has a policy of not commenting on “alleged intelligence activities.” Lawrence Wilkerson, a top State Department official during the Bush administration, told the AP [9] he wasn’t familiar with the letters and knew of no direct involvement between the department and the rendition program. We’ve also put in a call to the State Department and have yet to hear back

Please read the original at ProPublica

September 2, 2011 Posted by | CIA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Government Contractor, State Department | , , , , | Leave a comment

WRA Contract Awarded to Sterling International

Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) Contract

Agency: U.S. Department of State
Office: Office of Logistics Management
Location: Acquisition Management
Contract Award Dollar Amount:
Contractor Awarded Name:

August 13, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contract Awards, Contracts Awarded, Demining, ERW, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Humanitarian Assistance, Landmines, Mine Clearance, State Department | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

State Department Funds US Group to train troops in Somalia

They shot one of Van Blerk’s South African Bancroft colleagues as well as a contractor from a demining company and 10 Ugandan soldiers trained in bomb disposal. The demining contractor and six of the Ugandans died. Dark trails of blood smear the floor inside the house where the trainer crawled for cover. Another Bancroft employee was shot in the stomach the day before but survived.

Associated Press at Huffington Post August 10, 2011

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — On the front lines of Mogadishu’s streets, Islamist militants battle African Union troops. Standing alongside the peacekeepers are members of an American-run team of advisers, former military men who play a little-known but key role in the war against al-Shabab.

Aside from covert raids by special operations forces, the U.S. government has not been involved militarily in Somalia since the intervention almost two decades ago that culminated in the Black Hawk Down battle. But a Washington-based company has been quietly working in one of the world’s most dangerous cities to help an AU peacekeeping force protect the Somali government from al-Qaida-linked Islamist insurgents.

While troops struggle to get control of this shattered capital that has been filling with refugees fleeing famine in southern Somalia, The Associated Press got rare access to the military advisers, providing a first look into their work.

The men employed by Bancroft Global Development live in small trailers near Mogadishu’s airport but often go into the field. It’s dangerous work — two Bancroft men were wounded last month.

Among the advisers are a retired general from the British marines, an ex-French soldier involved in a coup in Comoros 16 years ago, and a Danish political scientist.

Funded by the United Nations and the U.S. State Department, Bancroft has provided training in a range of military services, from bomb disposal and sniper training to handing out police uniforms

Please read the entire article at the Hufffington Post

August 10, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Demining, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Follow the Money, Government Contractor, Somalia, State Department, United Nations | , , , , , , | Leave a comment