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Contracting Abuse at U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan?

By Ed O'Keefe

A Senate panel will hold a hearing tomorrow to review allegations of contracting abuse by a firm hired in 2007 to provide security at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Lawmakers are expected to focus on several concerns, including the contractor's ability to provide proper security and the possibility that contracting employees violated human trafficking laws by visiting nearby brothels.

Though the Marines and the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service have a role in embassy protection, the government contracts out other security responsibilities. The State Department awarded a five-year, $189.3 million contract to ArmorGroup North America in July 2007. The agreement calls for annual reviews. It also requires renewal each year by July 1, meaning officials have three weeks to determine if the contract will continue.

Two now-former ArmorGroup employees raised concerns with the firm's ability to provide proper security almost immediately. James Sauer and Peter Martino raised questions with the company and the State Department about the scheduling of embassy guards and the capabilities of the company's nearby training facility. They have since filed suit against ArmorGroup (now a subsidiary of Wackenhut Inc.) claiming wrongful termination and other charges.

Another former employee, James Gordon, last month brought similar allegations to the attention of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee on contracting oversight, which will hold tomorrow's hearing. Until Feb. 2008 Gordon served as director of operations at ArmorGroup North America's Northern Virginia headquarters.

"He was driven out of the company because he insisted on doing his job with honesty and integrity and leveling with the government," said his attorney, Janet Goldstein. Gordon is currently considering his legal options against the company, she said. He will not testify at tomorrow's hearing.

The panel has invited Wackenhut vice president Sam Brinkley and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State William H. Moser to appear tomorrow. According to subcommittee documents, they are likely to face questions about contract performance reviews, concerns about embassy security, the training of contracting staff, the use and registration of armored vehicles and weapons, the potential purchase of counterfeit goods, and information "relating to violation of human trafficking laws, including procurement of commercial sex acts."

Subcommittee staffers and Gordon's attorney have provided few specifics about the allegations, citing legal concerns, and promise to provide documented evidence at the hearing.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | June 9, 2009; 4:12 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Contracting  
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Do I sound cynical when I say "What else is new?"

Posted by: marydeame | June 9, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

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