Watching The Guards
The private security industry is fascinating, in part because it plays an important role in protecting nuclear plants, government offices and military bases.
Some of these companies have hundreds of millions in federal contracts. Prime contractors on government deals include Alaskan Native Corporations, which the Pentagon and other federal agencies seem to like a lot because they don't require competition. A subcontractor on some of those deals is the giant Wackenhut.
I was reminded about the industry this week when I came across a reference to a Justice Department probe out of Kansas, based on a whistleblower tip. That led me to a Justice press release, which spelled out allegations about how one firm, Akal Security Inc., did not train their hired guns the way they were supposed to.
You may not have heard about Akal, but it's a relatively big presence across the country. In the company's own words: "Today, Akal is the largest provider of contract Judicial Security services, protecting federal courthouses in 40 states. Akal specializes in providing security for critical federal government facilities, state and local government agencies and military installations."
In 2003, the company was awarded contracts worth up to $70 million to provide security at Army bases. In statements to the Albuquerque Journal in July, the New Mexico-based company acknowledged there were problems with the contract. Company officials said they settled to avoid costly lawsuits.
Akal agreed to "pay the United States $18 million to resolve allegations that it violated the terms of its contract to provide trained civilian guards at eight U.S. Army bases," the Justice statement said, adding that some of the company's guards did not get proper firearms and other training and that the company "failed to satisfy" man-hour requirements.
"We have done everything possible, since these violations were discovered, to voluntarily uncover and disclose all discrepancies," Akal Security president Daya Khalsa was quoted as saying in the Albuquerque paper. "In fact, it was Akal's own internal investigation that discovered some of the problems and reported them to the government."
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