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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 06/21/2010

Blackwater's new contract will be buzz of hearing

By Jeff Stein

When hearings on war-zone security contractors continue Monday, representatives of the best known -- or most notorious -- firm in the business will not be at the witness table.

The firm's controversial track record in Iraq, from where it was recently evicted, won't be on the official docket either.

But the federal Commission on Wartime Contracting is going to be talking about Blackwater Worldwide (now known as XE Services) nevertheless, given word late Friday that the State Department had just awarded it a $120 million contract for work in Afghanistan.

Officials of the companies that lost out to Blackwater/XE are all scheduled to testify Monday afternoon on Capitol Hill. The commission is also going to take up new problems with private security guards in Iraq.

The Afghanistan contract, to provide “protective security services” at new U.S. consulates in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif, comes only four months after the Iraqi government expelled Blackwater/XE. Individuals from the firm are being prosecuted by the Justice Department for allegedly shooting unarmed civilians in Baghdad.

The company won the contract over two other American firms — Triple Canopy and DynCorp International, the Associated Press reported from Kabul, quoting U.S. embassy spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. The one-year contract can be extended twice, for three months each, for a maximum of 18 months, the A.P. said.

The heads of DynCorp and Triple Canopy were scheduled to testify at the commission hearing Monday afternoon, along with the president of Aegis Defense Services and Jerry Torres, chief executive officer of Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions. But Torres decided last Wednesday not to testify, according to a commission source. The source said Torres was to have come under special scrutiny for allegedly "attempting to place unvetted security guards to protect U.S. troops in Iraq."

Blackwater's expulsion from Iraq did not prohibit U.S. Training Center, a unit of Moyock, N.C.-based XE Services, from bidding on the Afghanistan contract, an unidentified State Department spokeswoman told CBS News, which broke the story Friday night.

"Under federal acquisition regulations, the prosecution of the specific Blackwater individuals does not preclude the company or its successive companies and subsidiaries from bidding on contracts," the spokeswoman was quoted as saying.

"On the basis of full and open competition, the department performed a full technical evaluation of all proposals and determined the U.S. Training Center has the best ability and qualifications to meet the contract requirements."

The federal Commission on Wartime Contracting has been investigating the proper role and oversight of more than 40,000 private security contractors supporting U.S. operations in Southwest Asia.

Friday’s hearing examined whether the government should exclude private contractors from some or all security tasks in Iraq and Afghanistan. Monday morning’s session will feature testimony from officials from the State and Defense departments and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The hearings “are not intended either to attack or champion private security companies,” said the co-chairs of the commission, former Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Michael J. Thibault, a former deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, in a joint opening statement on Friday.

“The question we tackle today does not depend on whether [their] performance deserves praise or blame, on what they cost, or on how well their contracts are managed. The question here is whether they are performing inherently governmental functions that should not be contracted out in whole or in part, no matter what the demand or workload."

According to the Commission on Wartime Contracting, the Defense Department of Defense had roughly 14,000 private security personnel under contract in Iraq during the first quarter of 2010. “That number is nearly equal to the personnel strength of a World War II American infantry division,” the commission said.

By Jeff Stein  | June 21, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Financial/business, Intelligence, Military  | Tags:  Aegis Defense Services, Cerberus, DynCorp International, Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, Triple Canopy  
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The real question is why hasn't Obama barred Lord Cheney's private mercenary Christian army from bidding on and winning additional contract? We all knew Cheney had something on Pelosi such as leather dominance porno videos to get her to bless His torture.

Could He have something on Obama as well?

Posted by: areyousaying | June 21, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

The sad fact is simply this: Halliburton, Blackwater, etc. became necessary because the Bush administration wanted to have ways of hiding the number of men and women it took to run the war (as well as hinding casualty numbers) and to lower the post-war costs such as VA medical benefits, etc. It also allowed great leeway in following, or in truth - ignoring,what they deemed as "quaint" rules of law such as the Geneva Convention.

Posted by: frjim | June 21, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

What about defense contractors holding contracts for DOMESTIC programs that violate the constitutional and human rights of U.S. citizens -- such as pervasive internet surveillance that CENSORS political speech; and the silent electromagnetic torture and impairment of "targeted individuals" -- including the veteran journalist who is exposing these crimes? OR Facebook -- Vic Livingston ("Notes")

Posted by: scrivener50 | June 21, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Congress was able to defund Acorn through some illegal bills of attainder legislation. Why can't they defund these mercenaries the same way? Rep. Jan Schakowsky seems to be the only one raising objection to it, and AIPAC is trying to replace her. BTW. Triple Canopy is Israeli.

Posted by: shekissesfrogs | June 21, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

We can't live with them and We can't live without them.

I understand that this is a great debate and many of us Americans are looking for certain reforms to segregate private armies from public armies, but we all seem to be forgetting something:

Public Armies (US Armed Forces) are protected by pay, benefits, commission, growth and various blankets provided by the US Govt (DOD) whereas, Private Armies are all by their own. Of course, the owners of these companies do make money but they and all their employees are very skilled at what they do.

Extreme Situations require Extreme measures. Private armies get contracts in transporting VIPs, Food, Artillery, etc, from one point to another point under heavy fire from insurgencies. They have to protect themselves because of the roadside IEDs, roadside kamikazees (human bombs), etc. They have to survive in order to earn money and if they collapse at the war front then their paychecks stops there itself.

We should be proud because we have one of the most elite gentlemen and women who want to serve the War as a civilian contractor. At, least I am PROUD that my country breeds such skilled personnel and no other country's civilians have the guts to do what our civilian contractors do.

It’s a cat and mouse game in the War zone. They got to do what they got to do to stay alive and complete their deadlines as per the scope of work from their clients.

The next time anyone wants to defame these private armies then ask yourselves - What would you do if you were skilled only in combat and that was the only way to make money and bring honor to your family? – Maybe you should take a vacation and visit the War zone BUT remember to just buy a one way ticket because I am sure an unskilled civilian won’t survive more than 4 hours amongst the enemy insurgency. It is easy to type whatever we want to defame them but “truth always prevails” and these contractors are a great boon to US armed forces in Iraq.

They need support for what they are doing but not criticism. No wonder why few of the best soldiers turn "rogue" when the system goes against them instead of supporting them.

I know nothing can change anyone's perception when we are biased and on the flip side of the coin so let's just keep our game faces on!

Posted by: ferrari1 | June 24, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

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