Blackwater firm's embassy dogs not up to speed, audit says
State Department auditors said Friday that guard dogs deployed by two private security companies to protect American embassies in Afghanistan and Iraq are not being properly trained to detect bombs.
The department's inspector general singled out U.S. Training Center, an affiliate of Xe Services, the firm formerly known as Blackwater, for lapses in its guard dog program in Kabul.
Another firm, the Washington-based RONCO Consulting Corporation, was scored for its guard dog program at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, as well as in Kabul.
The Baghdad program alone costs over $24 million a year, the report said.
The audit "revealed systemic problems that directly affect the safety and security of U.S. Government personnel and installations," the IG said.
The principal weakness of the programs, the IG said, was that the dogs were not regularly served up new explosives to sniff.
"The Department of the Treasury's standard requires that fresh explosives be used for each testing session and that testing be done annually," the IG said.
"At none of the locations could contractors verify the age of the testing materials. One contractor reported using testing material obtained over three years ago from the previous security contractor."
The contractors countered that they are dependent on the FBI and Defense Department for their testing explosives, "many of which are collected from unexploded improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan and are of indeterminate age."
The IG also scolded the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, or DS, for letting to guard dog companies police themselves
It said its investigators "did not encounter any DS personnel with expertise in explosive detection canines. Instead, according to DS staff members, they depended upon the knowledge and expertise of the contractors to ensure all contractual requirements and other standards were met. "
For their part, the contractors said "no outside organization with expertise in explosive detection canines had ever reviewed their operations in Iraq or Afghanistan."
The IG noted that DS "is acting to improve the current explosives canine detection testing program and is incorporating lessons learned into the new Worldwide Protective Services contract."
The IG investigation was carried out during several visits to Afghanistan and Iraq between February 2009 and April 2010.
Last week, Xe Services, partnering with Kaseman, a McLean, Va., security services firm whose board is stocked with top former State Department and CIA officials, won a share of a $10 billion State Department deal to provide protective services for American embassies abroad.
Two months ago Xe's affiliate, U.S. Training Center, won a $100 million security contract from the CIA.
| October 8, 2010; 5:38 PM ET
Categories: Financial/business, Intelligence, Military | Tags: ArmorGroup, CIA, Diplomatic Security, RONCO Consulting Corporation, State Department, Triple Canopy, U.S. Training Center
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