State Department’s Lax Contractor Oversight an Enduring Problem

By
Wednesday, September 02, 2009 at 5:29 pm
Blackwater Security guards U.S. State Department employees in Baghdad. (Flickr: jamesdale10)

Blackwater Security guards U.S. State Department employees in Baghdad. (Flickr: jamesdale10)

It remains one of the great ironies of the past eight years of war: while the government’s use of private security contractors has garnered no end of criticism, few realize that the highest-profile blunders and abuses have come from companies that work not for the Pentagon, but for the State Department.

Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, whose employees drunkenly shot a bodyguard for an Iraqi vice president and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in September 2007. It remains one of the recipients of State’s Worldwide Personal Protective Services contract.

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

ArmorGroup, the company that hired employees who sexually harassed their Afghan colleagues and engaged in a series of hazing rituals, is still entrusted by State to guard the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

The Defense Department’s contracting branch is hardly without flaws, as years of revelations about diverted funds or missing weapons shipments in Iraq have demonstrated. But many of those revelations came from Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, who focused a harsh eye on the Defense Department for credible allegations of waste, fraud and abuse. “DOD is very proactive in addressing the problems,” said one defense-contracting insider who declined to speak for the record.

The State Department, though, has come under comparatively less scrutiny.  “There’s certainly a different perception in the quality of State and Defense security contractors in particular,” said Steve Aftergood, a contracting expert with the Federation of American Scientists. “DOD on the whole seems a little bit more disciplined. The more egregious cases, including the latest, seem to involve State Department contractors.”

This latest case comes in the form of a letter from the Project on Government Oversight to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton about ArmorGroup, which holds what’s called a “static security” contract estimated to be worth $180 million to $200 million to guard the perimeter of the U.S. embassy in Kabul. (A separate State contract, to guard diplomats as they move throughout a given area, is currently split between three other security companies: Xe, Triple Canopy and DynCorp.) After receiving numerous anonymous complaints from ArmorGroup employees, POGO executive director Danielle Brian wrote to Clinton on Tuesday to warn of “a pattern of blatant, longstanding violations of the security contract, and of a pervasive breakdown in the chain of command and guard force discipline and morale.” Numerous incidents of physical and sexual harassment were reported to have occurred.

But only half of Brian’s memo focused on ArmorGroup. The rest of it accused the State Department of lax contractor oversight, an atmosphere contributing, Brian alleged, to the abuses. It noted that State officials had placed ArmorGroup on notice for two years, “but its threats have been empty,” as indicated by State re-awarding the static security contract to the company in June 2008 despite having issued it two official notices that the company’s “deficiencies were endangering the performance of the contract.” One of those notices, from 2007, explicitly stated that ArmorGroup’s laxity put “the security of the US Embassy in Kabul … in jeopardy.” Brian’s recommendation was to take embassy security out of the hands of the State Department entirely and give it over to the military.

In a press briefing yesterday, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly conceded that the department had warned ArmorGroup of lax discipline and disturbing incidents for years. “We have pointed out to them some of the deficiencies,” Kelly said. “And I can’t answer right now from this podium exactly what they have done in response to this letter.” Yet he said Clinton would have “zero tolerance” for the abuses Brian detailed.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), the chairwoman of the Senate’s subcommittee on contractor oversight, wrote Tuesday to Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, the State Department’s undersecretary for management, urging him to “conduct a thorough review of the performance, management, and oversight of this contract.” A spokeswoman for McCaskill, Maria Speiser, said the senator was “quite disappointed” with State’s oversight of ArmorGroup’s contract.

Additionally, the State Department will soon re-award its contract to protect diplomats in conflict zones, known as the Worldwide Protective Services Contract. Despite having been kicked out of Iraq following the shooting incident at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, Xe — which is presently the only security company hired by State to protect diplomats in Afghanistan — told The Washington Independent last month that it would seek to retain that contract, estimated to be worth $1.2 billion to the controversial company.

Spokespeople for the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security have repeatedly delayed answering TWI’s questions about the propriety of letting Xe resubmit its bid. Nor did anyone respond to repeated requests to discuss ArmorGroup. But in a previous email to TWI, spokesman Brian Leventhal said the bureau had “increased its staffing levels in Afghanistan to ensure appropriate oversight” — precisely what Brian’s letter questioned — and had placed Diplomatic Security agents in all diplomatic protective details run by security contractors in Afghanistan, alongside “video and audio equipment” in many of them to deter wrongdoing.

Aftergood could not answer why it was that so many problems have persisted with State’s contractors. “It’s not clear who is dropping the ball, but certainly someone is,” he said, speculating that perhaps the Defense Department has had “more time to establish and enforce expectations of a sort that would preclude the total chaos that seems to prevail with some of the State Department’s contractors.”

Follow Spencer Ackerman on Twitter


Comments

22 Comments

marc
Comment posted September 2, 2009 @ 11:06 pm

The people in charge of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, at least the ones I've seen testifying before Congress seem…well…a little light in the loafers if you know what I mean. It is very unfair to expect them to say no to big gorgeous hunks. It would be like if you Spencer had the most beautiful stunning blond secretary who couldn't type, file, take shorthand or use the computer thingy. If she insisted on wearing tight miniskirts and low cut tops while looking all sexy and doing kinky things what on Earth could you do but everything possible to keep her happy and in your employ. Would it matter how much things got messed up?


steve_real
Comment posted September 3, 2009 @ 12:31 am

There is no “off duty” when American soldiers are on line.
.
Every stupid and humilating action
that is posted on the web for all the world to see
will be used against our people,
by all both enemies foriegn and domestic.
Can’t we see this?
.
Fire them if you have any self respect left.
.
This incident is the last straw on a long list of failures.
I want the US Military to organize
and lay the law down on these Security firms.
I demand it!
.
This “incident” is no good for anyone involved.
Remember who we are
and that we are guest in a Muslim country.
This is totally unexceptable behavior and unbecoming
(of this particular security firm.)
.
They would all be on the first train out of Dodge if I ran the show.
.
Punitive Articles of the UCMJ
Article 133
(2) Nature of offense.
Conduct violative of this article is action or behavior in an official capacity which, in dishonoring or disgracing the person as an officer, seriously compromises the officer’s character as a gentleman, or action or behavior in an unofficial or private capacity which, in dishonoring or disgracing the officer personally, seriously compromises the person’s standing as an officer. There are certain moral attributes common to the ideal officer and the perfect gentleman, a lack of which is indicated by acts of dishonesty, unfair dealing, indecency, indecorum, lawlessness, injustice, or cruelty.


villagerider
Comment posted September 3, 2009 @ 7:12 am

The comment about “light in the loafters” and the secretary analogy infers that the private security guys are gay.

Unless you have ridden with and been protected by these guys, you really should know a few things. These guys are some of the best-trained and courageous men in theatre. They are ALL former military, either Special Forces, Rangers, SEALS, etc.

Were you there when the attempt on Hamid Kharzai's life in Summer 2002 resulted in Khandahar Gov. Guhl Agi Sherzai being shot in the neck?

Were you there at the square in Baghdad? Were you there in Fallujah? Were you there when they saved Paul Bremmer's life?

Have you even seen video of the indicents?

You're all taking the talking points of the radical left.

What's really ironic is that there's a KENNEDY involved to monitor this type of thing. Too bad there's a prohibition on alcohol in theatre — oh wait, that never stopped a Kennedy before.

And, you mean there's sexual harrassment going on? Well tell Chris Dodd to keep Teddy's memory alive and grab Patrick and make a waitress sandwich at the restaurant down from the traffic circle near the embassy in Kabul.

Why don't you fill out the paperwork and come over to theatre as a media imbed and see for yourself EXACTLY WHY we need private security contractors.

And for the record, I've done one military tour in Afghanistan, one military tour in Iraq, and one civilian deployment. I've been protected by three different security companies while as a military person AND as a civilian.

You don't know what you're talking about. These companies are merely a microcosm of society.

I WILL give you credit. At least you didn't find a way to bash Bush in this story, or dredge up KBR, formerly owned by Halliburton, formerly run by CEO Dick Cheney, who formerly served as Secretary of Defense under Bush 41, who formerly was a Wyoming Congressman, who formerly used to crap his diaper when he was a baby.

If you want to come over here and see what your State Department is doing in Afghanistan and Iraq, grow a set, get you some body armor and a helmet and ride with these “out-of-control” security companies.

Some of us civilians have to do it every week. Our lives depend on these guys.

You want the military to “lay down the law”. “You demand it.”

You are completely detached from any reality of the situation. It's really amusing to read these blithering babbles from Washington insiders who probably would not know how to fire a weapon to defend themsleves if they HAD to.

Come to theatre and see first hand. Contact State Department public affairs; they'll make it happen. Go out with the project reconstruction teams into the villages. MAN UP for a change.

Tell the story of what the private guys are doing to protect the people here fostering a relationship with a country that WANTS to be a part of the international community.

A few bad apples doesn't mean that these companies should leave theatre any more thana drunk Ted Kennedy running a young girl into the river means that ALL senators should leave office.

Stop the hyperbole and REPORT.

These private security guys weed out the bad eggs themselves probably better than the military does, if the REAL truth be told. These guys aren't about to let a few morons ruin their company.

And the suit against Eric Prince is rubbish. Read what the judge said.

We've had bad eggs in the military too. Abu Ghraib, the rape of the 14-year old Iraqi girl and the torching of her family, plus the shooting at the medical facility on Camp Victory in Baghdad. Do we do away with the military?

Philanderers, money in freezers, a congressman on tape talking about MAYBE considering a bribe. Do we do away with Congress?

I'll continue to ride with these guys and trust their expertise, training and skills.

Your logic defies me.


dotmil
Comment posted September 3, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

villagerider = shill


chen123
Comment posted September 3, 2009 @ 2:54 pm

nike af1 shoes
nike dunk sb shoes
Polo Clothes


seemlers
Comment posted September 3, 2009 @ 3:42 pm

ha ha.. villagerider=schill…. love it!
He sounds like he hasn't taken his lithium lately. pssss… I don't need to “ride” with these morons to know that their behavior is out of line. If they can't take the stress of the job without acting like perverts and idiots then they need to find another line of work. They can mop floors at the local gym and get their jollies there………………


Another dotmil
Comment posted September 3, 2009 @ 6:13 pm

Well…Villagerider's perspective is clearly part of the problem. I too have made multiple deployments and am fully aware that our success relies on persistent professionalism through the most stressful of environments and situations. I have witnessed “less-trained” soldiers/sailors/marines/civlians remain focused on the task at hand while maintaining the utmost of professionalism throughout their tours of duty in-country. I completely agree that these folks you defend are, in fact, some of the most best-trained and courageous men in theater. They simply have no moral self-discipline, exhibit no signs of personal or professional character and certainly have NO true commitment to our success.


monkey99
Comment posted September 5, 2009 @ 8:29 pm

Amen.


Leatherneck1
Comment posted September 7, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

You seem to be right Villagerider. If you remove the few bad apples in the barrel before they contaminate the remaining apples in the barrel, you would probably save the rest. I served in the Marine Corps during the time of the “Embassy Scandal.” I even served as a Correctional Specialist in the brig at Quantico where Sgt. Lonetree was housed during his court-martial and there when the first terrorist was brought to the US to stand trial. It was an embarrassing time for the Marine Corps to see our proud tradition of serving honorably at embassies around the world take a black eye as depicted on the cover of Newsweek. I retired from the Florida Department of Corrections and saw many actions of correctional officers get front page news from their demeaning actions, such as our own Secretary of the Department of Corrections receive federal prison time for taking cutbacks, officers beat an inmate to death while in solitary confinement, and the sexual misconduct of male officers in a female prison. Now I work for The Wackenhut Corporation as a security supervisor at a petrochemical refinery. I would like to go overseas and make the big money while providing a valuable service for my country by relieving our military personnel of duties and time spent away from what they were trained to do – kill bad guys! The point I am making is that the media only wants to hear and report stories that have to do with the bad apples. A Wackenhut security officer that saves a life by giving first-aid or CPR, a correctional or police officer that helps the community find a lost child, stops a convict from escaping, or a Marine or servicemember that takes a bullet for his buddy. These are stories of the good apples but they are not worthy of front-page headlines. The bad apples need to be disciplined and made an example of. Unfortunately, people think that an entire organization or agency must be bad if one is found in the barrel.


marc
Comment posted September 7, 2009 @ 4:58 pm

Nice try Leatherneck1. But the problem is that all of Armour Group's deficiencies on this particular contract have been known and made known to Wackenhut repeatedly since at least July 2007. My guess is that cost considerations combined with the toothless and ineffectual oversight from State's Regional Security Officer made blowing off the correcting of deficiencies a real no brain-er for Wackenhut. Especially given their claim to be losing money on the contract anyway.
The sexcapades seemed to have been organised by some Wackenhut management on site and at least tolerated by the rest. Extreme horse play between consenting adults might be OK to an extent it does not undermine discipline and never when it involves coercion or hazing of subordinates. Also in this case it was done so indiscreetly that it reinforces very negative stereotypes of Westerners playing right into Taliban propaganda.
I agree with you when you say, “If you remove the few bad apples in the barrel before they contaminate the remaining apples in the barrel, you would probably save the rest”. Unfortunately, from your employment perspective, Wackenhut is the bad apple that is spoiling our costly COIN campaign in Afghanistan.


villagerider
Comment posted September 8, 2009 @ 4:04 am

It is a repeated and recurring pattern for far left liberals to snipe and use comments like “He sounds like he hasn't taken his lithium lately.”
I am under General Order One-A, unlike you seemiers.

That's a Freudian Slip, isn't it seemiers? You're light in the loafters aren't you? You hook up with guys at bars that play show tunes and you snort ammo-nitrate from a little brown vial so you can maintain a turgid enough erection to penetrate a man.

Go play a Liza tune, smoke some more weed and enjoy your next ingestion of pectin protein.

Now — back to reality. Did you really think that rant was a result of a lack of lithium? Let's discuss facts and stick to facts, can we please?

You miss my point like most radical left wingers because you cannot engage in a dialogue. It is a template that is so transparent. You leftists snipe, attack, fail to READ and are incapable of EVER admitting that your point of view may not be INFALLIBLE.

There have been problems with security companies.

Now, PAY ATTENTION here semen. This is what a forum is designed to do.

Marc, you open up a very good point regarding our COIN effort. Semen, that is Counter-Insurgency since you obviously have never served in the military. You could though Semen. Don't Ask, Don't Tell was designed just for you.

Marc, what is that particular security company doing specifically to hinder COIN efforts there? We were welcomed virtually everywhere we went into villages back in 2002. Only in Khandahar, did we detect any attitude that made us feel uneasy.

What is going on that is hindering COIN?

Well there's Anderson Cooper in Afghanistan wearing body armor. I admire that. You see, he MANNED up. What timing and it just wraps this post up nicely.


cerita dewasa
Comment posted September 9, 2009 @ 6:01 pm

These private security guys weed out the bad eggs themselves probably better than the military does, if the REAL truth be told. These guys aren't about to let a few morons ruin their company.

And the suit against Eric Prince is rubbish. Read what the judge said.

We've had bad eggs in the military too. Abu Ghraib, the rape of the 14-year old Iraqi girl and the torching of her family, plus the shooting at the medical facility on Camp Victory in Baghdad. Do we do away with the military?


cerita seks
Comment posted September 9, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

Conduct violative of this article is action or behavior in an official capacity which, in dishonoring or disgracing the person as an officer, seriously compromises the officer’s character as a gentleman, or action or behavior in an unofficial or private capacity which, in dishonoring or disgracing the officer personally, seriously compromises the person’s standing as an officer.


1972 Pontiac Grand Safari Sale, Safari Sale Autos
Pingback posted May 20, 2010 @ 2:59 am

[...] [...]


2001 Subaru Legacy Hesitation, Subaru Impreza Wrx Turbo Upgrade - 353.unlockiphone30.net
Pingback posted May 25, 2010 @ 7:26 pm

[...] 12345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728293031323334353637383940414243444546474849505152535455565758596061626364656667686970717273747576777879808182838485868788899091922001 Subaru Legacy Hesitation, Subaru Impreza Wrx Turbo Upgrade – 353.unlockiphone30.net2001 Subaru Legacy Hesitation, Subaru Impreza Wrx Turbo Upgrade2000 subaru legacy gt headers cold air intake aftermarket 1988 justy car stereo 1992 subaru svx b3500 supermodel 91 subaru legacy aftermarket 1988 justy subaru outback subaru svx headlight complete tail lights b9 tribeca fog light bulb subaru forester headlight 2005 subaru forester auto parts warehouse subaru impreza tail lights auto subaru justy 1997 subaru legacy outback msn subaru dl headlight bulb type sylvania used subaru impreza alberta 1986 subaru gl transmission 1979 subaru brat turbo subaru gl 10 repair idler pulley lw300 used truck 2001 saturn subaru outback 2002 subaru legacy sedan sale classified listings gl 10 discount subaru brat dl baja subaru of america brat taillight car parts subaru justy sacramento subaru radiator 1996 subaru legacy gt 1987 subaru justy parts transmission oil cooler brad auto parts subaru baja bratz part 1987 subaru used subaru legacy transmission subaru svx performance parts brake pads used subaru forester review compact 1999 subaru impreza grill subaru svx parts oxygen sensor sale specs subaru legacy gt subaru rx parts brake oem 2.5 for sale subaru forester 2.5xt used gl 10 classified subaru justy headlight 2003 subaru impreza spanish essay subaru forester xt subaru outback problems 10 discount auto parts 1986 subaru gl wiring harness 2006 subaru b9 tribeca 7 pass subaru justy antenna catalytic converter buy car subaru svx for sale jdm subaru for sale subaru rx 1996 find subaru wagon vanagon syncro subaru svx vw bus subaru impreza sale nj wrx sti limited used outback montana subaru forester justy compare used subaru b9 tribeca subaru outback brake pad replacement 97 subaru headlight lamp subaru gl discount truck subaru b9 tribeca price subaru liberty rims subaru second hand romania 1991 subaru legacy wagon mpg subaru liberty sale merrillville 1995 subaru legacy radiator cargo liner 2004 subaru wrx radiator subaru diesel engine review search subaru xt 9 reviews 1988 subaru gl subaru svx shocks brake caliper subaru impreza wrx sti 330 used 2007 subaru b9 tribeca limited wi suv tamiya subaru brat 1 sale search 1992 subaru loyale subaru outback dealers forum subaru gl 10 replacement fuel pump justy cheap used subaru forester used subaru body parts subaru brat performance floor mats subaru sti body parts car prices subaru parts subaru legacy outback 1996 problems fuel economy gl subaru outback cars for sale ll bean gl 10 taillight auto parts used subaru 1600 subaru glf series 10 zone gl subaru xt6 b9 tribeca spalanie subaru vivio 1986 subaru oil leak used subaru impreza wrx sti sale subaru gf radiator fan dynamic 10 part tamiya subaru brat 1999 subaru legacy value offer subaru gl 10 subaru legacy aftermarket parts brake pads buy subaru dl fit turbo 2009 subaru legacy spec b for sale lights subaru outback subaru justy headlight hub cap exhaust manifold subaru justy fuel economy subaru 5 speed automatic transmission subaru legacy brake repair 10 parts oxygen sensor 1986 subaru gl wagon brat sale 1987 outback subaru tribeca replacing tires subaru forester free download subaru song 1981 subaru dl for sale subaru justy seats 10 radiator subaru hatchback Pb200 Televisions Pb200 | Mizer Advertisement Mazda | Cb300 Boiler C | E 250 Ford | Sw1 Voice Coil | [...]


adidas online
Comment posted June 4, 2010 @ 8:11 am

Thanks for this interesting post,i like it.


miu miu
Comment posted July 6, 2010 @ 8:11 am

He sounds like he hasn't taken his lithium lately. pssss… I don't need to “ride” with these morons to know that their behavior is out of line. If they can't take the stress of the job without acting like perverts and idiots then they need to find another line of work. They can mop floors at the local gym and get their jollies there………………


louis vuitton
Comment posted July 6, 2010 @ 8:11 am

Go play a Liza tune, smoke some more weed and enjoy your next ingestion of pectin protein.


discount louis vuitton
Comment posted August 4, 2010 @ 6:17 am

murderers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hate them the most!


louis vuitton
Comment posted August 5, 2010 @ 5:51 am

Unless you have ridden with and been protected by these guys, you really should know a few things. These guys are some of the best-trained and courageous men in theatre. They are ALL former military, either Special Forces, Rangers, SEALS, etc.


weight loss exercise
Trackback posted November 8, 2010 @ 2:34 am

Thank you……

I know this is really boring and you are skipping to the next comment, but I just wanted to throw you a big thanks ?you cleared up some things for me!…


RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.