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So When Exactly Did State Start Investigating ArmorGroup?

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly came out of the box yesterday with a strong statement. The State Department takes the allegations of impropriety on the part of ArmorGroup, the security company State hired to protect the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, so seriously that the Office of the Inspector General has opened an investigation. In fact, he said, ArmorGroup came to the department “ten days ago” with the offensive photographs released by the Project on Government Oversight on Monday. So State’s been diligent here.

Well, except…

QUESTION: Just the discrepancy between what I think some folks from OIG were saying that they were only notified yesterday. You said that they were notified ten days ago. Can you just clarify that? I mean, are you sure it was ten days ago that OIG was first – that they –

MR. KELLY: Oh, you might be right. You might be right on that.

QUESTION: Well, can you –

QUESTION: Can you –

QUESTION: — get that for sure?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, sorry. Yeah, I may have misspoke on that one.

But even that discrepancy is relatively minor. Kelly said that the State Department sent ArmorGroup nine letters since 2007 complaining about its fulfillment of contract responsibilities. And he meant this as an exculpation, not a concession that State has faced systemic problems in exercising oversight of its security contractors. For instance:

MR. KELLY: Starting in June 2007, all the way through April 30, 2008, and then actually there was a ninth [letter to ArmorGroup from State], and this was the most serious one. It’s called a show cause notice. A decision to issue a show cause notice is a serious matter and was not taken lightly. The issuance of a show cause notice was necessary due to repeated staffing shortages, which had been brought to the attention of the contracting officer. The show cause notice was the first step towards considering termination of the contract and was carefully considered by all concerned parties. … This was September 21st, 2008.

But according to Project on Government Oversight Executive Director Danielle Brian, that “most serious” show-cause notice may have been first issued on Sept. 21, 2008, but it had a rather serious predecessor:

[I]n July 2007, State issued a “cure notice,” a formal advisory that AGNA’s deficiencies were endangering the performance of the contract. In the cure notice, State identified 14 performance deficiencies, including the failure of AGNA to provide an adequate number of guards, relief personnel, and armored vehicles. The contracting official stated “I consider the contract deficiencies addressed below to endanger performance of the contract to such a degree that the security of the US Embassy in Kabul is in jeopardy….”

A follow-on cure notice was issued in April 2008, for, among other things, “failing to correct many of the deficiencies identified in the July 2007 cure notice.” And then State re-awarded ArmorGroup its $189 million contract the following July.

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