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Justice Dept. Reviewing Levin’s Request to Investigate Blackwater for Contract Fraud

Laura Rozen at Politico beat me to this, but today Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released letters he sent to Attorney General Eric Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates asking them to review Feb. 24 testimony from ex-Blackwater executives and Army officials that indicate the security contractor committed contract fraud. In particular, Levin’s Senate Armed Services Committee received testimony that day from ex-Blackwater officials that the company obscured its relationship with a shell company called Paravant in order to win a subcontract with the Army to train Afghan soldiers — possibly at the behest of the defense giant Raytheon, which held the overall training contract. (Raytheon non-denies denies such involvement.)

From Levin’s letter to Holder:

The $25 million subcontract was awarded to Blackwater just months after the State Department had said they lost “confidence in [Blackwater's] credibility and management ability.” The Army contracting officer who approved the Paravant contract testified to the Committee that he was unaware that the proposal was really a Blackwater proposal in the name of Paravant. If the Army contracting officer had known he was approving a subcontract with Blackwater, perhaps he would have taken the Department of State’s finding about the company’s lack of credibility and management ability into account when deciding whether to approve that subcontract. That makes the deceptive representation a serious matter.

A Justice Department official told me the department is reviewing Levin’s request at the moment.

Meanwhile, Blackwater might possibly get another contract with the Defense Department to train Afghan policemen — yes, even after Blackwater employees stole hundreds of guns from U.S. military weapons depots that were intended for Afghan police use. The General Accountability Office is currently reviewing an objection raised by rival private security firm DynCorp to Blackwater’s potential acquisition of the contract. Levin writes to Gates that responsible contracting officials should check out the contract fraud uncovered at the committee hearing last week and “consider the deficiencies in Blackwater’s performance under the weapons training contract” before giving the company a new contract worth, potentially, a billion dollars.

Gates will have to act fast. I am reliably informed GAO has until March 24 to reach a decision about who gets the contract.

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