DynCorp Wins Its Bid to Stop Blackwater’s Next Afghanistan Contract — for Now
As I reported last week, the Government Accountability Office has been reviewing for months a protest against a contract to train the Afghan police that Blackwater sought to win, even after Blackwater essentially stole weaponry intended for those selfsame Afghan cops. Today, the GAO’s acting general counsel, Lynn H. Gibson, effectively sided against Blackwater.
GAO’s ruling is full of complicated bureaucrat-ese, so here’s the bottom line. DynCorp, a rival security contractor, held a contract through a branch of the State Department called INL to train foreign police. Last year, the Pentagon moved to take control of that contract, setting the stage for it to be bid out through an obscure Army office known as CNTPO. DynCorp protested, since CNTPO is a counternarcotics office and the police-training contract desired by the U.S. military in Afghanistan is rather tenuously connected to counternarcotics. Today, GAO sided with DynCorp, saying the contract’s “services are significantly broader than the counter-narcoterrorism efforts anticipated by the underlying contracts.”
But that doesn’t mean the Army loses control of the contract or the contract reverts to State’s INL branch. “We recognize the Army’s position that it needs to swiftly award a contract for these services,” Ralph O. White, GAO’s acting managing associate general counsel for procurement law, said in a statement. “In sustaining DynCorp’s protest, we recommended that the Army cancel the task order solicitations and either conduct a full and open competition, or prepare the appropriate justification required by the Competition in Contracting Act to limit competition.”
Put simply, the Army can’t go forward with the bid under the five contractors eligible for it under CNTPO — including Blackwater — but it doesn’t lose control of the contract. Even CNTPO could potentially still be in control of it: GAO is agnostic about what part of the Army awards the bid. It is conceivable that Blackwater could still bid on the contract, then, since no contracting official has formally recommended Blackwater for being “debarred,” a term designating the firm to be ineligible to win government contracts. Failing that, it’s up to the Army to design the contract’s next set of procedures — or, if the administration so chooses, State and Defense can work out a new contract vehicle for the bid. Will Blackwater still be eligible to make money off the government even after its employees killed civilians in Iraq, shot at them in Afghanistan, set up a shell company to win an Army subcontract and stole guns intended for the Afghan police from a U.S. military depot near Kabul?