GUANTANAMO BAY — A brief detour from my Guantanamo coverage, as a State Department official, speaking only on background, confirmed something else I’ve been working on. The private security company formerly known as Blackwater and now known as Xe Services, will be allowed to bid on the next generation of the State Department’s lucrative Worldwide Protective Services Contract. The company’s track record of killing Iraqi civilians, shooting at Afghan civilians, taking for personal use U.S. military-issued rifles from the Afghan police and setting up shell companies to win government contracts will not be an obstacle.
Once again, the fact that no federal acquisition official has recommended Blackwater be barred from bidding on federal contracts means, the official said, that “any company, including Xe Services and its subsidiary companies, [may] submit a proposal in response to an acquisition process established on the basis of full and open competition.” While a Blackwater/Xe Services spokeswoman did not reply to repeated phone calls seeking comment before I left for Guantanamo, she told me last year that the company intends to bid on the contract — which is the successor contract to the one that allowed it to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place.
Nor is the fact that the Iraqi government took away Blackwater’s license to operate in Iraq a dealbreaker. “The solicitation is for undefined worldwide requirements,” the State Department official said, meaning any specific country “license is not required for the award of the base contract.”
The last Worldwide Protective Services contract, as it’s formally known, was awarded to a consortium of three firms: Blackwater/Xe, Triple Canopy and DynCorp. This time around, State intends to award it to six firms, who will then bid on the right to protect diplomats in specific dangerous countries. The year-long contract has an annual option for renewal for four years, making it essentially a four-year contract. Its cost has yet to be determined, but it’ll be announced — along with the winners — by September 30. A back-of-the-envelope calculation places the value of the previous WPS contract at $2.2 billion.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), whose Armed Services Committee uncovered the shell-company establishment and the Afghanistan weapons diversions, wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder in February to request the Justice Department investigate the company for fraud.