Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Snapshot: USTC/Blackwater/Xe in Afghanistan

2,730 missions | 0 casualties | 0 incidents with deadly force

This is the personal security contractor that everybody loves to hate. State’s Inspector General’s Office conducted a performance audit of the U.S. Training Center (a Xe company) contract in Afghanistan last year and had some good things to say:     

“In 2008, USTC conducted 2,730 personal protection missions in support of staff from the Department of State, including the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, USAID, and various Congressional delegations (see Table). In 2008, 257 (9.4 percent) of the missions were performed for USAID. During the entire time USTC has operated in Afghanistan, no one under USTC’s protection has been injured or killed, and there have been no incidents involving the use of deadly force. OIG observed personal protection missions and interviewed various representatives from the Department of State and USAID who regularly use USTC’s personal protective services. The representatives reported that USTC employees are professional, make them feel secure, and are respectful to both officials under chief of mission authority and their Afghan counterparts.”

Staff composition as of April 8, 2009

USTC staff consists of a project manager, personal security specialists, administrative and support employees, and interpreters, as well as local guards who are third-country nationals. As of April 2009, there was one project manager, 75 personal security specialists, 18 administrative and support personnel, 20 local guard force personnel, and five interpreters (94 Americans, 20 Columbians, and five Afghan interpreters).

On the need for a dedicated Contracting Officer’s Representative to Embassy Kabul to provide proper oversight of contractor activities, the OIG reports:

Despite its overall satisfactory contract management, DS could improve its performance in two areas, both of which have been mentioned in previous OIG reports. First, two Assistant Regional Security Officers at Embassy Kabul are currently acting as Contracting Officer’s Representatives (COR). These officers’ many other duties may prevent them from providing adequate oversight of the USTC contract, particularly as personal protective service needs increase in Afghanistan. Second, the current acting CORs do not review or verify the personnel rosters (muster sheets) before they are sent to USTC and then DS in Washington, DC.

The OIG report concludes that “USTC personal protective services have been effective in ensuring the safety of chief of mission personnel in Afghanistan’s volatile security environment. Additionally, OIG found USTC has effective control over government-furnished equipment. Nevertheless, OIG has identified several areas in which contractor performance could be improved.”  The audit provides a 6-item recommendation. You can read it here.

Actually not just OIG.  Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann, our former Ambassador to Afghanistan (2005-2007)  last December also had this to say at a congressional hearing:  "I would like to pay special tribute to the brave and hard working personnel, RSOs and ARSOs, who have protected me and my missions in dangerous times. I would also like to acknowledge my respect for the men of DynCorp and Blackwater who ran my personal protection details in Iraq and Afghanistan. They performed with courage, judgment and restraint and one lost his leg in the process. Whatever opprobrium now attaches to others I owe all those gallant men—State Department and contractor employees--my gratitude and I am glad to have a public forum in which to express it."

Related Item:

OIG Report No. MERO-A-09-08, Performance Audit of the USTC Contract for Personal Protective Services in Afghanistan - Aug. 2009 | PDF

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