POGO, Contractors, and Unsurprising Problems
Yesterday the Project on Government Oversight released a ten-page open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding alleged abuses from US contractors to civilian personnel at the US Embassy in Kabul. Executive Director Danielle Brian writes:
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) initiated an investigation after nearly one-tenth of the U.S./ex-pat 6 guards individually contacted us to express concerns about and provide evidence of a pattern of blatant, longstanding violations of the security contract, and of a pervasive breakdown in the chain of command and guard force discipline and morale. This environment has resulted in chronic turnover by U.S./ex-pat guards. According to the State Department, “nearly 90% of the incumbent US/Expats left within the first six months of contract performance.”7 According to POGO sources, the U.S./ex-pat guard turnover may be as high as 100 percent annually. This untenable turnover prevents the guard force from developing team cohesion, and requires constant training for new replacement recruits. The guards have come to POGO because they say they believe strongly in the mission, but are concerned that many good guards are quitting out of frustration or being fired for refusing to participate in the misconduct, and that those responsible for the misconduct are not being held accountable.
This was followed by a letter to Patrick Kennedy at the US Department of State from Senator Clair McGaskill, where she asked (apparently again) for documents that would further the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight (within the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)’s understanding of reported problems about contracted personnel in Afghanistan, specifically ArmorGroup North America, Inc.
The Guardian follows the story, which would be interesting enough even without the news that Blackwater’s contract has been extended and 14,000 more troops have been committed to Afghanistan. According to Jeremy Scahill, there are over 100,000 private contractors currently placed in Iraq and Afghanistan; this is twice as many American troops. The New York Times covers this as well.
On that note, I will likely be posting more infrequently over the next seven days as I participate in the traditional rite of passage of my people: the Southern wedding. Complete with Tennessee whiskey shots, familial recrimination, public disownings, and home-made cake. I’ll be back with the scars of accomplishment.