The ever alert and well informed,Tom Griffin at The Green Ribbon highlights the questing mind of Ohio Democratic US Congresswoman Marcy Kaptor (she didn't vote for the invasion of Iraq) who is as fascinated by how Aegis and the remarkable Col. Tim Spicer got Pentagon contracts (Aegis Defence Services Ltd., a British security firm, has civilian security forces working in Iraq, under a $300 million contract that began in 2004) and raised questions with the House Committee on Friday 9th February.
Friday's hearing was attended by Army Secretary Francis Harvey and Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker, and was webcast by C-Span. Kaptur's contribution starts about 1 hour 38 minutes in. The above quote is from 1 hour 48 minutes in.
"I will say this, both in closed door meetings and in public, I have yet to find a person other than the auditor, who is able to shed any light on how it was that Aegis, a foreign corporation, was given a contract where now we have the second-largest force in Iraq, larger than the Brits, headed by someone named Tim Spicer.
Who signed that contract, and what are those 20,000 people doing, many of whom are foreign mercenaries? What are they doing? Why can't I get any answers out of our Government? What is happening inside the Department of Defence? What are those people doing over there?
The last answer I got was, well Congresswoman, you''ll have to go over to Central Command over in Baghdad. OK, I'll go, but why can't I get answers on that as a member of this committee?
It is therefore interesting the view taken from the top of the US Armed Forces. Before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, incoming top dog and supreme commander in Iraq, said he counts the "thousands of contract security forces" among the assets available to him to supplement the limited number of U.S. and Iraqi troops to be used for dealing with the insurgency.
Therefore all these discussions are interesting as their contract is up for re-bidding - this invloves changes to the contract which include the need to monitor all convoys, maintain a Web site, provide "Iraq-wide unclassified daily reports," as well as "provide relevant and timely intel/ops reports throughout Iraq" -- referring to intelligence/operations reports.
The U.S. government will provide about 134 vehicles, primarily sport-utility vehicles, but also armored personnel carriers. The government will also furnish weapons and ammunition, but the contractor must identify the people to whom the weapons will be issued. Employees will have access to government dining facilities and post exchanges, "where available," and will be entitled to "acute medical and dental services to include medical evacuation under emergency circumstances . . . at no cost" while they are "in theater."
Currently , Aegis is known to provide ;
1. Security support services (including 300 guards - presumably armed) to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel working on reconstruction projects throughout the country.
2. Operation of 6 Reconstruction Operations Centers, which distrubte threat warning information and tracks convoys.
3. Aegis also "coordinates security" in Iraq for 10 prime contractors and their subcontractors through security liaison teams, and the teams pass on to the military information gathered by their sources.
In 2005, the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction investigated the Aegis contract and found a number of shortcomings. They found that Aegis did not vet all of its Iraqi employees for security, as required by the contract.
Sampling the personnel records of 20 of 125 Iraqi nationals then on the payroll found no evidence of an interview for 6, no evidence of a police background check on 18 and no records at all on 2.
"As a result, there is no assurance that the Iraqi national employees do not pose an internal security threat,".... he inspection report said.
Aegis managers claimed Iraqi police checks were too difficult to obtain (probably true), given the destruction of past records. The requirement was dropped. The report also said that the company agreed that Iraqis would be vetted through the State Department system. The inspection report said that, as of April 2005, only 17 of the "last" 213 Iraqis hired had been vetted through that system. Aegis employees include foreign nationals, among whom are Gurkhas from Nepal, and all must be vetted.
As ex FRU squads roam around Iraq (see Green Ribbon) it is interesting that the USRmy is also looking for bids for the operation of the Counterinsurgency Center for Excellence (COIN CFE) for up to three years at Camp Taji, north of Baghdad, in a section called the Phoenix Academy, which is devoted to joint U.S.-Iraqi training. Established in 2005 by Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq then, (to enhance the coun-terinsurgency skills of transition teams and conventional Coalition units serving in Iraq covering operations, cross-cultural communications, threats etc.,) it will now operate under Petraeus, who recently rewrote the Army's counterinsurgency manual.
A Pentagon news release in May said said COIN CFE, which involves U.S. and Iraqi personnel, was established "to help units adapt to and train for the war against terror in Iraq as it is fought today."
Under the new proposal, contractors will handle a variety of classes, including a special seminar for "general officers and senior field grade leaders at the multi-national corps and division levels."
Former senior Defense Intelligence Agency expert on the Middle East, retired Army Col. W. Patrick Lang, a former Green Beret , who worked in counterinsurgency in the post-Vietnam War period, says the need to set up a counterinsurgency school in Iraq and rewrite the textbook showed that the Army had dropped that subject matter altogether during the 1980s and the 1990s. "The old doctrine died out, along with the lessons of East Africa, Vietnam and Bolivia," he said, "and now they need people with this kind of memory who are retired and know from experience."
Will the old gang from RUSI be looking for this contract ? It could be Aegis's contract might slip from their grasp to Dyncorp this time. Dame Pauline will no doubt be using some discreet influence when ever she can.