Posts Tagged security contractors

Industry Talk: The UN Talks Shop About Their Use Of PMSC’s

Last year in July, I wrote about this debate that the UN was having about it’s use of PMSC’s, now and into the future. This is the final review panel about this debate, and it was interesting to hear the current view point of the UN.

One of the things that came up that I thought was interesting, is that the UN still does not know how many contractors it uses, either for guard work or for logistics. So I think they should at least dedicate some time and effort towards getting a firm grasp on this. Perhaps an online database that gives a transparent view of everyone they are using, both past and present. They could also add to that database if that company was fired or not, or what they thought of their performance? Anything to add to the history of the use of contractors.

They also talked in great length about codes of conduct and other initiatives to get companies to self-regulate. My thoughts are that if the UN actually published violations of these codes as a record for the public, kind of like what POGO does with companies in the US, then that would keep the world and the UN better informed as to the true track records of companies. That kind of history and track record is essential information if you want to truly find the best value company for the money. Companies would also fight to not be on that list, and especially if it impacted bidding.

The other surprising thing is that they couldn’t list how much money was spent on contractors, past or present. So a database should absolutely list those costs so that member donors to the UN can see exactly how their money is being spent. Also, other companies can see how much a service costs, and find out if they can provide that service cheaper or at least get a feel for what it would take to spin up a contract. So a UN contractor database would be an excellent investment, if the UN is interested in transparency and effectively using this industry.

I was also taken aback when the panel was asked around the 28:30 point of this video, what they thought about the lack of accountability for member nation troops that continue to violate human rights during peace keeping operations. No one wanted to take that question and it was left ‘wide’ open. I thought the silence said everything…

There was also numerous questions about the definition of mercenary and how that applied to PMSC’s. Or how their group was called the UN Working Group On The Use of Mercenaries, and yet they were tasked with evaluating PMSC’s that were not mercenaries by definition. I think the choice of group title is somewhat counterproductive for such a panel, if they wanted to be perceived as objective in their research of this industry. With that said, the group at least tried to differentiate between mercenaries and PMSC’s.

If the video below does not show up, here is a link to the video. It is about 50 minutes long and worth your time. The panel’s final report should be coming out sometime this year, and I will post it when it surfaces. -Matt

 

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Industry Talk: DynCorp International Honors Defense Of Freedom Medal Recipients

Speaking on behalf of the Department of Defense was Lieutenant General William N. Phillips, and from the Department of State were Ambassador Patrick Kennedy and Ambassador William R. Brownfield.
“There about 17,000 DynCorp personnel serving in a combat theater today. They are serving alongside our warfighters and protecting our freedom. Bottom line – contractor personnel and all they do remains vital to our nation. We depend on them, we rely on them, and they are extraordinary for their execution of the mission,” Phillips said.

Good on DynCorp for honoring their fallen and I certainly hope other companies will follow the same path, if they haven’t done so already. I have written in the past about the process companies and families/friends of the fallen can go through in order to get the Defense of Freedom Medal for their fallen and I highly encourage folks to do this. We must honor the sacrifice of the fallen….

I was also intrigued by this bit of news that came out during the ceremony. The State Department will be building a memorial to honor civilians/contractors that were killed, defending the DoS in the war. Very cool.

During his remarks, Ambassador Brownfield announced that, later this year, the Department of State will unveil a new memorial at the U.S. Department of State to honor civilian personnel, including contractors who have lost their lives serving on police training missions abroad.
“On the thirteenth of May this year, with the support, assistance and my personal gratitude to Under Secretary Kennedy, I hope we will unveil and dedicate a memorial to all those civilian police personnel who have given their lives up in overseas operations,” said Brownfield.

With that said, I certainly hope the new Secretary of State John Kerry will be in attendance, once this memorial is unveiled and dedicated? Better yet, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and the new Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel should all be in attendance. Because all of them owe their lives to the brave actions of security contractors who rescued them off a mountain in Afghanistan! For that matter, most of congress and our senior leadership should be in attendance–past and present, because most of them have been protected by contractors in some capacity in Iraq or Afghanistan, and at some point in this long war. -Matt

 

 

DynCorp International Honors Defense of Freedom Medal Recipients
February 28, 2013
DynCorp International hosted the families of 17 employees who were killed while serving U.S. government missions abroad as they received the Department of Defense’s Defense of Freedom medal, posthumously recognizing the contributions their loved ones made for their country. The honorees were killed while working on U.S. Department of State police training missions in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2004 and 2011. The award recipients’ families, representatives from the Department of State and Department of Defense, along with nearly 200 DI personnel were in attendance at the ceremony held February 11, 2013, in the Washington, D.C. area.
Speaking on behalf of the Department of Defense was Lieutenant General William N. Phillips, and from the Department of State were Ambassador Patrick Kennedy and Ambassador William R. Brownfield.
“There about 17,000 DynCorp personnel serving in a combat theater today. They are serving alongside our warfighters and protecting our freedom. Bottom line – contractor personnel and all they do remains vital to our nation. We depend on them, we rely on them, and they are extraordinary for their execution of the mission,” Phillips said.
During his remarks, Ambassador Brownfield announced that, later this year, the Department of State will unveil a new memorial at the U.S. Department of State to honor civilian personnel, including contractors who have lost their lives serving on police training missions abroad.
“On the thirteenth of May this year, with the support, assistance and my personal gratitude to Under Secretary Kennedy, I hope we will unveil and dedicate a memorial to all those civilian police personnel who have given their lives up in overseas operations,” said Brownfield.
Steve Gaffney, chairman and CEO of DynCorp International, placed a special emphasis on the family members who were in attendance, “Each of the 17 individuals who we honor tonight had a profound and lasting impact – not just on our company but on our country – and we often talk about their bravery and strength. But I also want to highlight the bravery and strength of those family members who are here tonight, and who continue to share the stories of their loved ones.”
The Defense of Freedom Medal, the civilian equivalent of the military’s Purple Heart, was presented to the families of the following DI personnel:
Roland Carroll Barvels of Aberdeen, S.D.
Brett Patrick Benton of Dry Ridge, Ky.
Brian Morgan Brian of Camden, Ark.
Michael Wayne Butler of Rembert, S.C.
Mike Dawes of Stilwell, Okla.
Arsenio Ducusin Domingo of Wadmalaw Island, S.C.
Richard Thomas Hickman of Cave Springs, Ga.
Leon Vincent Kimbrell of Boiling Springs, S.C.
Deborah Dawn Klecker of Redman, Ore.
Rudy Guerrero Mesa of Maxwell, Texas
William Lawrence Juneau of Orange County, Calif.
Douglas Stephen Thomas of Lexington, S.C.
Robert McDonald Timmann of Tallahassee, Fla.
Donald Bruce Tow of Lake Havasu, Ariz.
Darrell Leroy Wetherbee of Raymond, Maine
Gary Wayne Willard of Resaca, Ga.
Ronald Austin Zimmerman of Glenwood, Ind.

Link to post here.

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Call To Action: Demand Security Contractors Frank Burkert And Hannes Führinger Be Released From Egyptian Prison

Thanks to Yancey, Elena, and Günter for bringing this to my attention. Hopefully with this post, I can bring some more attention to this issue.

Basically these two security contractors were transporting weapons for their maritime security contract through Egypt, and authorities there arrested them. The problem here is that these contractors were in possession of what they thought was the proper licenses and paperwork to transport these weapons through Egypt, and the authorities there decided not to honor that paperwork.

At the same time this was going on, the Arab Spring had hit Egypt and all chaos had ensued there. So these guys were probably viewed as a folks intending to fuel whatever side of the conflict there–which is the farthest from the truth.

These men were working for CAV, an Italian security company, and they were on contract to protect a vessel. Those weapons were for guarding a client’s vessel and not for sale or distribution in Egypt.

So that is what I know, and by all means, please review the two articles below and if you wish to voice your opinion about the matter, you can write any of the pertinent folks below. Send your emails to:

Ehab Mohamed Mostafa Fawzy
e-mail: egyptembassyvienna@egyptembassyvienna.at

If you would like to contact CAV and let them know that they have a responsibility to support and do all they can for these men, here is a contact:

e-mail: segretaria@cav-formazione.it
e-mail: info@csenbologna.it

If you would like to contact LisaFuehringer and provide some help or just give some support, here is her contact:

e-mail: lisa.fuehringer@gmx.at

The German Embassy in Egypt:

Embassy of Germany in Cairo, Egypt
e-mail: info@kairo.diplo.de

The Austrian Embassy in Egypt:

e-mail: kairo-ob@bmeia.gv.at

The Egyptian Embassy in Germany:

e-mail: embassy@egyptian-embassy.de

As more information becomes available, I will add the edits. The last I heard, the mother of one of the contractors communicated this recently:

“Today’s hearing was canceled by the judge and adjourned indefinitely.”

So basically the Egyptian judicial system is barely working, if at all–considering all that has happened there. That, and there might be some new politics involved, like any westerners in their prisons do not deserve due process or any kind of justice….Who knows, and by all means, if any Egyptian authorities would like to answer as to why Egypt is stonewalling this case, contact me or post a comment. If anyone else has information, please feel free to speak as well. -Matt

 

Frank Burkert.

Hannes Führinger and his wife Lisa.

 

Gunrunning: Process in Cairo postponed again
32-year-old in custody
27/05/2012
Gunrunning: Mild judgment in Cairo for Austrians?
Cairo: Burgenland experienced real stick martyrdom
Arms smuggling: Austrian is in Egypt court
The trial of the 32 – year Burgenländer Hannes F., accused Egypt in weapons smuggling, has been postponed again on Sunday. The date for the next hearing was the 23rd June fixed. F. is since 2 Last November in Cairo in custody.
Reason for the postponement this time was the recently held presidential election. The judge informed the lawyers that the trial was postponed, said Nikolaus Lutterotti, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry. The courtroom had served in the presidential election as polling stations and were sealed.
Courtroom was closed to
When she came in the morning to the courthouse, the court room was locked, before police were standing, described Lisa F., the wife of the accused. Initially it had been said that the hearing would take place somewhere else because ballot boxes were kept in the hall. After one and half to two hours, then you have been advised of the process would be delayed.
“21 cases were scheduled for today,” said Lisa F. The other procedures had been postponed to October 23rd of that against her husband on the June: “If it comes in June, not a verdict, then it will go in October.” In the months of July, August and September will not be tried. Place a few days before the new date on 16 and 17 Egypt in June presidential run-off election.
Health of the lander’s Castle “very threatening”
She was worried because of the health of her husband “very threatening” is, according to Lisa F. The visit by a medical officer of the embassy had not been approved, described the wife. “Until now, the not yet been approved,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Lutterotti, “the Embassy is trying every day to make it work.”
The 32 – year-old castle in the country last year was arrested at Cairo airport with four guns and 200 rounds of ammunition in his luggage. He had traveled for an order to guard a ship transport to Egypt.
Story here.
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FREE FÜHRINGER FROM AN EGYPTIAN PRISON
By securitycontractorsrecovery
by Elena Fon, Esq. and Günter Singer
25 January 2012
Hannes Führinger from Austria and Frank Burkert from Germany were arrested on November 2nd 2011 at Cairo airport en route to a maritime deployment. They were working for the Italian security company  CAV ( Centro Addestramento Varano) which had been contracted by the Italian maritime shipping company PREMUDA SPA, to provide security for the ship “ Four Smile” from Suez to Galle in Sri Lanka. Read the rest of this entry »

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Legal News: Rep. Cummings Introduces Legislation To Reform DBA Insurance Program

Analysis of Labor Department data found that insurers had denied about 44 percent of all serious injury claims — those involving more than four days of lost work. The companies also turned down about 60 percent of contractors who claimed to suffer psychological damage such as post-traumatic stress disorder. The Times sued the government for access to Labor Department records.
“There are clearly serious deficiencies in the health coverage of civilian employees who have been injured while working overseas to keep us safe here at home — costing not only the men and women who are being refused coverage for the treatment they need, but also for the American taxpayers who are footing the bill for their coverage,” Cummings said.

This looks like some good legislation. Thanks to the work of Propublica and others, these insurance loopholes and wasteful practices will hopefully be shut down. It is also atrocious that at one point in this war, up to 44 percent of all serious injury claims were being denied. It is appalling that contractors were treated like this.

So hopefully this law get’s passed and it actually fixes the problem. I like the language in the bill in regards to assessing the law’s effectiveness after one year. If you have anything to add, either in support or against, let us all know.

If you want a great primer on what spurred on this legislation, check out Propublica’s work and there is lot’s of great info on this industry there. If you have any nightmare DBA claim stories, feel free to put that up in the comments section as well. -Matt

 

Cummings Introduces Legislation to Reform Defense Base Act Insurance Program
June 6, 2012
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, introduced legislation today that would save taxpayers huge sums of money by transitioning the existing workers’ compensation insurance system for overseas government contractors away from private sector insurance companies to a federal self-insurance program.
“There is absolutely no reason American taxpayers should be lining the pockets of private insurance companies,” said Cummings.  “This bill would save billions of dollars while improving the ability of contractor employees who risk their lives in war zones to obtain the medical care and support they deserve.”
According to a 2009 Pentagon study, Congress could save as much as $250 million a year by transitioning the existing Defense Base Act (DBA) insurance program to a government self-insurance program.  The study found:  “In the long run, the self-insurance alternative may have the greatest potential for minimizing DBA insurance costs, and it has several administrative and compliance advantages as well.”

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Somalia: MPRI In The News–US Trains African Soldiers For Somalia Mission

This is a cool little article that mentioned the work that MPRI is doing currently in Africa as part of the ACOTA program. It just shows how important companies like this, or Bancroft Global, Dyncorp, Halliday Finch or Sterling Corporate Services are to the task of trying to stabilize Somalia. -Matt

 

U.S. trains African soldiers for Somalia mission
By Craig Whitlock
May 13, 2012
The heart of the Obama administration’s strategy for fighting al-Qaeda militants in Somalia can be found next to a cow pasture here, a thousand miles from the front lines.
Under the gaze of American instructors, gangly Ugandan recruits are taught to carry rifles, dodge roadside bombs and avoid shooting each other by accident. In one obstacle course dubbed “Little Mogadishu,” the Ugandans learn the basics of urban warfare as they patrol a mock city block of tumble-down buildings and rusty shipping containers designed to resemble the battered and dangerous Somali capital.
“Death is Here! No One Leaves,” warns the fake graffiti, which, a little oddly, is spray-painted in English instead of Somali. “GUNS $ BOOMS,” reads another menacing tag.
Despite the warnings, the number of recruits graduating from this boot camp — built with U.S. taxpayer money and staffed by State Department contractors — has increased in recent months. The current class of 3,500 Ugandan soldiers, the biggest since the camp opened five years ago, is preparing to deploy to Somalia to join a growing international force composed entirely of African troops but largely financed by Washington.

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Iraq: Iraq Police Development Program–Will It Be Scrapped Or Just Reduced In Size?

The trainers are mostly retired state troopers and other law enforcement personnel on leave from their jobs back home, and a number of officials who criticized the program questioned what those trainers have to offer Iraqi police officials who have been operating in a war zone for years.
Mr. Perito said that the State Department never developed a suitable curriculum and that instead, advisers often “end up talking about their own experiences or tell war stories and it’s not relevant.”
Retired Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, now a senior fellow at the Institute for the Study of War, who oversaw the training of Iraqi security forces from 2007 to 2008, said, “The evidence suggests that the State Department never really engaged the Iraqis to find out what they need and what they want.”

In an effort to ‘right size’ the US mission in Iraq, and adjust to Iraq’s desire to enforce their sovereignty, we are seeing an adjustment happening.  Which makes sense and is totally reasonable. It is the Iraqi’s show now, and it will be very difficult to sell them on a massive program that they think they do not need or even want.

Or, like the quote up top and what SIGIR identified in the report, that DoS should work a little harder at creating a curriculum or program that the Iraqis actually like and want more of. And that would take talking with them, and using some kind of metrics to determine what is working with the course, and what is not.(as SIGIR recommends)

Also, more work needs to be done to convince the police commanders and leaders of Iraq that courses like this actually do increase the effectiveness of their police. But that takes action, not words, and the service out in the field must be evaluated and surveys taken in order to get a feel for what is effective. That old Jundism of ‘get feedback’ comes to mind.

Another point was brought up in the article below that was interesting. And that is security for these police advisers in Iraq. With the military gone, the security these days for operations are contractors.

The Iraqis have also insisted that the training sessions be held at their own facilities, rather than American ones. But reflecting the mistrust that remains between Iraqi and American officials, the State Department’s security guards will not allow the trainers to establish set meeting times at Iraqi facilities, so as not to set a pattern for insurgents, who still sometimes infiltrate Iraq’s military and police.

So as Iraq hassles contractors, or as the Iraqis do a terrible job of securing places that these advisers might visit or the people they might train, that operations in this environment becomes very complex and dangerous. But it isn’t impossible, and security contractor will make it happen–just as long as DoS is working hard about the issue of how Iraqis treat security contractors.

If you are on this program and disagree with what was said in this NYT’s article or what was said in the SIGIR, definitely come up in the comments section and speak up. Also, if anyone at DoS wants to come up and speak about the program on this blog, by all means feel free to do so. Although DoS did make a public statement in regards to this article, and I posted that below along with the SIGIR report done last year about this program. -Matt 

 

U.S. May Scrap Costly Efforts to Train Iraqi Police
By TIM ARANGO
May 13, 2012
In the face of spiraling costs and Iraqi officials who say they never wanted it in the first place, the State Department has slashed — and may jettison entirely by the end of the year — a multibillion-dollar police training program that was to have been the centerpiece of a hugely expanded civilian mission here.
What was originally envisioned as a training cadre of about 350 American law enforcement officers was quickly scaled back to 190 and then to 100. The latest restructuring calls for 50 advisers, but most experts and even some State Department officials say even they may be withdrawn by the end of this year.
The training effort, which began in October and has already cost $500 million, was conceived of as the largest component of a mission billed as the most ambitious American aid effort since the Marshall Plan. Instead, it has emerged as the latest high-profile example of the waning American influence here following the military withdrawal, and it reflects a costly miscalculation on the part of American officials, who did not count on the Iraqi government to assert its sovereignty so aggressively.
“I think that with the departure of the military, the Iraqis decided to say, ‘O.K., how large is the American presence here?’ ” said James F. Jeffrey, the American ambassador to Iraq, in an interview. “How large should it be? How does this equate with our sovereignty? In various areas they obviously expressed some concerns.”

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