Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Business As Usual

So when does the D.o'D. get involved in narcotics?

A Defense Department contract involving antidrug training missions may test the durability of the political controversy over Blackwater Worldwide's security work in Iraq.

The Moyock, N.C., company, which was involved in a September shooting in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead, is one of five military contractors competing for as much as $15 billion over five years to help fight a narcotics trade that the government says finances terrorist groups.

Also competing for contracts from the Pentagon's Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office are military-industry giants Raytheon Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp., as well as Arinc Inc., a smaller aerospace and technology contractor.

The contracts are expected to be awarded as the need arises, so the Pentagon's level of concern about employing Blackwater will likely be measured over time and by whether the company wins leading roles or is shut out.

Companies competing for the work might be called on to develop detection or surveillance technology; train U.S. and foreign forces; or provide logistics, communications and information-technology systems, among other areas...

Instead of giving all of the business to a single firm, the Pentagon plans to award the antidrug work on a task-by-task basis, requiring Blackwater and its rivals to compete constantly.

In August, the Defense Department gave each of the five companies a $25,000 contract to look at intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in Saharan Africa. Four more contracts have since been awarded, but the government has classified the details.

For bigger companies such as Lockheed and Northrop, the value of the antidrug contracts are miniscule when compared with building fighter jets and naval ships. Yet, work such as this is increasingly important as they seek to expand into new markets that could grow over time.

For Blackwater, which started in 1997 as a small company that trained law-enforcement officers and others at its compound in North Carolina, such contracts are crucial to growth. Since 2001, Blackwater's roster of military veterans and former law enforcement officers has swelled to more than 40,000, and it has built a fleet of airplanes and helicopters larger than those of some of the countries where it does business. Blackwater hopes to sell its own surveillance airship and a custom-built armored vehicle for dangerous missions.

Under the Defense Department contract, Blackwater might end up as a subcontractor to a rival. Lockheed lists Blackwater as one of 37 companies it might use to supply nonsecurity services such as training personnel. Blackwater received $44 million in contracts from Lockheed between 2005 and 2007 for work as a subcontractor on antidrug training and border-related work in Afghanistan, according to the Defense Department.

Richard Douglas, deputy assistant defense secretary for counternarcotics, counterproliferation and global threats, said Blackwater's training of Afghan antidrug forces has made them more effective. "We've been very happy with the results of our association with them in Afghanistan," he said.

Well, nothing succeeds like success.

Speaking of success, Scott Horton at Harper's got an update on Cheneyburton's drive to git his Iran On, and the political realities that aren't rallying the NeoCons behind him beyond the usual suspects. Let's hope Scott's right.

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