Senate Armed Services Probe Adds To A Long List of Blackwater Misdeeds

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee wants the Justice Department and the Pentagon to investigate an already-notorious private military contractor for potential fraud and mismanagement related to its work to conduct training for the Afghan National Army.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) Thursday publicly released letters written last month to Attorney General Eric Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates alleging a pattern of misconduct by a firm known as “Paravant,” but which is in reality a shell firm for the discredited Blackwater paramilitary firm. Due to bad publicity, Blackwater changed its name to Xe.

The latest revelations about Blackwater, whose guards were accused of murdering 17 Iraqis in 2007, are sure to bring fresh scrutiny to the federal government’s practice of doing business with private armies, such as Blackwater and others. Lawmakers already have introduced legislation to ban the practice.

In the case of the killings in Iraq, a federal judge dropped charges against the Blackwater guards but, the State Department says it still wants a case pressed against the five.

The armed services panel held a hearing last month on the Paravant/Blackwater contract, which capped off what Levin describes as a lengthy investigation of the matter.

The committee notes that the “Paravant” contract was awarded to Blackwater just months after the State Department announced that it had lost “confidence in [Blackwater’s] credibility and management ability.”

Blackwater once had a contract to protect State Department diplomats.

Among concerns raised by the investigation were representations made by Blackwater in its proposal for the subcontract that Paravant had “over 2,000 personnel deployed overseas supporting U.S. Government contracts” and “many years experience in identifying and selecting top candidates for training, security, and consulting positions.”

Those statements were false, according to a statement issued by Levin’s office. The investigation revealed that Paravant had never performed any services and was simply a shell company established to avoid what one former Blackwater executive called the “baggage” associated with the Blackwater name as the company pursued government business, the statement adds.

A Blackwater senior executive testified at the February hearing that Raytheon, which was the Department of Defense prime contractor, asked Blackwater to use another name on the subcontract. The Department of Defense contracting officer who reviewed the Paravant proposal testified that he did not know that the company submitting the proposal was actually Blackwater.

In his letter to Gates, Levin asks that, before giving Blackwater additional military contracts, the Department closely review the company’s performance on the Paravant contract, including false statements contained in the company’s contract proposal, Blackwater’s disregard for Department of Defense rules, and its inadequate vetting of company personnel. Levin’s letter also encourages Pentagon officials to consider additional deficiencies in Blackwater’s performance of the Paravant contract. Among the deficiencies identified by the Senate investigation were the “reckless use of weapons by Blackwater personnel and a failure by the company to adequately supervise its personnel,” according to Levin’s statement.

In a separate letter to Attorney General Holder, Levin asks the Justice Department to initiate an inquiry into whether individuals from Blackwater and Raytheon made false or misleading statements in their submission of the “Paravant” contract proposal to the U.S. government.

Levin also publicly released the Paravant contract itself that is at issue.

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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