Pratap Chatterjee / CorpWatch – 2004-06-10 08:33:03
(June 9, 2004) — Occupation authorities in Iraq have awarded a $293 million contract effectively creating the world’s largest private army to a company headed by Lieutenant Colonel Tim Spicer, a former officer with the SAS, an elite regiment of British commandos, who has been investigated for illegally smuggling arms and planning military offensives to support mining, oil, and gas operations around the world.
On May 25, the Army Transportation command awarded Spicer’s company, Aegis Defense Services, the contract to coordinate all the security for Iraqi reconstruction projects.
Spicer started Aegis just over a year ago on Picadilly in London, only a short walk from Buckingham Palace.
Under the “cost-plus” contract, the military will cover all of the company’s expenses, plus a pre-determined percentage of whatever they spend, which critics say is a license to over-bill. The company has also been asked to provide 75 close protection teams–comprised of eight men each–for the high-level staff of companies that are running the oil and gas fields, electricity, and water services in Iraq.
Major Gary Tallman, a spokesperson for the US Army, explained that the contract was to create an “integrator” or coordination hub for the security operation for every single reconstruction contractor and sub-contractor. “Their job is to disseminate information and provide guidance and coordination throughout the four regions of Iraq.”
In Iraq, there are currently several dozen groups that provide private security to both the military and the private sector, with more than 20,000 employees altogether. The companies include Erinys, a South African business, that has more than 15,000 local employees charged with guarding the oil pipelines; Control Risks Group, a British company that provides security to Bechtel and Halliburton; and North Carolina-based Blackwater Consulting, which provides everything from back-up helicopters to bodyguards for Paul Bremer, the American ambassador in charge of the occupation.
UUS Military Asked to Help Mercenary Armies
Private security companies have been asking the military for help in coordinating work for several months.
In April, following the killing of several private security contractors in Baghdad, Falluja, and Kut, the companies started to pool information on an ad-hoc basis. At the time, Nick Edmunds, Iraq coordinator for the Hart Group, which provides security to media and engineering groups in Iraq, told The Washington Post, “There is absolutely a growing cooperation along unofficial lines. We try to give each other warnings about things we hear are about to happen.”
But this newest military contract in Iraq is different. Aegis has no history in this business, Spicer has a debatable track record, and there’s speculation that the contract was given for political reasons.
Wanted: A Few Good Men for Very Good Salaries
Rumors of lucrative new jobs with Spicer have been circulating for a couple of months. In late March, Britain’s Lieutenant Colonel Alan Browne, who is in charge of finding jobs for members of the Royal Signals regiment in Blandford Camp, Dorset, posted ads offering Aegis positions in Iraq for qualified radio technicians at the salary of $110,000 a year, three times higher than most other jobs offered at the regimental resettlement office. The contract also provides a generous 100 days vacation per year.
“Our men can repair anything from a radio to a satellite phone, but the pay here in the UK is just 25,000 pounds ($46,000),” said Browne. “I posted the job to the guys and now it’s up to them to go get the jobs.”
Also in late March jobs were posted at the Adjutant General’s Corps in Worthy Down, Winchester, for clerks to maintain “clerical and administrative support for a headquarters-type environment similar to a military brigade/divisional headquarters with many of the same divisions of responsibility.” Salaries offered for candidates with senior non-commissioned officer qualifications were $129,000, and salaries for junior non-commissioned officer were $110,000.
Tallman says that six companies bid for the coordination contract. According to other CorpWatch sources, three of the bidders were Dyncorp, a Virginia based company that is in charge of training the Iraqi police; Military Professionals Resources Incorporated (MPRI), which was working on training the Iraqi army; and a joint venture between Control Risks Group, Erinys, and Olive Security, three of the largest providers of private security in Iraq.
Industry insiders speculate that Aegis won the contract because of growing anger in Britain that UK-based companies have not been awarded large contracts in the reconstruction of Iraq, despite the leading role that the Tony Blair’s government has played in the “coalition of the willing.” The only other British bid for the contract, the Control Risks joint venture, was disqualified because one of the partners was under investigation for undisclosed reasons at the time the bids were evaluated….
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