Reports fault State Dept.

Oversight on security assailed

October 23, 2007|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- A pair of new reports have delivered scorching judgments about the State Department's performance in overseeing work done by the private companies that the government relies on increasingly in Iraq and Afghanistan to carry out delicate security work and other missions.

A State Department review of its own security practices in Iraq assails the department for poor coordination, communication, oversight and accountability involving armed security companies such as Blackwater USA, according to people who have been briefed on the report. In addition to Blackwater, the State Department's two other security contractors in Iraq are DynCorp International and Triple Canopy.

At the same time, a government audit expected to be released today says that records documenting the work of DynCorp International, the State Department's largest contractor, are in such disarray that the department cannot say "specifically what it received" for most of the $1.2 billion it has paid the company since 2004 to train police in Iraq.

The review of security practices was ordered last month by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and it did not address the Sept. 16 shooting involving Blackwater guards, which Iraqi investigators said killed 17 Iraqis. The FBI is leading a separate inquiry into that episode.

But in presenting its recommendations to Rice in a 45-minute briefing yesterday, the four-member panel found serious fault with virtually every aspect of the department's security practices, especially in and around Baghdad, where Blackwater has responsibility.

The panel's recommendations include creating a special coordination center to monitor and control the movement of armed convoys through areas under the command of the American military.

The report also urged the department to work with the Pentagon to develop a strict set of rules on how to deal with the families of Iraqi civilians who are killed or wounded by armed contractors, and to improve coordination between American contractors and security guards employed by agencies, such as various Iraqi ministries.

"They don't have the right communications, they don't have the right procedures in place, and you've got people operating on their own," said one official who has been briefed on the report's findings but who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they have not been released yet. "This is not up to the degree it should be."

Sean McCormack, a State Department spokesman, said Rice would closely examine the report's findings and recommendations and consult with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on what steps to take.

State Department officials say they have already tightened controls over Blackwater by sending department personnel as monitors on Blackwater convoys and by mounting video cameras on Blackwater vehicles.

The panel was led by Patrick F. Kennedy, the State Department's director of management policy. The other members were Eric J. Boswell, a former diplomat and intelligence officer and a former head of the bureau of diplomatic security; J. Stapleton Roy, a former ambassador to China and Indonesia; and George Joulwan, a retired four-star Army general.

While the panel's review focused on work overseen by the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the second report, focusing on DynCorp, was an audit carried out by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, and it focused on another department office, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.

The audit said that until earlier this year the State Department had only two government employees in Iraq overseeing as many as 700 DynCorp employees. The result was "an environment vulnerable to waste and fraud," the audit said.

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