Seriously this time
: Ambassador Patrick Kennedy has unveiled his recommendations
on the State Department's relationship with security contractors DynCorp, Triple Canopy and Blackwater. They represent a step back from Defense Secretary Bob Gates' reported suggestion
that the military take control of State's security contractors and instead emphasize greater oversight of the existing system.The Washington Post reports
that Kennedy concluded that there's no alternative to contracting security for U.S. diplomats. The military doesn't consider that mission "feasible or desirable," preferring to actually fight the war. That leaves bolstering oversight as the department's option -- something that's been sorely lacking, as Special Inspector General for Iraq Stuart Bowen found. Bowen released a report yesterday finding that only seventeen State Department officials
oversee the hundreds of security contractors working on a billion-plus dollar contract to train the Iraqi police -- and, earlier this year, that oversight office consisted of a whopping two people.
yesterday, Kennedy's recommendations do include cultural-awareness training. But more substantively -- and significantly for the contracting industry -- Kennedy recommended that State begin a dialogue with the Justice Department and Congress to clarify the legal rules under which contractors operate overseas. That contradicts both Blackwater CEO Erik Prince, who has repeatedly that he has a clear "understanding"
of his company's legal responsibilities, and George W. Bush, who has threatened to veto a House measure
passed earlier this month that allows alleged contractor misdeeds overseas to be tried in U.S. courts. "We don't see the clarity here," Kennedy told reporters.
In addition, Kennedy urged the State Department to create a "go team" of U.S. embassy security officials in Iraq to immediately secure and investigate the scene after the discharge of contractor weapons. (Those officials would presumably not be guarded by contractors.) Prince told Wolf Blitzer ten days ago that it would take a "battalion" to secure Nisour Square in order to conduct a proper investigation. Once the investigation is completed, the panel would report to an "incident review board" of diplomats, military officers and law-enforcement specialists to determine whether the use of contractor force was justified. That increased coordination will lead to the military and embassy officials also creating common operating procedures for contractors, in order to guard against contractor buck-wildness undercutting U.S. counterinsurgency efforts.
The Iraqis are something of an afterthought in Kennedy's review. He urges increased embassy "responsiveness" to Iraqis killed by contractors, including appropriate "condolences or compensation." You can just see those hearts and minds coming back.