By Roxana Tiron - 03/04/10 05:54 PM EST
The Senate’s top Democrat on military matters is pressing the Department of Justice to investigate whether the company formerly known as Blackwater and Raytheon Co. made false or misleading statements when bidding for an Army contract in Afghanistan.
A Senate Armed Services Committee investigation, spurred by chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), recently found that Xe Services’ (formerly Blackwater) contractors had no regard for policies and rules in Afghanistan. The panel found multiple irresponsible acts by the contractors and troubling gaps in government oversight.
The committee gathered thousands of pages documenting that Blackwater personnel recklessly used weapons and disregarded the rules governing the acquisition of weapons in Afghanistan. Additionally, the weapons ended up in the hands of people who should have never possessed them.
Raytheon Technical Services Co. subcontracted to a company called Paravant to perform weapons training for the Afghan national army. Paravant was created in 2008 by Erik Prince Investments, the parent company of Blackwater Worldwide.
During a Feb. 24 hearing, the Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony that Paravant was a shell company that Blackwater had set up in 2008 to avoid the "baggage" that the name Blackwater carried and in order to gain a government contract, Levin wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder a day after the hearing. Levin publicly released the letter on Thursday.
Fred Roitz, Blackwater's vice president for contracts and compliance, testified at the hearing that Blackwater had changed its name to Paravant at the request of Raytheon, the prime contractor. In his interview with committee staff, then-Paravant Vice President Brian McCracken said that Paravant was created to be a "company that didn't have any Blackwater on it ... so they could go after some [government] business that Raytheon was getting ready to hand out,” Levin wrote.
“The deception is troubling,” Levin said.
When Raytheon hired Paravant in 2008 to perform a $25 million Defense Department sub-contract, Paravant had no employees and had not performed a single contract. But the Paravant proposal said that the company had over 2,000 personnel deployed overseas and had many years of experience, and had performed training to the government of nearly $100 million, according to Levin.
The $25 million subcontract was awarded to Blackwater just months after the State Department had said it lost "confidence in [Blackwater's] credibility and management ability,” Levin added. The Army contracting officer who approved the Paravant contract testified to the Armed Services panel that he was unaware the proposal was really a Blackwater proposal in the name of Paravant.
“That makes the deceptive representation a serious matter,” Levin wrote.
Based on the committee’s investigation and ensuing hearing on the matter, Levin is also urging Defense Secretary Robert Gates to closely review a recent decision to award an estimated $1 billion contract to Xe Services to train the Afghan national police. The contract award is under protest by another contractor, but Levin is now pressing Gates to review the award regardless of the protest’s outcome because it was awarded under a process that excludes many potential competitors.
In a letter to Gates sent Feb. 25, Levin said that the Pentagon should review the transcripts of the Senate Armed Services panel’s hearing and consider the deficiencies in Blackwater’s performance in the previous weapons training program under Raytheon before the Pentagon awards the company the Afghan police training work.