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Journalism in the Public Interest

State Department’s Solution: Hire New Contractors to Oversee Naughty Contractor

You may recall the Kabul embassy guard scandal that broke last fall -- the photos documenting drunken, lewd behavior by embassy guards -- all to the embarrassment of the U.S. State Department. Shortly thereafter, the Department fired eight guards and announced it would not renew the contract of ArmorGroup North America after it expires in July, but that it would grant the contractor a six-month extension "to allow for an orderly transition between contractors."

In the meantime, since ArmorGroup is still on the job until the end of this year, the State Department wants to toughen its oversight of the private security contractor, and it intends to do that by hiring other contractors to oversee this one.

If you think this doesn't make sense, you wouldn't be alone. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., chairwoman of the Contracting Oversight subcommittee, has pointed out the strangeness of such an arrangement: "In particular, I am troubled by the decision to employ a contractor to provide contract oversight for the department," she told the Department of State in a letter dated last Friday.

Watchdog groups, as you can imagine, aren't happy either.

In a Q & A between the State Department's Eric Boswell and Sen. McCaskill on the subject of ArmorGroup, the State Department offered little explanation for the decision to hire new contractors: "DS has conducted interviews and is now in the selection and hiring process for personal service contractors (i.e., employees engaged directly by the government rather than a third-party contractor) who will reside at guard camps in Iraq and Afghanistan and assist the RSO with contract oversight responsibilities. This initiative is being implemented at all posts with expatriate/third country national security contractors living in camps."

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