The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have come at a great cost to the American people. Thousands of men and women have died in uniform in the war zones, and billions of dollars have been spent on the wars. The wars have caused the deaths of thousands of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they have arguably had a destabilizing effect on the Middle East. It seems that the only ones benefitting from the wars have been defense contractors. Over the last decade the United States has outsourced much of the wars. Defense contractors have built bases, shipped supplies, cooked food, cleaned uniforms, and provided security. Many of the functions that used to be performed by the military have been outsourced to corporations such as Halliburton. However, we don’t always get what we paid for.
According to a report from the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, an independent, bipartisan commission that studied government contracting in the both wars, a “conservative” estimate of $177 billion was spent on contracts and that $12 billion was lost to fraud without counting the billions more lost to contract waste. Then the Commission released another report that found that fraud waste and abuse costs $31 billion to $60 billion. To put it another way: $12 million every day for the past 10 years.
Despite the well documented fraud and waste by contractors, and despite contractors committing crimes that include murdering civilians, there has been little in the way of repercussions for defense contractors. According to the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) federal contractor misconduct database, companies such as Lockheed Martin and General Electric have had dozens of instances of misconduct. While the fines for misconduct have been in the millions, the contracts that these companies continue to procure are worth billions.
The latest example of defense contractor misconduct comes from a firm hired to win the hearts and minds of the Afghanistan people. Leonie Industries was embroiled in scandal after the firmed hired by the Pentagon to lead their propaganda efforts in Afghanistan, turned their efforts on journalists working for USA Today. After being suspended from receiving further government contracts, the suspension was lifted without explanation. Despite the fact that the company is still under investigation for mistreating employees in Afghanistan, and after the firm had to be forced to pay $4 million in back taxes.
Perhaps some of the most egregious cases of fraud or misconduct have come from the mercenaries the are hired by the Department of Defense or the State Department that are referred to as private security contractors. Academi, the private security contractor formerly known as Blackwater, was involved in everything from weapons smuggling Afghanistan to killing civilians in Iraq. ArmorGroup North America security personnel were found to be drinking on the job and caused security lapses at the US embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Now, another chapter in the continuing fraud and waste by defense contractors in America’s war zones has come to light. According to a recent investigative report by POGO, security personnel working for Aegis Defense Services at the embassy in Kabul reported inadequate weapons training and an overextended guard forces. The personnel reportedly submitted a petition with a “vote of no confidence” in their leadership and supervisors. They accused their superiors of “tactical incompetence” and “a dangerous lack of understanding of the operational environment.”
The guards reported that they are undermanned, and that they were forced to work 14 to 15 hours days for six or seven days a week. They also reported that they were rarely if ever given the opportunity to train with their weapons at the firing range. They also claim that their superiors lived in comfort at the embassy while the guards had to live several miles away in desolate barracks and had to eat unhygienically prepared food. They also allege that a senior supervisor posted details about the embassy on social media that violated operational security protocols.
Now, the guards who organized the petition, which Aegis characterized as a “mutiny,” are suing the private security company. The lawsuit accuses Aegis of breach of contract and unjust enrichment, and four plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are described as a former senior guard, a dog handler, and two former emergency medical technicians. The plaintiffs are likely the two guards who were fired after organizing the petition, they claim was “retaliation,” and two other personnel who were also critical of the company.
Photo: A contractor from Aegis Defense Services watches the perimeter of a school construction site in Mashroo, Iraq during a visit by civilian representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Babil Resident Office. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class James Wagner)