Opening Statement of Senator Carl Levin, Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Contracting in a Counterinsurgency: An Examination of the Blackwater-Paravant Contract and the Need for Oversight
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
President Obama has said that a primary objective of our effort in Afghanistan is to strengthen Afghanistans government and security forces so that they can take the lead in securing their nation. The President has ordered the deployment of approximately 30,000 additional U.S. troops to help achieve our goals in Afghanistan. While most attention has understandably been focused on those 30,000 troops, attention also needs to be paid to the thousands of contractor personnel who are operating in Afghanistan. From training Afghan National Security Forces to guarding our forward operating bases, contractor personnel are performing mission-critical tasks. According to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), in the last quarter of fiscal year 2009 alone, the number of Defense Department contractor personnel increased by 30,000, bringing the total number of such personnel in Afghanistan to more than 100,000.
While we distinguish between American servicemembers and contractor personnel, Afghan civilians often do not. As John Nagl and Richard Fontaine of the Center for New American Security put it: local populations draw little or no distinction between American troops and the contractors employed by them; an act committed by one can have the same effect on local or national opinion as an act carried out by the other.
In the fight against the Taliban, the perception of Afghans is crucial. As General Stanley McChrystal said in August of last year the Afghan people will decide who wins this fight, and we& are in a struggle for their support. If we are going to win that struggle, we need to know that our contractor personnel are adequately screened, supervised, and held accountable because in the end the Afghan people will hold us responsible for their actions.
Most contractor personnel act responsibly and within the rules to help us execute the mission, sometimes at great risk to their own safety. Todays hearing, however, will explore contract activities which fell far short of our requirements.
In the fall of 2008, a company called Paravant entered into a subcontract with Raytheon Technical Services Company to perform weapons training for the Afghan National Army. The statement of work governing Paravants performance was developed by the Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan (CSTC-A) and contracted out by the U.S. Armys Program Executive Office Simulation Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) to Raytheon.
Paravant was created in 2008 by Erik Prince Investments (the company which is now named Xe). Im going to use the names Blackwater and Paravant interchangeably. I do that for clarity as there is no meaningful distinction between the two. At the time Paravant was awarded its one and only subcontract, it had no employees. In Afghanistan, the company operated under Blackwaters license and shared a bank account with Blackwater. Former Paravant Vice President Brian McCracken reported to Blackwater personnel. And, according to Mr. McCracken, Raytheon paid Blackwater for services rendered by Paravant and Paravant relied on Blackwater for its billing. Paravant and Blackwater were one and the same, according to Mr. McCracken, and he added, Paravant was only created to avoid the baggage associated with the Blackwater name.
It has been widely reported that on May 5, 2009, Justin Cannon and Christopher Drotleff, two men working for Paravant in Afghanistan, fired their weapons, killing two Afghan civilians and injuring a third. In reviewing the Armys investigation of the incident, then-CSTC-A Commanding General Richard Formica said that it appeared that the contractor personnel involved had violated alcohol consumption policies, were not authorized to possess weapons, violated use of force rules, and violated movement control policies. [Tab 1] According to the Department of Justice prosecutors, the May 5, 2009 shooting caused diplomatic difficulties for United States State Department representatives in Afghanistan and impacted the national security interests of the United States. According to one media report, the shooting turned an entire neighborhood against the U.S. presence and quoted a local elder as saying, if they keep killing civilians, Im sure some Afghans will decide to become insurgents.
On January 6, 2010, Mr. Cannon and Mr. Drotleff were indicted on firearm and homicide charges for their involvement in the May 5th shooting. Responsibility for litigating those charges is with the Department of Justice. Todays hearing will focus on Blackwater-Paravants conduct and operations in Afghanistan. As acknowledged by a Blackwater senior executive after the May 5th shooting, an environment was created at Paravant which had no regard for policies, rules or adherence to regulations in country. [Tab 2]
Our investigation dug into the events that occurred before that May 5th shooting. We will hear how that environment developed and also discuss failures in U.S. government oversight that allowed it to persist. In particular, we will hear about Blackwater personnels reckless use of weapons, its disregard for the rules governing the acquisition of weapons in Afghanistan, and failures in the companys vetting process that resulted in those weapons being placed in the hands of people who never should have possessed them.
Shooting Incident in December 2008
Five months before the May 5, 2009 shooting, there was another tragic shooting involving Paravant personnel. The shooting took place on December 9, 2008 at the U.S. militarys range at Camp Darulaman during totally unauthorized activities.
Paravant Program Manager Johnnie Walker told Committee staff that on December 9, 2008, the Paravant training team working at Camp Darulaman decided that it was going to learn how to shoot from a vehicle when, in what Walker described as a wild idea, the training team leader decided to get on the back of a moving car with a loaded AK-47 and ride it like a stagecoach. The vehicle subsequently hit a bump, causing the team leaders AK-47 to discharge, seriously injuring one of the Paravant trainers on his team. The reckless disregard for weapons safety is particularly striking given that he and his team were hired for the specific purpose of teaching the Afghan National Army how to safely use their weapons.
In a memo to then-Paravants Vice President Brian McCracken on December 10, 2008, Walker said everyone on the team showed poor judgment by allowing the unauthorized activities and should share some fault in the incident. [Tab 3] While Russell Cannon, the team leader who shot his colleague was fired, the entire team was not fired despite their fault in the incident.
On the same day the shooting occurred, Paravant reported the incident to Raytheon, which in turn filed a report in a system used by the Armys Program Executive Office for Simulation Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) to monitor the Raytheon contract. The report (mistakenly dated December 8) identified the immediate and contributing causes of the shooting as: Operating equipment improperly or without authority and improper technique. The report also indicated that policies/procedures/plans were not followed, and that safety training [was] not followed. [Tab 4] The same report was emailed to Steven Ograyensek, the contracting officer with responsibility for the Raytheon contract at PEO STRI, on December 10, 2008. Paravant Program Manager Johnnie Walker also spoke to Colonel Wakefield, the Chief of Training and Education for the Afghan National Security Forces at CSTC-A, about the incident.
The report showing the reckless use of an unauthorized weapon failed to set off alarm bells at PEO STRI. In fact, PEO STRI apparently only learned that they had been sent Paravants report of the shooting when asked about it by Committee staff in an October 19, 2009 meeting. Colonel Wakefield has also said that Paravant personnel should not have been carrying weapons, but there is no indication that CSTC-A investigated the shooting.
If the shooting had been investigated, PEO STRI would have seen that Paravant personnel were using weapons improperly and unsafely, with inadequate supervision, and that they were carrying weapons that they werent even supposed to have. If corrective actions had been taken in December, the May 2009 shooting could have been avoided.
Disregard for Rules on Weapons
Blackwater operated in Afghanistan without sufficient oversight or supervision and with almost no consideration of the rules it was legally obligated to follow. The means by which Blackwater acquired weapons for its contractor personnel in Afghanistan showed just how little regard company personnel had for those rules.
Just two days before the December 9, 2008 shooting in which a Paravant team leader recklessly discharged his AK-47, Blackwater had distributed AK-47s to Paravant personnel who werent authorized to have them.
Blackwater initially furnished Paravant personnel with pistols diverted from Blackwaters contract with Lockheed Martin. According to emails, the weapons belonged to a title 10 contract not associated with Paravant. [Tab 5] Documents suggest that Blackwater senior managers knew that diverting the weapons from that other subcontract to the Raytheon subcontract was unauthorized. On top of that, Blackwater personnel distributed the pistols knowing they did not even have authority to carry those weapons. A November 6, 2008 email from Paravant Vice President Brian McCracken states: I got sidearms for everyone. . . We have not yet received formal permission from the Army to carry weapons yet but I will take my chances. [Tab 6]
In November 2008, Ricky Chambers, Blackwaters Afghanistan country manager told Paravant that they had to return the weapons to Blackwaters weapons storage facility apparently because the company was expecting an investigation into Blackwater accountability in Iraq resulting from a lawsuit, and fear[ed] it will impact Blackwater accountability procedures in Afghanistan. [Tab 5] Emails show that Blackwater personnel considered seeking CSTC-A Colonel Bradley Wakefields approval to use weapons from the separate Lockheed subcontract (Blackwater) on the Raytheon subcontract (Blackwater-Paravant). At the time, Colonel Wakefield was the Chief of Training and Education for the Afghan National Security Forces at CSTC-A and had written the Statement of Work for the Paravant contract. Ricky Chambers advised against consulting Colonel Wakefield about transferring the weapons noting that he may ask too many questions. [Tab 7]
Instead, Chambers suggested getting the weapons from a place called Bunker 22. He again advised, however, against consulting Colonel Wakefield. Mr. Chambers declined the Committees request to be interviewed or to appear at this hearing. He formally notified the Committee through his attorney that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
According to documents and interviews with staff, Jeff Gibson, Blackwaters Vice President for International Training and Operations, Brian McCracken, the Vice President in charge of Paravant, and Johnnie Walker, Paravants Program Manager in Afghanistan, all reportedly agreed to try to obtain weapons from Bunker 22.
One of our most important missions in Afghanistan is training and equipping the Afghan security forces so they can take the lead in securing their own country. Bunker 22, or 22 Bunkers as its referred to by the military, is a U.S. operated facility in Pol-e Charki near Kabul, Afghanistan that stores weapons and ammunition for use by the Afghan National Police (ANP). According to a November 19, 2009 letter from CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus, there is no current or past written policy, order, directive, or instruction that allows U.S. Military contractors or subcontractors in Afghanistan to use weapons stored at 22 Bunkers. [Tab 8] The weapons at 22 Bunkers are there for the mission-critical purpose of arming the Afghan National Police (ANP), not to arm contractors. Diverting weapons intended for the ANP exacerbates a problem of lack of resources and equipment for the ANP, which General McChrystal has spoken of recently.
According to a lawyer for Blackwater, however, the company acquired weapons from Bunker 22 for use by each of its training, security, and aviation companies in Afghanistan. In fact, by November 2008 when Ricky Chambers suggested the company acquire weapons for Paravant from Bunker 22, Blackwater personnel had previously acquired several hundred weapons, including more than 500 AK-47s, from the facility on multiple occasions.
In a January 14, 2010 letter to the Committee, a lawyer for Blackwater described two of those occasions. [Tab 9] According to the company, J.D. Stratton, then-Blackwaters armorer in Afghanistan, encountered his friend and former Navy colleague Greg Sailer at Bunker 22 and subsequently asked Chief Warrant Officer Sailer, a U.S. mentor at the facility, to provide Blackwater with weapons from Bunker 22. Blackwater informed the Committee that Mr. Stratton sought the weapons from Chief Warrant Officer Sailer after Mr. Chambers, the Companys Country Manager, asked him to do so. According to the letter from Blackwater, Chambers made the request because he intended on arming contractor personnel with those weapons.
Mr. Stratton declined to be interviewed by Committee staff, stating through his attorney that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if subpoenaed. Mr. Strattons lawyer also advised the Committee that Stratton would invoke his Fifth Amendment right if subpoenaed to testify at todays hearing.
According to Blackwaters January 14, 2010 letter to the Committee, in December 2007, Stratton went to Bunker 22, where Chief Warrant Officer Sailer met him outside the facility with six crates containing a total of approximately 150 AK-47s. According to their letter, no paperwork or receipts were completed to document the transfer of weapons. [Tab 9]
In January 2008, according to the same Blackwater letter, Stratton and others retrieved another approximately 150 to 175 AK-47s from Bunker 22. The company said that, as with their December acquisition, no documentation was completed to take custody of the weapons.
Chief Warrant Officer Sailer spoke with Committee staff by video teleconference from Kabul on December 12, 2009, prior to the Committees receipt of Blackwaters letter. In his interview, Chief Warrant Officer Sailer acknowledged transferring weapons to Blackwater, although he did not recall specific instances. In his interview, Sailer said that he thought the weapons he provided were to be transferred to the Afghan National Police for their use not for Blackwater personnel. According to Sailer, in his interview, neither Stratton nor any other Blackwater representative told him that Blackwater intended to use the Bunker 22 weapons to arm its own personnel. He subsequently added, in response to written questions, that he did not recall ever having a conversation with anyone picking up weapons from 22 Bunkers regarding the intended use of the weapons. [Tab 16] Chief Warrant Officer Sailer said it would be inappropriate for Blackwater personnel to use weapons acquired from Bunker 22 for themselves. Committee Staff sought to speak with Sailer again after receiving Blackwaters January 14, 2010 letter. Chief Warrant Officer Sailer is currently deployed to Afghanistan.
The Department of Defense was unable to find any paperwork documenting either the December 2007 or January 2008 transfers of weapons from Bunker 22 to Blackwater. The Department did, however, provide hand receipts indicating that 211 AK-47s were issued by Chief Warrant Officer Sailer to Blackwaters Counter Narcotics Training Unit (CNTU), an Afghan National Police program, on September 20, 2008. [Tab 10] While paperwork indicated that the weapons were drawn by a representative of Blackwaters CNTU program, a December 7, 2008 Blackwater memo indicates that some of those weapons were subsequently issued by Blackwater to Paravant. [Tab 11] Blackwaters then-Vice President for International Training and Operations, Jeff Gibson, told the Committee that with his approval, the Blackwater staff used Bunker 22 weapons as a source of weapons on the Paravant contract. In total, CSTC-A has told the Committee that out of 154 AK-47s and pistols shown on Blackwater-Paravant weapons inventories, nearly 100 of those weapons were drawn from Bunker 22. [Tab 10]
In his November 19, 2009 letter to the Committee, General Petraeus said since January 2008, ANP logistics officers are required to personally sign for any weapons  issued to the ANP. So, by September 2008 when Chief Sailer signed over more than 200 AK-47s to Blackwater, a transfer of weapons from Bunker 22 to a contractor for any purpose would not have been permitted. It is not even clear who took custody of the weapons in September 2008. Receipts show that the guns were issued to an Eric Cartman or Carjman from BW CNTU shorthand for Blackwater, Counter Narcotics Training Unit. [Tab 10] In a February 4, 2010 letter to the Committee, a lawyer for Blackwater said it has no records of a person named Eric Cartman or Carjman having ever been employed by the company. [Tab 14]
Paravants Program Manager Johnnie Walker said that initially Stratton provided him with two crates of weapons from Bunker 22, which Walker then distributed to Paravant personnel. According to Walker, the first stop for each new Paravant hire that arrived in theater was to his office to pick up an AK-47. Paravant personnel kept their weapons from Bunker 22 until after the May 5, 2009 shooting incident, when Paravant was directed by the Army, Raytheon, and its own management to collect all weapons issued to the contractor personnel.
Records show that Blackwaters armorer, JD Stratton, returned 71 unserviceable AK-47s to Bunker 22 on June 2, 2009. [Tab 12] In a June 3, 2009 letter to Raytheon, Paravants new Director, Hugh Middleton, claimed that all AK-47s previously issued to Paravant were returned to the Bunker 22 facility from which they came. [Tab 13] And as recently as February 20, 2010, a Blackwater lawyer maintained in a letter to the Committee, that the company had return[ed] all Bunker 22 firearms that had been issued to Paravant personnel. [Tab 15]
But records obtained by the Committee prove the companys statements to be false. The Committee tracked an example of how one AK-47 made its way from Bunker 22 to Blackwater. That AK-47 was not returned to the Afghan government until January 25, 2010, after Committee staff began inquiring about the status of those weapons, and more than seven months after the company represented that it had turned in all such weapons. [Tab B]
The AK-47, serial number 18010491, was assigned to Paravant Deputy Program Manager Jose Trevino. Pictures provided to the Committee show him with one of the crates of AK-47s from Bunker 22. Documents from CSTC-A and Blackwater show that Trevinos weapon was among the 211 AK-47s signed out from Bunker 22 in September 2008 by the Blackwater Counter Narcotics Unit by an Eric Cartman or Carjman. A December 7, 2008 memo shows that the AK-47 was issued by Blackwaters armorer JD Stratton, to Paravants Program Manager Johnnie Walker. [Tab 11] A March 1, 2009 inventory of Paravant weapons indicates that the AK-47 was assigned to Trevino. [Tab 17] And an inventory provided by Blackwater just this week shows that it was not returned to the Afghan government until January 25, 2010. Again, the company first represented that it had returned all such weapons on June 3, 2009. [Tab 15]
Committee staff has repeatedly asked for information and records on the hundreds of other weapons obtained by Blackwater from Bunker 22 as well as the pistols Blackwater diverted to Paravant from its other subcontract. In a letter to the Committee on February 20, 2010, an attorney representing Blackwater reported that 390 weapons were turned in less than one month ago, on January 25, 2010, and that . The Blackwater letter also reported that beginning in or around January 2010 the Company explored arrangements for the remaining Bunker 22 firearms in its possession . . . to be demilitarized or destroyed, which the company said it did in February. And a Blackwater representative visited CSTC-A on February 18th just last week to inquire about returning additional weapons the company had acquired from Bunker 22. Again, this comes after repeated inquiries by Committee staff to Blackwater about the weapons it acquired from Bunker 22, and after the representation that all such weapons used by Paravant had been turned in. These are weapons that belonged to the Afghan National Police not Blackwater. And it is only on the eve of this hearing that the company is giving the majority of them back to the Afghan government.
Who were these people Blackwater gave weapons to? Blackwaters proposal for its contract describes a robust recruitment process which allows the company to identify and vet the most qualified candidates, whose key attributes are character, integrity, reliability, and professionalism. Paravants contract with Raytheon required that the company ensure that its personnel . . . behave at all times in accordance with the highest professional and ethical standards. So what do we know about the individuals that were actually hired for the Paravant contract?
The records of Christopher Drotleff and Justin Cannon, the two Paravant personnel indicted for the May 5, 2009 shooting, show that in these cases the company fell well short of any reasonable standard for vetting personnel, let alone the one promised in their proposal. A court order directing that Mr. Drotleff be detained during trial concluded that his military record was abysmal. That record apparently included assault, insubordinate conduct, absence without leave, failure to obey order or regulation, larceny and wrongful appropriation. Drotleffs criminal record after his discharge from the military included convictions for reckless driving, disturbing the peace, assault and battery, driving while intoxicated, resisting arrest and trespassing. In ordering that Drotleff be detained during his ongoing trial, the court explicitly referenced his extensive criminal history and propensity for violence.
Public reports reveal red flags in the military record of Paravant contractor Justin Cannon, who was also indicted for the May 5, 2009 shooting. A January 15, 2010 Associated Press report noted that Cannon was discharged from the U.S. military after he was absent without leave for 22 days and tested positive for cocaine. While the proposal for the Paravant contract which was signed by Vice President for Contracts and Compliance Mr. Fred Roitz stated that the company maintained a copy of the military service records of each of its independent contractors, the company has informed the Committee that it does not have those records for Cannon or Drotleff in their files. Another example is Sebastian Kucharski, a Paravant Assistant Team Leader. Mr. Kucharski was fired from Blackwaters security contract in Iraq for an alcohol-fueled incident that ended in a fight between him and another contractor. He had been on Blackwaters own internal Do Not Use (DNU) list since September 2006. Despite being on the list, he was hired for the Paravant, where he worked until being fired for yet another altercation, this time with military personnel at Camp Darulaman on May 4, 2009. [Tab 18] Karl Newman, the Team Leader for the Paravant personnel based at Camp Alamo including Cannon, Drotleff, and Kucharski was also thrown off the contract by the US Army when he was fired after attempting to pull rank on an U.S. Army lieutenant.
Paravants own Project Manager in Afghanistan, Johnnie Walker, was characterized by company management as having been exceptionally ineffective before the May 5th shooting incident, but was fired for violating General Order 1, no drinking and doing so repetitively, cultivat[ing] an environment that indirectly lead to the May 5, 2009 shooting incident. [Tab 19]
During the course of the one year contract, other Paravant personnel were fired for unprofessionalism, alcohol use, and drug use, including one Paravant contractor observed with a canvas pack of steroids and needles, and another who was fired several weeks after being stopped at the airport with steroids. Still others were cited for attitude problem[s], failure to comply with policy, and storing an illegally purchased vehicle on [a Forward Operating Base].
Lack of Supervision and Oversight
After the May 2009 shooting incident, Raytheon issued a show cause notice to Paravant for, among other things, a failure to exercise sufficient command, control and oversight of its personnel. [Tab 20] Paravants response to the Raytheon letter is deeply troubling. According to Paravant, If [Raytheon] believes that Paravant has an obligation to supervise all subcontractor personnel at all times& Paravant will need to submit a request for equitable adjustment for the additional personnel, security, and other costs of providing such 24-7 supervision throughout Afghanistan. [Tab 21] The companys attempt to absolve itself of responsibility to supervise the actions of its personnel is particularly troubling given the statement by a Blackwater senior manager that the companys leadership in Afghanistan had created an environment with no regard for policies, rules or adherence to regulations in country and the companys contractual obligation to see to it that its personnel behave[d] at all times in accordance with the highest professional and ethical standards.
While it was shirking its responsibility to oversee its contractors, Blackwater was also apparently shortchanging Uncle Sam. Despite the compelling evidence that Paravant independent contractors were actually company employees, Blackwater withheld no income taxes and paid no Social Security, Medicare, or unemployment tax for them. Blackwaters longstanding effort to use the independent contractor designation to gain government business while avoiding payment of taxes was described in a March 10, 2008 memo from then-Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Henry Waxman. The companys classification of independent contractors is also currently pending before an IRS administrative proceeding.
U.S. Government oversight was also lacking in the events leading up to the May 5th shooting. A fact acknowledged by CSTC-A Commanding General Richard Formica, who said that the Armys investigation into the May 2009 incident raised serious issues concerning an apparent lack of contractor oversight. [Tab 1]
Before the May 5th shooting, the Armys PEO STRI, which has responsibility for more than three billion dollars annually in training and other contracts, did not have a Contracting Officer Representative in theater, as they do now, and told the Committee that they relied on a Dutch officer to act as a Technical Officer Representative to oversee the contract. Colonel Wakefield, however, told the Committee that a Dutch officer worked on his staff at CSTC-A, but that he had no idea how someone could have thought that the officer was overseeing the contract. Colonel Wakefield said that he knew of no one on CSTC-A staff that was supposed to oversee this particular contract.
PEO STRI staff also said that they monitored the contractors performance from their office in Florida by calling and checking in with Colonel Wakefield at CSTC-A CJ7. Colonel Wakefield informed the Committee that Task Force Phoenix, a subordinate command had oversight responsibility and he did not travel to the training sites to observe Paravant personnel.
On the ground, the subordinate commands seemed unclear as to their authorities or responsibilities. A Commander of another subordinate command Lieutenant Colonel Brian Redmon, the Combined Training Advisory Group (CTAG) Commander of the Kabul Military Training Center at Camp Alamo said he believed that the Paravant personnel at Camp Alamo reported to CSTC-A CJ7. In a February 12, 2009 email to his superiors, LTC Redmon sought, without success, to clarify his responsibility for contractor personnel living at Camp Alamo that he said did not report to him. [Tab 23]
Emails from late April 2009 show that approximately six months into the contract, there was still confusion about oversight of Paravant personnel. When issues arose about a shortage of contractor personnel performing at one training site and concerns were raised as to whether they were performing up to U.S. Army standards, the Chief of the Afghan National Army Training & Education (CJ7) at CSTC-A said that Brian McCracken, who had recently moved from Paravant to Raytheon, would be responsible for monitoring Paravant and would be coordinating oversight of the contracts. Until his arrival in Afghanistan in late April 2009, no one from Raytheon had been stationed in country to monitor Paravant, apparently resulting in months of inadequate supervision. But even if Raytheon had provided proper supervision, contractors monitoring contractors does not take the place of government oversight.
Following the May 5th incident, a review of policies at Camp Alamo uncovered continuing uncertainty as to what the authorities and responsibilities are over contractors, particularly for disciplinary issues. Brigadier Neil Baverstock, GBR, the CTAG Commander, said in a July 6, 2009 letter to Major General Formica that he was concerned that grey areas remain relating to wider issues of responsibility and authority when it comes to policing contractor behavior. In that letter, Brigadier Baverstock called for explicit guidance from CSTC-A on this issue. [Tab 25]
The carrying of weapons by the Paravant personnel exemplifies the lack of government oversight. The only way in which contract personnel are authorized to carry weapons in Afghanistan is by obtaining that authority from CENTCOM. Gaining CENTCOM weapons authority is not just some technical requirement. Its there for an important reason. Commanders need to know when and where armed personnel are operating in their battle space. Defense Department arming requirements contained in Paravants contract required their armed personnel to file a communication plan that spells out how they will coordinate movement with military authorities and request assistance in the event they are attacked. When incidents happen and they inevitably do in war zone it is our troops who are often sent into the fight. Failing to follow and enforce the rules relative to carrying weapons puts our military personnel at risk. In Paravants case, company personnel carried weapons without CENTCOM authority. Unfortunately, those in a position to exercise oversight and who either knew or should have known that weapons were being carried without authority did not act until after two tragic shooting incidents.
On December 3, 2008, before even the first shooting incident, Raytheon notified staff responsible for their contract oversight at the Program Executive Office Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) by email that Paravant personnel were carrying weapons without authority. [Tab 26] Raytheon asked PEO STRI to check into this issue because Paravant personnel were routinely getting stopped and having to surrender weapons. Despite the email notice, PEO STRI apparently failed to take action to prevent Paravant personnel from carrying weapons until they met CENTCOM rules and authority was granted.
In fact, in an email sent in early January 2009, PEO STRI asked Colonel Wakefield if Paravant personnel were authorized to carry a weapon 24/7 or is it during the workday only. Colonel Wakefield replied that the Paravant personnel did not have CENTCOM/HQDA approval to carry weapons. [Tab 27] PEO STRI subsequently informed Raytheon that they could not authorize weapons until they received approval from CENTCOM, but again they apparently did not tell Raytheon to take steps so their subcontractor-Paravants personnel did not carry weapons until that approval was received.
In Afghanistan, military personnel regularly saw Paravant personnel carrying weapons. Colonel Wakefield told the Committee that he observed Paravant Program Manager Johnnie Walker and Deputy Jose Trevino at Camp Phoenix with a team of Paravant contractors carrying weapons. Although his account is disputed by Johnnie Walker, Colonel Wakefield told the Committee that he advised Walker and Trevino that Paravant personnel were not authorized to have weapons without CENTCOM approval and instructed [them] to ensure that the weapons were secured and not issued until [the CENTCOM Commanders] approval was obtained. Approximately a week later, Colonel Wakefield said he was advised by Colonel Mark Heffner that he had observed Paravant personnel carrying weapons. Colonel Wakefield told Committee staff he again told Walker to secure the weapons and had no reason to doubt at that time that Walker would do so.
Until the May 2009 shooting, few other attempts were apparently made to enforce the policy requiring CENTCOM approval. The Commanding General at Camp Alamo, Lieutenant Colonel Redmon told the Committee that he observe[d] Paravant contractors carrying weapons when not conducting training activities. And Lieutenant Colonel Sean Nikkila, a senior operations officer responsible for mentoring ANA officers and the Armys investigating officer for the May 5, 2009 shooting, acknowledged the same. According to Lieutenant Colonel Nikkila: We had never requested to view their letter of authorization (LOAs) [indicating CENTCOM weapons approval]. Before the [investigation], I didnt even know that they carried a letter of authorization. I really was unaware of . . . the rules of what it is to be a contractor in that theater. And it wasnt [un]til after the incident that we got copies of their LOAs that we were able to see that they werent authorized to carry a weapon. Paravant contract personnel, he told the Committee, were probably poorly supervised, and the Army is partly responsible for that; we should have had better control.
Impact on the Mission
The May 5, 2009 incident had an immediate, tangible impact on the training mission. The day after the incident occurred, the U.S. Army initiated an investigation. Then-Raytheon program manager Brian McCracken told the Committee that Blackwater was not as forthcoming as we wished they had been after the incident. He added: I think it is obvious that they were trying to get their people out of the country without telling anybody about it . . . they didnt think it was going to come to light. Likewise, LTC Nikkila stated in his report that the Paravant contractors at [Camp] Alamo, Afghanistan did not report the incidents of 5 May 09 until confronted by him the next morning. [Tab 28]
According to LTC Nikkila, the result of the lack of cooperation was a protracted investigation that drew scarce resources and manpower from the local units mission of mentoring and training the Afghan National Army. All told, he said we los[t] 30 days of work out of a 10-month tour to conduct the investigation. According to LTC Nikkila, trips to locate evidence and to local hospitals to locate the victims of the shootings which he said could have been avoided if Blackwater reported the incident promptly also unnecessarily exposed U.S. soldiers to danger.
In a November 2009 memo on the mission in Afghanistan, General McChrystal said The People are the Prize and that every interaction with the population, whether positive or negative, influences the Afghans perceptions. The contractors we hire to support our mission need to understand that, act accordingly, and be held accountable if they do not. Even one irresponsible act by contractor personnel can hurt the mission and put our troops in harms way.
Our examination of the Paravant contract revealed multiple irresponsible acts by our contractors and troubling gaps in government oversight. There are over 100,000 contractors operating in Afghanistan. If we dont fix the problems of oversight and make sure contractors like Blackwater play by the rules and live up to their commitments well be doing a disservice to our troops by making their already difficult and dangerous job even more so.
This morning we will hear from two panels of witnesses. On the first panel are former Paravant Program Manager Mr. John R. Walker; former Paravant Vice President and current Raytheon program manager Mr. Brian McCracken; Colonel Bradley Wakefield (Ret.), former Chief of Training and Education, Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan (CSTC-A) CJ7; and Mr. Steven Ograyensek, contracting officer at the U.S. Armys Program Executive Office Simulation Training and Instrumentation. As I mentioned, the Committee asked Mr. Jerry D. Stratton, Jr., Blackwaters former armorer, and Mr. Ricky Chambers, Blackwaters country manager in Afghanistan, to testify on this panel. We were advised that they would invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to all questions. The Committee also asked Chief Warrant Officer Gregory Sailer to testify on this panel but, for reasons I have already stated, he is in Afghanistan and was not made available by the Department by video teleconference. He has, however, answered written questions.
On the second panel, we will hear from Mr. Fred Roitz, former Blackwater Vice President for Contracts and Compliance and current Xe Services LLC Executive Vice President of Contracts and Chief Sales Officer and Dr. James Blake, Program Executive Officer and Head of Contracting Activity at PEO STRI.