Monday, July 09, 2007

Should corporate mercenaries guard Texas' border? Meet DynCorp

This sounds like a terrible idea:

South Texas Chisme points to a McAllen Monitor article about a private defense contractor that hopes to supply mercenaries to supplement the US Border Patrol ("Proposals could put contractors on the border," July 7) on the Mexican border. In a proposal to Congress last month, the Monitor reported:
DynCorp International, a Virginia-based military security firm, said it could train and deploy 1,000 private agents to the U.S.-Mexico border within 13 months, offering a quick surge of law enforcement officers to a region struggling to clamp down on illegal immigration.
The Border Patrol says they don't need them, but the company's patrons in Congress are pushing the idea anyway. Here's recent testimony where DynCorp's President suggested the idea last month, declaring his private troops and former police officers could provide a "surge force" on the US-Mexico border. And they only want $197,000 per agent, per year. After all, soldiers of fortune don't come cheap. OTOH, apparently being a corporate mercenary is pretty lucrative all the way around. According to the DynCorp President's testimony:
We currently have approximately 14,000 employees, more than $2 billion in annual sales, and employees deployed in some 35 countries. Some 4,000 personnel support our contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan and 142 have paid the ultimate sacrifice, including 23 Americans.
What's not mentioned, though, is that their police training efforts in Iraq have been heavily criticized by families of deceased employees and even their military partners. The Dallas News reported earlier this year that,

flawed decisions by DynCorp managers repeatedly have put employees at lethal risk, former and current employees say. A U.S. Army general ordered the company to temporarily halt operations this year because too many people were being killed.

Spokesman Gregory Lagana conceded that some of DynCorp's war zone managers showed lack of concern for employees' welfare, despite the priority given to employee safety.

Those police training programs in Iraq were ultimately overseen by DynCorp executive Richard Cashon out of a branch office in Irving, a Dallas suburb. (They also have offices in Fort Worth and Austin.) To save money he sent weapons that were needed in days by freight routes that sometimes took many months to arrive, leaving officers exposed without weapons in hostile settings, the News reported. One DynCorp unit in Iraq:
possessed only one armored vehicle, which the manager sometimes took for personal errands or "conjugal visits" with a woman friend, Mr. Shattles said. While the manager was gone, employees were left entirely vulnerable with only "soft-sided" passenger cars for transportation.
According to the company's 10-K form filed with the SEC, "For fiscal 2007 and 2006, respectively, revenues generated from our operations in the Middle East contributed 46% and 48% of our revenues." The California-based Computer Sciences Corportation (CSC) purchased the company in 2003, though DynCorp's military operations continue to operate under its own name.

DynCorp also participates in America's less-well publicized but equally flawed war against drug production in South America. Two years ago DynCorp renewed a massive federal contract ($174 million per year), said a 2005 press release, to assist foreign governments:
in the eradication and interdiction of illicit crops such as coca and opium poppy. This is the third consecutive eradication and interdiction contract the State has awarded to DynCorp International and its corporate predecessors, which have provided eradication services to the Department of State since 1991. ...

Under the contract, DynCorp International will be wholly responsible for aerial eradication, and will provide aviation services to support host-nation missions in manual eradication and interdiction. The company will also provide technical training to Colombian army personnel under the State Department´s Plan Colombia Helicopter Program.

DynCorp International currently supports eradication and training operations in Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru, and the Border Surveillance Program in Pakistan.
Still-pending litigation related to DynCorp's drug eradication programs alleges that the company defrauded the State Department and harmed area farmers and families during the program. Revealed the company's 10-K form:
a former accounting manager for the Company filed suit against DynCorp International LLC under the False Claims Act and the Florida Whistleblower Statute, alleging that it submitted false claims to the government under the International Narcotics & Law Enforcement Affairs contract with the DoS.
Other litigation over DynCorp's drug eradication program blamed the company for aerial fumigation drifting into Ecuador and allegedly harming the public. According to the company's 10-K, in 2001:
a class action lawsuit seeking $100.0 million on behalf of approximately 10,000 citizens of Ecuador was filed against DynCorp International LLC and several of its former affiliates in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The action alleges personal injury, property damage and wrongful death as a consequence of the spraying of narcotic plant crops along the Colombian border adjacent to Ecuador.
None of this was enough to convince the feds to renege on DynCorp's contract, though, and the State Department renewed the deal in 2005.

Indeed, the deeper you dig into DynCorp's background, the uglier it gets: In Bosnia, the company was credibly accused of human trafficking, including "buying women and girls as sex slaves," according to a December 2005 report in the Chicago Tribune:
[President] Bush declared zero tolerance for involvement in human trafficking by federal employees and contractors in a National Security Presidential Directive he signed in December 2002 after media reports detailing the alleged involvement of DynCorp employees in buying women and girls as sex slaves in Bosnia during the U.S. military's deployment there in the late 1990s.

Ultimately, the company fired eight employees for their alleged involvement in sex trafficking and illegal arms deals.
In other words, some members in Congress want to put a company that allegedly engaged human trafficking in charge of preventing human trafficking. What's wrong with this picture?

Of course, DynCorp likely isn't the only mercenary firm that would bid on a contract to supply Border Patrol agents, which compared to a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan probably looks like pretty light sledding. According to DynCorp's 10-K:
Our competitors include Civilian Police International, Science Applications International Corporation, ITT Industries, KBR, IAP Worldwide Services, Inc., Blackwater, Triple Canopy, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Sikorsky, United Technologies, L-3, Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation, Al Salam Aircraft Company Ltd. and Serco Group Plc.
One would expect at least the American companies on that list to also bid to supply Border Patrol services if that's what Congress decides to do.

I'm glad to hear the Border Patrol was initially resistant to the idea - these guys' record doesn't inspire trust that we wouldn't see a private sector version of what happened to Ezequiel Hernandez.

BLOGVERSATION: See Grim's Hall's discussion of the subject including some interesting comments.


Daniel said...

I think it's a great idea. Since DynCorp apparently sucks, assuming they haven't changed,... I'm sure we can go with another firm.

Semper Fi!

Daniel, USMC

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Daniel, do you like the idea just because you want troops on the border, or because you think the Border Patrol and the Marines can't handle it? That's who Clinton used to try to secure the border; they shut down the Marine presence after Ezequiel Hernandez was shot.

Anonymous said...

Should corporate mercenaries guard Texas' border?


Daniel said...

Howdy Grits,

I don't trust a Border Patrol spokesman to give an honest and forthright answer on the situation. I realize this is anectdotal... but my little brother is a TX State Trooper (Highway Patrol) down near Marfa... and the security is a joke. Like I said... anectdotal... but I trust eyes and ears on the ground.

So... I realize a huge security issue. Now, being the jarhead cynic (realist) I am... I know that Border Patrol is under-manned and our troop deployments make the military spread too thin.
My ideal approach would be rotating armed Reserve (Army and Marines), National & State Guard Units along the border. Since that's not feasible with the deployment needs... I am not against mercenaries to pick up the slack.

As to President Clinton, I know... I served under Presidents Clinton & Bush both.

Bottom line:
I like the idea of the border being secured and locked down. We can re-assess immigration policies once it's secure.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Everybody likes the idea of the border being secure. The questions are how to do it, and can it be done without turning the Rio Grande Valley into a police state?

I think the solutions are political and economic, not martial. There aren't enough troops, public or private, to do the job, and if you hired enough corruption would be (and already is) rampant.

I'd prefer investments in Mexico that give workers a reason to stay home, and for US immigration policy, acquiescence to the free market on labor demand, i.e., dramatically expand legal immigration. The third leg of the stool is that US corn subsidies have devastated the rural Mexican economy, driving peasants north to our border and shifting the hinterlands to control of drug lords, so ending ag subsidies would help a LOT.

You can spend your money on a fence and thousands of new Border Patrol, or stuff like that that might do some long-term good. It's too big a problem to solve with force, and it's damn sure too expensive if we use mercenaries at $200K per year each. best,

Anonymous said...


I'm afraid those guys are likely the scourge of wherever they are sent.

Please watch out for your daughters, people...and your sons.

Anonymous said...

Not too long ago, DynCorp advertized a job posting for a mentor to the Iraqi Interior Ministry; the purpose of the job was to facilitate an understanding of the legislative/parlimentarian process. With the allegation of DynCorp's employees' association with prostitution, the job posting takes on a whole new perspective. On another note, if Congress is considering a contract to pay DynCorp's employees $197K, why couldn't Congress consider a similar compensation package for Border Patrol officers in order to attract more folks into the profession?

Daniel said...

Howdy Grits,

I don't think everybody is for Border Security. Not when the security comes tertiary to concerns over perception and appearance.

I also don't buy the Police State argument. I think we have that now with Border Patrol checkpoints in the interior. I think with a stronger Border we could actually minimize the intrusiveness. I.E: Checkpoint Charlie along the border... but no checkpoints beyond.

I'm not overly concerned with dishonest, lawbreaking, Mexicans swimming the river.
What I am concerned with are drug cartels, arms dealers, and other unsavory characters firing on Border Patrol and National Guard units to move product.

As I said, secure the border... then address immigration... but don't sacrifice security just to maintain this PC perception that we love lawbreaking Mexicans.

Daniel Flores

billt said...

wasn't allowing a private corp perform military/government functions the beginning of a sci-fi movie where a company president really ran things, and the elected official was a figurehead? robocop in spades?

Anonymous said...

Please let us not be so judgemental. I happen to work for DynCorp and have knowledge that everyone working around me has at least 6 years experience as a law enforcement officer in the U.S. and most have military backgrounds. I would say about 90% of the people I work with are very professional. With about 14,000 employees you are going to have a few bad apples breaking the rules. It is far fetched to assume that the whole Company sucks or that their employees are a group of mercs! A few years ago I arrested a person that was in the Army for D.U.I. Does that mean that I should think that all Military are drunks? I for one think that with the proper training and management that contracting the U.S. Border jobs for a quick fix would be an excellent idea. I live in Texas and know first hand of the problems of illegal aliens.