03/26/13: The BBC reports a private company will take over the UK's helicopter search and rescue operations, the Department for Transport has announced. The Bristow Group has won a 10-year contract to run the service from 2015. The £1.6bn deal ends 70 years of search and rescue from the RAF and Royal Navy. Bristow will replace ageing RAF and Royal Navy Sea King helicopters with modern Sikorsky S-92s and AgustaWestland 189s. Under the new contract, 22 helicopters will operate from 10 locations around the UK. All bases will be operational 24 hours a day, and half of the new fleet will be built in Yeovil, Somerset. The new deal will also see Bristow take over some of the civilian SAR bases currently run by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Bristow Helicopters is an Aberdeen-based company, although the corporate headquarters of the Bristow Group is in Texas. There will continue to be an RAF base at Valley, Anglesey, but the SAR unit will be in Caernarfon. The new service run by Bristow will be fully rolled out by summer 2017.
01/25/13: Wired's Danger Room reports the Pentagon’s far-out research agency is something of a revolving door. Program managers enter; defense consultants and academics leave; and then they come back a few years later. The Pentagon’s watchdog has concluded that’s completely above board. DARPA’s ethics training “appropriately mitigated the potential for conflicts-of-interest," concludes Jacqueline L. Wicecarver, the Pentagon’s assistant inspector general, in a report released on Thursday. Its ethics policies are consistent with federal standards, and its employees tend to follow them. In the major test case for conflicts of interest that the inspector general studied, DARPA came out with a clean bill of good-government health. The report, however, shows the depth of conflicts among Darpa employees. The 40 employees the inspector general selected for ethics review — the agency employees around 200 people — filed 53 reports notifying the government of some sort of conflict of interest with supervising agency contractors or grantees. And that was just in a two-year period.
11/12/12: Reuters reports the United States has refused a
request from Russia that convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout be returned to his
home country to spend the remainder of his twenty-five-year prison term, a
Russian Foreign Ministry official said on Saturday. Bout, 54, was sentenced in April after a jury
convicted him on charges that he agreed to sell arms to people he thought were
militants intent on attacking American soldiers in Colombia. Bout’s case has strained ties between Moscow
and Washington: he said he was a legitimate businessman and the Russian Foreign
Ministry has argued he was convicted on unreliable evidence. Konstantin Dolgov, Commissioner for Human
Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law at the Foreign Ministry said Saturday
that Russia’s bid to have Bout extradited had failed.
10/12/12: Foreign Policy published an article by Tim Maurer which argues it's clear that governments across the world are bolstering their cyberwarfare capabilities. But there is a counterforce to the global cyber arms race: an entire industry built on identifying and neutralizing malware. In fact, two races are taking place simultaneously -- an arms and a disarmament race. This disarmament race is driven by the Symantecs, McAfees, and Kasperskys of the world.
08/25/12: JURIST reports the Russian Justice Ministry announced
Thursday that it has filed a formal request with the US government for a copy
of the verdict of reputed Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who in April was
sentenced by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York to twenty-five
years in prison. The request serves as
an overture for a larger request that Washington extradite Bout to Russia to
serve out his sentence. Bout, 45, was
convicted in November on four counts of conspiracy relating to his proposed
sale of anti-aircraft missiles to drug enforcement informants posing as potential
buyers for the guerrilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) which
the US has designated a foreign terrorist organization. The US can refuse the request since Bout’s
appeal is still pending.
08/08/12: The New York Times reports the military contractor formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide has agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine to settle charges of arms-sales violations. The agreement with the Justice Department, filed in the in US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, covers unauthorized sales of satellite phones in Sudan; unauthorized military training provided to foreign governments, including Canada’s; illegal possession of automatic weapons; and other violations. The company, now called Academi LLC, acknowledged “responsibility for the conduct,” which took place between 2005 and 2008. The company will not face prosecution on seventeen counts as long as it meets auditing requirements and complies with export restrictions. Two years ago Blackwater reached a $42 million settlement with the State Department for similar allegations.
07/27/12: Haaretz reports the Pentagon has reached an agreement with defense contractor Lockheed Martin on a $450 million program to enhance electronic warfare equipment on the F-35 fighter jet and integrate Israeli-unique systems beginning in 2016. Sources say the deal will be finalized in coming weeks, marking a big step forward for Israel’s $2.75 billion agreement to buy nineteen F-35 jets, which was signed in October 2010 and includes options for up to seventy-five of the radar-evading fighters. The F-35 will allow for even greater American collaboration in the coming years with Israel, a critical strategic ally for the United States at a time when much of the Middle East is in turmoil.
07/26/12: The Blog of Legal Times reports Prosecutors in Washington are building a new criminal case against a group of former Blackwater private security guards whom the government believes wrongly killed more than dozen Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad shootout in 2007. A federal judge in December 2009 dismissed the a high-profile manslaughter case, saying that the prosecution was unlawfully built on protected statements that the guards made after the shooting. But the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit last year revived the prosecution, and the Supreme Court in June declined to review the case. Assistant US attorney Anthony Asuncion said Wednesday at a status hearing that the government is moving forward to obtain a superseding indictment.
07/21/12: Al Jazeera reports a subcontractor at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant told workers to lie about possible high radiation exposure in an apparent effort to keep its contract. An executive at construction firm Build-Up in December told about ten of its workers to cover their dosimeters (used to measure cumulative radiation exposure) with lead casings when working in areas with high radiation, a Japanese newspaper and other media reported on Saturday. Dosimeters can be worn as badges or carried as devices around the size of a smartphone to detect radiation. The action was apparently designed to under-report their exposure to allow the company to continue working at the site of the worst nuclear disaster in a generation, the reports said.
07/19/12: Lawfare reports the nation's highest-level military court Wednesday concluded that Congress may constitutionally subject civilian contractors to trial by courts-martial. In United States v. Ali, the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) upheld the constitutionality of Article 2(a)(10) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which authorizes court-martial jurisdiction over civilian contractors accompanying the armed forces in the field “during a contingency operation.” If that holding is to be reviewed – and it may well be – it will have to be by a writ of certiorari to the US Supreme Court.
07/13/12: BBC News reports the United Nations is becoming increasingly reliant on private military and security firms. A new report from the Global Policy Forum says that the UN’s use of these private companies is “dangerous” and suggests a system that is “unaccountable.” It says that according to available (though incomplete) data, there was a 77% increase on amounts spent on such firms in the year 2010. UN spokesman Martin Nesriky said that the use of such contractors was “appropriate,” and that he believed the UN could continue to employ security firms as long as “due diligence” was carried out. He added that the UN was working on a policy for security contractors that could be implemented across the organization, a draft version of which had already been approved by security chiefs.
07/03/12: Secrecy News reports persistent questions about the US intelligence community (IC)’s reliance on contractors to perform or support core mission functions were explored in a partially closed hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee last year. A redacted transcript of the classified session of the hearing was included in a hearing volume which was recently published. Among other things, “questions have been raised about whether some [intelligence] contracting firms hold undue influence within the IC because senior intelligence officials are often recruited from, and often return to, these firms.” “A ‘revolving door’ where employees move between public and private sector service increases the risk that decisions made by either contractor or government employees could be influenced by past professional relationships or potential future employment opportunities,” reports say.
06/27/12: JURIST reports the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida issued a temporary injunction Monday blocking enforcement of a new Florida law that denies government contracts to companies that do business in Cuba or Syria. The law is currently facing a challenge from Odebrecht Construction Inc., a company that would be affected by the new legislation, arguing that the law is an unconstitutional intrusion in the Federal Government’s authority to regulate foreign affairs. In issuing the injunction, Judge K. Michael Moore noted that laws like this have not survived in the past.
05/31/12: The Washington Post reports the Pentagon is turning to the private sector, universities and even computer-game companies as part of an ambitious effort to develop technologies to improve its cyberwarfare capabilities, launch effective attacks and withstand the likely retaliation. The previously unreported effort, which its authors have dubbed Plan X, marks a new phase in the nation’s fledgling military operations in cyberspace, which have focused more on protecting the Defense Department’s computer systems than on disrupting or destroying those of enemies. Plan X is a project of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a Pentagon division that focuses on experimental efforts and has a key role in harnessing computing power to help the military wage war more effectively.
04/24/12: The Washington Times reports the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is producing and buying technology before it is fully ready, crippling its efforts to develop a system that can intercept ballistic warheads from Iran or other rogue states, according to federal auditors. A report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says problems and test failures last year with the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the Aegis sea-borne missile and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense were due to this strategy.
04/09/12: The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and President Barack Obama will likely refrain from publically addressing a recent source of tension when they meet today at the White House, namely, a dispute involving American military aircraft procurement. The conflict began in December when Brazil's top aviation company and one of the world's largest plane manufacturers, Embraer, partnered with Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, Nevada, to win a US Air Force contract for $355 million to make 20 fighter aircraft for Afghanistan's military.
03/29/12: The Palm Beach Post reports that an ex-militant leader in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta is purportedly linked to a private security company that recently signed a $103 million deal with the government to patrol the West African nation's waterways to stop piracy. The commander, who was granted amnesty in 2009, endorsed hiring Global West Vessel Specialist Agency Ltd. to protect the waterways, something Nigeria's navy and civil authorities appear unable to do. Before the amnesty, men allied with the ex-militant Government Ekpumopolo carried out attacks and killings in the southern Niger Delta.
03/23/12: The Washington Times reports that one of the world’s largest defense contractors — the Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corporation — agreed on Friday to pay $15.8 million to the US government to settle allegations that it mischarged perishable tools used on numerous contracts, the Justice Department said. The settlement, announced by Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery, who heads the department’s Civil Division, resolves allegations arising from a pricing scheme by Tools & Metals Inc. (TMI), a subcontractor that sold perishable tools to Lockheed Martin for use on military aircraft
03/20/12: The Blog of LegalTimes reports that a federal appeals court in Washington is weighing whether an American contractor's torture suit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld can proceed. The contractor, a US citizen and Army veteran who had been providing Arabic translation services to the military in Iraq, sued Rumsfeld in Washington's federal district court. A trial judge in August refused to throw out the case, prompting the US Justice Department to appeal.
02/12/12: The New York Times reports that the war in Afghanistan has become one where traditional military jobs, from mess hall cooks to base guards and convoy drivers, have increasingly been shifted to the private sector. Many American generals and diplomats have private contractors for their personal bodyguards. And along with the risks have come the consequences: More civilian contractors working for American companies than American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year for the first time during the war. American employers here are also under no obligation to publicly report the deaths of their employees and frequently do not.
01/30/12: The Journal of National Security Law & Policy (JNSLP) is pleased to announce the publication of its special issue, Vol. 5:2, examining “Shadow Wars.” Articles examine the law and policy regarding US paramilitary operations, including use of drones, payment of contractors to spy, and training of local operatives to chase terrorists in what The New York Times has described as a “shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies.”
01/26/12: The Washington Post reports that with the Iraq war over and the American presence waning in Afghanistan, US security contractors are looking for new prospects in Mexico, where spreading criminal violence has created a growing demand for battle-ready professionals. However, Mexico’s restrictive gun laws mean that foreign contractors must enter the bloody drug war unarmed as they take jobs ranging from consulting and technical training for the Mexican military to guarding business executives from kidnapping gangs and extortionists.
01/10/12: JURIST reports that Blackwater, now known as Academi, reached a confidential settlement agreement Saturday with survivors and families of victims in a 2007 shooting incident in the Nisour Square area of Baghdad that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead. A subsequent FBI investigation revealed that 14 of the deaths were unjustified acts of excessive force. A federal judge ruled last year that the lawsuit could proceed in North Carolina state court, saying that nonresidents lack the right to sue in federal court for injuries sustained outside of the country but that federal courts are obligated to remand such cases to the state level.