Obama calls on Pentagon to reconsider awarding new contracts to Blackwater
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) called Wednesday for the Pentagon to reconsider awarding any new contracts to Blackwater USA following the revelations that the FBI has found at least 14 of the shootings in a September incident were unjustified.
He issued the following letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, which was released to RAW STORY.
November 14, 2007
The Honorable Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense
Department of Defense
Washington, DC 20310-1400
Dear Secretary Gates:
I am writing to ask that you make clear to Congress and the public how past performance of private security contractors will impact new contract bids by those contractors. This question has taken an added significance given press reports that the Department of Defense is considering Blackwater USA for new contracts just as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is finalizing its report on the September 16 incident in which Blackwater security personnel killed 17 Iraqis.
Press reports indicate Blackwater is one of five military contractors competing for up to $15 billion in contracts over five years to support the Departmentís counter-narcotics operations. At the same time, there is an ongoing FBI and Department of Justice investigation into the September 16 incident. According to todayís news reports, the FBI has found that at least 14 of the shootings by Blackwater personnel were unjustified and violated rules issued to security contractors in Iraq for the use of deadly force.
Although these investigations are still underway, it is important to understand the ramifications of the investigation for your departmentís plans to award new contracts. Accordingly, I ask that you respond to the following questions:
What role does the past performance of a government contractor play in determining whether the company will secure a new contract? Is there a difference between a contractor potentially engaging in criminal conduct, as opposed to some other type of misconduct?
Does the Department provide any guidance or training to its contracting officers on how to evaluate a contractorís past performance in whether to award a new contract to the same company? If so, please provide copies of any guidance or training materials.
Specifically, how will the ongoing FBI and Justice Department investigation of the September 16 incident affect the Defense Departmentís consideration of Blackwater for new contracts?
The American people deserve to know that their taxpayer dollars are not awarded to companies that may have engaged in criminal conduct and may have jeopardized our militaryís efforts to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.
I look forward to your prompt responses to these questions. Thank you.
United States Senator