As the US attempts to strengthen military relations with key African states, private military and security companies eagerly await lucrative contracts, Jody Ray Bennett writes for ISN Security Watch.
By Jody Ray Bennett for ISN Security Watch
On 11 September 2009, the US Department of State (DOS) announced the companies it has awarded to perform various services under the AFRICAP Recompete program. The $1.5 billion contract is divided by four at 375 million, awarded to Protection Strategies Inc (PSI), DynCorp International, AECOM and Pacific Architects and Engineers (PAE).
According to a DynCorp press release, the companies that have been awarded the new AFRICAP (Africa Peacekeeping) contract will “provide training and advisory services, equipment procurement, logistical support services, and construction services to African countries.”
However, when the DOS posted the contract last year through the US government’s Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website, it explained that because the new AFRICAP program “encompasses logistics support, construction, military training and advising, maritime security capacity building, equipment procurement, operational deployment for peacekeeping troops, aerial surveillance and conference facilitation,” potential contractors would be required to “possess a broad range of functional regional expertise and logistics support capabilities [with the intent] to have contractors on call to undertake a wide range of diverse projects, including setting up operational bases to support peacekeeping operations in hostile environments, military training and to providing a range of technical assistance and equipment for African militaries and peace support operations.”
The AFRICAP synopsis also stated that the contracts will be “implemented in countries throughout the African continent, as designated by the DOS.”
Currently, the DOS is engaged with programs involving conflict resolution and stability in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU). Branches of the US military are currently forging military relations throughout the African continent, with the exception of Egypt, through the US Africa Command (AFRICOM).
A historical critique
While some view the development of the AFRICAP contracts and the role of US military contractors on the African continent as a new, industry insiders, specifically those who have supplied logistics support worldwide, claim they have been anticipating this opportunity for over a year.
“On the African continent, the U.S. military used government contractors as early as 1941, when the United States was providing support to Allied forces (British and Commonwealth) during the Second World War through the Lend-Lease Act. Later, during the Egypt-Libya Campaign (1942-43), U.S. government contractors provided support (including logistics, training, advice - all of which are similar to AFRICAP) to the Royal Air Force and America's nascent U.S. Army Air Forces, which eventually joined in the fight directly against German and Italian forces in and around North Africa,” Donovan C Chau, PhD, Professor of Political Science at California State University, San Bernardino, told ISN Security Watch.
“The fact that DynCorp and three others were awarded the AFRICAP contract is nothing startling, nor should it be perceived as such,” Chau said.
Eight months after the US invasion of Iraq, the then-deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, Theresa Whelan, gave a speech at a dinner hosted by the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), the trade association that represents the industry. In the speech, Whelan gave brief accounts of civilian and private support in missions throughout the African continent and briefly outlined the advantages and disadvantages of contractor utilization in such military operations.
The activities of such private companies on African soil have not gone without critique, even from African leaders. While proponents of public diplomatic efforts abroad have pondered whether the formation AFRICOM and AFRICAP is a US response to China’s increasing role on the African continent, African leaders have been skeptical and critical of a sudden American interest in Africa, especially when such interests come in the form of military relations that are facilitated by private contractors.
“[It should be investigated] what European countries are doing as far as security-related government contractors on the African continent. The colonial experience of countries like the United Kingdom and France offer potential inside deals or, at minimum, close ties to the African political and military leaders. The United States, because its lack of such colonial legacy in Africa does not have such ties; thus, we could be providing services to the wrong individuals or for the wrong reasons,” Chau told ISN Security Watch.
The four companies that have been awarded the work outlined in the AFRICAP provisions are well known throughout the private military, security and defense industries and enjoy strong connections with the Washington political establishment.
Founded in 1955 as a real estate and architecture firm, Pacific Architects and Engineers (PAE) was purchased in 2006 and became a subsidiary company of Lockheed Martin, a top US defense contractor. PAE hires personnel for civilian police (CIVPOL) service: “In some missions, including Kosovo and East Timor, CIVPOL are both serving as the interim police force and helping to build new police services from the ground up. Elsewhere, like Bosnia-Herzegovina, CIVPOL are mentoring and advising officers in the reformed police service. The U.S. sends a contingent of police officers from all over the country to selected missions to further U.S. foreign policy goals.”
PAE currently has missions in Haiti (UN), Liberia (UN), Lebanon (non-UN) and Afghanistan (non-UN). The company also provides “operations and maintenance” at US Embassies in Moscow and Beijing and a hosts of logistical support services throughout Iraq, Japan and Southeast Asia.
Perhaps the most well known of the four companies is Dyncorp, often cited as one of the ‘Big Three’ private military and security companies situated in Iraq alongside Blackwater and Triple Canopy. The company continues to provide a litany of aviation, infrastructure development, security and logistics services to governments and other military and defense contractors while fighting off negative press involving its role in sex trafficking, fraud and other controversies surrounds is activities in coca eradication in Colombia.
AECOM is advertised as the world’s largest engineering and architectural design firms that works to “assist regions in need of democracy, governance, humanitarian, and other support [including] assistance with public administration, municipal finance, political transition, humanitarian response, and peace building.” It owns at least 17 other companies worldwide that it uses to provide everything from airport design and management, mining planning and design, security and force protection and water and natural resource supply and development. In 2007, it added a former US government cabinet member and other highly specialized engineers and businesses moguls to its board.
Finally, and perhaps the least known of the four companies, is Protection Strategies, Inc (PSI), the newest and perhaps smallest company of the four. According to its website, the president and CEO was a former translator in the US Marines, has performed various activities as a police officer, private security guard and most recently consultancy service for the US government and other private entities. Its current contract profile includes work with the US Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of State International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, the US Coast Guard and internal security services throughout Iraq.
Jody Ray Bennett is a freelance writer and academic researcher. His areas of analysis include the private military and security industry, the materialization of non-state forces and the transformation of modern warfare