The Skunk and Tiger

"Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge."-Horace Mann

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Obama's letter to Pentagon

November 14, 2007

The Honorable Robert Gates

Secretary of Defense

Department of Defense

The Pentagon 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 Department’s counter-narcotics operations. At the same time, there is an ongoing FBI and Department of Justice investigation into the September 16 incident. According to today’s 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 department’s 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 contractor’s 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 Department’s 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 military’s efforts to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.

I look forward to your prompt responses to these questions. Thank you.


Barack Obama

United States Senator


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