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ArmorGroup Will Still Protect U.S. Embassy in Kabul

06/11/2009 -Despite concerns of lawmakers, the State Department will renew a private security company's contract to protect the U.S. embassy in Afganistan,reports The Washington Post.

Security services provided by ArmorGroup North America (AGNA), now a subsidiary of Wackenhut, Inc., under a five-year, $189 million contract to secure and protect the facility have long been criticized.

According to documents provided by the subcommittee, State Department officials first raised concerns with AGNA’s performance only 19 days into the agreement. Contracting officers wrote to company officials that a shortage of guards and armored vehicles threatens to "endanger performance of the contract to such a degree that the security of the U.S. embassy in Kabul is in jeopardy."

In August 2008, the State Department questioned the company’s ability to respond in the aftermath of a major incident, suggesting it lacked contingency plans if faced with a personnel shortage due to the resignation, illness or death of guards in an attack.

And The Wall Street Journalsummed up the Senate's probe with more detail on vulnerabilties and deficiencies.

The probe found evidence that the company left guard posts at the embassy vacant, hired contractors who didn't speak English, and failed to properly train their personnel on how to repel attacks.

In a written report, the majority staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's contracting oversight panel said the company's performance on the contract "has been deficient since the start of the contract in July 2007."

"The Kabul embassy contract can be viewed as a case study of how mismanagement and lack of oversight can result in poor performance," the Democratic staffers concluded.

According to the Post, three whistle-blowers have also come forward to say the company's embassy protection services were less than desireable.

Wackenhut Vice President Samuel Brinkley, however, says his company has addressed the security vulnerabilities identified by the State Department since it took over AGNA in May 2008 and said that under the terms of the contract, his company loses $1 million a month. Wackenhut, he explained, had originally bid for the contract, only to be underbidded by AGNA before Wackenhut acquired it.

"To our knowledge, at no time was the embassy not secure," he added.