The title is not an attempt at facetiousness. It is a genuinely serious question. The reason I ask is that Politico's Laura Rozen has just published a story about Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) today releasing letters he wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder on Feb. 25 regarding the committee's investigation of a Blackwater "shell" company in Afghanistan, Paravant, which conducted training for the Afghan National Army.
In his letter to Holder, Levin asked him to "initiate an inquiry into whether individuals from Blackwater and Raytheon made false or misleading statements in their submission of the 'Paravant' contract proposal to the U.S. government."
Levin noted that the committee's investigation found that Blackwater-Paravant had made false statements to get the Afghan National Army training contract, including in creating a shell company, Paravant, fully owned by Blackwater but not encumbered by its public relations "baggage" to bid for the contract.
"Among concerns raised by the investigation were representations made by Blackwater in its proposal for the subcontract that Paravant had 'over 2000 personnel deployed overseas supporting U.S. Government contracts' and 'many years experience in identifying and selecting top candidates for training, security, and consulting positions,'" a SASC press release accompanying the letters said.
"Those statements were false," it continued. "The investigation revealed that Paravant had never performed any services and was simply a shell company established to avoid what one former Blackwater executive called the 'baggage' associated with the Blackwater name as the company pursued government business."
The letter to Holder states:
Fred Roitz, Blackwater's Vice President for Contracts and Compliance, testified at the Committee's hearing that Blackwater had changed its name to Paravant at the request of Raytheon, the Defense Department's prime contractor. In his interview with Committee staff, then-Paravant Vice President Brian McCracken said that Paravant was created to be a "company that didn't have any Blackwater on it ... so they could go after some [government] business that Raytheon was getting ready to hand out."
The deception is troubling. In 2008, Raytheon subcontracted with Paravant to perform a $25 million Defense Department subcontract. At the time, Paravant had no employees and had not performed a single contract. But the Paravant proposal that won the company that subcontract told a very different story. The proposal represented that Paravant had "over 2,000 personnel deployed overseas," had "many years of experience," and had performed training to the government of nearly $100 million. I am enclosing a copy of the relevant pages of their proposal.
The $25 million subcontract was awarded to Blackwater just months after the State Department had said they lost "confidence in [Blackwater's] credibility and management ability." The Army contracting officer who approved the Paravant contract testified to the Committee that he was unaware that the proposal was really a Blackwater proposal in the name of Paravant. If the Army contracting officer had known he was approving a subcontract with Blackwater, perhaps he would have taken the Department of State's finding about the company's lack of credibility and management ability into account when deciding whether to approve that subcontract. That makes the deceptive representation a serious matter.
It would not take a seasoned investigator to realize the Blackwater-Paravant connection. Paravant's contract proposal lists its address as 850 Puddin Ridge Road, which is the address of Blackwater, before it changed its name to Xe.