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House Oversight: Blackwater Liveblog Two

waxman.jpgCummings: Can Iraqis distinguish between contractor actions and military actions. When the Blackwater killed the VP guard, an Iraqi press report blamed it on drunken soldier. Did Blackwater take steps to inform press that Blackwater killed the guard?

Prince: By contract we cannot engage the press.

Cummings: Quote from someone at Blackwater: At least the ID of the shooter will take the heat off of us. Did anyone raise concerns that allowing a false story to continue might lead people to retaliate against military?

Prince: I don’t believe that lasted more than a couple of hours. [note: he said he didn’t know about it a second ago]

Cummings: what do Iraqis who might want to cooperate think?

Prince: I’m not going to make any apologies.

Cummings: You’re the President of this company.

Prince: CEO. Top guy. We have clear policies. Whether the guy was involved in shooting that night or not. We hold them accountable. I’m confident if he had been with another guy from Blackwater.

[Were the other guys drinking around weapons fired?]

Cummings: It’s not about what you do well. Where is the accountability. We can’t flog him, we can’t incarcerate him. I’d be happy to see further investigation.

Waxman: How much did you fine him?

Prince: whatever he had left due him, and his plane ticket.

Mica: Killing Americans in Iraq is big media. Did you know that damaging contractor in hearing is such big media? We can have DOJ pursue the case. They should look at COMair. So someone was perished before he was found. Fawcett, experienced pilot–have we found him yet? I just want to put things in perspective. There’s also the arg that you’re getting paid too much. Could you respond to that.

Prince: Reliability, accountability, and cost. Accountability through USMJ to contractors. American automotive industry, they do this too, I greatly encourage Congress to do basic cost functions, that sergeant doesn’t show up trained. That all drives into total cost. American industry got pushed by Japanese,

[Note, as a contractor, the auto industry is spending HUGE amounts more on contractors, at this point, but they take those functions off their books.]

Kucinich: If war is privatized, contractors have a vested interest. How did Blackwater get its contracts? [Kucinich shows chart showing that Blackwater’s getting rich off of the war.] I want to understand how this happened. CPA one of first contracts. How’d you get no bid?

Prince: Off GSA is considered competitive.

Kucinich: Did you talk to WH or Congress about contract?

Prince: Not to my knowledge?

Kucinich: Did the DeVoses? Is it proper that no other contractors allowed to bid.

Prince: I’m not aware of what other companies.

Kucinich: New task order. You didn’t compete for that one either.

Prince: Again, off GSA.

Kucinich: Who at State?

Prince: I don’t know.

Waxman: Did GSA come to you, or did you go to them?

Prince: Most companies have GSA schedule.

Waxman: So you offered services. You don’t know if anyone else was on this list. Did anyone else go to you to ask you to do the work?

Prince: We were already in the country. We had a large presence. Prob wanted transition from DOD to State.

Shays: Want to align with Davis. Want to be very careful when evaluating performance under fire. Blackwater reputation of being a bit of a cowboy. Members passing judgment on what we’re doing in Iraq. I’m in awe of what you’ve done. In one way you have been perfect. How many wounded or killed.

Prince: We’ve never had anyone seriously injured.

[Republicans will say this over and over; No one killed, therefore it’s okay to kill Iraqis.]

Shays: That’s a perfect record. Were any of your people killed? I’ve had no one in military saying “I want to guard these civilians.” The military is not going to be in a Suburban. Thank you for doing a perfect job in protecting the people you’re supposed to protect.

Waxman: Statement from IG that indicates security guards from Bremer, lists all the sole source contracts under Bremer.

Danny Davis: You do agree Blackwater has shot and killed innocent civilians.

Prince: no. Ricochet ricochet ricochet.

[What about the VP Guard? He’s a civilian.]

D Davis: According to doct, Blackwater shot and killed innocent man standing in street. Are you familiar with this incident.

Prince: Car bomb, rapidly approached convoy. Shot at car, not at driver, to warn them out. One ricocheted and injured, uh killed, innocent man.

D Davis: Involving PSD personnel who failed to report shooting, subsequently removed. State called it random death of innocent Iraqi. Why Blackwater didn’t report, and tried to cover it up?

Prince: There was no cover up. Man was fired. He asked other two people not to report. We reported it to State, we fired the guy.

D Davis: Why not reported to committee? State encouraged you to make payment to family. $5000 to family.

Prince: To State. Similar to what DOD does with accidental death. Compensation through State.

D Davis: How was it determined that this man’s life was worth $5000? How many people paid to compensate for death of innocent? Total value? Could you supply committee with that information. Lack of accountability. If one shoots Iraqi, he or she can face courtmartial. This seems to be double standard.

Platts: Specific terms of conduct, including use of force.

Prince: Govt issues us weapons, they tell us what we can use.

Platts: Not all firing, not all related to misuse of force. Criminal actions you took. You’re a private company. Where there is criminal investigation, your company cooperates?

Waxman: A lot of people in US Military don’t appreciate what you’ve done. Quotes: “Main concern is with lack of accountability.” “We had guys who saw the aftermath, it was very bad.” Your people report to State.

Platts: You’ve provided committee detailed list of rules you operate under.

Prince: MJIA, UMCJ. My proudest moment, I spoke at Nat War College. Full bird Col came up to me, his guys would have call signals on their dashboards.

Waxman: Quotes another officer.

[Waxman’s ignoring that it’s not his turn.]

Prince: we get painted with broad brush on things contractors do.

Tom Davis: Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, if we’re paying too much, what’s the answer? At the end of the day, we need to look to govt to figure out what the alternative.

[Prince keeps taking one minute breaks–this is his second one, I assume to consult with Counsel]

Waxman: Davis and I a minute each. What do we do, if we don’t have enough troops? We may be there another 10 years. Even Shinseki said, we need more troops. If we’re going to go onthe cheap to get contractors, we’re not on the cheap at all. Causing us problems. Let’s let the military replan this.

Tom Davis: Our troops not trained to do this kind of work. Hasn’t been the history. Decide from cost-benefit. That’s not contractor’s fault.

Waxman: They recruit from our military.

Tom Davis: They retrain them.

Prince: Allegation of raiding the ranks. Yes they are getting out and working for companies like us. Not getting out higher than any before. One of the contracts I testified to as GSA was actually sole source. [Kudos to the private contractor, at least, for correcting himself immediately–they’re not going to let him get charged with perjury, that’s for sure.]

Tierney: Counter-insurgents that use excessive force, alienate populace. Some contractors lead in exactly opposite direction as Petraeus wants to go. It is to the detriment to our mission. The tactics might mitigate against what we’re trying to do with the counter-insurgency. [Keeps listing ways in which contractors hurt counter-insurgency effort.] Can you appreciate why there might be contradiction between what we’re asking you to do, and what the military is trying to do?

Prince: 170-some contractors in Iraq. Most in DOD. DOD officers would even complain about their lack of reach over their contractors.

[Burton tries to interrupt to allow Prince to respond.]

Duncan: [Hey, a Repub complainig about the cost of contractors!!] Fiscal conservatives should be the ones most horrified by this. I surely hope we’re not going to continue to see these types of increases on the contract. What percentage of Prince Group Holdings [I think he’s asking about profitability] comes from Federal contracts of any and all types?

Prince: Uh… Most come from Federal contracts.

Duncan: 100%

Prince: Rough guess? 90%

Duncan: What other companies?

Prince: There’s a lot. Mfg business has nothing to do with Federal stuff, an automotive company, we compete against the Japanese every day. The $1222 is not accurate. Base is $981. Our profit is projected to be 10.4%. We had two helicopters go down this year. It is not just about the money. We try to be deliberate and efficient. We’re happy to have that argument. What would it cost to bring those folks in house. If govt doesn’t want us to do this, we’ll go do something else.

Clay: Talks about the costs, the training at expense of Federal govt. People serve for different periods of time. US taxpayers are paying for that training.

Prince: We provide a mechanism for the govt to use that sunk cost. We reorganize it, repackage it, to stand up 3000 man police brigade. For each, there will be two more state side.

Clay: Gates said, poaching, luring service members away. Non-compete clauses. How do you feel about non-compete.

Prince; Fine–everyone serves the time they serve. It’d be upsetting to some soldiers if they couldn’t go work in the private sector. You could make the same argument regarding airplane mechanics.

Clay: To the viewers of CSPAN. This govt steeped in hypocrisy, taking frequent flights to green zone in Baghdad, never served in Viet Nam, some in here are steeped in hypocrisy.

Turner?: Blackwater is on our team. I haven’t heard anyone talk about the rules of engagement of Al Qaeda or insurgents. I hear huge concerns over oversight on Blackwater. I think it crosses the line between our team and their team. We should not make it hard for Blackwater to serve on our team.

[Quotes WaPo editorial again. Boy, Fred Hiatt did the GOP a big favor with that editorial, huh?]

Watson: When Limbaugh calls our soldiers “phony soldiers” I am offended. When people call our soldiers phony, they ought to apologize.

[Not sure] Will the gentlelady yield?

Watson: No, I will not yield. Looking at Blackwater, rise of most powerful mercenary army. Every man and woman ought to be paid for their service.

Prince: US Military best military in world, but designed for large scale operations.

Watson; [Having none of his filibustering] Then there’s a problem in design. Why should men and women not be compensated, why should their families have to go on welfare. I’m infuriated that State and Defense cannot see their way. This war has cost 1 trillion, you have been paid 1 billion, to replace helicopters. Why can’t we train these people to do the job our soldiers should do.

Prince: the military cannot be all things to all people all the time. Tyranny of limited choices. Too broad of base of skill requirement.

[Prince asks for a minute again]

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