Monday, September 14, 2009

The ArmorGroup Issue

I had not planned to discuss the ArmorGroup issue here. For those who haven't heard (though I think you'd have to be living under a very large rock not to), there are serious allegations of misconduct on the part of ArmorGroup, the contracting firm that handles security at our embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Among other things, they are accused of hazing, being seriously understaffed, and of having language deficiencies among their staff. There are pictures from a party where the men are in various states of undress being pretty vulgar. There are charges that prostitutes were there as well, and even some allegations of human trafficking.

My boss said it made him embarrassed to be male. If I were male, I'd be embarrassed too.

Of course, there are additional charges as well, such as a charge of a lack of oversight on the part of the State Department.

A Sunday Washington Post article was particularly critical on the last point, especially given the issues with Blackwater a few years ago.

I don't defend the action of the folks in ArmorGroup at all. It was disgusting. And the nature of their vulgarity will cause many a wingnut to say that this was about homosexuality. But these guys are all straight. I'm not clear on why straight men feel the need to get drunk, get naked and feign sex with each other.

What I do want to say though, is that they are NOT representative of all contractors. I worked with contractors from two different companies while in Jerusalem. I found them to be very professional and I was happy to have them there. They kept us safe, never mistreated or disrespected any of the local staff or local community, and were never outrageous in their behavior. I was happy to have them there protecting me.

So the incident with ArmorGroup saddens me. We need these contractors because Diplomatic Security is not large enough to provide the kind of protection we need and the military is far too overstretched to do it.

And it makes the really well-trained, professional security folks look bad.

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