blackwater31

Just a few noteworthy odds and ends today that have some relevance to Africa and the US Africa Command, the first is distinctly odd:

US Government Takeover of Human Terrain System,
HTS Program Managers Spared, Laugh On Way to Bank

On February 9, 2009, Human Terrain System (HTS) program manager Steve Fondacaro informed HTS employees that they were being converted to Term Government Employees. The catalyst for the drastic change was, according to Fondacaro, the new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Iraqi Government. Yet, sources believe there is something fishy about the SOFA cover, particularly since their treatment by HTS program management (Steve Fondacaro, Steve Rotkoff-Deputy Program Manager, and Montgomery McFate-Sapone-Senior Social Scientist) over the past year has been anything but stellar. Further, BAE SYSTEMS was not notified by HTS program management but, according to sources, by HTS employees who had gotten word of the changes afoot through the HTS grapevine.

BAE SYSTEMS and the primes are scrambling right now to get to the bottom of what this is about since they were clueless until employees starting burning up the phone lines and email. Most of the employees are worried because if they are forced to covert (alternative is to quit) so really no choice, that they are not tied to their contractor but at the mercy of the TRADOC and they essentially become non-permanent government army employees.

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KBR has been convicted of bribing officials in Nigeria:

Kellogg Brown & Root LLC Pleads Guilty to Foreign Bribery Charges and Agrees to Pay $402 Million Criminal Fine
Enforcement Actions by DOJ and SEC Result in Penalties of $579 Million for KBR’s Participation in a Scheme to Bribe Nigerian Government Officials to Obtain Contracts

WASHINGTON – Kellogg Brown & Root LLC (KBR), a global engineering, construction and services company based in Houston, pleaded guilty today to charges related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for its participation in a decade-long scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials to obtain engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts, Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin of the Criminal Division announced. The EPC contracts to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria, were valued at more than $6 billion.

KBR entered guilty pleas to a five-count criminal information in federal court in Houston before U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison. As part of the plea agreement, KBR agreed to pay a $402 million criminal fine.

According to court documents, KBR was part of a four-company joint venture that was awarded four EPC contracts by Nigeria LNG Ltd. (NLNG) between 1995 and 2004 to build LNG facilities on Bonny Island. The government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was the largest shareholder of NLNG, owning 49 percent of the company.

KBR pleaded guilty to conspiring with its joint-venture partners and others to violate the FCPA by authorizing, promising and paying bribes to a range of Nigerian government officials, including officials of the executive branch of the Nigerian government, NNPC officials, and NLNG officials, to obtain the EPC contracts. KBR also pleaded guilty to four counts of violating the FCPA related to the joint venture’s payment of tens of millions of dollars in “consulting fees” to two agents for use in bribing Nigerian government officials.

KBR admitted that, at crucial junctures before the award of the EPC contracts, KBR’s former CEO, Albert “Jack” Stanley, and others met with three successive former holders of a top-level office in the executive branch of the Nigerian government to ask the office holder to designate a representative with whom the joint venture should negotiate bribes to Nigerian government officials. Stanley and others negotiated bribe amounts with the office holders’ representatives and agreed to hire the two agents to pay the bribes. According to court documents, the joint venture paid approximately $132 million to the first agent, a consulting company incorporated in Gibraltar, and more than $50 million to the second agent, a global trading company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, during the course of the bribery scheme. KBR admitted that it had intended for these agents’ fees to be used, in part, for bribes to Nigerian government officials.

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Possibly following advice from Wired’s Danger Room, Blackwater is rebranding, now calling itself Xe, pronounced zee.

They never picked up on our Hello Kitty-style logos. But finally, after a godawful year and a half, the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide is taking Danger Room’s advice, and changing its name to something opaque and hard-to-pronounce.

So, goodbye Blackwater. Hello, Xe. No, seriously. Xe — “pronounced like the letter ‘z,'” the Associated Press reports. …

For the last year or so, lackwater Xe has been moving away from its core business of diplomat protection, and into — well, just about everything else, it seems. Firm CEO Erik Prince has put together teams of spies-for-hire. The company is pushing ahead with plans to protect commercial ships, traveling through pirate-packed seas. And in case that doesn’t work out, the company is making custom rifles, marketing spy blimps, assembling a fleet of light attack aicraft, and billing itself as experts in everything from cargo handling to dog training to construction management. It’s even training pro athletes.

Firm president Gary Jackson says in a memo to employees that the new name (and the renaming of its firing range as “U.S. Training Center Inc.”) are just reflections of that diversification. (graphic h/t Danger Room)

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And especially noteworthy, WikiLeaks has published an archive of CRS, Congressional Research Service documents (h/t Koranteng) including the January 2009 report:

PDF: Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa

Most of the issues covered in the report have been discussed in this blog. It is interesting to see a number of my assumptions confirmed in this way. I’ll copy just a couple of quotes.

… five factors that have shaped increased U.S. interest in Africa in the past decade: oil, global trade [China], armed conflicts, terror, and HIV/AIDS. …

A senior DOD official reportedly commented in 2003 that “a key mission for U.S. forces (in Africa) would be to ensure that Nigeria’s oil fields… are secure.” In spite of conflict in the Niger Delta and other oil producing areas, the potential for deep water drilling in the Gulf of Guinea is high, and analysts estimate that Africa may supply as much as 25% of all U.S. oil imports by 2015.