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Sep 04, 2009



I would be very disappointed if the only firings were of non-supervisory personnel. In talking to friends who are active and former military personnel, including civilian contractors who have worked overseas (so-called "expats"), this kind of wild "party" behavior and what would be called "hazing" in a civilian or fraternity setting appears to be depressingly common. In fact, one military friend asserted "this is no big deal, happens all the time, what's the fuss about" -- he recently returned from a year in Iraq.

The added problem in Kabul is two-fold: 1) that such activities took place inside secured housing and 2) that that guard force personnel and other contractors appear to have been coerced into participation, either indirectly (no place else to go given the security conditions) or directly (as a condition of employment, out of fear of retaliation, to prove unity with peers, show unit cohesion and so on.)

There is a level of interpersonal testing which is common to elite units where people need to know if they can trust each other. The military safeguard against this getting out of bounds is the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ. A civilian contractor must make up and enforce their own rules -- but in US employment is always bound by Federal laws governing workplace and sexual harassment. Eating snacks out of cracks is completely unacceptable whether on duty or off. Compelling others to do so is reprehensible.

Senior management should be constantly in contact with supervisors and employees, setting the tone and taking appropriate and decisive action to enforce standards as needed. -> This superb quality of management is absolutely required to provide premium armed physical security in a high threat environment. <-

Good leadership is also essential to ensuring compliance with use of force doctrine and local law, reducing temptations towards other forms of misconduct such as theft, and creating the kind of unit cohesion needed during critical incidents.

I see this situation not merely as guard misconduct, but as a failure of leadership that absolutely requires swift and decisive action. If private contractors expect to be trusted with such sensitive work, they must hold their own supervisors and managers to the highest ethical standards.

I am as concerned that the State Department seems to have become so out of touch with its own contractors. One cannot buy the services of elite personnel (Gurkhas, embassy guards, special response teams, marksmen and armorers, etc) the same way one buys rolls of toilet paper. You get what you pay for.

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