The Other Paravant Scandal

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When salacious details emerge about run-amok contractors, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture—the reason why these scandals keep happening and happening and happening. So what’s the big picture, you ask? Great question. Let me tell you. In military parlance, oversight is FUBAR. (If you don’t know what that means, look it up.) And the Paravant/Blackwater scandal I’ve been reporting on for the past few days is a perfect case study in what happens when oversight goes AWOL. Yes, the firm’s personnel acted recklessly and knowingly violated military regulations—even the company acknowledges that—but no one bothered to stop them, to enforce the rules in place. As an investigation by Sen. Carl Levin’s armed services committee documents, there was mass confusion about who was actually responsible for monitoring Paravant on the ground.

Ultimately Paravant had a contract with Raytheon. Raytheon had a contract with the Army’s Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation. PEO STRI, headquartered in Orlando, Florida and without a rep on the ground, says it relied on a Dutch military officer attached to NATO’s Combined Security Training Center-Afghanistan. That officer’s supervisor told Levin’s committee he had “no idea” why anyone would think this officer was responsible for Paravant—in fact, he knew of no one at CSTC-A who was. And things got even more ridiculous from there.

From Levin’s opening statement at yesterday’s hearing:

Emails from late April 2009 show that approximately six months into the contract, there was still confusion about oversight of Paravant personnel. When issues arose about a shortage of contractor personnel performing at one training site and concerns were raised as to whether they were performing up to U.S. Army standards, the Chief of the Afghan National Army Training & Education (CJ7) at CSTC-A said that Brian McCracken, who had recently moved from Paravant to Raytheon, would be responsible for monitoring Paravant and would be coordinating oversight of the contracts. Until his arrival in Afghanistan in late April 2009, no one from Raytheon had been stationed in country to monitor Paravant, apparently resulting in months of inadequate supervision.

To recap: The military thought a former Paravant and current Raytheon employee—and an individual at least partially responsible for Paravant’s rule-breaking in regards to weapons—was an appropriate source of oversight. It’s easy to pile on Blackwater, Paravant, Raytheon, and other wayward contractors. The hard part is figuring out once and for all how to fix the broken oversight system that has allowed contractor abuses to repeatedly undercut US foreign policy objectives.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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