ISN ETN Zurich

December 1, 2011

By Jody Ray Bennett for ISN Insights

While security and defense contracting in Africa is nothing new, the awarding of another multi-million dollar contract by the US State Department to a controversial private security operation is perhaps indicative of just how thinly stretched the US military is becoming. This does not bode well for either oversight or accountability.

From the outsourcing of security functions to widespread mercenary activity, contracting on the African continent is nothing new. For decades the continent has been a playground for private third parties involved in everything from the training of militaries to the toppling of governments, to the legitimate and illicit arms trades. That an impressive volume of literature and documentary evidence exists on the private involvement of individuals and companies in the shaping of the African security economy speaks to this.

DynCorp’s contract

And so it follows: last June, DynCorp International – one of the “Big Three” armed security contractors that arrived in Iraq back in 2003 alongside Blackwater/Xe and Triple Canopy – announced that it had been awarded a State Department contract to provide training to the military of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While the details of the mission remain purposely ambiguous, the contract does specify that the task order was issued by the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, has a base time limit of one year with two additional option years and will focus on training junior to mid-level military personnel in functional areas such as communications, logistics and engineering.

“This is consistent with the recent political history of Africa. Private security contractors have been active in the rebuilding of Liberia since the removal of Charles Taylor. They have also had a role in training AMISOM (the African Union Mission in Somalia) peacekeepers as well. Traditionally, training on this level has been offered only by those [US military personnel] currently serving on active duty. But this contract reveals just how thinly spread the US Military is around the world,” Scott A Morgan, an analyst of US policy in Africa, told ISN Insights…Read more.