By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Since the Iraq war began, the U.S. Army has quadrupled the number of soldiers it trains each year to be detainee interrogators, according to Army officials involved in the program.
Next year, 1,200 interrogators are set to be trained at the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., up from about 300 in 2003. "The number being trained is based on the current need of interrogators in theater," said Angela Moncur, deputy public affairs officer at the intelligence center.
The greatest one-year expansion of the Army's interrogation program, from 500 to 1,000 trainees, took place in 2005, the year after public disclosure of the scandals involving questioning of prisoners by Army intelligence personnel at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Today, with the Army introducing a new interrogation manual and Congress wrestling with legislation sought by the White House that would legalize the CIA's more aggressive questioning techniques, the number of people training to be interrogators is to rise again.
The Army is gearing up for the effort by hiring private companies to handle the training. Last month, the service awarded contracts that could grow to more than $50 million in the next five years to three private firms to provide additional instructors to the 18-week basic course in human-intelligence interrogation at Fort Huachuca.
"If you are qualified as interrogator, you now are either in Iraq or teaching others how to do it when they go there," said Pat Gromek, who spent 23 years as an Army intelligence officer and now handles business development for Integrated Systems Improvement Services Inc. in Sierra Vista, Ariz., the site of Fort Huachuca. ISIS is one of the firms selected to supply interrogation instructors.
The contracts call for the companies to provide outside instructors who would train "selected enlisted soldiers in the skills and knowledge required to perform . . . tactical human intelligence collection," said a government notice published earlier this month. Subjects to be covered include how to interrogate and debrief enemy personnel, potential threat forces, warrior skills, intelligence analysis, and military justice and intelligence law, according to a statement supplied by the center. "The laws of land warfare and the Geneva Convention" are specifically listed in an article on the course in Military Intelligence, an Army publication.
The Army, in the contracting process, estimated the annual cost for an outside instructor at $100,000, Moncur said. That is at least $20,000 above the average of what someone in the service would receive, according to an analysis of military pay vs. civilian pay on the Today's Military Web site.
Only $10 million of the overall amount will be spent next year for an additional 63 instructors to handle the increase in the number of trainees taking the interrogation course, according to Maj. Matthew Garner, the center's public affairs officer. In later years it could ramp up further, Garner said.
Moncur said future instructor levels would depend on the situation in Iraq. "The need may change if we bring some troops home," she said, adding that the intelligence center did not know whether the Army would continue to add instructors at the same or a greater rate.
The increase in the Army's capacity for human-intelligence interrogation reflects the overall expansion of Defense Department intelligence operations at home and abroad since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the start of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. As Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the Senate Appropriations Committee in May, a significant upgrading and refocusing of U.S. intelligence is underway "that will take a good deal of time."
One little-publicized problem in Iraq has been the paucity of intelligence for tactical, or day-to-day, use by commanders on the ground, and the lack of trained Army personnel to do the job. CIA officials have said privately that they have been forced to strip stations in Europe and elsewhere to provide case officers for tours in Iraq. The agency's Baghdad operations office is its largest. The CIA officials want to see the military take up tactical intelligence so CIA officers and analysts can concentrate on broader, strategic targets.
Turning to outside contractors to teach interrogation reflects another trend of the Rumsfeld Pentagon: outsourcing programs to private companies that often are filled with retired military men and women who did similar work when they were in the service.
In the case of the interrogation contract, the companies have had to gear up to handle the work. The day after ISIS received word it had been awarded a part of the contract, it had an advertisement on its Web site saying the company "has been awarded the contract for additional HUMINT Instructor positions. We are seeking HUMINT Instructors to fill numerous openings."
Gromek, the ISIS official, directed intelligence training for Army officers for four years while serving in the military. Before the Iraq war, he said, the interrogator career path was "moribund." ISIS won its share of the contract, he said, because it already had supplied interrogation instructors to Fort Huachuca and this time expects to place 15 to 25 of them. He was confident he could fill the slots with people returning from Iraq, including National Guard and reserve troops.
Another company that won a contract, MTC Technologies Inc. of Dayton, Ohio, has done work for the Air Force. Many of its top executives are retired Air Force colonels, and its board of directors includes retired Lt. Gen. Kenneth A. Minihan, who headed the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Also on the board are retired Gen. Lester L. Lyles, former commander of the Air Force Materiel Command, and retired Gen. Lawrence A. Skantze, a former Air Force vice chief of staff and commander of the Air Force Systems Command.
MTC's news release announcing its contract made it clear that this first major deal at Fort Huachuca was something of a new direction, expanding "our foothold in the growing field of intelligence training and services." The release added: "This is an excellent complement to the training and services we provide to the other military services."
The third contract winner was Oak Grove Technologies Inc. of Raleigh, N.C. Its chief operating officer is retired Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., the former commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.