By Alec Klein and Steve Fainaru
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, May 12, 2007
The British company ArmorGroup International has emerged as one of the bidders for what is believed to be the largest U.S. security contract in Iraq, posing a challenge to another British firm that currently holds the job and is vying for the new contract, according to sources familiar with the matter.
ArmorGroup spokesman Patrick Toyne Sewell declined to comment on whether his firm had made an offer on the contract, which is worth about $475 million and calls for protecting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and gathering intelligence for the Army. But he touted the firm's previous work in protecting U.S. personnel in Iraq. "Our track record is second to none," he said.
ArmorGroup already is one of the largest security firms in Iraq, with more than 1,200 employees. It says it is the largest convoy escort contractor in Iraq -- accounting for about 30 percent of convoys -- including about 1,200 missions last year.
The Army has been whittling down the potential bidders, who also include Aegis Defence Services, the other British security firm. Aegis won the initial Iraqi security contract in 2004. That contract, worth $293 million, was to have expired at month's end, but has been extended for up to six months while the Government Accountability Office reviews the protests of two bidders the U.S. military has eliminated from the competition -- Blackwater Security Consulting of North Carolina and Erinys Iraq, another British firm. The Army has until May 18 to file a report to the GAO stating its position. A GAO lawyer declined comment.
Aegis faced some questions after it won the first contract, including a special inspector report that found that the firm had not properly vetted some of its Iraqi employees. But some private security contractors now view Aegis as the front-runner to win the new contract because it already is entrenched in running wide-ranging Reconstruction Operations Centers throughout Iraq. Aegis, a private firm, is believed to be smaller than ArmorGroup, which employs about 9,000 people and oversees operations in 38 countries. Kristi M. Clemens, Aegis's executive vice president, declined to comment, except to say, "We stand by our performance on the past contract."