Security in Iraq has become such a pressing concern that the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority is increasing by more than $500 million the amount to be spent on new protective forces and facilities as it prepares to transfer limited authority to an interim Iraqi government on June 30.
Responding to what it described as the "recent upswing in violence," the occupation authority's Program Review Board, which has the final word on spending Iraqi oil money, approved a $500 million fund last month to meet "the urgent need for increased security as Iraqi sovereignty approaches," according to official notes from the meeting. The money will be used for "security-related reconstruction and military needs" that are still to be decided, the notes say.
The authority has made a range of other recent security moves and expenditures. They include requiring security contractors that protect its convoys to add more armored vehicles to their guard fleets; spending $42.5 million in April to buy more body armor; and, last week, seeking kits to reinforce 200 new Chevrolet, GMC and Ford sport-utility vehicles. The armor plates and transparent antiballistic glass must resist rifle bullets fired from 10 feet and small hand grenades, according to the occupation authority's request for proposals.
The increasing focus on security reflects not just the danger faced by civilian contractors for the authority and Iraqi officials, but also the importance to the U.S.-led authority of curbing violence and fostering greater stability in the weeks before and months after the interim Iraqi government begins work June 30. The authority is also racing the clock to put new protections in place because it will dissolve on that date.
Some of the moves are aimed at protecting Iraqi institutions. Attacks against religious leaders and mosques have grown so widespread that the authority's representative for religious affairs is asking it for an additional $52 million for security guards and protective devices for 400 mosques and the Baghdad offices of newly established Shiite, Sunni and non-Muslim agencies.
The authority is also working to establish a school to train 4,800 Iraqis to form security details for employees of the Ministry of Justice, whose prosecutors have been the target of assassins around the country.
In a March 30 report to Congress, the authority's inspector general described security as second only to "essential services" in the list of priorities of its administrator, L. Paul Bremer. Security ranked ahead of "governance," "the economy" and "strategic communications."
The inspector general considered "rising security concerns in Iraq to be a significant cost driver" in contract work, representing "at least 1% to 15% of total costs and may potentially be higher," according to his report.
The May 7 death from a roadside bomb near the Baghdad airport of a Halliburton Co. employee providing convoy security is a recent example of the dangers on the road for private contractors. Daniel Parker, 56, an Army veteran formerly with the Border Patrol, was the 36th Halliburton employee killed in Iraq and one of more than 200 U.S. civilian employees who have lost their lives in what is increasingly a contracted-out war.
The new standards for security escort contracts, carried in the authority's statement of work, added a requirement for armored vehicles and reflected how private company employees are acting as an extension of the military forces.
For example, security contractors must have a copy of the U.S. government's "Rules on the Use of Force," which is part of the contracting plan and provides for "coordination for the use of armed contractors in theatre," according to the work statement. A Pentagon spokesman for the occupation authority said the authority would not discuss details of security procedures.
"Wherever possible, the contractor will avoid the use of deadly force," the work statement says, adding that "the priority remains the security and safe passage of the convoy." The contractor is "responsible for providing immediate aid to civilians that may be injured due to hostile or friendly action," but the contractor is "responsible for determining the threat situation at hand."
All convoy movements are to be carried out through the authority's Office of Security Cooperation, which, under Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton, trains all Iraqi military and police units. Contractors must "synchronize" convoy movements by keeping one employee as a liaison person at the office's headquarters 24 hours a day. That person will receive "threat updates, road conditions and closures, [and] inbound convoy information."
The contractor is responsible for providing "armored vehicles, weapons, communications, housing, food, water and latrine services" for his employees and updates via secure phones to the office's command and control personnel, the authority statement says.
It also requires the contractor to provide more vehicles than under previous contracts by adding "a lead element to clear the route and a trail element to prevent rear attack" -- duties often handled by military personnel.