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That's not the real Blackwater Print
January 24, 2009

Mike Papantonio's bizarre column on Blackwater ("Blackwater quietly expanding its reach," Jan. 21) is so filled with fiction it is amazing that it made it to print.

His claims certainly make for a colorful column, but Blackwater has no "tanks, helicopter gunships, [or] amphibious assault craft." The mysterious "domestic operations division" that may be carrying out illegal "active operations on U.S. soil" exists only in his imagination.

What the company actually does in the United States — and has been doing since it was awarded its first federal contract under the Clinton administration — is train U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and law enforcement personnel in protection techniques to prepare them for the threats they may face.

The dramatic column describes a "mercenary" operation and a "private army" that is "25,000 strong."

In reality Blackwater employs approximately 700 full-time employees and currently contracts with between 1,000 and 3,000 military and law enforcement veterans who provide defensive security, training and other support functions around the world.

Military and contractor pay is actually comparable when the facts are considered.

The compensation for Blackwater's contractors is entirely in the form of lump-sum pay — they are responsible for their own insurance, benefits, taxes and retirement.

And, contrary to Mr. Papantonio's assertion, no Blackwater contractor makes $1,500 a day; they don't even make half that figure.

In fact, based on an analysis of Blackwater's contract with the Department of State, a Congressional Budget Office study conducted last year found that Blackwater's costs are similar to or less than the costs associated with the government self-performing some functions.

Today, more than 95 percent of the company's contracts were competitively awarded. The claim that the bulk of Blackwater's contracts have been "no-bid" is simply false.

Mr. Papantonio encourages his readers to "follow the story" about Blackwater. While the fictional Blackwater he has created does make an interesting "story," it has little to do with reality.

In reality Blackwater was founded in 1997 to support the training needs of the United States military and law enforcement communities, and we are proud to continue that work today.

— Anne E. Tyrrell

Director

Public Affairs

Blackwater Worldwide

Moyock, N.C.
 
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