October 29th, 2013
01:44 PM ET

Bigger, Lighter, Deadlier! Navy launches new stealth destroyer

By Larry Shaughnessy

(CNN) - The Navy's newest warship slipped out of dry dock this week into the waters of Maine, marking a new era for war fighting at sea.

The USS Zumwalt, the first of the DDG-1000 class of destroyers, is longer, faster and carries state-of-the-art weapons that will allow it to destroy targets at more than 60 miles, according to the Navy.

At 610 feet long and 81 feet wide, the Zumwalt is longer and thinner than the USS Arizona, a battleship sunk at Pearl Harbor. But it weighs about half as much.

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Filed under: Contractors • drones • Navy • Pentagon • weapons
Watchdog critical of State Department contracting in Afghanistan
July 25th, 2013
12:30 AM ET

Watchdog critical of State Department contracting in Afghanistan

By Jamie Crawford

A U.S. government watchdog found "serious deficiencies" in how the State Department awarded a contract job in Afghanistan, according to a letter from the organization to Secretary of State John Kerry released Thursday.

In the letter dated Monday, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, raised a number of concerns on the oversight practices of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) at the State Department and how they awarded a contract for the training of Afghan justice workers.

Sopko said the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), the nongovernmental organization awarded the contract, is "ill-prepared to manage and account for how U.S.-taxpayer funds will be spent," while also criticizing the State Department's role in awarding the contract.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Contractors • State Department
Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons
December 9th, 2012
05:55 PM ET

Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons

By Elise Labott

The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN Sunday.

The training, which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.

The nationality of the trainers was not disclosed, though the officials cautioned against assuming all are American.


Filed under: Chemical Weapons • Contractors • Syria
October 19th, 2012
04:51 AM ET

Drunk contractors cause harm in Afghanistan, lawsuit alleges

By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd

The amateur video shows men, shirtless and seeming dangerously drunk, rolling on the ground or staggering near a counter top covered with booze bottles. Another part of the video shows a man babbling incoherently with a syringe nearby.

This is not a scene at a college frat house. It is a video of employees of an American security contractor working in Kabul, Afghanistan.

"It reminded me of times I'd visit my friends going to college that were in fraternities," said John Melson, a former employee of Jorge Scientific who was based at that villa in Kabul on assignment to support efforts to train Afghan security personnel.

The images in this video are now part of a lawsuit by two former employees of Jorge Scientific who allege that contractors with the firm were careless with their guns, abused local staffers, wrecked cars, destroyed furniture, and often could not perform their duties due to drunkenness.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Contractors • Kabul • Lawsuit
Government not keeping pace with cyber threats
February 1st, 2012
12:57 PM ET

Government not keeping pace with cyber threats

By Suzanne Kelly

Senior administration officials are headed to Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon to brief the entire Senate on addressing cyber security threats, a day after key senators expressed frustration with what they described as a lack of a cohesive approach to such threats.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and the White House Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan are among those who will appear.

The nation's top intelligence officials were pressed by senators at a Senate intelligence hearing Tuesday about the myriad of agencies responsible for defending the United States from cyberattacks and the lack of legislation to define how government and private industry should work together.

The public may not yet be fully aware of how cyberthreats will affect them personally, but a recent report sponsored by cybersecurity giant McAfee suggests that more cybersecurity experts and companies that rely on the Internet to do business are already thinking about battle mode. FULL POST

January 24th, 2012
04:04 PM ET

Iraq contractors face hurdles

Contractors in Iraq say they are mired in red tape, CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports from Baghdad.  Click above to watch his report on how many are mired in visa delays and other bureaucratic obstacles that keep them from doing their job.  Some contractors have been detained.  The US embassy in Iraq plans on using up to 15,000 security and other contractors now that the military is no longer operating in the country.

Read also "Confessions of a private security contractor."

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Filed under: Contractors • Iraq
Confessions of a private security contractor
December 27th, 2011
04:38 PM ET

Confessions of a private security contractor

by Suzanne Kelly

"There are a lot of assumptions about contractors, and a lot of the assumptions are wrong." Those are the words of a private security contractor who asked to be referred to only as "Lloyd" for this story, because like most of his colleagues he is not authorized to speak to the media.

By Lloyd's count, he has spent some 1,000 days working in Afghanistan in the past four years. He, like many other well-trained military men, decided to leave his position as a Navy SEAL and take his chances finding employment in one of the hot spots around the world where highly skilled contractors were well-paid, and in demand.

Very few people outside the contracting industry really understood just what a private security contractor did before March 31, 2004. That was the day four American security contractors accompanying a shipment of kitchen equipment through Iraq were ambushed, killed, set on fire, dragged through the streets, and hung from a bridge before a cheering crowd in the city of Fallujah.

As shock subsided, questions arose. Who were these American men? If they weren't members of the military, what were they doing in one of the most volatile regions of Iraq? FULL POST

Filed under: 10 years of war • Afghanistan • Contractors