March 4th, 2010
05:05 PM ET

Senator wants Justice review on contract for work in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON  - The chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee is asking for a Justice Department review of whether two companies misled the Defense Department to get a contract for work in Afghanistan. 

The request by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, in the form of a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, comes after Levin's committee investigated a Xe Services subsidiary called Paravant. Xe is the new name for Blackwater, a war-time contractor that has been involved in high-profile incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

In the course of the investigation and at a hearing last month, the committee was told that Raytheon, a top defense contractor, asked Blackwater to create a new company, called Paravant, in order to bid for a training contract. 

Raytheon intended to subcontract the training job to Blackwater. 

Creating the new company, a Paravant executive told the committee, was done so that the company "didn't have any Blackwater on it." 

At the hearing, a Xe executive was asked about Raytheon's request. 

"They did not want to name Blackwater, as I understood it," said Xe Vice President Fred Roitz. When pressed Roitz was unable to provide a name of who at Raytheon made the demand. He promised to follow up but has yet to provide that information to the committee, a spokesman for Levin said. 

Referring to Roitz's testimony, Raytheon spokesman John Kasle said Thursday, "We have not found any evidence to support the assertion."

Kasle added that regarding Levin's request for a Justice review, "We will fully cooperate with any Justice Department inquiry into this matter."

Blackwater, now Xe, has a troubled past in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It was banned from operating in Iraq by the government there after a 2007 shooting incident left Iraqi civilians dead and injured. That incident sparked a diplomatic incident between the U.S. and Iraq.

Levin also provided a copy of the pitch for business, in which Paravant presented itself in its proposal for the contract as a company with "over 2,000 personnel deployed overseas" with years of experience. 

"The deception is troubling," Levin wrote in his letter to Holder. "At the time, Paravant had no employees and had not performed a single contract." 

Levin also sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates requesting that the Pentagon review the investigation's findings as it considers another Xe subsidiary for an upcoming multi-million-dollar training job in Afghanistan. 

A subsidiary of Xe is eligible to win Department of Defense work worth tens of millions of dollars to train Afghan police, according to a Pentagon official. 

Five companies were qualified to bid on the training and training support contracts, including Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems, ARINC and the U.S. Training Center. 

U.S. Training Center is a subsidiary company owned by Xe. 

Xe did not have a comment on the request by Levin.

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