It was time for a change, Pentagon officials thought. In 2010, they had just wrested control of a $1 billion contract to train Afghan policemen from the Pentagon, and they thought the work should go to Xe Services, the infamous private security firm formerly known as Blackwater.
The deal, an umbrella-style contract, would come from an unlikely, obscure Army bureau called the Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office, or CNTPO, that brings new tech to foreign allies’ counternarcotics efforts.
One problem: The new task slotted into the CNTPO contract — known as an “indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity” contract — had nothing to do with counternarcotics or technology. Afghan police needed training in basic skills like shooting straight and controlling riots.
But the CNTPO contract, first awarded in 2005, was already held by Blackwater and four other companies. Using it meant the Pentagon could slip Blackwater into the training job — and avoid holding a new full-and-open competition.
Another problem: Rival security firm DynCorp already held the existing training contract, which was run out of the State Department, not CNTPO or any other Pentagon arm. DynCorp didn’t want to give up its lucrative training business. But since DynCorp wasn’t among the five companies that held the CNTPO award, it couldn’t even compete for the work it was already performing.