Monday, November 12, 2007

Dyncorp CEO Blasts Blackwater

The CEO of Dyncorp, Herb Lanese, no doubt sensing that now is the time to reach out to the small community of businesses and government agencies that need personal security contractors, fires off a series of damning charges against Blackwater:

Before I turn the call over talk the question-and-answer session though, I want to spend a moment discussing two items that have been in the news lately, because they affect DynCorp. One is Blackwater, and the second is the report of Special Investigate -- I always mess up this wording, excuse me, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, SIGIR.

First, talking about Blackwater, it's very important for our shareholders to understand that we compete with Blackwater in a very narrow field that currently represents 2% of our revenue -- I want to repeat that -- 2% of our revenue. So when you compare us to Blackwater, 2% of our revenue is on the same basis as Blackwater.

Unfortunately, it's very visible work that tends to attract a disproportionate amount of attention that I believe unfairly distorts the image of DynCorp. I don't need to tell you what kind of work we do or how long we've been at it, because I realize all of you understand and know that. But I do want you to know that in this narrow space in which we compete with Blackwater, we believe we are a very different company.

For example, we are highly selective in our hiring practices. We operate very, disciplined security teams. We enforce a strict, no-alcohol policy, strict no-alcohol -- not eight hours prior to going up on a work assignment, but no alcohol period.

And we've developed our own rules for the use of force that are more detailed than those issued by the U.S. government. In fact, our rules for the use of force are based on the most conservative elements of the three sets of rules in effect in Iraq.

And let me just take a moment to explain a couple of these points that are off from my prepared remarks. On the selection process, roughly 50% to 65% of the people that we interview in this protection area are declined for employees either because of background checks, physical exams or lack of experience. An additional 15% are rejected because they don't pass our psychological tests.

We're not in the game of firing people after we hire them. We're in the game of being selective in hiring the right people upfront. That is a really important distinction.

When you look for the rules for the use of force or rules of engagement in Iraq, there really are three sets of rules. And I think in recent Blackwater testimony, when asked, the person who was testifying said, "Well, we follow the rules of force -- rules for the use of force in Iraq." Well, there's three of them. Which one do you follow? All three are not the same.
I don't think any of this is about what's going on right now--it's about 2009 and it's about future contracts. Lanese is clearly agitating against the idea that anyone would renew their contracts with Blackwater. What better way to do that than to suggest that Blackwater hires unfit people? Why didn't he just come out and say it--we don't hire the guys who are going to shoot someone's Iraqi gramma in the gut for looking at them crosseyed.
How many private conversations between CEOs like Lanese and decisionmakers are being held right now, concerning Blackwater? There must be a lot of things being said like you're not really going to renew their contract, are you?
Anyway, it's good business. If Dyncorp was in trouble, a free market capitalist like Erik Prince would be out there, throwing more chum in the water, trying to get an angle on the next contract bidding process. This is usually when your tax-cut happy, let the markets decide, privatize everything-type Republican throws a temper tantrum and demands some form of government intervention or protection from having their overpaid gig taken away.
Erik Prince will, no doubt, walk away from the mess called Blackwater a very rich man. But a few thousand guys are going to see their paychecks stopped one day and they won't know why. Well, they should have been paying attention to what Herb Lanese said.

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