Blackwater focuses on brand shift

Security to take back seat to training, aviation services

The State Department extended Backwater's contract to provide embassy security this year. Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy said Monday he has not been notified by Blackwater that it intends to reduce or eliminate security work.

"They have a contract with us through the next nine or 10 months," Kennedy said. "They have not indicated to us that they are attempting to get out of our current contract."

That decision to scale back future security business reflects not only the difficult year Blackwater has had but also the fact that there's probably not as much growth opportunity.

The growth in Backwater's aviation and international training sectors could also buffer the company against other changes in military policy. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is looking into the use of contractors for combat and security training.

"Why have we come to rely on private contractors to provide combat or combat-related security training for our forces?" Gates wrote in a July 10 memo to the Pentagon's top military officer, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

The memo was released Monday to The Associated Press by the office of Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va. Webb raised concerns about the role of private contractors and specifically Blackwater, which opened a new counterterrorism training center in San Diego last month over the opposition of city officials.

Webb had been blocking Senate consideration of four civilian Defense Department nominees while waiting for answers. On Monday, Webb told Gates he was lifting his opposition to the nominees.


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