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Tim Spicer's World | The Nation

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Tim Spicer's World

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How the Army was so inept in awarding Aegis a contract is anybody's guess. The Army invalidated four other competing proposals, including one from a much larger and more experienced firm, DynCorp International LLC, which has drawn its share of controversy, including when it fired a whistleblower who revealed that DynCorp employees in Bosnia were running a sex ring using 12-year-old prostitutes.

About the Author

Andrew Ackerman
Andrew Ackerman, a fall 2004 Nation intern in the Washington bureau, is a writer based in DC. He graduated from Emory...

DynCorp was the only one of the five businesses to protest losing out to Aegis. But DynCorp's appeal was turned down in September by the Government Accountability Office, and in its ruling, the GAO denied DynCorp the opportunity to question Spicer's integrity or character, saving Spicer from a background check that might have put his candidacy into jeopardy. Because DynCorp's bid initially received a "marginal" rating by the Pentagon, it was removed from consideration for the award. A company that loses a contract may make character challenges against a winning bidder, but only if it has the standing to do so. And DynCorp lost its standing due to its lackluster rating. "Thus it is not that we 'did not care' about the [integrity] matter, but that it was raised in a legal challenge by a company that did not have standing to raise it," a GAO spokesperson said in a statement.

The Army's denial of the Congressional protest is disingenuous because it rests on the incorrect premise that the GAO already considered Spicer's integrity and found no cause to reverse. "As you may be aware," the Army wrote the senators, "[the DynCorp] protest raised many of the same concerns expressed in your letter with respect to Aegis's responsibility.... On September 13, 2004, the Comptroller General [of the GAO] denied DynCorp's protest."

But unlike DynCorp's protest, the senators' letter focused solely on Spicer's checkered past. In contrast, DynCorp's complaint emphasized the lackluster rating its own bid had received. DynCorp's concern about Spicer's background were legitimate, but it was an ancillary part of its overall argument, and one that the GAO refused to consider. So wasn't it time that somebody did?

Had the Army done a thorough review, it would have found that in 1997 Spicer was paid $36 million by the government of Papua New Guinea to suppress a rebellion. His arrival with seventy other mercenaries--most of them South African--prompted riots, and when the army learned that he was paid such an extravagant sum, it launched a coup and arrested Spicer, who was caught carrying $400,000 in cash. Spicer was kicked out of the country, but not before the scandal led to the resignation of its prime minister, Julian Chan, and the collapse of his government.

A year later Spicer was caught in yet another storm--and a blatant violation of international law--with repercussions that rocked the British government of Tony Blair. With the approval of the British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Sandline International, a now-defunct company Spicer founded and ran, imported more than thirty tons of arms, primarily AK-47 rifles, to Sierra Leone, contravening a UN arms embargo that had been affirmed as British law. The African nation's deposed leader, the pro-British Ahmed Kabbah, had hired Sandline. But when he was caught, Spicer said that the British government had sanctioned his activity. An investigation by the British House of Commons found some truth to that. British officials in Africa, according to the inquiry, had encouraged Spicer to violate their own country's embargo, though without the explicit knowledge or approval of then-Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. The British did benefit in the end when Kabbah was reinstalled.

In an earlier scandal, two soldiers in a British military unit under Spicer's command shot and killed a Catholic teenager in Northern Ireland in 1992. The soldiers were subsequently convicted of murder, yet Spicer has steadfastly defended them. The five Democratic senators called on the Army to reconsider Spicer's standing as a "responsible bidder" based partly on his defense of these murderers.

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