Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What Vocation is Blackwater Peddling?

Full disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign

Cross posted at the Courage Campaign blog

The Union-Tribune's Anne Krueger is back with a command performance from the stenography pool today, delivering the latest "news" on Blackwater's Otay Mesa facility. Yet even she couldn't avoid the awkward break in logic that the various pieces of today's puzzle delivered:

“As long as it was an educational facility, if they're training future police or security guards, that would be considered a vocational trade,” Broughton said.

Bonfiglio said Blackwater has had a contract to train Navy personnel since 2002 through a subcontractor, American Shooting Center in Kearny Mesa. The training will be transferred to the Otay Mesa site once Navy inspectors give their approval to the new facility, he said.

Bonfiglio said Blackwater hasn't determined whether American Shooting Center would assist with training in Otay Mesa.

“We want to improve on the curriculum. We want to improve on the teaching,” Bonfiglio said. “We want to improve on the facilities.”

Bonfiglio said other agencies may use the facilities occasionally if it doesn't interfere with the Navy's training. He emphasized that no independent contractors working for Blackwater would be trained there.

addition: Brian Bonfiglio explicitly states that this facility will provide military, not civilian training in the article: "Already in place was a ship simulator – a miniature version of a Navy ship – that Bonfiglio said will be used to train sailors for crisis situations at sea...Although the facility has a shooting range, it will emphasize training Navy personnel to be better prepared for terrorist attacks, Bonfiglio said."

So as long as they're training future police or security guards it's vocational. But they're training Navy personnel to perform Navy duties. American Shooting Center (if you want to visit their website by the way, it's *ahem*), for its own part, is not new to shady training facilities. Last year, ASC tried to open a training facility near Cleveland National Forest without permits and was shut down by the Board of Supervisors. At the time, owner Marc Halcon complained about getting lumped in with Blackwater and

Halcon said he has had a subcontract with Blackwater since 2002 to train military personnel at his Kearny Mesa shooting center, though he said none of that training took place at Covert Canyon. He would not say how much he is being paid for the contract, which is due to end in September.

So Halcon's subcontract with Blackwater was due to end September of last year. And the contract was, even then, "to train military personnel at his Kearny Mesa shooting center." And now Blackwater is saying its new facility is for training those people. Did the contract get renewed/extended? If so, I guess it was changed to reflect a change of venue for the training, even though Blackwater had no facility lined up last fall. Going further, neither last year's article nor the new coverage suggests that the training of Navy personnel is to ease their transition into private-sector security jobs- quite the opposite. Given that Halcon was careful to note the differences between military, police and private training, it seems odd that it would consistently be referred to as training of military personnel unless it's exclusively is training of military personnel for military purposes. Which would not be a vocational or trade school. At all.

In this scenario, the only way around that rather major problem would be if Kelly Broughton's statement- "if they're training future police or security guards"- is given incredible latitude. I mean, Navy personnel may very well become police officers or security guards eventually. And those who do would likely utilize weapon and other combat training as part of their job. But that's a far leap from the notion that training military personnel to perform military tasks is the same as training them to be police or security professionals.

And while we're on the subject of what constitutes vocational training, Ray Lutz went ahead and checked the Yellow Pages, where Blackwater Worldwide is indeed listed under Industrial, Technical & Trade Schools (received via email). He also too the time to note the other businesses listed under the same heading:

A Academy of Bartending
California College For Health Sciences
Center for The Communications Arts
College of English Language
Contractor Schools Golden State
Contractors License Of California
Devry Univ. San Diego (career-oriented majors)
Foundation for Educational Achievement
ITT Tech
Language Studies International
Law School of National Univ.
Occupational Training Services
Pattie Wells Dancetime Center
Reliable Communications Incorporated
Schrader & Associates
Southwestern College
California College For Health Sciences
Seeds of Success Intl. Inc.
Comprehensive Training Systems
International Center for American English
Valley Career College
Advanced Training Associates
Wow Performance Coaching
Barrera Rick & Associates
Tomorrow's Communications Inc.
Vitality Inc
Palomar College
Healing Hands School of Holistic Health
Welsh Sales Group
Miracosta College
Spartan College Of Aeronautics & Technology
At Your Home Familycare Learning Academy
Beauty Boutique Colleges of Beauty
Dental Assisting Institute

Not so much shooting ranges or mercenary training. for jobs that actually contribute positively to society. One wonders how long it'll be before the U.S. government will finally break down and start classifying the nation's military as just an exceptionally well-funded jobs program. I'm kinda surprised the Bush administration hasn't seized on this as their version of the New Deal. Maybe it's cause nobody will sign up...

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