Time in Iraq may drive firms' presence

Oct. 2, 2007 at 1:28 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 (UPI) -- It may be time to realize the United States will be in Iraq for a while, a congressional panel chairman said in a hearing on the Blackwater security firm.

"We must look at the fact that this isn't a short-term war," said U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House of Representatives Oversight & Government Reform Committee, said during a hearing Tuesday into claims against Blackwater USA over the shooting of Iraqi civilians Sept. 16. However, the committee didn't discuss the specific incident after being asked by the Justice Department not to because of investigations being conducted by the FBI and others.

"We have to make decisions" about the staffing levels for military and private security forces, Waxman said.

Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., the committee's ranking Republican, said questions about the cost benefits of using private security forces in a long-term conflict should be debated, but with the State and Defense departments.

Erik Prince, Blackwater executive, said contractors' operations should be reviewed for three areas: reliability, accountability and cost. He recommended the committee conduct "true activity-based cost studies" to determine whether a contractor's functions in the field are cost efficient.

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