Monday, October 15, 2007

Wall Street Journal: Blackwater is poised to grow; is challenging industry giants

"Even as Blackwater USA seeks to extricate itself from a firestorm over the conduct of its private-security forces in Iraq, company founder Erik Prince is laying plans for an expansion that would put his for-hire forces in hot spots around the world doing far more than guard duty," the Wall Street Journal reports today from Blackwater headquarters in North Carolina.

"Blackwater faces criticism in the wake of a Sept. 16 shooting by the company's guards that the Iraqi government says killed 17 civilians, a crisis that appears to threaten the company's livelihood. Yet at Blackwater's headquarters here, where the sound of gunfire and explosions is testament to the daily training of hundreds of law-enforcement and military personnel, Mr. Prince's ambition is on display.

"Mr. Prince wants to vault Blackwater into the major leagues of U.S. military contracting, taking advantage of the movement to privatize all kinds of government security. The company wants to be a one-stop shop for the U.S. government on missions to which it won't commit American forces. This is a niche with few established competitors, but it is drawing more and more interest from big military firms.

"Already, the 10-year-old company -- which went from renting out shooting ranges for thousands of dollars in its early years to revenue of almost a half-billion dollars last year -- is bidding on military work against industry giants such as Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. Mr. Prince says he is planning to build Blackwater's expertise in training, transportation and military support while expanding into making everything from remotely piloted blimps to an armored truck called the Grizzly that is tough enough to compete for the Army's latest armored-vehicle contract." For the full text of the article, click here.

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