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@StateDept Withdraws Proposed Rule For Adoption Accreditation Requirements #HagueConvention

Posted: 4:05 am ET

 

Last year, the State Department proposed to amend the requirements for accreditation of agencies and approval of persons to provide adoption services in intercountry adoption cases. See below:

The Department of State (the Department) proposes to amend requirements for accreditation of agencies and approval of persons to provide adoption services in intercountry adoption cases. The proposed rule includes a new subpart establishing parameters for U.S. accrediting entities to authorize adoption service providers who have received accreditation or approval to provide adoption services in countries designated by the Secretary, which will be known as “country-specific authorization” (CSA). Adoption service providers will only be permitted to act as primary providers in a CSA-designated country if they have received CSA for that particular country. The proposed rule also strengthens certain standards for accreditation and approval, including those related to fees and the use of foreign providers. In addition, the proposed rule enhances standards related to preparation of prospective adoptive parents so that they receive more training related to the most common challenges faced by adoptive families, and are better prepared for the needs of the specific child they are adopting. These proposed changes are intended to align the preparation of prospective adoptive parents with the current demographics of children immigrating to the United States through intercountry adoption. Finally, the proposed rule makes the mechanism to submit complaints about adoption service providers available to complainants even if they have not first addressed their complaint directly with the adoption service provider.

You can read more on why the Secretary of State proposed to change this rule here.  In April, the State Department withdrew the proposed rule with the following brief notice:

The Department of State (Department) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on September 8, 2016, proposing to amend its regulations implementing the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption and the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000. 81 FR 62322. The Department hereby withdraws that action. The comments provided in response to the NPRM will be considered in drafting a new rule, which is expected to be published later this year.

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4th of July 2017 – Cakes and Crowds For the 241st Birthday

Posted: 3:53 am ET

 

BONUS pics from K2 Base Camp in Pakistan, and from NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer aboard the space station posing with their patriotic garb on July 4 more than 250 miles above the Earth.

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4th of July 2017 – Scenes and Themes Around the Foreign Service

Posted: 3:35 am ET

 

 

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U.S. Embassy Bamako: Gunmen Storm Le Campement Kangaba Tourist Resort in Mali

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Posted: 3:52 pm PT

 

Last week, the U.S. Embassy in Bamako issued a security message concerning “a possible increased threat of attacks against Western diplomatic missions, places of worship, and other locations in Bamako where Westerners frequent.” (See Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Increased Threat of Attacks in Bamako (9 June, 2017).

On Sunday, June 18, gunmen reportedly attacked a tourist resort in Mali popular with Westerners.  According to BBC News, the gunmen have stormed the luxury resort Le Campement Kangaba, east of the capital Bamako.  The report citing the country’s security minister says that two people are dead, and that the hostages have been released. Two other people had reportedly been injured including a civilian, and that 32 guests had been rescued from the resort.

The U.S. Embassy in Mali says that the resort is 30 minutes southeast of the capital city. We understand that all our embassy folks are fine. State/OSAC is urging travelers in Mali to check in with their families and friends. See related posts below for previous security reports on this hotspot.

Related posts:

US Embassy Kabul: 9 Afghan Guards Killed, 11 American Contractors Wounded

Posted: 2:06 am ET

 

A sewage truck reportedly loaded with 1,500 kgs of explosives was used in the deadly attack in Kabul that killed 90 people and wounded over 400 individuals. The State Department told CBS news that nine Afghan guards at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul were killed and 11 American contractors wounded in the massive suicide truck bomb attack that rocked the diplomatic quarter.  This might be the largest casualty of local guards in recent memory.  In 2008, seven local guards and local law enforcement personnel were killed during an assault of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul announced the closure of routine services:

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul will be closed for routine visa and American Citizen Services on Thursday, June 1 and will resume normal operations on Sunday, June 4, 2017.  U.S. citizens needing emergency assistance can call the American Citizen Services section at 070-011-4000 or send an email to KabulACS@state.gov.

In accordance with the Travel Warning for Afghanistan, the Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan.  The U.S. Embassy in Kabul urges all U.S. citizens in Afghanistan to review your personal security plans, take appropriate steps to enhance your personal safety, remain aware of your surroundings, monitor local news for updates, and maintain a high level of vigilance.

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Marking #MemorialDay 2017 Around the Foreign Service

Posted: 10:26 pm PT

U.S. Embassy Brussels, Belgium

U.S. Embassy The Hague, the Netherlands

U.S. Embassy Paris, France

U.S. Embassy Kolonia, Micronesia

U.S. Embassy Manila, Philippines

U.S. Embassy Wellington, New Zealand

U.S. Embassy Montevideo, Uruguay

U.S. Consulate Halifax, Canada

U.S. Embassy Panama City, Panama

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Diplomatic Security Help Return Fugitive Involved in Stealing Identities of Disabled Children

Posted: 2:05 am ET

 

In June 2014, USDOJ indicted six people in an identity theft and tax fraud scheme in which the identities of disabled children and foster care children were stolen.  The indictment charges Ahmed Kamara, 38, and Ibrahim Kamara, 48, both of Yeadon, PA, Musa Turay, 41, and Foday Mansaray, 38, both of Darby, PA, Gebah Kamara, 46, of Sharon Hill, PA, and Dauda Koroma, 43, of Philadelphia, PA, with conspiracy, aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and filing false individual income tax returns.

Defendants Ahmed Kamara, Musa Turay, Ibrahim Kamara, Dauda Koroma, and Foday Mansaray worked as tax preparers at Medmans Financial Services, a tax preparation business located in South West Philadelphia. According to the indictment, Ahmed Kamara, Musa Turay, Ibrahim Kamara, Dauda Koroma, and Foday Mansaray defrauded the Internal Revenue Service by repeatedly falsifying information on tax returns. The indictment alleges that Gebah Kamara, then a social worker at Catholic Social Services, sold the defendant tax preparers the names and Social Security numbers of foster children for the purpose of creating fraudulent dependents on client tax returns. By including the false dependents, the tax preparers falsely claimed a number of credits and exemptions for their clients, which generated large fraudulent refunds, some in excess of $9,000. The tax preparer defendants charged clients up to $800 to fraudulently add a dependent on their income tax return.

If convicted, each of the defendants faces a mandatory two year prison term for aggravated identity theft consecutive to the following maximum possible sentences: Ahmed Kamara – 55 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $1.75 million fine, and a $1,300 special assessment; Musa Turay – 61 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $1.95 million fine, and a $1,500 special assessment; Gebah Kamara – 43 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $1.35 million fine, and a $900 special assessment; Ibrahim Kamara – 52 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $1.65 million fine, and a $1,200 special assessment; Dauda Koroma – 52 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $1.65 million fine, and a $1,200 special assessment; Foday Mansaray – 43 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $1.35 million fine, and a $900 special assessment.

Musa Turay, a U.S. citizen who was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone was one of those charged in 2014.  Diplomatic Security’s Criminal Investigative Liaison tracked Turay to Sierra Leone and alerted Sean Nedd, the Regional Security Officer (RSO) at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown. Below via State/DS:

Freetown, Sierra Leone, did not turn out to be a refuge for Musa Benson Turay. Turay, a U.S. citizen, fled to his place of birth, Freetown, after the United States indicted him in June 2014 for participating in a $43 million tax fraud scheme that involved stealing identities of disabled children and youth in foster care.

But Turay could not escape DSS’ global reach. The DSS Criminal Investigative Liaison branch tracked Turay to Sierra Leone and alerted Sean Nedd, the Regional Security Officer (RSO) at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, that Turay was using a local cell phone number. Nedd notified the local police, who put a trace on the phone, allowing Sierra Leonean investigators to identify Turay’s general vicinity. Using an online ruse, the officials pinpointed his exact location.

On November 3, 2016, local law enforcement officials arrested Turay, and detained him while the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a formal extradition request. Turay fought hard against the request, but lost his appeal on March 9, 2017. The U.S. Marshals, who typically escort fugitives back to the United States, were unable to send deputies to Sierra Leone due to logistical obstacles.

Nedd stepped in to complete the mission. He coordinated with local police, DOJ, U.S. Marshals, Brussels Airlines, and DSS colleagues posted at U.S. embassies in Accra, Ghana, and Brussels, Belgium, to complete the fugitive transfer. Nedd, U.S. Embassy Freetown Assistant RSO Noran Tealakh, and Assistant RSO from Embassy Accra Justin Garofalo boarded the plane and escorted Turay to Brussels. They met the U.S. Marshals in Brussels and transferred Turay to their custody March 21, 2017.

Turay currently awaits trial in the United States for his original tax fraud charge.

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Click here to view the indictment | An Indictment, Information or Criminal Complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

Foreign Affairs Day Memorial Plaque Ceremony: John Brown Williams Still Missing

Posted: 2:42 am ET

 

Last year, we blogged about John B. Williams who was  appointed on 10 March 1842 by President Tyler to be United States consul at the Bay of Islands, New Zealand (see Missing From the AFSA Memorial Plaque: John Brown Williams, First American Consul to Fiji (1810-1860).  He was born in Salem, Massachusetts on 20 September 1810, the seventh of nine children of Israel Porter and Elizabeth (Wait) Williams.  In 1860, J.M. Brower, the United States vice consul in Fiji, informed his family that John B. Williams had died of dysentery on 19 June 1860.  Read more herehere and here.

History.state.gov lists him as follows:

Establishment of Consul at Lauthala1844.
Commercial Agent John B. Williams was appointed the first Consul to the Fiji Islands on August 19, 1844. He was resident at Auckland, New Zealand.

On May 5, the new Secretary of State offered remarks at the Foreign Affairs Memorial Day and said he took “solace in the fact that we did not have to add any names to this plaque this year.” Yup, they forgot again to add John Brown Williams’ name on that wall.  We should note the first U.S. envoy to the Far East, Edmund Roberts, who is  listed on the Memorial Plaque also died of dysentery in Macau, China in 1844.

Excerpt from Secretary Tillerson’s remarks.

It’s been my great privilege to take part in the American Foreign Service Association’s Memorial ceremony honoring the service and sacrifice of the men and women who did not make it back. Even amidst the non-stop business of the State Department, and while we work at a pretty torrid pace, I think it is always important to set aside time to pay tribute to our fallen colleagues.

Although he was unable to be here today, President Trump also released a statement sending his greetings and sincere gratitude to all members of the United States Foreign Service and Civil Services at federal agencies here at home as well as at embassies and consulates around the globe. As I have gotten to know the President, I have seen firsthand how much he appreciates – and that appreciation is growing, I assure you – for the work of our hard-working public servants here, and those who serve on behalf of the nation around the world.

Each of the 248 fallen heroes and heroines whose names are engraved on the Memorial Plaque represents a unique individual life, and I think we can never lose sight of that. These men and women had families, they had loved ones they left behind, dreams unlived, plans unrealized. These names span our country’s history. From the beginning of our young republic, Americans have gone abroad representing our country, advancing our interests and values, and raising our flag. Today, I’d like to share with you some of their stories.

The first name on the plaque is William Palfrey. In 1780, this Revolutionary War veteran and former aide to George Washington was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate to be U.S. consul general to France.
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I do take solace in the fact that we did not have to add any names to this plaque this year, but I know our men and women always put mission first, and though they are judicious and they take the necessary security precautions, there are inherent risks in all we do to advance America’s interest and values to keep our nation safe. As your Secretary, I promise you I will do all I can to make sure we are not forced to add another name to this wall, by making the safety of our people my highest priority, and by asking all of you to do the same, and taking action to bolster the protection of our people around the globe.

We’re tried to locate President Trump’s statement but have been unable to find it. The White House posted four statements on May 5 on its website; there’s nothing there in reference to Foreign Service Day.

05/05/17 Remarks at the Foreign Affairs Day Memorial Plaque Ceremony;  Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson; Washington, DC

April 2016: Missing From the AFSA Memorial Plaque: John Brown Williams, First American Consul to Fiji (1810-1860)

 

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@StateDept to Outsource Embassy Life Support, Logistics, Maintenance Services Thru DiPSS

Posted: 3:33 am ET

 

It’s called the Diplomatic Platform Support Services (DiPSS).  On January 10, the State Department’s Office of Acquisition Management (AQM) published a notice for the combined synopsis and solicitation for Diplomatic Platform Support Services. The special focus is on the Middle East and South Central Asia regions but the contract also aims to provide “flexibility to support DoS posts and other U.S. Government activities operating throughout the world.”

The contract requires the Contractor to “support DoS activities and programs that may require DiPSS services in locations outside of the physical boundaries of Embassies and Consulates.”  The types of projects under this contract may include, but are not limited to: “food service, maintenance/repair of facilities, full spectrum operations of man camps, sewage and plumbing operations of facilities, leasing properties, refurbishing properties to include upgrading to meet high security requirements, laboratories, dining facilities and related structures, travel services for personnel, to include medical, limited security as deemed necessary by DoS, and insurance.”

Note that the State Department has already done this to our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But it looks like DiPSS could be anywhere in the world as the requirement is for operation & maintenance services at various government installations located “in any country where the U.S. Department of State has a presence.”

 

On April 23, the State Department extended the date for submission of offers from May 5, 2017 to June 15, 2017.

Below is the announcement:

The solicitation may result in multiple awards of an Indefinite Delivery-Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) type contract in the third quarter of fiscal year 2017. Task orders will be awarded as any type of cost arrangement authorized under FAR Part 16 as appropriate.

The scope of work requires the Contractor to provide Program Management, Procurement of Critical Items, Life Support Services, Logistics Services, Operation and Maintenance Services, Construction and Renovation Projects to U.S. Department of State facilities, and other U.S. Government facilities overseas. The work to be acquired under this solicitation is for logistical service, life & mission support services, and all other operation & maintenance services at various government installations located in any country where the U.S. Department of State has a presence, with a focus on high threat contingency environments. Types of projects may include, but are not limited to: food service, maintenance/repair of facilities, full spectrum operations of man camps, sewage and plumbing operations of facilities, leasing properties, refurbishing properties to include upgrading to meet high security requirements, laboratories, dining facilities and related structures, travel services for personnel, to include insurance.

This acquisition is set aside for small business. The NAICS number applicable to this solicitation is 561210. The Small Business Administration small business size standard is $38.5 million.

The basic contract period of performance will be for 12 months. Each contract contains nine (9) 12-month options for a maximum period of performance of ten years for each contract. The estimated maximum dollar value for all contracts combined, including the base year and all options, is $5,000,000,000. The estimated maximum value may be divided up among contract awardees. The minimum guarantee for a contract is $10,000, which will be paid during the performance period of the contract. Contractors are not guaranteed work in excess of the minimum guarantee.

The Contracting Officer or his properly authorized representative, who will issue written task orders to the contractors, will determine the actual amount of work to be performed and the time of such performance. The only work authorized under the contract is work ordered by the Government through issuance of a task order. The Government makes no representation as to the number of task orders or actual amount of work to be ordered. Each task order issued under an IDIQ contract may have a performance period of up to five years. Task orders will range between $5,000,000 dollars and $50,000,000 dollars on average with the ability to be awarded for as low as $25,000 Task orders may fall below or above this limit; however, contractors are not obligated to accept such task orders under the general terms of the contract.

Overview:

The U.S. Department of State (“DoS,” “State,” or “the Department”) require Diplomatic Platform Support Services (DiPSS) to provide a full range of services for Life Support Services, Logistics Services (LSS&L), and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) services to DoS and other U.S. Government agencies under Chief of Mission Authority and, under special circumstances, non-Chief of Mission activities across the globe. DoS anticipate a large portion of the contract work will focus on locations in the Middle East and South Central Asia contingency environments; however, DiPSS will be available to other Bureaus, Posts, Missions, and potentially agencies operating in other areas.

Minimum and maximum quantities:

The Government, through issuance of Task Order(s) or otherwise, shall pay a one-time minimum of $10,000.00 (inclusive of all direct costs, indirect costs, and profit/fee) within the contract’s period of performance (base period of one year plus nine option periods consisting of one year each).

The combined maximum quantity for the all contracts’ over the potential ten year period of performance (base period of one year plus nine option periods consisting of one year each) shall be any quantity or combination of supplies and services not exceeding $5,000,000,000.00 (inclusive of all direct costs, indirect costs, and profit/fee).

Background:

The DoS operates approximately 250 posts worldwide at any given time; this number changes as global situations dictate. […] Some posts are located in areas that are considered to have a high threat level; including areas with Department of Defense designated contingency operations.

Over the last five years, the AQM awarded 29 acquisition instruments (contracts, purchase orders, blanket purchase agreements, etc.) for Life Support Services & Logistics (LSS&L) and Operations & Maintenance (O&M) services in Middle East and South Central Asia. Several of the acquisition instruments have been relatively narrowly scoped, country or post-specific contracts.
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The DiPSS contract will create opportunities for DoS to augment U.S. Government staff in situations overseas where demand for services exceeds U.S. Mission capacity to support, as well as capture significant savings; achieve economies of scale and promote efficiencies in back-office operations.

The objectives for the DiPSS contract include:

  1. Acquire LSS&L and O&M service and performance outcomes under broad global contracts supporting diplomatic platforms, with a special focus on the Middle East and South Central Asia regions but provide flexibility to support DoS posts and other U.S. Government activities operating throughout the world.
  2. Remove duplicative and unnecessary variations in U.S. Government requirements and inefficient processes to realize cost savings.
  3. Develop a group of highly reliable LSS&L and O&M Contractors, capable of supporting current and future needs of DoS and U.S. Government agencies and offices overseas.

Scope:

The Contractor shall provide the services identified in section C.2 for DoS and/or other U. S. Government agencies operating from diplomatic platforms falling under Chief of Mission (COM) authority or other U.S. Government facilities, as authorized by the DoS. The Contractor must support DoS activities and programs that may require DiPSS services in locations outside of the physical boundaries of Embassies and Consulates.

The Contractor must provide all personnel, equipment, tools, materials, supplies, transportation, supervision, and other services necessary to accomplish the requirements of this IDIQ contract and requirements of Task Orders awarded under this contract.

The work to be acquired under this DIPSS contract is for logistical service, life & mission support services, and all other operation & maintenance services at various government installations located in any country where the U.S. Department of State has a presence, with a focus on high threat contingency environments. Types of projects may include, but are not limited to: food service, maintenance/repair of facilities, full spectrum operations of man camps, sewage and plumbing operations of facilities, leasing properties, refurbishing properties to include upgrading to meet high security requirements, laboratories, dining facilities and related structures, travel services for personnel, to include medical, limited security as deemed necessary by DoS, and insurance.

Here is an item on Safeguarding Information:

The Contractor and its employees shall exercise the utmost discretion in regard to all matters relating to their duties and functions. They shall not communicate to any person any information known to them by reason of their performance of services under this contract which has not been made public, except in the necessary performance of their duties or upon written authorization of the Contracting Officer. All documents and records (including photographs) generated during the performance of work under this contract shall be for the sole use of and become the exclusive property of the U.S. Government. Furthermore, no article, book, pamphlet, recording, broadcast, speech, television appearance, film or photograph concerning any aspect of work performed un- der this contract shall be published or disseminated through any media without the prior written authorization of the Contracting Officer. These obligations do not cease upon the expiration or termination of this contract. The Contractor shall include the substance of this provision in all contracts of employment and in all subcontracts hereunder.

On Recruitment of Third Country Nationals:

On contracts exceeding $150,000 where performance will require the recruitment of non-professional third country nationals, the offeror is required to submit a Recruitment Plan as part of the proposal.

 

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“Stoned” Guy in the Street Ruins U.S. Embassy Kabul’s Supposed Drug-Free Workplace

Posted: 4:10 am ET

 

The AFP reported last week that six employees of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul have been dismissed for drug use or possession.  The State Department confirmed that “six individuals were involved” but that they are not State Department employees according to AFP. The report does not indicate what drugs were used but Afghanistan remains the world’s top opium producer despite billions of dollar spent by the U.S. government there.

It’s not like this is the first time there have been major personnel issues at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan.

Some years ago both American and expatriate Diplomatic Security contract U.S. Embassy guard staff members (including supervisors) appeared naked in numerous photographs and were also photographed fondling each other. These photographed activities took place at parties in or around the guard staff housing compound, and were evidence of, not surprisingly, “a pattern of blatant, longstanding violations of the security contract.” See POGO writes to Secretary Clinton about US Embassy Kabul Guards.

In 2013, the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) went looking for a contractor who would be responsible for administering drug tests to the estimated 1,300 security employees in Kabul. Noting that these “armed employees” in Kabul, who were “exposed to extreme conditions,” needed to be “reliable, stable, and show(ing) good use of judgment,” the cyclical drug testing (every six months) for amphetamines, opiates, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, cocaine, and marijuana was required.  So basically new contractors testing other contractors, see more here: State Dept Seeks Drug/Steroid Testing of Security Personnel in Afghanistan and Jerusalem.

But something obviously went wrong somewhere, hey? Sounds like the twice a year screening did not work. A person who appeared to be intoxicated was apparently noticed “wandering around in a state of confusion.” As a consequence, six U.S. Embassy Kabul mission members have been fired for allegedly using, possessing, and even selling illegal drugs. According to the Wall Street Journal, after investigators identified “the drug dealer” involved, his cellular phone was mined for contacts/leads and extensive searches of the embassy employees’ housing complex were launched, which led to the discovery of yet more drugs and more drug users.

According to the Wall Street Journal, most of the employees who were fired were American employees. Furthermore, this number allegedly includes contractors for Aegis/Garda. It is noteworthy that several years ago, dozens of Embassy Kabul guard staff members signed a petition accusing Aegis/Garda guard staff leaders of “tactical incompetence,” and shared that they had “a dangerous lack of understanding of the operational environment.” These American employees further called attention to serious gaps in the manned security of the compound, such as guard shortages at key guard positions.

In 2013, former Embassy Kabul security guards filed a class-action lawsuit against Aegis, claiming that the company refused to pay them for the overtime that they had worked while in Kabul. Though this lawsuit was later sent to arbitration, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) noted her opposition to the State Department’s continued reliance on contractors for embassy security. “We’ve seen failure after failure after failure by these contracted individuals to be competent, professional, and thorough,” she stated.

Note that last year, the housing compound for U.S. Embassy Kabul security personnel was also hit by a bomb (see US Embassy Kabul: January 4 Attacks Target USG Employees at Camp Sullivan).  According to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the severity of the blast was significant. The blast radius was 100 meters wide, and the explosion left a crater that was fifteen feet deep. Half of the housing compound was rendered uninhabitable.

Aegis, the security contractor discussed above, was purchased by Garda/GardaWorld in 2015. Canada-based Garda, the world’s largest security services provider, acquired Aegis in order to expand their company presence throughout both the Middle East and Africa. Garda bids aggressively for embassy security contracts in places like Kabul. In 2015, it undercut former contractor Hart Security Australia with a three-year $72.3 million bid for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). In this case, Australian Security staff  reportedly faced a 60% wage reductions to keep their jobs. Read more about that here.

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