Fearing Iraq Pullout, State Boosting Private Chopper Force

Aug 1, 2007 4:59pm

Fearing an imminent drawdown of U.S. troops and equipment from Iraq amid escalating violence, the State Department is hiring its own private helicopter squad to ferry its personnel around the country. Government military contractors Blackwater, DynCorp and Triple Canopy are the only three companies competing for the contract, possibly valued at more than $100 million a year for up to the next five years, sources tell ABC News. The requirements call for approximately 20 helicopters with maintenance, storage and crew to ensure 24-hour availability. It represents a recognition that Iraq may remain as dangerous for years to come and that the department cannot depend on the use of military assets in the future. A senior State Department official, asked to comment on the contract, said, "In accordance with federal law, I cannot discuss any contracts that are in the solicitation process. I can tell you that there are existing contracts for support in Iraq to the State Department that already include such air assets." Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. The choppers, said to be around 12 medium-capacity and eight light-capacity, would be deployed to three sectors in Iraq. Three helicopters would be sent to the north, three would operate in the south, and the remaining 14 would be stationed in central Iraq. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and some other diplomats already travel around the country via private helicopters because ground transport is considered dangerous. The new contract would dramatically increase both the number of contracted aircraft available to State Department officials as well as the amount of money the department will spend on these services. Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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