The Department of Defense quietly upped the ante in Syria with a $10 million no-bid contract that sends an unspecified number of private-sector intelligence operatives to the war-torn country.
In July 2016, the government announced that Six3 Intelligence Solutions, which is now a subsidiary of CACI International, will provide “intelligence analysis services” in Germany, Italy, and Syria. While almost nothing is known about the contract – officials would only confirm the deal and the overall nature of the agreement – Six3 focuses on identity intelligence and biometrics measures that reveal targets’ true identities. The firm also deals in a wide array of other information-gathering sectors; as a matter of fact, the company’s former CEO once remarked that 95% of Six3’s staff had the highest security clearance. Essentially to get in on the ground floor of this emerging area, CACI paid $820 million for the startup in 2013. At the time, CACI insisted that the acquisition was “the biggest deal” in the firm’s half-century of operations.
CACI may soon start to see a return on that investment because some observers think that mission creep may be at work in Syria. Earlier this year, President Obama quintupled the number of “military advisors” in Syria. There is an ongoing infrastructure buildup in the county to accommodate these additional troops, and now it seems, additional contractors. When the fighting ultimately ends, there will also be an opportunity for reconstruction. The U.S. has already spent about $170 billion on such efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Earlier, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters that the rebuilding effort in Syria “not a principally American job. [Rather, it] will mostly be executed through civilian agencies and frequently they’ll use contractors to do that.” Given the fact that there have already been $2 billion in commitments, it’s “going to be a big job,” he concluded.
Instability in the “Holy Land”
If it appears that Secretary Carter is jumping the gun by discussing rebuilding efforts when the fight has hardly even started, he is certainly not the first one to have such thoughts in this area of the Middle East. In fact, observers trace much of the modern instability to the May 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement. At that time, the war between the Allies and Central Powers in Europe was very much undecided, as German troops seemed permanently entrenched in France and had just launched a major offensive at the fortress of Verdun. Nevertheless, the British and French found the time to divide the remains of the Ottoman Empire between themselves; the fact that the Ottoman Empire still held these territories, and victory in the Great War was anything but certain, were mere technicalities.
Prior to negotiations, British negotiator Sir Mark Sykes supposedly remarked to then-Prime Minister Herbert Asquith that “I should like to draw a line from the ‘e’ in Acre to the last ‘k’ in Kirkuk.” A few months later, that is almost exactly what happened. The British received a “sphere of influence” in modern Israel and Iraq, and the French obtained similar interests in modern-day Lebanon and Syria. The agreement had the tacit backing of the Russian Empire, which received territorial guarantees near what later became Azerbaijan and Georgia.
The friction between the longtime rivals and wartime allies created a great deal of instability in the region. Several years ago, documents surfaced that may have established that the French sold arms to the Arabs during their campaigns against the British government in Palestine. Today, while it may not be possible to draw a line between Sykes-Picot and ISIS, the two are certainly related, as the Islamic State terrorists clearly feed on political instability.
For various reasons, Syria is an incredibly dangerous place for anyone who wears anything remotely resembling an American military uniform. That category clearly includes private contractors because according to Georgetown professor and author Sean McFate, “contractors do a lot more than drive trucks and cook meals; they do intelligence, pull triggers, and support Special Operations forces.” All these individuals are eligible for compensation through the Defense Base Act, if they are injured overseas.
As the American military presence expanded in the late 1930s, Congress foresaw a need for a system that takes care of private contractors if they are injured serving the United States in almost any capacity. Today, these victims can receive compensation for:
- Lost wages,
- Emergency medical care,
- Corrective surgery,
- Physical rehabilitation, and
- Incidental expenses, like prosthetic devices.
Victims typically receive two-thirds of their Average Weekly Wage until they are able to return to work at full speed; the insurance company typically pays medical bills directly, and the victims are not responsible for any unpaid charges. Physical as well as psychiatric injuries are covered. Additional compensation may be available in some cases, such as payments to survivors/dependents of those contractors killed overseas or for a permanent injury, like an amputation, loss of hearing or loss of eye sight. Furthermore, the vast majority of these cases settle out of court because the DBA defines many of its key terms in a broad and victim-friendly manner.
To learn about the procedure for compensation under the Defense Base Act, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel.