"The VINNELL Corporation"
Research by Gregory Burnham Nov-08-99Technically Vinnell is contracted by the US government on behalf of the Saudi government, thus its personnel are not considered to be in the direct employ of the Saudis for most legal purposes. "Vinnell Selected for Award of $163.3 Million Contract for Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program," news release, BDM International, Inc., McLean, Va., 3 May 1995.
BDM, Inc is the parent company of Vinnell. The author has visited one of the five Vinnell sites in Saudi Arabia. See also William D. Hartung, "Mercenaries Inc.: How a U.S. Company Props Up the House of Saud," The Progressive, April 1996, pp. 26-28. Philip A. Odeen is the CEO of BDM International, which owns Vinnell. Philip Odeen is also the Chairman of the NATIONAL DEFENSE PANEL -
(bet you never even heard of that, eh?)--
Philip A. Odeen is President and CEO of BDM International, Inc., and serves on the BDM Board of Directors. He has worked within government in senior positions for the National Security Council and Defense Department. In the private sector, Mr. Odeen has served as a member of the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel and the Defense Science Board (DSB). Mr. Odeen led a DSB task force in early 1993 that reviewed anticipated defense management savings in the DOD budget and a DSB task force on outsourcing in 1995/96. Mr. Odeen played a leading role in a recent DSB study that resulted in the proposal of major budget savings that could be derived from a fundamental reengineering of the DOD infrastructure.
Secretary Cohen announced today the appointment of the National Defense Panel (NDP) that will review and make recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on the department's ongoing Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). In December 1997, the NDP also will provide an assessment of alternative force structures for the U.S. military through the year 2010.
Secretary Cohen's choice to chair the NDP is Mr. Phil Odeen, president of BDM International, a defense consulting and research firm. Other NDP members are: Richard Armitage, former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs; Richard Hearney, former assistant commandant of the Marine Corps; David Jeremiah, former vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff; Robert M. Kimmitt, managing director of Lehman Brothers, an investment banking firm; Andrew Krepinevich, director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments; James P. McCarthy, former deputy commander-in-chief, U.S. European Command; Janne Nolan, senior fellow, Brookings Institution Foreign Policy Studies program; and Robert R. RisCassi, former commander of U.S. forces in Korea. NDP members were selected in consultation with congressional leadership.
In announcing the appointment, Secretary Cohen said, "The Department looks forward to working with the panel and will welcome its insights and recommendations."
The NDP will submit interim recommendations on the Defense Department's work on the QDR to date in early spring and a final assessment to the Secretary of Defense as part of the report to Congress, which is required by May 15, 1997. NDP also will conduct an independent assessment of a variety of possible force structures for the armed forces through the year 2010 and beyond. The results of this analysis and Secretary Cohen's comments on the assessment are due to Congress by December 15, 1997.
Vinnell Corporation is a construction company founded in 1931. Through experience gained in managing military assignments during the Second World War, Vinnell expanded into a booming construction business in Asia. It won hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts and employment for 5,000 personnel during the war in Vietnam.
Among its activities there were covert military operations. A Pentagon source described Vinnell as 'our own little mercenary army in Vietnam ... we used them to do things we either didn't have the manpower to do ourselves, or because of legal problems'.
In February 1975 Vinnell secured a US$77 million contract with King Fahd to train the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG), the military arm of the House of at-Saud. Today, Vinnell's advertising depicts the firm as 'providing a broad spectrum of professional and technical services to government clients in multiple areas of management and training. Client requirements have led Vinnell to a vast array of challenges, from Malaysia to Mexico to the Middle East, often to the very heart of international conflict areas'. Vinnell has subsidiary operations in Egypt, Oman, and Turkey, but the key area of responsibility remains with SANG. The contract for its one thousand-plus-strong team of advisors was extended in January 1994 to the year 2000 at a cost of US$819 million.
Other US military firms working in Saudi Arabia include Booz-Allen & Hamilton, which drills the Saudi marine corps and maintains the Saudi Armed Forces Staff College; Science Applications International Corp (SAIC), which provides guidance for the Saudi navy; and O'Gara Protective services, directly hired by the Saudi Defence Minister to provide security for the Saudi royal family.
Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI), of Alexandria, Virginia, was founded in 1 987 by former special forces personnel 'to perform world-wide corporate contractual functions requiring skills developed from military service'.
MPRI has over 350 employees and can draw on a database of more than 6,000 former servicemen of the United States armed forces. MPRI is currently engaged in twenty contracts (seventeen domestic, three international) worth more than US$90 million in total. Twenty-two corporate officers Of MPRI are former high-ranking military officers. These include General Carl Vuono, US. Army Chief of Staff during the invasion of Panama and the Gulf War; Ed Soyster, former head of the Defence Intelligence Agency; and General Frederick Kroensen, former commander of the US. Army in Europe.
Its mission statement claims that 'MPRI can perform any task or accomplish any mission requiring military skills (or generalized skills acquired through military service), short of combat operations'. MPRI picked up the contract to train the Angolan Army after EO pulled out in January 1996. Its main focus of operations today is in the Balkans. MPRI training prepared the Croat Army for its successful counter-offensive against the Serbs in 1995. The head of Croat Army Headquarters, Zvonimir Cervenko, stated 'We can create by ourselves a new and efficient army. But why lose time if there are in the world institutions which can be paid so that they can transfer very quickly their maximum know-how'? Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, who brokered the Dayton peace accord, spoke favourably of MPRI in testimony to the US Congress. In March 1996 James Perdew, the Pentagon's point man at Dayton, flew to Sarajevo to urge the Bosnian government to contract MPRI or one of its competitors for the training of the Bosnian armed forces. In May MPRI Won the contract over rivals Vinnell and SAIC. Its $400 million programme is being paid for largely by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Brunei and Malaysia.
Mercenaries Keep the Peace
Why is the US government so keen to incorporate the services of private military firms in its international policy? The shadow of the disastrous Somalia operation looms over US peace-keeping operations. Cooperation with professional outsiders enables the State Department to keep a distance from potentially dangerous or compromising situations in the conduct of foreign policy. 'We will not be able to leave unless the Bosnian government is armed and prepared to defend itself', says Senator Joseph Biden (Democrat, Delaware). 'That's the ticket home for Americans'. MPRI has provided the most expeditious means of achieving that aim whilst maintaining the facade of official us neutrality in the region.
Similarly, Saudi Arabia, despite maintaining military contracts with us companies valued at over $60 billion US., officially does not sanction the stationing of us troops in the country. Vinnell training helps link SANG with the Office of the Program Manager (OPM), an agency of the US Army Material Command responsible for maintaining weapons programs. SANG shares its headquarters with OPM. Nationalists in Saudi Arabia recognize this link as being a key connection between the Saudi and US governments, which is why the building was targeted in the 13 November 1995 car bomb attack which killed five Americans and wounded thirty more.