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‘U.S. Ready to Offer Mercenaries $10 Billion for a Drug-War Air Force’

December 5, 2012
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Source: Wired

Unsure how your private security firm makes money as the U.S. war in Afghanistan winds down? One option: Go into the drug trade — more specifically, the lucrative business of fighting narcotics. The State Department needs a business partner to keep its fleet of drug-hunting helicopters and planes flying worldwide. You could make up to $10 billion-with-a-B.

Starting next month in Melbourne, Florida, the State Department will solicit some defense-industry feedback on a contract to help operate its 412 aircraft, based in at least eight nations, before it reopens the contract for bidding. Among the missions the diplomatic corps needs fulfilled: “Provide pilots and operational support for drug interdiction missions such as crop spraying, and the transport of personnel and cargo,” according to a pre-solicitation the department’s bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs released on Friday.

From its headquarters at Florida’s Patrick Air Force Base, the State Department directs 51,000 annual hours worth of air operations. In Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Pakistan, and Guatemala, it mostly performs “counternarcotics and law enforcement activities,” explains State Department spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala, and in Afghanistan it does transportation support as well. Diplomats at the mega-embassy in Iraq also rely on State’s contractor air fleet to move about the country. And in recent years, that fleet has also needed to perform short-term air missions in Sudan, Honduras, Malta, Libya and Egypt. Private-security giant DynCorp currently holds the contract for supporting the diplomatic fleet.

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