(UPDATED 03/11/2010 @ 12:31): Securitas has contacted Security Management to dispute details of the Associated Press and Pilot stories referenced below. According to Lynne Glovka, a spokeswoman for Securitas, the Navy team picked up only 47 dogs on Oct. 5, 2009. She further contends that all 47 dogs were alive when the Navy picked them up.
ORIGINAL: The United States Navy got more than it bargained for when it hired a defense contractor to provide explosives-detection dogs to replace similar Navy-trained dogs deploying overseas, reports The Virginia-Pilot.
Instead of 49 properly trained explosives-detection dogs, the Navy now owns 46 dogs that have yet to perform the tasks they were contracted to. Things, however, got worse. Two of the dogs were so neglected that Navy personnel found them dead when they went to pick the dogs up from a subcontractor's facility near Chicago in October 2009, reports the Associated Press (CORRECTION BELOW). Another dog subsequently died and many of the remaining dogs were sick due to neglect and starvation. A picture obtained by the Pilot and posted on its Web site shows a dog so emaciated, its rib cage bulges through its skin.
The episode, reports the Pilot, is what can go wrong when jobs once performed internally by the military are outsourced to private contractors.
In January 2009, defense giant Lockheed Martin signed a 5-year, $350 million contract with the military, which outsourced security services like surveillance and management of armories for the Navy. Part of that contract included providing bomb-sniffing dogs that could patrol domestic installations to free up Navy-trained dogs to deploy overseas. Lockheed then subcontracted that portion of the contract to Securitas Security Services USA. The dogs that Securitas purchased for about $465,000, however, regularly failed explosive detection tests.
In a written response to questions from The Pilot, the Navy said that as of April 1 - the date all of the dogs were to begin working at the bases to which they'd been assigned - none of the dog-handler teams was able to pass the Navy's certification test. By early July, only 16 of the teams had passed, the Navy said.
That same month the Navy terminated the contract with Lockheed for the dogs, but eventually agreed to buy the 49 dogs and train them itself from Securitas for $800,000, nearly double what the subcontractor paid for them.
On Oct. 5th, a Navy team arrived at a Securitas training facility near Chicago to pick up the dogs. They were unprepared for what they discovered. The dogs, according to Navy e-mails leaked to the Pilot, described the dogs' condition as "deplorable."
In one e-mail, Michael Reid, a Navy civilian official, wrote that the dogs' conditions were drastically different from a few months prior. "After knowing these dogs were lean and (in) working fit condition in Aug, it was astonishing to see the condition we picked these dogs up in," he wrote.
After seeing the condition the dogs were in, Navy personnel contacted local authorities. The Illinois Department of Agriculture is now investigating the matter.
Picking up on the Pilot story, the Chicago Sun-Times reports today, that this isn't the first time Securitas has had problems with bomb-sniffing dogs.
In 2006, CBS2 and the Sun-Times hired a tester to carry explosives past a Securitas bomb-sniffing dog at a downtown Metra station. The dog repeatedly failed to react, but Securitas and Metra deemed the test unfair because the dog was not commanded to detect bombs.
Securitas did respond to inquiries from the Pilot, telling the newspaper the dogs were healthy and well-fed when they were handed off to the Navy in October. The firm maintains it is still owed $6 million from the Navy deal, the Pilot reports.
Eventually 39 of the 49 dogs bought and trained by the Navy will perform the tasks they were originally contracted for, the Navy told the Pilot.
From the Archives: "Dog Use Dogged by Questions," by Sherry Harowitz, Security Management, Jan. 2006
CORRECTION: The original report yesterday said that The Virginia-Pilot reported that two dogs were found dead when the Navy picked them up from Securitas' facility near Chicago. In actuality, the Associated Press reported this. The Pilot originally reported that two dogs subsequently died after the Navy picked them up due to the neglect they suffered in Securitas' custody. The appropriate corrections have been made in the text.
♦ Photo of explosives-detection K-9, Anna, by U.S. Navy/WikiMediaCommons