Washington: The State Department`s inspector general has said that bomb-sniffing dogs in Afghanistan and Iraq aren`t being tested properly and may not be able to effectively detect explosives.
The inspector general`s review found that the companies hired to supply and train the animals weren`t testing them for all of the scents of the most commonly encountered explosives, increasing the chance of a dog missing a bomb in a vehicle or luggage. That puts US diplomats at risk, the inspector general said yesterday.
The companies US Training Center in Moyock, North Carolina, a business unit of the company formerly known as Blackwater, and RONCO Consulting Corp. in Washington also used expired or potentially contaminated materials for the scent tests, the inspector general`s report said.
Susan Pitcher, a spokeswoman for Wackenhut Services, RONCO`s parent company, called the inspector general`s review "inaccurate." She said a canine expert engaged by the State Department to verify the detection capabilities of the dogs concluded they complied with the required standards.
Pitcher, however, said that the company had not been provided of the expert`s report, receiving instead what she described as "on-site briefings" of the results.
The inspector general`s office said it had not been given the results of the expert`s inspection when it released its report.
The US Training Center did not respond to a request for comment on the inspector general`s report.
The inspector general`s review was limited to three canine programs handled by US Training Center and RONCO. The report does not say how many dogs each contractor provides.
Overall, the State Department uses nearly 200 bomb-sniffing dogs.
And the report only offers a glimpse of the costs of these services, saying the State department pays $24 million a year alone for canine services at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
The report faults the department`s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which is responsible for managing the canine program, for weak oversight. Investigators found that the contractors, not the bureau, were running the program and policing themselves.
During visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the investigators did not meet any bureau personnel with expertise in bomb-sniffing dogs.
"They depended upon the knowledge and expertise of the contractors to ensure all contractual requirements and other standards were met," according to the report.