Pentagon contracts reveal US prep for multinational force in Haiti, down to toothbrushes and WiFi

As preparations accelerate for a multinational security force to deploy to Haiti, federal contract opportunities from the US Department of Defense detail the minutiae of US involvement in planning for the mission.

The Multinational Security Support mission, widely referred to as the MSS, aims to bolster local police in combatting the gangs currently overrunning Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince. After several delays, the Kenya-led mission is expected to arrive in the Caribbean nation in the coming weeks.

The US  has championed the mission, offering to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in funding and resources, though drawing a line at boots on the ground. Recent contract opportunities posted to a US General Services Administration website by the Defense Department (DOD) illustrate how closely the US is involved in kitting out the multinational security force — from security for their still-under-construction base to toothbrushes and internet.

On Tuesday May 21, the Defense Department published a contract opportunity for commercial internet service providers capable of supporting about 1,400 users in Haiti, according to the website.

Contract opportunities published the same day also advertise opportunities for vendors to provide “sundry items”—shampoo, toothbrushes, lotions, and other items—and bedding for 1,300 people in Haiti.

As conditions for the mission come together, US security contractors are already on the ground in Haiti, about 150 people as of now, a source familiar with the operation told CNN.

A posting on the same website also shows that the DOD awarded a $30 million contract to GardaWorld Federal Services LLC for private security and protection services in Haiti for contractors preparing the mission base.

GardaWorld, a Canadian company which provides logistical, medical, and security services to government and commercial clients, told CNN that they were contracted to provide these services at the housing site.

The firm has previously been involved with protecting US diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan—a role that is the subject of ongoing litigation initially brought by a former employee, Justin Fahn, who alleges in a whistleblower lawsuit the company misled the US about its employees’ training.

GardaWorld denies these claims in court records, and a spokesperson for the company told CNN that it is employing “highly trained security professionals” to guard the facility in Haiti.

“Beyond the contract information made publicly available in the platform, we would not have additional details to provide at this time,” a Pentagon spokesperson said when reached for comment by CNN.

A long-delayed mission

Gang violence has wreaked havoc in Haiti, stifling civilians’ access to food, water, and fuel. Armed groups control large swathes of Haiti’s capital city and forced the international airport in Port au Prince to shut down; after nearly three months, commercial flights resumed in mid-May.

The MSS base is expected to be located close to Toussaint Louverture International Airport in capital city Port-au-Prince. Satellite imagery captured on May 20 by Maxar Technologies, obtained by CNN, shows a significant construction close to the airport since mid-May. The expansion appears to include at least five new structures and newly cleared land at the eastern end of the tarmac.

Satellite imagery captured on May 20 by Maxar Technologies, obtained by CNN, shows a significant construction close to the airport since mid-May. - Maxar Technologies
Satellite imagery captured on May 20 by Maxar Technologies, obtained by CNN, shows a significant construction close to the airport since mid-May. - Maxar Technologies

US President Joe Biden has said that he is working with Congress to provide $300 million for the mission and an additional $60 million for equipment to the country.

“There’s going to be US forces not on the ground, but we’re going to supply logistics, intelligence, and equipment. Matter of fact, some equipment has already arrived,” Biden said last week during a joint press conference with Kenyan President William Ruto.

In response to a question later in the briefing, Biden also sought to explain why the US isn’t putting boots on the ground.

“For the United States to deploy forces in the hemisphere just raises all kinds of questions that can be easily misrepresented about what we’re trying to do… we want to do everything we can without once again looking like America is stepping over, deciding this is what must be done,” Biden said.

According to documents seen by CNN, the mission will be helmed by a Kenyan police commissioner and a Jamaican police lieutenant, with other top posts filled by Kenyan staff. The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Chad, and Jamaica have also promised to contribute personnel to the mission.

May 23 was the informal deadline for a contingent to be on the ground, but the initial deployment was delayed last week after a Kenyan delegation assessed that equipment on the ground was insufficient, according to sources in Haiti and DC. Sources said a primary concern for the Kenyan assessors – including several high-ranking police commanders – was whether there would be helicopters at the ready for medical evacuation.

The MSS was authorized last year by the United Nations Security Council to assist Haitian National Police in fighting gang violence and provide stability in the Caribbean country, following a request for military intervention by its government. Police unions and law enforcement sources in Haiti have however complained about a lack of clear planning for how they will coordinate with the foreign force.

CNN has reached out to the Haitian National Police for comment on the delay of the mission and logistical preparations for Haiti.

CNN’s Caitlin Hu, Kylie Atwood, Natasha Bertrand, Haley Britzky and Jennifer Hansler contributed reporting from New York and Washington, DC.

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