San Diego's Titan Corp. has sustained the highest number of casualties of 119 U.S. companies operating in Iraq, according to data released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
At least 136 Titan employees and subcontractors have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led war began in March 2003.
The defense contractor provides translators for Army and Marine Corps units in Iraq and other countries under a linguistic services contract with the Army's Intelligence and Security Command.
Titan has more than 4,000 employees in Iraq, including more than 3,000 Iraqi nationals working as translators with U.S. military units.
"People that you hire as civilian contractors to provide duties such as translation clearly are in harm's way," said Harry C. Spies, a former Titan vice president who is now at the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles.
Halliburton had the second-highest number of fatalities. The Labor Department data shows at least 26 Halliburton employees have died in Iraq. The company holds contracts that could eventually be worth up to $18 billion for work that ranges from restoring Iraq's oil production facilities to serving food to U.S. troops.
An additional 35 Halliburton subcontractors were counted in a review of civilian deaths compiled by Bloomberg. Most were truck drivers, construction workers and security guards affiliated with KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root.
The number of deaths among civilian contract workers totaled 295, according to insurance claims compiled by the Labor Department. Federal law requires U.S. companies to report death or disability payments for workers who are killed or injured overseas while employed on U.S. contracts.
Two death claims also appeared for another San Diego defense contractor, Science Applications International Corp., but it could not be determined how they were affiliated with the company.
"SAIC has had no fatalities in Iraq," spokesman Ron Zollars said yesterday.
The number of civilian contractor deaths in Iraq amounts to almost 20 percent of the number of military deaths.
At least 1,523 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war, according to yesterday's count by the Associated Press. At least 1,163 died as a result of hostile action, according to the Defense Department.
Many Iraqis are alarmed by a rise in attacks on Iraqi civilians and security personnel.
Titan's casualties in Iraq include Luqman Mohammed Kurdi Hussein, an Iraqi Kurd who was beheaded by Islamic militants in October.
Most civilian contractor deaths were caused by insurgent attacks, but some were accidental.
Gordon Sinclair, a Titan senior manager from Oviedo, Fla., and Todd Drobnick, another Titan manager from Everett, Wash., were killed Nov. 23, 2003, when their vehicle collided head-on with a petroleum truck. An Army chief warrant officer riding with them, Christopher G. Nason, was severely injured.
Titan has declined to discuss its personnel in Iraq since 2004, citing security concerns and employee sensitivities to publicity.
In a statement yesterday, Gene Ray, Titan chairman and chief executive, said the company has received hundreds of letters of commendation for its employees' service in Iraq.
"I just want to let you know how proud I am personally, and our whole corporation, of the outstanding job that our linguists are doing on a continuing basis to support a mission-critical function," Ray said.
The linguists contract has grown in recent years to become Titan's single biggest revenue source, accounting for 14 percent of the company's total in the last three months of 2004. The Army has extended Titan's language work through September.
Under the contract, Titan provides an estimated 4,700 translators and linguists to the U.S. military in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.
The job in Iraq is like working in the Wild West for many Titan employees, and Pentagon auditors have faulted the company's accounting procedures. Titan told its shareholders the Army had issued a "cure notice" that asked the company to address problems under the contract.
Another controversy erupted last year after translators working for Titan were implicated in an Army investigation of abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. The company later fired one interpreter in the prison.
The contract has grown dramatically since it was awarded in 1998, and that has posed fresh issues for the Pentagon, Spies said.
While it made sense then for the military to outsource linguistic services, Spies said the risks civilians face in Iraq are forcing the Pentagon to confront the other costs of outsourcing.
"If a military person is over there and dies in combat, there are a whole series of things that happen, of benefits that are available," Spies said. "But those military benefits are not available for private employees who die in combat."
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