Don Bauder 7:49 p.m., May 22
Agency With Ties To Blackwater Running Training Facility In Otay Mesa After Another Name Change
Last week, Gail Collins, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times, wrote a story about privatization. In the article, Collins describes privatization efforts that haven't gone so well. Some examples she listed were privatizing prisons, educational facilities, and training of "mercenaries" by private security firms such as Blackwater and it's affiliated companies Xe Services, and now Academi.
In recent years the Blackwater firm has gone through some changes, mostly name changes. Last year, new investors purchased many of the assets and facilities owned by Blackwater offshoot, Xe Services, rebranding the company under the new name, Academi.
Name changes and ownership aside, Blackwater/Xe/Academi is no stranger to San Diego County. In 2008, plans to build a training facility in Potrero was shot down. A few years later, the U-T San Diego stumbled upon a training facility in a remote area of the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation run by a former a Blackwater employee.
But, there is one other training facility in San Diego County that hasn't been talked about for some time; Academi Southwest, located just a few blocks away from the Otay Mesa border.
In 2008, Mayor Jerry Sanders took some flak for not questioning what seemed to be a rather peculiar permit obtained by representatives from Blackwater.
"The one man standing in the way of Blackwater is Mayor Jerry Sanders," read a letter from Jess Durfee of the San Diego democratic party.
"He has the power -- under San Diego's "strong mayor" system -- to launch a full investigation into the false pretenses Blackwater used to obtain a "vocational trade school" permit for their facility in Otay Mesa."
Of course that project was eventually approved.
According to a spokesperson for the firm, Academi Southwest "offers a variety of services available to government, corporate and individual customers in a 61,000-square-foot indoor training facility. The facility includes a 25-yard indoor multi-purpose range, classrooms, a 2,500 square foot indoor tactical shoot house, a three-story 3,000-square-foot ship simulator, and a tower configured for the instruction of technical climbing and rigging."
The facility "provides training for civilians, local law enforcement and government agencies."