Blackwater USA is a private military contractor based in the United States. Since 2007, it has been known as Blackwater Worldwide, reflecting the global nature of its operations, although many people know it by its previous title of “Blackwater USA.” The company provides logistical and support services to law enforcement and militaries, and it also designs technology and training programs which are designed to help law enforcement and military personnel.
The company was founded in 1997 by a former Navy SEAL who wanted to provide training support to local law enforcement. It is named for the distinctively dark groundwater near its headquarters in North Carolina. Erik Price, the company's founder, quickly expanded the scope of the organization, and by 2008, Blackwater was training 40,000 people annually, and sending employees all over the world.
Blackwater's training includes a wide scope of potential situations. Blackwater personnel can fly planes, captain ships, provide law enforcement support, assist military on the ground, make supply deliveries, handle specially trained canines, negotiate hostage situations, and perform a wide variety of other tasks. The company offers assistance with storage, including secure storage, moving cargo, modular construction, and a wide variety of other needs. Blackwater technology is used on firing ranges and in active war zones all over the world, and Blackwater staff turn up in a surprising number of locations.
Training programs at Blackwater include combat training, tactical training, and training in using a variety of weapons and negotiating a range of situations. In addition to maintaining a trained staff, the company also offers courses to people working in law enforcement, providing access to its sophisticated facilities for law enforcement agencies. The company prides itself on training flexible, talented personnel who can fit in almost anywhere, and many Blackwater personnel are former members of law enforcement and the military. While the company initially worked primarily domestically, the name change from Blackwater USA to Blackwater Worldwide was designed to reflect the company's increasing engagement overseas, and use of non-American personnel.
Historically, Blackwater has kept a very low profile. In 2004, some civilians became aware of the company's existence when four of its contractors were killed in Iraq. Blackwater USA began to take on a much more active profile at that point, sending staff to assist with Hurricane Katrina recovery, and providing support personnel for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In fact, in combination with other private military companies, Blackwater USA made up the second largest force in Iraq after the American military, leading some people to joke about a “coalition of the billing,” making a pun on the “coalition of the willing.”
The work of private military companies like Blackwater Worldwide has been criticized by some people who are concerned about the fact that such companies lack the oversight associated with military and law enforcement. Blackwater personnel are not subject to the same rules as the military, and the company has been involved in some scandals and questionable activities which have highlighted the need for better oversight.