- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 24, 2004

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Employees of defense contractor Lockheed Martin will observe a moment of silence at noon today for Paul M. Johnson Jr., the systems engineer from New Jersey beheaded a week ago by militants in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, the Bethesda company’s chief executive officer, Vance Coffman, sought to reassure employees about increased efforts to keep its workers in the Middle East safe, noting in e-mail sent to all 130,000 employees Wednesday that all workers in that region are volunteers and their dependents have been brought back to the United States.

“In recent weeks, before this tragic event, we had taken steps to enhance security, working with U.S. and in-country officials,” Mr. Coffman wrote. “We’re building on these efforts to further bolster our security.”

Other companies with employees in Iraq and Saudi Arabia likewise are tightening security following the beheadings of three people and other attacks on civilian contractors there. Company officials say employee security is paramount and they are working more closely with government officials in monitoring security concerns.

Jim Hollatz, head of the international engineering firm Stanley Consultants Inc. of Muscatine, Iowa, said it now is “more careful about who we hire and what level of security we get” when retaining security services to protect employees traveling within Iraq.

“They say, ‘Do you want just one vehicle and one guard with a gun, or do you want vehicles front and back and four guys with guns?’ ” Mr. Hollatz described recent discussions.

Stanley has had more than 20 workers in Baghdad since September 2003 identifying and prioritizing reconstruction projects in Iraq under a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contract.

In March, the company and two joint venture partners, including construction management firm Hill International Inc. of Marlton, N.J., won a sizable contract to manage construction projects for the Coalition Provisional Authority. Those projects include construction or rebuilding of roads, hospitals and clinics, government buildings and utility facilities, said John Paolin, a Hill International spokesman.

Mr. Hollatz said Stanley employees in Iraq live, eat and work in the same buildings as Army Corps of Engineers personnel, so they have some degree of military protection. All have undergone training in personal security.

Stanley had employees in Saudi Arabia until the end of May — a few weeks after American Nicholas Berg was beheaded by captors in Iraq — but employees in the past two weeks have declined to go to Saudi Arabia for other projects.

Lucent Technologies of Murray Hill, N.J., which has a $75 million contract to design and construct a telecommunications network in Iraq, has evacuated a small number of non-American dependents of employees in Saudi Arabia, but had no dependents in Iraq.

“We have enhanced our security practices in the region,” particularly since the May 2003 bombings in Saudi Arabia, spokesman Bill Price said.

Oil, construction and engineering giant Halliburton of Houston, one of the biggest contractors in Iraq, has stepped up security precautions because of recent events, according to spokeswoman Wendy Hall.

She said the company has more than 30,000 employees and subcontractors working in the Iraq-Kuwait region, is processing several hundred personnel each week to deploy there and has more than 100,000 applicants for jobs in the Middle East.

Industrial conglomerate Ingersoll-Rand of Woodcliff Lake, N.J., said it no longer has employees in Iraq because of safety concerns. Office phone system maker Avaya Inc. of Basking Ridge, N.J., has a handful of non-American sales and service people in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin, employees and others have already donated $200,000 to a fund for the family of Mr. Johnson, a 22-year employee originally from Eagleswood Township, N.J. Mr. Johnson, 49, had lived in Saudi Arabia for nearly 12 years and was working on targeting and night-vision systems for Apache helicopters when militants seeking the release of al Qaeda prisoners abducted him on June 12.

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