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Even by Washington standards, nation-building is an obscure specialty, but Checchi and Company Consulting, Inc., DPK Consulting, and Chemonics International Inc. fill the niche. These firms are regularly hired by the U.S. government to help troubled places like Afghanistan and Kosovo improve their political and legal systems. Now, they may become an integral part of the American effort to create a democratic government in Iraq. These consultants have extensive experience in working on past contracts with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). They send experts into the field to do everything from writing constitutions to administering courts. Some employees are lawyers; others are political scientists and management specialists. The firms also hire local people in the nations in which they are working. In early March, USAID issued a request for proposals (RFP) that will serve as the blueprint for the postwar reconstruction of Iraq’s legal and political systems. Several likely bidders, including Checchi and Chemonics, refused to say whether they went after the contract (which was expected to be awarded by press time). But all said they would be interested in an Iraq job.

Tip Your Hat to the New Revolution Thomas Reynders, a consultant at Checchi, says that his firm “would go after an Iraq contract” as long as it felt it could complete the work in what is bound to be a “difficult environment.” A privately held company with nearly $20 million in revenue, D.C.�based Checchi has been helping nations develop courts and constitutions for 50 years. “Our role is basically technical assistance. We’re implementers,” says Reynders. “We do tell nations what sort of law they should have. We show them some models. But the law still has to be drafted by nationals of that country, adopted by their parliaments, and implemented by their institutions. You can’t just take the constitution of North Carolina, translate it, and drop it in.” Checchi has already jumped into Colombia and Kyrgyzstan, where its projects include regulatory reform and introducing trials with oral testimony and cross-examination. Other consulting firms, such as D.C.�based Chemonics, provide a broader array of services � legal, economic, trade, and infrastructure � that a developing or war-torn nation might need. “We expect that the Iraq work will be significant,” says Chemonics senior vice president Heather Peck. The company has nearly 1,000 employees and revenue near $185 million. “We do expect to be involved in it at some point. We have developed the tools for legal and constitutional reform.” Peck adds that her firm “will be able to apply what we have learned in Kosovo,” where Chemonics has been helping to revitalize the private sector. DPK Consulting � one of the few firms not based in the D.C. area � is also interested in Iraq. William Davis, a founder of the San Francisco � based business, says DPK looked at the recent USAID Iraq solicitation but did not bid, since it was already stretched thin with legal work in places such as Bolivia and Macedonia. However, Davis doesn’t rule out participating in Iraq at a later stage. Another key player is BearingPoint, Inc., the McLean, Virginia�based consulting behemoth that was known as KPMG Consulting, Inc., until last October. BearingPoint just won a $40 million USAID contract for the financial, legal, and regulatory reconstruction of Afghanistan. John Schneidewind, a BearingPoint spokesman, declined to comment on possible Iraq work, except to say his company “is well-prepared” for such an assignment. No matter who USAID hires for its Iraq jobs, several organizations are already jockeying for work as subcontractors. Experts say that in the world of USAID contracts, for-profit consulting firms commonly work with nonprofits such as the American Bar Association, which has also carved out a niche in development work. “It’s an interdisciplinary pursuit, and it’s very unlikely that one contractor will have all the needed resources,” says William Goodrich, a partner at D.C.’s Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn who advises clients on USAID work. To tackle the complex reconstructing of an Iraqi legal regime, he says, “one bidder will probably need to bring together resources from the private and public sectors.” The U.S.�Iraq Business Council, says president Rubar Sandi, “is working with some companies that are in the process of bidding” on the USAID solicitation. However, he declined to say which firms have teamed with the council, a nonprofit group founded last year to promote business in postwar Iraq. “We’d be the subcontractor, the Iraqi arm that provides the logistics on the ground,” Sandi says. “You need people at the street level to advise the police, to do criminal investigations, to run corrections, and so on.”

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