East Tennessee firm to participate in big military contract

By Josh Flory, Knoxville News Sentinel —

An East Tennessee defense contractor has been tapped to participate in a large contract aimed at safely moving supplies to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Vanquish Worldwide, based in Friendsville, is led by a former Marine with ties to a pair of other local defense contractors.

Earlier this month, the company said it had been awarded a prime contract by U.S. Central Command to distribute reconstruction material, security equipment, fuel and other items to military bases in Afghanistan. The contract is worth $983 million, but will be split by up to 20 contractors, most of which are Afghan companies.

Eric Barton, president and CEO of Vanquish, said the company is initially expecting around $4 million a month in revenue from the contract. He said 254 contractors bid on the project, and cited Vanquish’s efforts to improve the standards of Afghan partners as a reason the company was successful.

“The key here is that the American government politically wants to see the Afghan trucking industry become more adept to (the) international standard,” he said.

Barton is a former employee of defense contractor EOD Technology, which is based in Lenoir City, and the former chairman of defense contractor Relyant, which is based in Maryville. He said he formed Vanquish in June 2007 and that it initially focused on subcontracting for Relyant and other companies but in December shifted to focus on prime contracting.

Barton said the company has just under 30 direct employees, but 760 employees who work for the company as subcontractors.

In testimony submitted to a U.S. House subcommittee this month, Kim Denver, the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for procurement, said an important tenet of the counterinsurgency strategy is to increase awards to Afghan companies. The National Afghan Trucking contract, he indicated in the statement, responds to the goal of creating an environment for Afghan companies to compete.

“NAT keeps soldiers and Army trucks off the roads and frees Coalition forces to combat the Taliban directly, reducing overall troop requirements,” Denver said in the statement.

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