By Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief foreign affairs correspondent
A source close to the advisory group that reported to Secretary of State Rice today on what to do about Blackwater tells NBC they laid out corrective actions they think are needed - including a major new set of policies to coordinate private contractors in Iraq. They told Rice there is a total lack of coordination outside the Green Zone - and that this needs to be fixed in "days or weeks" at most - rather than waiting for the FBI report on Blackwater to be completed. The team told Rice this problem is much bigger than Blackwater - and needs to be resolved urgently.
Rice was given detailed recommendations - including that there be "unity of effort" - one approach to coordinate who operates in the war zone. Members of the team were "taken aback" by the lack of control over literally dozens of private contractors working for the state dept - the pentagon - NGO's - and private companies in the war zone. The team also recommends that whoever takes over Blackwater's duties - if that happens - there must be much better coordination with Iraq's govt.
During their time in Iraq - the State Department team met with both Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
Experts on the team do not believe that either the military or State Department security agents have the resources to replace Blackwater, should its contract be cancelled. That would mean expanding the duties of one of the other contractors already working for State Department - perhaps by hiring some of the current Blackwater employees. Blackwater's current contract expires in May. The Maliki government is pushing for them to be ousted from Iraq.
Rice testifies Wednesday - and is planning to consult Secretary of Defense Robert Gates - to try to come up with preliminary recommendations this week.