Despite the fact that the military contractor KBR/Halliburton has proven record of corruption, mismanagement, and homicidal incompetence in Iraq and around the world, the Pentagon under the new Administration went ahead away with a $35 million contract for electrical work on U.S. facilities in Iraq.

Privatization of government service is fine in theory so long as you have several competitors for the service. For example, if a local government offer for bid a contract to pave a city street, it will try get several bids to do the job. Most such governments have a sealed bid process to prevent any kind of corruption (in case say board member X has a brother who owns Construction company Y) and many such governments have low bid laws which force them to take the lowest possible bid for the job, unless of course that particular company has demonstrated incompetence in the past which such work.

With the Feds, the process is turned completely upside down. Companies like KBR have in some cases been given no-bid contracts to work in Iraq, completely waste the money they have been given and wind up doing shoddy work.  I’m sure some Pentagon flunkie will tell you the reason such companies get government work is they’re the only ones with the “global reach” and resources to do so. This is also probably why Blackwater continues to get work despite their bad reputation. Who else is there in the private sector? In other words the Federal government is contracting with a monopoly at monopoly prices and will probably get monopoly work for their trouble.

Until more such companies come forward to bid on such work (which would probably mean those based outside the U.S. but that’s another issue) the military should have its own team of electricians willing to do such large-scale work so they can provide competition to KBR. Otherwise taxpayer money will continue to be wasted on military projects and companies like KBR will continued to be corrupted by the process.

If the Obama Administration is going to be success at anything let’s hope it’s a success at changing the way the military shells out it work.