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KBR and the Pentagon — Billions More and No Turning Back

I am sure that many will view the latest military contract award to Kellogg, Brown and Root [1](former subsidiary of Halliburton) — worth upwards of $2.8 billion for work in Iraq —  through a political lens. We all know the company’s hold on Washington to be as tenacious as a barnacle on a pirate ship. However, KBR’s relationship has gone far beyond political favoritism. When the paymasters at the Pentagon say KBR is the only outfit to do the job, believe it. The “job” has turned into a massive shift of military operations to the private sector. There is no going back now. KBR is the largest and most capable defense contractor out there, and without it doing everything from building airfields and barracks to serving food, handling waste removal, delivering water and fuel — well, the Pentagon would not be able to wage the war alone.

“In short, we will be bringing as many contractors as we are troops – especially KBR [Kellogg, Brown and Root] – because they now feed and house the military, and the military has no real choice, because they have let that part of their logistics atrophy,” pointed out Dina Rasor [2], director of the Follow the Money Project and co-author of Betraying our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War, in an interview last yea [3]r on the surge of new contract opportunities into Afghanistan.

Consider this: last year, the head of Army contracting admitted to the Commission on Wartime Contractin [4]g that they relied so much on KBR that it is unlikely that the “organic” force could handle the load if KBR was suddenly dropped from the war. Others told Rasor in interviews for her book that individual Army commanders did not push KBR (then part of Halliburton) on perceived overcharges because the Army did not want to risk the company pulling out of deals and leaving their men and women high and dry without the supplies the company was contracted to deliver. The Commission on Wartime Contracting has been rattling cages on this issue, but they have no teeth and no one is listening. As long as the administration insists the U.S must have upwards of 200,000 service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, there will be a need for a corresponding “shadow force” in equal number. Currently, there are 242,230 contractors on the U.S payroll serving in those war theaters alone.

So, as long as there is this demand, the Pentagon is forced to retain a company that is accused and/or responsible — according to numerous audits, investigations and lawsuits — for myriad waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer funds since 2001. The latest: a huge class action suit by sick vets who say KBR was responsible for untreated potable water and the massively polluted burn pits on various Army bases [5], as well as the death of at least one soldier who was electrocuted by a shoddy base shower built by KBR subcontractors. There are ongoing probes into at least 17 similar electrocutions. The company has denied that it had anything to do with it — and has denied connections to the dirty water and burn pits, too.

Waging war “on the cheap” — that’s what the Pentagon has wrought. Now it is a victim of its own “practical” schemes.

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#1 Comment By Chris Moore On March 3, 2010 @ 11:59 am

I understand that Washington wants to use Halliburton because the federal government (in this case, the Pentagon) is so wasteful and inefficient.

But isn’t paying tens of billions in taxpayer money to a private special interest that can and does take chunks of that money and turn around lobby for more war in order to expand its business and profits technically called fascism?

Does it ever occur to these Big Government thieves in Washington to just scale everything back, or are we to the point now that the machine is so big and self-perpetuating that its too late for that, and just bracing ourselves for the day that the country finally has grown so top-heavy that it simply collapses?

Marxist/Neocon Washington’s new slogan: “Forward, comrades, from each according to his ability to pay (us) until economic collapse!”

#2 Comment By Tony J On March 3, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

So this is yet another case of the Bush Administration leaving a totally screwed-up and probably criminal mess behind for Obama to clean-up?

A semi-privatised military machine that – can’t – be fixed, because it’s already up to its neck in two draining wars and KBR, thanks to the previous Administration, is so deeply embedded into the military support system that it’s considered not only “too big to fail”, but also too big to even annoy.

But I’m sure that once the Congressional GOP hears about the problem they’ll stop being the guys who opposed Franken’s anti-rape bill because it just might force the Pentagon to cut its ties with KBR, and they’ll be right up there supporting a White House proposal to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan so that the military can be reformed to end its reliance on private contractors.

Right?

#3 Comment By Adam Rurik On March 4, 2010 @ 2:36 am

Bringing true capitalism to the heathen! Give Praise!

#4 Comment By Paula K On March 4, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

On this subject,( which is an important one), Democrats & Republicans are in agreement. If they really cared about this country they would do something about this obscene mis use of tax payer money.

How dare congress ignore KBR’S abuses, thievery and treasonist acts. Our country and people lives have been ruined, their children killed, their country destroyed and instead of admitting common ground on any subject they ignore this one and do nothing. Letting it continue is proof these politician don’t give a sh– about anybody or anything except their own power and their own individual pocket books.