What, them worry?
Suppose there’s a company that is under investigation for allegedly performing shoddy work that killed American soldiers in Iraq. Would you feel comfortable about giving more millions in taxpayer dollars to that outfit? That’s exactly what’s happening with Kellogg, Brown and Root, which was spun off in 2007 from Halliburton, the company that was once run by none other than Dick Cheney and is now being investigated in connection with the electrocution deaths of at least two American soldiers. Just a few months ago, according to the Associated Press, the Pentagon “rejected the company’s explanation of serious mistakes in Iraq and its proposed improvements.” Senior Pentagon official David Graff noted the company’s “continuing quality deficiencies” and said executives of the company “were not sufficiently in touch with the urgency or realities of what was actually occurring on the ground.” Graff went on to tell the company that “many within the (Department of Defense) have lost or are losing all remaining confidence in KBR’s ability to successfully and repeatedly perform the required electrical support services mission in Iraq.” Sounds to me like that’s a company we shouldn’t be doing further business with. But no. On the heels of that scathing assessment, the Pentagon has given KBR a new $35 million contract to build an electrical distribution center and undertake other projects in Iraq. It gets worse. The same day that sorry news broke, there was a report that KBR is preparing to plead guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. KBR is accused of paying tens of millions of dollars in bribes between 1995 and 2004 to Nigerian officials in exchange for getting engineering and construction contracts. An Army Corps of Engineers spokesman defended the latest contract, saying “KBR has not been debarred, suspended, nor have they been proposed for debarment from government contracting.” But the government’s own rules state that companies can be banned for a range of misdeeds that include “a lack of business integrity or business honesty.” Hmmmm. Maybe that pending guilty plea to bribery would fall under that category and, at the very least, someone will act then to “debar” KBR. And maybe there’s a better chance of that happening now that Cheney isn’t vice president. Some argue that KBR is the only company that has the necessary size and breadth of expertise to carry out some of the work in Iraq. If that’s the case, then the bid specifications - if the projects are even being bid out - should be changed, perhaps segmented, so that smaller companies could compete and allow us to avoid spending another dime with this band of misfits.