So technically, this is Saturday’s post, but I’m posting it a day early and posting the interview tomorrow. I want to tackle something that most of you guys may not be familiar with…the no bid defense contract that was given to Halliburton/KBR (2 different companies now, was 1 then) by President Bush in 2003 to work in Iraq. Keep in mind this isn’t the only no bid contracts awarded, just the one that I’m going to focus on for now. Now for those of you with no clue what they who or what they did, I’ll make it simple. Logistics. They ran the water treatment plants which would provide soldiers clean water to drink and shower in, provided the meals for the troops, did the laundry for troops, performed basic maintenance around the bases, helps build the bases, and sometimes provides the tents and living quarters for the troops. They were working on a cost plus contract which meant that they would spend the money and the government would pay them for whatever they spent plus add a percentage as profit. In other words, you and I would pay them back with our tax dollars, no questions asked. What resulted was something that is hard to imagine. I’ll go one by one through the issues that I mentioned and talked about just a few of the problems that have been brought to light.
The first thing I mentioned was the water treatment plants. Being in Iraq, sometimes in the middle of the desert, means there’s no clean water around. Halliburton/KBR was responsible for getting water to the bases and filtering it to get the contaminations out. In one instance a Halliburton employee was using the bathroom and saw something moving in the water in his toilet bowl, leading them to test the water in their storage tanks and there was no chlorine. The water was contaminated with diseases such as malaria, typhus, and a whole list of others and our soldiers were showering in it every day. After the realization of this, they tested all 67 of the water treatment facilities and 63 of them weren’t providing safe water. If they don’t die on the battlefield they might die from being infected by diseases. News reports broke the story but it never gained the attention it deserved.
They worked the mess halls for the troops. This was a big complaint from several soldiers that I talked to because the wait lines would be extremely long, food was rationed, and they only opened during certain times of the day. Dining halls were targets for attacks. When asked what might have helped one former soldier said that they should have went to a 24 shift where they always had food ready. Because they only served meals at certain times, the insurgents knew what times that was and could attack then. So why wouldn’t they do that? It’s simple…to save themselves money since they get paid by how many soldiers they feed. On top of that, when the defense department began looking into the costs Halliburton gave for feeding the troops, they found $1.8 billion dollars in unsupported costs. Where did that money go? Who knows. They were charging the US tax payers, aka, you and I, $45 for a 6 pack of Coke or Pepsi. Last time I checked they didn’t cost quite that much at Walmart.
Laundry. They couldn’t have messed laundry up could they? Think again. The soldiers had duffle bags that they had to put their clothes in to give to Halliburton to wash. Want to take a guess how much they charged us to do ONE bag of laundry? If you said $99 then you are correct. A hundred dollars PER BAG of laundry that they did, multiplied by the number of soldiers that were there…make you mad yet? Wonder why we’re so far in debt? Wonder why the wars are costing us SO much money? On top of charging so much, there were always reports by the soldiers that the clothes were grimy and worse than before they sent them. When one soldier stopped sending his clothes to them, and started washing them in the sink, his chain of command told him that he wasn’t allowed to wash it on his own and had to take it to KBR.
They helped to build the bases and provided tents on some occasions for the troops. Now if they’re getting paid back for whatever they spend, surely they gave them top of the line tents right? No, they gave them some that were molded and caused a lot of soldiers to get sick with upper respiratory infections and tiny cots to sleep on. Keep in mind, this wasn’t in EVERY situation, but when you’re dealing with our soldiers, fighting for our freedom, even ONE case is too many.
So how were the Halliburton/KBR managers living over there? That’s a good question. If you think they’re staying in these run down tents and drinking contaminated water, you’re dead wrong. They had a cost plus contract so why should they save money on where they stay? They stayed hundreds of miles away in ocean front resorts with luxurious swimming pools. They had 5 star meals catered in. Of course they had jet skis for the workers to go out and play on. Hey, it’s a cost plus contract so whatever they spend the taxpayers are footing the bill so it’s okay. One truck driver was told “don’t question it, enjoy it.” Mad yet? Well just wait…these managers obviously needed vehicles to drive. So every manager and their secretaries bought brand new $40,000 trucks, fully loaded, chrome rims, leather seats, everything. Some wanted H2 Hummers some Cadillac Escalades…hey we’re paying for it, who cares! Keep in mind, some of these people never left these resorts and never even drove their cars. Now obviously they weren’t buying them, they were leasing them. How much were the lease payments? Funny you should ask…how does $7,000 a month sound? Oh AND it was a 3 year contract. You do the math…$250,000 for a $40,000 truck. And you thought those buy here, pay here lots would rip you off!
Okay so I mentioned logistics…they had to deliver certain items to the troops, something like computers. Well what happened if they get 100 brand new computers in that isn’t what they ordered? They’ve already paid for it…do they send it back and get the right stuff? Nah, just go ahead and order the right stuff and pay for it too. Well what do you do with all the other stuff that was wrong? Took them out to the burn pits and destroy them…claiming it as a “loss” of course so they could get that money back. What if your supply truck gets a flat tire on the terrible “roads” in Iraq? Uh oh, you don’t have a spare tire on your supply truck so just blow the thing up and get a new one. $80,000 supply trucks blown up because of a flat tire and we’re paying for them to get a new one.
All of this is disturbing. How could this happen? They were given a no-bid, cost plus contract by the Bush administration with virtually zero regulation or reason to try and save money. They weren’t going to be replaced so why try saving money? Why were they chosen? Most people that defend the choice say that it’s because they are simply the best at what they do. I ask the simple question, if they’re the best at what they do, they obviously should have won the contract if it were placed up for bidding. The real reason they were chosen is fairly simple. In 1995 Halliburton named a new CEO of their company. Who did they choose? Dick Cheney. Yes that Dick Cheney. Our lovable Vice President that shoots his hunting buddies. After becoming Vice President, Cheney “severed” all ties with Halliburton, but in 2001, he had over 400,000 shares in the company, plus a 401(k) retirement account with them. In 2002, his total assets valued between $19 million and $86 million from Halliburton assets. I wouldn’t exactly call that severing ties. In 2003, Cheney’s former company is awarded a no bid defense contract in Iraq. Ironic? I think not.