Halliburton's "War On Integrity" genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Money growing on trees

It was recently reported that the no-bid contract with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, & Root (KBR) to provide a variety of services in Iraq would be cancelled. Since early on in their contract, Halliburton has come under scrutiny for its business and billing practices. Despite the reports in the news about this development, Halliburton will still be able to bid on contracts and more importantly, they get to walk away with a large sum of money they were likely not justified to charge. Margaret Carlson has an excellent article detailing the abuses here at Bloomberg.com.

Two sets of hearings by Representative Henry Waxman and Senator Byron Dorgan, using the Pentagon's own information, exposed Halliburton's deceitful billing practices: charging for twice as many employees as actually hired and always choosing the most expensive vendor. Instead of paying 80 cents a pound for bacon, Halliburton paid $6. Instead of $450,000 for ice, Halliburton paid $3.4 million, blaming transportation costs. Where did it come from, Alaska?

It would be bad enough if this awful behavior claimed no victims, but Halliburton's greed put soldiers already in harm's way at greater risk. Rather than purify the water, KBR ignored regulations so that soldiers bathed and brushed their teeth in water with E. coli bacteria floating in it. Rather than fix new but poorly maintained trucks, KBR abandoned or torched them, leaving soldiers stranded along roads mined with explosive devices, according to an eyewitness at Dorgan's hearings.

Letting Halliburton continue, much less bid on government logistics contracts again, sends a terrible message. It says, If I catch you bilking the government, I'll suggest you knock it off. But I'll still pay you, and require only that you compete for the opportunity to do so again -- and likely win because of experience gained from three years on the job, more information than anyone but the Army itself, and an infrastructure already in place. Halliburton could lose if federal procurement officials took into account ``past performance,'' as required, although their pathetic performance in the past makes this unlikely.

In March, Waxman tried to amend the defense appropriations bill to deny contracts to any firm the Pentagon found billed more than $100 million in unreasonable costs. Republicans blocked it.

While Dick Cheney no longer works for Halliburton, it is hard to imagine that the company's mode of operation is much different from when he led the organization. In all likelihood, many of the methods were probably put in place under his leadership as it would be hard to conclude that the company suddenly reversed its ethical profile. Clearly we can't directly blame Cheney for their actions but we can blame our government for allowing the company to cheat the country out of huge sums of money. For a man focused on dealing with problems through the use of force it seems only appropriate to coin this debacle the "war on integrity". As with all Cheney driven wars, the cost to America is inexcusable.

Daniel DiRito | July 17, 2006 | 9:33 PM
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