Jeremy Scahill / The Nation – 2009-05-22 21:43:44
WASHINGTON (May 20, 2009) — The Department of Defense paid former Halliburton subsidiary KBR more than $80 million in bonuses for contracts to install electrical wiring in Iraq. The award payments were for the very work that resulted in the electrocution deaths of US soldiers, according to Department of Defense documents revealed today in a Senate hearing.
More than $30 million in bonuses were paid months after the death of Sgt. Ryan Maseth, a highly decorated, 24-year-old Green Beret, who was electrocuted while taking a show at a US base in January 2008. His death, the result of improper grounding for a water pump, has been classified by the US Army Criminal Investigations Division (CID) as a “negligent homicide.”
Maseth’s death had originally been labeled an accident. Bonuses were paid to KBR in 2007 and 2008, after CID investigators had officially expressed concerns about the quality of KBR’s electrical work. For its part, KBR denies any culpability for the electrocution deaths.
This information was revealed at a hearing of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. According to the committee’s chair, Sen. Byron Dorgan, the rewards KBR received under its LOGCAP contracts were supposed to be for work of the “highest quality” with “no deficiencies” or problems. Dorgan said KBR’s work was “shoddy” and “unprofessional.”
Some eighteen US soldiers have died since 2003 as a result of KBR’s “shoddy work,” according to Sen. Frank Lautenberg. KBR/Halliburton, of which Dick Cheney was chairman and CEO from 1995 to 2000, has been the single largest corporate beneficiary of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It continues to operate globally on US government contracts.
Charles Smith, the former Army official who managed the contracts under which KBR performed electrical work in Iraq, testified that it was “highly inappropriate” that KBR received these bonuses for what he called “dangerously substandard” work. He said that the Army was well aware of KBR’s “poor performance” since the beginning of the Iraq invasion, and yet continued to reward KBR because the military was “afraid” KBR would cease work.
He said there was “a culture that decided KBR was too big to fail and too important to be held to account.” The “perverse incentive is that there was no incentive” for KBR to do quality work because they received bonuses for poor work.
Senator Dorgan said there are “tens of thousands of examples” of unnecessary risks to US soldiers, including deaths that have arisen as a result of KBR’s work. “Why should [KBR] be getting more contracts now that we know all this information?” asked Sen. Bob Casey. “The Defense Department has not answered these questions.”
James Childs, a master electrician hired by the Army to review electrical work in Iraq during 2008, testified that KBR’s work in Iraq was the “most hazardous, worst quality work” he’d ever seen. He said his investigation found improper wiring in “every” building KBR wired in Iraq (of which there are thousands) and that KBR’s rewiring work in buildings that were previously safely wired resulted in the electrical system becoming unsafe.
Childs said that KBR did not do any work “according to code.” He also testified that the same risks exist in Afghanistan, which he recently visited. “While doing inspections in Afghanistan, I found the exact same code violations,” Childs said.
Eric Peters, a master electrician who worked for KBR in Iraq as recently as 2009, said that 50 percent of the KBR-managed buildings he saw were not properly wired. “I worried every day people would be injured or killed as a result of this work,” Peters testified. He estimated that at least half the electricians hired by KBR — many of them cheaper-costing Third Country Nationals (TCNs) — to service the US military in Iraq would not have been hired to work in the United States, saying they were not trained in US or UK electrical standards.
TCNs — from places like India, Bangladesh and Bosnia — are estimated to have done some 60 percent of the electrical work for KBR in Iraq. Peters charged that KBR allowed trainees to take notes in to certification tests, making it very easy to be cleared for work.
Peters also charged that KBR “frowned upon” any refusal to sign off on work that Peters deemed incomplete or unsafe. Peters and others who testified said that “all over theater,” meaning everywhere in Iraq, KBR would effectively double-bill US taxpayers by leaving electrical work half-done or incorrectly done and then billing taxpayers again to repair its own shoddy work.
Peters characterized KBR managers as “completely unqualified” and said he is not a “disgruntled former employee” but rather a “disgusted former employee.”
Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of the bestselling Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, published by Nation Books. He is an award-winning investigative journalist and correspondent for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Why Are We Giving $80 Million to the
Iraq War Profiteer Responsible
For Electrocuting US Soldiers?
Hold KBR/Halliburton accountable.
Tell Secretary of DefenseRobert Gates to stop giving a free pass to Bush/Cheney cronies profiteering from the Iraq war
Kate Stayman-London /CREDO Action
(May 20, 2009) — Call it Dick Cheney’s legacy.
The Department of Defense just gave $80 million in bonuses to KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton, for electrical wiring contracts in Iraq. But in a dramatic Senate hearing, the DoD’s own documents revealed that US soldiers have died via electrocution as a direct result of KBR’s shoddy and substandard work.
The Nation has issued a chilling report based on evidence revealed this week. Eighteen U.S. soldiers have died as a result of KBR’s work. One of the electrocuted soldiers was a decorated Green Beret whose death was classified by the US Army Criminal Investigations Division as a “negligent homicide.”
Demand that the Department of Defense seek criminal charges against the corporate executives responsible and block any new contracts from being awarded to KBR.
KBR/Halliburton is not just distinguished by its close relationship with Dick Cheney, the company’s former CEO and the architect of the disastrous invasion of Iraq. It also happens to be the single largest war profiteer from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, may still lead the Department of Defense under the Obama administration. But that doesn’t mean we can’t end the blank checks for Bush and Cheney’s cronies and hold war profiteers accountable.
Sign this petition today to ask Secretary Gates to rescind the KBR bonuses, pursue criminal charges against the officials responsible for the electrocution deaths of U.S. soldiers, and stop awarding defense contracts to KBR & Halliburton.
• Click here to urge Secretary Gates to stop giving a free pass to Bush/Cheney cronies who are profiteering from the Iraq War..
“The former Halliburton subsidiary KBR is responsible for the deaths of 18 U.S. service members as a result of its shoddy and unprofessional electrical work. Instead of rewarding KBR with millions of dollars in bonuses, the Department of Defense must:
* Rescind the 80 million in bonuses already awarded to KBR
* Pursue criminal charges for negligent homicide against KBR/Halliburton officials who were responsible for the electrocution deaths of U.S. soldiers
* Immediately suspend the awarding of defense contracts to KBR and/or any KBR/Halliburton related entities
Secretary Gates, we the undersigned ask that you hold war profiteers accountable and safeguard the lives of our soldiers.”