Privatized U.S. Wars Bilking Taxpayer Billions

Not that this is in any way surprising, but the first report to Congress from the Wartime Contracting Commission reportedly presents bleak asssessments of how taxpayers have been bilked out of billions of dollars — that’s in addition to the $23 billion that has already been reportedly lost, stolen or is unaccounted for in Iraq — that have recurringly been misused or lost due to fraud, poor management, weak or non-existent oversight and a failure to learn from past mistakes.

Private contractors account for practically half of the U.S. personnel involved in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Billions of dollars have been lost due to waste, fraud and abuse. If it sounds familiar, it’s because poor management and weak or non-existent oversight has been the modus operandi in Washington for the past eight plus years and corrupted cronyism has prevailed. The Bush administration’s illegal occupation of Iraq created quite a war profiteering racket for numerous Bush administration cronies. Cronyism is still big in U.S. politics — President Obama has used it regularly too.

The decision to build a $30 million dining hall at a U.S. base in Iraq, which is scheduled to be finished on Christmas of this year, was based on bad planning and botched paperwork. Construction on the dining hall can’t stop because the project is too far along to halt it.

In addition to the documented poor management and weak oversight, the 111-page Wartime Contracting Commission report details how tens of billions of dollars have been misspent since 2001. That’s not at all surprising since the U.S. reliance on contractors to support two illegal wars has grown to ‘unprecedented proportions.’

Government Has No Idea What Contractors Are Doing

According to the MSNBC article, more than 240,000 private sector employees currently support military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands more work for the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

In keeping with tradition, the Pentagon hasn’t provided enough trained staff to watch over the contractors and the government has no central database of who the contractors are, what services they provide or how much they’re paid — which is quite a contrast to the central databases created to maintain data obtained from performing illegal surveillance on U.S. citizens. More governmental waste was created because the government has no idea of what contractors are doing.

Based on President Obama’s decision to increase the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, new bases will be built and existing bases will be expanded without proper oversight, which will end up costing taxpayers more money. Shoddy construction from contractors can be found in Iraq and Afghanistan.

KBR Linked To Several Deficiencies

KBR Inc., one of former Vice President Cheney’s cronies has been the primary contractor in Iraq, being paid nearly $32 billion since 2001. Billions of that has ended up wasted because of poorly defined work orders, the lack of adequate oversight and because of inefficiencies with KBR.

KBR has been linked to several of the deficiencies found in Iraq, including the dining hall snafu mentioned above, but the commission faulted the military’s planning for that too.

A dining facility at Camp Delta was badly needed because it was too small, had a saggy ceiling, poor lighting and an unsanitary wooden floor and the Army said a new dining facility was needed in July 2008. KBR was handed the contract for a new dining facility in September 2008. It turns out the existing Camp Delta dining facility had just finished being renovated by KBR in June 2008 for the price of $3.36 million.

Because paperwork was never updated and the need for the project was never reviewed after the security agreement was signed, KBR is being paid for the same project again, after shoddily building it the first time. The commission urged commanders in Iraq to thoroughly review all construction and improvement projects and only continue those that are essential to the life, health and safety of U.S. troops.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is intimately involved with Haliburton and KBR, which explains why so many expensive no-bid contracts have been awarded to them, as well as why little has been done about all the fraud they perpetrated.

KBR, formerly a Haliburton subsidiary, has been linked to the ‘vast majority’ of war-zone fraud with 32 cases of suspected overbilling, bribery and other violations since 2004. KBR is also under fire for a scandal involving the electrocution deaths of more than a dozen soldiers as a result of faulty electrical work — for which they were paid more than $80 million in bonuses. More information on the fraudulent privatization of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can be found in this article by Jeremy Scahill.

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