Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Military Contractors Charge U.S. Taxpayers $85 Billion

According to a piece written in The Huffington Post military contractors in Iraq have charged the American taxpayers $85. billion for their services.

It should come as no surprise to any informed person that these outsourced services were not less expensive than if they had been provided by our own military.

Worse, these military contractors are responsible for the accidental deaths and shootings of some of our U.S. military. Are these people typically incompetent Republican heckofajobs and buddies or are they just outright criminals? It is hard to tell the difference between the two under W. rule.

The Congressional Budget Office report comes on the heels of increased scrutiny of contractors in the last year, some of whom have been investigated in connection with shooting deaths of Iraqis and the accidental electrocutions of U.S. troops.

The United States has relied more heavily on contractors in Iraq than in any other war to provide services ranging from food service to guarding diplomats. About 20 percent of funding for operations in Iraq has gone to contractors, the report said.

According to a separate article in the New York Times written by James Risen:

The Pentagon's reliance on outside contractors in Iraq is proportionately far larger than in any previous conflict, and it has fueled charges that this outsourcing has led to overbilling, fraud and shoddy and unsafe work that has endangered and even killed American troops. The role of armed security contractors has also raised new legal and political questions about whether the United States has become too dependent on private armed forces on the 21st-century battlefield.

Fraud, shoddy and unsafe work, overbilling, the killing of American troops. What typical Republican criminal ineptitude.

I understand that some of my tax dollars are needed for our national security. I don’t have a problem with that. But I do have a problem when my tax dollars are paying the military at the same time the contractors are raiding our nation’s piggy bank, in the form of tax cuts and fraudulent overbillings.

According to the Huffington Post piece:

Currently, there are at least 190,000 contractors in Iraq and neighboring countries, a ratio of about one contractor per U.S. service member, the report says.

The study does not include monetary figures for 2008, so the total paid to contractors for work in the Iraq theater since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is probably much higher. If spending for contractors continues at about the same rate, by the end of the year, an estimated $100 billion will have been paid to military contractors for operations in Iraq.

James Risen of the New York Times article writes:

Contractors in Iraq now employ at least 180,000 people in the country, forming what amounts to a second, private, army, larger than the United States military force, and one whose roles and missions and even casualties among its work force have largely been hidden from public view. The widespread use of these employees as bodyguards, translators, drivers, construction workers and cooks and bottle washers has allowed the administration to hold down the number of military personnel sent to Iraq, helping to avoid a draft.

…casualties among its work force have largely been hidden from public view…… How typical.

This is why McCain and the other Republican hawks are threatening the planet with their cowboy diplomacy and bullying force. They can intimidate the planet with endless wars because McCain & Co. as with W. & Co., can hire soldiers at will, thus ensuring their own private army.

What we are witnessing here, folks, is the Republican’s full throated use of the military/industrial machinery at its worse. A perpetual state of war that will guarantee perpetual profits for the corporate fat cats.

Mr. Risen continues:

In addition, the dependence on private companies to support the war effort has led to questions about whether political favoritism has played a role in the awarding of multibillion-dollar contracts. When the war began, for example, Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, the company run by Dick Cheney before he was vice president, became the largest Pentagon contractor in Iraq. After years of criticism and scrutiny for its role in Iraq, Halliburton sold the unit, which is still the largest defense contractor in the war, and has 40,000 employees in Iraq.

The Huffington Post continues:

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Budget Committee, which requested the CBO review, said the Bush administration's reliance on military contractors has set a dangerous precedent.

The use of contractors "restricts accountability and oversight; opens the door to corruption and abuse; and, in some instances, may significantly increase the cost to American taxpayers," Conrad said in a statement.

The death of a Green Beret from Pittsburgh, Sgt. Ryan Maseth, who was electrocuted in January while showering in Iraq, prompted a House committee oversight hearing last month into whether contractor KBR Inc. has properly handled the electrical work at bases it is tasked with maintaining. The military has also said that five other deaths were due to improperly installed or maintained electrical devices, according to a congressional report.

More on the heckajobs from the Huffington Post:

In a separate matter, a federal grand jury is investigating whether Blackwater Worldwide guards acted illegally when they opened fire in a busy Baghdad intersection last September. Seventeen Iraqis died and the shooting strained US-Iraqi relations.

With no accountability, apparently.

The CBO estimated Tuesday that $6 billion to $10 billion has been spent on security work, and that the prices paid are comparable to a U.S. military unit doing that work. It estimated that about 25,000-30,000 employees of security firms were in Iraq as of early 2008.

The report said the legal status of contractor personnel is uncertain, particularly for those who are armed. It also noted that military commanders have less direct authority over the actions of contractors than they would a subordinate because the contract is managed by a government contracting officer and not a military commander.

That's because that's how the government designed the relationship, said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel for the Professional Services Council, which represents government contractors.

"There is accountability through the contract and to the contracting officer," Chvotkin said.

We know that this “accountability through the contract and to the contracting officer” means no accountability in W. world.

Those of us who earn less than $250K per year have shouldered the biggest tax burden to pay for this Republican fat cat stealing fest while the high rollers at Halliburton, KBR and Blackwater have not only received the lion’s share of W.s tax cuts, but they have reaped obscene profits by overbilling and fleecing our national piggy bank, too.

Back in the 1950’s, following WW2, President Eisenhower warned the American people about the clear and present dangers of a U.S. military/industrial complex. It seems we are living through the nightmare envisioned by President Eisenhower today. The military/industrial complex has obviously come to its full fruition during the W. years. McCain and his Republican hawks and soul mates fully intend to keep the machine humming along. According to Pat Buchanan, of all people, McCain’s goals for global war and U.S. hegemony make Cheney’s look like those of a middle school playground bully. Heaven help us all.

“Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich.” (Sir) Peter Ustinov.

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