Military contracts a mess
Las Vegas Sun (2008-02-08)
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Contractors making mistakes are sometimes paid for correcting their own errors
Fri, Feb 8, 2008 (2 a.m.)
A new federal audit says the military has become so dependent on private contractors that the companies are nearly impossible to fire even when they make mistakes or fail to do the jobs for which they were hired.
A report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, cites the example of ITT Federal Services International, a private company the Army hired to maintain troops’ equipment, including combat vehicles.
Combat vehicles that had been declared ready for battle failed inspections and had to be fixed again. And the company’s database was in shambles. Still, the company has received Army contracts totaling about $638 million since 2004.
Even when military contractors fail to deliver what they are paid to do, they receive bonuses and fees for labor that are written into their contracts, the GAO says. In some cases, contractors are paid twice once for the labor involved when the job was flubbed and a second time for correcting the errors.
Sen. Claire Mc Caskill
, D-Mo., has proposed legislation that would create a commission to examine contract agreements forged between the military and private companies in wartime.
Plenty of evidence exists regarding the problems with U.S. military contractors. One notable, and tragic, case is that of Blackwater Worldwide, a private security company hired to protect U.S. diplomats, supply convoys and military installations in Iraq.
In September a group of Blackwater guards opened fire in a Baghdad marketplace, killing 17 Iraqi civilians. The FBI found that 14 of the deaths were unjustified. The company was allowed to continue working for the U.S. government despite two years of reports warning that private security contractors had inadequate oversight.
And details of a nightmarish incident unfolded at a House subcommittee hearing last year when a female employee of KBR Inc., a private security contractor, testified that she had been raped by co-workers in Iraq in 2005 an incident the company denied ever happened.
Congress needs to put the hammer down on the military’s contracts with private companies. A homeowner who hires a plumber or other service worker would not pay that person if the job wasn’t done correctly. Likewise, the U.S. government should not be paying contractors for services that have not been correctly delivered.