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The 10 Worst Post-9/11 Military Contracting Boondoggles

Since 9/11, America's wars haven't brought victories, but have spawned countless scandals, scams and boondoggles. Here are the 10 worst.

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6. The Kabul bank bust: This thing's so screwed-up, we  wrote a whole explainer about it [9]. Since 2003, the US Agency for International Development has paid $92 million to the accounting giant Deloitte to train executives of the Afghanistan Central Bank. The Central Bank oversaw Kabul Bank, Afghanistan's largest private bank, which had an estimated $900 million in assets loaded with worthless loans. Unsurprisingly, the bank collapsed in 2010, taking the nascent Afghan financial system down with it. (Kabul Bank's founder and CEO  explained [9]: "What I'm doing is not proper, not exactly what I should do. But this is Afghanistan.") In effect, USAID paid a Wall Street firm beaucoup bucks to fiddle while the Afghan market burned. "USAID staff learned of serious bank problems from reading about them in the  Washington Post. Deloitte never notified the agency," the contracting commission reported.

5. Never leave a mandarin behind: In 2005, the Defense Logistics Agency awarded Swiss-based Supreme Foodservice a fat contract to ship " vitally needed [10]" food to bases in Afghanistan. By the early 2011, the company had billed the government $4.2 billion, but  Pentagon investigators found [11] that sum had been padded with hundreds of millions in possible overcharges for things like providing "premium airlift" of fresh fruits and vegetables from the United Arab Emirates. Nevertheless, the company  got a two-year extension [10] on its contract, perhaps because the Army general who used to supervise Supreme's DLA contract  is now president [10] of the company's US division.

4. Soldiers of misfortune: To keep their profit margins fat, military contractors tend to subcontract on cheap labor from poor nations, a practice that's led to "forced labor, slavery, and sexual exploitation," the commission says. In a trip to Iraq in 2009, commissioners learned about the mostly African and South American guards hired by companies like Triple Canopy, SABRE, and EODT to provide security on big US bases. Among their discoveries: Guards were often ill-equipped, worked unusually long tours with 12-hour shifts, were denied their one-month vacations, and weren't paid until their contracts were finished, essentially forcing them to endure their assignments to the end. The government paid SABRE $1,700 per guard; in turn, SABRE paid its Ugandan recruits $700 a month and pocketed the difference.

3, 2, 1. KBR, KBR, KBR: According to the contracting commission, megacontractor KBR (a.k.a. the contractor formerly known as Halliburton) was paid at least $36.3 billion to provide base support in Iraq for the past eight years. That's slightly less than the government bailouts for Bank of America and Citigroup. But then, the banks eventually returned the money. The commission report details numerous examples of waste by KBR. Where to begin?

There's the kickback from the subcontractors who were awarded a $700 million dining deal in Iraq. (The Department of Justice has filed a claim against KBR for that.) Then there's the $5 million spent on 144 KBR mechanics who worked as little as  43 minutes a month [12], on average. Inspectors have found that KBR can't account for $100 million worth of its government-furnished property in Iraq. Despite collecting $204 million for electrical work on Iraq bases, KBR's shoddy wiring has been blamed in  as many as 12 soldiers' electrocution deaths [13], including a Special Forces commando who died after he was  shocked in a shower stall [13]. The company has also  billed Uncle Sam a half-billion dollars [14] to hire Blackwater to provide personal security in Iraq, a big contractor no-no.

Perhaps most troubling is the company's links to purported human trafficking. In late 2008,  reporters discovered [15] a windowless warehouse on the Camp Victory complex outside Baghdad, where about 1,000 men from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka were being held in prisonlike conditions. The men had been hired by a KBR subcontractor. Around the same time, another KBR subcontractor  was sued [16] for allegedly spiriting Asian workers into Iraq with false promises of high-paying jobs.

 
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