The contractor surge in Iraq

This guest blog from Dina Rasor originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

The Washington Post had a front page article on Wednesday describing the extent and timeline for surging the troops. Besides planning to surge up to 35,000 troops, the DOD wants the flexibility to keep the surge going until Spring 2008. There has been talk about what to do about Iraq and the surge in September of this year, but there is the chance that this surge will last a year.

What the Army is not telling you is that we will also be surging the contractors. KBR, who has now spun off from Halliburton, has the largest contract, called LOGCAP III. The follow-on contract, LOGCAP IV, was supposed to be awarded by now and it was to break up the monopoly that KBR had in supplying the troops.

It appears, based on KBR's SEC filings that the Army plans to keep KBR and the old contract in place as to not switch horses in the middle of the stream. As I have outlined in my recently released book, Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War, KBR has billings that go out the roof while not supplying the troops with what they need.

The book has stories of troops trying to get enough food, water and supplies while away from the safety of the big military bases in Iraq because KBR won't go in hostile areas. Even at the bases, troops can't get air conditioners and generators fixed because KBR screws around with the paperwork.

Meanwhile, the billings surge with the number of troops and KBR bills the government 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for their employees. One soldier, in frustration, wrote to Stars and Stripes newspaper that "It seems that KBR, at the administrative level, has found a way to get paid for doing a job without ever actually having to do it." (eighth letter down)

There is also evidence that these contractor billings are sucking up the supplemental money and making other logistical areas suffer. The supplemental money is flexible so that the Army can use it where they need it but there is evidence that the contractor over-billings are taking away much needed money for replacing basic fighting equipment such as night vision goggles, workable radios and armored vehicles.

The most common email that I get from Iraq makes the point that while troops can get luxury items at the large bases where they are there, such as soft serve ice cream and plasma televisions, they can't get enough equipment that they need to save their lives when they leave the cushy base and go out into hostile areas.

There is real resentment among the troops that KBR makes life very nice for the military brass and others at the base but will not go out the gate, as required, to make sure that they have the basics that they need.

Congress is now looking at how to fund the surge for the year. If they don't add some form of strict cost control on the contractor billings, this surge money will continue to be sucked down the contractor money hole with little oversight and the troops and the public will wonder why they can't get what they need to do their mission.

If you want to know more about how the contractors are failing the troops in Iraq, go to my Follow the Money Project.

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