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Poor Contracting Oversight Supports Human Trafficking; Erodes U.S. “Moral Standing”

Dana Liebelson – (POGO) – November 2, 2011 – U.S. taxpayers are inadvertently funding human trafficking and worker abuse because of the federal government’s poor oversight of contractors in war zones, POGO Director of Investigations Nick Schwellenbach told a Congressional panel today.

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Hearing: Are Government Contractors Exploiting Workers Overseas? or Does the end justify the means? (updated 11-2-2011)

Stack of "Get Away Guest House of Pattaya" business cards with former KBR manager Donald Vannoy's name on them

Panel I
Ms. Liana Wyler, Senior Analyst Congressional Research Service
Mr. David Isenberg, Independent Analyst and Writer
Mr. Nick Schwellenbach, Director of Investigations, Project on Government Oversight
Mr. Sam W. McCahon, Founder McCahon Law

Panel II
The Honorable Kenneth P. Moorefield, Deputy Inspector General for Special Plans & Operations U.S. Department of Defense
Mr. Michael P. Howard, Chief Operation Officer Army and Air Force Exchange Service
Ms. Evelyn R. Klemstine, Assistant Inspector General for Audits U.S. Department of State
Ms. Linda Dixon, Combating Trafficking in Persons Program Manager, U.S. Department of Defense

On Wednesday November 2, 2011 at 10:00 AM EDT, the Subcommittee on Technology, Intergovernment Relations and Procurement Reform will hold a hearing on US Government contractors who exploit foreign national workers at US facilities overseas.  I hope Congress doesn’t think human trafficking is a new issue. I’ve been blogging about the exploitation of foreign national workers in Iraq and Afghanistan since I started this blog nearly four years ago.

The Trafficking in Persons (TIPs) of workers is a clear violation of the FAR and DFARS and therefore a violation of US law and many international laws as well . Yet, this most egregious crime against humanity goes mostly unchecked by many Defense Department, State Department and USAID contractors and their subcontractors. Why is that? Does the US Government feel the end justifies the means?

The US Government, in all their infinite wisdom (sarcasm), have adopted the philosophy it is more cost effective to award contracts to those who hire labor brokers to fill most labor positions in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. These labor brokers in turn go to destitute third world countries such as India, Nepal, Uganda and The Philippines to hire tens of thousands of both male and female workers. The recruits are promised the moon and charged a hefty recruiting fee for this “once in a lifetime” opportunity. Many recruits are blatantly lied to and have no idea they are heading to a war zone. Many know they are going to a war zone but end up in over crowded, unsanitary living conditions with far less pay than what they were promised. Some of these conditions are experienced on US Military installations, some in staging facilities outside the “wire” with little protection from the insurgency. Read the remainder of this entry »

Suspected electrical fire in Afghanistan kills three U.S. Marines and injures two others

SSG Ryan Maseth was electrocuted in his shower in Baghdad and died January 2, 2008

A recent fire that occurred on July 31, 2011 at Camp Lawton, Herat Province, Afghanistan killing three Marines, a K-9 and injuring two others is suspected of being caused by improperly installed electrical systems. The building where these Marines died had been recently constructed and was still under a 1-year warranty by the Afghan contractor who built it. My understanding is the investigation is still ongoing by the Defense Department and Task Force POWER. Task Force POWER, manned by TENG & Associates, is the Afghanistan version of Task Force SAFE in Iraq. These task forces were implemented by the DoD to ensure proper electrical installations in Iraq and Afghanistan after the tragic death of SSG Ryan Maseth, who was electrocuted and died in his shower in Baghdad on January 2, 2008. Is death was caused by an improperly installed electrical water pump in his building.

The issue of shoddy electrical work in Iraq and Afghanistan has been an ongoing problem. There have been several electrocution deaths of soldiers and civilians, 100’s of electrical fires killing and injuring soldiers, civilians and damaging property. The issue of shoddy electrical work has been so pervasive, the U.S. Congress has attempted to address this issue at several hearings held by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

In a recent article in the Marine Corp Times, they reported:

Three Marine Corps special operators died Sunday along with a military dog after their living quarters caught fire in western Afghanistan.

The U.S. Marines who died in this tragedy were: Read the remainder of this entry »

Not so fast KBR – Lawmakers demand answers from Pentagon

Lawmakers challenge Army decisions on KBR

By Andrea Shalal-Esa – 7:31pm EST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives on Wednesday questioned the Army’s continued use of KBR Inc for logistics work in Iraq in the face of confirmed reports of poor past performance.

Representative Edolphus Towns, who heads the House Oversight Committee, wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates to question the Army’s decision to award KBR a new contract valued at up to $2.8 billion despite a wide array of problems.

Towns, citing problems with KBR’s maintenance of electrical systems at bases where U.S. troops were fatally electrocuted and “numerous allegations of waste, fraud, and abuse,” asked Gates to provide the committee with a wide array of documents about the KBR contract by March 17.

“It seems inconceivable to me that the Defense Department would award this new contract to KBR in Iraq,” Towns said, citing the company’s “poor past performance.”

“When multiple deaths of service men and women are not enough to preclude the award of a new contract, it makes me wonder what it takes for a contractor to be fired.” Read the remainder of this entry »