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At least Congress agrees on something – stop aiding and abetting government contractors’ that profit from slavery

These people thought they had a job that provided a good wage, food and housing. They found out they had none of that.

Portman, Blumenthal Secure Inclusion of Anti-Human Trafficking Legislation in Defense Bill

Office of Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) – Washington, D.C.- Novemeber 30, 2012 – Yesterday, Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) secured inclusion of the End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act (S.2234) in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (S.3254).  Earlier this month, Portman and Blumenthal launched the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking.  The caucus will bring Senators together to combat human trafficking by promoting awareness, removing demand, supporting prosecution efforts, and providing appropriate service systems for survivors.

Despite the U.S. government’s zero tolerance human trafficking policy, investigations have found that human trafficking by government contractors and subcontractors who operate overseas is still an issue. For example, in 2011, the Commission on Wartime Contracting – an independent, bipartisan legislative commission established to study wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan – concluded that “[e]xisting prohibitions on such trafficking have failed to suppress it.” The commission also concluded that “evidence of the recurrent problem of trafficking in persons by labor brokers or subcontractors of contingency contractors.”

More than 70,000 third-country nationals work for contractors and subcontractors of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

GOP, Dems come together to fight human trafficking by contractors in Iraq, Afghanistan

Pete Kasperowicz – (The Hill) – March 27, 2012 – A bipartisan group of members from the House and Senate proposed legislation on Monday that seeks to crack down on human trafficking by contractors that the U.S. military hires for work in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act is a reaction to reports from the Commission on Wartime Contracting and the inspectors general of the Defense and State departments that overseas contractors are known to engage in practices that are illegal under U.S. employee rights standards. These include seizing workers’ passports to trap them at a work site, lying about compensation, engaging in sexual abuse and generally keeping workers in a state of indentured servitude.

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Senators want automatic suspension of contractors

While this article seems to point out the negative aspects of  the automatic suspension of contractors there obviously needs to be consequences for illegal activity.  The blatant fraud, waste and abuse of tax dollars have gone on far too long. 

The automatic suspension requirement is a bad idea in the eyes of many experts. The Wartime Contracting Commission, backed off its earlier support for the automatic action in its final report. Commission members had concerns that the government doesn’t use its suspension authority enough. Early on, commissioners had said that the government needed to mandate suspensions.

The “sweep it under the rug” technique of oversight has only encouraged and bolstered the bravado of those with criminal intent.   Until accountability is enforced and there are tangible repercussions for those who commit crimes, nothing will change.   Punishment in the form of fines doesn’t seem to have an effect.   Then again it is hard to ignore the fact that when a contractor incurs a monetary penalty the Pentagon generally turns around and awards them a new contract to offset the loss, sometimes on the same day a punishment is announced.  I have to wonder if there isn’t an “in case we get caught” clause factored into bid proposals, to cover fines and legal fees.

If suspension and debarment are not the answer, then give us an effective alternative!
~Forseti

Matthew Weigelt – (Washington Technology) – March 19, 2012 – Four Democratic senators are advocating an unrelenting crackdown on defense contractors through automatic suspensions for allegations of bad behavior related to an overseas contingency operation.

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The Pentagon’s “revolution” & other news

Debarment Report Shows How Some Agencies Use it Well
Six agencies, including the U.S. Department of Labor, had zero suspension and debarment cases during the past five fiscal years, GAO’s report states.
(Occupational Health & Safety) – November 20, 2011 – The federal government uses a practice named suspension and debarment to exclude firms or individuals from receiving contracts to provide goods or services if they have engaged in certain crimes, such as bribery or tax evasion, or violated certain statutes or regulations. A new Government Accountability Office report says four agencies use the process more effectively than others because they employ full-time staff, have detailed policies and procedures, and encourage an active referral process.

Fortunately, the four doing it right, according to the report, include the General Services Administration, which manages thousands of federal buildings and thus buys a great many contracted goods and services. The other three are the U.S. Navy, the Defense Logistics Agency, and DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit, known as ICE. (Click HERE for article)

Senators propose new cap on contractor pay
Charles S. Clark – (GovExec) – November 18, 2011 – As the Senate nears consideration of the Defense authorization bill, three senators have added a new wrinkle to the ongoing debate over the level of contractor executive compensation that should be reimbursed with taxpayer dollars.
 
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KBR can’t recover $2M from Jones; case not frivolous says Judge

Jamie Leigh Jones

John O’Brien – (Legal Newsline) – HOUSTON  – September 27, 2011 – Jamie Leigh Jones, the woman who alleged her employer was at fault for a rape that a jury said never happened, must pay court costs to the company she sued but not its attorneys fees.

U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison ruled Monday on Kellogg, Brown and Root’s motion for costs and attorneys fees, more than two months after a federal jury found that Jones was not raped while an employee of KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton.

He ruled that Jones is on the hook for KBR’s $145,073.19 in court costs. Citing a federal rule of civil procedure, Ellison wrote “costs – other than attorneys fees – should be allowed to the prevailing party.”

A federal jury decided in July that Jones, whose case became a talking point for those who sought mandatory arbitration reform, was not raped in Iraq while employed by KBR. The company moved on Aug. 17 to have its attorneys fees paid by Jones. KBR spent more than $2 million on attorneys fees.

In fighting the lawsuit, KBR had argued a mandatory arbitration clause in her employment contract had prevented her from suing the company in open court. An appeals court sided with Jones on that issue, but jurors ruled in July that Jones and Charles Bortz had engaged in consensual sex. Read the remainder of this entry »