Someone who is trying to help a particular whistleblower, sent this and asked for help letting people know about their website. I pass her request along:
Read Diary of a Whistleblower at: www.oneagleswingsfearnoevil.com
Experts Say Climate Change Threatens National Security
By Deborah Zabarenko
Monday 05 November 2007
Washington - Climate change could end globalization by 2040 as nations look inward to conserve scarce resources and conflicts flare when refugees flee rising seas and drought, national security experts warned on Monday.
Scarcity could dictate the terms of international relations, according to Leon Fuerth of George Washington University, one of the report's authors.
Global cooperation based on a resource-rich world could give way to a regime where vital commodities are scarce, Fuerth said at a forum to release "The Age of Consequences."
"Some of the consequences could essentially involve the end of globalization as we have known it ... as different parts of the Earth contract upon themselves in order to try to conserve what they need to survive," said Fuerth, who was national security adviser to former Vice President Al Gore.
Rich countries could "go through a 30-year process of kicking people away from the lifeboat" as the world's poorest face the worst environmental consequences, which he said would be "extremely debilitating in moral terms."
"It also suggests the kinds of hatreds that build up between different groups will be accentuated as these groups attempt to move to more clement locations on the planet," Fuerth said.
Published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the report offers three scenarios for security implications of climate change, starting with the middle-ground estimate by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This scenario, which the report said could be expected, forecasts global warming of 2.3 degrees F (1.3 degrees C), with sea level rise of about 9 inches by 2040.
"We predict a scenario in which people and nations are threatened by massive food and water shortages, devastating natural disasters and deadly disease outbreaks," said John Podesta, President Bill Clinton's former chief of staff and now president of the Center for American Progress think tank.
Podesta called this outcome inevitable, even if the United States - the world's biggest emitter of climate-warming carbon dioxide - enters immediately into an international system to cap and trade credits for the potent greenhouse gas.
This is unlikely, though a bill to limit carbon emissions is up for debate, possibly as soon as this week, in the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. President George W. Bush has opposed mandatory caps on emissions, saying they would hurt the U.S. economy.
Climate change will force internal and cross-border migrations as people leave areas where food and water are scarce. They will also flee rising seas and areas devastated by the droughts, floods and severe storms that are also forecast consequences of climate change.
South Asia, Africa and Europe will be particularly vulnerable to these mass migrations, notably from countries where Islamic fundamentalism has grown, Podesta said.
In the Middle East, he said, the politics of water will hold sway, with the Jordan River creating a physical link to the interests of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Editing by Jackie Frank.
Congress Ignoring Critical Report on Pentagon Spending
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report
Wednesday 10 October 2007
In April, the nonpartisan research arm of Congress issued a damning report that criticized the Pentagon for mismanaging hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency funds it received to pay for the occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.
Additionally, the report said, among other things, that since late 2003 the Pentagon has overstated its financial needs and has failed to turn over to Congress an accurate and transparent accounting of how it has spent the emergency funds earmarked for Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 45-page Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror," released in the Spring advised the new Democratic leadership in Congress it should withhold funding until the Department of Defense (DOD) provide lawmakers with a detailed accounting of its expenditures in Iraq, where 90 percent of the funds the Pentagon has received have been spent.
In July 2006, David Walker, comptroller general of the Government Accountability Office, testified before the Congressional Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Affairs. He told lawmakers that a lack of actual costs, supporting documentation and routine reporting problems by the Pentagon, with regard to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, "make it difficult to reliably know what the war is costing, to determine how appropriated funds are being spent, and to use historical data to predict future trends."
The DOD "has not been willing to provide Congress" with the data it uses to predict its operating costs on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, Walker said. As such, Congressional researchers have recommended in their report that Congress ask the DOD inspector general to audit the Pentagon in order to resolve these various gaps and discrepancies in cost data related to the occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.
Yet, despite issues raised by Walker and, more recently, in an updated report by the Congressional Research Service, the Pentagon has failed to open up its accounting books to Congress and the Democratic leadership in the House hasn't pressed DOD officials to do so. More than 90 percent of the DOD's funds for Iraq were provided in the form of emergency supplemental or additional appropriations requests. Emergency funding is exempt from ceilings applying to discretionary spending in Congress's annual budget resolutions. Some members of Congress have argued that continuing to fund ongoing operations with supplementals reduces Congressional oversight.
"Congressional leaders have promised more scrutiny of the administration's requests for a [fiscal year] 2007 supplemental and [fiscal year] 2008 war costs," the report says. "Thus far, Congress is receiving fairly detailed quarterly reporting on various metrics for success in Iraq ... but cost is not one of those metrics."
Financial documents that have been turned over by the Pentagon to Congress "have been sparse," and government agencies, including the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office, "have all found various discrepancies in DOD figures - including understating budget authority and obligations, mismatches between [budget authority] and obligations data, double-counting of some obligations, questionable figures, and a lack of information about basic factors that affect costs such as troop strength ...," said a March CRS report on the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan military operations, and past issues associated with emergency spending requests.
"For example, DOD provided five pages to justify $33 billion in operation and maintenance spending, about half of the [fiscal year] 2006 supplemental request. Because few details are included, [the Congressional Budget Office] notes the difficulty in determining the basis of DOD requests and estimating alternatives," the CRS report says. "And because appropriations for war are mixed with DOD's baseline budget, information about 'what has actually been spent,' or outlays, is not available. That information is important for estimating the cost of alternate future scenarios and also for showing the effect of war costs on the federal deficit."
Furthermore, the DOD "has periodically revised the figures shown for each operation in previous years, suggesting questions about the validity of its figures," the report says, adding that some of the department's supplemental requests for 2007 included "$2 billion from some unknown source."
Moreover, the most recent CRS report related to the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan operations dated July 16, said that while the Pentagon has made slight improvements in "in showing how previously appropriated funds have been allocated among the three operations - Iraq, Afghanistan and other counter-terror operations and enhanced security - [the Pentagon's latest funding request] does not cover over $30 billion for classified programs and other funds for repair or replacement of war-worn equipment still to be obligated."
Late last month, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Congress that he needs $141.7 billion - roughly a 40 percent increase over the previous year - in addition to a $50 billion emergency supplemental President Bush requested in September to continue funding operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. If approved, it would bring the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan operations to $610 billion. The $50 billion in emergency funding Bush asked for is needed, the DOD said, to pay for the 30,000 additional troops Bush sent to Iraq earlier this year. All told, the occupation of Iraq is costing taxpayers roughly $2.1 billion a week. The Congressional Budget Office predicted that by the end of 2008, the cost of the Iraq occupation could very well reach $1 trillion.
Democratic lawmakers and their aides were unwilling to comment publicly on whether they intended to force the Pentagon to be more transparent or if lawmakers heeded the advice of CRS and would call for an audit of the Pentagon. Privately, some aides to lawmakers serving on the House Appropriations Committee said that scenario was highly unlikely to happen.
David Obey (D-Wisconsin), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said last month that he has "no intention" of passing an Iraq funding bill through his committee "that simply served to continue the status quo."
Senator Robert Byrd (D-Virginia), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, became visibly upset last month when Gates disclosed how much additional funding was needed to continue occupying Iraq.
"If granted, we will have spent more than 600 billion! - billion! billion! - dollars" on the "nefarious and infernal war in Iraq," Byrd said.
Still, while statements like that of Obey's and Byrd's may allow Democrats to flex some political muscle from time to time it doesn't begin to address the Pentagon's accounting irregularities CRS says will continue to be a major factor each time the Bush administration seeks additional funding for Iraq and Afghanistan unless lawmakers rein in the Pentagon's spending and take a closer look at its books.
"Grappling with these issues is more difficult because DOD has provided limited information about prior war costs making trends difficult to decipher and explanations unlikely to be available," the July 16, CRS report said. The General Accounting Office, the Congressional Budget Office and CRS "have all raised concerns about these problems in reports and testimony. There are many unresolved discrepancies and gaps in reported DOD figures."
Gates testified before Congress last month that a large part of the funding request will be earmarked for equipment upgrades and weapons enhancement. But the CRS report said that still doesn't account for the massive annual increase in spending.
"Although some of the factors behind the rapid increase in DOD funding are known - the growing intensity of operations, additional force protection gear and equipment, substantial upgrades of equipment, converting units to modular configurations, and new funding to train and equip Iraqi security forces - these elements are not enough to explain the size of the increases," the report said.
CRS estimates that war-related appropriations enacted to date total about $610 billion allocated as follows:
$450 billion for Iraq (or 74%);
$127 billion for Afghanistan (or 20%);
$28 billion for enhanced security (5%); and
$5 billion unallocated (1%).
Jason Leopold is senior editor and reporter for Truthout. He received a Project Censored award in 2007 for his story on Halliburton's work in Iran.
Defense Agency Proposes Outsourcing More Spying
By Walter Pincus
The Washington Post
Sunday 19 August 2007
Contracts worth $1 billion would set record.
The Defense Intelligence Agency is preparing to pay private contractors up to $1 billion to conduct core intelligence tasks of analysis and collection over the next five years, an amount that would set a record in the outsourcing of such functions by the Pentagon's top spying agency.
The proposed contracts, outlined in a recent early notice of the DIA's plans, reflect a continuing expansion of the Defense Department's intelligence-related work and fit a well-established pattern of Bush administration transfers of government work to private contractors.
Since 2000, the value of federal contracts signed by all agencies each year has more than doubled to reach $412 billion, with the largest growth at the Defense Department, according to a congressional tally in June. Outsourcing particularly accelerated among intelligence agencies after the 2001 terrorist attacks caught many of them unprepared to meet new demands with their existing workforce.
The DIA did not specify exactly what it wants the contractors to do but said it is seeking teams to fulfill "operational and mission requirements" that include intelligence "Gathering and Collection, Analysis, Utilization, and Strategy and Support." It holds out the possibility that five or more contractors may be hired and promised more details on Aug. 27.
The DIA's action comes a few months after CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, acting under pressure from Congress, announced a program to cut the agency's hiring of outside contractors by at least 10 percent. The CIA's effort was partly provoked by managers' frustration that officials with security clearances were frequently resigning to earn higher pay with government contractors while performing the same work - a phenomenon that led lawmakers to complain that intelligence contract work was wasting money.
"Mind-blowing," was the reaction of Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, when she learned of the DIA proposal. In a telephone interview, she described it as "definitely something to be concerned about."
In its notice, published on a procurement Web site, the DIA said that "the total price of all work to be performed under the contract(s) will exceed $1 billion," adding that the tally "is only an estimate and there is no guarantee that any orders will be placed."
A DIA spokesman, Cmdr. Terrence Sutherland, said this week that "this is the first DIA contract of its type specifically intended for the procurement of intelligence analysis and related services." He said the primary purpose of the proposal is to ensure that adequate outside support is ready to assist the DIA, as well as Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force intelligence centers and the military's overseas command centers.
In May, Schakowsky and Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.) sponsored an amendment to the 2008 intelligence bill that requires the Defense Department to compile a database of all its intelligence-related contracts. The aim, Schakowsky said, is to force a review "of what contractors are doing and, importantly, whether contractors are performing inherently governmental functions."
Some activities, she said, are so sensitive that "if and when they are done," it may not be appropriate for the government to "contract these activities out."
Price asked during the debate whether contractors should be involved in intelligence collection and analysis, interrogation, and covert operations, or whether those activities are so sensitive that "they should only be performed by highly trained intelligence community professionals."
In a statement Friday, Price questioned whether "a contract award of this scale is consistent with the DNI's commitment to reduce the alarming portion of the intelligence budget that goes to private contractors." (DNI refers to the director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell.)
The DIA is the country's major manager and producer of foreign military intelligence, with more than 11,000 military and civilian employees worldwide and a budget of nearly $1 billion. It has its own analysts from the various services as well as collectors of human intelligence in the Defense HUMINT Service. DIA also manages the Defense attaches stationed in embassies all over the world.
Unlike the CIA, the DIA outsources the major analytical products known as all-source intelligence reports, a senior intelligence official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
A former senior Pentagon intelligence official said yesterday that the DIA is struggling to do "the in-depth intelligence work required under present circumstances" and that is why it is preparing to contract for outside help. He cited the military's efforts in Iraq to provide human intelligence sources to forces that rotate out after tours of a single year. "That is hardly enough time to develop serious, dependable Iraqi sources," he said.
The former official added that for years intelligence has not been a prime career path for officers who seek to reach the top positions in the Army, which favors infantry, armor and special forces as the specializations that lead to promotions.
The war in Iraq has required the hiring of outside contractors by the Pentagon to perform not just security jobs but also the collection of intelligence used for force protection. Earlier this year, retired Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a former head of the U.S. Central Command who today advises defense contractors, said there is a legitimate role for private firms in security missions. But he warned that problems can arise "when they take on quasi-military roles," such as planning intelligence operations.
In its report in June on the fiscal 2008 intelligence authorization bill, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence noted that Congress had allowed full-time positions in the intelligence community to grow 20 percent since Sept. 11. But personnel caps forced the agencies to turn to contractors.
The committee questioned the additional costs involved in using contractors, citing an estimate that a government civilian employee costs on average $126,500 a year, while the annual cost of a core contractor, including overhead and benefits, is $250,000.
Many companies that provide contract workers to the CIA and Pentagon intelligence agencies are headed by former employees of those agencies. For example, Abraxas, which is run by a former CIA case officer, has hired - and then contracted out to the government - more than 100 former intelligence employees over the past six years.
The CIA imposed a rule that former personnel cannot perform work with a CIA contractor in the 18 months after they leave the agency.
Whistleblowers Claim Contractor Fraud Ignored
By Guillermo Contreras
San Antonio Express-News
Sunday 04 November 2007
Barrington "Barry" Godfrey of Houston tried to get mega-contractor KBR to quit overcharging the government for thousands of troops he said the company never fed.
He alleges he was forced out for raising the issue, and that the Justice Department tried unsuccessfully to keep his allegations secret and then refused to join him in a whistleblower suit.
Iowa businesswoman Beth A. Hanken says she sounded the alarm more than a year ago about the military's principal food distributor in Kuwait, Public Warehousing Co., over allegations it was taking kickbacks from a subcontractor that helped it inflate prices of food for U.S. troops.
A Defense Department official, she claims, responded by forwarding her allegations to Public Warehousing, touching off legal threats that she believes were meant to silence her. The Justice Department this year declined to join a whistleblower lawsuit she filed.
The companies deny any wrongdoing, but Godfrey and Hanken are among a growing list of people who contend they were abandoned by the government when they stuck their necks out to protect taxpayers footing the bill for the war in Iraq.
Alan M. Grayson, who represents Hanken, Godfrey and a handful of other whistleblowers in lawsuits about contracting fraud in Iraq, says the department is thwarting whistleblowers of helping them.
He argues that the Bush administration sweeps many cases under the rug, obtains court orders to keep details from the public and that Justice Department lawyers threaten whistleblowers with dismissal of their cases or contempt of court simply for telling people what they know.
Grayson knows of a dozen whistleblower lawsuits that recently were unsealed after the Justice Department refused to join them; he represents the whistleblowers in five of them.
"In every one of those cases, the Bush administration has taken no action to punish the war profiteers, or recover the money stolen from the taxpayers," Grayson said.
Others argue the Justice Department lacks the resources to go up against contractors with scores of corporate lawyers who can thwart any meaningful government intervention or probe. A former U.S. attorney in San Antonio, John Clark, said whistleblowers with deep pockets to take on the contractors are essential to the government.
Beyond these complexities is another problem: a loophole in the False Claims Act, the country's best weapon against corporate fraud. The law requires that false claims be "presented" to a government employee in order to be a violation. The technicality sidelined one of the most notable whistleblower cases recently.
Issues such as these permit an environment that allows graft and corruption to breed, according to critics, whistleblower advocacy groups and other observers. The corruption, fraud, waste and abuse in Iraq have been so bad that Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota described it as an "orgy of greed."
The case of Fort Sam Houston-based Army Maj. John L. Cockerham - the largest U.S. bribe investigation to come out of the war - emerged from this environment. The Army contracting officer is jailed in San Antonio awaiting trial on charges that, while stationed in a Kuwait contracting office, he steered several lucrative military service and supply contracts to companies that agreed to kick $15 million back to him.
Although Cockerham, his wife and his sister were indicted, none of the companies alleged to have bribed him has been charged or even publicly identified by the U.S. government. Critics complain this secrecy will eventually enable the government to dodge any real pursuit of the contractors, and the Justice Department will focus instead on easier targets - individuals.
The Justice Department says the investigation is ongoing, and defends its track record in all fraud-related cases. In addition, it says it has helped recover millions already in war-related fraud cases.
Watchdogs aren't so sure.
"In the case of these fraud cases, it's taxpayers' interests that are on the line," said Charlie Cray, director of the Center for Corporate Policy in Washington, D.C. "Given how much they're willing to spend on the war and priorities of the administration in general, I see no evidence that they are willing to protect the interests of taxpayers when it comes to corporate fraud."
The False Claims Act is a law forged by President Lincoln during the Civil War to punish war profiteers. Examples of fraud abounded, such as the Army ordering gunpowder and getting crates of sawdust instead.
The law stood for more than 100 years before Congress modernized it in 1986.
In the 20 years since, thousands of cases have been brought to the government's attention, largely under a litigation weapon called a "qui tam" lawsuit. The term comes from a Latin phrase that means "He who sues on behalf of the king as well as for himself."
The whistleblower, also known as the "relator," can file a qui tam lawsuit against the offending company. The suit generally remains sealed - outside of public view - for 60 days, giving the Justice Department time to investigate the allegations and decide whether to join the suit. When the department joins, it generally takes the lead from the whistleblower.
Successful qui tam cases can result in contractors having to pay back three times what they stole, overcharged or defrauded from the government. The companies could also be banned from doing business with the government, a death knell for some. The whistleblowers get a bounty - about 15 to 30 percent - of any settlement or verdict against the contractor.
Even when the Justice Department doesn't join and the whistleblower forces a settlement or a verdict, the government gets the bulk of what is recovered.
The most prominent example of that in contracting cases was a whistleblower lawsuit Grayson filed against Custer Battles, a private security contractor. After a trial, jurors hit the company with a $10 million verdict after determining it had committed more than 40 examples of fraud and abuse in Iraq.
The presiding judge overturned the verdict after determining the False Claims Act didn't apply because no fraudulent claims were ever presented to a government agency. Custer Battles was paid by the Coalition Provisional Authority, a hybrid entity that received billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to rebuild Iraq.
"It's still the (U.S.) taxpayer being ripped off, and there should be a way to close that loophole," said David Colapinto, general counsel for the National Whistleblower Center, an advocacy group in Washington.
In September, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and other lawmakers introduced a bill that aims to tighten the False Claims Act and address the technicality. Lawmakers also have been asked to include provisions that would speed up the qui tam process.
A report in 2005 by the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, shows that cases in which the Justice Department intervened took a median of 38 months to resolve. Some took as little as four months, or as long as 187, the report said.
The vast majority of the cases end before trial.
Since 1986, the Justice Department has recovered more than $15 billion from all cases filed under the False Claims Act. Of that, $10.7 billion were from qui tam cases where the government intervened, according to Justice Department records.
Whistleblowers who took on the contractors on their own - after the U.S. government refused to join in the qui tam lawsuits - helped recover another $412 million during the same period.
Patrick Burns, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Taxpayers Against Fraud, said the Justice Department does few qui tam cases, but said that is because it has few resources.
"It's a small collection of lawyers working very hard in opposition to a rising and unlimited army of corporate lawyers paid for by companies," Burns said.
He said Congress needs to appropriate more money so the Justice Department can match the muscle of corporations and more vigorously pursue corruption.
Others also observe that sometimes the Justice Department doesn't have willing clients.
"Federal agencies (which) have responsibility for administering a particular program don't always see their roles the same way that another federal agency, for example, the Department of Justice, might see them," said former U.S. attorney Clark, who now represents whistleblowers. "If an agency doesn't view a case the same way the Department of Justice does, that would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the department to prosecute it."
Burns takes it further, saying the Defense Department, for instance, may try to work out its own deal with a contractor so as not to lose funding for a contract, even a fraud-plagued one. The department might not want a contractor penalized because the money gained in a qui tam goes into the general U.S. treasury, and the agency might have to fight to get that money the following year, Burns said.
The Justice Department, in a lengthy statement, defended its enforcement and gave four examples of whistleblower cases alleging fraud in Iraq that it joined. The suits were settled, resulting in $14 million being recovered.
The department also said it has an undisclosed number of cases under investigation and denies that it has turned down cases for political or reasons other than their merit. It acknowledged it has joined fewer than 25 percent of the qui tam cases in those 20 years, but views that as a good thing.
"This means that 75 percent of the cases have not warranted our intervention, and the dollar recoveries are evidence that our decisions have been sound ones," Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said in an e-mail. "Simply because some cases alleging fraud in Iraq have been declined does not mean that there is fraud that has been ignored, nor does it mean that there are not other matters that contain meritorious allegations that are being investigated and pursued."
Two whistleblowers didn't find a receptive government when they tried to use the False Claims Act.
Beth Hanken, president of Iowa-based Midwest Ventures, which sells meat products, filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia in January 2006. The suit names Public Warehousing Co. and Richmond Wholesale Meat Co. of Richmond, Calif., which served as consolidator for Public Warehousing.
Public Warehousing had won two consecutive contracts, including a $67 million contract in 2004 to supply food to 150,000 to 160,000 U.S. troops in the gulf region, according to court documents.
Hanken alleges in her suit that Public Warehousing "received kickbacks from Richmond in exchange for retaining Richmond and allowing Richmond to charge higher prices than other potential subcontractors."
The suit said Midwest and other subcontractors were pushed aside even though they offered Public Warehousing lower prices than Richmond. A procurement manager for Public Warehousing, the suit said, told Hanken that Richmond was being overpaid.
Hanken said she reported the alleged wrongdoing to the Defense Supply Center-Philadelphia, or DSCP.
Instead of investigating the complaint, the suit said, an official with the center sent the allegation to Public Warehousing.
Hanken then received a letter from the company's lawyers telling her to stop making allegations the company argued were wrong and defamatory.
"In sum, PWC, in a coordinated effort with Richmond Wholesale, eliminated Midwest as a supplier to DSCP," the suit said.
Public Warehousing denies any wrongdoing, and plans to issue its response in court.
Richmond claimed the matter stems from events in 2005, when Richmond determined meat products Hanken sent to Richmond for delivery to Public Warehousing did not meet military specifications.
Richmond said it shared the concerns with Public Warehousing, which rejected Midwest's product.
"We have always operated within the rules and regulations required by government contractors," Richmond President Werner Doellstadt said. "We have done nothing illegal, and, to the contrary, continue to maintain the highest legal and ethical standards in dealing with our customers."
The Justice Department's Miller said Hanken's case was rejected in March after the agency and investigators from the Defense Department found her evidence fell short.
That the government pulled away after a year left Hanken feeling abandoned and frustrated.
She said she may not be able to carry on without the government's help.
"I'm all alone now," Hanken said. "It costs an enormous amount of money to pursue these cases."
Two months before deciding not to join Hanken's suit, the Defense Department issued subpoenas in a separate criminal investigation of Public Warehousing, now based on allegations that the firm got improper payments from U.S. food companies, the Wall Street Journal first reported in October.
It may have begun after a former Army contracting officer in Kuwait - who later was found dead under mysterious circumstances - had blown the whistle, according to the paper.
In response to the investigation, Public Warehousing, now known as Agility Logistics, says it is reliable and cost-effective in providing its services.
"The company has always cooperated with the reviews, inspections, audits and inquiries necessary to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent appropriately," it said.
The KBR Case
Barry Godfrey feels Hanken's frustration.
The former KBR employee filed a suit in Virginia alleging KBR inflated the number of military personnel it claimed to have served and ignored massive labor markups of its subcontractors.
The suit gives several examples of unauthorized and excessive markups, which Godfrey claims he tried to stop. The suit said he was met with resistance within KBR.
Godfrey, a senior contract administrator, said that during 2004, a subcontracted dining facility near Mosul, Iraq, was serving about 2,500 people a day but billing as if there were 5,000.
"At three meals a day, this was billing for almost 10,000 meals a day that were not served," the suit said.
In other examples, Godfrey found double-billing that KBR employees authorized for subcontract work that was not done or kitchen equipment that was never obtained.
Godfrey said he made repeated attempts to force the subcontractors to reduce the bills, but that others within KBR blocked his attempts.
In December 2004, he went on vacation.
When he came back, his cell phone and computer, which contained documentation in connection with the allegations of fraud, had been stolen, the suit said.
Also, one of the subcontractors complained to a KBR contract chief that Godfrey was treating the subcontractor unfairly.
Godfrey was suspended for 10 days and told by another KBR executive, "We can't have subcontractor CEO's complaining about subcontract administrators," the suit said.
"They told me I was out of my lane," Godfrey said.
Godfrey said KBR remained complacent and did nothing because it holds so-called "cost-plus" contracts.
"The more they spend the more they make," Godfrey said.
Eventually, his suit said, his workplace was so hostile that he decided to leave KBR.
In a statement, KBR said it could not comment on pending litigation, but denied it has defrauded the government.
"Our work serving the troops in Iraq is unmatched," KBR said in a statement. "Despite the challenges of war, KBR has met the demands of our customer, the U.S. Army, often within very short deadlines, and has provided excellent service."
Godfrey, who said he went to Iraq because he felt a sense of patriotism to help U.S. forces, feels disillusioned with the way the government responded after he filed his whistleblower suit.
He waited for the Justice Department to join his suit for two years. In January, the department asked a judge to continue to keep it sealed. The judge refused and unsealed it; the Justice Department bailed out.
"They did nothing," Godfrey said. "People just tend to ignore this and continue to reward the same contractor ... with more contracts and more business."
Two Years After Katrina, Billions in Relief Funds Are Missing
By Jeffrey Buchanan and Chris Kromm
Thursday 23 August 2007
The federal government has promised more than $116 billion in recovery aid, but residents of the still-devastated Gulf Coast wonder whether the check bounced.
This article is taken from the new report compiled by the Institute for Southern Studies called, "Blueprint for Gulf Renewal," giving a voice to grassroots advocates calling for greater federal accountability in the Gulf Coast rebuilding process. The report is available at: http://www.southernstudies.org/BlueprintShort.pdf.
When pressed on the slow pace of recovery in the Gulf Coast, President Bush insists the federal government has fulfilled its promise to rebuild the region. The proof, he says, is in the big check the federal government signed to underwrite the recovery - allegedly more than $116 billion. But residents of the still-devastated Gulf Coast are left wondering whether the check bounced.
"$116 billion is not a useful number," says Stanley Czerwinski of the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm.
For starters, most federal money - about two-thirds - was quickly spent for short-term needs like debris removal and Coast Guard rescue. As Czerwinski explains, "There is a significant difference between responding to an emergency and rebuilding post-disaster."
That has left little money for long-term Gulf Coast recovery projects. Although it's tricky to unravel the maze of federal reports, our best estimate of agency data is that only $35 billion has been appropriated for long-term rebuilding.
Even worse, less than 42 percent of the money set aside has even been spent, much less gotten to those most in need. For example:
· Washington set aside $16.7 billion for Community Development Block Grants, one of the two biggest sources of rebuilding funds, especially for housing. But as of March 2007, only $1 billion - just 6 percent - had been spent, almost all of it in Mississippi. Following bad publicity, HUD spent another $3.8 billion on the program between March and July, leaving 70 percent of the funds still unused.
· The other major source of rebuilding help was supposed to be FEMA's Public Assistance Program. But of the $8.2 billion earmarked, only $3.4 billion was meant for nonemergency projects like fixing up schools and hospitals.
· Louisiana officials recently testified that FEMA has also "low-balled" project costs, underestimating the true expenses by a factor of four or five. For example, for 11 Louisiana rebuilding projects, the lowest bids came to $5.5 million - but FEMA approved only $1.9 million.
· After the failure of federal levees flooded 80 percent of New Orleans, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers received $8.4 billion to restore storm defenses. But as of July 2007, less than 20 percent of the funds have been spent, even as the Corps admits that levee repair won't be completed until as late as 2011.
The fact that, two years later, most federal Katrina funds remain bottled up in bureaucracy is especially shocking considering that the amounts Washington allocated come nowhere near the anticipated costs of Gulf rebuilding.
For example, the $3.4 billion FEMA has available to recover local public infrastructure would only cover about one-eighth of the damage suffered in Louisiana alone. But this money is spread across five states - Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas - and covers damage from three 2005 hurricanes, Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
Congress has acted on some of the money holdups, like changing a requirement in the Stafford Act that mandates local governments pay 10 percent of rebuilding projects up front before receiving federal aid. The Bush administration had refused to waive the rule - like it did for New York after 9/11 - grounding countless projects. The effect of the rule was particularly devastating in the hardest-hit places like Mississippi's Hancock County, where communities lost most of their tax base after the storms.
Many in Washington claim that state and local governments are to blame: The money's there, they say, but the locals just aren't using it. And it's true that there have been problems below the federal level. For example, Louisiana's "Road Home" program - created by Congress but run by the state - has been so poorly managed that 18 months after the storms only 630 homeowners had received checks. Closings have sped up since then, but administrators admit many won't see money until 2008, if at all - the program is facing a projected $3 billion shortfall.
But the White House and Congress have done little to exercise oversight of these federally backed programs, much less step in to remove red tape and make sure taxpayer money gets to its intended destination.
This is especially true when it comes to tax breaks and rebuilding contracts. Included in the $116 billion figure is $3.5 billion in tax breaks to jump-start business in Gulf Opportunity Zones - "GO Zones" - across 91 parishes and counties in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. But many of the breaks have been of questionable benefit to Katrina survivors, like a $1 million deal to build 10 luxury condos next to the University of Alabama football stadium - four hours from the Gulf Coast.
Federal contracts for rebuilding and recovery have also been marked by scandal, fraud and abuse. An August 2006 study by the office of Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., identified 19 contracts worth $8.75 billion that experienced "significant overcharges, wasteful spending or mismanagement."
For thousands of Gulf residents, the end result is that federal support for recovery after Katrina's devastation has been insufficient, too slow and hasn't gotten to those most in need.
"Where did it go?" says Tanya Harris of ACORN in New Orleans when asked about the $116 billion. "Tell me. Where did it go?"
Jeffrey Buchanan is communications officer with the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights. Chris Kromm is executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies. This report was part of ISS's "Blue Print for Gulf Renewal."
From Project On Government Oversight
November 15, 2007
Contact Marthena Cowart or Nick Schwellenbach, 202-347-1122
AIR FORCE WEAKENS REQUIREMENTS OF KEY SEARCH AND RESCUE PROJECT
Washington , D.C. - Program officials improperly weakened one of the most important requirements on a major Air Force search and rescue helicopter contract in order to allow Boeing to compete, according to a new report by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). In doing so, they subverted the safety of service members to the parochial interests of the Pentagon and Boeing.
One of the most important requirements for the new helicopters concerns their speed in being deployed to and ready to go in the theater where search and rescue may be needed, suddenly and unpredictably after conflict erupts. Yet, at the eleventh hour in a key moment in the acquisition process, the CSAR-X program office at Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) watered down the "Key Performance Parameter" Deployability requirement, sneaking it in quietly in order to avoid attention from senior Air Force and Defense Department officials responsible for validating weapon system requirements. The change made vague the required maximum allowable of time in which a helicopter must be ready to fly missions after being deployed via cargo aircraft from a clear three hour standard that had previously existed.
“The Pentagon’s requirements process was set up to procure weapons that meet the needs of our men and women in uniform. To have the most important kind of requirement changed under the radar is deeply disturbing because it undermines the integrity of the acquisition system and, more importantly, puts lives at risk,” said Danielle Brian , executive director, Project On Government Oversight. A detailed report ( http://www.pogo.org/p/defense/do-071113-csarx.html ) was released today by POGO.
The mysterious circumstances surrounding the change merit further attention from the Congress and the Department of Defense Inspector General. While the Project On Government Oversight has no reason to believe there was any illegality or corruption in the process, the system was so subverted, and consequently the needs of the warfighter so undermined, that the IG should investigate the deployability requirement change.
The $10-$15 billion contract for a new combat search and rescue helicopter (known as CSAR-X), which is the Air Force's second highest procurement priority, has been the focus of two Government Accountability Office bid protests. The Air Force is preparing to re-bid parts of the contract for a second time following GAO decisions which sustained concerns raised by Boeing's competitors. The Air Force’s decision in November 2006 to award the contract to Boeing for its HH-47 Chinook proposal surprised many. Air Force chief of staff General Michael Moseley told reporters, “I am not sure [the HH-47] is the one that I would have picked, but I am not the guy that picks.”
After the initial award in November 2006, Boeing rivals Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky subsequently filed and won two rounds of protests with (GAO), which, along with congressional scrutiny, have left the program in limbo. The GAO’s decisions were based on cost evaluation by the Air Force; POGO’s findings raise further questions about the integrity of the program and the acquisition process.
For additional sources: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/washbizblog/2007/10/air_force_asks_for_new_bids_on.html
Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight is an independent nonprofit which investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct in order to achieve a more accountable federal government.
From Project On Government Oversight
WATCHDOG GROUPS URGE SENATORS
TO OPPOSE BUDGET SECRECY
Washington , D.C. – Twelve nonprofit organizations concerned with oversight and transparency in government sent a letter to all United States Senators urging them to oppose an eleventh-hour secrecy provision added to the Conference Report on the FY 2008 Transportation-HUD Appropriations bill. The provision, cited as Section 193 in the bill, would severely limit the ability of congressional authorizing and budget committees to provide proper oversight in the federal budgeting process. The House already approved the conference committee version yesterday, and the Senate is set to vote on the legislation by the end of the week.
The provision, if passed, will have multiple implications – among them, curtailing the ability of lawmakers to restrain earmarks, and their ability to abide by the Congressional Budget Act. The provision would deny congressional committees and, potentially, public access to the fiscal year budget justifications for the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and numerous independent agencies until after May 31 of each year. The House and Senate transportation appropriations committees would be the only committees allowed to view the budget justifications prior to that date.
In addition to the Project On Government Oversight, other signatories include National Legal and Policy Center (Ken Boehm, 703-237-1970); Government Accountability Project (Mark Cohen, 202-408-0034); Citizens Against Government Waste (Leslie Paige, 202-467-5334); Sunlight Foundation (Gabriela Schneider, 202-742-1520 ext 236); Open the Government.org (Patrice McDermott, 202-332-6736); Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington (Naomi Seligman Steiner, 202-408-5565); Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Ed Frank, 202-349-5871; National Taxpayers Union (Pete Sepp, 703-683-5700); National Freedom of Information Coalition (Charles Davis, 573-882-5736); American Association of Law Libraries (Mary Alice Baish, 202-662-9200); and Freedom of Information Oklahoma (Joey Senat, 405-744-8277).
For addition information: http://pogoarchives.org/m/gs/DOT-letter-20071115.pdf