2002-11-30 / Columnists

From the G-Man

By Gary G. Toms

By Gary G. Toms

The Devil's In The Details

Hey people! I would like to submit the following for your review. Afterwards, I will offer my take on the situation. This article was published in the August 5, 2002 edition of Newsday, as reported by the Associated Press.

"Since Dick Cheney became vice president, a subsidiary of his former company was chosen as the exclusive contractor for overseas Army troop support services and Navy construction despite being under federal investigation for fraudulently inflating charges on another government contract.

"The Navy contract went to the Halliburton subsidiary, Brown and Root Services, despite a recommendation from the General Accounting Office, the auditing arm of Congress, that new bids be solicited. That recommendation was ignored.

"The Army troop-support contract, under which the company will supply food, laundry and other services for troops deployed in new areas, is unusual because it stretches 10 years and because it is a "cost-plus" arrangement under which the more Brown and Root spends, the more it earns.

"Halliburton officials say Cheney played no role in the selection of the Houston-based company for the two contracts, potentially worth billions of dollars over the next decade.

"Cheney, a former secretary of defense with experience in Congress and the White House, headed Halliburton from 1995 until George W. Bush picked him as his running mate in July 2000.

'Cheney steadfastly refused to engage in any activities to sell Halliburton's or its subsidiaries' services to the government during his tenure with the company,' said Zelma Branch, a Halliburton spokesperson.

"Halliburton has made no attempt to ask for his assistance in obtaining federal contracts since he left the company.

"Both Army and Navy contracting officials say they were aware, when the contracts were awarded, that federal officials from California were investigating allegations that Brown and Root had defrauded the government on another defense contract.

"The investigation ended in February when Brown and Root agreed to pay the government $2 million to settle charges it inflated contract prices for maintenance and repairs at Fort Ord near Monterey, California.

"Even if the Army had known about the investigation, officials said, it would not have affected the decision to award the contract to Brown and Root.

'They did not commit any wrongdoing, and the government did not find them guilty of any wrongdoing, so legally we could not use that,' stated Gale Smith, spokesperson for the Army Operations and Support Command.

"The contract makes Brown and Root the Army's only private supplier of troop support services during the next decade.

"There is no ceiling on spending because the contract is designed to provide rapid troop support wherever and whenever U.S. forces move into action overseas.

"Under similar contracts, the Army paid Brown and Root $1.2 billion from 1992 through 1999 to support U.S. troops, mainly in the Balkans. An extension of that contract from 1999 through 2004 is projected to cost $1.8 billion.

"It is close to unprecedented for the government to have given so much of the solution to one contractor,' said Steven Spooner, a George Washington University professor who specializes in federal contracting.

"Spooner said government contracts for services almost never exceed five years, while the Army's deal with Brown and Root is renewable for a decade. He said the contract is also structured so that the more the company spends to support troops, the more it earns.

"But it is hard to criticize it because they have convinced the Army from the bottom up that they are taking care of the troops,' he continued.

"The Army has paid Brown and Root $13.7 million since the contract began February 1 to provide services to U.S. troops in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Uzbekistan.

"The Army will not disclose other locations where the contract has been used.

"The $300 million five-year Navy contract was awarded to Brown and Root in April 2001, three months after Cheney became vice president.

"It followed a November 2000 recommendation from the General Accounting Office that upheld a protest of the original Navy decision in June 2000 to give the Halliburton subsidiary the contract."

Okay folks, here's my take on this. "The devil's in the details" is an old saying that I think is more than appropriate in looking at this situation with Vice-President Cheney. For all those who argue that the war on terrorism is solely about making profit, this article serves as a proverbial smoking gun.

I have a big problem with the fact that Brown and Root forked over $2 million to settle with the government, after admitting they cheated Uncle Sam, only to end up with an exclusive contract with the agency they ripped-off. Why weren't they shown the door? I think we know the answer to that.

I have a big problem with Brown and Root being the ONLY private supplier of troop support services that stands to make billions during the next decade, especially when you consider the fact that it had, and may still have, ties to a member of the current administration.

I have a major problem with the fact that the Army refuses to disclose any information regarding other locations where the contracts are being utilized, and that the contracts were granted shortly after Cheney took office.

Don't you find it rather peculiar that during Bush's world tour to promote his war on terrorism, Cheney has not been seen or heard defending the President's agenda? Just think for a moment. Have you seen him anywhere in the news over the last several weeks? Where is he? Why hasn't he been as aggressive on the Iraq resolution as Bush? Most importantly, why hasn't he answered ANY questions regarding his relationship with the Halliburton Company and its subsidiaries? It seems as though everyone, and every government entity, is following "The Cheney Doctrine," which says just keep your mouth shut. The less the public knows, the better. Cheney, Bush, and other government officials, are grossly underestimating the intelligence of the American public, and it's going to backfire on them at some point.

If Cheney and this administration are not taking part in a moneymaking scheme, they need to come forward with any and all information regarding Brown and Root. At best, Cheney should have advised his former partners to offer the bid to another contractor for a small fee. It does not look good to have the former head of a federal contracting company sitting in the White House as vice president, as a subsidiary of his former company is awarded an exclusive $300 million five-year contract.

The Bush Administration has the nerve to berate those who question its motives in waging war on terrorist countries. Given the situation that exists with the "Cheneyburton Scandal", (yes, The G-man has coined a phrase) it should be clear to the administration why they are being challenged.

It's time to stop giving the V.P. a free pass and start attacking. Some of the most seasoned journalists have become little punks in pursuing this story, and it's time they did their jobs. You must hold people accountable, and neither Cheney, nor the President, is an exception.

This article is speaks volumes, and if this administration wants every American to believe that they are solely waging a war on terrorism, they'd better start opening their mouths on this one. Especially you Mr. Cheney!

See you next week!

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