Report Confirms Poor Electrical Work by KBR Endangers US Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan

There’s a new and damning report (PDF) from the Department of Defense Inspector General on its investigation into the electrocution death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth. The report concludes that Staff Sgt. Maseth’s death was the result of shoddy electrical work, electrical work performed by U.S. military contractor KBR.

It also concludes that the Army failed to properly oversee KBR’s work, allowing the danger to U.S. troops from KBR’s work to continue and persist not only on Ryan Maseth’s base, but throughout Iraq (PDF) and Afghanistan (PDF).

Up to now, KBR has denied any link between its work and the electric shocks and electrocutions of soldiers on U.S. Army bases in Iraq. This report should make it impossible for the company to continue to deny the facts.

As outlined in the Inspector General’s report, the conduct of both KBR and the Army is simply unacceptable. Both need to stop making excuses and start taking steps to protect U.S troops and taxpayers. (more…)

DPC to Continue Drive for Oversight, Accountability for Iraq and Afghanistan Contractors

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) has launched the “Accountability Series,” which features video on congressional efforts to ensure accountability in government.

Congressional oversight is one of the most important congressional responsibilities. Sadly, during the George W. Bush Administration, when Congress and the White House were controlled by the same political party, that responsibility was routinely ignored.

It was as if the majority party at the time, Republicans, didn’t want to embarrass a President of their own political party. That was particularly true when it came to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Congress was appropriating billions of taxpayer dollars, with much of it going to private contractors who did work soldiers used to do.

But neither the Congress, nor the Executive Branch did much to check how that money was spent or how the contractors performed. Literally billions of dollars were wasted as a result.

In 2003, as Chairman of the DPC, I moved to fill that void. Since our first hearing months after the war started, we’ve held 19 oversight hearings on Iraq and Afghanistan contracting. What we found may be the greatest amount of waste, fraud and contracting abuses in the history of our country.

DPC hearings exposed a contractor charging taxpayers for twice as many meals as it actually served. We found a contractor delivering water to U.S. troops that water was more contaminated than water from the nearby Euphrates River. An internal document we obtained from a company whistleblower acknowledged that this occurred and described it as a “near miss” that could have caused “mass sickness and even death.” Yet the company and, astonishingly, the Army continued to deny it ever happened.

DPC hearings found that U.S. National Guard troops and a contractor’s own employees had been recklessly exposed to a deadly carcinogen, sodium dichromate, at one site. No one was given protective gear until it was too late. Many soldiers weren’t told about the exposure until we started pushing to insist that they be told. (more…)

Sen. Byron Dorgan: Contractor Failures In Iraq Have Cost Lives

[Please welcome Sen. Byron Dorgan to FDL to discuss contractor corruption, fraud and waste. As with all guest chats, please stay on topic and be polite — please take off-topic discussions to the prior thread. Thanks! — CHS]

Since December 2003, the Democratic Policy Committee (DPC), which I chair, has held seventeen oversight hearings to examine waste, fraud, and corruption in Iraq.

Last Friday, I held a hearing to investigate contractor KBR’s tragic failure to correct faulty electrical work at U.S. military installations in Iraq, even after the United States Army issued a bulletin stating that improper wiring by contractors had resulted in the electrocution deaths of several soldiers. Earlier last week, the American commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, stated that at least thirteen Americans had been electrocuted in Iraq since the war began, and that many more soldiers have received painful shocks.

One of the thirteen Americans who died by electrocution in Iraq, Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, a decorated Army Ranger and Green Beret, was electrocuted while he was showering. Cheryl Harris, Staff Sgt. Maseth’s mother, testified that her son’s death was the result of KBR’s “failure to correct a known electrical hazard in a building replete with electrical hazards.” She discovered that KBR knew about this hazard in her son’s building eleven months before his death.

The hearing also featured the testimony of two whistleblowers who worked as electricians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Debbie Crawford, a licensed electrician with 30 years of experience, testified (PDF) that she saw shoddy, dangerous, electrical work in Iraq. When she told her foreman about it, he said "forget about it, close the door, stop looking at it.” Ms. Crawford also testified that KBR sub-contracted out much of its electrical work to third country national and local national workers who, Ms. Crawford said, "were not familiar or skilled in U.S. quality standards, U.S. safety standards and installation techniques, or U.S. codes." Jefferey Bliss, a former Navy electrician who worked for KBR in Afghanistan, also testified that "the carelessness and disregard for quality work at KBR was pervasive" and that he was “surprised to discover how many KBR electricians did not have the right experience and training." (more…)