Thursday, January 04, 2007

Good Construction Project ?

Government spending is always a concern, so politicians use phrases such as “Investing in the Future.” Hence, government officials like to invest in infrastructure since it creates jobs, provides visible accomplishment, and shows government responding to citizens and businesses needs.

Sounds good doesn’t it. Well if it can work here … why not in Iraq ?

Some politicians have stated the case that creating jobs for Iraqis will encourage out-of-work males to reject the opportunity to become insurgents and put down there weapons. Newsweek reports :
“The White House insists it knows that simply adding more troops isn't the answer. The plan being considered is far more nuanced than what has been reported in the media, a senior aide to Bush, who would only discuss the talks in Crawford anonymously, told NEWSWEEK. He said it includes money for new jobs programs and reconstruction aid for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, as well as efforts to further shore up his political base.”

There should be some concerns based on the US Government’s past performance. Previous rebuilding programs in Iraq, which, according to one expert, have been a "dismal failure" that have "left a legacy of half-built projects." One of the goals was to create jobs for 1.5 million Iraqis, but USAID said they've only managed to get to 77,000.

Further, last week, The Washington Post reported “inspector general audits that show the Defense Department ended up wasting of dollars when it paid the Department of the Interior to arrange some of its contracts. The purchases totaled $1.7 billion, and procurement officers failed to meet some of the most basic contracting rules.”

For discussion sake, let’s ignore the question of the Government’s competency to properly manage the program, and consider current projects that have been approved.

Last week, the Department of Defense awarded contracts including :

Watkinson L.L.C.*, Houston, Texas, was awarded on Dec. 21, 2006, a $13,251,442 firm-fixed-price contract for design and construction of a heavy aircraft parking apron and open cargo storage yard. Work will be performed in Al Asad, Iraq, and is expected to be completed by Sept. 17, 2007.

This project is not about improving sanitation, improving electricity availability, nor improving schools … the things that ordinary Iraqis want in their daily lives. This is about building aircraft bases in Iraq.

This project could further incite terrorism, since it might help to confirm theories that the United States plans to have a permanent presence in the country for economic reasons.

The other obvious concern is that it is a US based business. Are there are provisions in the DOD contract that require (or at least encourage) the use of Iraqi subcontractors ?

The last Congress was remiss in its oversight responsibilities … the 110th Congress need to make it a top priority. As the question of troop levels is being discussed, so should the question of permanent bases in Iraq.

Defense Contracts

Newsweek article

Washington Post

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