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A lot of good people who are just trying to make an honest living work for KBR.  So my intent is not to vilify them.  However, there seems to be consistent problem with America’s premier defense contractor.  And the only way to correct the problem is to first shine a light on it.  That’s the purpose of this piece. --BF

Halliburton and its subsidiary, KBR, are back in the news--this time over a lawsuit filed by a former contractor who accuses the defense giant of operating a toxic burn pit in Iraq.  As most Americans know, this isn’t the first time KBR has been the recipient of negative attention.  But it’s not simply that KBR has had a few problems--all contractors do.  It’s the fact that KBR doesn’t seem to be learning from its mistakes.  And that’s the issue here.  If KBR lived up to the "mission, vision and values" it lists on its own website, we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion.  So for a little context turn to that "mission, vision and values" section on KBR's website:

KBR's core values are at the forefront of our daily business. Incorporating these core values in our daily work, and making them an integral part of our culture, is key to our future success.

Our values solidify who we are and what we believe.  KBR's values are:

  • Uncompromising commitment to Health, Safety and Environment
  • An open relationship with our employees based on mutual trust, respect and success
  • Transparency, Accountability and Discipline in our business
  • Best in class Risk Awareness
  • Integrity in all we do
  • Financial Responsibility to our stakeholders
  • So let’s take a look at each one of these individually:

    Uncompromising commitment to Health, Safety and Environment

    Suit claims Halliburton, KBR sickened base,  12/4/2008

    The lawsuit also accuses KBR of shipping ice in mortuary trucks that "still had traces of body fluids and putrefied remains in them when they were loaded with ice. This ice was served to U.S. forces."

    Eller also accuses KBR of failing to maintain a medical incinerator at Joint Base Balad, which has been confirmed by two surgeons in interviews with Military Times about the Balad burn pit. Instead, according to the lawsuit and the physicians, medical waste, such as needles, amputated body parts and bloody bandages were burned in the open-air pit.

    "Wild dogs in the area raided the burn pit and carried off human remains," the lawsuit states. "The wild dogs could be seen roaming the base with body parts in their mouths, to the great distress of the U.S. forces."
    Eller also accused KBR of serving spoiled, expired and rotten food to the troops, as well as dishes that may have been contaminated with shrapnel.

    "Defendants knowingly and intentionally supplied and served food that was well past its expiration date, in some cases over a year past its expiration date," the lawsuit states. "Even when it was called to the attention of the KBR food service managers that the food was expired, KBR still served the food to U.S. forces."

    An open relationship with our employees based on mutual trust, respect and success

    New KBR Rape Allegations, 4/4/2008

    Another female KBR employee has come forward alleging she was brutally raped in Iraq, and that the company attempted to cover it up, the Nation magazine reported yesterday.

    Like Jamie Leigh Jones, whose story ABC News reported last December, the woman said she was gang-raped after being slipped a tranquilizer.  Her KBR supervisor told her to keep quiet about the incident, she told the magazine.  When she tried to contact a lawyer in the United States, she said, the company confiscated her computer.

    Military contractor in Iraq holds foreign workers in warehouses, 12/2/2008

    BAGHDAD -- About 1,000 Asian men who were hired by a Kuwaiti subcontractor to the U.S. military have been confined for as long as three months in windowless warehouses near the Baghdad airport without money or a place to work.

    Najlaa International Catering Services, a subcontractor to KBR, an engineering, construction and services company, hired the men, who're from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. On Tuesday, they staged a march outside their compound to protest their living conditions.

    Transparency, Accountability and Discipline in our business

    Contractors in Iraq make costs balloon, 10/24/2004

    Halliburton billed the government for as much as three times as many meals as were actually served, auditors said. The company couldn't adequately explain or document payments to its dining subcontractors.

    Despite those complaints, the defense agency that approves the payments, the Army Field Support Command in Illinois, kept giving Halliburton more time to answer the auditors -- three extensions totaling 135 days.

    Finally, the auditors lost patience.

    In a strongly worded memo Aug. 16, they said Halliburton could not support $1.8 billion of a $4.2 billion payment request. The auditors urged the Army to stop the extensions and withhold 15 percent of the payment until Halliburton provided the backup documents: "It is clear to us KBR will not provide an adequate proposal until there is a consequence."
    Congress has a hard time getting answers as well.

    Rep. Henry Waxman of California and other Democrats on the House Government Reform Committee have had trouble getting information on basic spending or Defense Department audits of Halliburton.

    The administration has not turned it over, and the committee has requested but not received copies of KBR contracts with subcontractors.

    "We don't have accountability, we don't have transparency on where the money is spent," Waxman said. "Taxpayer money is being wasted. Huge amounts are going to subcontractors, and we have no idea how the money is being spent."

    Best in class Risk Awareness

    Hidden Danger: Soldiers Dying From Electrocution, 3/20/2008

    Maseth, 24, of Shaler, Pa., outside Pittsburgh, was electrocuted on Jan. 2 when an improperly grounded electric water pump short-circuited and flowed through the pipes. Since the coiled hose was touching his arm, he was hit with an electrical jolt and went into cardiac arrest and died.

    Maseth's tragic death brings to 12 the number of soldiers who have died in Iraq due to accidental electrocution, according to Army and Marine e-mails obtained by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
    Meanwhile, Harris and Maseth's father Douglas Maseth have filed a wrongful death lawsuit in a Pennsylvania state court against Kellogg Brown Root, the contractor hired to maintain and repair the electrical infrastructure at the Radwaniyah Palace complex in Baghdad, one of Saddam Hussein's former estates, where her son lived.

    She claims that KBR had been aware of the problems with the electrical system at the complex since February 2007, citing reports from the contractor and the Army's Criminal Investigation Division she was shown during meetings with Army personnel.

    Integrity in all we do

    New US military contractor overbilling scandal in Iraq looms, 6/17/2008

    WASHINGTON (AFP) — A civilian Pentagon official in charge of the largest US military contract in Iraq was removed from his job in 2004 after refusing to pay one billion dollars to KBR Inc. because the company was unable to credibly justify its expenses, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

    KBR is an engineering, construction and services company that until April 2007 was a subsidiary of the Houston-based energy firm Halliburton, which was formerly led by Vice President Dick Cheney.

    "They had a gigantic amount of costs they couldn't justify," the official, Charles Smith, told The New York Times. "Ultimately, the money that was going to KBR was money being taken away from the troops, and I wasn't going to do that."

    Financial Responsibility to our stakeholders

    Audit of KBR Iraq Contract Faults Records For Fuel, Food, 6/25/2007

    KBR, the government contracting firm formerly under Halliburton, did not keep accurate records of gasoline distribution, put its employees in living spaces that may be larger than warranted and served meals that appeared to cost $4.5 million more than necessary under a contract to perform work in Iraq, according to an audit by a government oversight agency.

    KBR’s "mission, vision and values," ladies and gentlemen.  What a racket.

    Originally posted to Brandon Friedman on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 05:22 PM PST.

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