From David Phinney:
ROUGH DRAFT: From the time four men were killed in streets of Fallujah on March 31, 2004 until yesterday, the U.S. Army couldn't determine if, in fact, Halliburton/KBR had broken its multi-billion-dollar contract agreement by allowing a private security company to guard a subcontractor's convoy
Then suddenly, one day before a Congressional hearing on the events surrounding the killing and burning of four private security contractors -- the Army figured it all out.
Halliburton/KBR had violated the sweeping contract to provide support services to the Army in Iraq, we learned at the hearing.
According to the LogCAP contract -- now clocking about $16 billion in receipts -- Halliburton/KBR agreed to always use military support for its security unless otherwise approved by the combatant commander. Halliburton had no approval.
The result of the Army's sudden recognition? Just yesterday the Army decided to withhold a payment of $19 million or so owed to Halliburton/KBR, according to Tina Ballard, U.S. Army deputy assistant secretary for policy and procurement.
Withholding payment for the private security, she said, was the extent of any punitive action against Halliburton/KBR for allowing a subcontractor to use the high-profile private security company, Blackwater.
"That's not too much action," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D. Calif., the House committee on oversight and government reform chairman. There was almost a chuckle when he added: "This hearing just saved the government $20 million."
Greetings from the people who managed the war from beginning to now. It took the Army three years to discover that the contract that sent four Blackwater security contractors to their deaths in Fallujah, was in fact, illegal.
Throughout the Wednesday hearing, witnesses testified again and again to incredulous lawmakers that Halliburton/KBR's sweeping LogCAP is pyramid game -- a multilayered morass of subcontractors. Halliburton/KBR is given sole responsibility for monitoring the behavior of its subs -- the Army, said Ballard, takes a hands off position and relies on Halliburton/KBR to make sure guidelines are adhered to.
That leaves the door open for plenty of mischief, waste, fraud and abuse -- including the widespread use of forced labor, which the Pentagon acknowledged last spring was taking place. And just as with the contract that led [to] the death of four American civilians, not one company has been penalized for using forced labor drawn from the poorest of the poor.
More later..... The train has left the station. There will be an avalanche of news on this hearing.