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Report Cites Fraud and Abuse by Post-9/11 Military Contractors

by Judith Evans

The post-9/11 era has seen a dramatic increase in Pentagon spending, with up to half of those funds going to private military contractors such as Halliburton and Blackwater. According to a September 2021 report by William D. Hartung of the Center for International Policy,

The Pentagon’s increasing reliance on private contractors in the post-9/11 period raises multiple questions of accountability, transparency, and effectiveness. This is problematic because privatizing key functions can reduce the U.S. military’s control of activities that occur in war zones while increasing risks of waste, fraud and abuse.

The report, titled “Profits of War: Corporate Beneficiaries of the Post-9/11 Pentagon Spending Surge,” describes fraud and abuse in three areas:

  • Logistics and reconstruction

  • Private security contractors

  • Weapons suppliers

The author concludes with recommendations for improved accountability and reduced corruption.

Logistics and Reconstruction

Fraud, waste, abuse, and revolving door politics were rampant during reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the report:

The chaos of war, the lack of adequate government oversight, and the sheer volume of funds poured into the reconstruction effort in a short time frame all contributed to an environment that enabled massive waste, fraud and abuse in the reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For example, Halliburton profited from its open-ended contract with the Pentagon’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP). Halliburton was responsible for coordinating equipment maintenance, food and laundry services, and other logistics for the military in Iraq.

In an example of the revolving door, the report notes that Dick Cheney had introduced the idea of privatizing wartime logistics when he was secretary of defense in 1992. Cheney later served as CEO for Halliburton until he became vice president in 2001.

The report states that, beginning in 2004, congressional watch dogs such as the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) found instances of fraud and abuse, including the following:

  • Routine overcharges for fuel by Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root

  • The chairman of the Florida Republican Party pocketing overcharges by his company, the International Oil Trading Company

  • Faulty plumbing work at a police college in Baghdad, resulting in burst pipes that spilled urine and feces

  • Electrocution of 18 military personnel at bases in Iraq due to improper electrical installations by untrained, poorly paid subcontractors

The report cites similar instances of fraud, abuse, and waste that took place during Afghanistan’s reconstruction. Transportation contracts were a major avenue of corruption. A particularly disturbing example was the payment of protection money to the Taliban from U.S. transportation contracts.

Private Security Contractors

Private armed security contractors were a second source of corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the report. These contractors were a minority of the total number of contractors deployed,

But the impact of private security contractors was far greater than what those numbers might suggest. The use of private contractors reduces transparency and accountability for what happens in war zones, on occasion with disastrous results.

Those disastrous results included the following:

  • The massacre of 17 civilians in Baghdad by employees of Blackwater, some of whom were pardoned by President Trump

  • Recruitment of mercenaries by Blackwater’s founder to fight on behalf of the United Arab Emirates in Libya’s civil war, a violation of a United Nations arms embargo