Report: Iraq Contracts Have Cost at Least $85B

Military contracts in the Iraq theater have cost taxpayers at least $85 billion, and when it comes to providing security, they might not be any cheaper than using military personnel, AP quoted a report released Tuesday.

US soldiers control over Baghdad
According to AP, the Congressional Budget Office report comes on the heels of increased scrutiny of contractors in the last year, some of whom have been investigated in connection with shooting deaths of Iraqis and the accidental electrocutions of U.S. troops.

The United States has relied more heavily on contractors in Iraq than in any other war to provide services ranging from food service to guarding diplomats. About 20 percent of funding for operations in Iraq has gone to contractors, the report said.

Currently, there are at least 190,000 contractors in Iraq and neighboring countries, a ratio of about one contractor per U.S. service member, the report says.

AP said that the study does not include monetary figures for 2008, so the total paid to contractors for work in the Iraq theater since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is probably much higher. If spending for contractors continues at about the same rate, by the end of the year, an estimated $100 billion will have been paid to military contractors for operations in Iraq.

The personal cost to many of the employees has been great.

They've faced kidnappings and at least 1,200 have died — including four Blackwater employees who were ambushed in 2004 by insurgents in Fallujah who strung their remains from a bridge. Some female employees of contractors have alleged they were raped by co-workers in Iraq. Investigators have said a contractor was electrocuted when the air conditioner in his living room shorted, and the death is among the electrocutions under investigation.

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, much criticism has been directed at Halliburton, an oil services company once run by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Last year, KBR — formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root — separated from Halliburton and is now the Army's largest contractor, according to its Web site. It holds a multibillion-dollar contract to provide basic services including food and shelter for U.S. soldiers.

It agreed in 2006 to pay $8 million to settle six-year-old claims that it overcharged the Army for construction and other support services in the Balkans.

A KBR spokeswoman declined to comment on Tuesday.

In May, an internal audit from the Defense Department's inspector general of about $8 billion paid to U.S. and Iraqi contractors found that nearly every transaction failed to comply with federal laws or regulations aimed at preventing fraud. 

Source: AFP

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