Congressman Blumenauer Announces Major Push to Rein in Secretive War Contracting Process
“KBR’s repeated negligence has endangered our troops and cost lives,” said Blumenauer. “Such a long record of alleged misconduct indicates to me that KBR did not fear being held responsible by anyone. Our war contracting process does too little to ensure that contractors act with the best interests of our troops and taxpayers in mind, and we’re going to change that.”
Blumenauer’s actions come in response to a lawsuit against KBR by 26 Oregon veterans over their exposure to cancer-causing hexavalent chromium at a KBR facility in Iraq. During the course of the lawsuit, it became apparent that KBR had secured a clause in its contract that would put taxpayers – and not the company – on the hook for potentially massive damages, health and court costs. A federal judge in Portland ruled against KBR earlier this month, denying the attempts to have the case dismissed and finding the allegations are grounded in substantial evidence. Similar cases against KBR have been filed by current and former National Guard members from Indiana and West Virginia.
Blumenauer also released a report [available upon request] detailing KBR’s history of alleged misconduct in Iraq, including exposing troops to faulty shower wiring that caused fatal electrocutions, burning toxic chemicals in open pits on U.S. bases, and disturbing allegations of fraud, rape and human trafficking. Given the company’s numerous alleged transgressions, Blumenauer called on Secretary Gates to review the Department of Defense’s business relationship with KBR and delay entering into future contracts until the Department can be assured its contractors meet all legal and ethical standards.
Blumenauer also announced legislation reigning in the secretive war contracting process that has shielded companies like KBR. The Blumenauer legislation will:
- Require Congressional notification in all cases where the government accepts liability on behalf of a contractor in excess of $500,000.
- Close the “negligence loophole,” preventing future contracts that provide financial immunity – and potential taxpayer bailouts – to companies who are found guilty or plead guilty to gross negligence.