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No-bid contract, at best, a no-win scenario

May 13, 2010 - Mike Maneval

Last week the federal government awarded a no-bid contract with a maximum value of $568 million to KBR Inc. for logistical support to the mission in Iraq, Tony Capaccio of BusinessWeek reports.

The U.S. Army defended the decision, with Army Chief of Staff General George Casey arguing the risks of changing contractors while also conducting significant withdrawals in operations - a reduction of 80,000 troops by August - would be too great. Other Army officials maintain it would cost an additional $77 million, at least, to change contractors.

Still, as BusinessWeek notes, the announcement comes on the heels of the U.S. Justice Department joining a lawsuit against the contractor alleging KBR officials took kickbacks from sub-contractors. The Justice Department filed a separate lawsuit over improper billing earlier in the year. Other allegations about the quality and reliability of the firm's work in Iraq have dogged it for years, and as Don Surber of the Charleston Daily Mail reports, the size of the no-bid contracts exceeds limits the Obama administration set - by Surber's calculations by 20,000 times.

And so, even with giving General Casey's words due consideration, one can hope that, one way or another, the government can make better progress on contracting reform in the coming years. Because the truer Casey's words are, the more important it is for the government to perform due diligence in selecting who will get tax dollars for providing critical services at the onset.


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